Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sanders OK'd for New Hampshire Primary Ballot

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 4:25 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in New Hampshire this fall. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in New Hampshire this fall.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ name will be on the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary ballot in February.

The Vermont independent won a 5-0 ruling Tuesday from the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission, after a local lawyer challenged Sanders' eligibility to run as a Democrat.

Sanders, the longest-serving independent in Congress, has chosen to run for the Democratic nomination for president. In filing his petition to be on the ballot in New Hampshire, Sanders had to affirm that he is a Democrat. The commission’s ruling concurs.

Sanders has caucused with the Democrats during his time as a senator and had previously as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sanders’ campaign cheered the news. "The commission's ruling today ensures Bernie's name will be on the New Hampshire ballot, and puts this issue to bed for good," state campaign director Julia Barnes said in a press release. "For our part, we'll keep our attention where it always has been: on making calls, knocking doors and spreading the Senator's message about a political revolution that finally takes on the billionaire class to put working families first."

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Meet the Winners of the Sanders Sound Off!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 5:16 PM

The people have spoken, and they've crowned a winner in our Bernie Sanders imitation contest.

More than 40 contestants had called our hotline and recorded an imitation of Brooklyn-born Sanders' speaking (and shouting) voice. They touched on crucial themes — underwear, billionaires and damn emails — from the Vermont senator's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many were quite impressive. Others weren't, but we respect the effort. Our panel selected five finalists, and we posted their audio takes online for you to vote.

The winner is Sam Pelletier of Maine, who delivered with his bit on ordering cheesy bread for Sanders volunteers. Congratulations, Sam, and we hope you can make it to Burlington to use your prize: tickets to see Bernie imitator and comedian James Adomian at the Vermont Comedy Club!

In second place: a rant on global warming and underwear by Tony O'Rourke of Williston, who noted in his message that he's "one of those dirty Republicans."

In third place is Joel Levin of New York City, who railed against the Republicans who are double-dipping and triple-dipping their chips. (You'll notice there's a food theme to many of these imitations.)

The fourth-place winner, David Houston, had this suggestion for Ben & Jerry's:

Fifth place went to Joel Najman, whose voice you may recognize from his show on Vermont Public Radio.

And although this one didn't make the final round, it made us laugh.

Thanks to everyone who entered. And now, do we need to have a talk about how much time you've been spending in front of your bathroom mirror perfecting your Bernie impression?

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Bernie Bits: N.H. Union Splits With National Group to Endorse Sanders

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 10:22 AM

The 2 million-member Service Employees International Union dealt Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign a serious blow Tuesday by endorsing rival Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

But on Thursday, its 11,500-member New Hampshire affiliate broke ranks with top union brass and threw its support behind the Vermont independent.

Richard Gulla, president of the State Employees' Association/SEIU Local 1984, explained in a press release that the New Hampshire group's endorsement process proceeded separately from the international union's. A majority of the local's members backed Sanders, Gulla said, and its board of directors ratified their decision after meeting with the candidates. 

“While we differ in our endorsement, we share the same values, hopes and dreams for our country,” Gulla said of the intra-union divide.

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Group Condemns Calls to Block Syrian Refugees

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Yacouba Jacob Bogre, far left, and Rev. Debbie Ingram, far right, stand with supporters of Syrian refugees at a press conference Thursday. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Yacouba Jacob Bogre, far left, and Rev. Debbie Ingram, far right, stand with supporters of Syrian refugees at a press conference Thursday.
In front of a sculpture with granite jigsaw pieces spelling out “Democracy” on Burlington’s Main Street, a group of activists began a counteroffensive Thursday evening against calls to stop Syrian refugees from entering the United States.

Rev. Debbie Ingram, executive director of Vermont Interfaith Action, credited Gov. Peter Shumlin for taking the “courageous and compassionate” stance that Vermont should welcome refugees from the war-torn country. “Also,” she continued, “we have come to speak out against those in Vermont who would not applaud and support Governor Shumlin’s decision."

In the wake of the terror attacks that killed 129 people in Paris, both Republican candidates for governor have said Vermont should temporarily refrain from accepting Syrian refugees until the federal government can prove the rigor of its vetting process. Nationwide, at least 28 governors have made similar calls, and on Thursday, the U.S. House passed a tougher screening process for Syrian refugees. The White House has said President Obama will veto it if the Senate follows suit.

A Syrian passport found after the attacks ignited concerns about refugee screening. Vermont doesn't currently have any Syrian refugees, but officials expect some will arrive during the coming year.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sanders Defines Democratic Socialism, Outlines Foreign Policy

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses students, reporters and supporters Thursday at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall - GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
  • Georgetown University
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses students, reporters and supporters Thursday at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall
Updated at 11:26 p.m.

Since he launched his bid for the presidency last May, Sen. Bernie Sanders has been dogged by persistent questions about his identification as a democratic socialist. Speaking Thursday afternoon at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the independent from Vermont sought to put those questions to rest.

"Let me take this opportunity to define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me," he told a supportive audience of students in the university’s ornate Gaston Hall. "It means building on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr., said in 1968 when he stated, and I quote, 'This country has socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.'"

In a forceful, unapologetic tone, Sanders defended the ideology to which he’s long subscribed as nothing more radical than a desire for economic justice. Abandoning his campaign-trail comparisons to Scandinavian political systems, he instead framed democratic socialism as entirely American.

To drive his point home, Sanders repeatedly invoked Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address, which the candidate described as “one of the most important speeches ever made by a president.” In it, Roosevelt called for a “second bill of rights,” which the 32nd president said should guarantee such basic human necessities as decent pay, food, education and health care.

“‘We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence,’” Sanders quoted FDR as saying. "That was Roosevelt's vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. And it is time that we did."

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Winooski Likely to Change Its Winter Parking Ban

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 3:11 PM

Winooski is considering a new approach to snowplowing and street parking. - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • Winooski is considering a new approach to snowplowing and street parking.
Winter might not sting as much in Winooski this year. 

The city council is poised to lift its blanket December-to-March, overnight ban on curbside parking and adopt a storm-by-storm approach, similar to Burlington's. 

“The goal is to only use a winter parking ban when it’s really necessary,” says Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard.

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Matt Dunne Castigates Phil Scott Over Syrian Refugee Comments

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 1:54 PM

Gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne
A national debate over refugee resettlement is roiling Vermont's gubernatorial race. 

Following last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, two Republican candidates — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman — told Vermont Public Radio Tuesday that they would like to temporarily halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. Authorities have blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria for the attacks, which killed at least 129 people, but news accounts have indicated that most, if not all, of the suspects were French and Belgian nationals. 

On Thursday, Democratic candidate Matt Dunne accused his Republican opponents of "playing to our worst fears."

"I have to say that when I heard Phil Scott's position on it, I was extremely disappointed," said Dunne, a community affairs director at Google and a former state senator. "I would have hoped that Phil would be someone who would not just fall in line with the right-wing Republicans in Congress."

Meanwhile, Scott appeared to walk back the tone, if not the substance, of his comments. 

"When asked what I would do, I probably should have gone a little further to explain that I don't understand the situation and I certainly don't feel like we can pause or stop the refugee program in its entirety," he said. "But I do honestly feel the highest obligation of any government is to ensure the safety and security of every citizen."

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New Audit Describes Problems With Vermont Health Connect

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 10:01 AM

  • File: John James
A new state audit released Thursday found some improvements to Vermont Health Connect's automated services, but it also spotlights a new risk: A contractor has terminated support for a core component of the state's online health exchange.

It's the second time this year that the Office of the State Auditor has pulled the curtain back on one of the most problem-ridden and complicated initiatives of state government.

Vermont Health Connect is an online health insurance marketplace that individuals without insurance from work use to purchase coverage. Launched two years ago, it has lurched unevenly into operation, frustrating thousands of customers with its failed technologies. It was to be the portal for small employers that provide insurance to their workers, too, but that function has never worked.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sanders to Deliver Long-Awaited Speech on Democratic Socialism

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 9:07 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses supporters in Madison, Wis. - FILE: ERIC TADSEN
  • File: Eric Tadsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses supporters in Madison, Wis.
Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Last month in Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told reporters he planned to deliver a formal speech explaining democratic socialism, the political ideology to which he's long subscribed. 

"I think we have some explaining and work to do," he said at the time. "Because I think there are people who, when they hear the word 'socialist,' get very, very nervous."

After several delays, Sanders' presidential campaign announced Wednesday morning that he would deliver the speech Thursday afternoon at Georgetown University. 

When Sanders first disclosed his plans last month, senior adviser Tad Devine told Seven Days that the democratic socialism address would be just one of several "set-piece" speeches on topics ranging from tax policy to foreign policy. But it looks like Sanders now plans to roll several topics into one speech. 

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bernie Bits: SEIU Picks Clinton Over Sanders

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 9:23 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hailed his endorsement Monday by the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific — a tiny group of 4,000 merchant mariners, warehouse workers and cannery employees. 

The next day, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton swamped him, taking the coveted endorsement of the two-million-member Service Employees International Union. 

"Hillary Clinton has proven she will fight, deliver and win for working families," SEIU president Mary Kay Henry said in a written statement Tuesday. "SEIU members and working families across America are part of a growing movement to build a better future for their families, and Hillary Clinton will support and stand with them."

The SEIU's endorsement is a further blow to Sanders' presidential campaign, which has struggled to win the backing of major national unions, despite the senator's longstanding support for the labor movement.

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