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Friday, September 22, 2017

Walters: Radio Vet Steve Cormier Buys WDEV

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 10:09 PM

Steve Cormier and Tom Brennan during their days as Burlington radio personalities "Corm and the Coach" - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Steve Cormier and Tom Brennan during their days as Burlington radio personalities "Corm and the Coach"
After a long search for the right buyer, Ken Squier found his man working right there next to him.

In a Friday afternoon press release, Squier announced the sale of the Waterbury-based Radio Vermont Group, which includes WDEV-AM and FM, to the firm’s director of sales, Steve Cormier.

“I am thrilled that after 87 years [of Squier family ownership] the station will remain among Vermonters,” said Squier in the release.

Squier’s father, Lloyd, founded WDEV in 1931, and the station continues to offer predominantly local programming. Ken Squier, 82, has worked at the station since he was 12 years old; he also achieved national fame as a NASCAR broadcaster, and he is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In addition to WDEV, the Radio Vermont Group also operates 101 the One, which plays classic hit songs, and country station WLVB-FM in Morrisville.

Squier had been quietly looking for a buyer for a couple of years. His search was first reported by Seven Days in June. At the time, he said he was looking for “a Vermonter or some Vermonters who are interested in and dedicated to local programming.”

Cormier would seem to be a good fit. Before joining the Radio Vermont Group in 2015, he was station manager at WTSA Radio in Brattleboro. And that followed a 26-year run in Burlington broadcasting, most famously as co-host of the “Corm and the Coach” morning show.

“Local radio, there’s nothing like it!” Cormier said. WDEV’s local-heavy format, he added, “ain’t going anywhere.” That includes Squier, who does weekday sportscasts on WDEV and the renowned “Music to Go to the Dump By” show Saturdays at 9 a.m.

“I want him there every day,” said Cormier of Squier, who will serve as an advisor as well. “'The Dump' show, sports, until he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore.”

Cormier also plans no changes at WLVB-FM, and minimal changes, if any, at 101 the One.

Cormier professed a personal commitment to maintaining WDEV’s emphasis on local programming. “I’ve worked for Clear Channel,” he said of the nation’s biggest radio conglomerate, now known as IHeartMedia. “I saw what they did. They didn’t care about their communities.”

The sale is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to take a few months. Cormier would not discuss the sale price, referring inquiries to Squier, who did not respond to requests for comment.

There will be one departure from Radio Vermont. Eric Michaels, vice president, general manager and cohost of WDEV’s "Morning News Service," is resigning. Cormier noted that Michaels has “done wonderful things” in bolstering the company over the years.

“For 30 years, Eric has managed to maintain and grow the Radio Vermont Group as a relevant broadcasting voice in Vermont,” Squier's press release said.

Cormier promised no changes, but he realizes that the broadcasting industry is constantly evolving. And WDEV itself has changed — slowly, deliberately — over time. He plans a collaborative approach to the future.

"There are a lot of bright people at those stations," he said. "Any major decision I make, I’ll talk to Ken about.”

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Trump Nominates Prosecutor Nolan for Vermont U.S. Attorney

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 5:39 PM

Donald Trump in Burlington last year - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Donald Trump in Burlington last year
President Donald Trump on Friday nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan to serve as Vermont's U.S. Attorney.

Nolan, a native Vermonter who graduated from the University of Vermont and Boston College Law School, would become the first woman to hold the top federal prosecutor's job in Vermont if the U.S. Senate confirms her.

Both U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Republican Gov. Phil Scott recommended Nolan in June, calling her a "fair and tough" prosecutor.
In a joint statement Friday, Leahy and Scott pledged to advocate for her confirmation.

"Christina is a tough and well-respected prosecutor who is uniquely familiar with the challenges of our state’s opioid crisis," they said. "We were both impressed by Christina’s passion for the state of Vermont and for the mission of a prosecutor — to seek justice and improve our communities — as well as her thoughtfulness and leadership."

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School: Vermont Teacher Fired for Demonstrating Nazi Salute to Third Graders

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 10:37 AM

  • File: Kim Scafuro
A Georgia Elementary & Middle School substitute teacher was fired Thursday after demonstrating the Nazi salute for a group of third grade students, according to a district official.

Franklin West Supervisory Union Superintendent Ned Kirsch wrote to parents Thursday night that the incident involved a "long-term substitute" interacting with students who were walking to the cafeteria.

"The children were standing with their arm out in front of them and the teacher was modeling the position," Kirsch wrote. "She then raised her arm slightly and said, 'And now we say, Heil Hitler.'"

"I'm at a loss on the whole thing," Kirsch told Seven Days on Friday. "People are shocked. People I've spoken to are at a loss for words." He declined to identify the teacher.

The teacher admitted she uttered the words and made the gesture, Kirsch wrote. She was "immediately relieved," Kirsch wrote, and will not return to the school of about 650 students.

She was subbing for a teacher on maternity leave who was scheduled to return on Monday, Kirsch said in an interview. The teacher had taught as a substitute at the school regularly for years and had not been the subject of any complaints, Kirsch said.

"It's not a pattern; [I] never had a report about her, nothing," Kirsch said. "No one can quite understand what happened."

The school's principal and a guidance counselor were scheduled to visit the class this morning, Kirsch wrote to parents.

"We are dedicated to ensuring a safe learning environment for our students and families," Kirsch wrote. "This incident was completely unacceptable and I apologize."

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Walters: Another Hat for Don Turner

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 5:33 PM

House Minority Leader Don Turner confers with House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Minority Leader Don Turner confers with House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
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.

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On a Big Stage, Sanders Counters Trump on Foreign Policy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 3:03 PM

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers his foreign policy speech at Westminster College Thursday. - YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT
  • Youtube screenshot
  • U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers his foreign policy speech at Westminster College Thursday.
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.”

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

City Reveals Burlington Telecom Bids, But Questions Remain

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 1:20 PM

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.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

During Harvard Event, Shumlin Analyzes His Single-Payer Failure

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 11:44 PM

Former governor Peter Shumlin (left) with top health care staffers, Robin Lunge and Lawrence Miller - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Former governor Peter Shumlin (left) with top health care staffers, Robin Lunge and Lawrence Miller
Peter Shumlin told a group of Harvard University scholars Tuesday that he didn’t have the political capital to pass single-payer health care in Vermont.

The three-term Democratic former Vermont governor revisited his signature political failure during a live-streamed interview with Harvard public health professor John McDonough.

“Was that a policy decision or was that a political decision, do you think?” asked McDonough, referring to Shumlin’s decision to pull the plug on single-payer.

“They’re always both,” Shumlin responded. “There was no way I was gonna get the votes in either the House or the Senate to pass the single-payer plan that I wanted to pass ... I had Progressive senators coming to me saying, ‘What if we just slowed down?’”

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Back to School: Striking Burlington Teachers Reach Agreement With Board

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 10:17 PM

Strikers picketing on Friday - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Strikers picketing on Friday
Burlington schoolchildren will be back in class Wednesday after the conclusion of the city's second-ever teachers' strike.

The Burlington Education Association and the Burlington School Board reached a tentative agreement Tuesday shortly before 8 p.m., ending a labor dispute that kept 3,600 students out of school for four days.

Many parents sighed with relief that the bitter dispute was over. The details of the agreement will not be public until the board and union ratify the terms. The union is set to vote on it Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the Burlington High School auditorium. The school board had not set a vote time Tuesday evening.

The last teachers' strike in Burlington was in 1978, according to the Vermont-National Education Association.

Joanna Grossman of Burlington's South End cheered the news that an eight-hour mediation session Tuesday resulted in a deal. Her daughter was set to return to her second-grade class at Champlain Elementary School.

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Burlington Fined $44,000 for Public Works Safety Violations

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 4:32 PM

A job site in Burlington last year - FILE: SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • File: Sasha Goldstein
  • A job site in Burlington last year
The state has fined the city of Burlington $44,000 after a surprise inspection uncovered safety violations at a Department of Public Works job site.

A Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector found during the June 29 visit that city employees had not properly shored up the walls of a trench more than five feet deep. The water division workers also left soil too close to the edge of the trench's opening, according to a memo from DPW Director Chapin Spencer.

Those errors could have caused serious injury or death, leading to three citations that initially came with a penalty of $77,000, Spencer wrote in his report. But the state downgraded one of the citations after the city met with VOSHA and made changes to its safety program.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Two GOP Legislators Renew Push to Ban Teachers' Strikes

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 3:43 PM

Sen. Joe Benning speaks as Rep. Kurt Wright listens. - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Sen. Joe Benning speaks as Rep. Kurt Wright listens.
As the Burlington teachers' strike entered its third day on Monday, two lawmakers revived a proposal they said would provide a long-term fix.

Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington) and Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) said they will introduce identical bills that would prohibit teachers from striking and prevent school boards from imposing contracts. The proposal would smooth negotiations and "eliminate the nuclear option on both sides," said Wright, who has long sought to ban teacher strikes.

In 2015, Wright introduced a similar bill that was defeated in the House by one vote. Last year, the bill didn't move out of committee.

This time around, Wright said, is different. The property tax pressures and health care contract negotiations facing school boards mean that strikes may be more likely.

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