MORE BLOGS: Bite Club (Food & Drink) | Live Culture (Arts) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Off Message: Vermont News and Politics


January 14, 2014

Wife of Man Fatally Shot by Police says Burlington Must Do More for Mentally Ill

DSC_0869Barbara Brunette, the wife of a man fatally shot by police in November, implored the Burlington City Council Monday night to invest resources into taking better care of the mentally ill.

A police officer shot Wayne Brunette on Nov. 6 after receiving a call from his parents who said their son was acting irrationally. Police say that Brunette, a 49-year-old who struggled with schizophrenia, threatened two officers with a shovel before he was shot. 

 The Vermont State Police and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office have both cleared the two officers involved of any criminal wrongdoing.

The city council meeting was part eulogy and part plea for more resources.

“My husband was a very caring, poetic, loving, romantic man. He was a fantastic father,” Brunette, pictured above, told the council.  “Policies have to be changed.”

Continue reading "Wife of Man Fatally Shot by Police says Burlington Must Do More for Mentally Ill" »

January 13, 2014

Mayor Endorses College Duo's Ambitious Plan for Moran Plant


Two college kids may get their chance to breathe new life into a long-dormant coal plant on Burlington’s waterfront. Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Monday that he would like the city to invest $6.3 million in a proposal — concocted by two University of Vermont students — to convert the Moran Plant into the site of a performance space, restaurant, glassblowing studio and “educational brewery,” among other uses. 

Efforts to refurbish the eyesore beside Lake Champlain have repeatedly failed during the last three decades.

If 22-year-old Tad Cooke and 23-year-old Erick Crockenberg and their team prove effective at scrounging up a lot of cash — the total cost is pegged at $26 million, much of which would have to be raised through donations — Weinberger will ask the city to pitch in $4.2 million worth of tax-increment financing, plus $2.1 million that had been previously allocated to the plant.

Continue reading "Mayor Endorses College Duo's Ambitious Plan for Moran Plant " »

January 10, 2014

Champlain College Announces New President


Today, the Champlain College board of trustees announced that Donald Laackman will be replacing David Finney as the school’s president. Since March 2011, Laackman (pronounced “Lock-man”) has served as president of Harold Washington College, one of Chicago’s city colleges.

“I cannot think of a person who could better embody Champlain College's ‘radically pragmatic’ approach to higher education,” said Mary Powell, chair of the board of trustees, in an announcement to students, faculty and staff in the college’s Alumni Auditorium this morning. “Don's extensive business experience will help further Champlain's work in providing an outstanding academic experience that is directly connected to developing high-functioning members of society.”

Prior to serving as president of Harold Washington, Laackman (pictured) was a principal at the Chicago-based Civic Consulting Alliance and a managing director at Accenture, a global technology consulting and outsourcing firm. He received a bachelor’s degree and master's in public policy from the University of Chicago. His wife, Allyson Laackman, is vice president and CFO at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. They have two kids. 

Continue reading "Champlain College Announces New President" »

January 07, 2014

Megabus Slashes Service on Burlington-NYC Route

  F-megabusMegabus has sharply reduced its service between Burlington and New York City in what the low-cost carrier says is a response to dwindling demand.

In accordance with the unannounced scaleback taking effect on January 8, Megabus will no longer make daily runs to and from Manhattan via Saratoga Springs, N.Y. That route will now operate northbound on Thursday and Sunday and southbound on Friday and Monday.

Travel to and from Manhattan through Saratoga Springs is supposed to take an hour less than the scheduled seven-hour journey between Burlington and New York City via Amherst, Mass., and Hartford, Conn. That longer route will continue to operate on a daily basis in both directions, although departure and arrival times have been changed. Megabus is also continuing a daily Burlington-Boston service, with twice-a-day options available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Megabus spokesman Mike Alvich declined to provide specific figures for passenger loads for the Burlington-New York City service that runs through Saratoga Springs. He said “competitive reasons” prevent Megabus from disclosing those numbers.

Alvich did say the decline in customers on the Saratoga route is not a seasonal matter. Megabus “looked at the full year” in calculating the difference between revenues and expenses for that run, he noted.

“If we start to see additional business, we'll increase frequency between Burlington and New York,” Alvich added.

Continue reading "Megabus Slashes Service on Burlington-NYC Route" »

January 04, 2014

Protestors Renew Opposition to Vermont Gas Pipeline, Despite PSB Approval

Photo 1 (1)Two days before Christmas came the news environmental activists and landowners in Addison County were dreading: The Public Service Board approved Vermont Gas’s plan to build a 43-mile, $86.6 million natural gas pipeline from Chittenden County south to Middlebury.

But neither the stamp of approval, nor frigid temperatures and biting wind in downtown Burlington, deterred protestors from turning out for a rally Saturday against that decision. Altogether, around 75 people met up outside One Main Street, waving placards and banners and stamping their feet to keep warm.

The proposed pipeline has fueled opposition throughout Vermont. Environmentalists decry the additional construction of fossil fuel infrastructure instead of renewable energy resources, and they oppose the technology used to obtain the Canadian natural gas. A portion of the gas the pipeline would carry is obtained in Canada using hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking.”

Continue reading "Protestors Renew Opposition to Vermont Gas Pipeline, Despite PSB Approval" »

January 03, 2014

Wintry Blast Prompts State and Nonprofit Groups to Find Roofs for Homeless


Before yesterday, Wayne Dow hadn’t slept under a roof since early springtime. Homeless for many years and sleeping most recently near the Barge Canal in Burlington’s South End, the  60-year-old said today that he had planned to spend the whole winter outside. But on Thursday morning, “I got up and just said, ‘Alright, Nature, you win!’”

So after Dow (pictured, right) peeled off his icy crust of a blanket yesterday morning, he contacted the Committee on Temporary Shelter. COTS assigned him a bed in a Church Street homeless shelter. As he explained this, he was smoking a cigarette outside the COTS daystation on Buell Street. He’d just had lunch there — ham and potatoes au gratin — and was heading to the pharmacy to pick up cold medicine.

That Dow sought shelter was understandable. Thursday, Burlington temperatures were hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit. Friday, the National Weather Service recorded a high in Burlington of negative two degrees and the temperature was expected to plummet overnight to 15 below. And that was before factoring in the wind chill. (The ink in this reporter’s pen froze several times during the reporting of this story.)

Continue reading "Wintry Blast Prompts State and Nonprofit Groups to Find Roofs for Homeless " »

December 17, 2013

At 11th Hour, Burlington City Council Approves Redistricting Plan

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 7.30.01 AMEarning itself a small round of applause last night, the Burlington City Council eked out a redistricting plan for Burlington voters to decide on next March. Known as the “8-4-12 plan,” the new map divides the city into eight wards and four larger “precincts,” each represented by one councilor. Currently, 14 councilors represent seven wards.

In the council’s final meeting of the year, the 9-5 vote came just in time to bring the plan before voters on Town Meeting Day in March. Under the “one-person, one-vote” legal principle, the city would have been vulnerable to a lawsuit from virtually any voter had it not approved the redistricting plan.

That’s because changing population patterns have left certain wards disproportionately represented in the council. Based on the 2010 census, the less-densely populated New North End is currently made up of two wards — 4 and 7 — giving that part of the city a total of four councilors. Meanwhile, even as the population of Ward 1 has swollen due to University of Vermont student housing, only two councilors currently represent those residents.

Continue reading "At 11th Hour, Burlington City Council Approves Redistricting Plan" »

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" »

Subscribe to the Daily 7

Fill out my online form.
All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684