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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Kilburn Family Files Wrongful Death Claim Against Burlington

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 8:04 PM

Douglas Kilburn (left) and Officer Cory Campbell - COURTESY OF LISA WEBBER | BURLINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy of Lisa Webber | Burlington Police Department
  • Douglas Kilburn (left) and Officer Cory Campbell
The family of Douglas Kilburn is suing the City of Burlington, the mayor and police over his death last year following an altercation with a city cop outside the University of Vermont Medical Center.

The civil complaint, filed Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court, accuses Officer Cory Campbell of using excessive force when he punched Kilburn in the face, breaking multiple bones. The officer's actions in March 2019 ultimately caused Kilburn's "unjustified death," his family asserts.

The suit also targets former police chief Brandon del Pozo and Mayor Miro Weinberger, claiming they tried to conceal Campbell's wrongful conduct by seeking to change the state medical examiner's conclusions in the case.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Waterbury Selectboard Chair Who Suggested 'Segregated' Policing Steps Down

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2020 at 4:16 PM

Chris Viens (Right) and Mark Frier at a Waterbury Selectboard session last year - COURTESY OF GORDON MILLER
  • Courtesy of Gordon Miller
  • Chris Viens (Right) and Mark Frier at a Waterbury Selectboard session last year
The chair of the Waterbury Selectboard gave up his gavel last week following a fierce backlash against his comments suggesting police departments should be segregated.

Chris Viens, 60, stepped down as chair of the board but refused to resign from the body as 464 people who signed a petition had demanded.

Instead, the excavation contractor who has served on the board for nine years read haltingly from a prepared statement at the beginning of the live-streamed November 2 meeting.

With his wife, LeeAnne, looking over his shoulder, Viens did not address his comments about policing directly, but instead said he regretted they were perceived as racist.

“I’m sorry that you think the fact that my wife and I were raised in this area and taught by our families that you should treat everyone equally no matter who they are makes us racist and ignorant,” Viens said. He said he would not resign from the board because he had “overwhelming support” from people who urged him “don’t give up, don’t give in and don’t step down.”

Viens declined an interview request, saying his wife told him to let his prepared remarks speak for themselves.

Passions flared in Waterbury over the summer during debate about the installation of a “Waterbury Stands With Black Lives Matter” banner on public property outside the municipal offices. Someone spray painted “State Police — Support WLM as well” on a nearby piece of construction equipment in September, an apparent reference to “White Lives Matter.”

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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Vermont Allows Ski Resorts to Open With Quarantine Rules in Place

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2020 at 3:28 PM

Skiers on a lift at Stowe Mountain Resort, pre-COVID - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur ©️ Seven Days
  • Skiers on a lift at Stowe Mountain Resort, pre-COVID
State officials on Tuesday gave Vermont's ski resorts their blessing to reopen. But looming large over the new COVID-19 safety guidelines is an essential question: Who will be able to come?

More than three-quarters of Vermont resort guests travel from out-of-state during a typical season, but a surge of coronavirus cases in the region is rapidly changing how many — if any — visitors will be able to do so this season without a lengthy quarantine before or upon traveling to the mountain.

According to the state's new weekly travel map unveiled on Tuesday, only 330,000 combined residents from four rural counties in Maine, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania can travel to Vermont without quarantining. Everyone else must spend 14 days in quarantine at home or in Vermont; they can shorten the period by testing negative for the virus a week into quarantine.

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Kavanaugh Corrects Error About Vermont Voting Rules in a Published Opinion

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Justice Brett Kavanaugh - U.S. SUPREME COURT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • U.S. Supreme Court ©️ Seven Days
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Vermont election officials succeeded this week in getting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to correct an error about state election rules that he included in a high-profile opinion regarding mail-in ballots.

“Justice Kavanaugh simply got this wrong,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement Thursday.

In an opinion concurring with the court’s decision not to extend Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots past Election Day, Kavanaugh noted that states have passed different election rules in response to the pandemic. He observed this variation “reflects our constitutional system of federalism. Different state legislatures may make different choices."

The problem was that he misstated Vermont's response to the pandemic, suggesting the Green Mountain State had made no changes to its election rules.

“Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots," Kavanaugh wrote Monday.

The ruling generated national media attention because it was widely viewed as a win for Republicans and efforts to limit how a key battleground state will count mail-in votes.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Vermont Launches Expanded Hazard Pay Program, Releases COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2020 at 4:04 PM

Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak on Friday - SCREENSHOT/ORCA MEDIA
  • Screenshot/ORCA Media
  • Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak on Friday

Employers will be able to apply for hazard pay on behalf of their employees starting next Wednesday in the second round of a program aimed at compensating frontline workers.

This time around, the Frontline Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program will cover employees from 26 different business categories, including grocery stores, pharmacies and childcare providers. The previous round of hazard pay grants, announced in August, was open to employees in just 14 categories, primarily health care and eldercare workers.

Once an employer is approved, employees can receive either $1,200 or $2,000 to cover work between March 13 and May 15. Employees who made under $25 an hour between March and May are eligible for the hazard pay grants, with exceptions for some health care workers who may receive the grants regardless. And employees who worked during that time, but who are no longer employed at the same business, are also eligible.

Applications will open next Wednesday, October 28 at 9 a.m., for the first-come, first-served program, funded by a $22.5 million appropriation from Vermont's allotment of the federal CARES Act.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Vermont Announces $76 Million in New Round of Business Grants

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 5:35 PM

Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein at Tuesday's press conference - SCREENSHOT/ORCA MEDIA
  • Screenshot/ORCA Media
  • Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein at Tuesday's press conference
Vermont has launched a new program that will distribute $76 million in grants to businesses affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein outlined details of the program at a press conference Tuesday. The legislature allocated the money from Vermont’s $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act funding.

The cash is part of a second round of state business grants; a first round distributed $152 million starting in July. Vermont businesses also received more than $1.2 billion in loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program; businesses can have those loans forgiven if they can prove that they used the funds to keep staffing at pre-pandemic levels.

The previous round of state grants had eligibility requirements that excluded some sole proprietors and newer businesses that did not have a full year of revenue in 2019. The state's program was also first-come, first-served, meaning businesses that applied late missed out on funding, even if they were eligible.

Goldstein said this round will be different.

“We took the lessons we learned from the first time around and worked to develop a program that would address the financial needs of those sectors that are still suffering greatly, and make it more possible for other entities that were closed out the first time around,” she said.

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Two With Law Enforcement Ties Charged in Separate Incidents

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 4:15 PM

ALAIN LACROIX | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime.com
Two men with law enforcement ties, including a current Burlington cop, face criminal charges in separate incidents.

Cpl. William Drinkwine of the Burlington Police Department was charged Friday with illegally entering a Swanton woman's home in July, Vermont State Police announced Tuesday morning. State police offered few details about the incident, saying more information would be available upon Drinkwine's November 2 arraignment in Franklin County.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Scott Allows Tax-and-Regulate Cannabis Bill to Become Law

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2020 at 10:15 PM

LUKE EASTMAN
  • Luke Eastman
Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday evening that he will allow the legislature’s tax-and-regulate cannabis bill to become law without his signature, paving the way for legal marijuana sales in Vermont to begin by the spring of 2022.

Scott, who has long been reluctant to support the creation of a legalized cannabis market, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that he believes they made “substantial progress” addressing his concerns. But, he noted, “there is still more work to be done” on issues of road safety,  misuse prevention and racial equity, the Republican governor urged lawmakers to revisit the law next session.

“I believe we are at a pivotal moment in our nation's history which requires us to address systemic racism in our governmental institutions,” Scott wrote. “We must take additional steps to ensure equity is a foundational principle in a new market.”

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Monday, October 5, 2020

Outbreak Among Workers Shutters Champlain and Douglas Orchards

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2020 at 8:44 PM

Champlain Orchards apples - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • Champlain Orchards apples
An outbreak has disrupted operations during the busiest season of the year at two large Addison County orchards.

Champlain Orchards in Shoreham closed its shop and popular pick-your-own operation to the public over the weekend after a worker tested positive on Friday. Douglas Orchards, a nearby operation that Champlain Orchards acquired earlier this year, also closed for the weekend.

As of Monday, testing had revealed 26 cases among workers at the two orchards, according to health commissioner Mark Levine, who spoke at an afternoon briefing on the outbreak.

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Vermont Lawmakers Adjourn After a Long, Strange Session

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2020 at 10:54 PM

The Vermont Senate applauding Gov. Phil Scott on Friday - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The Vermont Senate applauding Gov. Phil Scott on Friday
Vermont lawmakers wrapped up the longest legislative session in state history on Friday, adjourning after passing a $7.2 billion state budget and a handful of other last-minute bills to complete a frenetic final week of remote legislative maneuvering.

The day capped an unprecedented session that forced lawmakers to scramble in March to figure out how to work remotely when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state.

They pivoted quickly to spend more than $1.25 billion in federal relief funds to support people who lost their jobs, boost pay for frontline workers, shelter the homeless, prop up struggling businesses and bail out the floundering state college system.

Members of the Senate were the first to sign off, in midafternoon, having approved the budget bill and sent it back to the House. 

Republican Gov. Phil Scott warmly praised legislators' work.

“I was proud of the way both the House and Senate regrouped, reorganized and found a way to conduct the work of the people outside the walls of the Statehouse,” Scott told senators before offering similar remarks on Friday evening to House members.

In a normal year, the governor would have been escorted into the Vermont General Assembly at the Statehouse and greeted with applause before addressing lawmakers.

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