Monday, July 28, 2014

Shumlin: No Large Sites in Vermont for Undocumented Children

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin
Vermont does not have a site that can host 1,000 undocumented children who have crossed the southern border into the United States, Gov. Peter Shumlin wrote a federal official Monday, while also expressing the state's "willingness to help with this humanitarian crisis."

The governor said smaller sites could be available, though that’s not what the federal government is seeking to accommodate the influx of unaccompanied youngsters. The New York Times reports that roughly 57,000 minors, mostly from Central American nations, have crossed into the U.S. since last October.

“ … Working together with some of our organizations like the Red Cross, leaders from the City of Burlington, and other partners, we have developed a few potential options for housing much smaller groups of closer to 75 to 100 children, fully recognizing that is not specifically what your Agency is looking for at this time," Shumlin wrote in a letter to Christie L. Hager, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “My administration would be happy to discuss these options in greater detail if that would be helpful to you.”

Further, Shumlin's letter says that the state has reached out to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, offering to assist his state after he offered the Camp Edwards military base in Bourne and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee as options.

Shumlin's letter closed, "Our hearts go out to these families – parents and children – who have made these dangerous journeys and are now in custody. We support your efforts to find a safe and humane solution to this serious problem. Please let us know if we can help."

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VLS Professor and Legal Commentator Cheryl Hanna Dies

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Updated at 8:52 p.m.

Vermont Law School professor Cheryl Hanna has died, the South Royalton school announced Monday.

A beloved professor whose scholarship focused on the intersection of gender and the law, Hanna distinguished herself as Vermont’s most prolific legal commentator. Her engaging manner enlivened the state’s legal reporting and her commentaries brought home the relevance of the courts to everyday life.

"Professor Hanna was a beloved teacher and role model to many within and beyond the Vermont Law School community," VLS spokeswoman Maryellen Apelquist said Monday in a written statement. "It is with heartache that we share this loss. She will be deeply missed by our faculty, staff, students and alumni."

Hanna, 48, is survived by her husband and two young children.

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Morning Watch: "Meet the Press" Features Vermont's Single-Payer Debate

Posted By on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 9:36 AM

NBC's "Meet the Press" journeyed north this Sunday to document Vermont's flirtation with "Canadian-style" health care reform.

As part of the program's "Meeting America" series, NBC correspondent Kevin Tibbles explored what single-payer-style health care could mean for Vermont and the nation — and how many Vermont cliches he could fit into a 4:05-minute piece. 

The segment was light on policy specifics and mostly featured commentary from a smattering of Derby Line residents, but it did feature a brief cameo from our colleague, the Vermont Press Bureau's Neal Goswami. Here's hoping he's tapped to replace MTP host David Gregory after the election.

Here's the story:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bloomberg: IBM's Negotiations With GlobalFoundries "Have Ended"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Updated at 5:28 p.m.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that IBM was "nearing a deal" to sell its chip-manufacturing business to Emirate of Abu Dhabi-owned GlobalFoundries.

But on Friday afternoon, the news organization reported that the deal was off. Talks between the two companies "have ended after the two companies failed to agree on terms," Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources.

Friday's story was written by two of the three reporters who penned last month's piece suggesting an imminent deal.

Bloomberg’s sources told the news organization that IBM had rejected an offer from GlobalFoundries as "too low." One source told Bloomberg that GlobalFoundries "had placed little or no value on IBM's factories because they are too old."

Those factories include IBM's Essex Junction facility, which employs more than 4,000 people. As Seven Days reported earlier this month, the company’s Vermont workers have been nervously awaiting news of IBM’s months-long effort to spin off its chip division — and wondering whether a sale would result in layoffs at the plant.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Media Note: Charnoff Leaving VPR for North Carolina

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Neal Charnoff - COURTESY: VPR
  • Courtesy: VPR
  • Neal Charnoff
One of Vermont Public Radio's best-known voices is signing off the air next month.

Neal Charnoff, who has hosted the local edition of NPR's "All Things Considered" since 2001, is leaving for Winston-Salem, N.C., where he'll serve as "Morning Edition" host for Wake Forest University's WFDD-FM. His last day at VPR is August 15.

"I can't do winter anymore," Charnoff said, adding that he and his wife have been hoping to move closer to his stepchildren in North Carolina.

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Faced With Revenue Downgrade, Shumlin Orders Budget Cuts

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 1:05 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin and Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding
Updated at 5:11 p.m.

Faced with a projected revenue downgrade of $31 million, Gov. Peter Shumlin asked members of his cabinet Wednesday evening to come up with significant budget cuts throughout state government.

During a press conference Thursday morning in his Montpelier office, the governor blamed the bad news on the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis — and economists' rosy projections about the pace of recovery.

"We continue to recover, but this has been a slow crawl back from the worst recession in American history — and Vermont's not immune to that," Shumlin said.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

At Campaign Launch, Milne Vows to Oppose Shumlin's "Ultra-Progressive Agenda"

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Former state representative Marion Milne watches her son, Scott Milne, announce his candidacy for governor. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Former state representative Marion Milne watches her son, Scott Milne, announce his candidacy for governor.
Pomfret businessman Scott Milne kicked off his underdog campaign for governor Wednesday morning by promising to replace Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin's "ultra-progressive agenda" with his own "moderate Republican" solutions.

"I promise to run a campaign of ideas," he said. "I promise to provide the voters of Vermont with an alternative to the present administration, which has failed by steering the ship of state into uncharted waters — making promises it cannot fulfill and, I would argue, ignoring the basic needs of Vermonters."

Milne, who filed papers to run last month, made his formal announcement before a robust crowd of supporters and Republican officials at Barre's Aldrich Public Library. He was introduced by his mother, former state representative Marion Milne, and by former governor Jim Douglas, who hailed the younger Milne as "the next governor of the great state of Vermont."

Though Milne promised at the get-go to refrain from "vilifying the governor," he devoted much of his remarks to a harsh indictment of Shumlin's four years in the state's top office. The incumbent, his challenger said, must not skate to reelection "without having to answer for his misjudgments or fail[ing] to justify his actions," while Shumlin's administration "must answer for its shortcomings and its over-reachings."

"He must answer for his unkept promises and his mistakes," Milne said. "The bubble of his rhetoric must be deflated and seen for what it is. I suggest we wipe away the foam and see what's left."

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Burlington Telecom Deal Faces State Scrutiny

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Burlington Chief Administrative Officer Bob Rusten testifies Tuesday at the state Public Service Board. - KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • Kevin J. Kelley
  • Burlington Chief Administrative Officer Bob Rusten testifies Tuesday at the state Public Service Board.
Aggressive questioning by state regulators on Tuesday revealed that Burlington officials did not try to determine the market value of the city-owned telecommunications network prior to agreeing to sell it to a local businessman for $6 million.

Burlington Chief Administrative Officer Bob Rusten acknowledged that the city had not consulted investment bankers, independent appraisers or bond underwriters in order to calculate how much Burlington Telecom might be worth. Rusten did not explain why such evaluations were not carried out.

The $6 million deal with Trey Pecor, owner of the Lake Champlain ferry system and a contributor to Mayor Miro Weinberger's political campaigns, is the linchpin in a pending settlement with Citibank intended to lighten the load of the BT albatross. Citibank agreed in February to accept $10.5 million to settle a $33.5 million suit it had brought against Burlington five years earlier. The bank had argued in federal court that the essentially insolvent telecom enterprise should be required either to return equipment it had leased from Citi or cover the claimed value of that property.

Although Pecor would become the de facto owner of BT, the utility's operations would be leased back to the city under the terms of the proposed deal. Burlington would in turn continue to cede day-to-day decision-making authority over BT to the Dorman and Fawcett financial advisory firm. The Citi settlement also calls for Burlington to seek another buyer for BT in the coming years, with Pecor, the city and the bank getting varying shares of the proceeds of an eventual purchase by another party.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Burlington College's Financial Troubles Detailed in Letter from Accreditor

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Burlington College president Christine Plunkett - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Burlington College president Christine Plunkett
It’s no secret that Burlington College has a big, long-term debt. In 2011, it borrowed $10 million to move from a 19,000-square-foot building to the 90,000-square-foot former Catholic orphanage it currently occupies.

But the regional accreditation group that put the tiny liberal arts college on probation at the end of June appears to be worried about more immediate financial problems.

In a letter the New England Association of Schools and Colleges sent Burlington College on June 27, NEASC explained why it put the school on probation: It described an institution struggling to pay its bills. College officials, who announced the news on July 7, declined to release the document publicly. Seven Days obtained a copy earlier this week.

Burlington College's long-term debt service plan is to increase enrollment from roughly 290 students to as many as 750, and to sell and lease parts of its lakeside property to a local developer. 

In the meantime, the 42-year-old institution has no cash reserves, according to NEASC's letter. The letter stated that the accreditation body was “extremely concerned that the College does not have sufficient cash to meet its biweekly $90,000 payroll this summer, and we are distressed to learn that the institution may use Fall 2014 tuition income” to help pay those salaries.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

State Reps Launch Economic Development PAC

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. Heidi Scheuermann
Reps. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) and Paul Ralston (D-Middlebury) spent four years sitting next to one another on the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, brainstorming ways to make Vermont more friendly to business.

Now, the bipartisan pair is launching a new political action committee focused on electing kindred spirits to the legislature.

"It's really important to bring more attention to economic development in Vermont and kind of move it away from being an also-ran in the Statehouse," says Ralston, who is stepping down from his House seat when his term concludes at the end of the year. "It certainly felt like there was a lot more energy and effort put into social issues. That's fine and everything, but I would like to see a little more of that energy and enthusiasm go into economic issues."

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