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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Former Rutland Mayor Describes Election Loss in VICE Interview

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 5:47 PM

Chris Louras - COURTESY HBO
  • Courtesy HBO
  • Chris Louras
The show’s over for Chris Louras.

“VICE News Tonight” followed the former Rutland mayor Monday as he prepared for his last day in office. He lost his reelection bid March 7 to David Allaire by a big margin: some 776 votes.

The HBO show captured Louras packing up his things inside city hall, exchanging a hug with a colleague and driving off into the sunset in his Smart car (which bears an “I Love Rutland, VT!” bumper sticker).

Much of what he told Vice News during the four-minute clip echoed what he told Seven Days reporter Mark Davis. His loss was a referendum on his decision to relocate refugees to Rutland, he said, and he never saw it coming.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Rutland Mayor Says He Was 'Whooped' by Refugee Backlash

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 4:56 PM

Mayor Chris Louras - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • file: caleb kenna
  • Mayor Chris Louras
Rutland Mayor Chris Louras didn't utter the word "refugee" during his reelection kickoff speech, and tried desperately to make the campaign about more than just the resettlement debate that roiled his city for the past year.

But Wednesday, as he processed his lopsided defeat to Alderman Dave Allaire, the chief opponent of his plan to bring 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to the city, Louras said he had been wrong on two key points:

One, the refugee issue was the only one that mattered to voters. And two, he was apparently mistaken in his oft-stated belief that the refugees' supporters outnumbered their opponents in the community.

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Scott Votes Against Berlin School Budget, One of 18 Defeated in State

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 11:44 AM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE
  • file
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 1:10 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott took his hardline approach on school budgets with him to the polls Tuesday when he voted against the school budget in his hometown of Berlin.

So, too, did the majority of town voters. The $3.5 million elementary school budget failed by a tally of 208-173, school board chair Carl Parton said Tuesday night.

Students in middle and high school attend the U-32 school in East Montpelier.

Scott predicated his 2018 state budget proposal on level-funding school budgets across the state and urged voters to “do the math” as they voted at town meetings.

But the math on school budgets is never simple. Depending on how you measure an increase, the budget Scott voted against arguably fits the definition of level-funding.

Scott said in a phone interview Tuesday night that after questioning the school board at the meeting, he concluded that the budget represented a per-pupil increase.

“Carl (Parton) couldn’t tell us exactly what the per-pupil amount was but it was at least 5 percent,” the governor said.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

South Burlington City Council Incumbents Reelected

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 11:22 PM

Pat Nowak - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Pat Nowak
Thomas Chittenden and Pat Nowak survived vigorous election challenges for their South Burlington City Council seats Tuesday.

Nowak beat Jimmy Leas 1,811 to 1,512 in a contest in which Leas claimed the incumbent did little to protect city residents from airport noise and home demolitions.

Nowak thanked her supporters after the victory, saying via email that she was "very happy to be continuing on the SB City Council and very appreciative of the support I received from so very many residents."

Chittenden defeated Katie Langrock 1,843 votes to 1,584 in a race that also touched on the Burlington International Airport. Chittenden pushed for possible new governance over the the Burlington-owned commercial and military airport.

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Richmond Passes Resolution Welcoming All People to Town

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 4:33 PM

Mike Foote - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Mike Foote
Richmond voters passed a resolution Tuesday at Town Meeting declaring it a community that welcomes all people, regardless of their nationality or religion.

It also welcomes people regardless of their color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and gender identity.

Longtime resident Jeff Forward introduced the non-binding resolution and explained to the crowd of about 180 people that he began by researching a sanctuary city resolution proposed in Burlington. Numerous other towns around Vermont planned to discuss similar proposals at Town Meeting in the wake of President Donald Trump's efforts to restrict entry of immigrants and refugees from six majority Muslim countries, including war-torn Syria.

Forward decided not to include any reference to sanctuary status after he concluded that Richmond has already adopted a fair and impartial policing policy. But, Forward said, he wanted the town to respond to national trends that he sees as worrisome.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Walters: State Dems Tap Faisal Gill for Party Chair

Posted By on Sun, Mar 5, 2017 at 1:06 PM

  • File: Robin Katrick
  • Faisal Gill
For what may be the first time in history in Vermont, a member of a minority group will lead a major political party. By a 31-7 vote Saturday, the Democratic State Committee elected Faisal Gill as interim party chair.

Gill replaces Dottie Deans, who decided to step down before the end of her term in November. Gill is expected to seek reelection to a full term as party chair at that time.

Gill, whose first name rhymes with “castle,” is an attorney from Winooski, and is currently chair of the Chittenden County Democrats. He was an unsuccessful candidate for state Senate in 2016, finishing eighth in a Democratic primary for six Chittenden County nominations.

“Having a Pakistani Muslim chair of the party is a beautiful thing, especially during this time when we’re seeing so much hatred around the country,” said Conor Casey, the state party’s executive director. “And I think Faisal can be the glue that holds this party together during uncertain times.”

The party chair is an unpaid position tasked with party leadership. The executive director is a full-time paid staffer who handles the party’s day-to-day business.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Walters: Panel Launches Quest for Campaign Finance Reforms

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 6:09 AM

Attorney General T.J. Donovan speaking behind committee members. From left: Madeline Motta, Jake Perkinson, Brady Toensing and Josh Wronski. At right is state elections director Will Senning. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Attorney General T.J. Donovan speaking behind committee members. From left: Madeline Motta, Jake Perkinson, Brady Toensing and Josh Wronski. At right is state elections director Will Senning.
A new committee exploring potential campaign finance reforms held its first meeting Thursday night in Montpelier.

The briskly-entitled Joint Committee on Campaign Finance Education, Compliance and Reform was created by Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Secretary of State Jim Condos. They chose to fill the panel with political insiders: Four of its five members are actively involved, or very recently involved, in partisan politics.

Donovan calls them “the experts” who know the campaign finance system. He rejects the notion that he’s given the foxes a majority on a Henhouse Reform Committee. “I think you have enough diversity on the committee, and we’re open to more members,” he said after the hearing. “But the point is to listen to Vermonters.”

The event was the first in a series of listening sessions around the state. Afterward, the panel will issue a report, which might include suggested legislation or changes to rules and procedures governing campaign finance in state elections.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Vermont DMV Glitch Registers Green Card Holders to Vote

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2017 at 4:22 PM

Some local green card holders may have recently received disconcerting mail from town clerks in Vermont. Specifically, they've been sent notifications saying that they are registered to vote.

Why would that be cause for alarm for green card holders? For one thing, it's illegal for non-citizens to vote. And doing so could lead to deportation.

At a time of heightened anxiety in immigrant and non-citizen communities — not to mention President Donald Trump's obsession with voter fraud — the mystery mailings inspired some justifiable conspiracy theorizing on social media. Is this a plot by Trump agents looking to set up non-Americans for voter fraud?

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Burlington Candidates File for Town Meeting Day Elections

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 8:19 PM

Burlington City Hall
  • Burlington City Hall
Eight candidates will compete for four Burlington City Council seats on Town Meeting Day, according to the Burlington city clerk’s office.

The candidates filed their petitions before the 5 p.m. deadline Monday. The election is on March 7. 

Two candidates have stepped up to run against South District Democrat Joan Shannon: Progressive Charles Simpson, a retired professor, and independent Abdullah Sall.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

New Vermont Panel to Take On Campaign Finance Rules

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 6:45 PM

Nearly every election season in Vermont, somebody — a candidate, a political party or a contributor — crosses the legal line on campaign finance regulations. Scores of candidates never file required reports detailing how much they’ve raised and spent.

A new panel — the Committee on Campaign Finance Education, Compliance and Reform — is designed to bring more people into compliance and recommend ways to improve the law, according to Secretary of State Jim Condos and newly sworn-in Attorney General T.J. Donovan.

Simply making it clear to candidates and contributors what the rules are is part of the goal, Condos said. “Print off a copy of the candidates for 2016 election, go down the list and see who filed campaign finance reports,” he said. “How do we get more people to do compliance?”

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