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October 03, 2013

This Week's Issue: A Famous Sea Captain, Political Dark Arts and Scandalous Dancing

100213-coverIt's a big news week in Vermont with the long-awaited launch of the state's health care exchange. We've got stories about that and more in this week's Seven Days.

Read these stories and more in print, online or on our iOS app.

Cover photo of Captain Phillips by Oliver Parini

September 24, 2013

Seasonal Workers and Airport Vendors are Issues in Livable Wage Hearing

PhotoJust moments after the Burlington City Council voted on a new redistricting plan last night, its members dove headfirst into an even thornier issue: the city's livable wage ordinance.

For the last several months, the council’s three-member ordinance committee has been consulting with employers, city agencies, nonprofit organizations and the public to hammer out a set of amendments to a city law originally passed in 2001, ordinance committee chair Chip Mason (D-Ward 5) explained last night.

As envisioned, the ordinance was meant to guarantee a livable wage to employees of the city or any company with which it contracts. Right now, Burlington defines “livable” as $13.94 an hour for companies that offer health insurance and $15.83 for those that don't.

Continue reading "Seasonal Workers and Airport Vendors are Issues in Livable Wage Hearing " »

September 18, 2013

This Week's Issue: Untangling Vermont's Health Care Exchange; Union Busting Allegations at SMC

Cover-091813Happy Wednesday, people. Here are the news and politics stories you'll find in the latest edition of Seven Days:

If those links aren't your style, read these stories in print or on the Seven Days app.

Cover illustration by Michael Tonn

September 11, 2013

Leahy Leads Hearing On State and Federal Marijuana Laws

Leahy2-1With Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) at its helm, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday sought clarity from a top law enforcement official on how to reconcile conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.

At a Capitol Hill hearing, the committee zeroed in on the Department of Justice's announcement last month that it would permit Colorado and Washington to host a regulated marijuana industry. The two states passed referenda last year to legalize recreational use of the drug by adults.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole, a star witness at the hearing, issued a memo Aug. 29 advising prosecutors to focus enforcement on those who sell the drug to minors, distribute it to states where it remains illegal or use state laws as a cover for drug trafficking.

Continue reading "Leahy Leads Hearing On State and Federal Marijuana Laws" »

September 06, 2013

Senator Urges Action On Sodexo Complaints

BaruthWhen Sen. Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden) walks around the University of Vermont, where he is also an English professor, it’s not unusual for people to approach him with their complaints. He’s the majority leader in the Vermont State Senate, after all.

But the number of complaints spiked to around “10 times the normal rate” last week, the senator says, and the constituents approaching him weren’t students; they were employees of Sodexo Food Service, the French multinational company to which UVM and other Vermont colleges contract their dining services.

The workers, Baruth says, were complaining that Sodexo had informed them it would be cutting back many of their hours at the end of the calendar year, resulting in the loss of their health, dental and other benefits. They also alleged that the company had warned it would terminate any employees who went public with their complaints.

“They were told, pretty straight up, that they were going to lose health benefits and retirement,” Baruth says, suggesting that the Sodexo workers approached him in person out of fear the company might be monitoring their emails. 

In response, Baruth wrote a letter to Vermont Commissioner of Labor Annie Noonan requesting an investigation into the complaints.

“If true, these allegations would represent a very serious infringement on the rights of Sodexo workers not just on the UVM campus — where the company holds an exclusive contract for food services — but on various campuses of the state colleges as well,” Baruth said in the letter.

Continue reading "Senator Urges Action On Sodexo Complaints" »

September 04, 2013

This Week's Issue: Bike Thefts, Crowded Sidewalks and Harry Potter


This week's Art Hop issue is on newsstands now. But fear not, news junkies! We've got the usual bunch of news and politics, too. Here's what you'll find:

August 30, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

ScoreboardPaul Heintz is on vacation, so this week's scores have been tallied by Seven Days digital media manager Tyler Machado. (CONFIDENTIAL TO HEINTZ: You picked a hell of a week to take off, dude!)

So who won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?

Stoners, Catamounts and Lake Monsters, oh my!

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Aug. 30: 


Almost Everyone — Entergy's announcement that it will shut down Vermont Yankee in 2014 was good news for everyone — except, of course, the folks who work there. Entergy saves some loot. Vermont ratepayers won't notice the difference since local utilities weren't buying its power anyway. Environmentalists will close the book on decades of activism. And nearly every political entity in Vermont (and elsewhere!) scored an easy layup — even if cheap natural gas was the final death blow for the state's sole nuclear power plant.

Pot smokers — Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department won't challenge state laws legalizing marijuana. That should ease the minds of Vermont's marijuana reform opponents, including House Speaker Shap SmithRunner-up winner: Sen. Patrick Leahy, who may have forced Holder's hand on the issue.

More winners, and losers, after the jump...

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

August 29, 2013

Middlebury College Won't Be Divesting From Fossil Fuels


For the last several years, climate change activist Bill McKibben has been traveling the country encouraging colleges to stop investing their endowments in the fossil-fuel sector. But it looks like that message is a tough sell at Middlebury College, where McKibben is a scholar-in-residence. 

Yesterday, Midd released a statement explaining why it won't be withdrawing its investments from the fossil-fuel industry any time soon. In it, president Ronald D. Liebowitz explains that the school's administration and Board of Trustees took "a hard look" at pursuing a no-fossil-fuels investment strategy and decided against it. 

In his letter, Liebowitz touts Middlebury's existing environmental initiatives, which include the first-in-the-nation environmental studies program of which McKibben is a part. But Liebowitz also explains that Midd's nearly $1 billion endowment covers about 18 percent of the school's operating expenses. He describes the “fiduciary responsibility” of the school’s Board of Trustees to manage that fund with the bottom line in mind.

“If it is to continue to fund operations at comparable or increasing levels in the years ahead, the endowment must grow through new gifts and, especially, through the returns it earns on its investments,” he writes.

Continue reading "Middlebury College Won't Be Divesting From Fossil Fuels" »

August 28, 2013

This Week's Issue: Natural Gas, Intervale Angst and a Look at Lisman


After you're done with the big cover story about the future of Burlington's urban farmers, dig into this week's news and politics stories:

Get this issue now in print, at the links above or via our iOS app.

August 09, 2013

The Scoreboard: This Week's Winners and Losers

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

Switch-bumpers, snake-haters, calculators, power companies, TV stations, defense attorneys, creepy travel writers and more!

Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, Aug. 9: 


Brooks McArthur — The Burlington defense attorney played some serious offense this week on behalf of his client, Burlington Police Department Deputy Chief Andi Higbee. When the Vermont State Police refused to give the Burlington Free Press a copy of a cruiser cam video of Higbee's July DUI arrest, Brooks took it upon himself to hand over a copy. A savvy way to score points with Freeps transparency czar Mike Donoghue and shift the conversation to why Higbee was pulled over in the first place. 

WPTZ-TV — Last month WCAX-TV announced that, come September, it would expand its news coverage to weekend mornings. But the station's main competitor, WPTZ-TV, beat Channel 3 to the punch, launching its own weekend news programming last weekend without fanfare. What's more? Channel 5 will feature four full hours of news coverage — twice as much as Channel 3's promised.

The Timothy Szad Beat — The recently-released sex offender is back in town after a brief trip to California. And that's got the state's cops and courts reporters in a tizzy reporting his every last move. Public service journalism or tabloid reporting?

Patrick Leahy — Because the U.S. Senate President Pro Tem's got some very special friends in the entertainment, defense, telecom, legal, tech and beverage industries.

Peter Welch — A BuzzFeed puff piece on the Vermont Congressman's bipartisan street cred netted something even better for Welch: a glowing editorial from the Saint Albans Messenger's Emerson Lynn echoing Welch's — ahem, BuzzFeed's — talking points.

Losers and tie score after the jump...

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

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