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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

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" »

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" »

December 04, 2013

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" »

November 25, 2013

Burlington College Cuts Spark Fears and Student Protests

Christine Plunkett on the Burlington College campus. (file: Matthew Thorsen)

Budget cuts resulting in the loss of four faculty and staff members at financially shaky Burlington College are sparking protests by students who say they're worried about their school's viability.

Two department chairs at the 41-year-old college — Anna Blackmer (humanities) and Emily Schmidt (fine arts) — recently resigned after being offered contracts that would have made them half-time employees and terminated their health benefits. Blackmer, 63, has been working full-time at the college for 25 years.

Web administrator and veterans' liaison Erin Elliott, who is eight months pregnant, saw her position eliminated.

A third academic program head, Gordon Glover (film), was not offered a new contract. And Mary Arbuckle, a professor in the film department, had her hours cut in half and her benefits terminated. That scale-back sharply constricts the one department for which Burlington College has achieved a degree of recognition beyond its North Avenue campus.

Continue reading "Burlington College Cuts Spark Fears and Student Protests" »

November 24, 2013

Sources: New York-Based Firm to Take Over Burlington Town Center

Burlington Town Center, the 230,000-square-foot Church Street shopping mall, is being sold to New York City real-estate investment firm with Vermont ties, two sources tell Seven Days.

Both persons requested anonymity because neither the prospective buyer, Devonwood Investors, nor the seller, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, has announced the deal, which is scheduled to close on December 15.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said in an interview this weekend that he could not provide details on the transaction, including its price, because “it needs to be understood as preliminary.” The purchasers have "not put forward a detailed plan of what they intend to do,” the mayor added.

Weinberger did say that one of the principals in the deal “has spent a considerable amount of time in Burlington.”

Continue reading "Sources: New York-Based Firm to Take Over Burlington Town Center" »

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