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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Colchester Karen Wants to Reclaim Her Name From the Haters

Posted By on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 at 8:30 PM

  • Josieelias | Dreamstime
Karen Taylor Mitchell never considered changing her name before May 2020. That’s when a video went viral of the “Central Park Karen,” a woman who called the New York City police because she felt threatened by a Black man who was bird watching.

“Karen” quickly became synonymous with any intolerant woman who uses her white privilege to get her way. Since then, it’s devolved into a pejorative placeholder and meme for any self-righteous female.

“Karen is the word ‘bitch’ for the digital age,” Mitchell said.

A nonprofit consultant who now goes by Kaomi, Mitchell is trying to reclaim her given name from the haters. In January, the 55-year-old Colchester woman launched, a website devoted to changing the narrative by highlighting the thousands of Karens who’ve made positive contributions to society.

The site features short bios of such notables as Karen Tse, a Chinese-American anti-torture activist; Karen Thompson, an LGBT activist in Minnesota; and Karen Silkwood, a nuclear industry whistleblower from the 1970s.

Mitchell also launched a Facebook petition called “Friends of Karens Pledge,” which asks people to stop using the name as a misogynistic stereotype or sharing memes that do so.

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Excessive Force Claims Against Burlington Police Clear Key Hurdle

Posted By on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 at 6:35 PM

Burlington police at the scene of the incident involving the Meli brothers - BODYCAM FOOTAGE
  • Bodycam Footage
  • Burlington police at the scene of the incident involving the Meli brothers
A pair of civil rights lawsuits brought by two Black men against Burlington police officers can proceed, a federal judge ruled this week.

The City of Burlington had asked Judge William Sessions to rule in its favor by providing something known as summary judgment in both cases. But Sessions denied the motion and will allow Jérémie Meli and Mabior Jok to pursue their excessive force claims related to separate downtown incidents in 2018.

The U.S. District Court judge did toss several other parts of the lawsuits, including claims brought by two of Meli's brothers, who were with him the night of the incident.

Meli was injured in September 2018 when sergeant Jason Bellavance shoved him while responding to a call outside of a bar. Meli’s head slammed into a wall, knocking him unconscious. Police arrested him on charges that were later dropped.
The previous night, on the same block of Burlington’s Main Street, Jok was standing in the center of a group of people when Officer Joseph Corrow approached and took Jok to the ground. Corrow believed that Jok was engaged in a fight, he said. The officer was not disciplined following an internal investigation.

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Monday, February 7, 2022

Former Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman to Run for His Old Job

Posted By on Mon, Feb 7, 2022 at 6:55 AM

  • Courtesy of Rachel Nevitt
  • David Zuckerman
Former lieutenant governor David Zuckerman announced on Monday that he wants his old job back, making him the sixth candidate to officially join the race for Vermont's second-highest office.

The Hinesburg farmer and prominent state Progressive served two terms as lieutenant governor before running for governor as the Democratic nominee in 2020 and losing badly to Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Another gubernatorial run this November against the popular incumbent would "likely be a futile endeavor," Zuckerman said. Instead, he sees a return to his former post as the best way for him to continue advocating for issues working Vermonters care about, such as raising the minimum wage, addressing the climate crisis, expanding broadband access and expanding affordable housing.

“There is a real opportunity to talk with everyone, from students in schools to business owners and community groups, about how to really be effective in creating the changes we want to see,” Zuckerman told Seven Days.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Vermont State Police Trooper Sues Human Rights Commission, Seven Days

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2022 at 7:50 PM

Clemmons Family Farm in 2017 - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Clemmons Family Farm in 2017
A state trooper says his career was unjustly ruined by the Vermont Human Rights Commission over its finding that the Vermont State Police likely racially discriminated against Lydia Clemmons, the Black director of the historic Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte.

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Cpl. Andrew Leise also claims that Seven Days defamed him in a June 23, 2021 news story about the commission's investigation. He's suing the newspaper, the Human Rights Commission, its executive director Bor Yang and commission chair Rep. Kevin "Coach" Christie (D-Hartford) for six counts of defamation and due process violations.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Don Sinex Sues Would-Be Buyers of His Rutland Estate

Posted By on Tue, Jan 18, 2022 at 3:48 PM

  • File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
  • Don Sinex
CityPlace Burlington developer Don Sinex is taking a New York couple to federal court for backing out of a contract to purchase his Rutland estate for $1.3 million.

According to court documents, Jeanne and Steven Quagliano signed a contract to buy Sinex’s five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom property last June, and paid a $100,000 deposit to be held in escrow.

Two months later, however, the Quaglianos terminated the deal over concerns that Sinex, who lives in Florida, had directed people to remove items from the home that were included in the sale, court documents say. Sinex's lawsuit says that no property is missing.

"I sued the couple to recover damages because they defaulted notwithstanding a binding contract," Sinex wrote in an email to Seven Days. "This is the same action any and all aggrieved Sellers bring against buyers when the buyer defaults."

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Order to Close Slate Ridge Gun Range

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2022 at 5:15 PM

  • Sonnenbergshots | Dreamstime
  • A gun range
The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's order that Daniel Banyai must shut down his unpermitted firearms training compound in West Pawlet, where he has been accused of intimidating neighbors.

Justices also upheld a $46,600 civil fine that the lower court had imposed on Banyai in March 2021.

Banyai has operated a tactical firearms "school," which he dubbed Slate Ridge, on his wooded property for several years. During that time, he's published anti-government statements, aligned himself with the far-right militia movement, and sent threatening messages to neighbors and local officials, a investigation in 2020 revealed. He built and advertised the compound even as he faced felony firearms charges in New York State, which prevented him from legally possessing guns in that state.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Former U.S. Attorney Nolan Exploring Senate Run as Republican

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2022 at 9:44 PM

Christina Nolan, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont - SCREENSHOT ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Screenshot ©️ Seven Days
  • Christina Nolan, Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont
Former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan is exploring a run for U.S. Senate.

She filed a statement of candidacy as a Republican with the Federal Elections Commission last Friday. In an email Monday, the former federal prosecutor acknowledged that she is "definitely exploring the possibility" of a run, but said she is "not yet ready to announce a formal decision or make a formal announcement." first reported her interest.

Her filing follows Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) decision to not seek reelection this year. Current U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has already launched a campaign to succeed Leahy.

Former president Donald Trump nominated Nolan as Vermont's top federal prosecutor in 2017, with support from Leahy and Republican Gov. Phil Scott. She stepped down last year when incoming President Joe Biden requested the resignations of Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys, as is typical during presidential transitions. Since then, Nolan has been a principal at Sheehey, Furlong & Behm law firm in Burlington, focusing on white collar and serious felony criminal defense.
While U.S. attorney, Nolan aggressively pursued gun and drug crimes. Her office also investigated Purdue Pharma for its role in fueling the opioid crisis, leading to a $8.3 billion criminal and civil settlement. With Nolan in charge, the office brought criminal charges against the masterminds of the Jay Peak EB-5 fraud scheme.

Any Republican seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Vermont faces long odds. Vermont has never elected a woman to Congress, though several women are frontrunners for the Democratic nomination to replace Welch in the U.S House. 

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Private Equity Group Drops Bid to Purchase Five Vermont Nursing Homes

Posted By on Tue, Dec 28, 2021 at 8:37 PM

  • Matt Morris
A group of New York-based nursing home investors has dropped its effort to purchase five of the state's largest and most troubled facilities.

Priority Healthcare Group withdrew its application to the Vermont Agency of Human Services to assume full control of Burlington Health & Rehab and similarly named homes in Bennington, Berlin, St. Johnsbury and Springfield, according to a spokesperson for the current owner, national health care conglomerate Genesis HealthCare.
The application had been pending for more than a year. A Seven Days investigation of the buyers' backgrounds last July revealed problems at some of the homes members of the group owned in other states.

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Monday, December 20, 2021

Champlain Housing Trust Buys a Second Shelburne Road Motel

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2021 at 4:43 PM

  • Champlain Housing Trust
  • Days Inn in Shelburne
The Champlain Housing Trust has purchased the Days Inn in Shelburne and plans eventually to relocate its transitional housing program at Harbor Place across Shelburne Road to the hotel property. Harbor Place, meantime, will be turned into 100 units of permanent housing.

The purchase is the second in a month for Champlain Housing Trust. On November 30, the trust purchased a Marriott in Williston, TownePlace Suites, to shelter formerly homeless and low-income Vermonters.

The trust, a nonprofit, owns and manages housing for more than 3,000 families or individuals in Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle Counties.

The trust plans to convert hotel rooms at Harbor Place into apartments, and to add one apartment building and one set of townhouses and condominiums at that property, said Chris Donnelly, the director of community relations for the trust. Ultimately, the projects will create about 40 more apartments overall, Donnelly said.

The trust brought the proposal before Shelburne's development review board last week.

Donnelly said the trust would not have been able to purchase the hotels without the federal COVID-19 relief money that lawmakers and the governor's office directed to housing projects this year. The state used the Days Inn for people experiencing homelessness, but the property had been emptied recently as those programs ended, Donnelly said. The housing trust paid $6 million for the property, and will use a $7.34 million grant for the purchase and renovation costs. It's expected to be ready for its new residents in February or March.
The housing created at the Harbor Place project will be permanent, Donnelly said.

“We’re actually providing a solution to homelessness,” he said. A motel room, often with no kitchen facilities, can only be a temporary measure;  the permanent units will have a kitchen and other amenities. “It provides a security of tenure, stability and a home,” he said.

Champlain Housing Trust is a member of Building Homes Together, a regional effort created to address the shortage of affordable housing in northwestern Vermont. On December 14, that group launched a campaign to build 5,000 new homes, with 1,250 of them designated as permanently affordable, over the next five years. Housing advocates generally describe affordable housing as consuming one-third of a family’s income.
Donnelly said the trust is planning or developing about 700 homes, including those at Harbor Place. The COVID-19 relief money, which is administered through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, has jump-started the trust’s efforts to buy and build apartments, he said.

The trust now owns eight former hotels and motels in Chittenden County, and Donnelly said it's looking for more properties.

“There is an opportunity ahead to improve a lot of peoples’ lives," he said. 

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Saturday, December 18, 2021

Pollution Suit Against Large Dairy Farm Goes to Trial in Addison County

Posted By on Sat, Dec 18, 2021 at 4:51 PM

Vorsteveld Farm - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Vorsteveld Farm
Last week, a pair of Panton landowners sought to prove in a closely-watched civil trial in Addison County Superior Court that Vorsteveld Farm, a large dairy operation that farms roughly 2,400 acres and milks 1,400 cows, is polluting their property and Lake Champlain.

The plaintiffs, Dennis and Vicki Hopper, whose primary residence is in Houston, Texas, spend five months a year at their lakefront home on Arnold Bay Road, downhill from the cornfields where brothers Hans, Gerard and Rudy Vorsteveld grow some of the feed for their herd. The Hoppers allege that the Vorstevelds' crop and manure management practices have increased the flow of runoff onto their land and rendered their shoreline, on Arnold Bay in Lake Champlain, unsuitable for recreation.

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