Thursday, August 25, 2016

Amid Turmoil, Sanders Launches 'Our Revolution' Political Group

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 1:35 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders launches Our Revolution on Wednesday at Burlington's North End Studios. - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders launches Our Revolution on Wednesday at Burlington's North End Studios.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) launched a new political organization Wednesday night devoted to electing progressive candidates "at every level" of government.

Speaking to some 200 supporters at Burlington's North End Studios, the former presidential candidate said he hoped that "hundreds of thousands of people" would join the new group, called Our Revolution. It would immediately get to work supporting more than 100 candidates and seven ballot initiatives this election cycle, he said. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders launches Our Revolution on Wednesday at Burlington's North End Studios.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders launches Our Revolution on Wednesday at Burlington's North End Studios.
"These are people who will be fighting at the grassroots level for changes in their local school boards, in their city councils, in their state legislatures and in their representation in Washington," Sanders said. 

According to Our Revolution executive director Shannon Jackson, Wednesday's launch was webcast to 2,600 house parties and 40,000 viewers across the country. But the event was overshadowed by an unusually public staff revolt within the fledgling organization, as well as questions surrounding its legal status. 

As Politico and BuzzFeed first reported Tuesday, at least eight employees quit Our Revolution over the weekend after Sanders' former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, was brought in to serve as the group's president. They complained that Weaver planned to raise money from wealthy donors and spend it on television advertisements, rather than organize a grassroots political movement.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gary Johnson, William Weld Make South Burlington Campaign Stop

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 11:50 PM

Gary Johnson (left) and William Weld in South Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Gary Johnson (left) and William Weld in South Burlington
Income taxes and gun control — don't need 'em. Ditto for the death penalty, the Department of Commerce, Homeland Security and local zoning ordinances.

So said Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson on a campaign swing through South Burlington Wednesday night with running mate William Weld by his side.
 
The two former Republican governors, both converts to the Libertarian Party, wore blue jeans and relaxed expressions as they pledged to fight tax increases, simplify the tax codes and make government better by making large portions of it disappear.  

"Count on us to reduce taxes every single time," Johnson said. "Count on us because we get to run the administration of the federal government, that rules and regulations are going to get better, not worse."

A few hundred people waved signs proclaiming, "Our Best America Yet. You In?" and cheered loudly at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center as Johnson essentially proposed to put government on a starvation diet in order to fatten the wallets of ordinary people.

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Takeover of Burlington Labs Will Get Fast-Track Review

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 6:33 PM

James H. Crook, the lead investor in a company seeking to purchase Burlington Labs - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • James H. Crook, the lead investor in a company seeking to purchase Burlington Labs
Health care regulators in Montpelier agreed Wednesday to grant a fast-track review to the investor group that wants to buy the troubled Burlington Labs company, which faces money woes and allegations of Medicaid fraud. 

 James H. Crook, the lead investor in the proposed new company, Burlington Labs Acquisition, told the Green Mountain Care Board that unless he received approval for the new, reconstituted company within 30 days he would "pull the plug" and walk away from the deal. Crook also told the board that without a rescue by his investor group, Burlington Labs as it is now structured would likely go bankrupt. 

"This company is bleeding," Crook said. 

The new company requires a certificate of need from the board to operate, and the normal review can take nine months. The board voted unanimously to grant Crook's request for a shortcut under the emergency review process after he and his lawyers made the case for a dire need for expediency.

Without intervention, they argued, employees could lose their jobs if the company goes bankrupt. Further, addicts and parolees who are required to submit to the drug screenings that Burlington Labs provides would lose access to a vital service.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Investors Seek to Save Financially Troubled Burlington Labs

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 4:50 PM

Michael Casarico - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Michael Casarico

Updated on August 23, 2016 at 6:15 p.m. with comments from the Vermont Attorney General's Office.

The Green Mountain Care Board on Wednesday will consider an emergency plan by a group of investors to purchase and save a Burlington drug-testing company beset by financial difficulties.

The last-gasp emergency review effort is an attempt to save Burlington Labs, which faces closure in the next 30 days because of outstanding debts, including $6.5 million in potential damages owed to the state of Vermont to settle charges of Medicaid fraud.

That's the dire scenario spelled out in a letter to the regulatory board from lawyers representing Burlington Labs Acquisition, a limited liability company formed to take on the company’s outstanding debts and to continue running the lab without interruption. The University of Vermont Health Network would also provide some cash to the venture and its chief financial officer, Todd Keating, has been offered a seat on the newly formed group’s board of directors.

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Scott, Minter Showcase Stark Differences in First Debate

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 9:17 AM

Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott, candidates for governor, debate in Randolph on Monday. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott, candidates for governor, debate in Randolph on Monday.
If the first forum featuring the two major-party candidates for Vermont governor is any indication, the 2016 general election campaign will be a relatively civil debate with stark differences between the Democrat and Republican running for the state’s top job.

Amid the differences, the candidates had similarities, too, including some that seemed to surprise the audience Monday night in Randolph at a forum sponsored by the Vermont-NEA teachers’ union and televised live by Vermont PBS.

Asked whether transgender students should be able to use the bathrooms of their choice in schools, both Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Phil Scott said they should.

“Absolutely,” Minter answered.

“The answer is yes, I believe they should,” Scott said, followed by murmurs from the crowd — suggesting some hadn’t expected the Republican to agree.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Burlington to Install More Needle-Disposal Boxes

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 5:04 PM

A needle disposal box in the men’s room at Burlington City Hall - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • A needle disposal box in the men’s room at Burlington City Hall

Officials will soon expand a needle-disposal pilot program that began at Burlington City Hall last winter, officials said.

The Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department will outfit several bathrooms at “high public use and waterfront locations” around the city by September 1, said Deryk Roach, the superintendent of parks maintenance and operations. Officials hope the Stericycle boxes will reduce the number of used needles found in parks and on city sidewalks.


“Even one receptacle can lower the risk for maintenance workers, employees and members of the public using those facilities,” Roach told Seven Days.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mormon Church Is Against Massive Settlement Plan in Vermont

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 10:53 AM

A rendering of a NewVista community.
  • A rendering of a NewVista community.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — also known as the Mormon Church — has come out against David Hall's plans to build a 20,000-person settlement in Vermont.

Hall, a wealthy engineer from Utah and a member of the LDS Church, says his futuristic proposal is inspired by a document drawn up by the religion's founder, Joseph Smith. But he has maintained — and church spokespeople have confirmed — that the church itself is not involved in the effort.

Hall's vision for mega-villages — or "NewVista communities" — has unnerved residents in the central Vermont communities where he has amassed more than 1,000 acres. He's also been buying property in Utah, alarming residents there as well. 

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vermont Supreme Court Allows Gas Case to Continue

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 8:34 PM

Skip Vallee - MICHAEL TONN
  • Michael Tonn
  • Skip Vallee
An attempt by four gas wholesalers to quash a class-action lawsuit against them has failed.

The companies — R.L. Vallee, SB Collins, Wesco Oil and Champlain Oil — are being sued by plaintiffs who allege they colluded to set retail gas prices in northwestern Vermont, where the cost of filling up is often higher than in other parts of the state. 

In this week's Seven Days, Mark Davis reported that the defendants had asked the Chittenden Superior Court to throw out the case, but Judge Helen Toor denied the request. The companies then sought to appeal to the state's highest court. On Wednesday, the Vermont Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, allowing the case to move forward. 

It's far from the last legal hurdle the plaintiffs will encounter. As Davis reported, the Charleston, W. Va.-based firm Bailey & Glasser, which is representing the six residents who brought the case, has issued subpoenas seeking evidence. In response, the defendants have asked Toor to quash the subpoenas. 

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Despite Mediation, No Deal on Contract for Burlington Teachers

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 at 6:58 PM

FILE
  • File
Burlington teachers trimmed their raise request but need to whittle it down further, Burlington School Board leaders said in a press release issued after a failed mediation session Wednesday.

Teachers reduced their raise proposal from 5.3 percent to 4.6 percent. The board offered 2 percent and said the city can’t afford more without laying off teachers.

The Burlington Education Association’s offer “remains unaffordable and would require additional cuts to teaching staff and other important services,” said a statement that the board released.

Board chair Mark Porter said in the statement that he wants to return to the table. “The board remains confident that we can reach an agreement that broadens student learning, keeps teacher pay competitive, and is fiscally sustainable for our community,” he said.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

GOP Official Says Bernie Sanders, Chris Pearson Violated Law

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 8:33 PM

Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), left, celebrates primary election victories last week with lieutenant governor candidate David Zuckerman, center. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), left, celebrates primary election victories last week with lieutenant governor candidate David Zuckerman, center.
When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) used his nationwide name recognition to give state Senate candidate Chris Pearson a major fundraising boost, Pearson “was totally stunned.”

Now, a Vermont Republican contends that both Sanders and Pearson violated state campaign finance laws in the process.

Brady Toensing, a Charlotte attorney and Vermont Republican Party vice chair, filed the complaint Tuesday with state Attorney General Bill Sorrell. 

At issue is a May email Sanders sent to the vast network of supporters he established as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders urged recipients to split a contribution between him and eight like-minded state legislative candidates around the country, including Pearson, who worked for Sanders in the late 1990s.

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