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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Friday, January 20, 2017

St. Mike’s Grad Designs Inaugural Outfits for Ivanka Trump’s Kids

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 8:42 PM

Kate Bowen makes final touches on inauguration week outfit for Ivanka Trump’s daughter. - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Kate Bowen makes final touches on inauguration week outfit for Ivanka Trump’s daughter.
A children’s wear designer who launched her company in Charlotte watched the inauguration events coverage with delight.

The blue velvet dress and matching wool coat that Ivanka Trump’s daughter wore at a pre-inauguration event Thursday is one of 11 pieces that former Charlotte resident and Saint Michael’s College grad Kate Bowen designed for the festivities.

Accompanying her parents and grandfather, Donald Trump, 5-year-old Arabella Kushner wore the blue ensemble to the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday. Seeing the outfit on TV was a thrill, said Bowen, in a telephone interview with Seven Days.

“Oh my gosh, I, like, couldn’t breathe for a minute. I was so excited.”

It’s possible that little Arabella will wear another Bowen-designed outfit to the post-inaugural prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Saturday.

Bowen founded her company, Petit Peony, when she and her husband were living on a dirt road in Charlotte, having moved to the town in 2013. Two of Bowen’s three young children had been born and it seemed like a good time to pick up a needle and thread.

“I was staying at home and that’s when I took up sewing, sewing my daughter’s clothing and it turned into a business,” Bowen said.

One of the investors in Petit Peony knew Ivanka Trump, herself a clothing designer, and she became a customer, said Bowen.

Bowen lived in Charlotte for three years before moving with her family to Duxbury, Mass., last June.

When Ivanka Trump called to see if Bowen was interested in designing outfits for the inauguration, she jumped at the chance. She flew to New York three times for fittings with Arabella and also designed inaugural rompers and pint-sized coats for her little brothers, ages 3 and 9 months.

In all cases, Ivanka Trump wanted “traditional, classic, tailored pieces,” said Bowen, who declined to say how much the garments cost.

The former Vermont resident, who grew up outside of Albany, N.Y., says she chooses not to mix fashion with politics. Bowen wouldn’t say whether she voted for Ivanka Trump’s dad, newly-sworn-in President Donald Trump.

“I don’t discuss my political views,” said Bowen, but added that she likes what Ivanka Trump stands for.

“I think her taking a leap of faith and reaching out to a small designer says something about her.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

At Caucus, Burlington Dems Back Progressive Council Prez Knodell

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 11:21 PM

Joan Shannon - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Joan Shannon
The Burlington Democratic caucus on Thursday included an alliance with a Progressive — and featured a fiery speech of support from the mayor — as party members picked their slate of four city council candidates ahead of Town Meeting Day.

Central District voters endorsed Progressive City Council President Jane Knodell, while voters in the city's North District backed independent Councilor Dave Hartnett for that seat. Party members also unanimously selected Councilor Joan Shannon to run for the South District seat and nominated newcomer Richard Deane to take a shot at winning the East District.

One decision came with its fair share of detractors. Applause waned and at least one person booed when Mayor Miro Weinberger asked party members to nominate the incumbent Knodell for the Central District seat after no Democrat volunteered to run for the post.

“In the face of a hijacking of her party, she has stood firm in the belief that expanding economic opportunity [leads to] expanding equity,” he told the crowd, which included 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter, Vermont Democratic Party executive director Conor Casey and state representatives.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Burlington Activist to Challenge Council President Knodell

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 1:49 PM

Genese Grill, center, surrounded by members of the Coalition for a Livable City - FILE: SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • File: Sasha Goldstein
  • Genese Grill, center, surrounded by members of the Coalition for a Livable City
A second member of the Coalition for a Livable City, which opposed the Burlington Town Center redevelopment plan, has stepped forward to challenge Burlington City Council President Jane Knodell. On Tuesday, Genese Grill announced that she will run as an independent for the Central District council seat, which represents the Old North End.*

Fellow CLC member Tony Redington came up short in his effort to unseat Knodell during the Progressive caucus in mid-December. Now Grill, a 51-year-old artist and German scholar, will take a crack at running to represent Wards 2 and 3, the only two in the city that voted “no” on the mall redevelopment-related ballot measures in November.

Knodell, a Progressive, broke with some members of her party when she voiced her support for the downtown mall redevelopment. That’s put a target on her back for members of the CLC.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Burlington Progressive Party Chair to Seek East District Council Seat

Posted By on Sun, Jan 8, 2017 at 11:03 PM

Burlington City Hall
  • Burlington City Hall
Burlington Progressives on Sunday evening nominated party chair Charles Winkleman to run for the East District city council seat. Nearly 40 people turned out to the caucus at Burlington Cohousing East Village, where Winkleman narrowly defeated Samantha Tilton by four votes.

The victory earns Winkleman the Prog slot on the ballot and the chance to face Democratic and Republican contenders on Town Meeting Day in March.

Winkleman seeks the seat to be vacated by fellow Progressive Selene Colburn, who has served three years as a councilor. Colburn decided recently to step down from the council after she was elected to the state legislature in November.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Vermont Supreme Court Rules That Shumlin Can’t Choose New Justice

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 4:20 PM

From left, Rep. Don Turner, Sen. Joe Benning and their attorney, Rep. Janssen Willhoit. - STEFEN HARD
  • Stefen Hard
  • From left, Rep. Don Turner, Sen. Joe Benning and their attorney, Rep. Janssen Willhoit.
As Gov. Peter Shumlin concluded his farewell speech, the Vermont Supreme Court blocked what was to be his final act in office: appointing a replacement for outgoing Justice John Dooley.

The court was unanimous in its ruling Wednesday afternoon that the state constitution does not give the governor authority to appoint an official to a seat that won’t be vacated until after the governor leaves office.

“Both the attorney general and I don’t read the law the way they interpreted it but obviously I’m going to live by the court decision,” Shumlin told reporters after his speech and the unveiling of his official portrait.

Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton) and Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) sued the governor in late December in a last ditch effort to prevent him from appointing Dooley’s successor. Dooley made it clear in September that he would retire in April.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Vermont Supreme Court Blocks Shumlin From Picking New Justice

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 5:51 PM

Left to right: Supreme Court Justices Beth Robinson, John Dooley and Harold Eaton Jr. - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Left to right: Supreme Court Justices Beth Robinson, John Dooley and Harold Eaton Jr.
Two days before he steps down, Gov. Peter Shumlin will need to convince the Vermont Supreme Court that he has the legal right to appoint a replacement for retiring Justice John Dooley. The court has temporarily blocked Shumlin from picking a new justice in response to a legal challenge from House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton).

Dooley announced in September that he would retire when his term ends on March 31. Shumlin raised some Republican hackles by promptly declaring that he would pick Dooley’s successor. Now, the outgoing governor will spend his final days in office defending his decision in court — a hearing is scheduled for January 3.

“By looking to make a consequential executive decision that should rightly be made in April 2017, at a time well past his gubernatorial tenure, Gov. Shumlin is setting a troubling precedent of overreach,” Turner said in a statement announcing his legal challenge.

Reached Friday, Turner said he’s “very pleased” with the court order and is confident he’ll prevail. “When I look up vacancy in the dictionary, it means no one is in the position,” Turner said.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

At Progressive Caucus, Knodell is Challenged — But Prevails

Posted By on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 9:03 PM

  • matthew thorsen
  • Jane Knodell
Support for the Burlington Town Center redevelopment earned City Council President Jane Knodell a challenge from a member of her own party at a Progressive caucus Sunday night.

The Central District councilor easily defeated Tony Redington by a 21-6 tally to win the Prog endorsement for the March election. But the opposition served as a not-so-subtle reminder that members of the party are divided on some major issues.

“I decided to basically stand up to let her know that we’re very disappointed in her positions [supporting] the F-35s ... and the leadership position she’s taken [in favor of] the Sinex mall,” Redington said.

Redington is a member of the Coalition for a Livable City, a group opposed to developer Don Sinex’s towering $250 million mall makeover proposal. The group unsuccessfully lobbied against a zoning change on the November 8 ballot that will allow for buildings up to 14 stories in a sliver of downtown.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rutland Mayor: Refugee Plan Unchanged by Trump's Election

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 12:08 PM

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras - CALEB KENNA
  • caleb kenna
  • Rutland Mayor Chris Louras
Rutland Mayor Chris Louras has risked his political career on a controversial proposal to welcome 100 Syrian refugees to his long-struggling city, and spent most of the past year beating back fierce opposition and nativist rhetoric from his critics.

Despite president-elect Donald Trump's victory after a campaign in which he vowed to bar Muslim immigrants from entering America, Louras said he and his allies are proceeding apace.

Louras is coordinating with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program and a local volunteer group, Rutland Welcomes, to prepare for the initial wave of refugees from war-torn Syria. They are expected to arrive in mid-December or January. The bulk of the refugees are expected in the spring and summer, Louras said.

"All of us are continuing as if there's been no change," Louras, a Republican-turned-independent, said. "We've got no indications that the New Americans will not be arriving. We're absolutely cognizant of the fact that things could change, but it's not impacting things [now]."

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Soup Kitchen Diners: Election Won't Change Much

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 5:09 PM

Bethany United Church of Christ volunteer Susanna Griefen serving food at a weekly community lunch - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Bethany United Church of Christ volunteer Susanna Griefen serving food at a weekly community lunch
Bethany United Church of Christ in downtown Montpelier has hosted a free weekday lunch for more than a decade, opening its doors to a friendly mix of the homeless, working poor and people just seeking company. Tuesday, more than 100 people packed the church basement. Volunteers say that while they're not overwhelmed, they are concerned about how many people depend on their help.

As they noshed on egg salad sandwiches and carrot ginger soup just a few blocks from Montpelier's polling place, many of the regulars said they didn't think the presidential election, despite all the attention it has received, mattered much.

To spend a couple hours in the church basement was to be reminded that despite the omnipresent election hullabaloo, not everyone votes. Nationally, less than 60 percent of eligible voters participated in 2012.

"I know foreign policy is important, but it's hard to hear and think about abstract [issues] when you're worried about freezing to death, or your friend's tent is leaking," said Dawn Little, when asked about voting. She's a regular attendee who has toggled between homelessness and living in an apartment.

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