Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New Vermont House Bill Would Legalize, Tax Marijuana Sales

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 9:13 PM

  • luke eastman
As one Vermont House committee works on a bill that would legalize possession and growing of small amounts of marijuana, other House members still hope to go further — legalizing and taxing the sale of the drug.

Rep. Sam Young (D-Glover) is the lead sponsor of a bill due to be introduced Wednesday. On Tuesday, he collected cosponsors and said he expected to have about 15 lawmakers sign on.

"If we're going to legalize marijuana, I think we should also tax and regulate it," said Young, who is vice chair of the Committee on Ways & Means.

Young said he's received no assurances from legislative leaders that his bill would pass. Taxing and regulating marijuana is an approach the Senate passed last year, but that failed to gain traction in the House.

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Burlington Council Candidate to Sue State’s Attorney for Discrimination

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 12:19 PM

Abdullah Sall - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Abdullah Sall
Updated at 6:01 p.m.

Abdullah Sall, a former legal assistant in the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, plans to file an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former boss, newly appointed State’s Attorney Sarah George, his lawyer told Seven Days on Tuesday. The lawyer, John Franco, alleged that Sall faced “disparate treatment” in the office because he is a Muslim immigrant from Liberia.

In an interview with Seven Days earlier this month, George confirmed that she had let Sall go, but she declined to elaborate on her reasoning. Reached again Tuesday, she said she “cannot comment on specifics” of what she called “a personnel matter.”

“I would say that any time an employer has to make a decision, it’s guided by performance, the needs of the office and the law,” she said. “And I followed those principles when making my decision.”

Sall is currently running for the South District seat on the Burlington City Council. The independent is facing off against longtime incumbent Democratic Councilor Joan Shannon and Progressive challenger Charles Simpson.

In an interview Tuesday, Sall alleged that his firing may have been motivated by a desire to “undermine [his] campaign.” He did not offer evidence supporting that assertion.

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Vail to Purchase Stowe Mountain Resort for $50 Million

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 9:03 AM

Skiers at Stowe in January - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Skiers at Stowe in January
Updated at 3:45 p.m.

The rumor mill was right.

Vail Resorts is buying Vermont's most iconic ski area, Stowe Mountain Resort, from the American International Group, the two sides announced Tuesday.

The Colorado-based company will pay $50 million for the Mt. Mansfield ski area, which began as a Depression-era trail cutting project and became known as a luxury winter resort.

“We’re thrilled to add Stowe Mountain Resort to our family of world-class mountain resorts. With the investments in both mountain infrastructure and base area facilities that AIG has made over the years, Stowe Mountain Resort has become the premier, high-end resort for East Coast skiers and snowboarders," said Vail chairman and CEO Rob Katz. "We look forward to working with AIG to continue enhancing the guest experience and to ensure the resort’s long-term success.”

The purchase includes "base area skier services (food and beverage, retail and rental, lift ticket offices and ski and snowboard school facilities) at Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak,” Vail said in a statement. Other related facilities — including the Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe Mountain Club and Stowe Country Club — will remain in AIG’s hands.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Candidates Vie for Burlington School Board Seat

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 6:28 PM

Helen Hossley - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Helen Hossley
Expect two new faces on the Burlington School Board — and possibly three — after the March 7 election.

Two newcomers, Jeff Wick and Ryan McLaren, are stepping up without opposition to fill seats in the South and Central districts, respectively.

Incumbents Miriam Stoll and Brian Cina previously held those seats and are not running for reelection. 

In the only race for a slot on the 12-member board, incumbent Mark Barlow faces a challenge from Helen Hossley in the North District, which encompasses the area commonly known as Burlington's New North End. Her goal is to strengthen city schools.

"Burlington's such a wonderful city and I think we deserve the absolute best schools that we can afford," Hossley said in an interview with Seven Days. "And I don't think the board has done a particularly good job at that."

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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.

WeWillReplaceYou.org 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 350.org, 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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