Thursday, September 15, 2016

Minter Gets to Talk Plenty as She Debates an Empty Chair

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 5:03 PM

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter speaks Thursday next to an empty chair. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter speaks Thursday next to an empty chair.
For a gimmick, the shtick was good for about a minute. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter sat Thursday morning next to an empty chair across the Tunbridge World’s Fair gazebo from Mike Smith, host of WDEV radio’s “Open Mike” talk show.

Then the gubernatorial debate got a tad tedious.

“We invited [Republican candidate] Phil Scott, but he put conditions on the debate which we rejected, so Phil Scott is not here,” Smith explained to his audience. “My role as moderator is to ask the questions and seek clarifications when needed … It is not my responsibility to challenge the opponent.”

Scott declined to take part in debates unless all the candidates on the ballot were invited. Smith refused to invite Liberty Union candidate Bill Lee, the retired Boston Red Sox pitcher who is running a not-entirely-serious campaign.

A debate featuring the candidates for lieutenant governor, Republican Randy Brock and Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden), took on a more traditional flavor. Liberty Union candidate Boots Wardinski was not invited and neither of the other candidates objected.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vermont Lawmaker Looks to Expand Medical Marijuana Access

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 8:01 PM

Sen. Dick Sears - FILE
  • File
  • Sen. Dick Sears
A legislative panel charged with weighing legalizing marijuana in Vermont will focus first on whether the state’s medical marijuana program is reaching all the people it should.

“People in my area are having difficulty getting cannabis,” Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), chair of the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee, said Monday at the first of its six meetings focused on marijuana. “I’m looking to expand the availability of medical marijuana.”

The committee was tasked with continuing to research legalization of marijuana after lawmakers came to a stalemate on the issue earlier this year.

But Sears said the committee’s September 23 meeting will focus on how the state can expand access to medical marijuana. State law limits the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to four. Patients are required to register with the state and provide a doctor’s verification that they have been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition.

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Board Says Vermont Gas Can Use Eminent Domain in Park

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 7:04 PM

  • Alicia Freese
The Vermont Public Service Board will allow Vermont Gas Systems to use eminent domain to build its natural gas pipeline through Geprags Community Park.

The Hinesburg parcel was the last remaining piece of land along the planned 41-mile Colchester-to-Middlebury route where Vermont Gas had to secure the rights to install its pipeline. The area to be condemned is 50 feet wide and 1,987 feet long.

A group of Hinesburg residents represented by attorney James Dumont argued against the eminent domain request in front of the PSB during an August 4th meeting.

The board was not persuaded. In a decision issued Tuesday, it concluded that the pipeline "will have little or no impact on the park and its existing uses, both during and after construction."

Citing Vermont Supreme Court precedent, Dumont had argued that land already designated for a public use couldn't be seized for a different public use. But in its decision, the board reasoned that it was permissible if the public would be best served by both uses and as long as the "second public use would not destroy or materially interfere with the prior public use."

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Pipeline Foes in Vermont Show Support for Like-Minded Sioux

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 4:23 PM

Pipeline protesters in New Haven - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Pipeline protesters in New Haven
Approximately 60 protesters gathered Tuesday morning at a construction site in New Haven where Vermont Gas Systems is building its controversial pipeline. The work is contracted to Michels Corporation — the same Wisconsin-based company building the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have in recent weeks ignited nationwide dialogue about the environmental effects of natural gas extraction.

While Rising Tide Vermont members and others have protested Vermont Gas' pipeline for years, Tuesday's action was in response to a call put out on social media by North Dakota's Sacred Stone Camp, a group started by members of the Standing Rock Sioux, for global demonstrations of solidarity. 

"A lot more people [than usual] are going to be coming out today because of the Standing Rock camps," said Alex Prolman of Rising Tide. 

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Morning Read: Vermont’s Will Allen Honored for GMO Fight

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 11:26 AM

Will Allen, an organic farmer from Thetford who was a leading force behind passage of Vermont’s 2014 genetically modified food labeling law, is being recognized as one of Politico Magazine’s 50 most influential people.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also made the list, ranking No. 1.

Allen, No. 36 on the list, was granted the honor “for making food transparent.” Politico concluded that Allen “has changed America’s food system.”

Ironically, Allen’s being feted for a fight he didn’t quite win. And Politico paired him with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), someone he decidedly doesn’t see as an ally.

Vermont’s GMO law went into effect July 1 but was quickly preempted by federal legislation Stabenow spearheaded that will require national labeling of genetically modified foods. The federal law, however, gives agencies two years to come up with rules and allows manufacturers to label products with a smartphone-scannable QR code rather than the on-package labeling that Vermont law required.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Council Approves 14-Story Building Height in New Burlington District

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 11:50 PM

Councilor Max Tracy, right, argues against increasing the allowable building height to 14 stories. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Councilor Max Tracy, right, argues against increasing the allowable building height to 14 stories.
The Burlington Town Center redevelopment cleared another hurdle Monday night when the city council voted to approve a zoning amendment that will allow developer Don Sinex to build up to 14 stories high.

In a 7-4 vote, the council decided to increase the maximum building height permitted on the site of Burlington Town Center from 105 feet to 160 feet. The height limit applies to a new zoning “overlay” district that also includes several surrounding properties such as the College Street and Lakeview parking garages.

The height change has been a major source of contention, with opponents arguing that it’s too tall and that the city shouldn’t change its zoning to cater to one developer’s project. 

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Former Bove's Café Could Meet the Wrecking Ball

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 9:49 PM

Rendering of the proposed George Street Lofts and Pearl Street Lofts - SCOTT+PARTNERS ARCHITECTURE
  • Scott+Partners Architecture
  • Rendering of the proposed George Street Lofts and Pearl Street Lofts
The antipasto salad is just a memory, and now the shuttered Bove's Café building could soon disappear too. 

Rick Bove, grandson of the Italian eatery's founders, is proposing to demolish the restaurant building at 64 Pearl Street in Burlington to make way for a $14 million apartment complex. It would include two buildings, one with 39 units and another with 17 units, as well as a 60-car underground garage.

The development would add 50 net units of housing on the edge of downtown, after subtracting what would be lost in demolition. The proposal also calls for demolishing two 19th-century apartment houses around the corner, at 13 and 19 George Street. 

The red brick General Stannard House on the corner of George and Pearl streets would be renovated, according to the application Bove filed with the city. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The restaurant, with its iconic 1940s art deco facade and pistachio interior, closed last December after serving up meatballs and red sauce for more than 70 years. It survived a 1960s urban renewal spree that razed much of Burlington's Little Italy. Over the decades, it served legions of hungry college kids, families and politicians. 

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Leahy, Minter Launch General Election Television Ads

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 8:49 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy in April - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy in April
Updated below

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) plans to launch his first television advertisements of his reelection campaign Tuesday, according to records filed Monday with the Federal Communications Commission. 

Leahy spokesman Jay Tilton confirmed the buy Monday but would not disclose its size. One order placed by the campaign indicates that the seven-term senator plans to spend $31,000 to air ads on Vermont's four broadcast television stations over the course of a week. That figure would not include cable and satellite television advertising. 

The move comes soon after Leahy's Republican opponent, Pomfret travel agency owner Scott Milne, held a formal campaign launch Saturday in Washington, Vt. Milne's Senate campaign has yet to buy any television advertising, but his business, Milne Travel, spent nearly $20,000 in August on ads featuring the candidate promoting his company, according to FCC records.

Leahy appears to be the first candidate in Vermont to run TV ads during the general election. (See update below.) Five gubernatorial candidates and one lieutenant gubernatorial candidate ran ads before the August primary election, but none have since then. Super PACs affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association are currently airing ads backing gubernatorial nominees Sue Minter and Phil Scott, respectively. 

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Sanders to Stump for Zephyr Teachout in N.Y. Congressional Race

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 5:32 PM

Zephyr Teachout - RICHARD BEAVEN
  • Richard Beaven
  • Zephyr Teachout
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will travel to New Paltz, N.Y., this week to campaign for Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout.

Sanders has been helping Teachout raise money and gain supporters. He’s supported other like-minded candidates around the country during and following his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

On Twitter Monday, Teachout’s campaign characterized Sanders’ visit as “huge news.”

Teachout grew up in Norwich and is the daughter of Vermont Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout and Vermont Law School professor Peter Teachout. 

Sanders has not appeared in person for many of the candidates he backs. He campaigned in New Hampshire for his former rival, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, on Labor Day. Sanders also stopped in Middlebury that day to give a boost to Vermont candidates, including Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden), who is running for lieutenant governor.

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Media Note: Herald Publisher to Retire, Photographer Fired

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 4:20 PM

The Rutland Herald headquarters - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • The Rutland Herald headquarters
Updated at 11:19 p.m.

The longtime owners of the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus are preparing to hand off the papers to two out-of-state investors.

"It looks like we will close the sale late this week, although that may still change," editor in chief Rob Mitchell wrote employees Monday, according to an email obtained by Seven Days. Mitchell's family has owned the Herald since 1947 and the Times Argus since 1964.

Chip Harris, who agreed last month to buy the papers with partner Reade Brower, confirmed Monday that the sale was imminent. 

"There's been no official date at this point," said Harris, a semi-retired publishing executive who lives in New Hampshire. "But the hope is we'll be closing by the end of the week."

In his email, Mitchell said that, "as part of this transition," publisher and CEO Catherine Nelson "has decided to leave the company and is retiring." 

"We should all wish her well in whatever comes next for her," Mitchell wrote. "My father [Herald Association president R. John Mitchell] and I will be backstopping her role this week or until the sale is final, so if you have questions please come to me or to Dad."

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