Friday, January 31, 2014

The Weekly 7: This Week in Vermont News

Posted on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 4:49 PM


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:


[image-x]Allegations Against Vermont Public Television CEO at Heart of Board Intrigue
By Paul Heintz, Seven Days Off Message — Tuesday, January 28

The Vermont Public Television board of directors allegedly met in secret to discuss allegations of harassment and questionable fundraising against president and CEO John King.


[image-x] Vermont Amber Alert Ends With Mother’s Arrest in Lyme
By Maggie Cassidy, Valley News — Wednesday, January 29

A Manchester woman considered "unstable and volatile" was arrested late Monday night for allegedly taking her 12-year-old son from foster care. The boy's sister told the Valley News that he wasn't in danger.

Continue reading »

Lisman's Group Accuses House Democrat of Solar Conflict

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 1:52 PM


A group founded and funded by retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman has accused a St. Albans Democrat of violating House rules by voting for legislation that would help his employer.

In a letter (see below) to House Speaker Shap Smith, Campaign for Vermont lobbyist Shawn Shouldice took Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) to task Thursday for supporting legislation that would expand Vermont's net-metering program.

Net metering encourages Vermonters to produce electricity at home and work, in exchange for a break on their power bills. Shouldice said that the bill would benefit SunCommon, the Waterbury-based solar leasing company for which McCarthy works as a community organizer.

The legislation increases the amount of renewable energy utilities can buy from customers from 4 percent of the companies' peak demand to 15 percent. The bill won preliminary approval Wednesday by a 136-8 margin and final passage Thursday by voice vote.

In her letter, Shouldice said the episode demonstrates the need for ethics reform, a cause Lisman and Campaign for Vermont have been trumpeting lately.

Continue reading »

On Paid Sick Leave, Top Vermont Dems Are Noncommittal

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 12:28 PM

John Dubie, owner of Burlington's Pearl Street Beverage, testified against paid sick leave legislation Thursday at the Statehouse.

With a reference to the world of Don Draper, President Obama renewed his call for mandatory paid sick leave Tuesday night in his State of the Union address

"A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship," he said. "And you know what, a father does, too. It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode."

But the president's full-throated support for the idea isn't exactly echoed by Vermont's Democratic leaders. As a committee in the Vermont House takes up legislation that would require businesses to provide employees up to seven days per year in accrued, paid sick leave, top Dems have been hesitant to take a side.

Continue reading »

Cornwall Board Takes Aim at Vermont Gas Pipeline

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 7:37 AM


The town of Cornwall is calling on the Addison County Regional Planning Commission to fight a proposed natural gas pipeline that, if constructed, would carry gas underground from Middlebury to Ticonderoga, N.Y. 

The Public Service Board approved "Phase One" of the Addison Natural Gas Project, which regional planners endorsed, in late December; that leg will bring gas south from Chittenden County to Middlebury. Vermont Gas — a subsidiary of GazMetro — filed plans requesting approval for "Phase Two" with the PSB in November. The second leg would jog southwest, through Cornwall, Shoreham, and then under Lake Champlain to its terminus: the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y. 

In her letter this week to the regional planners, Cornwall selectboard member Judy Watts points to two provisions in the regional plan which she argues provide "specific and unambiguous" reasons for rejecting the Phase II project. The plan states that energy infrastructure and services should not "cause undue adverse impact to the health and safety of residents or on the environmental quality of the Addison Region," and that no large energy generation or transmission facilities should be constructed in the region "which have as their primary purpose providing energy markets outside the Addison Region." The letter is signed by all five members of the Cornwall selectboard. 

Continue reading »

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exoneration Bills Pass Senate Committee, Chairman Takes Shot at Vt. Supreme Court

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 4:32 PM


Two bills designed to prevent false confessions and improve witness identification practices passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, cheering reformers seeking to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

After the votes, the influential chairman of the committee took an unusual shot at the Vermont Supreme Court — which Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said has dallied in deciding whether another reform designed to protect innocent defendants can be implemented. 

Both bills that unanimously passed the committee Thursday were promoted by the Innocence Project, a national organization that champions DNA testing and has helped exonerate 312 convicts since 1989.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Video: Sanders Gets All Up in Bachmann's Grill

Sanders stars in a feisty cable TV debate.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 8:06 PM


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.


Calm down.

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

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:43 PM

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 »

Allegations Against Vermont Public Television CEO at Heart of Board Intrigue

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 11:08 AM

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 »

Senate Committee Advances Shoreland Protection Rules

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 9:37 AM


After 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 »

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

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 8:40 AM


The 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 »

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