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Friday, November 29, 2019

Burlington Progs Want to Bring Back Ranked-Choice Voting

Posted By on Fri, Nov 29, 2019 at 5:37 PM

A voter in Burlington's Old North End. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • FILE: Alicia Freese
  • A voter in Burlington's Old North End.
Updated on December 2, 2019.

A group of Progressive Burlington city councilors wants to resurrect ranked-choice voting, a controversial election method that Queen City voters repealed nearly a decade ago.

Councilors Jack Hanson, Brian Pine and Max Tracy will introduce a resolution on Monday that seeks to place a question on the March 2020 ballot to reinstate the election system. If approved, the topic will go to the council’s Charter Change Committee for consideration.

Councilors Perri Freeman (P-Central District) and Sharon Bushor (I-Ward 1) have also signed on as cosponsors of the measure.

Ranked-choice voting, also known as instant runoff, allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If none wins a majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated. Votes for that candidate are then assigned to voters’ second choice until one candidate gets a 50 percent majority.

Under the current system, a candidate can earn just 40 percent of the vote to win an election for mayor, city council or school board. The system puts independent and non-major party candidates at a disadvantage, the resolution says, and forces voters to choose the candidate who is most likely to win instead of who they favor most.

"In Burlington, there’s alway been a long tradition of being ... a multiparty city," said Pine, a Ward 3 prog. "This is a well-tested way to ensure that you can have a more pluralistic political system."

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Vermont Dems Uncover More Alleged Embezzlement, File Police Report

Posted By on Sun, Aug 18, 2019 at 10:05 PM

  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Brandon Batham
In a statement to the press earlier this month, Vermont Democratic Party chair Terje Anderson accused a former employee of embezzling "the relatively modest amount" of $2,938.

On Sunday, the party disclosed that the sum wasn't so modest after all.

In a new statement, the Democrats alleged that former director of party operations Brandon Batham embezzled roughly $18,500 this year. The party also disclosed for the first time that it had filed a criminal complaint against Batham with the Montpelier Police Department.

Batham, who resigned under pressure on July 17, has not publicly addressed the allegations. The former Barre city councilor did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

In an email to party supporters, Anderson and other top officials called it a "difficult and painful time" for Vermont Democrats. "We will be doing everything possible to move beyond this very discouraging set of circumstances and to regain or retain your trust," Anderson, party vice chair Tess Taylor and treasurer Billi Gosh wrote in the email Sunday. "We will do so in a spirit of humility and honesty."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Vermont Senate to Vote on Corporate Contribution Ban

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 7:41 PM

Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) - FILE: NANCY REMSEN
  • File: Nancy Remsen
  • Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington)
Senate lawmakers advanced a proposal Tuesday that would ban campaign contributions made directly by corporations to political candidates or parties. Under the legislation, corporate money could still find its way into Vermont’s elections, but it would have to move through a political action committee first.

The Senate Government Operations Committee approved the bill in a 4–1 vote Tuesday afternoon, with only Sen. Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) opposing it. The full Senate is likely to take it up later this week.

The legislation would allow individuals, PACs and political parties to contribute directly to candidates and parties, but it would bar private companies, nonprofit organizations, trade associations and labor unions from doing so. Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) sponsored the legislation in an effort to limit corporate influence in politics and increase transparency in campaign financing.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Scott Taps Colston to Fill Winooski Seat in Vermont House

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 7:04 PM

  • Courtesy of Hal Colston
  • Hal Colston
It's decided.

Gov. Phil Scott announced Tuesday that he will appoint Winooski City Councilor Hal Colston to fill the vacant Chittenden 6-7 House seat.

Colston will be sworn in Wednesday to represent all of Winooski and a small portion of Burlington. He'll replace Clem Bissonnette, who announced his resignation last month.

"Hal has dedicated much of his life to public service and improving the lives of people in his community,” Scott said in a statement. “As a city councilor and executive director of SerVermont, Hal has made it his mission to advocate for equity and justice for all, and I look forward to working with him in the Legislature.”

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joe Biden Talks Family — and a Bit of Politics — in Visit to Burlington

Posted By on Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 7:26 PM

Jodi Picoult and Joe Biden - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Jodi Picoult and Joe Biden
For those expecting Joe Biden to deliver a political stump speech — or a taste of his future plans — during a visit to Burlington on Sunday, he failed to deliver.

The former vice president and senator avoided all but an ambiguous hint when it came to discussing a possible 2020 presidential run, and he steered clear of any direct attacks on President Donald Trump — even as he came to the home turf of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a possible 2020 competitor.

Instead the 76-year-old appeared intent on offering a more personal message. For those who are grieving or bereaved, he told a packed house at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, "There's a reason for hope, believe it or not."

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Winooski Voters Approve Main Street Revitalization Project

Posted By on Tue, May 8, 2018 at 8:28 PM

A rendering of the proposed reconstruction of Winooski's Main Street - COURTESY VHB CONSULTING
  • Courtesy VHB consulting
  • A rendering of the proposed reconstruction of Winooski's Main Street
Onion City voters approved a $23 million bond for a major facelift of the city's Main Street on Tuesday by a healthy margin of 311 to 185.

The vote will allow the Winooski City Council to explore funding sources, including state and federal grants, as well as a 1 percent local options tax on rooms, meals and alcohol. An increase in municipal taxes and water rates could also fund the work.

After the votes were counted Tuesday evening, Mayor Seth Leonard took to Twitter.

Other public officials also expressed gratitude to voters.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Walters: Corporate Contributions Ban Has a Tough Day

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 5:05 PM

Rep. Jim Harrison, center, questions a witness about S.120. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Rep. Jim Harrison, center, questions a witness about S.120.
Members of a Vermont House committee have plenty of questions about S.120, the Senate-passed bill that would ban corporate campaign contributions to candidates or political parties.

The House Government Operations Committee held its first hearing on the bill Friday morning. Both Democrats and Republicans appeared to be skeptical that the bill would accomplish its purpose: to keep Vermont immune from the effects of big-money politics. That’s because corporations would still be able to donate unlimited funds through political action committees and independent organizations.

“Many of us have gotten lots of calls asking us to get corporate money out of Vermont politics,” said committee chair Rep. Maida Townsend (D-South Burlington). “This bill, the PACs would collect the money and put it into our political system. If it’s direct from corporation to candidate it’s not OK, but if it goes from corporation to PAC to candidate, it is OK?”

Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Chittenden) wondered, half-jokingly, if S.120 didn’t simply create “a way to launder the money,” and pointed out that “any candidate could set up a PAC and accept corporate contributions.”

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Call to ‘Make Vermont Great Again’ Dismays Some GOP Lawmakers

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 5:00 PM

  • Screenshot from Vermont GOP email
Some Republican Vermont lawmakers are distancing themselves from their own party's messaging.

The state GOP urged supporters in an email Wednesday to “MAKE VERMONT GREAT AGAIN!" — a riff on President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. Sent several hours before Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a package of gun reform bills, the email evoked the language of gun rights supporters, many of whom are furious with Scott. The message also used a color scheme associated with the pro-gun contingent — hunter orange and green.

“In recent years,” the email read, “our state has been co-opted by the liberal elite. Out-of-touch politicians have been hell bent on stripping away every right and freedom that Vermonters hold dear.”

But, it continued, "Now is not the time to surrender ... 2018 is a critical year for conservatism in Vermont. If we are ever going to return Vermont back to its former glory, we need to band together to toss out every last liberal elitist politician in Montpelier."

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pro-Gun Vermont Senator John Rodgers Considers Run for Governor

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2018 at 3:16 PM

Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans) speaking at a Statehouse press conference Tuesday - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans) speaking at a Statehouse press conference Tuesday
Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans), one of the most vocal opponents of gun control in the Vermont Statehouse, said Tuesday that he’s considering a run for governor.

“There’s a lot of support out there,” Rodgers said. “I’m definitely thinking about it.”

The right-leaning Democrat from Glover could capitalize on a wave of anger directed at Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who is poised to sign a package of gun control bills Wednesday. Previously a stalwart opponent of such measures, Scott reversed his stance in February after learning of an alleged school shooting plot in Fair Haven.

At a Statehouse press conference held with other lawmakers Tuesday, Rodgers reiterated his opposition to S.55, a bill that would mandate universal background checks, raise the purchasing age for guns from 18 to 21, limit high-capacity magazines and ban bump stocks.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

HuffPost: Notorious White Nationalist 'Ricky Vaughn' a Waterbury Native

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 5:57 PM

A social media profile image of "Ricky Vaughn" - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • A social media profile image of "Ricky Vaughn"
Updated at 9:36 a.m. April 6, 2018, with a statement from the Mackey family.

An infamous white nationalist troll who went by the online moniker "Ricky Vaughn" is a 28-year-old Waterbury native whose father is a prominent Montpelier lobbyist, the Huffington Post reported Thursday.

The man known as Ricky Vaughn, whose online profile grew during the 2016 general election, is actually Douglass Mackey. He graduated from Harwood Union High School and Middlebury College, and now lives in Manhattan, the Huffington Post reported.

His father, Scott Mackey, is a partner at Leonine Public Affairs and served on the Harwood Union School Board.

“We were devastated to learn this week of Doug's beliefs and on-line activities as reported in the Huffington Post," Scott Mackey said in a statement released Friday. "They are antithetical to the values we hold and with which he was raised. We are still trying to understand how he could have done something like this and hope he will find some way to make amends for the harm he has caused.”

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