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Friday, July 19, 2019

Vermont Supreme Court Makes Media Shield Law Ruling Public

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 3:23 PM

A still from WCAX's report on a police shooting at Montpelier High School in January 2018 - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • A still from WCAX's report on a police shooting at Montpelier High School in January 2018
A secret judicial order that upheld press freedom from prying state investigators must be made public, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The February 2018 order in question was the first test of a state media shield law enacted in 2017 after lobbying by Vermont journalists, who were worried that law enforcement could compel reporters to disclose their sources or notes.

But the landmark ruling has remained sealed for more than a year because it came as part of a closed-door inquest regarding a police shooting.

Police shot and killed Nathan Giffin, a suspected bank robber, in January 2018 after an hourlong standoff outside Montpelier High School. WCAX captured the shooting on video, which state prosecutors subpoenaed in the course of determining whether the shooting was criminal.

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Developer: CityPlace Burlington Project Will Be Redesigned

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 11:28 AM

The construction site - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • The construction site
This post will be updated.

The developer of one of the most ambitious building plans in modern Burlington history confirmed Friday the project may be a bit too ambitious.

Brookfield Asset Management released a statement confirming the obvious — the 14-story downtown mixed-use project is on hold — and hinting that the “scope, scale, and the timing” of construction may have to change.

Brookfield didn't give specifics, but suggested that architects are going back to the drawing board. Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement of his own that he hopes the redesign “would address some of the size and scale criticisms of the project.” Citizen activists have long maintained that the plan to build 14 stories, which would be the tallest building in Vermont, is out of scale for Burlington.

Brookfield's statement shed little light on the reasons for the construction delay, citing only ongoing litigation against CityPlace and “the complexities of the project and associated cost considerations.”

“However, we remain committed to delivering a transformative project to the City of Burlington,” the statement reads. “Over the next several months, we will be working collaboratively with the administration and stakeholders to refine our development plan to ensure we have a design that is consistent with the community’s values and goals."

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Media Note: Free Press Owner in 'Advanced' Merger Talks

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Sunday's Burlington Free Press
  • Sunday's Burlington Free Press
Gannett, the corporate owner of the Burlington Free Press, is reportedly close to agreement on a merger with GateHouse Media. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that GateHouse, the smaller of the two firms, would be the buyer and its CEO would retain his title in the combined enterprise. The New York Post quoted an unnamed source as saying the deal had a 75 percent chance of happening.

News of merger talks between the two companies first broke in late May, not long after Gannett's board rejected a takeover bid from hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Gannett and GateHouse are the two largest newspaper chains (by circulation) in the country. As industry analyst Ken Doctor of the Nieman Journalism Lab wrote in May, "Totaled up, 267 dailies would fall under a single ownership and management. That's an unprecedented concentration of control in the history of the American press." (The combined firm would also own more than 1,000 weekly papers. None of GateHouse's properties are in Vermont.)

Doctor wrote of a "megaclustering" trend in the journalism industry, as newspapers suffer continuing declines in advertising and circulation and seek ways to streamline operations through regional sales and reporting efforts.

That's "regional" as in "not local."

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Holcombe Hires Out-of-State Campaign Team

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 6:07 PM

  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rebecca Holcombe
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Holcombe has enlisted an experienced campaign team — but only one of its members hails from Vermont.

Serving as senior adviser is Brian Lenzmeier, a political operative who appears to have run congressional campaigns in New Mexico in 2014 and in Michigan in 2016; in 2018, he seems to have run a secretive super PAC backing a Pennsylvania congressional candidate.
Lenzmeier did not respond to requests for information about his background, but he did provide the names of Holcombe's other consultants:

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Frontier's BTV-Denver Flight Will Go on Seasonal Hiatus in November

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 4:15 PM

  • Sean Metcalf
In January, Frontier Airlines announced a new nonstop flight from Burlington International Airport to Denver, Colo.

Not reported at the time: The flight is seasonal. It began in May and will stop running as of November 13, 2019, for a winter hiatus before resuming in spring 2020, an airline spokesperson told Seven Days. Two days after the route is suspended, the discount airline will again offer its seasonal cold-weather flight from BTV to Orlando, Fla.

"We’ve been very happy with the results we’ve seen so far and look forward to continuing our success at BTV," Zach Kramer, Frontier's manager of corporate communications, wrote in an email.

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On Target? Axe Throwing Venue to Open in Burlington's Old North End

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 10:41 AM

Jules Townsend, Mike Garber and Jesse Snyder of Burly Axe Throwing - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Jules Townsend, Mike Garber and Jesse Snyder of Burly Axe Throwing
Burlington entrepreneur Mike Garber has an axe to grind: There aren’t enough places to have good, clean fun in the Queen City. So he’s opening one of his own.

By sometime next month, Garber hopes to have Burly Axe Throwing, a competitive axe throwing venue, up and operating at 294 North Winooski Avenue.

Participants chuck two-pound axes — really more like hatchets — at a bullseye painted on a wooden wall to earn the most points.

“It’s a lot like darts,” Garber said. “It sort of gives you the feeling of danger, but it’s under control.”

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Peter Welch Calls for the Impeachment of Donald Trump

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 12:06 AM

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) - FILE
  • File
  • Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
Updated July 18, 2019, at 4:43 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on Thursday became the first member of Vermont’s congressional delegation to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“I do not arrive at this conclusion lightly,” Welch wrote in a statement released Thursday morning. “The power of impeachment granted to Congress by our Founding Fathers should not be casually employed.”

But, he argued, Trump “has established a clear pattern of willful disregard for our Constitution and its system of checks and balances. His presidency has wrought an unprecedented and unrelenting assault on the pillars and guardrails of our democracy, including the rule of law on which our country was founded.”

Welch’s 382-word statement included a litany of grievances against the president. He accused Trump of attacking the courts, the press, the rule of law and democracy itself. But in a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon, Welch pointed to a pair of offenses he said had pushed him over the edge: Trump’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight and his racist attacks on four members of Congress.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Workers Remove Crane From Site of Long-Stalled CityPlace Project

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 3:25 PM

Workers removing a crane at the CityPlace Burlington site - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Workers removing a crane at the CityPlace Burlington site
Workers finally got busy at the CityPlace Burlington construction site on Wednesday — but only to remove a large crane that has been parked in the downtown crater for nearly a year.

One of the workers, who declined to give his name, said the crane was needed at a different site.

But John Franco, an attorney representing opponents of the redevelopment, called the explanation “bullshit.” In reality, he said, the crews were disassembling a "Potemkin village" — a term for a deceptive façade — meant to convince locals that work was underway on the controversial project.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Burlington Settles Lawsuit Challenging No-Trespass Ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 7:23 PM

ACLU of Vermont attorney Jay Diaz - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-brodeur
  • ACLU of Vermont attorney Jay Diaz
The City of Burlington will pay $13,500 to a Queen City man and his attorneys who challenged the city’s no-trespass ordinance last summer after he was barred from City Hall Park.

The June 26 settlement with Jason Ploof also says the city will rewrite its trespass ordinance by year’s end, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, which represented Ploof along with attorney Justin Barnard of Dinse in Burlington.

“Our parks, especially central parks like City Hall Park, are something that belongs to everybody,” ACLU of Vermont staff attorney Jay Diaz told Seven Days. “We’re glad that the city going forward is going to take that more seriously than they have in the past, applying due process of law whenever they attempt to revoke people’s rights.”

In 2015, Burlington police ticketed and trespassed Ploof twice for having an open container in the park, the second time for 90 days. Police then arrested Ploof when they saw him conversing with friends near the fountain during that period, according to court documents.

With the ACLU of Vermont’s backing, Ploof contended that the banishment “unlawfully restricted [his] freedom to receive information and enter a traditional public forum, in violation of the First Amendment.” The suit survived the city’s attempts to dismiss it.

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Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson Resigns

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 1:26 PM

Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson
Updated 2:41 p.m.

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson announced his resignation in an email to colleagues Tuesday afternoon.

Anderson said he informed Gov. Phil Scott of his decision in late June and will step down effective July 31, citing “personal and family reasons.”

“This has been a very difficult decision,” Anderson wrote. “Leading the fine men and women of the Department of Public Safety for the past 30 months has been the highlight of my career.”

Scott tapped the former U.S. attorney for Vermont in January 2017 to run the Department of Public Safety, which includes the Vermont State Police, as well as divisions for fire safety, crime data and emergency response. At the time Anderson was a deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice.

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