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Letter to the Editor: Kidder Hill Community Wind response to Irasburg vote

in Irasburg/Opinion

The following letter to the editor was sent in by Leslie Cadwell.

Statement of Leslie Cadwell, Kidder Hill Community Wind, in response to the outcome of the Irasburg special selectboard meeting on October 1, 2015:

Regrettably, the outcome of this vote comes as no surprise. It represents a rush to judgment at odds with basic notions of fairness and fact-driven dialogue. From the start, the Irasburg Selectboard has stacked the deck against informed and thoughtful conversation about this project.

First, it held a meeting where it prevented the Irasburg homeowner and project developer from speaking. Then, on just two days notice, it called for this special meeting and “vote” without making any attempt to provide project representatives lead time to prepare a presentation.

If the Irasburg selectboard was truly interested in informed discussion, it could have waited until there was a fleshed out proposal to serve as a starting point for conversation.

We all know we need electricity: not just to power our homes, but increasingly to provide petroleum-free transportation and affordable, efficient home heating for Vermonters. Well-developed, locally-owned clean energy projects like the two-turbine community-scale project being contemplated for Kidder Hill can help meet those pressing societal needs while providing substantial tax revenues to the local community.

We look forward to finalizing our proposal and still hope to work with community members in a cooperative fashion to make this a project they can be proud of. Residents and elected leaders in Lowell, Milton, Georgia and other wind-hosting towns, have proven that Vermonters are willing to do their part for a cleaner, more energy-independent future.

We hope Irasburg residents will eventually follow their lead.

Newport Mayor Paul Monette on Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ban

in Opinion

Below is a statement from Newport Mayor Paul Monette regarding the city council’s decision to ban a marijuana dispensary in Newport. Please keep in mind that this is taken from his response through Facebook, which he has agreed to be posted at Newport Dispatch. It is not a prepared statement on the issue, just a quick response that he gave last night.

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From Mayor Paul Monette:

Picture 3Even though Vermont has approved these dispensaries it is still illegal as per the Federal Government. I feel it should be treated like any prescription drug and dispensed from your local pharmacy vs. having separate dispensaries. I strongly believe it’s time for other communities to step up to the plate and not expect everything be placed in Newport. We just wanted to make sure this did not happen.

As far as the methadone clinic, the council was originally opposed to it until it they said it was going to be mobile. This changed and due to the existing zoning they then were allowed to have a fixed site. At that time we felt we should do our part to help the state out and as presented to the council and is the current case, the majority of people at the methadone clinic is due to being addicted to prescription drugs and not heroin.

It may have been a different outcome if it were considered legal by the Feds which I know it will be someday. As I already stated it’s time for our neighbors to step up to the plate.

One final comment on this issue. There is no ignorance on our part. We just have finally decided to take a stand and say Newport cannot do everything. We already have a million dollar police department because of having all the services in Newport. We strongly believe it’s time for other communities around us to step up and help. I keep hearing it takes a community to help people but community means the NEK and not just Newport. Just my two cents again.

Bernie Sanders Statement on UN Climate Change Warning

in Opinion

Sen. Bernie Sanders said today that the latest report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is another jolting wake-up call for nations around the world.

The report by the U.N. panel said the effects of global warming already are occurring on every continent and across the world’s oceans. The scientists warned that the problem was likely to grow much worse unless greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control.

Polar ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, heat waves and flooding are becoming more intense, some animals already have become extinct and coral reefs are dying, according to the latest report from the panel of experts that periodically summarizes climate science. The report also warned that climate change can increase risks of civil war and other violent clashes by amplifying forces like poverty and economic shocks that drive such conflicts.

“The time is late. We can no longer ignore warnings that climate change already is happening and that unless we act in a bold way the worst is yet to come,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate environment and energy committees.

“The debate really is over,” he added. “The scientific community is virtually unanimous in agreeing that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity that it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world.”

Sanders and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate environment committee, have introduced legislation to tax the carbon and methane emissions that cause global warming. Their bill would apply a fee at coal mines, oil refineries, national gas processing plants and other sites. Imported fuels would be subject to equivalent carbon fees. Some of the revenue would be returned to consumers and some would pay for investments in energy efficiency, sustainable energy, worker training and deficit reduction.

Senator Leahy’s Statement on CIA Interference with Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Investigation

in Opinion

I commend Chairman Feinstein for speaking so forcefully in defense of the indispensable role that Congress plays under our Constitution in overseeing the executive branch, and in particular the intelligence community.

Chairman Feinstein described a troubling pattern of interference and intimidation by the CIA that raises serious questions about possible violations of the Constitution and our criminal laws.

This only compounds the grave concerns I have had for years about the underlying conduct that the Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating: the torture of detainees during the previous administration.

I fully support Chairman Feinstein’s efforts to seek declassification of her committee’s report on the CIA detention and interrogation program.

This is not just about getting to the truth of the CIA’s shameful use of torture. This is also about the core founding principle of the separation of powers, and the future of this institution and its oversight role. The Senate is bigger than any one Senator. Senators come and go, but the Senate endures.

The members of the Senate must stand up in defense of this institution, the Constitution, and the values upon which this nation was founded.

I applaud Chairman Feinstein for her work on this matter, and will continue to support her efforts. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over the Department of Justice, I will work to ensure that the Senate’s constitutional role is respected and protected.

Kevin Paquet Movie Review: The Lego Movie

in Opinion

“The Lego Movie” is rated PG, and is now showing at Waterfront Cinemas in Newport.

by Kevin Paquet

When children’s entertainment fails, it’s usually because the people telling the story started with a tale for adults and then stripped away the objectionable bits until only the most inoffensive and disjointed components remain. A good work succeeds because it sets its own terms from the start and lives entirely within them. “The Lego Movie” is such a work, but it’s more than that – it might just be definitive of what good children’s cinema can be.

On the face of it, a movie about the little plastic people who come packaged with many Lego sets is ridiculous, but the first and most critical twist is that the movie knows this and plays to it with gleeful abandon. Our protagonist, Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), is introduced as he starts his day – indeed, as he starts every day – in Bricksburg, a Lego city. He lives life, with unwavering joy, in accordance with instructions that pop up on a plastic tablet he carries with him. He gets up, showers, eats breakfast, spends some quality time with housemates – here the narrative deliberately falters, because Emmet’s only housemate is a houseplant – and then heads off to work, where he’s a construction worker tearing down and erecting buildings in accordance with the instructions that govern his life and that of everyone around him.

This is all as commanded by Lord Business (Will Ferrell), head of the Octan Corporation, burgeoning supervillain, and self-styled President Business of Bricksburg. On the “infinitieth floor” of his office tower, Lord Business has a collection of “artifacts” – rather generic items from our world, such as a Band-Aid that he believes to be a cloak – and the most sinister of these is the “Kragle,” which is in fact a tube of Krazy Glue. With this he will freeze the world in the form that most pleases him.

Emmet falls into the mix when he accidentally uncovers the Piece of Resistance – the one thing that can stop the Kragle. He is then captured and harshly interrogated by Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), who believes Emmet to be part of a secret organization. He isn’t, but once he’s freed by the improbably named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) he’s sucked into a world of fantastic and ridiculous intrigue.

Wyldstyle takes Emmet to meet Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman, who has never been in finer form making fun of his own voice). Vitruvius speaks of a prophecy that the finder of the Piece of Resistance will be the one to save the world. This is standard “chosen one” stuff, but the movie riffs on it with gusto. First we find out that the only thing Emmet has ever made by himself – without instructions – is a double-decker couch. Later, he travels to meet a council of Master Builders – the people he’s supposed to lead – and launches into a speech built around the cliché that he lists nothing but bad things about himself before getting to the “but” that will turn the tide. Except that it doesn’t work; the bad things make him sound so hopeless and inept that nobody wants to work with him.

Held apart from the movie itself, Emmet verges on being a disappointment. He’s a stock character by design, and the handful of distinguishing characteristics we get about him are fairly damning. Most tellingly, during their escape from Bad Cop, Emmet slo-mos the lecture Wyldstyle is giving him and rewrites the words in his head to make her sound more like a girl playing hard to get. It’s funny, and it’s clear that the sexism is a part of the character, not the movie as a whole, but the narrative never gets around to refuting it and a number of other shortcomings he has. It’s left on the goodwill of the viewer to decide whether or not Emmet is a changed man by the time the credits roll.

Oddly, the characters who get smaller amounts of screen time are actually better developed. Wyldstyle’s boyfriend is none other than Batman (Will Arnett, in a pitch-perfect parody of Christian Bale), who has an abiding affinity for loud music and plays Emmet a song he wrote (“It’s about how I’m an orphan!”) while they escape yet again. The ranks of Master Builders also include Benny (Charlie Day), a spaceman with a busted helmet who desperately wants to build a spaceship, and Princess Unikitty (Allison Brie), a cat-unicorn creature who rules Cloud Cuckooland and has repressed rage issues. In each case the characters are a mix of good and bad traits that, while highly cartoonish, are also grounded in reality – which, of course, only makes them funnier. The scene at the end where Benny finally gets to build a spaceship is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen.

The story goes out of its way to play with the oddities inherent in a universe made of Legos: One of the first people Emmet meets when he steps out of his apartment is a neighbor who has loads of cats, and Emmet knows all their names, despite the fact that they are absolutely identical in appearance and only one of them meows differently than the others. Flame, smoke and water are all rendered in solid Lego pieces, making their appearances both surreal and strangely beautiful (my personal favorite was a mushroom cloud).

The only way visuals that ridiculous can work is if the dialogue and music rise to meet then, and by God they do. The story often pauses its breakneck pace to consider oddities: Emmet starts his workday while the movie’s theme song, “Everything Is Awesome,” plays in the background and he gushes that he could listen to it for hours – at which point we jump forward five hours and find that it is, in fact, still playing. Later, while being rescued the first time, he asks Wyldstyle if it says “Wyldstyle” on her birth certificate.

“The Lego Movie” can get away with such compound insanity because of its surreal setting – Lego people can suffer mishaps that would kill an actual human being and just walk away, leading to a kind of stylized mayhem that reminded me strongly of the Muppets at their best.

It’s worth noting that a funny story told through goofy toys doesn’t automatically work. A decade ago, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of “South Park,” made an R-rated puppet film called “Team America: World Police” that, to be perfectly honest, was painful. This combination of quick-fire dialogue and injury-free slapstick seems to require a certain purity of spirit in order to work, and, for all its subtle (and unsubtle) jokes about personal disorders and life’s injustices, “The Lego Movie” believes in the goodness of people the whole way through. I haven’t seen a movie that made me this happy in years.

© 2014, Kevin Paquet

Sec. Chuck Ross on Farm Bill and How Vermont is Impacted

in Opinion

After a long and difficult deliberation, the Senate has passed a Farm Bill, which will arrive on the President’s desk, for his signature, at the end of the week. Although some compromises were made, overall, this is a win for agriculture both in Vermont, and on a national level.

Locally, our dairy farmers will benefit the new dairy margin protection program, which will provide a necessary safety net for the bed rock industry of Vermont agriculture.

This federally subsidized margin protection program will help dairy farmers to offset low margins caused either by low milk prices or high input costs, and prevent an erosion of equity. Our farmers will be able to insure their margins at significantly lower rates than the mega-farms in other parts of the country.

I am also pleased to see the creation of a new dairy donation program, which will redirect dairy products to food banks, when a glut of dairy hits the market. This is smart policy, and a win-win solution for all involved.

The new Farm Bill also renews the REAP Zone program, which has done much to stimulate Vermont’s economy, especially in the Northeast Kingdom.

Other key Farm Bill highlights which will benefit Vermont include:

New cost share programs for farmers seeking organic certification.

A 50% increase to Specialty Crop Block grant funding.

Re-authorization of the Food Export Program, which helps Vermont companies expand to foreign markets
Vermonters will also benefit from Farm Bill funding directed towards healthy food initiatives for schools, marketing specialty crops, and forest programs.

I would like to thank Senator Leahy and Representative Welch who, with the strong support of Senator Sanders, worked hard to move a new Farm Bill forward.

–CR

Senator Sanders Statement on Farm Bill

in Opinion

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders issued the following statement yesterday after the Senate voted 68-32 to pass and send to President Barack Obama a new five-year farm bill:

“This was a difficult vote on a bill which has some positive provisions but also some very negative ones.

“This bill will bring greater stability to Vermont dairy farmers by helping them to manage risks and produce products more efficiently. It also is good news that a successful MILC program will stay in place until new insurance provisions for dairy farmers are implemented.

“The bill encourages increased access to healthy, local foods and will build on a growing movement in Vermont which has created agriculture jobs and provided local food for Vermonters. Another provision helps low-income seniors shop at farmers’ markets and roadside stands that are popular across Vermont.

“I am very disappointed that this bill makes $8.6 billion in cuts over the next decade to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. While the final bill steps back from $40 billion in food stamp cuts that House Republicans had demanded, it is both morally and economically wrong to cut assistance to families in a very difficult economy.

“I am very pleased that Governor Shumlin has assured me that he will work with the Vermont Legislature to prevent cuts in food stamps for Vermont families and seniors receiving home heating assistance.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders Statement on State of the Union

in Opinion

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement yesterday after President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress:

“I welcome President Obama’s focus on reducing inequality and helping working families in America. The American economy is not sustainable when so few have so much and so many have so little. It’s a moral issue and it’s an economic issue.

“The American people, no matter what part of the country they are from or what political party they support, want us to put millions of people back to work. They want to deal with income and wealth inequality. They want us to raise the minimum wage.

“I applaud the president’s decision to issue an executive order which will raise wages for hundreds of thousands of workers, an issue that I and other senators have been working on for months. The president has made it clear that employees working for government contractors should not be paid starvation wages. This executive order also gives us momentum for raising the minimum wage for every worker in this country to at least $10.10 an hour.”

Support the Child Care Workers Bid to Unionize by Pam Ladds

in Opinion

Written by Pam Ladds

Thirty years ago I watched a friend, a working mother, pay the kid who cut her hedge more than she paid the woman who took care of her 2 children. This woman, a registered child care provider working in her own home, spent at least 8 hours a day in the role of Surrogate Parent, totally responsible for the lives of the 4 children in her care, their emotional and physical well-being, their nutrition and their early education. For that she got paid just over minimum wage. Of course she had no access to health care for herself and her own children were subsidized by the State – in reality all of us. How we value work, women and children was blatantly obvious. We don’t!

It would be wonderful to say how much things have changed. To be able to show that the Child Care Workers are now paid living wages, have access to benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation time. However, this is not reality – very little has changed. Women’s work is still systemically devalued, and what is seen as “traditional” work, all aspects of Care Giving, receives very little respect. Child Care providers, particularly in low income areas are living in poverty themselves. The essential service that they provide – in effect they sustain the work force, and subsidize the lives of the rest of us, frequently does not provide a living wage.

An attempt to remedy this is a piece of legislation currently vending its way through the Vermont State Building. The Early Educators Bill (S.52) co-sponsored by several Senators and Representatives including NEK’s Robert Starr is designed to allow Child Care providers to organize, to have some input into their own working conditions and ultimately into the quality of care given to children – the future of the rest of us. Quality child care is a no-brainer!

It is the beginning of the road out of the poverty trap. The importance of early stimulation, quality nutrition and warm caring people is well documented. Kids who spend their days without stimulation, parked in front of the tv, and fed on junk do not do as well as children raised in homes with knowledgeable, competent, trained Care Givers.

Care Givers want to be able to organize, to bargain collectively and in doing so gain respect for their career path. Being able to earn an adequate living without resorting to Food Stamps and Emergency Room Health Care for themselves would also be helpful!

This Bill allows for choice. Child Care Workers who do not wish to unionize do not have to. The majority of Child Care Providers however, work in isolation and this formal route will allow them to meet, learn from each other and provide better care for the children in their charge. It is important to contact local legislators to show support for this Bill and to ensure the future of this profession.
It is interesting that the Child Care Providers have chosen to go the tortuously slow, “polite” pathway of asking permission to organize and improve conditions for themselves and their charges.

It is equally interesting that the State of VT demands “permission” to organize. Child Care Providers could shut down the work-force in a week if they had chosen a different path. But they elected to continue to be responsible for their charges, provide quality care, continue to struggle themselves in order to “do this right”!

They deserve our support! Please contact your legislators to support Bill S.52. For further information check out their website:

Kids Count on Me | A Project of Vermont Early Educators United

Gov. Shumlin Bags a Buck Over the Weekend, and Twitter Goes Wild

in News/Opinion

Saturday marked the start of rifle deer hunting season in Vermont, and Governor Peter Shumlin’s weekend hunting played out across Twitter like a soap opera.

Last year, WCAX tweeted that WCAX reporter Susie Steimle followed Shumlin into the woods to find out more about Vermont’s 81st governor.

Picture 3

“In the end, we saw no deer or bear or any wildlife at all. Instead, we got an unusual glimpse of Vermont’s governor attempting to find some peace and quiet,” Steimle wrote.

But this year Shumlin redeemed himself when he posted this tweet:

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VT Fish and Wildlife were quick to follow up the announcement:

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Burlington Free Press followed suit:

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Even Anne Galloway, of VTDigger.org got in on the action.

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The event did not go without a bit of humor also:

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Or:

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But the best of all came last:

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Walmart in Derby, Vermont – It’s Not Just About Buying Underwear

in Derby/Newport/Opinion
Walmart and Vermont, business as usual.
Walmart and Vermont, business as usual.

The following quote is from earlier in the year:

“The Village of Newport and the people of Derby voted overwhelmingly to support having a place to buy underwear so we don’t have to go to Littleton,” said Sen. Robert Starr.

Senator Starr (D-Essex/Orleans), was addressing the fact that in 2010, 85 percent of voters supported the idea of a Walmart being built in Derby.

Well, when it was announced Wednesday that a deal had been made between developer Jeff Davis, Preservation Trust, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, that there would be no opposition against the new Walmart store so long as Davis pays $200,000, we should all have felt a little insulted.

If you read between the lines, the message is that bribes and blackmail will be tolerated by us locals, so long as in the end we have a place to go buy underwear. After Wednesday’s payoff, Davis has won the fight, and can now ride into town, the hero, throwing underwear at us locals. He can throw a few hundred thousand dollars at the so-called conservation groups, which, is a very low amount compared to the money he will be taking away from local businesses like Pick & Shovel. Supposedly, everyone wins.

There is more to this deal than most people realize, because it sets a new standard of using the permitting process as a way to extort money. Both sides have used the people of Derby and Newport as a guise for making a large amount of money, in the end, both getting what they want.

VNRC and Preservation Trust win an easy payday, literally getting $200,000 for doing nothing, developer Jeff Davis will make plenty of money as we all flock to Walmart, getting our share of the prize…underware.

We are worth more than that, and Vermont should pride itself on being a state that has not been bought out by big businesses like Walmart. We still have a tradition and a culture around here that is free from the likes of superstores and corporate giants swallowing up every little business in its path.

If VNRC and Preservation Trust have agreed to stand down in opposition of the project, that does not mean that everybody else has to.

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