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Friday, October 11, 2019

Boo! Burlington School Kills Halloween Parade

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 6:09 PM

  • Evgenyatamanenko |
  • Spooky!
For many years, youngsters at Burlington's Edmunds Elementary School paraded in costumes along Main Street or the field next to school to celebrate Halloween. Passing drivers often tooted their horns in appreciation and parents and pedestrians clapped.

The ritual won't be happening this year.

Friday afternoon, principal Shelley Mathias let parents know in her weekly newsletter that the parade has been deep-sixed.

"We will no longer be having a Halloween Parade. I know that this will be disappointing to some of our students, but there are enough students who are marginalized for any number of reasons that it isn’t appropriate to continue a tradition that has an effect of dividing students," Mathias wrote.

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Media Note: VPR Fires 'Vermont Edition' Producer Ric Cengeri

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 3:45 PM

Ric Cengeri - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Ric Cengeri
After 12 years at Vermont Public Radio, producer and guest host Ric Cengeri was fired on Thursday, he told Seven Days.

Cengeri was probably best known to public radio listeners as host of "VPR Café," a weekly segment focused on food and agriculture that was axed in July. His primary job was producing the station's daily public affairs program, "Vermont Edition"; he also occasionally guest-hosted it.

According to Cengeri, VPR president and chief executive officer Scott Finn intercepted him in the station's Colchester parking lot Thursday as Cengeri was returning from vacation. Finn led him into a conference room, terminated him and did not allow him to clean out his desk, Cengeri said.

"It was a surprise. It was definitely a surprise," he said. "There was no warning that there was anything amiss."

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Scott Appoints Mike Smith to Reprise Role as Human Services Chief

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2019 at 12:25 PM

Mike Smith at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew THorsen
  • Mike Smith at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies
Updated at 4:07 p.m.

Mike Smith, a former secretary of Vermont's Agency of Human Services, will return to the role for a second stint.

Gov. Phil Scott announced Thursday that the veteran business and government leader will replace former secretary Al Gobeille later this month. Gobeille resigned in June and later took a top job at the University of Vermont Health Network. Deputy Secretary Martha Maksym has been leading AHS on an interim basis since his departure.

The agency is the largest in Vermont state government. It includes six departments, including those overseeing corrections, mental health, child protection, public health and publicly funded health insurance programs.

A fixture in the world of state government and policy, Smith was described in a 2015 Seven Days profile as the state's "interim fixer-in-chief." The 66-year-old has held key roles in recent years at a number of high-profile — and often struggling — organizations, including Vermont Information Technology Leaders, the Enhanced 9-1-1 Board, Burlington College and FairPoint Communications. He's also dipped his toe in the media world, penning a regular political column, serving as a WCAX-TV political analyst and hosting WDEV Radio's morning talk show.

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Victim in Salisbury Killing Is Cousin of Man Shot by Police in Rutland

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2019 at 12:05 PM

The Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle Louras used in a shootout with police - VERMONT STATE POLICE
  • Vermont State Police
  • The Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle Louras used in a shootout with police
A man found shot dead Tuesday afternoon in Salisbury is the cousin of a Rutland man who died in a gunfight with police earlier that day.

Vermont State Police have not yet confirmed that Christopher G. Louras, 33, killed Nicholas Louras, 34, also of Rutland. But they believe the discovery of Nicholas' body in Salisbury is linked to a 7 a.m. Tuesday police shootout that left Christopher dead in Rutland, 23 miles to the south.

"Among the pending components of the investigation is determining a possible motive for Christopher Louras’ actions," state police said in a press release Thursday morning.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Walks Back Suggestion That He'll Scale Back His Campaign

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 10:06 PM

In an interview Wednesday with NBC News, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he "misspoke" the day before when he told reporters that he planned to cut back on his vigorous campaign schedule after suffering a heart attack last week.

"I said a word I should not have said, and media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it," Sanders told NBC's Harry Smith during a sit-down interview in his Burlington home. "We're going to get back into the groove of a very vigorous campaign. I love doing rallies and I love doing town meetings."

The 78-year-old presidential candidate said he would "start off slower and build up and build up and build up."

Sanders' comments appeared to contradict what he told reporters outside his house on Tuesday after returning from an appointment with a cardiologist. In those remarks, according to a video released by CNN, the candidate said he would "probably not do three or four rallies a day" anymore.

"I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit," he said. "Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do."

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Agency of Commerce Report Lifts News Stories, Photos Without Attribution

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 4:05 PM

  • Agency of Commerce and Community Development
  • A screenshot of the report
In a report submitted last week to the Vermont legislature, the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development appears to have plagiarized three news stories and used photographs without permission.

The 24-page report updates legislators on the state's newly implemented Remote Worker Grant Program, which provides up to $10,000 worth of reimbursements to those who relocate to Vermont and retain their old jobs. A section of the report titled "Success Stories" lifts phrases, sentences and, in at least one instance, a whole paragraph from local and national news stories about the program — without permission, attribution or any indication that the work was not original.

Commissioner Joan Goldstein, whose Department of Economic Development issued the report, called the situation an "oversight" and "definitely an aberration." She said her department would reissue the report after removing the content in question or securing the rights to use it. Goldstein said use of the material met "the textbook definition" of plagiarism, even if it was unintentional.

The report lifts material published by Seven Days, CNBC and CNN. One section focuses on Miguel Turner, a cyber-security expert who tapped the grant program to move with his family from Miami to Vermont. The passages about Turner consist entirely of information and quotations pulled from a March 2019 story written by Seven Days' Kevin McCallum.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Former Rutland Mayor's Son Killed in Gunfight With Police

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 6:59 PM

Former Rutland mayor Christopher C. Louras - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • Former Rutland mayor Christopher C. Louras
Rutland police shot and killed the adult son of the city's former mayor, Christopher C. Louras, on Tuesday morning after the 33-year-old man allegedly shot up police headquarters.

Vermont State Police believe those two incidents are connected to the apparent murder of a man whose body was discovered Tuesday afternoon beside a road in Salisbury, a town about 30 minutes north of Rutland. Police did not immediately say how the former mayor’s son, Christopher G. Louras, was involved.

But Vermont State Police Major Dan Trudeau said during an afternoon press conference that the younger Louras is suspected of pumping two bullets through the front door of the Rutland City police headquarters during a 5:30 a.m. drive-by shooting.

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CityPlace Burlington Developers Pay Outstanding Debt

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 11:25 AM

Mayor Miro Weinberger - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger
CityPlace Burlington developers have met the city’s first set of demands to get the long-delayed project back on track.

Brookfield Properties wired the city $192,000 on October 7, the first of three deadlines set by Mayor Miro Weinberger in a September 27 letter that demanded the company make good on its promises.

“They have fully and timely complied,” Weinberger said. “It’s a step in the right direction, and it’s a step toward restoring some confidence in them and in the project.”

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Data Dive: Vermont's Refugee Resettlement in Three Revealing Charts

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 10:37 AM

Since 1989, nearly 8,000 refugees from all over the world have resettled in Vermont, arriving from Africa, Europe and Asia. Seven Days has looked at nearly three decades worth of data from the Vermont office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to show what nations they came from — as well as how the influx is declining.

Not surprisingly, the number of newcomers has dropped sharply over the past two years as policy changes by the Trump administration have pushed refugee admissions to historic lows.

Each year, the president establishes a cap on the overall number of applicants the nation will admit, and lower limits on refugees from different regions of the world.

When the U.S. refugee admissions program was established in 1980, the cap was set at more than 230,000. In 2019, it was a mere fraction of that at just 30,000. The Trump administration has proposed further reducing the cap to 18,000 in the 2020 fiscal year, which began on October 1.
Source: U.S. State Department, Migration Policy Institute - ANDREA SUOZZO
  • Andrea Suozzo
  • Source: U.S. State Department, Migration Policy Institute
Vermont's resettlement numbers held relatively steady between 2008 and 2016. During that nine-year period, the state welcomed, on average, 336 refugees each year.

In the three years since, resettlement numbers have fallen dramatically. In 2017, Vermont resettled 236 refugees, and in 2019, just 115.

Given its relatively small population, Vermont has historically welcomed an  outsized proportion of all refugees accepted into the U.S. each year. While Vermont has about 0.2 percent of the population of the United States, the state received at least 0.6 percent of refugees resettled in 2011 and 2012.
Sources: U.S. State Department, USCRI Vermont - ANDREA SUOZZO
  • Andrea Suozzo
  • Sources: U.S. State Department, USCRI Vermont
Vermont welcomed 7,956 refugees during the three decades between 1989 and 2019. Though that's a statewide total, nearly all of those people landed in Chittenden County, the majority in Burlington and Winooski.

That's not a count of the number of former refugees who currently live in the state; once resettled, people move into and out of Vermont. It also doesn't include people who immigrated via the U.S.'s asylum program.

But those numbers do provide a window into global upheaval over the past three decades. The graphic below shows that in the 1990s, the majority of refugees resettled were from Bosnia and Vietnam. The majority of arrivals in the last decade have been from Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

You can explore 30 years of refugee resettlement in Vermont in the chart below:

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Burlington Charter Committee to Consider Noncitizen Voting

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2019 at 12:33 AM

Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) on Monday - COURTNEY LAMDIN
  • Courtney Lamdin
  • Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) on Monday
The Burlington City Council passed a resolution Monday that asks members of the charter change committee to consider expanding voting rights to noncitizens.

The measure passed 10-2 with Council President Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) and Councilor Ali Dieng (D/P-Ward 7) voting no.

Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) introduced the resolution in part to increase civic participation among Burlington's sizable refugee population. He said the issue is timely because the legislature will consider a similar charter change request for the city of Montpelier once lawmakers reconvene next year.

“It is my hope Burlington can be at the table while they do so,” Roof said.

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