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Seven Days
Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice, Seven Days
Independent Vermont alt-weekly covering news, politics, food, arts, music and culture.

Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice, Seven Days
  • Game Changer: Richmond Elementary's PE Program Focuses on Accessibility, Lifelong Fitness and Fun
    If elementary school physical education conjures memories of being pegged by a dodgeball, huffing and puffing through timed miles, or climbing a rope dangling from the rafters, Richmond Elementary School's gym classes will probably be unrecognizable. In PE class at the pre-K through fourth grade school, students ride bikes, dance, golf, play tennis, rollerblade, practice circus arts and speed-stack cups. Every student learns to ski or snowboard. And it all happens during the school day, at no extra cost to families. The focus is on building skills, instilling confidence, having fun and giving kids access to activities they'll be able to do throughout their lives. Richmond's program is the brainchild of 37-year-old instructor, Brian Godfrey. In the five years he's been at its helm, he's made PE classes something kids and parents rave about. His innovative approach — which relies on a committed and uniquely large network of parent volunteers and community partners — has earned him numerous awards and accolades. An ideal PE teacher, says Richmond Elementary School principal Ben White, is "someone bringing new, novel and unique ideas that connect across curricula and across grade levels ... Brian does all that." Creating Opportunity The shift in emphasis to lifelong fitness is part of what Principal White calls "the new PE." It signifies a systemic move away from activities that pitted kids against each other. "When your kid comes home and is telling you what they did in PE, you do a double take," White said. The new PE philosophy has been gaining traction for some time. In 2000, an article in Educational Leadership summed it up: "Well-prepared teachers know how to create developmentally appropriate programs that emphasize individual skill and fitness concept learning" while maximizing kids' time being active, and moving away from team sports. Last year, SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, issued a position statement titled "Dodgeball Is Not an Appropriate Physical Education Activity," asserting that the combative game doesn't promote a positive culture and actually undermines the goal of PE, which is to get kids to enjoy activity. SHAPE America also designed the national PE standards and grade-level outcomes Vermont adopted in 2015. According to the state Agency of Education, the new PE standards give teachers current best practices to design instruction and assessment, plus "this move enables use of directly aligned, nationally developed tools for assessment and curriculum evaluation…

  • Burlington Mural Tour: Art Appreciation — for Free! — in the Queen City
    Burlington is a town full of art, artists and an abundance of murals. If you're like our family, you're always looking for fun, low-cost weekend activities. Why not pick a B-town neighborhood and explore some awesome street art on foot? On a Saturday in March, we came up with an easily walkable route that started in our Old North End neighborhood and took us by a few lesser-known murals, then to some downtown favorites. And since food is an essential component of any successful family outing, the route features lots of possible snack stops for refreshments along the way. Start in the O.N.E., on the corner of Intervale Avenue and Archibald Street. The first three murals are part of a community collaboration between more than 50 neighborhood kids, many from the Integrated Arts Academy at H.O. Wheeler and the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, and local artists Mary Lacy and Sloan Collins. They were made possible by the Burlington City Arts Community Fund, started in 2016, which provides thousands of dollars to Burlington-based artists each year. The Parking Lot Mural (corner of Intervale Avenue and Archibald Street) features black and white portraits of neighborhood kids. Walk south on Intervale Avenue, then west on North Street until you come to the Corner Mural (corner of North and Park streets). It wraps around the building and features geometric shapes and two more portraits. If you need fuel, Nunyuns Bakery & Café (139 N. Champlain St.) has you covered with tasty baked goods and light breakfast and lunch items. Head just another block west, toward the lake, and look to the left. You'll find the final Portrait Mural on the side of the old Ray's Seafood building (corner of North and Front streets). Head south on Front Street, cross through Battery Park and head down Battery Street, stopping to admire the great lake views. At the College Street intersection, Burlington Bay Market & Café serves coffee, snacks and delicious creemees when the weather gets warm! Head up College Street until you get to St. Paul Street. That's where you'll find the Hummingbird Mural , painted as a mosaic of geometric shapes in pinks, purples, greens and blues. It was commissioned by American Flatbread and painted by Mary Lacy, who uses a bucket truck with a 32-foot boom to do her work. Next, head up Church Street and…

  • Walters: Corporate Contributions Ban Has a Tough Day
    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.”

    Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters said that his office supports S.120 “in concept,” but warned of unintended consequences. “It could encourage the creation of a lot more PACs, which could diminish transparency,” he said. “It could funnel more money to out-of-state PACs and independent organizations.”

    And he pointed out that federal law bans direct corporate donations to candidates, but “the money has found ways to get around that.” He expressed the office’s support for a beefed-up system of public campaign financing as a more effective way to limit the influence of corporate cash.

    “I was glad to hear the secretary of state’s office make a strong stand in favor of public financing,” Townsend said after the hearing. “Because what we have now is pretty weak. Doesn't amount to a hill of beans, as far as getting all these different pressures out of the political process.”

    The current public financing system is underfunded and imposes very tough restrictions on candidates seeking to qualify for public money. And if they do accept public funding, the candidates are prohibited from accepting any further support — financial or otherwise. In recent years, lawmakers have turned a cold shoulder to proposals to improve the system.…

  • Seven Questions for Vermont SABR Chair Clayton Trutor
    Vermont baseball nerds, rejoice! This weekend, the Vermont chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) takes the field after a long rain delay, metaphorically speaking. The Gardner-Waterman (Vermont) SABR chapter holds its spring meeting at the Robert Miller Community and Recreation Center in Burlington this Sunday, April 22.

    The local SABR chapter was founded in the 1990s by noted local baseball historian Tom Simon and others. But according to current chair Clayton Trutor, the collective of baseball researchers, historians and statisticians had fallen dormant in recent years. Trutor is attempting to jumpstart the chapter and hopes to hold meetings at least twice per year.

    "It's an opportunity for members to present their research on the history of baseball and the statistics of the game," Trutor tells Seven Days. He adds: "There will also be a trivia contest."

    Clayton's brother, Jonathan Trutor, is a recent "Jeopardy!" champion and will host the trivia portion of the meeting on an undisclosed baseball-related theme. Keeping with the family vibe, their dad, Barry Trutor, will present on Major Leaguers buried in Vermont cemeteries. The elder Trutor is a member of the Vermont Old Cemetery Association.

    In addition to trivia and graves, local SABR members will present on a range of research topics.

    Castleton University professor Scott Roper will speak about the construction of Textile Field in Manchester, N.H., in the early 1900s. Rutland Herald reporter Tom Haley will talk about Vermonters who just missed making the major leagues.

    Chuck McGill will report on his research into minor league pitchers who threw no-hitters. And Clayton Trutor will speak about the history of baseball's Tony Conigliaro Award, an honor given by the Boston Red Sox to players who overcome great adversity. Trutor edited a 2017 book on the subject, Overcoming Adversity: Baseball's Tony Conigliaro Award.

    We recently spoke with Clayton Trutor by phone.

    SEVEN DAYS: Baseball research is a niche passion. Where does your interest stem from, and what's your specialty?
    CLAYTON TRUTOR: I've been a baseball fan since I was a little. And I was a history major in college. So, eventually, the two passions came together.

    For SABR, I contribute primarily to what's called the SABR Biography Project. It's an organization within the broader organization that aspires to write a full-length, peer-reviewed biography of…

  • The Cannabis Catch-Up: Hey, It’s 4/20!
    Welcome to the first 4/20 in Cannabeat history! This year’s high holiday for stoners is the last one in Vermont for which weed will be illegal. That's not to say there won't be plenty of events and celebrations going on all around the state. And sure, it was snowing today, but we’d venture a guess that you’ll find quite a crowd on the University of Vermont campus celebrating the holiday outside. More interested in staying inside? Head to the movies to catch Super Troopers 2, some 17 years after the original captured the hearts and minds of stoners worldwide. Wanna just sit on the couch and surf the web? We’ve got you covered there! As is tradition, every outlet that never writes about cannabis has decided that today is the day to publish the think piece they’ve been holding onto all year. Rather than summarize just one, we’ve compiled several of our favorite 4/20 stories below, along with the rest of the week's weed news. Rock on! April 16: The folks over at Heady Vermont compiled a list of 4/20-related events going on this week. There are still some in play today and over the weekend if you’re looking for something to do. [Heady Vermont] April 18: The CannaBus Film Festival begins today in Burlington and our own Ken Picard took a look at what you can expect to experience. [Ken Picard, Seven Days] April 18: Check out this excellent photo essay of 10 Colorado cannabis users. [Maria Levitov, Westword] April 19: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says he’s going to introduce a bill that would decriminalize marijuana on the federal level. Check out this interview, 'cause the Senate minority leader also signed a bong — but didn’t smoke it. [Shawna Thomas, Vice News] April 19: A Food and Drug Administration panel on Thursday endorsed a drug derived from the cannabis plant that would be used to treat seizures for children with epilepsy. Groundbreaking stuff. [CBS News] April 20: Guess what: Even some of the world’s fastest ultramarathoners like getting high before — and after — a training run. [Jen A. Miller, New York Times] April 20: Watch out Vermont — we could see an influx of Connecticut residents coming town, and not to ski or go to UVM. Connecticut’s medical cannabis program is reportedly in the midst of a weed shortage as the number of registered patients there soars. [Matthew…

  • Obituary: John Wayne Tomczyk, 1986-2018
    Milton – John Wayne Tomczyk, 31, died unexpectedly on Monday April 16, 2018 at his home in Milton. “Johnny” was born on November 29, 1986 in Burlington, the son of John and Melody (Shepard) Tomczyk. He is survived by his parents of Milton and by his sister Desiree Tomczyk and his brothers Daniel and Perry Tomczyk, all of So. Burlington and his grandmothers Ivy Shepard and Lucia Lord and a wealth of relatives. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him. A Memorial Service will be held on Monday April 23, 2018 at Noon in the Minor Funeral and Cremation Center in Milton. Burial will follow at St. Francis Cemetery in Winooski. For those who wish, online condolences may be made to minorfh.com…

  • Gilbert Gottfried on Working (Really) Blue, Roasting Trump and Friendly Nazis
    Gilbert Gottfried is disgusting — and proudly so. In reviews of the 2005 documentary film The Aristocrats, which chronicles the supposed dirtiest joke in the world, the squinty-eyed comic with the famously grating voice is often cited as stealing the film with his rendition of the obscenely taboo joke during a Friars Club roast of Hugh Hefner in New York City shortly after 9/11.

    "One of the reviews said, 'Of the hundred or so comedians in the film, no one is more disgusting than Gilbert Gottfried,'" the comic recalls. "And I thought, You know, that's really an honor."

    But as another, more recent, documentary reveals, Gottfried — who performs at Burlington's Vermont Comedy Club this Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21 — is something else, too. He's thoughtful, sweet, devoted to his family and more than a little cheap, especially when it comes to hoarding hotel freebies.

    Gilbert, released in 2017, follows the comic through various periods of his life, both onstage and off. The doc, which has scored almost universally favorable reviews, offers an unusually candid look at its subject, from his home life in NYC with his wife, Dara, and their two children, to the decidedly unglamorous grind of touring. We meet Gottfried's sister, who is battling cancer, and learn of his sometimes fraught relationship with their father. Gottfried's friends, including comics Bill Burr, Bob Saget and Jim Gaffigan — as well as Dick Van Dyke in one especially memorable scene — weigh in with illuminating, and often hilarious, commentary.

    The film also zeroes in on a famously tumultuous period in the comic's life surrounding a series of insensitive tweets he made in 2011 about a Japanese tsunami. The tweets and resulting media controversy ultimately cost Gottfried a lucrative gig as the voice of the Aflac duck.

    Seven Days recently spoke with the comic by phone.

    SEVEN DAYS: Let's start with the documentary. Your sister has an unbelievable singing voice. So what the hell happened to yours?
    GILBERT GOTTFRIED: [Laughs] Yeah, you can only dig from the talent well so much. But my sister couldn't do a good Boris Karloff imitation, so it evens itself out.

    SD: One of my favorite scenes in Gilbert was you at that weird military memorabilia convention. The Nazis seemed like surprisingly nice fellas.
    GG: It was funny. That looked…

  • Walters: Scott Proposes One-Time Money to Patch Education Fund
    Updated at 6:08 p.m.

    Gov. Phil Scott has proposed using one-time money from elsewhere in the state budget to prevent a projected 5.5 cent increase in the statewide property tax rate.

    Speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Scott called the use of one-time money “an investment” in measures to cut school spending in future years.

    “We may not be able to book immediate savings because I’m not asking the schools to go back and do anything with their budgets,” he said. “But if we could find an opportunity for savings over the next few years, we’d look at it as an investment utilizing one-time money this year.”

    Scott is looking to fill a $40 million shortfall in the education fund, caused in large part by a 2017 deal with the legislature that involved spending reserves and one-time funds to reduce property taxes. He noted that that deal “wasn’t my initiative, as you may recall.” And he said he’s willing to use one-time money only if there are significant moves to cut costs measurably in the next few years.

    He refused to identify specific cost-cutting initiatives, instead referring to a lengthy list of ideas delivered to the legislature earlier this year. Those include negotiating teacher health care benefits on a statewide basis, reducing staff-to-student ratios in schools and allowing attrition to reduce staffing over time.
    [content-1] He pooh-poohed the challenge of finding $40 million to fill the education fund gap. “There’s all kinds of opportunities in a $1.6 billion budget.”

    When asked for examples, he said ,“It’s very fluid, obviously. I’m confident we can find the money. It won’t be easy, but we can find it.”

    Scott’s statement took legislative leaders by surprise. None had been notified of the idea in advance, and this reporter found himself breaking the news to several top lawmakers.

    Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), chair of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, wondered where the governor would find $40 million in one-time money and expressed deep doubt about the idea.

    “I would be concerned that this would put us in a deeper hole in 2020,” she said. “I haven’t seen the proposal, and it’s hard to react to something when I don’t really know what it is. But one-time money, used entirely…

  • Vermont Senate Votes to Override Scott's Veto of Toxics Bill
    The Vermont Senate voted 22-8 Thursday to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of a bill that would expand state regulation of toxic chemicals in consumer products. The House is now expected to hold a vote next week that will decide whether the bill becomes law despite the governor’s objections.

    Scott vetoed the bill, S.103, on Monday due to his concerns that the legislation would make the state less business-friendly without substantially improving public health. He specifically objected to a section of the bill that would give the commissioner of the Department of Health — a gubernatorial appointee — expanded power to require labeling or even ban the sale of products determined likely to expose children to harmful toxins.

    There was no floor debate. In a statement after the vote, Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) said the law would allow the state to respond quickly to public health threats.

    “Current law is bureaucratically cumbersome and the Legislature believes the Commissioner [of health] should be allowed to act quickly to protect our children from exposure to harmful chemicals,” Ashe said.

    The vote closely followed party lines. Senators Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), Carolyn Branagan (R-Franklin), Randy Brock (R-Franklin), Brian Collamore (R-Rutland), Peg Flory (R-Rutland), Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), David Soucy (R-Rutland) and Richard Westman (R-Lamoille) voted against the bill.

    The other senators voted in favor, clearing the two-thirds threshold required to override a governor’s veto.

    The Vermont Public Interest Research Group applauded the Senate vote. "By standing up to the chemical companies and industry lobbyists hell-bent on killing this bill, they've taken a giant step toward making Vermont a safer place to raise a family," VPIRG executive director Paul Burns said in a statement.

    In the House, the bill needs the support of two-thirds of the representatives present to pass. Otherwise, the veto will be sustained and the bill will not become law.

    Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy here: sevendaysvt.com/disclosure.


  • Nonprofits Urge Vermont Lawmakers to Ditch Tax Change
    Updated at 5:58 p.m.

    A large coalition of Vermont nonprofits are concerned that a proposal currently under consideration in the state legislature would discourage large charitable donations.

    The tax bill, which passed the House and is now under review in the Senate, includes a provision that would eliminate the tax deduction for charitable donations at the state level and replace it with a 5 percent tax credit, which would apply to contributions of $10,000 or less.

    The University of Vermont, the Vermont State Colleges, Vermont Public Radio, the Vermont Foodbank and a number of other nonprofits wrote in a strongly worded letter to Gov. Phil Scott and the legislature that the change would send a message to potential donors that “Vermont does not encourage or welcome large, transformational gifts.”

    “It is clear that deconstructing charitable giving in Vermont will have a detrimental effect on the state’s nonprofits, and most importantly, the people we serve,” the letter reads. “Attempting to raise revenue on the backs of the charitable sector is irresponsible and will hurt our communities.”

    The letter states that many charities receive 80 percent of their donations from 20 percent of their donors, and it suggests policymakers offer a credit in addition to the deduction.

    Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said that the charitable deduction, which is only available to residents who itemize their taxes, largely benefits higher-income people, whereas a credit would be available to anyone making a donation.

    Ancel said the credit could encourage a broader swath of people to give to charity, and she doesn’t think the $10,000 cap would dissuade large donors. “I take seriously their concerns. If I felt it was going to hurt the nonprofit sector, I wouldn’t support it," she said. "I think it won’t, but I think it may change the way they do business a bit.”

    Scott proposed the credit and Ancel’s committee, estimating that it would cost about $24 million in tax revenue, decided to add a cap. A donor could still give $20,000, though only $10,000 of the gift would be eligible for the 5 percent tax credit.

    Adding the cap, Ancel said, enabled her committee to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit and expand tax exemptions for Social Security recipients, providing more tax benefits to lower- and middle-income Vermonters,…

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