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Off Message: Vermont News and Politics

January 28, 2014

Video: Sanders Gets All Up in Bachmann's Grill

State of the union? Booooooring. 

If you're lookin' for a good (political) time tonight, we recommend you skip that snooze-fest of a speech and watch this clip of our own Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appearing alongside — gasp! — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) Monday night on CNN's  "Situation Room."

Here it is (with apologies for being slow on the uptake):

  

After you're done watching, repeat after me: "DO YOU SUPPORT A CHAINED CPI?"

Calm down.

DO YOU SUPPORT A CHAINED CPI?!"

Calm down.

Parents of Mentally Ill Burlington Man Witnessed Shooting, Don't Blame Cops

I wanted to follow-up with a couple of items that did not make it into last week's story about new details from the investigation into the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man, Wayne Brunette, by police at his New North End home.

The records obtained from the Vermont Attorney General's Office lay bare one of the most tragic aspects of the November 6 incident: Both of Brunette's parents stood on the front steps of their home and witnessed police fatally shooting their son, who was refusing officers' commands to drop a shovel. In fact, after summoning police to their home, Ruthine and Lawrence Brunette were the only two civilians to witness the entire incident, and their statements to investigators were apparently significant factors in the decision to clear officers Brent Navari and Ethan Thibault of criminal wrongdoing.

"They both started shooting, and I don't know how many times they hit him, he went down," Lawrence Brunette told investigators, according to the documents obtained by Seven Days.

Continue reading "Parents of Mentally Ill Burlington Man Witnessed Shooting, Don't Blame Cops" »

Allegations Against Vermont Public Television CEO at Heart of Board Intrigue

John.King
VPT president and CEO John King

Many of the allegedly secret meetings that have landed Vermont Public Television's board of directors in hot water with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were held to discuss allegations made by a former employee against VPT president and CEO John King, according to several people involved with the situation.

The former employee, who spoke to Seven Days on the condition of anonymity, said she told then-board vice chairwoman Pam Mackenzie in February 2012 that King had directed sexually harassing remarks at her when she worked for the station. She also accused him of engaging in questionable practices in fundraising and the use of grant money. 

King vigorously disputes all of the charges, saying they were investigated and "found to be unsubstantiated."

The allegations prompted board members to engage an independent human resources firm — Shelburne-based Church, Engle & Associates — in March 2012 to investigate the former employee's charges. As the board weighed the allegations, its executive committee met repeatedly without providing notice to the public, according to records of the meetings obtained by Seven Days. In April 2012 alone, according to those records, the executive committee met seven times behind closed doors.

Continue reading "Allegations Against Vermont Public Television CEO at Heart of Board Intrigue" »

Senate Committee Advances Shoreland Protection Rules

LM-land-katieAfter striking some compromises between environmentalists and property rights advocates, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved legislation on Friday that would tighten the rules governing shoreland development in Vermont. The bill is scheduled to come before the full Senate next week.

Big picture? The proposed rules are designed to improve water quality by limiting clearing and development on the very edges of Vermont's lakes and ponds; keeping shorelands more intact would prevent runoff and maintain critical habitat at the water's edge. Vermont passed some shoreland development rules in the 1970s, but they expired a few years later and were not reinstated. Today, according to the Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont is the only northeastern state without a statewide lakeshore protection rule on the books.

That may be about to change.

Continue reading "Senate Committee Advances Shoreland Protection Rules" »

Burlington City Council Approves Sweeping Waterfront Redevelopment Proposal, Sending it to Voters

IMG_0240The Burlington City Council gave its blessing Monday night to a multimillion-dollar plan for redeveloping Burlington's downtown waterfront. The approval clears the path for the proposal to go before voters on Town Meeting Day.

The redevelopment plan bundles six projects into one and would rely on $7.5 million in tax-increment financing (TIF) to come to fruition. TIF money lets cities and towns allocate future tax revenues from within a defined district for use on public infrastructure projects. 

The plan would also draw on other public and private funding sources.

At its cornerstone is a $26 million proposal to convert the Moran Plant into a performance space,  rooftop restaurant, “nano-brewery” and "maker space."

Continue reading "Burlington City Council Approves Sweeping Waterfront Redevelopment Proposal, Sending it to Voters" »

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

Weekly7

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" »

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