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January 2014

January 27, 2014

Candidates Declare for Seven Open Burlington City Council Seats

Two Republicans — one veteran and one newcomer — are seeking to hold onto their party’s meager presence on the Burlington City Council.

Monday marked the filing deadline for council hopefuls, meaning that the candidate pool for the seven open seats has solidified. Elections will be held on Town Meeting Day, March 4. 

Democrats and Republicans are vying for two seats in Ward 4 and Ward 7; if Democrats secure both, they would lay claim to all four New North End seats, leaving Republicans without representation on the council.

Democrats currently control seven seats on the 14-seat council, while Progressives hold four, Independents two and Republicans one. Two incumbent Democrats and one Republican opted to vacate their seats this spring rather than seek reelection.

Continue reading "Candidates Declare for Seven Open Burlington City Council Seats" »

Shumlin Names Fox's Widower, Michael Sirotkin, to Vermont Senate

Sirotkin.FoxGov. Peter Shumlin on Monday named South Burlington attorney and lobbyist Michael Sirotkin to replace his late wife, Sally Fox, in the Vermont Senate. 

Sirotkin was one of three candidates recommended to the governor last Wednesday by members of the Chittenden County Democratic Committee. The others were Williston Selectboard member Debbie Ingram and Burlington management consultant Dawn Ellis.

"There were several exceptional candidates interested in this Senate seat," Shumlin said in a written statement. "But Sally wanted her husband to fill her seat after her death, and recognizing Sirotkin's strong qualifications, I'm honoring that request. I'm confident that Michael will continue the great work Sally did for the district and the state."

Continue reading "Shumlin Names Fox's Widower, Michael Sirotkin, to Vermont Senate" »

January 24, 2014

Fired Planning Chief Considering Challenge to Montpelier Mayor

HallsmithTwo months after her firing as the City of Montpelier's planning and community development director, Gwendolyn Hallsmith says she's seriously considering running for mayor of Vermont's capital city. 

"My motivation for running is to continue to give citizens a voice in their future and to make sure their voice is not forgotten," she says.

Hallsmith (pictured at right) says she is collecting signatures to put her name on the ballot and is "tentatively" planning to announce her bid on February 5, though she says she may still reconsider. 

Hallsmith would face off against Mayor John Hollar, with whom she publicly tangled throughout the fall. After she was put on paid leave in November, Hallsmith accused the mayor of orchestrating her ouster because of her outspoken advocacy for public banking. Hollar is a contract lobbyist whose clients include Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

Continue reading "Fired Planning Chief Considering Challenge to Montpelier Mayor" »

Progressives Poised to Take Over Ward 1 Seat in Burlington City Council Race

600819_10150872857517031_1721988787_n(2)Progressive Selene Colburn (pictured at right) has all but secured a seat on the Burlington City Council. Her Democratic opponent for the open Ward 1 seat, Molly Loomis, has dropped out of the race.

Loomis’ exit likely clears the way for Progressives to at least retain their four seats on the 14-member council. They could claim a fifth, depending on what happens in Ward 2, where former Vermont Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Emerson is challenging Progressive Councilor Max Tracy.

Tracy is one of four Progressives currently serving on the council.  Democrats occupy seven seats, while independents hold two and Republicans one. Independent Councilor Sharon Bushor often votes alongside the Progressive caucus. 

Continue reading "Progressives Poised to Take Over Ward 1 Seat in Burlington City Council Race" »

The Weekly 7: This Week in Vermont News


Each weekday, Seven Days scans the news across the Vermont media landscape to find the smartest, best and most compelling stories. We bundle them up in an email and send them out to our subscribers early each afternoon. It's called the Daily 7.

So which Vermont news stories are you reading? And which should you be reading? Here are the stories you clicked on most from this week's editions of the Daily 7:


#1 Downton the Tubes: Vermont Public Television Faces Federal Inquiry and Staff Revolt
By Paul Heintz, Seven Days — Wednesday, January 22

Vermont Public Television could be fined or lose Corporation for Public Broadcasting support over allegations of board misconduct. Staffers want two board leaders to resign. See the latest update to the story here.


#2 Fox's Widower, Michael Sirotkin, Expresses "Interest" in Her Senate Seat
By Paul Heintz, Seven Days Off Message — Wednesday, January 22

Lobbyist Michael Sirotkin told Democratic Party officials that he's interested in the Chittenden County state senate seat opened by the death of his wife, Sally Fox. Ultimately his name was one of three recommended; Gov. Peter Shumlin will make the final decision.

Continue reading "The Weekly 7: This Week in Vermont News" »

Media Note: Preliminary Review Finds that VPT Board Held Closed-Door Meetings

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 12.47.14 PM
Left to right: VPT board members Patricia Sabalis, Tom Pelletier and Lorilee Lawton

As we reported in this week's Fair Game, Vermont Public Television is facing a Corporation for Public Broadcasting investigation into whether the station's board of directors violated federal open meetings law. 

On Friday, the chairman of the VPT board's audit committee, Tom Pelletier, said that a preliminary review conducted by his panel found that the board has, indeed, held closed-door meetings. Pelletier announced the findings at an audit committee meeting held at the station's Colchester headquarters.

"VPT's preliminary review indicates that the VPT board has, from time to time, held conference calls or committee meetings that were not open to the public, in order to address various personnel matters," said Pelletier, who is president and CEO of Northfield Bank. "These meetings were conducted internally because VPT, like many organizations, does not publicly discuss personnel matters."

While such closed-door meetings are permissible if properly warned and documented, Pelletier acknowledged that VPT's board did not always follow proper procedure. 

Continue reading "Media Note: Preliminary Review Finds that VPT Board Held Closed-Door Meetings" »

January 23, 2014

Shumlin (Quietly) Signs Campaign Finance Bill into Law

Just a BillRemember that campaign finance bill? The one that increases the amount of money statewide politicians, parties and political action committees can raise? (We wrote about it here, here, here and here.)

Whelp, a bill it is no longer. Asked Thursday afternoon when it would be signed into law, Gov. Peter Shumlin's spokeswoman Sue Allen said the deed's already been done.

"The Governor signed the campaign finance bill earlier today," she said in an email.

If you were waiting for a public signing with a crowd of supporters and plenty of pens to give away, you apparently didn't miss anything. The gov signed the bill into law without any public notice, nor — as of this writing — any public statement. (Updated below with a statement from Shumlin's office)

Continue reading "Shumlin (Quietly) Signs Campaign Finance Bill into Law" »

A Lobbyist in the Legislature? How Sirotkin Would Segue to the Senate

SirotkinThere's no shortage of teachers, lawyers and retirees serving in the Vermont legislature. But just what would happen if one of Montpelier's top lobbyists — a co-owner and namesake of one of its most influential firms — were to join the Vermont Senate? 

That's the question many in the Capitol are pondering as Gov. Peter Shumlin appears likely to appoint Michael Sirotkin to a vacant Chittenden County Senate seat.

As the widower of the late Sen. Sally Fox, whose seat he would fill, Sirotkin would, in many ways, be a natural pick. But as a contract lobbyist with a three-decade history of influencing his (potential) peers, his appointment could raise some novel questions.

Recognizing that, Sirotkin says that, if appointed, "I would be resigning from my practice immediately." 

And he wouldn't simply serve out Fox's term in a caretaker role, then return to lobbying. If appointed, he says, "I would most likely run in 2014."

Nor would he remain an owner of Sirotkin & Necrason. "I would not seek to retain an interest in my firm," he says.

But even if he severed all ties with the lobby shop, would Sirotkin not feel some residual loyalty to his former partners and clients? Would it be difficult to make the transition?

"There would be some challenges. I think not as many as people would think," he says. "Of course, most of the people I've advocated for directly are grassroots kinds of interests, and those are the kinds of interests I'm most interested in."

Continue reading "A Lobbyist in the Legislature? How Sirotkin Would Segue to the Senate" »

January 22, 2014

Chittenden County Dems Recommend Sirotkin, Ingram and Ellis to Fill Fox's Senate Seat

Debbie IngramAfter a day of high drama in Vermont political circles, Chittenden County Democrats on Wednesday evening settled on three names to send Gov. Peter Shumlin as he considers who should fill the county's vacant senate seat.

Among them was the race's most recent entrant — and its heavy favorite: Michael Sirotkin, whose late wife, Sally Fox, held the seat until her death nearly two weeks ago.

Sirotkin's announcement earlier Wednesday that he was interested in succeeding Fox roiled the contest and prompted three leading contenders to withdraw. But two other candidates — Williston Selectboard member Debbie Ingram (pictured at right) and Burlington management consultant Dawn Ellis — kept their names in the running. 

In the end, the county Democrats gathered at Burlington's Fletcher Free Library voted to send all three names to Shumlin. 

With 60 eligible voters casting up to three votes each, Sirotkin won 48 votes, Ingram 33 and Ellis 20.

Continue reading "Chittenden County Dems Recommend Sirotkin, Ingram and Ellis to Fill Fox's Senate Seat" »

Burlington's 'Civic Cloud' Wins $35K Grant From the Knight Foundation

800px-Cisco-Gigabit-Switch-Router-Performance-Route-Processor-0aEarlier this month, dubbed Burlington one of the most promising tech hubs to watch in 2014; today, an innovative coalition of Vermont groups calling itself the Civic Cloud Collaborative demonstrated why. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today that it's awarding the Collaborative a $35,000 grant from its Prototype Fund.

The coalition will use the funding to develop an online space — a so-called “Civic Cloud” — for community-minded, nonprofit entities to expand their digital footprint. Members of the Collaborative include the civic-hacking group Code for BTV, the public-access television station CCTV Center for Media and Democracy and the web-based music platform Big Heavy World

In an email to Seven Days, Big Heavy World executive director James Lockridge explained that the Civic Cloud is essentially "an internet makerspace."

Continue reading "Burlington's 'Civic Cloud' Wins $35K Grant From the Knight Foundation" »

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