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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
  • Walters: Another Hat for Don Turner
    Vermont House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton) has been hired as permanent town manager in Milton. He has no plans to leave the state legislature, despite rumors to the contrary.  "I am not done in Montpelier," he says.

    Turner, who is also a realtor, a partner in a family construction business, and Milton's fire and rescue chief, has been serving as interim town manager since March. In June, the selectboard named Turner as the sole finalist for the permanent job, but the arrangement wasn't finalized until this week.

    Selectboard chair Darren Adams told the Milton Independent in June that Turner's "hat question" would be an issue. Turner acknowledges that being town manager and House Minority Leader "will be a lot of work," even for a guy accustomed to wearing multiple hats. But he will carry on — at least for now.

    "It's in my contract that I can continue to serve [in the Statehouse]," he explains. "My understanding with the selectboard is that we will reevaluate my status after the 2018 session. We’ll see."

    Turner is removing a different hat: On December 31 he will step down as fire and rescue chief. He will continue to serve as a firefighter, which he has done since he was 17 years old. Also, he says, the family construction business, Turner and Sons, is winding down. It's owned by his 77-year-old father, and won't be taking on any significant new projects.

    That 2018 re-evaluation of his legislative service raises questions about caucus leadership heading into campaign season. The Minority Leader has a prominent role in fundraising and candidate recruitment. Turner says his team is ready to step into the breach if he should decide not to seek reelection.

    "We worked on that last year," he says. "We expanded our leadership team. I will continue to do what I can, but I won't do as much as in the past."

    One major effort is already underway, according to Turner. In the 2016 cycle, a small group of donors joined in a coordinated effort to write big checks to select Republican House candidates. Those donors — gas and oil magnate Skip Vallee, reclusive heiress Lenore Broughton, and Tom and Carol Breuer, who live in Massachusetts but have a second home in Stowe — gave nearly $100,000 to…

  • The Parmelee Post: Shrinedom Makeup Concert to Feature Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, David Bowie and More
    The organizers behind the failed Shrinedom 2017 music festival say they’re trying to do right by frustrated concertgoers. Hundreds flocked to the Irasburg fest Saturday to hear some ’80s metal, but instead saw the event cancelled before a single headliner could take the stage. Crossova Concepts and Kingdom Cares have announced “Shrin-i-er-dom 2017,” a makeup music festival set to include performances by rock legends Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and David Bowie, among others. The event has been billed as the largest musical event in Vermont history and “definitely, 100 percent not a complete and utter fucking scam, so just trust us on this one, OK?” “After the unfortunate cancellation of our last event, we realized we’d have to bring in some seriously big time acts to ensure we sell enough tickets to actually pay people this time,” said event organizer Swifty McShifty. “I must admit I seriously overestimated the number of Vermonters who lived through the ’80s yet somehow maintained an interest in hair metal bands.” McShifty, who is definitely all about the music, said he discovered Hendrix, Lennon and Bowie on the popular music streaming service Spotify. “They were extremely highly rated and their play counts were just out of this world. I knew I had to bring them to Vermont!" he explained. " You have my word that they’re all confirmed to play and will definitely get to take the stage this time around.” When if asked ticket buyers might once again get totally and irreconcilably screwed over on the day of event, McShifty admitted that some things are beyond his control. “Well listen, if the artists fail to make the show, that’s on the artists themselves. I have no way of knowing whether or not Jimi Hendrix will actually show up that day," he conceded. "All I can tell you is that his representatives said he would be there and he’s really looking forward to rocking the Green Mountain State!” And what should happen if the makeup event does get cancelled as well? “Naturally, all the organizers will just point fingers at each other and pretend like we haven’t seen any of the money, like the true professionals we are," he replied. "Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m actually on an extended vacation in the Cayman Islands right now. See you next month at the most epic show of your entire life!" McShift paused, then added, "Actually, there's a…

  • On a Big Stage, Sanders Counters Trump on Foreign Policy
    Two days after President Donald Trump promoted an every-country-for-itself approach in a speech at the United Nations, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for international collaboration.

    Sanders, who studiously avoided discussing foreign policy during his presidential campaign, chose a high profile and historically significant venue to address the topic Thursday. He made his remarks during same event at which Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech — at the John Findley Green Foundation lecture at Westminster College in Missouri.

    Widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020, Sanders has cemented his role as a foil to Trump; last week, he grabbed headlines after unveiling his Medicare-for-all health care proposal.

    “The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of ‘America first,’” Sanders told an audience of students and faculty. “Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance.”

    Declaring that “the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples,” Sanders offered an example: As mayor of Burlington, he started a “sister city” program with the Russian city of Yaroslval in the midst of the Cold War.

    Billed as a new vision for a progressive foreign policy, Sanders' speech largely consisted of a compendium of familiar points.

    He criticized the United States’ history of military intervention, railing, once again, against the Iraq War and calling the War on Terror “a disaster for the American people and for American leadership.” He made the case that “orienting U.S. national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on Earth.”

    Sanders also criticized the United States' support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. He praised the Iran nuclear deal, which was brokered during president Barack Obama’s tenure, and which Trump is threatening to dismantle.


  • City Reveals Burlington Telecom Bids, But Questions Remain
    Updated at 6:57 p.m.

    Burlington officials publicly revealed details Wednesday about three bidders for Burlington Telecom, a sale process that previously had been shrouded in secrecy.

    Schurz Communications, a telecom company based in Indiana, put forward the highest bid, a cash offer of $30.8 million. The Toronto-based Ting, which is owned by Tucows, offered $27.5 million in cash. The locally based co-op, Keep BT Local, put forward a bid of $12 million, including $10.5 million in cash; the city would retain a $1.5 million interest in the utility.

    The announcement came Wednesday at a press conference where the city released a thick packet of information about the bidders and their offers. The information was also made publicly available on the city website.

    Not everyone, however, is happy with the process. A promised fourth bidder withdrew its offer at the behest of the Mayor Miro Weinberger — without input from the city council, according to Councilor Max Tracy (P-Ward 2).

    Burlington Telecom Advisory Board chair David Provost indicated in August that the fourth bidder was a private equity investor "with valuable local relationships and extensive telecom experience."

    The mayor's office notified the council that the final bidder was no longer interested just hours before a city council meeting Monday, during which the council discussed the bids in executive session, Tracy said. He called it a "dog and pony show public process" that "seems to indicate [the administration] already have a favorite in the process."

    Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) said that the council had expressed "significant interest" in the fourth bidder. He called the mayor's communication to that bidder a "serious breach of trust" between the administration and the council.

    After the press conference Wednesday, Council President Jane Knodell told Seven Days that she agreed that the councilor's trust had been violated. "The council was not involved in certain decisions that I believe we should have been involved in," she said.

    Weinberger called a second, spur-of-the moment press conference Wednesday afternoon and denied any wrongdoing. He said the time crunch surrounding the decision-making had not allowed for as much notice to the council as he might have liked.

    Weinberger said he had "concerns" about the fourth bidder, and maintained that he had shared those concerns with the council before notifying the bidder. He refused to…

  • Four New Albums From Formerly Local Musicians
    Vermont is lucky to have such an expansive, prolific music scene. While we might wish every local singer-songwriter would stay here forever, that's hardly the reality. Musicians often have a touch of wanderlust, and frequently succumb to the siren song of faraway lands. But even after musicians leave us, we suspect they keep a special place in their hearts for the Green Mountains. Why else would Seven Days get so many album submissions from people who haven't lived here for years? Presented for your consideration are four new albums from Vermont expats. They range in style and form — which is what we expect from the eclectic scene in the 802. Get to know your former neighbors. Ty-Alex, Let's Do This (Self-released, digital download) Ty-Alex is a newly minted project from Tommy Alexander. The former Burlingtonian made waves here a few years ago as a songwriter, as well as with his DIY record label Jenke Records and sister nonprofit arts organization Jenke Arts. He now resides in Portland, Ore., but he's hardly been a stranger. To wit, he opened for Michael McDonald at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts last year. And Ty-Alex opened the sold-out Mac DeMarco show at Higher Ground in May. Let's Do This is the band's debut EP. The somewhat grotesque album art is impossible to ignore. Could the sprawled-out, butt-crack-baring degenerate depicted on it be Alexander or his surrogate? The term "slacker" has been attached to his name in the past — as in "slacker rock," likely because of the '90s-inspired sounds for which he's known. The art of not giving a fuck was all the rage 25 years ago and has been resurgent in recent years. The man on the cover is the embodiment of a dude who's not trying that hard. The EP's opener, "Shot Down," is a hearty blend of artsy indie rock and roadhouse blues. It's lyrically ambiguous but with dour implications: "Shot down / The strangers won / Shot down / I have no time / This town is suicide." "Baby, You're Blue" treads into alt-country territory with its train shuffle beat and twangy flirtations. Ty-Alex continues his bluesy streak on "Holy Roller," a jangly stomper with loose hi-hats and blaring guitar licks. Again, the meaning behind his poetry is somewhat indecipherable — but that's OK. The song favors form over function. Tonally, there's trepidation and maybe a…

  • Letters to the Editor (9/20/17)
    'Racism in These Hills' [Re "Reward Offered After NEK Farm Tagged With Racist, Nazi Graffiti," September 11; Last 7: "Hate Hits Here," September 13]: I was appalled by the racist graffiti created in Glover last week but not surprised. A friend of mine who is a person of color receives a Black Lives Matters sign riddled with bullet holes delivered to his porch several times a year. A neighbor can't have a conversation without regressing to talk of niggers and how they are ruining the world. There is racism in these beautiful hills. There is so little ethnic and cultural diversity in northern Vermont that I sometimes wonder if these sentiments come more from complete ignorance than actual hate.  Like many Vermonters, I live a privileged life free of prejudice. But imagine living here as a minority. Being a minority in northern Vermont gives a whole new meaning to the term "minority"; there just aren't very many. The vast majority of us who believe we are not racist but who don't have to actively engage in these issues could do a lot more to make our place more welcoming to minorities. Befriend a migrant farmworker — they are engaged in the same struggle to make a better life for their family that your ancestors likely went through in the not-very-distant past. Engage with people of color and recent immigrants and find a way to help them feel welcome. Sometimes a smile and a friendly greeting go a long way. Showing love and compassion to the brave folks who are willing to come and live in one of the whitest parts of our country is the best way to combat the ignorant thugs.  Pete Johnson Craftsbury Johnson owns Pete's Greens. Hate on Both Sides You are accurate to point out the local white nationalist who participated at Charlottesville, Va. [Off Message: "Hood's Off: Burlington White Nationalist Attended Charlottesville Rally," August 15; Last 7: "Hood's Off: A Vermonter in Virginia," August 16]. However, was it deliberate that you left out the fact that it was a nonwhite South Burlington High School teenager who made the bomb-threat phone calls during the Rebels mascot controversy in South Burlington, as other media outlets reported? No question that any and all forms of racism and hatred are totally unacceptable! But "Hate Hits Here" [Last 7, September 13] gives the impression that Seven Days is trying to…

  • Conquering Climate Change One Business at a Time
    When Paul Costello and his team of organizers started putting together a conference on climate change a few months ago, they decided this one wouldn't be about politics or public policy. Instead, they opted to celebrate entrepreneurs who are trying to combat climate change while also generating jobs. They dubbed the event Catalysts of the Climate Economy: A National Innovation Summit. The event attracted a swarm of burgeoning businesses from Vermont and around the world that have found ways to put waste to work, encourage carbon-friendly consumer habits and solve electric grid challenges. Attendees spent three days earlier this month listening to talks about the economic opportunities climate change presents and grilling entrepreneurs about new products. "It's that next generation of entrepreneurial vision that are really the heroes," said Costello, executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Here's a look at three Vermont-based emerging enterprises that took the stage during the September 6 to 8 conference at the University of Vermont. Each offers climate solutions — one water heater, scooter or compost heap at a time. Packetized Energy By the end of the year, 100 Green Mountain Power customers will have a small blue box attached to their electric water heaters. With the help of a Wi-Fi connection, the device will prompt the heater to draw electricity at times when energy is most abundant, without requiring any human intervention. Packetized Energy, the brainchild of three University of Vermont electrical engineering professors, created the gadget and the software behind it. Their goal: to even out demand on the electric grid to better accommodate intermittent power provided by wind and solar projects, according to cofounder and UVM associate professor Paul Hines, who collaborated with colleagues Jeff Frolik and Mads Almassalkhi. "If you don't have flexibility in the system, you're not going to be able to use wind and solar," Hines said. "We're making the grid more reliable." Packetized has so far focused on water heaters, but Hines said the company is adapting its technology to other appliances, including air conditioners and electric car chargers. A car charger draws six times the power of a typical home, Hines said. If five families in a neighborhood have cars plugged in at the same time, "you could have some serious problems," he said. Using its internet connection, the device reads information from the utility about its power supply. When demand is high, it…

  • Saint Michael's Students Embrace Grown-Up Fire and Rescue Roles
    Saint Michael's College junior Jamie Schwab drives flashy red wheels around campus that attract plenty of attention. Especially when he turns on the siren. The 21-year-old business major from Cleveland, Ohio, is a volunteer first lieutenant with St. Michael's Fire and Rescue. When he isn't studying accounting, he sprays water at burning buildings, administers Narcan to overdosing heroin addicts and steers a $500,000 fire truck — a pumper known as Engine 9 — to emergencies throughout Chittenden County. "It's every little kid's dream to drive the fire truck," explained Schwab, who was dressed in a shiny black helmet, red suspenders and a two-piece firefighter suit for a training exercise on September 8. "It's awesome when you're just driving down the road and you pull on the siren, and it's one of those, Wow, I'm actually doing it moments." Even in a rural state with plenty of volunteer fire and rescue departments, St. Michael's looks different. That's because the volunteers who fill the barnlike emergency building across from the main campus on Route 15 in Colchester are so young. The 50 regulars are undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 22. Yet they respond to very adult situations: structure fires, car crashes, suicides, overdoses and heart attacks. Some of the calls hit close to home emotionally. When an apparent heart attack took the life of Rev. Michael Cronogue on campus last year, students who knew the Edmundite priest and campus minister were among the first responders. Most of the squads' emergency runs are in a service area that encompasses Colchester, Winooski, St. George and Hinesburg. The volunteers also respond to other departments' calls for auxiliary aid. For example, a St. Michael's crew helped put out a blaze at a University of Vermont building in August. The rescue squad was involved but did not play a crucial role in the wrong-way car crash in Williston in 2016 that took the lives of five teens. The two St. Michael's squads respond to a total of about 3,150 calls annually — 2,400 for the rescue unit and 750 for the fire unit. "I think that it's a stigma that the students overcome every single day — that an 18-, 19- 20-year-old can show up to potentially save your life, or put out the fire at your house, or render an unsafe situation to no longer be an emergency," said Leslie Lindquist, who serves…

  • EB-Fail: Jay Peak Is Part of a Troubling Pattern
    Vermont's EB-5 scandal is generally seen as the biggest fraud scheme in state history and in the 25 years of the federal EB-5 program. Unless there's a stunning courtroom reversal, the fraudulent investment vehicles created under the Jay Peak Resort umbrella will add up to tens of millions in pilfered funds and an estimated $200 million in funds diverted from legal purposes. And you know what? It's worse than you think. Well, the fraud itself may not be that much worse. But the failure of the state officials responsible? Newly assembled details are downright appalling, and much information has yet to be made public. Just ask Anne Galloway, founder and editor of VTDigger.com. Her team has spent years uncovering the scandal. And yet, "We are nowhere near finding out exactly what happened," she says. Many documents have been withheld from public disclosure due to pending court cases, and Galloway's efforts continue to be hamstrung by Vermont's exemption-riddled public records law. There have been recent developments in the EB-5 case. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ordered the shutdown of Vermont's EB-5 Regional Center. And the state Department of Financial Regulation released a report on the history of the Vermont center that lays out, in a matter-of-fact way, a truly distressing narrative that merits further attention. A bit of background. The EB-5 program was created in the early 1990s. Vermont established its own regional center in 1997, which was a rarity in the EB-5 system. Most regional centers were privately operated, while Vermont's was overseen by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. (Regulatory authority transferred to the DFR in 2014, a move akin to locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.) The report finds that the commerce agency's regulation was sorely lacking in three critical areas: resources, enforcement authority and financial expertise. At first, that wasn't a big deal. "It was a very sleepy program," says DFR Commissioner Michael Pieciak. "We didn't have our first project until 2006. Only when the Great Recession hit and capital was hard to come by did the EB-5 program take off nationally and also in Vermont." As the program grew, the commerce agency's oversight remained in sleepy mode. The bulk of EB-5's expansion was generated by the Jay Peak boys, Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. Their first application, filed in 2006, sought to raise $17 million. By 2013, Jay Peak had…

  • Merci! French Soccer Team Ships Misspelled Jerseys to Montpelier
    Montpellier Hérault Sport Club, a professional soccer team in the south of France, will send a batch of jerseys with a misspelled logo to the Green Mountain State's Montpelier. If you haven't already guessed the error, read the previous sentence more closely. The missing L was enough to prompt the club to ditch its threads and donate them to the Montpelier High School boys' and girls soccer teams. "It's maybe a centimeter mistake, but, in the big time, that's a major mistake," said Matt Link, the school's athletic director. Montpelier officials got wind of the donation last week after the pro club announced the decision — in French — on Twitter. Montpellier's mayor, Philippe Saurel, eventually sent a letter of explanation across the pond to Montpelier Mayor John Hollar. "The starting point of our story is that our both cities have almost the same name," Saurel wrote. Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser said Monday that he was working up a letter of acceptance that he will have translated into French. "It's an exciting and kind gesture on their part," said Fraser. "They could have just dumped them." It's not known how many shirts are en route, because it's unclear if the error made its way onto the players' jerseys or the replicas sold to fans. If it's the latter, there could be many. Link said he'd like to have his players wear them in a game or two this season. Any extras could be raffled off to benefit the school or a local organization. "It's going to be like Christmas morning opening up that box and saying, 'What do we have here?'" a grateful Link said. "It's a fortuitous mistake for us, I suppose."

    The original print version of this article was headlined "Merci Beacoup!"



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