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December 2013

December 06, 2013

Vermont Democratic Party Spokesman to Challenge Progressive Burlington City Councilor

EmersonDemocratic operative Ryan Emerson said Friday he's leaving his job as spokesman for the Vermont Democratic Party and running for the Burlington City Council.

"I'm running because I really want to step up and do something different," Emerson (pictured at right) said. "I feel like I can bring a lot to the Old North End. It's been my home for the past few years. I've worked behind the scenes in Vermont politics and I want to use that experience to help my community."

If nominated at a Burlington Democratic Party caucus next Wednesday, Emerson would face off against Progressive Councilor Max Tracy for a Ward 2 seat in the Old North End.

Asked why he thought Tracy should go, Emerson said, "There's nothing wrong with Max Tracy. He seems like a great guy. This is about me and what I can do for my community."

Emerson did say he disagreed with Tracy's vote to bar F-35 fighter jets from being based at the city-owned Burlington International Airport. He said the council "wasted a lot of time" debating the issue and that banning the planes could have jeopardized federal funding.

"I think not allowing F-35s to be based here and giving Burlington that liability and making it possible that we wouldn't have an airport, I think that would be an irresponsible decision," he said.

Continue reading "Vermont Democratic Party Spokesman to Challenge Progressive Burlington City Councilor" »

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

Scoreboard.newWho won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?

The Vermont Air National Guard, obvz. But who else? 

Read on and you'll find out — in the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, December 6:


The Vermont Air National Guard — You mighta heard: They're gettin' a few new planesRunner-up winner: Sen. Patrick Leahy, who invested a tremendous amount of political capital into bringing the F-35 to Vermont. Second runner-up winner: Vermont's business community, which organized the "grassroots," pro-F-35 movement (led by Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation president Frank Cioffi and funded, in part, by real estate magnate Tony Ernie Pomerleau) Leahy referred to at Tuesday's announcement. Third runner-up winner: WPTZ-TV, the first media outlet to confirm and report the F-35 news.

Peter Shumlin — The governor said this week he's planning to run for a third term next year, and he's already banking cash from Vermont's business and, um, Republican bigwigs. That's good news for him and terrible news for his nonexistent opponents. Runner-up loser: The Vermont media, which, despite Shummy's admission that he's running, will almost certainly allow him to avoid engaging with his (nonexistent) opponent through Labor Day, as it did last year.

Vermont Public Radio — VPR's capital bureau picked up the best print reporter in the Statehouse this week. Runner-up loser: The Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, both of which have relied on Peter Hirschfeld to prop up their ever-diminishing news teams. Look for them to rely more and more on their partnership with VPR, through which they'll be able to print stories reported by... Peter Hirschfeld.

Phish (point of personal privilege) — They officially turned 30 this week. And they're still the shit. Just sayin'.

Continue reading "The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers" »

Reporter's Notebook: Chief Justice Also Campaigns Against Insider-Speak

Chief Justice Paul Reiber at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, photo by Tom McNeill

I wanted to follow-up with a couple extra items that did not make it into the story this week about Chief Justice Paul Reiber's campaigning against the war on drugs.

- While Reiber has said that he is speaking out as an administrator concerned about the burdens being placed on the judicial docket, his speeches seem to reflect a deeper allegiance to people trying to reform the criminal justice system. At Vermont Law School's Innovative Criminal Justice Practices Conference, Reiber even started giving advice to proponents for change.

For example, he urged them to avoid a lot of the jargon that they casually use: The conference was full of talk of  "co-occurring disabilities" and the "sequential intercept model." Reiber said that such language would make the people they are trying to help feel more despair, and believe that only the government and trained professionals can help them.

Continue reading "Reporter's Notebook: Chief Justice Also Campaigns Against Insider-Speak" »

December 05, 2013

Demonstrators Tell SoBu McDonald's 'We're Not Lovin' Poverty Pay'

Mcd 001

On top of the customary musical accompaniment to their Happy Meals, customers at the McDonald's on Williston Road in South Burlington were serenaded on Thursday with a noontime chant of "Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages supersize!"

About two dozen protesters brought their demand for livable wages into the busy fast-food eatery as McDonald's workers looked on silently — and seemingly stunned. It was unclear how much those workers make; local managers also declined to comment on the local manifestation of a nationwide day of walkouts and solidarity demonstrations at fast-food restaurants in support of a $15-an-hour wage.

The demonstrators weren't at all reticent. One of them led several others in the "mic check" call-and-response popularized by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"On this day ..." the leader shouted.

Her fellow protesters joined in with this chant: " ...Workers in 100 cities/are going on strike/and people like us/are standing with them/to demand McDonald's respect the right/ to work with dignity."

A South Burlington police officer rushed into the restaurant at that point and told the protestors they had to leave. They filed out a couple of minutes later, resuming their chant and sign-waving on the sidewalk for half an hour as several passing motorists honked in response. 

Continue reading "Demonstrators Tell SoBu McDonald's 'We're Not Lovin' Poverty Pay'" »

For $10,000, a Chance to Dine with Gov. Chris Christie in Vermont

Gov. Chris Christie
Photo By Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wanna break bread with a leading contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination? All it takes is a $10,000 check made out to the Vermont Republican Party.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie comes to town next Wednesday, he'll speak to nearly 700 of the party faithful at the Vermont GOP's "Welcome Winter Gala." Fifty-dollar tickets to the event at the Robert E. Miller Expo Centre in Essex Junction sold out two weeks ago.

But the real schmoozing will take place ahead of the gala, during two exclusive events featuring heftier price tags and more access to the would-be president. Tickets to a two-hour private reception cost $1000 per couple, while access to a "Policy Roundtable" with the governor costs $10,000 per couple, according to an invitation obtained by Seven Days.

Continue reading "For $10,000, a Chance to Dine with Gov. Chris Christie in Vermont" »

December 04, 2013

Media Note: VPR Hires Vermont Press Bureau's Chief Statehouse Reporter

HirschfeldOne of the Statehouse's top print reporters is moving into the world of broadcast.

Vermont Public Radio has hired the Vermont Press Bureau's Peter Hirschfeld to join the station's capital bureau, according to VPR news director John Dillon. 

"I'm really excited," Dillon says. "He's a trusted, respected, leading journalist who really has established himself for breaking news and enterprise reporting.

A Jericho native and Worcester resident, Hirschfeld (pictured at center during a Statehouse press conference) joined the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus in 2003 as a sports reporter and copy editor. In 2009, he moved over to the Vermont Press Bureau, which covers state government for the T-A and the Rutland Herald. Both papers are owned by John Mitchell.

Continue reading "Media Note: VPR Hires Vermont Press Bureau's Chief Statehouse Reporter" »

This Week's Issue: COTS Stations, Mobile Meals and 2014 Election News


Cover-120413Boy, how about those F-35s, huh? When you're done reading about the planes on this here blog, check out the stories on other newsy topics in this week's Seven Days.

Read all about it in print, online or on the iOS app.

Cover photo of folk singer Rik Palieri by Matthew Thorsen.

'It's Not Over,' F-35 Foes Insist as They Carry Fight to the Courts


The mood among F-35 opponents gathered in an Old North End conference room Tuesday evening contrasted starkly with the triumphalist atmosphere inside a Vermont Air Guard hangar earlier in the day.

About a dozen members of the Stop the F-35 Coalition sat glumly around a table a few hours after the state's political leaders and hundreds of uniformed Air Guard members cheered the decision to base 18 of the stealth fighter-bombers in Vermont beginning in 2020.

The activists who have fought the local basing option for more than four years were reluctant to discuss their next steps with a reporter. However, they agreed to offer responses to Tuesday's announcement prior to conducting a private strategy discussion.

Continue reading "'It's Not Over,' F-35 Foes Insist as They Carry Fight to the Courts" »

December 03, 2013

Air Force F-35s Coming to Vermont [UPDATED]

DSC_0040Updated at 4:27 p.m.

Despite fierce opposition from many in the community, the F-35 fighter plane will be based at Burlington International Airport starting in 2020, authorities announced today.

The much-anticipated decision by the U.S. Air Force was announced during a raucous ceremony attended by Sen. Patrick Leahy, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and Vermont Air National Guard Adjutant General Steven Cray inside a Air National Guard hangar.

“Today is a historic day for the Vermont National Guard. This is a milestone event for the Air Force in its next steps in securing the citizens of the United States,” Cray said.

Leahy and Shumlin both hailed what they called a major “grassroots” campaign in support of the planes.

“I’ve never seen such a grassroots effort in this state,” Leahy said.

But it wasn't a universal one. Today's announcement came in the wake of protracted opposition from residents who worry that the jets and their noise will disrupt neighborhoods and threaten public health.  Opponents of the Burlington basing said they aren’t giving up their fight.

Continue reading "Air Force F-35s Coming to Vermont [UPDATED]" »

Three Incumbents Won't Seek Reelection to Burlington City Council; Wright to Run


Updated Tuesday at 12:10 p.m.

Three Burlington city councilors said Monday they won't seek reelection when their terms expire next spring.

The retirements include two Democratic newcomers, Bryan Aubin (D-Ward 4) and Kevin Worden (D-Ward 1), and one GOP veteran, Paul Decelles (R-Ward 7), the sole Republican on the 14-member council.

But at least one prominent Burlington politician hopes to step into the void. Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington), a former city councilor and the 2012 Republican mayoral candidate, said Monday he plans to run for the New North End seat Aubin is relinquishing.

"I've told people I'm just crazy enough that I happened to enjoy my time on the council," said Wright (pictured above right). "And I still think I have something to contribute. So I'm going to see if the people of Ward 4 also think I can contribute."

Continue reading "Three Incumbents Won't Seek Reelection to Burlington City Council; Wright to Run" »

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