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December 2013

December 12, 2013

Faced with VPR Report, Shumlin Claims He Disclosed Health Exchange Problems in July

DSC06025When he walked into his ceremonial office in the Statehouse Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Peter Shumlin was armed and ready to take on a bunch of pledge drive perpetrators.

Shumlin was there to host a press conference focused on his efforts to fight climate change. But reporters in the room were just waiting to ask him about a Vermont Public Radio story indicating that a state consultant had warned his administration repeatedly since last April that its new health insurance exchange was at risk of failing.

According to documents obtained by VPR's Taylor Dobbs, the problems at Vermont Health Connect were so severe that the contractor, Gartner Consulting, advised state officials on May 22 to "escalate missed deliverable dates or milestones to highest levels within the state and [website developer] CGI."

Here's what reporters wanted to know: Was Shumlin aware that the state's own consultants had issued such dire warnings so long ago? If so, why didn't he disclose the problems to Vermonters? And if he was sufficiently briefed, why did he tell VPR's Bob Kinzel on Nov. 1 that, by Labor Day, "We did not know the magnitude of the challenges we were going to face interacting with the feds, all the other problems we’ve been having."

Evidently anticipating the confrontation, Shumlin brought to Wednesday's press conference a print-out of a July 8 story in the Burlington Free Press. Asked about Dobbs' story, here's what the gov said:

Continue reading "Faced with VPR Report, Shumlin Claims He Disclosed Health Exchange Problems in July" »

Breaking: New Jersey Guy Comes to Vermont and Says Stuff, Sources Say

By now you know that I have absolutely nothing to tell you about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's speech to some 650 Vermont Republicans Wednesday night at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

As has been exhaustively reported by your loyal press corps, the event sold out weeks ago — well before Vermont GOP elders let it be known that reporters would be denied entry. And none of us was smart enough to grab a $50 ticket before the grabbing got done.

What a bummer. 

So all we can offer you, dear reader, are a couple of badly lit photos of the fairgrounds taken by one very cold, and slightly under-dressed reporter. Like this: 


Continue reading "Breaking: New Jersey Guy Comes to Vermont and Says Stuff, Sources Say" »

December 11, 2013

Media Note: Condensed USA Today Editions Coming to the Burlington Free Press


Like USA Today AND the Burlington Free Press? If so, Gannett has a deal for you!

The Virginia-based media company announced today that it's inserting condensed versions of its flagship newspaper into 35 local dailies, including the Burlington Free Press. The so-called "Butterfly" edition of USA Today runs about 10 pages, up to 22 on Sundays, and is already active in four markets (here's the memo USA Today's publisher wrote when the pilot project was announced in September). The Freeps and 30 other local papers will get theirs beginning in early 2014.

Continue reading "Media Note: Condensed USA Today Editions Coming to the Burlington Free Press" »

This Week's Issue: F-35 Aftermath, Myers-Briggs for Farmers and Marijuana Testing


We're in the home stretch of 2013, people. As we at Seven Days plot our year-end coverage, enjoy this week's news and politics stories:

Pick this week's Seven Days up in print, online or on the iOS app.

Cover photo by Sarah Priestap

Longtime Weinberger Pal Accepts Mayor's Invitation to Give UVM's Commencement Speech

SampowerIt's not so much what you know, it's who you know.

That hoary adage seems to apply to the University of Vermont's announcement Tuesday that Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, will speak at UVM's commencement ceremony next May.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Yale graduate with a master's degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, undoubtedly knows a lot of what. But he also knows an important who: Power. Their longtime friendship appears to have played a key role in her accepting an invitation to deliver UVM's commencement address.

Continue reading "Longtime Weinberger Pal Accepts Mayor's Invitation to Give UVM's Commencement Speech" »

December 10, 2013

Burlington City Council Puts Off Redistricting Vote


After months of debate, the Burlington City Council last night was finally set to vote on a redistricting plan to put before voters at 2014 Town Meeting.

Anyone who has followed the agonizing process of creating a new ward map probably won't be surprised by what happened — council members delayed their final vote for at least one more week and sent the project back again to a Charter Change Committee.

But some progress was made.

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Puts Off Redistricting Vote" »

December 09, 2013

Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power

Kristin CarlsonWorcester native Kristin Carlson got her first gig at WCAX-TV as an intern after her junior year at Syracuse University. When she graduated the next year, she recalls, she phoned then-news director Marselis Parsons, who offered her a job on the spot.

"I never even had to put together a resume," she says.

Now, 14 years later, Carlson is leaving Channel 3 to join the state's electricity behemoth, Green Mountain Power. The company on Monday named Carlson its next "media director." She'll replace executive Steve Terry, who is retiring for the second time as director of GMP's communications shop.

"I've only ever worked for Channel 3," Carlson says. "It's always been my passion. I love reporting — love it. Nothing can ever replace this."

But after GMP approached her about the prospect roughly two weeks ago, she says, Carlson came to the conclusion that working for the power company would bring new challenges and the same pride she feels working for WCAX.

"I've had the privilege of working for a company I respect with people I respect," she says. "This is a similar opportunity. I respect all my interactions with Green Mountain Power and the people there. I'm excited by what they're doing."

Continue reading "Media Note: WCAX's Kristin Carlson Decamps to Green Mountain Power" »

Shumlin Reelected Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association

DGA Holiday Party inviteGov. Peter Shumlin was elected to a second term as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association on Monday, the organization announced.

As such, the Vermonter will lead Democratic efforts to win the 36 governorships up for grabs in November 2014. Of those, 22 are currently held by Republicans.

Shumlin was first elected to lead the partisan political group last December, when he hadn't quite finished his first term. In his first year as DGA chairman, the organization helped Terry McAuliffe recapture Virginia for the Democrats. The DGA sat out the year's other gubernatorial election, in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie easily won reelection.

"By focusing on the issues that matter in the everyday lives of middle-class families, the DGA won a major victory in Virginia this year," Shumlin said in a written statement released after his reelection. "In 2014, we will build on that momentum and communicate how Republican governors across the country have pursued a failed economic philosophy that rewards the wealthiest at the expense of the middle class and critical investments in education. I appreciate the support of my colleagues, and look forward to the important work of growing the ranks of Democratic governors."

Continue reading "Shumlin Reelected Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association" »

Four Intoxicated Women Land in ER While "Pregaming" for UVM Sorority Event

602568_537445739660873_1306012350_n’Tis the season for raising holiday spirits, but evidently, a few University of Vermont students raised them a bit too often this weekend — even before the party officially started.

The Vermont State Police reported that at about 7:30 Saturday night, three female UVM students headed to a sorority function at the Old Lantern in Charlotte had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington due to overintoxication. According to police, the women, who were all headed to the winter formal sponsored by UVM's Delta Delta Delta sorority chapter, arrived by bus and hadn't even entered the party before they got sick. 

Continue reading "Four Intoxicated Women Land in ER While "Pregaming" for UVM Sorority Event" »

Siegel to Seek Reelection to Burlington City Council

Siegel-thorsen-073113When we wrote last week about next year's Burlington City Council elections, just one incumbent had yet to decide whether she'd seek reelection: Councilor Rachel Siegel (P-Ward 3). 

Now Siegel says she's in.

The decision wasn't easy, she says. Siegel was hired in September as executive director of the Peace and Justice Center. She says she struggled to determine whether she could balance that new role with her council and family obligations. 

"I've had life changes since I ran two years ago," the Ward 3 Prog says. "The balance of my life has changed, and we really had to discuss how to make it sustainable without it having a big impact on the family. We figured out a handful of really concrete things we can do to try to keep some semblance of balance. It seems totally doable, and I'm totally psyched."

Continue reading "Siegel to Seek Reelection to Burlington City Council" »

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