Monday, June 27, 2016

Burlington City Council Approves $200 Million Budget

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 at 10:49 PM

Chief administrative officer Bob Rusten, far left, sits next to Mayor Miro Weinberger at Monday's council meeting. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Chief administrative officer Bob Rusten, far left, sits next to Mayor Miro Weinberger at Monday's council meeting.
Burlington city councilors on Monday night performed what several of them described as their most important duty: voting on Mayor Miro Weinberger's budget proposal. Only four members of the public, plus three reporters, came out to see the action.

It won unanimous approval. 

The $200 million budget for fiscal year 2017 will result in a slight decrease in the municipal tax rate — 1 cent per 100 dollars in property value. (Don't expect a smaller bill, however, because the invoice you get in the mail includes both city and school taxes.)

The budget sets aside more money for infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalk and bike path renovations, and repairs to city-owned buildings. It also includes additional funding for the police department, allowing it to maintain a force of 100 officers while funding other positions such as a data analyst who will examine opiate-related issues.  And it funds a new community center to be located in what was Saint Joseph School in the Old North End. 

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Chittenden County Coalition Wants to Build 3,500 Homes Over Five Years

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2016 at 4:38 PM

Brenda Torpy, chief executive officer of Champlain Housing Trust, answers questions from reporters at Monday's announcement. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Brenda Torpy, chief executive officer of Champlain Housing Trust, answers questions from reporters at Monday's announcement.

A group of housing advocates, elected officials, developers and other local leaders are banding together to get 3,500 homes built in Chittenden County over the next five years.


The new coalition, led by the Champlain Housing Trust, Housing Vermont and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, has about 100 members. Monday morning, roughly 50 of them gathered outside a CHT housing development in South Burlington to announce the new initiative, dubbed Building Homes Together.


“I think we all get it now,” said Kevin Dorn, the South Burlington city manager. “We need housing across a broad spectrum of affordability." He added: “It’s gonna take a regional approach to get this done,” he added.


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Clinton Campaign Manager Meets With Vermont Delegates

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 6:37 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at a debate  in New Hampshire in February - SCOTT EISEN/MSNBC
  • Scott Eisen/MSNBC
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at a debate in New Hampshire in February
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager met on Friday afternoon in Burlington with some of the Vermont delegates to the Democratic National Convention who are pledged to support Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager and a native Vermonter, was asking Sanders’ delegates to get behind Clinton for a peaceful convention in Philadelphia in July, several delegates said afterward. It appeared no promises were made.

“We’re still processing,” said Rep. Mary Sullivan (D-Burlington), a pledged Sanders delegate, as she came out of the meeting at the Hilton Burlington.

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Sanders Says He'll Vote for Clinton in November — but Won't Concede

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 9:09 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders appears Friday morning on MSNBC. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders appears Friday morning on MSNBC.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said for the first time Friday morning that he would vote for rival Hillary Clinton in the November election. But he wasn't quite ready to concede the Democratic presidential primary, nor would he offer a full-throated endorsement of the former secretary of state.

Since losing California to Clinton more than two weeks ago, Sanders has alternately sounded a combative and a conciliatory tone. In a speech Thursday night in New York City called "Where we go from here," he largely avoided mentioning his Democratic rival and pledged to continue fighting for his progressive priorities. 

But asked directly Friday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" whether he would vote for Clinton this fall, Sanders provided an unambiguous response. 

"Yes," he said. "Yeah, I think the issue right here is, I'm going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump."

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Proposed National GMO Labeling Standards Would Nix Vermont Law

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 5:54 PM

gmo.jpg
A bipartisan U.S. Senate deal reached Thursday could lead to a national law governing the labeling of genetically modified foods just as Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO law goes into effect.

If it passes the full Congress, the deal between top Democratic and Republican leaders on the Senate Agriculture Committee would preempt Vermont’s law, which is slated to take effect July 1.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement Thursday that he’s still evaluating whether he supports the agreement. Unlike Vermont’s law, which requires labeling on packages, the agreement means consumers could have to scan a product with a digital device to get GMO information.

That’s partly why Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell oppose the federal approach.

“Not a good day for Vermont if this bill passes,” said Sorrell, whose office has been gearing up to enact the state’s new regulations. “A consumer would need to have a smartphone and have the appropriate app on your smartphone to be able to hold it up to a box of breakfast cereal to see if there are GMOs in it. This looks to me like an industry-friendly bill and not a consumer-friendly bill. I hope it doesn’t get the 60 votes it needs to pass.”

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Rep. Peter Welch Calls Democrats' 25-Hour Gun Sit-In 'Very Effective'

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 5:33 PM

Congressman Peter Welch follows House leaders out of the U.S. Capitol Thursday after a 25-hour sit-in. - AP PHOTO/CAROLYN KASTER
  • AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
  • Congressman Peter Welch follows House leaders out of the U.S. Capitol Thursday after a 25-hour sit-in.
Congressional Democrats didn't get the gun-control votes they demanded. But during a 25-hour sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House, they got something else: eyeballs. 

"We focused attention on the obligation of Congress to act," said U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who joined his colleagues for much of the protest. "The response I got on social media from Vermonters — the calls to our office — has been greater on this event than anything else since I've served in Congress. And it's been overwhelmingly positive." 

Democrats took control of the House floor late Wednesday morning and did not leave until roughly 1 p.m. Thursday. They stalled all congressional action until late Wednesday night, when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Republican leaders reconvened to push through a major spending bill and other legislation. GOP lawmakers then left town — despite chants of "no bill, no break!" — for their annual Independence Day recess. 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vermont Congressional Delegation Joins Gun Sit-In on House Floor

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 5:21 PM

Congressman Peter Welch takes part in a sit-in Wednesday on the House floor. - COURTESY: OFFICE OF CONGRESSMAN PETER WELCH
  • Courtesy: Office of Congressman Peter Welch
  • Congressman Peter Welch takes part in a sit-in Wednesday on the House floor.
Days after the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) walked off the floor of the U.S. House during a moment of silence.

"That's something I've never done in my life," he said. "But every moment of silence has been followed by moments of total inaction, and obviously our job is to do something — to have a debate on a bill and pass some common-sense gun legislation."

Welch took his protest a step further Wednesday, joining a highly unusual sit-in on the House floor to demand a vote on gun-control legislation. Democratic lawmakers interrupted the chamber's proceedings that morning and vowed to remain in the well of the House until Republican leaders scheduled a vote.

"It's been a spontaneous avalanche of support among our colleagues," Welch said Wednesday afternoon during a phone interview from the House cloakroom. "Members feel good that finally we're doing something to indicate clearly and explicitly with our actions that we want action, we want to do our job, we want to vote."

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Rainbow Family Lays Groundwork for Its Massive Vermont Gathering

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 4:20 PM

A woman who goes by “Feather” stands at the campsite entrance by poles that will be used to construct teepees. - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • A woman who goes by “Feather” stands at the campsite entrance by poles that will be used to construct teepees.
More than 700 people have gathered at Mount Tabor to prepare a campsite in the Green Mountain National Forest for a Rainbow Family of Living Light celebration that will culminate on July 4 with several thousand people massing.

The vanguard of the group, which says it has no leadership and convenes annually to celebrate peace, nature and community, began arriving last week at a site northeast of Manchester Center. They are establishing a water supply, setting up kitchens and digging latrines. U.S. Forest Service officials expect as many as 10,000 more people to arrive in the coming weeks.

The forest service stationed officers a few miles down the road from the campsite, and a Rutland County sheriff’s deputy idled Tuesday at the intersection of Route 7 and Brooklyn Road, eight miles below the gathering.
A handmade map of the campsite - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • A handmade map of the campsite
While early arrivals have been able to park relatively close to the site, those who come next week will likely have to hike in from miles away.

The forest service says that the gatherings, which have been held on federal land around the country, “can stress the services and resources of a small, rural community.” The nearby town of Mount Tabor has a population of just 250.

The forest service, which is providing daily media updates, said Wednesday that authorities have issued 16 warning notices and eight violation notices for traffic or drug-related offenses.

Forest service spokesman Ethan Ready said the Rainbow Family traditionally leaves behind several people after the main celebration to clean up the site.

The site, a looping hiking trail atop Mount Tabor with a large meadow in the middle, includes several kitchen areas where food is prepared for a mass evening meal. Guests pitch their tents wherever they please.
One of the kitchens at the Mount Tabor campsite - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • One of the kitchens at the Mount Tabor campsite
Teams on Tuesday were busy bringing in food and water, digging toilet trenches and even setting up pipes that will eventually carry water from nearby springs, a woman who goes by “Feather” explained.

“We share what we have together and we pray for peace and love around the world and Mother Earth,” Feather said. “Welcome home.”

A first-time visitor was greeted warmly by almost everyone at the campsite.

“Welcome home man!”

“Want to help me drag this cart to a kitchen?”

“Peace, brother.”

“Stop and sit and hang out for a minute.”

“Want to dig a shitter?”

But this question popped up too: “It’s a cop! Are you a cop?”

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Burlington Police Arrest Fifth Suspect in Beating Death of Transgender Man

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 11:56 AM

Amber Dennis - COURTESY OF BURLINGTON POLICE
  • Courtesy of Burlington Police
  • Amber Dennis

A fifth person was arrested and charged Monday in connection with the May killing of a transgender man at a Burlington homeless encampment.

Amber Dennis, 29, faces a second-degree murder charge in Amos Beede’s death. She was held behind bars in lieu of $100,000 bail and was due Tuesday afternoon in Chittenden Superior Court, police said in a statement.

Dennis, described by police as “part of the transient community in Burlington,” joins Vermont residents Erik Averill, 21, Jordan Paul, 21, Myia Barber, 22, and Allison Gee, 25, held in jail for the murder.

Amos Beede
  • Amos Beede

Beede, 38, was attacked May 22 at a homeless encampment off Pine Street near the Barge Canal. He died of his injuries a week later.

The first four suspects were captured June 2 on a beach in San Diego. It’s unclear where cops caught Dennis or if more suspects are at large.

Police say the suspects used their hands and feet to fatally beat Beede, who suffered broken facial bones, a subdural hematoma and broken ribs. 

Police initially investigated the death as a potential hate crime. But further investigation revealed that the suspects and Beede, who frequented local encampments, had a dispute that ended in the deadly beating, Chief Brandon del Pozo told reporters June 2.

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Gubernatorial Hopeful Minter Airs Her First Television Ad

Posted By on Tue, Jun 21, 2016 at 11:39 AM

Democratic candidate for governor Sue Minter dropped her first campaign commercial Tuesday, touting her work in state government in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

The ad, titled "Count On," focuses on Minter's role in helping rebuild homes and roads after the 2011 storm hit a large swath of the state. 

She was deputy transportation secretary before she served as the state's Irene recovery officer and then as transportation secretary.

"Sue Minter helped lead the rebuilding," a voice-over says.

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