With a few new hires and some high praise from respected folks, it's been a pretty good year here at Seven Days. As 2013 winds down, we're taking our usual holiday break. Barring big news, our blogs will go silent from Monday, December 23 to Wednesday, January 1. The Daily 7 newsletter will be on hiatus during this time period as well.
We worked overtime this past week to make sure there's a print edition during the Christmas week, so expect our usual weekly issue in print, online and on the app, on Thursday, December 26. It's a double issue that covers events through January 8 — the date of the first Seven Days of 2014. Online reporting starts up again on January 2.
In the meantime, we'll be loading up on sidewalk salt and non-perishable food items — there's an ice storm (!) on the way.
All of us at Seven Days wish you a safe and fulfilling holiday season, no matter what you celebrate. See you in 2014. Don't make too much news while we're out.
Who won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?
Rutland. The blood in that town is like no other.
Here's the rest of the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, December 20:
Dealer.com — Owners of the Burlington-based online marketing company scored big this week with its billion-dollar sale to New York-based Dealertrack Technologies. State and local officials hailed the Dealer deal as evidence that Vermont is a great place to do business. But while officials at both companies say they'll continue to invest in Dealer's Burlington operations, it's too soon to say how the sale will affect the Queen City.
Rutland — In its final bid to take the national one-day record for blood collection, the city of Rutland did so — and then some. Tuesday's Gift of Life Marathon brought in 2337 pints of blood, besting the 1968-pint record set by Manchester, N.H., in 2011. Talk about a community coming together to get the job done!
The kids these days — Vermont won a $37 million federal grant to invest in early childhood education, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Thursday. The four-year Race to the Top grant is the largest single investment of its kind in state history, Shumlin said. Separately, the gov announced Thursday that five Vermont colleges will let high school seniors enroll free of charge as part of the state's "flexible pathways" program.
Burlington political observers — Progressive Selene Colburn's entry into the race to represent Ward 1 on the Burlington City Council sets up another interesting competition in next March's city elections. Colburn will face Democrat Molly Loomis. That means at least two wards will see Dem-versus-Prog races and another two will see Dem-versus-Republican matches.
Seven Days — The news about newspapers ain't all gloomy! With its hiring of VTDigger reporter Alicia Freese this week, Seven Days has added two new reporting positions to its news team in the past three months. Better yet, the newspaper still hasn't fired me!
According to Seven Days coeditor Jeff Good, Freese will join Kevin J. Kelley in covering the city of Burlington and will "fan out into the neighborhoods and explore the issues of health care and higher education as they play out in the lives of people who live and work in and around the city."
A Tunbridge native and 2010 graduate of Pomona College, Freese joined VTDigger as an editorial assistant in September 2012, before working her way up to full-time reporter. During the 2013 legislative session, Freese covered education and human services in the Statehouse. She has since covered statewide politics and health care.
By Kristen Fountain
Five turned out to be the magic number for students and educators in Walden.
After more than nine months of wrangling, voters in the small Caledonia County town finally passed a school budget after a fifth ballot vote on Tuesday, 176-131. The district was the first statewide in 20 years to operate this long without an approved budget.
“This is all I wanted for Christmas,” school board member Ray Lewis said. “I am very happy.”
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.
Two Burlington police officers have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a New North End resident with a history of mental illness who threatened them with a shovel last month.
At a press conference this afternoon, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan and Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell announced that Cpl. Ethan Thibault was justified in his use of deadly force against 49-year-old Wayne Brunette. Based on a separate investigation by his department, Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling said that neither Thibault nor Cpl. Brent Navari had violated departmental protocol.
After laying out those findings, the law enforcement officials expressed their condolences to Brunette's family and acknowledged the need to improve police responses to incidents where mental illness may play a role.
For the last year, Monkton artist Rod MacIver has been waging a legal battle with the town of Shelburne. Last December, an officer from the town’s police department wrote MacIver a ticket for running a red light.
But after the artist secured footage from the cop’s cruiser cam that proved his innocence, he sued the town in small claims court. Later, the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union took MacIver as a client and filed a suit against the officer in federal court, where depositions are scheduled to take place next month.
But now, it seems, there might be a sequel in the works for MacIver.Last weekend, shortly before 11 p.m. on the evening of December 6, University of Vermont police Officer Mark Schwartz stopped MacIver as he was driving west on Route 2 towards Burlington, near the I-89 ramp. The officer wrote MacIver a ticket for wavering outside the marked lane.
The Attorney General's Office has paid $30,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the companion of an unarmed Thetford man who died after a state trooper shot him with a Taser stun gun in 2012.
The settlement, finalized in Orange Superior Court in Chelsea, eliminates the possibility of a trial over claims filed by Theresa Davidonis, who watched her mentally ill boyfriend, Macadam Mason, die after he was shot by a trooper who had been summoned to their house to help.
“The money reflects responsibility on the part of the state police for what they did,” Davidonis' attorney, Tom Costello of Brattleboro, said. “It was not for the death of Macadam, but for the emotional distress that Theresa endured; $30,000 is an amount that’s substantial and reflects a fair resolution in the case, particularly in light of the risk of taking it to a verdict.”
Who won and lost the week in Vermont news and politics?
Two words: Ed Adrian.
Here's the Scoreboard for the week of Friday, December 13:
Vermont Health Connect — After weeks of bad press, the state's health insurance exchange nabbed a few good headlines after Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Thursday that more and more Vermonters are signing up. Granted, those who've found the most success purchasing health insurance are the ones who bypassed the exchange entirely and went straight to their insurance companies. But, hey! Coverage is coverage!
Ed Adrian — The former Burlington city councilor, Democrat and Twitter junkie put the Vermont press corps to shame this week when he ponied up $50 to attend the Vermont GOP's winter gala Wednesday night. When the press learned they weren't invited (after tickets sold out), Adrian's tweeting and blogging of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote address made him virtually omnipresent.
Beltway Shummy — Having won reelection Monday as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, look for Gov. Peter Shumlin to play a more prominent role in the national political debate. This year, after all, the DGA played in just one gubernatorial election. Next year, 36 seats are up for grabs.
Jim Douglas — The former gov's run-in with a deer last weekend gave everyone a chance to dust off their old gubernatorial deer and bear jokes. We're just glad he and his wife, Dorothy, walked away unharmed. Now, can we get this guy his security detail back?
Ken Squier — The legendary owner of WDEV-Radio won the Vermont Press Association's Matthew Lyon Award for his lifelong commitment to the first amendment. Squier and WDEV were honored at the VPA's not-so-annual meeting and awards ceremony Thursday at Montpelier's Capital Plaza. Runner-up winners: Everyone else who took home hardware. The Burlington Free Press and Seven Days both won the VPA's "general excellence" awards for best daily and non-daily papers. The Freeps took home 13 awards, while Seven Days, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and the Herald of Randolph each took home eight.
Whelp, it was only a matter of time.
Though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie banned the press from covering his appearance Wednesday night at the Vermont Republican Party's "Welcome Winter" gala, audio of his speech, inevitably, has emerged.
Come on, dude, it's 2013.
The Vermont Press Bureau managed to sneak a tape recorder in, as reporter Peter Hirschfeld writes about here. And Seven Days has also gotten its dirty little mitts on a tape of Christie's remarks — as well as those of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
Surely you're tired of us writing about this by now, so we'll just leave you to the tapes. Here's Scott warming the crowd up:
And here's Christie delivering his keynote address:
Lea Terhune: Thanks, Ann. The picture of that lone cottonwood on the waterfront is worth 1000 words.
@Paul Jones, cottonwoods aren't very good firewood.
If you leave it alone for a few years it will…
Donna Canney Walters: (((NO))). This is a beautiful old tree that lends character to the view from the Seafood Shanty and…
Way to be Ann. I'd like to meet you and help out much as i can.
Paul Jones: Both my liver and I thank you for your concern. Perhaps you should lighten up and hug a…