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

Off Message: Vermont News and Politics


November 25, 2013

Shumlin Chastises Health Care Reform Official for Misleading Legislators

Larson.Tucker.LungeIn an uncharacteristic rebuke of one his own, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday he was "tremendously disappointed" with his chief health care reform administrator for misleading a legislative committee about a security lapse in the state's new health insurance exchange.

The official, Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson, sent a letter of apology Monday morning to members of the House Health Care Committee. Larson said that after listening to a recording of his testimony at a November 5 committee hearing, he had come to the conclusion that he had been insufficiently candid with committee members.

The Associated Press' Dave Gram reported Friday that Larson's department had reported what it believed to be an isolated security breach to federal authorities prior to the commissioner's appearance before the committee. But Larson told committee members that DVHA had investigated only one complaint and believed it to be unfounded, according to Gram.

In his letter to legislators, Larson wrote that he "failed to disclose" the security breach to legislators, a lapse he said violated his responsibility to be fully transparent with his fellow public servants.

Continue reading "Shumlin Chastises Health Care Reform Official for Misleading Legislators" »

November 12, 2013

Vermont Gun-Safety Advocates Focus on State's Suicide Rate

Gun sense 001

Vermont's high rate of suicide with firearms was the dominant theme of a well-attended and well-mannered forum held Monday night in Burlington City Hall.

Organized by advocates of gun-safety measures in a state with few firearms regulations, the event took place 50 yards from the site of a fatal shooting almost exactly two years ago. Josh Pfenning, 35, died on November 10, 2011, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while camped in City Hall Park during the Occupy Burlington protests.

The way in which Pfenning died is not unusual in Vermont. With the exception of Pennsylvania, Vermont has the Northeast's highest per-capita rate of gun-related deaths, most of which take the form of suicide, said Eliot Nelson, a pediatrician at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Vermonters are far more likely to kill themselves than one another, noted Sean Ackerman, a Fletcher Allen resident in child psychiatry. The state suicide rate stands at 16 deaths per 100,000 residents and the homicide rate is 1.6 per 100,000, he said, adding that more than half of suicides are carried out with firearms.

Continue reading "Vermont Gun-Safety Advocates Focus on State's Suicide Rate" »

October 31, 2013

Acknowledging Health Website Failures, Shumlin Extends Deadline

Shumlin podium.2Acknowledging that a poorly functioning website was making it impossible to hit the state's enrollment goals, Gov. Peter Shumlin this afternoon announced he was extending the deadline for small businesses and individuals to sign up for Vermont Health Connect from Jan. 1 to March 31. In the meantime, they will be allowed to continue using their existing plans. 

Additionally, Shumlin has deputized the two insurers offering plans in the market, Blue Cross Blue Shield Vermont and MVP Health Care, to act as "agents" of Vermont Heath Connect: Instead of signing up directly on the bug-ridden state website, businesses can sign up through the insurance companies, which will then register the plans with the exchange.

"These two additional options should give Vermonters going into the holiday season some (assurance) knowing there is no way they will lose insurance on January 1," Shumlin said during a press conference while standing in front of a phalanx of lawmakers, insurers and administration officials.

The announcement represents a dramatic reversal for the administration, which had been holding to the Jan. 1 deadline in the face of growing concerns about the website. 

Continue reading "Acknowledging Health Website Failures, Shumlin Extends Deadline" »

October 30, 2013

This Week's Issue: Hunting Trouble, Prison Sex and an M.I.A. Delegation

Cover103013While you're putting together your Halloween getup tonight — bonus candy for anyone in a homemade F-35 costume — give this week's news and politics stories in Seven Days a read. Here's what you'll find.

Pick up this week's issue in print, online or on the app. Finally, go Sox.

October 22, 2013

Media Note: Hoffer Hires VTDigger Reporter

Andrew-Stein_03Citing a desire to increase his office's investigative capacity, State Auditor Doug Hoffer said Monday he's hired VTDigger reporter Andrew Stein to serve as his executive assistant.

"I want more subjects covered," Hoffer said. "I want more product."

Stein, an alumnus of the Addison County Independent, has covered health care and energy for VTDigger since September 2012. He said he plans to leave the online news outlet in a month and join Hoffer's office November 25. 

"I was not actively seeking this position, but when the auditor approached me about the position he was essentially offering me a stethoscope to examine state government," Stein said. "This will give me the opportunity to better understand the issues that I investigate regularly and to investigate them in a much more thorough and meaningful way than I have time to."

Continue reading "Media Note: Hoffer Hires VTDigger Reporter" »

October 17, 2013

This Week's Issue: The State of Tech in Vermont


The Vermont Tech Jam comes to Burlington this Friday and Saturday, and Seven Days is marking the occasion with a package of technology-focused stories in this week's issue. Read about the world-leading companies that call Vermont home, one of iTunes' most popular kids podcasts, and an eerily intelligent robot that lives in Lincoln.

If you're looking for something even newsier, we've got that, too.

Get this week's issue on paper, online or on the app.

October 15, 2013

Lisman's Campaign for Vermont Drops $60K on New Ads

Bruce Lisman — the man, the myth, the legend — is coming to a television screen near you.

The retired Wall Street executive and dabbler in Vermont politics features prominently in a new TV ad his political advocacy group, Campaign for Vermont, plans to air in advance of this winter's legislative session.

In a press release announcing the ad, Lisman promises that future ads "will focus on specific reforms for which we will be advocating" next year, "like our detailed proposals to transform state government with transparency, establish ethics laws for elected officials and build the best education system in the world."

But this one's totally devoid of specifics. Just a lot of chatter about making Vermont affordable, creating jobs and helping families become more secure.

"No one calls for brighter colors or cuter puppies or offers to teach the world to sing in harmony," the Burlington Free Press' Terri Hallenbeck notes, "but you get the drift."

Here's what it looks like:


Continue reading "Lisman's Campaign for Vermont Drops $60K on New Ads" »

October 02, 2013

Grocers Honor "Big Dick" Mazza with Ridiculous Roast

Mazza.KaleWho knew Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) were so theatrically inclined?

Well, the secret's out now that the two have starred in a video roast of their colleague, Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), produced by the Vermont Grocers' Association. (If you're not familiar with the legend of Dick Mazza, BTW, you should definitely check out Seven Days' 2011 profile of him, written by my former colleague, Andy Bromage.)

Mazza, whose family has operated Mazza's General Store in Colchester since 1954, was presented with the industry trade group's "person of the year" award at its annual convention last Friday at South Burlington's DoubleTree Hotel.

With it came the 15-minute video written, in part, by Scott and Campbell and starring such notable Green Mountain thespians as Gov. Peter Shumlin, Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and former governor Jim Douglas. It was directed by local filmmaker Dennis Bathory-Kitsz.

"We have some talented actors masquerading as politicians," says VGA president Jim Harrison. 

Continue reading "Grocers Honor "Big Dick" Mazza with Ridiculous Roast" »

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 17, 2013

ACLU-VT Maps Vermont's Vast "Surveillance State"

PhotoAre Vermonters living in a surveillance state? The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont believes we’re fast approaching it — and the organization now has the facts to support that disturbing conclusion. The promise of an actual drone demonstration drew a crowd to a Tuesday morning press conference in Montpelier, where Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont, unveiled a new report, “Surveillance on the Northern Border.” 

Several years in the making, the 22-page, locally produced report offers a chilling view of the methods used by state and local authorities to gather, compile and sift through digital data that pertains to the activities and movements of ordinary Vermonters. “We are being watched,” the report states. “Today, Vermonters can barely go anywhere without creating a trail of digital information that pinpoints a person’s whereabouts at nearly any time, day after day.”

The ACLU-VT report pieces together all that is known, and not known, about surveillance technologies currently being used to track Vermonters’ location and activities, including their credit card, internet and cellphone usage, and driving habits.

Continue reading "ACLU-VT Maps Vermont's Vast "Surveillance State"" »

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