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Thursday, May 11, 2017

South Burlington School Board Won't Put 'Rebels' Question on Ballot

Posted By on Thu, May 11, 2017 at 12:33 AM

Rebels banners at South Burlington High School - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Rebels banners at South Burlington High School
The push to bring the Rebels nickname question to a public vote in South Burlington hit a major roadblock Wednesday night.

Four of five South Burlington School Board members said they would not support a vote on the controversial moniker despite a successful petition drive calling for one.

They said a public vote would represent an abdication of their responsibility as an elected board and that they stood by their decision to dump the name because it has racist connotations that divide the community.

Supporters of the petition drive decried the board's decision and said they might take legal action to pursue a vote.

"I think it was an extremely cowardly move," said Stacey Savage, a leader in the Rebel Alliance, which ran the petition drive, as she walked out of the meeting after the board's decision. "I think there is a tremendous division in the community that they have created."

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

As Lawmakers Return to Vermont Statehouse, Budget Deal Remains Elusive

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 8:21 PM

Gov. Phil Scott addressed the status of budget negotiations during a bill-signing ceremony at the Statehouse Wednesday. - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Gov. Phil Scott addressed the status of budget negotiations during a bill-signing ceremony at the Statehouse Wednesday.
Despite several closed-door meetings and numerous impromptu huddles, Vermont legislative leaders failed Wednesday to resolve a standoff with Gov. Phil Scott over public school health care negotiations. That left them unlikely to finalize a budget in time to adjourn before Friday.

"I’ve seen no movement whatsoever," said Jeff Francis, executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association. Francis and the Vermont School Boards Association support Scott's call for a statewide contract for teachers' health insurance, which the governor claims could save up to $26 million.

House and Senate leaders have questioned that projection and, along with the Vermont-National Education Association, a statewide teachers' union, they oppose the state intervening in collective bargaining. But all sides say they want to save money through the negotiation of new health insurance plans, and Scott has indicated he won't sign a budget that doesn't include those savings.

Lawmakers had hoped to adjourn last Saturday, a week earlier than scheduled. But the impasse prompted them to abandon that plan last Friday and return to Montpelier on Wednesday.

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Burlington's Pine Street Deli Closes Its Doors

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 5:50 PM

MIke Alvanos - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • MIke Alvanos
The Pine Street Deli closed early on Wednesday, its final day in business. By 3 p.m., the coolers were empty, the shelves were bare and even the bread had been snatched up by a surge of customers who dropped by a final time.

Employee Taylor Courville gestured toward the coolers. "All we have left is cream and beer," he said.

The Alvanos family has owned the popular sandwich shop and convenience store on the corner of Pine Street and Flynn Avenue for 11 years. The building is to be demolished and replaced by a new one with 30 studio and one-bedroom apartments.

It's been a four-year process to design the new building and secure permits, said Michael Alvanos, who helps run the deli. The closing of the family operation wasn't particularly emotional, Alvanos said. "We have a lot more work to do," he said with a shrug.

The building will have two commercial spaces on the first floor. Alvanos said he hopes to have a restaurant, but couldn't say for sure if he'd reopen Pine Street Deli.

Demolition is scheduled to begin in early June, he said.
The proposed building - COURTESY OF REDSTONE
  • Courtesy of Redstone
  • The proposed building
The deli is owned by Alvanos' parents, George and Christine Alvanos. The family previously operated the Parkway Diner near Burlington International Airport. Michael Alvanos, his brother Evan, and Taylor Courville also own the Guilty Plate Diner in Colchester.

"We wanted to design ourselves a project that we feel will support all the great things going on on Pine Street," said Alvanos, who also works as an architect for JRMA Design Studio.

This project would help the restaurant owners make ends meet, Alvanos said. He called the housing options in Burlington "anemic" and said the development would allow the family to diversify its sources of income.

Alvanos sees the development as a way to strengthen his family's ties to the South End. He grew up in the area, as did his mother. "We have a great strong connection to this area," Alvanos said. "We want to put something here that's going to last a long time."

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Vermont Legislature Votes to Legalize Marijuana, Sends Bill to Governor

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland) speaks in support of a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday on the House floor. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland) speaks in support of a marijuana legalization bill Wednesday on the House floor.
Updated at 6:35 p.m.

The Vermont House on Wednesday voted to legalize marijuana possession, a miraculous revival for legislation that appeared just days before to be going nowhere fast.

“Vermont lawmakers made history today,” declared Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. “There is no rational reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

The 79-66 vote means the bill, already approved by the Senate, goes next to Gov. Phil Scott. Asked Wednesday what he would do — sign, veto or let the legislation become law without his signature — the governor declined to say.

“I don’t believe this is a priority for Vermont,” the first-term Republican governor said, reiterating his concern that there is no roadside test to detect drivers impaired by marijuana. The bill, S.22, would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and home growing of up to two mature and four immature plants for adults age 21 and over. It would go into effect July 2018.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Leahy, Sanders Slam Trump Over Comey Firing

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 8:14 PM

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders
Vermont's two U.S. senators strongly rebuked President Donald Trump Tuesday night over his firing of FBI Director James Comey. The pair suggested that the move was motivated by a desire to stymie an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

"The president has removed the sitting FBI director in the midst of one of the most critical national security investigations in the history of our country — one that implicates senior officials in the Trump campaign and administration," Leahy, a longtime member and former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a written statement. "This is nothing less than Nixonian."

Sanders called Comey's firing "deeply troubling" and said it "raises serious questions about what his administration is hiding."

"President Trump has repeatedly taken steps to kill inquiries into Russia's involvement in the U.S. election," Vermont's junior senator said in his own written statement. "It is clear that whomever President Trump handpicks to lead the FBI will not be able to objectively carry out this investigation."

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Vermont House to Vote on Senate-Approved Marijuana Legalization

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 6:30 PM

potbill.1.jpg
The Vermont House appears headed for a vote Wednesday on a Senate-passed bill to legalize possession of marijuana in 2018.

S.22 also calls for a commission to study how the state might eventually tax and regulate the drug. House Judiciary Committee Chair Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) said she'll ask her committee Wednesday to recommend the full House pass the bill.

"I will put this on the table and see what happens," Grad said Tuesday. "I'm pretty confident I have the votes [in committee] to concur. Then beyond that, I don't know."

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Migrant Justice Advocate Accepts 'Voluntary Departure' to Mexico

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 10:31 PM

Cesar Alex Carrillo, left, with his young daughter and wife, leading a 2016 march to urge the release of a migrant worker. - COURTESY OF MIGRANT JUSTICE
  • Courtesy of Migrant Justice
  • Cesar Alex Carrillo, left, with his young daughter and wife, leading a 2016 march to urge the release of a migrant worker.
An undocumented Migrant Justice advocate arrested in Burlington has been sent back to Mexico. Cesar Alex Carrillo, 23, accepted a "voluntary departure order" and took a plane out of the U.S. on Monday, according to his attorney, Matt Cameron.

Carrillo, who was arrested by ICE agents in March, fought to get a voluntary departure in lieu of formal deportation as a way of maximizing his chances of returning to the U.S., Cameron told Seven Days. A judge approved the agreement May 1, said Migrant Justice spokesperson Will Lambek.*

It made for "the best possible scenario," Cameron said, because a voluntary departure does not carry the tarnish of a deportation. Carrillo hopes to get legal clearance to return to Vermont by the end of the year — though the process may take longer, Cameron added.

Carrillo's wife, Lymarie Deida, 21,
 and his 4-year-old daughter Solmarie, are both U.S. citizens. They are scraping together money to join Carrillo in Mexico in the coming weeks, said Lambek. Carrillo hails from the Mexican city of Tabasco, though Lambek said he did not know where the family would live.

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More Meetings But Little Movement on Statehouse Budget Negotiations

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 10:10 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott and leaders of the Vermont House and Senate continued to meet in private Monday, attempting to reach a compromise over how to negotiate savings in teachers’ health insurance plans.

The dispute over how to implement changes in health plans prompted by the Affordable Care Act is prolonging the legislative session. Originally planned for last Saturday, adjournment was postponed until this Thursday. Scott is demanding that the budget include the expected savings, but his proposal to recoup them by negotiating a statewide teachers’ contract has met with resistance in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate.

After failing to reach agreement Friday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) met with one another again Monday morning — and with the governor later in the afternoon. No one, however, suggested a grand bargain was imminent.

Scott spokesperson Rebecca Kelley said Monday morning that the governor remains “confident” that his proposal is best, and he doesn’t plan to offer up any other solution. He has rebuffed legislative counter-proposals that would preserve collective bargaining at the school-district level. Scott has not, however, “drawn a line in the sand that it has to be this proposal,” Kelley noted.

In an interview Monday afternoon in the Statehouse cafeteria, Johnson said, “I think we’re making progress in terms of understanding where people’s bumpers are, in terms of what they’re willing to do and what they’re not willing to do.”

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Ex of Accused Wrong-Way Driver Asks Court to Allow Prison Visits

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 5:50 PM

Steven Bourgoin - GLENN RUSSELL/BURLINGTON FREE PRESS
  • Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press
  • Steven Bourgoin
The ex-girlfriend of a man charged with killing five Vermont teens in October would like to bring the couple's 3-year-old daughter to visit him in prison, a court heard Monday.

Steven Bourgoin sported a full beard and shaggy haircut as he sat impassively during the 30-minute hearing in Burlington's Edward J. Costello Courthouse. The 36-year-old Williston man is charged with five counts of second-degree murder for allegedly driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 and slamming his pickup truck head-on into a car full of teenagers.

The last time Bourgoin appeared in public — at his October arraignment — a nurse and police officer helped wheel him into a hospital room-turned-courtroom. The prone defendant, lying on a hospital bed, was still recovering from his injuries and barely conscious as his legal team entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Suspect in Burlington College Burglary Won't Face Charges

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 8:48 PM

Burlington College - FILE: NATALIE WILLIAMS
  • File: Natalie Williams
  • Burlington College
A man suspected of stealing computers last year from Burlington College after it had closed down will not face criminal prosecution, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

Federal authorities are continuing to investigate a land deal brokered by former Burlington College president Jane O'Meara Sanders, the wife of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). News of that investigation broke last week, and has led to renewed interest in the unsolved burglary.

Police responded to a break-in at the college that occurred on either July 24 or July 25. It was two months after the school had closed due to financial difficulties stemming in part from the purchase of its North Avenue campus.

There was no sign of forced entry and the door had likely been left unlocked, Burlington police officers said in an affidavit. Additionally, someone had disabled security cameras.

Several offices had been vandalized, and water had been poured on some computer servers. "In numerous offices, items were tipped over and damaged," police records say. "Computer monitors and computers were thrown about the rooms."

The college's main server, roughly 15-20 Macintosh computers and the school's Ford van were missing. Some records of students from Israel had been taken as well.

A college representative told police that "several things were odd about the burglary," the records say. "She stated she felt like an individual would have to know the keys to the van were kept in her office in order to locate the keys."

On July 26, police in Troy, N.Y. found the missing van after it crashed through a fence. They arrested Brett H. Seglem, who had allegedly been driving, according to police documents. Passengers in the van told police that they met Seglem in nearby Albany and he offered to drive them to Philadelphia. In the van, he bragged to them that he had stolen the vehicle and computers from Burlington College, according to police documents.

The computers were found inside the crashed van, along with some Burlington College banners. But the server was not recovered, according to police documents.

Police found a sign that read, "Traveling Broke & Hungry."

In an interview, del Pozo said that the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office twice declined to prosecute Seglem for the alleged burglary, citing a lack of evidence.

Reached in New Jersey, Seglem's mother, Joanne Seglem, told Seven Days that her son is a drug addict who has struggled for years. She declined to discuss the case. Brett Seglem could not be located for comment.

An associate of Seglem's told police that he had been squatting last summer in an unused college building in the Burlington area, according to the affidavit.

VTDigger.org first reported details of the burglary in September.

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