Friday, February 17, 2017

Scott 'Resistant' to Using Vermont Guard for Immigration Roundup

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 2:39 PM

Gov. Phil Scott speaks last week about a bill to defy President Donald Trump’s immigration order as Attorney General T.J. Donovan and others listen. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Gov. Phil Scott speaks last week about a bill to defy President Donald Trump’s immigration order as Attorney General T.J. Donovan and others listen.
Following a report that President Donald Trump has considered deploying the National Guard to detain undocumented immigrants, Gov. Phil Scott told reporters Friday that, in Vermont, he would "be resistant to use military force to deport."

The Associated Press reported earlier Friday that a draft proposal from the administration asked governors in 11 states — not including Vermont — to deploy Guard members for this purpose. The Trump administration declined to comment before the story's publication, but White House press secretary Sean Spicer later called the AP report "100 percent not true."

Asked during his weekly press conference how he'd respond if Vermont were added to the list of states, Scott responded with characteristic caution.

"I would seek advice from general counsel as well as the attorney general," he said.

In response to further questioning from reporters, the Republican governor said he would be "resistant" to the proposal. "Well, I don’t want us to become militant," he said, adding, "We need, actually, more citizens in Vermont."

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Walters: Sanders Alums Back Purity Test for Senate Dems

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:34 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking outside his Burlington home in August 2016. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking outside his Burlington home in August 2016.
Updated at 3:31 p.m. to reflect additional confirmation votes.

Former staffers of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) presidential campaign have founded a new group aiming to hold Democrats’ feet to the progressive fire. wants U.S. senators to “do everything [they] can to Resist Trump.” Organizers see Democratic efforts as “not nearly … enough,” and they vow to raise up primary challengers for any who fail to meet their expectations. The group promises that it “won’t accept anything less than full opposition” to President Trump’s administration.

By its own definition of “full opposition,” there is not a single member of the Democratic caucus who comes close to meeting its criteria. Not one. Including Sanders himself.

The group is run by activists from environmental, racial-equality and immigrants’ rights organizations. Two belonged to the Sanders orbit: Claire Sandberg, former digital organizing director for his presidential campaign, and Kenneth Pennington, a former Sanders Senate and campaign staffer — and former digital director for Our Revolution, Sanders’ post-campaign advocacy organization. At least three other organizers are connected to, the climate-change activist movement founded by Vermont environmentalist Bill McKibben.

“Our message to Democrats is pretty straightforward: Fight Trump or we’ll find someone who will,” Sandberg told NBC News. “Our goal is not [to] primary every single Democratic member of Congress. It’s to push Democrats who are there to do better.”

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Media Note: Vermont PBS Reaps $56 Million in FCC Spectrum Auction

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner
Vermont PBS announced Friday that it sold one of its four broadcast licenses for $56 million, money it plans to use to fund new programs and expand services for years to come.

The station said the loss of the license would not cause any reduction in over-the-air coverage. Instead, the windfall could transform the sleepy station into one of the most financially powerful media organizations in Vermont.

Vermont PBS, which airs syndicated shows such as "Sesame Street" and "NOVA," along with local productions "Outdoor Journal" and "Vermont This Week," says it plans to use the bulk of the money to provide expanded offerings in both over-the-air and digital platforms. It has no plans to use the money for "brick and mortar" improvements, Vermont PBS president Holly Groschner said during a press conference inside the station's Colchester studios.

"We are doubling down on the Vermontness of our broadcast," Groschner said. "We are hoping to be able to produce more Vermont content and [explore] more Vermont issues."

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

At Public Meeting, Federal Officials Seek to Calm BTV Airport Uproar

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 10:19 PM

Richard Doucette presents at the Burlington airport. - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Richard Doucette presents at the Burlington airport.
Eight suited officials, including representatives from the Vermont National Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Burlington International Airport, spent two hours Thursday evening answering community questions about noise lines and mitigation, FAA protocol, and home buyout rules.

The officials hoped the question-and-answer session would relieve rising tensions as a controversial home buyout program proceeds around the airport in South Burlington. In September, the airport announced 39 new home buyouts. More than 100 homes have been bought since the program began in 1997.

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Burlington Announces 'Opioid Principles' to Help Address Crisis

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 7:49 PM

(left to right) Harry Chen, Miro Weinberger, Sarah George, Stephen Leffler, Brandon del Pozo - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • (left to right) Harry Chen, Miro Weinberger, Sarah George, Stephen Leffler, Brandon del Pozo
The city of Burlington on Thursday announced it will team up with local and state entities to improve its response to the opiate crisis.

Mayor Miro Weinberger presented 11 "opioid principles" at Burlington City Arts to describe and guide the city's approach to the ongoing crisis. The principles include basic statements that establish the danger of prescription opioids, label addiction as a public health crisis, and assert the importance of "data collection, data sharing, analysis and transparency."

To effect change, the city plans to increase collaboration with the University of Vermont Medical Center, other local police departments, the Vermont Department of Health, and the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office.

"We are orienting ourselves as a city for a long-term struggle with this problem," Weinberger said.

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Montpeculiar: Vermont House Votes to Keep Happy Hour Illegal

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM

  • File: Julia Clancy
  • Beer!
In a room just down the hall from the Vermont House chamber on Thursday afternoon, caterers prepared a reception where lawmakers would be treated to beer, wine and snacks.

But inside the chamber itself, members busied themselves saying no to happy hour for the rest of Vermont. By a tally of 69-49, legislators voted down an amendment that would have changed state law and allowed bars to offer short-term drink specials.

Rep. Oliver Olsen (I-Londonderry), who represents several ski towns, sought to do away with the Puritan statute. Vermont is one of 11 states, including notoriously dry Utah, that don't allow happy hour, Olsen said.

He called his amendment "an economic development issue," noting that Vermont is increasingly a culinary destination. His proposal would have allowed bars to offer discounts for two hours or less at a time on beer or wine, but not hard liquor.

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Media Note: Connecticut Couple to Buy the Hardwick Gazette

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 1:32 PM

The Hardwick Gazette office - FILE: COURTESY OF HARDWICK GAZETTE
  • File: Courtesy of Hardwick Gazette
  • The Hardwick Gazette office
After a long search for a buyer, Ross Connelly is selling the Hardwick Gazette to a couple from Stamford, Conn. Ray and Kim Small will purchase the 128-year-old weekly newspaper for an undisclosed price.

Ray Small entered Connelly's essay contest — an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to give away the Gazette — and visited the paper multiple times while waiting for the results. Although Connelly failed to get enough entrants to follow through with the giveaway, he reached out to the Smalls afterwards and negotiated a sale, which is scheduled to close Friday.

According to a news release, the Smalls have worked at "various corporations in both the United States and Europe. His specialty is business reporting and management and hers is business development." They are in the process of moving to Hardwick, Connelly said, and one of their two adult sons may join them in the venture.

Connelly, who bought the community newspaper with his late wife in 1986, estimates he put out 1,550 issues during his tenure. "The newspaper just needs more energy than I have," he said.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Family Room Takes Steps to Become an Independent Nonprofit

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 4:59 PM

Community event at the Family Room in November 2015 - MATT THORSEN
  • Matt Thorsen
  • Community event at the Family Room in November 2015
The people who run the Janet S. Munt Family Room plan to make the Burlington parent-child center an independent nonprofit by July 1.

The Family Room has been part of the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties since 1988. The new entity will retain its name and will remain on its current premises at St. Joseph School in the Old North End.

"A steering committee of dedicated community members was formed to guide the establishment of a new governance structure and begin the search for an executive director to lead the new successor organization," the VNA announced in a statement on Tuesday.

Sophia Donforth, a steering committee member, said the group hopes to find someone to fill the position before July 1.

The news comes almost a year since the VNA announced in March that it would be involved in a "community-wide process to transition the Family Room" to a different organization, or to operate as a standalone entity.

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Vermont Nonprofit Is a Semifinalist for a $100 Million Grant

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 1:51 PM

Doctors Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin examining a cataract patient in Nepal - COURTESY OF MICHAEL AMENDOLIA
  • Doctors Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin examining a cataract patient in Nepal
A Waterbury nonprofit has been named a semifinalist for a $100 million grant award in an international competition.

The Himalayan Cataract Project announced Wednesday that the organization is one of eight from around the world to make it to the final round of the 100&Change grant competition sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.

When Job Heintz, chief executive officer for the organization, heard the news about two weeks ago, "I sat down," he said. "It's exciting beyond compare."

The Himalayan Cataract Project, which has a budget of just under $10 million, performs low-cost, en masse cataract surgeries in remote locations around the world. The grant money would be used to eliminate needless cataract blindness in three countries — Ghana, Ethiopia, and Nepal.

The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation launched the 100&Change grant competition last year to "solve critical problems of our time," according to a press release. The funds can be used for up to six years.

HCP was selected from 1,904 proposals from around the world, according to the press release. About 800 went on to the second round, and the final selection was made by MacArthur's board of directors. The proposals were judged on four criteria: verifiability, durability, meaningfulness and feasibility.

Over the next six months, HCP will receive training and technical assistance from the MacArthur Foundation to refine its proposal. Next September, the foundation will select five finalists who will present at a live event in December.

HCP was founded in 1994 as the result of a partnership between Dr. Geoff Tabin, who lived in Vermont at the time, and Dr. Sanduk Ruit of Nepal. Since then, they have performed 6.6 million cataract surgeries in a dozen countries at a cost of $25 per surgery.

The grant money would create "an adaptable 'train the trainer' model that can be replicated and scaled around the world," according to the MacArthur Foundation website. The money would be used to train more health professionals, provide equipment and "increase the innovation," Heintz said. HCP also plans to partner with IBM Watson Health to create a platform to log surgeries and track their data more comprehensively.

HCP will pursue the work regardless of whether they win the competition, Heintz said. "Boy, 100 million would help," he added.

Other semifinalists include the Internet Archive's project to provide free digital access to books for libraries and students, the Carter Center's effort to cure river blindness in Africa, and the Human Diagnosis Project's proposal to offer underserved American patients "virtual access to specialist medical care."

After being selected from 1,900 applicants, the odds are "a heck of a lot better," Heintz said. "We're very confident in what we proposed to do. We're also very aware and humbled by the other semifinalists."

Heintz highlighted the benefits for Vermont as well. "It'll bring a ray of hope to the state, to the NGO community here," he said. "We started here, stayed here, and are growing here."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Vermonters Visit Muslim Canadian Family Turned Back at Border

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 3:31 PM

Fadwa Alaoui, in red, with her husband, Hamid Adlaoui, in their home in Brossard - COURTESY OF ANDY SOLOMON
  • Courtesy of Andy Solomon
  • Fadwa Alaoui, in red, with her husband, Hamid Adlaoui, in their home in Brossard
Richmond neurologist Andy Solomon and his family had participated in marches in Washington, D.C. and Montpelier, called their elected officials, and tried to find as many ways as possible in recent weeks to protest President Donald Trump's administration.

They were contemplating what to do next when Solomon saw a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that left him aghast.

Fadwa Alaoui, a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen who is Muslim, her two children and an adult cousin were turned away at the border last week as they tried to go on a shopping trip to Burlington. Alaoui's parents live in Chicago, and she'd visited the U.S. on several occasions previously. But American border guards inspected her cellphone, quizzed her about Trump and her faith — and then wouldn't allow her in the country after waiting four hours to enter Highgate Springs, she told the CBC.

"He said, 'Do you practice? Which mosque do you go to?" she told the news outlet. "What is the name of the imam? How often do you go to the mosque? What kind of discussions do you hear in the mosque? Does the imam talk to you directly?'"

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