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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Walters: Former Sanders Adviser Named in Manafort Trial Documents

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 6:30 PM

Tad Devine - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Tad Devine
Tad Devine, who served as senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 campaign for president, got an unwelcome reminder of his political past Thursday: His name appears on numerous exhibits in the prosecution of Paul Manafort, the former chair of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

Devine worked with Manafort on the 2006 and 2010 campaigns of Viktor Yanukovych for president of Ukraine. Yanukovych won in 2010, but he was forced from power in 2014 after concerns about his pro-Russian policies sparked a popular uprising. Yanukovych fled to Russia; he is wanted in Ukraine on charges of high treason.

Manafort faces trial in federal court starting July 24 on bank fraud and tax-related charges. The office of special prosecutor Robert Mueller released a list of more than 500 potential exhibits Thursday; the list includes 16 emails, email chains, memos and invoices involving Devine, Manafort and others in the years 2006, 2010-12 and 2014.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tax Department Backlog Leads to Errors in Tax Bills

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 7:18 PM

Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and Administration Secretary Susanne Young - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and Administration Secretary Susanne Young
Thousands of homeowners were overbilled for property taxes in July because of a Vermont Department of Taxes processing backlog, the department told local officials this week.

Commissioner Kaj Samsom said that about 5,000 taxpayers were affected. In an interview, he emphasized that local officials were not responsible for the situation and said his department is working overtime to send corrected information to municipalities.

“We dropped the ball, frankly,” Samsom said. “I can’t put any better spin on it than that.”

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Burlington City Council Waters Down Safe Injection Site Measure

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 9:31 AM

  • Sean Metcalf
Updated at 9:50 a.m.

The Burlington City Council decided to move forward with a resolution promoting opiate treatment, but inserted key language saying that safe injection sites won’t happen anytime soon.

The council voted 9-3 to endorse buprenorphine treatment and appoint two councilors to the CommunityStat opiate study committee but will not take concrete steps toward establishing a safe injection facility "until the city council affirmatively votes to do so" in a separate vote.

It took two hours of debate and nine proposed amendments Monday night before the council issued its "yes" vote to the altered measure.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Burlington City Council Urges Nurses, Hospital to Settle Their Differences

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 11:06 PM

Nurses on strike - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • File: Sara Tabin
  • Nurses on strike
Figure it out.

That was the Burlington City Council's message to the University of Vermont Medical Center administrators and nurses who are divided on wages and working conditions.

The council unanimously passed a resolution Monday urging the two sides to find common ground after the nurses' union went on strike for two days last week. The nurses returned to work on Saturday without a contract, but have not yet returned to the bargaining table, much less come to an agreement with the hospital.

The nurses' union could strike again, though it would need to provide a 10-day notice to the hospital.

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Burlington Council Allocates Funding to City Childcare Centers

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 8:48 PM

  • Matt Mignanelli
The Burlington City Council has dished out its first full round of grants to daycares and preschools, approving $455,000 in spending as part of the city’s Early Learning Initiative, an effort to help make early childhood education more accessible and affordable.

The Sara Holbrook Community Center and Greater Burlington YMCA got $150,000 and $130,000, respectively, for capital campaigns as the YMCA buys a new building and Sara Holbrook prepares for a renovation. Those two programs will create at least 58 new preschool slots, according to the proposal approved by the council.

The Burlington Children’s Space, the Janet S. Munt Family Room, Pine Forest Children’s Center, Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, and Ohavi Zedek Full Circle Preschool also got awards, ranging from $5,000 for Full Circle to $75,000 that the Children's Space will use to purchase its building.

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Walters: Sanders' Campaign Has $7.6 Million in Cash

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 3:14 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: ADAM BURKE
  • File: Adam Burke
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may only face a field of long-shot challengers in his bid for reelection, but he continues to raise money as if his political future depended on it.

In his latest Federal Election Commission filing, which covers April through June, Sanders' senatorial campaign fund, "Friends of Bernie Sanders," reported $1.43 million in donations and $749,000 in expenditures, lifting its cash-on-hand total to $7.58 million.

The donations came entirely from individuals; he took no money from corporations or political action committees. Most of the expenditures were for Sanders' extensive travel and public appearances, and for staffing. His campaign has five paid staffers, including longtime Sanders ally Jeff Weaver, whose twice-monthly salary is just under $8,000 — an annualized rate of roughly $190,000.

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Burlington City Council to Weigh In on Safe Injection Sites

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 11:30 AM

  • Sean Metcalf
The Burlington City Council on Monday will begin discussing the possibility of establishing a safe injection site in the city.

A "yes" vote on a resolution before the council would endorse a menu of opiate treatment options for the Queen City, including distribution of buprenorphine in emergency rooms, supporting opiate treatment for inmates across the state, and offering low-cost or free Narcan to reverse overdoses.

The most controversial item would be a safe injection site, which the resolution refers to as an overdose prevention site. It would provide a place for addicts to consume drugs and would also provide access to medical service, treatment options and clean needles — without legal repercussion.

The resolution does not create a safe injection site. It only encourages the city to move forward with discussions about such a facility. Creating one would involve a lengthy process, "possibly years," before it came to fruition, the resolution acknowledges, and would require a "full community vetting."

The council doesn't actually have authority to enact some of the proposed policies around buprenorphine and Narcan. Still, the resolution is a step in the right direction, said Councilor Karen Paul (D-Ward 6), who's been working on the measure since March.

"The council being on the record supporting and endorsing an overdose prevention site is meaningful," Paul said.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Walters: Campaign Donations Are Light in Race for Governor

Posted By on Sun, Jul 15, 2018 at 11:20 PM

  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
The campaign for governor of Vermont is looking like a bargain-basement affair. Sunday night was a campaign-finance filing deadline for state candidates — the first such deadline since March 15, and the last one before the August 14 primary. In short, it's a notable milestone on the campaign trail. And none of the gubernatorial candidates set themselves apart financially.

Perhaps the most surprising development was a poor showing by incumbent Republican Phil Scott. He took in $93,000 in the past three months, bringing his total campaign haul to $214,000. He has already spent $177,000, so his cash on hand was less than $40,000. (He also had $19,000 in surplus funds from his 2016 campaign.) On the same date two years ago, Scott's campaign had raised $764,000, so he was well behind his 2016 pace.

His GOP challenger, Keith Stern, had not filed an update as of late Sunday.

Turning to the Democrats, former utility executive Christine Hallquist reported a three-month total of $89,000 in donations, and $132,000 for her campaign to date. She has spent most of her take and had about $23,000 on hand.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

UVM Medical Center Nurses to Return to Work Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 8:01 PM

Nurses rallying outside the hospital - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Nurses rallying outside the hospital
Nurses will start work as usual Saturday morning at the University of Vermont Medical center after a 48-hour strike. But their union has said another strike is not off the table as it remains at odds with the hospital over a three-year contract.

Members of the 1,800-member union walked off the job Thursday complaining that low wages have led to staffing problems. The union is seeking roughly a 23 percent wage increase for registered nurses over three years.

The hospital's chief operating officer, Eileen Whalen, called the union’s request “unrealistic” at a press conference Friday afternoon. Hospital spokesman Michael Carrese said it would cost $30 million over three years.

Meanwhile, the two-day strike cost the hospital about $3 million, according to Whalen. Much of that went to paying for nurses from out of town to cover for the strikers.

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Walters: VT Dems Hire New Executive Director

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 5:09 PM

  • Courtesy of Josh Massey
  • Josh Massey
The Vermont Democratic Party has a new executive director. Josh Massey takes on the party's top staff position on Monday, replacing Conor Casey, who announced in May that he was taking a job with the Vermont-National Education Association. Massey's hire was announced Friday afternoon.

The Dems' state chair, Terje Anderson, noted that the party was looking for someone with Vermont experience because the transition is coming in the middle of campaign season. Massey is a past chair of the Washington County Democratic Party and headed the Dems' 2014 coordinated campaign — the party's central effort to support the entire ticket.

"He's been around the track here," Anderson said of Massey. "He's ready to come in without needing a 'Welcome to Vermont' primer."

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