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Monday, June 21, 2021

OneCare Vermont Costs More Than It's Saving the State, Auditor Finds

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2021 at 8:58 PM

  • Courtesy of OneCare Vermont
Vermont’s auditor is again taking aim at the steep costs of the state’s all-payer health care system, raising thorny financial questions as policymakers ponder a new five-year contract with OneCare Vermont.

The latest report by State Auditor Doug Hoffer runs the numbers on the first three years of the state’s contract with OneCare and concludes that the start-up and operating costs far surpass any savings realized to date.

“Put simply, at this time the financial costs to run the model significantly exceed any Medicaid savings attributed to it,” Hoffer wrote in a 41-page report released Monday.

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

With Song, Food and Fellowship, Burlington Celebrates Juneteenth

Posted By on Sat, Jun 19, 2021 at 9:00 PM

Members of the Judie Emanual Family Band lead the crowd in a dance - BEAR CIERI
  • Bear Cieri
  • Members of the Judie Emanual Family Band lead the crowd in a dance
The sonorous tones of gospel music rang out in Burlington's City Hall Park on Saturday morning.

Dressed in sun hats and brightly-patterned clothing, revelers clapped and sang along to "We Have Come Into This House" as the Lake Champlain Mass Choir and Band performed under a white tent. One couple joined hands and danced near the city hall steps. Unmasked friends shared meals and hugs on the green surrounding the stage.

Such was the opening scene of the Queen City's first-ever celebration of Juneteenth. A portmanteau of June 19, the event marks the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed legislation making the day a federal holiday.

Burlington's daylong festival offered free music, food, panel discussions and more in locations all across the city. The city chipped in $100,000 toward the inaugural event, and private sponsors kicked in another $150,000.

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Joe Magee Wins Progressive Nomination for Ward 3 Special Election

Posted By on Sat, Jun 19, 2021 at 8:58 PM

  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Joe Magee
Joe Magee clinched the Vermont Progressive Party's nomination Saturday evening for the upcoming Ward 3 city council election with just one vote more than his closest competitor.

A total of 169 Progs cast ballots in the ranked-choice election, which lets voters rank candidates in order of preference. The lowest vote-getter is eliminated in each round until one candidate surpasses 50 percent.

Magee squeaked out 50.3 percent, or 75 votes, after four rounds, narrowly defeating Julie Macuga, who had 49.7 percent of votes, or 74 total, according to the party's official results.

"I'm very grateful to the candidates that ran in the caucus, and I'm looking forward to building a strong campaign for working families in Ward 3," Magee said. "It's just really great that we had such an impressive turnout in the caucus, and it speaks to the strength of the party in Ward 3 and definitely a strong start going into the special election."

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Friday, June 18, 2021

Burlington GOP Nominates Ward 3 Candidate in Last-Minute Caucus

Posted By on Fri, Jun 18, 2021 at 9:29 PM

Christopher-Aaron Felker - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Christopher-Aaron Felker
Burlington Republicans have nominated Christopher-Aaron Felker to be their candidate in the upcoming Ward 3 city council election.

About a dozen members of the Burlington GOP unanimously endorsed Felker, the party's only candidate, during a meeting on Zoom on Friday evening.

The vote comes just three days before candidate petitions are due for the August 17 contest. The special election was called when former Progressive councilor Brian Pine stepped down last month to run the city's Community & Economic Development Office.

Felker said he plans to make the most of the quick, two-month race.

"We have a solid ground campaign, and it's about working and building a better Burlington together, and we can do that," Felker said. "We're going to unite our community."

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

One Prog Drops Out and Another Joins Burlington's Ward 3 Council Race

Posted By on Thu, Jun 17, 2021 at 9:49 PM

Ward 3 Progressive candidates - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Ward 3 Progressive candidates
There are still five Progressive candidates in the running for the vacant Ward 3 council seat in Burlington, but the lineup changed as of Thursday evening.

Elmwood Avenue resident July Sanders, who participated in last week's candidate forum, has dropped out of the race. Sanders told Seven Days that she has family commitments that require her to leave town often, and she realized it wasn't the best time to serve.

"Seeing just the great slate of candidates, I didn't feel that it was so bad that I step away," Sanders said.
Thursday evening, a new candidate had emerged in Chris Haessly, a College Street resident who volunteered himself for the seat at the party's nominating caucus.

"I wasn't really planning to be here today," Haessly told the small crowd gathered in the Sustainability Academy parking lot in the Old North End, noting that several residents encouraged him to run. "I've always considered myself a longtime, big P Progressive, so I figured I'd throw my hat in the ring."

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

After Intense Debate, Essex Westford School Board Approves Equity Policy

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 11:12 PM

A sign advertising an event last month in Essex - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • A sign advertising an event last month in Essex
After weeks of fervent debate, the Essex Westford School Board voted 8-1 on Tuesday night to approve a district equity policy.

In an emotionally charged Zoom meeting attended by around 150 people, board members reviewed revisions to the policy made in the past several weeks and asked questions of Superintendent Beth Cobb and Erin Maguire, the district’s director of equity and inclusion.

The policy, which the district’s 12 principals endorsed, lists 13 “indicators” that will show it is working, including a more diverse curriculum and staff; mandatory staff training around bias, stereotypes and equity; and teaching about the past in a way that dismantles “revisionist frameworks that perpetuate inaccurate portrayals of people in privileged and subjugated positions.”
Board chair Kim Gleason launched Tuesday’s discussion by stating that the  policy was the result of nine months of work by the school district and incorporated feedback from hundreds of community members. It was written by a group of 20 community members who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color.

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With Dems' Support, Burlington Council Candidate Owen Milne Makes His Case

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 8:51 PM

Owen Milne - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Owen Milne
The party's caucus is a few days away, but Burlington Democrats have effectively chosen Owen Milne as their candidate in the upcoming special Ward 3 City Council election.

Milne was the only candidate to file by the party's deadline last week and is expected to earn the party's official endorsement at its caucus on Friday, according to party chair Adam Roof.

Milne, the executive director of the Lake Champlain Sailing Center in Burlington, described his leadership style in a virtual Q&A event on Tuesday evening, saying that he would aim to be a true public servant.

"That's the job of city council. You answer the call, you listen intently, you ask the right questions, you understand the root of the problem, and then you roll up your sleeves and you act," Milne said. "Sometimes people consider that to be the part of the job that is less interesting or less glamorous, but ... that's the part of the job that I love the most."

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State Officials, Advocates Prep for the End of the Eviction Moratorium

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 4:15 PM

  • File: Kim Scafuro
The end is near for the eviction moratorium that has been in place since the start of the pandemic.

On July 15, Vermont courts will allow pending eviction actions to go forward, meaning tenants can be ordered out for nonpayment of rent or for other reasons.

Some tenants, in cases where a court had already ruled in favor of the landlord, could be told to leave 14 days after Vermont's state of emergency ends, said Grace Pazdan, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid. With COVID-19 infection rates low, and with 80 percent of Vermont's eligible population at least partly vaccinated, the state of emergency is due to expire Tuesday at midnight.

A national eviction moratorium, established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is due to end June 30.

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As Vaccinations Rise, Vermont Border With Canada Could Reopen This Summer

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 3:15 PM

  • Rtdeleon04 | Dreamstime
  • The border
With vaccination rates rising rapidly in Canada, Vermont's 15 crossings with Québec could reopen this summer, members of Gov. Phil Scott's administration said on Tuesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the country will begin to relax its restrictions — including the closure of its U.S. border — once 75 percent of the country’s eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The number is currently around 64 percent, according to Vermont Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, who said 12 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated. And the country's vaccination campaign is moving fast, Smith said — faster than the U.S. campaign, although the two countries' vaccination rates are now about the same.

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One of Winooski’s Only Black Teachers Resigns, Calls Out Culture of Racism

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 12:35 PM

Thierry Mugabo Uwilingiyimana at an event last summer - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Thierry Mugabo Uwilingiyimana at an event last summer
Citing the Winooski School District’s "white supremacist culture" and a lack of support, Thierry Mugabo Uwilingiyimana — the only Black middle and high school teacher in the most diverse school district in Vermont — announced his resignation last week.

In an email to Superintendent Sean McMannon, middle school principal Kate Grodin and high school principal Jean Berthiaume, Uwilingiyimana wrote that after three years of teaching in Winooski, district leaders “have made it impossible for me to stay.”

The science and engineering teacher called out the white supremacy culture in the school district, which he said was not “overt racial prejudice” but “racism that is hidden in plain sight.”

“It looks like a district that is majority People of Color but entirely led by a white leadership team that resisted for decades to reflect that diversity. A leadership that would rather talk about diversity than be diversified,” he wrote. “It looks like a district in which most of the underpaid and overworked staff are [Black, Indigenous, people of color], with the most highly paid at the top.”

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