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Friday, October 20, 2017

ACLU Sues to Protect Homeless Encampments in Burlington

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 12:44 PM

Jay Diaz - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-brodeur
  • Jay Diaz
Updated 5:25 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont is seeking to stop Burlington's plan to evict three people from a homeless encampment along North Avenue. ACLU attorney Jay Diaz filed a class action lawsuit on Friday morning against the city of Burlington.

A judge later on Friday issued a temporary restraining order that allows the campers to stay until the case is settled.

The city has given the campers until Monday to leave; they can face prosecution or fines if they do not, Diaz said.

Yesterday, city officials dismantled an encampment in Burlington's South End, arriving with dump trucks to clear out abandoned property.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

City of Burlington Breaks Up South End Encampment

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 3:34 PM

Dylan Berns-Snyder and Nick Walls - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Dylan Berns-Snyder and Nick Walls
Burlington officials dismantled a South End homeless encampment Thursday afternoon, hours after a series of shifting decisions about its future.

The city had anticipated needing to rent a storage locker to keep campers' belongings. But those at the camp gave permission to throw out the remaining tents, and in the end, city workers were able to collect and dispose of the unwanted stuff.

The city has reversed course on the issue several times, even in the last 24 hours.

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Vermont's First Target Store Is Coming to South Burlington

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 12:11 PM

A rendering of the new store - COURTESY OF TARGET
  • Courtesy of Target
  • A rendering of the new store
Target has announced plans to open a store in South Burlington's University Mall — the company's first location in Vermont.

The store is expected to open in October 2018 and will employ about 75 people, according to a press release issued by the company. Vermont is the final state in the union without a Target, which has stores in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Keene, N.H.

The venue will offer clothing, home supplies, health and beauty products, and even groceries, the company announced. That will bring a new competitor to the intensifying local grocery war that Seven Days recently reported.

"Our expansion to the Green Mountain State is long overdue and we are thrilled to meet our newest neighbors and community when our South Burlington store opens in 2018," said Mark Schindele, senior vice president for the company.

While Target has signed a lease for 60,000 square feet of space, the company said the store will be a "small-format" version of Target.

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Updated: Decision on Closing Encampment Hinges on Where to Store Stuff

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 9:12 AM

Dylan Berns-Snyder and Nick Walls - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Dylan Berns-Snyder and Nick Walls
This post was updated at 1 p.m. to include Chief Brandon del Pozo's comments from Thursday.

The city of Burlington was not clearing out a South End homeless encampment that has previously been a source of safety concerns, Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said Wednesday — because the city has nowhere to put the residents' stuff. But on Thursday, he said officials are looking for a way to store the belongings that have accumulated there — and still planned to shut it down. Typically when belongings are confiscated, they're stored at the police station, said Lacey-Ann Smith, community affairs liaison for the Burlington Police Department. "It's usually like a pair of pants and a sleeping bag," Smith said. "There’s a lot of stuff down there and we don’t have any capacity."

Smith left an eviction notice at the encampment weeks ago, and had hoped that the campers would leave of their own accord — and bring their belongings with them. Three of the original seven campers are staying at Safe Harbor, she said; four remain.

The safety issues, which include allegations of drug dealing and use and domestic violence in the encampment, are still a concern, said del Pozo. But he accused the remaining campers of using the city's efforts to protect their property as a way to trespass on the land. Leaving their belongings, he said, "seems like a modus vivendi, a strategy to hamstring the city."

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Keep BT Local, Ting Picked as Finalists to Buy Burlington Telecom

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 1:16 AM

Residents speak in favor of Keep BT Local. - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Residents speak in favor of Keep BT Local.
Keep BT Local will move on to the final round to buy Burlington Telecom, along with Toronto-based Ting.

Burlington City Council members cast six votes in favor of the co-op and five votes for Ting in a four-hour meeting on Monday night. Republican Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) offered the sole vote for the third company, Schurz Communications.

About 150 residents crowded into Burlington City Hall Auditorium to voice their support for the co-op's bid. They stood along the walls and sat on the floor, bearing signs with slogans in favor of Keep BT Local.

"How about we keep our internet & just sell Miro instead?" read one, taking a shot at Mayor Miro Weinberger. Read another, "Hands off our internet."

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Meat Cleaver Murder Suspect to Undergo Sanity Evaluation

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 5:36 PM

Aita Gurung in court Friday - RYAN MERCER/BURLINGTON FREE PRESS
  • Ryan Mercer/Burlington Free Press
  • Aita Gurung in court Friday
A man accused of hacking his wife to death with a meat cleaver in broad daylight on a Burlington street has been ordered held without bail and must undergo a mental competency and sanity evaluation, a judge ruled Friday afternoon.

A shackled Aita Gurung, 34, looked at the floor and showed no expression as an interpreter explained Judge Kevin Griffin's orders during an appearance in Vermont Superior Court. Gurung will be evaluated at the University of Vermont Medical Center and will be kept in the custody of the Department of Mental Health until it's complete, Griffin ruled.

Sara Puls of the Chittenden County Public Defender's Office, who represented Gurung in court, entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Authorities say that on Thursday afternoon, Gurung killed his wife, 32-year-old Yogeswari Khadka, and critically injured his 54-year-old mother-in-law, Tulasa Rimal. Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said she was expected to survive. Gurung was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Burlington Cops: Man Armed With Meat Cleaver Kills Wife

Posted By on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 5:38 PM

A police car in front of 72 Hyde Street - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • A police car in front of 72 Hyde Street
This story was updated at 9 p.m.

A man released from a hospital where he'd sought mental health treatment returned to his Old North End home on Thursday, killed his wife with a meat cleaver and attacked his mother-in-law, Burlington police said.

Aita Gurung, 34, on Saturday sought “police attention for mental health issues and concerns about his deteriorating relationship with his wife,” Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said in a press release. Police called for emergency medical services, and he was taken to University of Vermont Medical Center.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mayor Urges City Council to Reject Co-op Bid for Burlington Telecom

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 5:54 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger and Burlington Telecom Advisory Board Chair David Provost - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger and Burlington Telecom Advisory Board Chair David Provost
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Tuesday plugged the out-of-state companies offering the two highest bids for Burlington Telecom and urged city councilors to reject a substantially lower offer from the Keep BT Local co-op.

The co-op's $12 million bid is doomed by legal, financial and regulatory concerns, and is inferior to the $27.5 million offer from Ting and the $30.8 million put up by Schurz Communications, the mayor said at a press conference in his City Hall office.

Weinberger voiced his opinion loud and clear several days before the City Council holds a key vote Monday to narrow the field from three to two finalists.

"Fundamentally, at this point, the KBTL proposal is not viable," Weinberger said.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Burlington Activist Takes Aim at 'White Supremacist' Mural

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 7:09 PM

The graffiti - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • The graffiti
Updated on October 11, 2017.

A Burlington activist said he used graffiti Monday to make a political statement about a mural off Church Street.

Albert Petrarca, who describes himself as a member of the Off the Wall coalition, said in a press release that he and other members of the group defaced an identification plaque that accompanies the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural downtown. Petrarca described the public art, which is 124 feet by 16 feet, as a “white supremacist symbol” that obliterates “First Nation peoples’ lives and history.”

The goal? “To reset the debate on why an undeniably racist piece of ‘art’ and ‘history’ occupies our town square,” wrote Petrarca, an activist who is outspoken on a variety of Burlington issues.

“Colorful and hyperrealistic,” Seven Days reported in 2012, “the mural unspools an eclectic cast of major and minor Vermont celebrities.” It’s located on the side of a building that houses Banana Republic along the pedestrian-only Leahy Way, which leads to the Marketplace parking garage. And yes, for those wondering, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is also depicted in the mural.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ben & Jerry's Vows to Better Conditions for Migrant Workers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 5:43 PM

Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Will Lambek, left, and Enrique Balcazar of Migrant Justice
After more than two years of prodding by a local migrant farmworker advocacy group, Ben & Jerry's has agreed to improve employee conditions at the farms in its supply chain.

Members of Migrant Justice and Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim announced the deal Tuesday during a celebratory gathering in front of the ice cream shop on Church Street in Burlington. Solheim touted the program as "first in the dairy industry, first in the world."

Then he and members of Migrant Justice signed the Milk With Dignity contract that will eventually be applied to all northeastern farms in Ben & Jerry's supply chain.

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