October 25, 2014

Liberally Speaking (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Campaign letdowns

Aug. 28, 2008
By Steve Mount

I feel let down by Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

To be fair, though, I also feel let down by the Democrats on two points, so let me get those out of the way.

First, I signed up to be “one of the first” to know about Barack Obama’s choice for a vice presidential candidate, the message to arrive on my cell phone before even the cable news networks were told.

I got the message, but at 3:29 a.m. last Saturday morning; before I checked my inbox, I saw the morning news telling me about Joe Biden. So much for being one of the first.

Second, I was disappointed that the Democratic National Committee decided to let Florida and Michigan off the hook for their disobedient behavior during the primary season. Having held primaries earlier than the rules allowed, they were stripped of their convention delegates.

After negotiations between the Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns, the states were granted half their delegates, and now, this past weekend, the DNC decided to seat both states’ full delegations. As any parent will agree, you have to follow through on your punishments or they mean nothing.

These letdowns, though, are minuscule compared to those of McCain.

I had a lot of respect for McCain, but daily it’s being chipped away. I will always respect his times of service, both in the military and in the Senate, but his run for the presidency has rubbed off the gloss.

For example, McCain’s stuttering confession that he was unsure about how many houses he owns certainly was not endearing: “I’ll have my staff get back to you,” he told reporters. To have so many that you lose count does not make me feel like he and I have the same concerns. The count, by the way, turns out to be eight.

I’ll get back to McCain himself in a moment. His staff, however, deserves mention here. They seem to forget that the way things work is that the principal spokesperson for a presidential campaign is the candidate himself.

When McCain details some of his economic plans on the campaign trail, his budget policies end up nearly $3 trillion out of line with his published plans. McCain’s chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, was questioned about the discrepancy by online magazine Slate. Reported Slate blogger Christopher Beam, “‘This is parsing words out of campaign appearances to an unreasonable degree,’ Holtz-Eakin said. ‘He has certainly I’m sure said things in town halls’ that don’t jibe perfectly with his written plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s official.”

This has widely, and not inaccurately, been paraphrased as “John McCain does not speak for the McCain campaign.”

And it happened again, a week later. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, McCain said that in discussions about saving Social Security, “nothing is off the table,” specifically including payroll tax increases.

The next day, one of McCain’s spokesmen corrected the candidate, saying that a payroll tax increase was “absolutely out of the question.” Again, McCain does not speak for the McCain campaign. Troubling.

Back to McCain himself: In a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, McCain criticized Obama’s positions on Iraq, saying that they called into question the judgment he would need as commander in chief: “Behind all of these … positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president.”

Maybe it is fair to criticize a presidential candidate for having ambition to be president, maybe not. But McCain should be careful of throwing stones. In 2002, McCain wrote a book about his 2000 run for the presidency, noting that he hadn’t run for president to solve any particular problems.

“I wanted to be president,” he wrote, “because it had been my ambition to be president.”

Look, we all misspeak. But in this day and age, when the lies told by “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” are perceived as truth, one must be especially careful about what one says. Failure to do so is, in itself, a black mark against you.

I leave you this week with a McCain gaffe that I found amusing but which may have made McCain’s home life a bit awkward for a few days.

At the beginning of August, when McCain and his wife, Cindy, were attending a motorcycle rally in South Dakota, McCain told the crowd that he had encouraged Cindy to enter the “Miss Buffalo Chip” contest held at the rally.

Perhaps he did not know (or, worse, perhaps he did) that the contestants for the Miss Buffalo Chip contest dress scantily, if at all, and dance lewdly in front of the hooting audience. For John’s sake, let’s hope Cindy has a good sense of humor.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at [email protected] or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.

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Right to the Point (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Mike Benevento

You can make a difference — consider yourself asked

Everyone loves a champion, and that is what Williston’s 11- and 12-year-old Little League All-Stars are. Coached by Jeff Smith and Will Mikell, and led by Vermont’s July Male Athlete of the Month Davis Mikell, the team came within two wins of making the Little League World Series. Like many community organizations, unsung volunteers help make the Williston Little League program a success.

From President Tim O’Brien and Vice President Greg Bolger all the way down to Bill Small, Dennis Lalancette, Rick Reed and other umpires, volunteers fuel the league’s success. Even people with roles not directly involved in the game, like concessions coordinator Mary Beth Bergkvist, Joel Klein, Paul Reiss, Treasurer Gene McCue and player agent Todd Norton, make an impact. Without these and many other volunteers, many Williston girls and boys would not have played softball or baseball this past summer.

President John F. Kennedy said during his 1961 Inaugural Address, “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” If you are not already a volunteer, now is the time for you to start doing for your country by becoming one.

Consider the changes you want to see in this world. Support these ideas not just by donating your money, but by giving your time and energy to various causes. Set a good example for the younger generation. If possible, empower the young by involving your family when you volunteer. Doing so will multiply the amount of goodwill in our local community.

Do you remember how immediately after Sept. 11 people changed their lives and devoted more time to their family, friends, and community? Following the terrorist attacks, people went out of their way to help others. We need to get that giving spirit back into our community — and sustain it.

For example, following the attacks, Americans donated so much blood that the Red Cross appeared to be awash in it. However, the blood supply quickly dwindled and was not replenished. People forgot the need for giving blood was year round, not just the months following the attacks.

Only 5 percent of eligible donors give blood each year. As the Red Cross states, “Many people say they have never given blood because they haven’t been asked. Please, consider yourself asked. The need is real. The need is now.”

On a different type of giving, one of my most exciting summers was when I volunteered on Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie’s 2004 reelection campaign. My job was to interview the leadership of more than 30 Vermont associations. After we discussed their concerns, I then presented my findings to Dubie so he could better help them out. Although Brian and I have known each other since our youth, you can volunteer and help Republicans even if you haven’t personally met them.

With the political season nearing its peak, all levels of the Republican Party need your support. In Williston, good people you may know like Brennan Duffy and Shelley Palmer are running for state representative. Please contact them or Williston’s Republican Party chairman Chris Roy for information on how to help.

At the state level, Dubie and Gov. Jim Douglas are up for reelection (www.vtgop.org). Finally, at the national level, John McCain needs our help to win in the pivotal presidential race against Barack Obama (www.rnc.org).

Non-political organizations looking for assistance include Make-A-Wish Foundation (864-9393), Vermont ALS Association (846-7386), Salvation Army (864-6991) and Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf (658-7939). Former military members interested in assisting National Guard personnel and their families should consider joining the Vermont State Guard (338-3045).

Many businesses get involved with charity work. Williston’s UPS is a big United Way supporter. Oftentimes, companies give employees paid time off to assist charities. When I worked at Vertek, we served monthly meals for the Salvation Army’s Kitchen Feeding Program. My current employer, EPS, gives employees time off to work for Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and other charities. Check with your employer to see if you can do the same.

Remember, the need for volunteers is year round, not just during the holidays. While my column highlighted some volunteer organizations, it is far from an exhaustive list. There are many organizations in need of your support. Pick some that align with your interests and get involved. How often would you have done something had you known they needed your help?

Like the Red Cross says, “Consider yourself asked.”

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.



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Around Town (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008

Chicken Little dodges rabies

Some residents of Wildflower Circle walking outside on Wednesday morning noticed little pellets dropping from the sky. But the sky wasn’t falling —  the pellets contained rabies vaccines.

The Vermont Department of Health’s Rabies Bait Drop began Monday, and the office plans to drop, by way of plane, upwards of 500,000 fishmeal baits along remote valleys near the Canadian border and Chittenden County. The bait drop, now in its 12th year, is an effort to curb the spread of rabies in wild animals. So far this year, there have been 51 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in Vermont.

Health officials said the pellets are not harmful if touched and pose no threat to children and pets. Officials have said if a pellet is found in a driveway to use gloves to move the pellet to a grassy area and wash hands after doing so.

For more information contact the state’s Rabies Hotline at 800-472-2437.

Clerk’s hours

The Williston Town Clerk’s Office has returned to a five-day schedule but will remain open an extra hour each day.

The office, which is responsible for much of the public’s interaction with municipal government, had earlier this summer moved to a four-day week while maintaining longer hours: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. when it was open.

Now the office will no longer be closed on Mondays. The schedule each weekday will be 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., an hour later than other municipal offices.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett said staying open an hour later was popular with the public so she decided to maintain that part of the schedule.


Golf against autism

The New England Autism Center is having its first annual fundraising golf outing on Saturday, Sept. 13. An 18-hole tournament with four-person teams will take place at The Links at Lang Farm golf course in Essex. The entry fee is $75 per person. Special events will also include longest drive and putting contests.

For more information or to sign up, contact Linda Luxenberg at 802-999-8024 or [email protected]

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Obvious steps can bolster home security (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Crooks are an opportunistic bunch. So to reduce burglaries, experts say, eliminate easy avenues for thieves to enter your home.

Lock your doors and windows. Keep valuables out of sight. Consider installing an alarm system or starting a neighborhood watch.

Detective Mike Lavoie of the Williston Police Department said living in a rural state offers no sanctuary from crime.

“In my opinion, what people used to say, that this is Vermont, so I can leave my windows open and doors unlocked, has kind of gone out the window,” Lavoie said.

Thefts are among the most common crimes in Williston and elsewhere, although residential break-ins here are infrequent and tend to come in sporadic outbreaks.

One recent spate involved four burglaries of homes on Old Stage Road, Spruce Lane and along U.S. 2 near the Richmond line. All occurred in the early morning hours of Aug. 6.

The circumstances surrounding the break-ins bolster Lavoie’s advice to keep entries locked and prevent easy opportunities for criminals. In each case, entry was made through an unsecured door or window.

In one of the burglaries, the thief or thieves entered an unlocked garage, checked a vehicle parked inside and found a purse containing a “large amount” of cash, Lavoie said. He declined to say exactly how much was taken or where the home was located because the crime is still under investigation.

The Web site www.homesecurity.com also emphasizes commonsense measures homeowners can take to protect belongings.

“When people think of protecting their homes, they often think of fancy, expensive security systems with lots of bells and whistles,” the site says. “That is certainly an option, but there are measures you can take that won’t break the bank, too.”

The site advises homeowners to avoid common security mistakes: failing to repair broken locks, leaving security systems off while you run a quick errand and hiding a house key near the door.

“Many homeowners, afraid they will lose their keys and lock themselves out, choose to hide a key somewhere on the property,” the site says. “They think they are being sneaky by placing the key under a rock, under a doormat, in a potted plant, or above the door. Burglars absolutely know about all these commonly used hiding places.”

Lavoie said another pitfall to avoid is leaving valuable items where they can be seen through a window. In one of the recent break-ins, a laptop computer sitting in plain sight inside the home was stolen.

Home security systems and neighborhood watch programs can also deter thieves. Lavoie said he prefers security systems, and he has one at his own home.

They can cost anywhere from $100 for the least expensive, do-it-yourself kit to thousands of dollars for professionally installed systems. Types offered by large national companies such as ADP also require remote monitoring for a monthly fee.

Vigilance also can help prevent thefts. Lavoie encouraged residents who see anything suspicious to immediately call police.

He said homeowners should not worry if the tip turns out to be a false alarm. After all, it helps no one to tell police days after the crime that you saw a stranger in your neighborhood on the night of the break-in.

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WING reaches out to public via the Internet (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

WING committees have been hard at work developing new ideas for the future of Williston, and now the public can be kept up to date on all the progress through the Williston town Web site.

Town Environmental Planner Jessica Andreoletti, who has been working with the WING Steering Committee and attending its meetings, has updated the Web site to include summaries, reports and meeting news, as well as provide links to each WING group’s personal Web sites.

Andreoletti said the updates are designed to make it easier for the public to know what’s going on and to become more engaged in the WING process.

“The Web site will be really good for improving communication,” she said.

The site is accessible by going to the town’s Web site, www.town.williston.vt.us, and clicking on the link for WING under the “Latest News” section in the right hand sidebar.

The Williston into the Next Generation event, better known as WING, was a gathering in April of more than 100 community members to discuss the future of Williston. Five committees were formed to continue the work started at the initial weekend meeting: a community potluck group, which aims to celebrate Williston’s heritage through community events; a group centered around forming a community center; a public transportation and recreation paths group; an environmental, or “green,” initiatives group; and a representative town meeting group.

Some of these five committees have been meeting regularly at town offices or private homes.

Last month, Andreoletti created online sites for each group by using the CollectiveX Web program. Group members can post news, comments and information for other members and the public. For instance, visitors to the Community Potluck Web site will be able to see what different members are talking about, and stay updated through meeting minutes and future meeting times.

Andreoletti also created a CollectiveX site for the WING Steering Committee. She said she learned about the site from members of the Green Initiatives committee, which had been using CollectiveX.

“This is good for the public to see what’s going on and good for the WING members to join and use,” Andreoletti said.

Anybody can view information on the six CollectiveX sites. Users join as members, for free, to post information and communicate with other members. Once signed up, people can blog ideas or post articles and news pertaining to certain topics, Andreoletti said. Having the individual Web sites will allow the groups to become self-sufficient and be on the same page in terms of communication.

Andreoletti said while the CollectiveX Web site sounds complicated, it’s easy to navigate and use. She said she’s already received good feedback from various group members and hopes the public will utilize the site to take a more active role in WING.


Other WING updates

Summer has proven to be a quiet few months for WING committee meetings, but group members have still been generating ideas, even with limited participation numbers, said Marcie Kass, WING Steering Committee member.

“We’re at a critical point where we need to keep it going to be successful,” Kass said.

Kass said the Steering Committee met in July and discussed what other groups had been doing. She said the Community Center group brainstormed different ideas and possibilities of where a center could exist in Williston. The Transportation and Paths group been updated by town workers about work on recreational paths, she added. That group’s next meeting is Sept. 4 at the Town Hall.

The Representative Town Meeting group has not met yet, but plans to next month, Kass said.

Les Hankins, a member of the Green Initiatives group, said members have met several times and are looking to bring their thoughts to the public. They’ve discussed several different ideas, including doing energy audits of different neighborhoods and homes in an effort to lower Williston’s carbon footprint. Hankins said the group meets again Sept. 9.

Kass said the Community Potluck group has been already scheduled its next community-wide event in conjunction with the beginning of the Old Brick Church Music Series. The group has even given itself a name — PING, or Potlucks Into the Next Generation. The potluck and concert, featuring the swing band Lewis Franco and the Missing Cats, will take place on Friday, Oct. 17.

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Power line installation along the Winooski (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

New transmission lines are currently in the works for Williston and neighboring towns.

The Vermont Electric Power Company, also known as VELCO, is looking to expand a current transmission line that runs from the Essex Substation in Williston to the East Avenue Substation in Burlington. Plans call for the 4.8-mile long transmission line to cross the Winooski River six times in parts of Williston, South Burlington, Colchester and Burlington.

VELCO is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct work in the waters of the Winooski as part of the construction project, said Michael Adams, senior project manager for the Corps.

According to the project’s public notice at the Corps of Engineers’ Web site, the “basic project purpose is to provide adequate and reliable electric service to Chittenden County.” A spokesperson from VELCO did not return phone calls by press deadline.

Adams said the power lines in Williston will stretch from the Essex Substation east of Route 2A, running alongside the Winooski River and River Cove Road before crossing the river at its confluence with the Allen and Muddy brooks.

Adams said that since transmissions lines already exist where the newer lines will be installed, construction would be minimal for this type of project. He said about a third of the project would occur in Williston.

He did say nearly 221,000 square feet of wetlands in Williston and the other communities would be temporarily impacted during the construction phase, with approximately 2,140 square feet permanently filled in due to transmission pole installation.

VELCO had to file federal permits with the Corps of Engineers in conjunction with the project. One was filed in accordance with the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of material in waters and wetlands. The second permit was filed with the Rivers and Harbors Act, which regulates work on navigable waters, such as the Winooski River.

Adams said it was “difficult to say” when the permit might be approved and when work could begin. The permit is currently up for public review on the Corps’ Web site, www.nae.usace.army.mil, where details and charts are provided. The public can forward comments to the Corps until Friday, Sept. 19.

“I think (the project) is going to have less comments and concerns because a line already exists,” Adams said.

Comments about the project can be e-mailed directly to Adams at [email protected] or at 872-2893. Letters can be written to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Vermont Project Office — attention Michael Adams, 8 Carmichael St., Suite 205, Essex Junction, Vt. 05452.

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Prize ribbons for Williston residents at the Fair (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

On a perfect summer Saturday, the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction kicked off its 84th season. The masses streamed into the Champlain Valley Exposition as fair vendors hawked food, drinks, games and amusement rides. Dairy farmers marched cows to the milking booth as acrobats flew through the air in a crowd-pleasing performance.

       


          Observer photo by Tim Simard
Belgian horses from Sugar Ridge RV Village in Danville show off for fairgoers on Saturday at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction.

 

Inside the expo center buildings, people watched as sculptors painstakingly created a giant homage to Batman made completely out of sand. The faces of the villains from the summer film “The Dark Knight” — the Joker and Two-Face — leered from below.

Behind Batman were the giant pumpkins, all 800 pounds of them.

Williston resident Mary Whitcomb, who usually enters a giant pumpkin at the fair, entered a smaller one for the large field pumpkin category. She placed second in that category, while her brother, Kevin Companion of Huntington, placed first. He also placed first with a massive 865-pound giant pumpkin.

Whitcomb had won in both categories over the past two years, but it was her brother’s turn to take home the glory.

“He got me this year,” Whitcomb said with a laugh.

Despite the rainy conditions this summer, Whitcomb was able to grow a wide variety of pumpkins, including the several hundred pound giant pumpkins.

Whitcomb said the growing process begins inside before the pumpkins are transplanted outside.

“The large field pumpkins we grew are now between 30 to 50 pounds,” Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb explained giant and large field pumpkins continue to grow and should be ready for harvesting in a couple weeks. She said it would coincide with the corn maze at her family’s farm, which will also be ready for the public in a few weeks.

In her second year of entering vegetables to be judged, resident Mary Ann Wolf submitted four types of beans, two different potatoes, rhubarb, Japanese eggplant and plum tomatoes.

For her expertise in the garden, Wolf won four first-place blue ribbons, two second-place red ribbons and one third-place yellow ribbon. One of the blue-ribbon wins was awarded to the eggplant, a category she won last year.

Wolf has a plot in the Williston Community Gardens, where she grows vegetables for her family. She said the judges look for certain qualities when awarding prizes.

“(The judges) want things to be uniform in shape, with the stems still attached,” Wolf said.

Wolf said the ribbons also had small monetary prizes attached. First place earned $5, second place earned $3 and third place earned $1. Wolf said she plans to split her $27 award money with her two granddaughters, Caroline and Olivia Wolf, who helped her in the garden.

Wolf encouraged other gardeners to enter vegetables in next year’s garden competition. She said it was easy and fun.

“I really didn’t think we’d win all those ribbons,” Wolf said.

The Champlain Valley Fair, held at The Champlain Valley Exposition, runs through Monday, Sept. 1. More information is available online at www.cvexpo.org.

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Willistonian learns lobbying from the pros (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

“Live, learn and intern.”

That’s the motto of The Fund for American Studies — a Washington, D.C.-based education organization. Williston resident and college student Chris Fraser put that statement to the test recently as part of a summer-long internship in Washington, D.C. In the span of a few months, Fraser lived the life of a Washington insider, hobnobbing with politicians and lobbyists, all the while taking college courses at Georgetown University and living on campus.

       


          Contributed photo
Chris Fraser (right) stands with the family of Allison Giles, an associate at lobbying firm Quinn Gillespie and Associates, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Fraser interned for Quinn Gillespie and Associates as part of a summer-long program in the nation’s capital.

 

“It was an experience,” Fraser said with a smile during an interview last week with the Observer.

Fraser said his goal in the internship was to gain experience in Washington and understand its inner workings.

“How do things in the Capitol work and, more importantly, why do they work — that’s what I wanted to see,” Fraser said.

Fraser, who is entering his senior year at Bentley College in Massachusetts, was chosen for a spot in the Institute of Business and Government Affairs, or IBGA, a program offered through The Fund for American Studies. He was among 62 college-aged students who were part of the summer-long IBGA program, which places individuals in government and government-associated lobbying firms.

Overall, 366 students from around the world participate in the Fund’s intern programs, said Jonathan Tilley, coordinator for the IBGA program.

“I was the only one from Vermont, which was pretty cool,” Fraser said.

According to Tilley, other areas of study that draw interns include the Institute of Comparative and Economical Systems, the Institute of Political Journalism and the Institute on Philanthropy. The programs allow students to intern in various aspects of Washington, including for representatives, political news publications, lobbying firms and nonprofit organizations.

Tilley said the program allows students to experience many levels of the nation’s Capitol.

“We provide the interns the experience they need,” Tilley said. “We get a lot of sharp students down here.”

Life in D.C.

Fraser took two courses — Powers and Values; and Business, Government and Policy — at Georgetown University, which works with The Fund for American Studies. Fraser majors in public policy at Bentley, and the courses and unpaid internship earned him credit toward his degree, he said.

For the intern portion of the summer, Fraser worked with the firm Quinn Gillespie and Associates, a bipartisan public affairs firm that lobbies for clients on both sides of the political spectrum. The firm was started by Jack Quinn, Democrat and former aid to President Bill Clinton, and by Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee Chairman and current counselor to President George W. Bush.

Quinn Gillespie and Associates’ clients include Microsoft, Safeway, Bank of America, and Verizon, as well as several nonprofit organizations. Fraser said each client gets a Democrat and Republican representative to lobby Congress on its behalf.

Fraser said he was initially unsure of interning for a lobbying firm, since lobbying is not seen in the most favorable light by many people. But Fraser said hard-working and fair lobbyists are well respected in Washington. Lobbying equals advocacy, he said.

“I’ve learned to think of (lobbying) as a more noble profession than I used to,” Fraser said.

As an intern for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Fraser said he “learned to do everything.” Mostly, he covered committee hearings for various clients to gauge responses to legislation. Fraser said he sat in many meetings for the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, which claims Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders as a member, as well as New York Democrat Hillary Clinton and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

It was Fraser’s job to listen and take notes on legislation that directly affected certain Quinn Gillespie clients. He would then send a report to the client about what representatives said in regards to certain legislation.

Fraser said while many high-profile senators are members of the committee, only Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a former Democratic presidential contender, was on hand most of the time to hear the legislation.

“Unfortunately, a lot of major players weren’t there because it was campaign season,” Fraser said.

But the hearings still gave Fraser firsthand experience about how Washington works and what goes into a bill becoming law.

Liz McCurtain, operations associate for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, said the firm is always appreciative of its hard-working interns. She said Fraser was “outstanding” and became good friends with many of the associates. She added that Fraser’s Washington work ethic paid off for him.

“If you work hard and show that you take initiatives, it’ll be appreciated by all,” McCurtain said.

The experience

Fraser said his experience in Washington didn’t necessarily give him a cynical outlook on the Capitol, but more a guarded respect.

“D.C. can change you in ways you might not necessarily want to be changed,” Fraser said. “If you’re young and impressionable, it could eat you up.”

Fraser describes his political ideology as a “Vermont moderate,” which he said Washington insiders said was really “flaming liberal.” He said the state’s senators, Sanders and Democrat Patrick Leahy, are seen as instigators in some circles and uttering their names was akin to using swear words.

And while the inside politics of Washington sometimes surprised and amused him, Fraser said the experience was incredibly eye opening and a job in the Capitol would be something he would consider after college, but not right away.

“You start to see the human side of legislation down there,” he said. “No matter the side of the (political) aisle (lawmakers) are on, they’re there mostly to do some good.”

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Proposed subdivision riles neighbors on Lefebvre Lane (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

A proposed nine-unit subdivision off North Williston Road is causing headaches for a bordering neighborhood.
Colchester developer Jeff Atwood and North Williston Road homeowners Dana and Brenda Hood have recently applied for a residential development in the town’s medium density residential district.

       


          Observer photo by Tim Simard
Dana Hood stands on the porch of his North Williston Road home. The Hood family home could be moved off the property if Colchester developer Jeff Atwood’s proposed subdivision is permitted by the town.

 

Plans call for four duplex units and one single-family unit to be built along a new cul-de-sac on property owned by Atwood and the Hoods, directly adjacent to the Lefebvre Lane neighborhood.

“We think the project will fit into the overall town plan,” Dana Hood said.
But Lefebvre Lane resident Briant Hamrell disagrees. While he said neither he nor his neighbors are against development, he believes large duplex units would not fit in with nearby single-family homes.

“It’s not keeping in character with what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Hamrell said.
Furthermore, Hamrell said Atwood has not listened to Lefebvre Lane homeowners’ concerns and has tried to “steamroll the whole thing.”

Hamrell questioned some of Atwood’s negotiation tactics, especially in light of past comments from other developers who have looked at the land in the past. Hamrell said he’s heard on a number of occasions the property is “undevelopable,” in part because of wetlands that make up much of the north end of the land.
“It’s not that we don’t want to work with him, it’s that he doesn’t want to negotiate,” Hamrell said.

Atwood, who owns Russ/Wood Decorators Inc. in Colchester, said on the advice of his lawyer he could not comment on the project, but would “talk freely” at a later date.

A pre-application hearing for the planned subdivision is scheduled to take place at the Sept. 9 Development Review Board meeting. Board members are expected to hear from both Atwood and the Hoods, and Hamrell said a large contingent of Lefebvre Lane residents would turn out to voice their concerns.

Richard Asch, a member of the Development Review Board since December 2007 who also lives on Lefebvre Lane and serves as president of the Allen Brook Association, said he could not comment on specifics either. The Allen Brook Association includes the Lefebvre Lane neighborhood and other homeowners in the area of North Williston Road.
Asch did say he would recuse himself during any Development Review Board items involving the Atwood and Hood application, as he said he’d done on previous occasions.
Former Town Planner Lee Nellis was also a resident of Lefebvre Lane, but moved to Wisconsin earlier this month.

Modified plans

This is not the first time the Development Review Board has reviewed a version of this subdivision. Atwood first brought his initial plans as a sole applicant before the Development Review Board in May 2007. Town officials discussed the development before tabling it to another meeting.

Atwood brought a substantially different set of plans to the board’s October 2007 meeting, planning to build only three units on his property. That pre-application was approved, but with a number of conditions in regards to the wetlands.
Atwood again went before the Development Review Board in December 2007, but the hearing was cancelled because the application was deemed “incomplete” by former zoning administrator D.K. Johnston. More information was unavailable as of press time.

Atwood owns 5.4 acres, most of which is set between the residences of Lefebvre Lane and two other parcels, including the Hoods’ land, which abuts North Williston Road. There is a section of Atwood’s property that reaches North Williston Road as well, where he built a duplex in the past year. The current duplex property is separated from the proposed subdivision by the wetlands.

According to Hamrell, Atwood had initially proposed an access road to his planned subdivision by way of Lefebvre Lane, but since the road is private, neighborhood residents rejected the plan.
Atwood then approached the Hoods, who hold 1.8 acres on North Williston Road, with an offer to buy their property. Dana Hood still owns his lot, but that would change if the project is approved, he said. He did not reveal the price for which he would sell the land to Atwood.

The latest plans call for the removal of the Hood house to make way for a paved drive, which would parallel Lefebvre Lane, to access the subdivision.

But by building an entrance through the Hood property, Hamrell believes Atwood is creating another problem at what he calls the already dangerous intersection of Lefebvre Lane and North Williston Road. Hamrell said visibility is not good where the roads meet, and with drivers going too fast, an added road could be a “recipe for disaster.”

The subdivision woes have been a struggle for everyone, including Hood, who said the process has been difficult for him and his young family. But the decision to join with Atwood and sell his property became easier after his home suffered damage in the severe thunderstorms that struck the town on June 10. Two maple trees in front of his house were heavily damaged, with some of the larger branches striking his home and causing nearly $20,000 in damages, Hood said.
Hood said the family loves its current location and house and plans to remain in Williston if the project is approved. He said the town has been his home since 1967.

Hood added if the project does go through, he would like to find someone to help pick up and move his house, which was built in the 1930s but has undergone many renovations, to another plot. He said he’s checked around the Village area for available property, but hasn’t had any luck. If that doesn’t happen, he said he’d have to move to another house, but would perhaps salvage part of the current house.

The Atwood and Hood pre-application will be heard at the 7:30 p.m. Development Review Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 9 in Town Hall.

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Board approves firearms ordinance (Aug. 28, 2008)

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Amended rules permit hunting on town land

Aug. 28, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard last week passed an amended firearms ordinance that opens — for now — town-owned land to hunters.
The board voted 3-1 to pass the altered ordinance. Jeff Fehrs cast the lone no vote.
Restrictions on firearm use north of Interstate 89 in Williston remain under the revised rules. And gun use continues to be allowed in most areas south of I-89.
But the new ordinance contains several small alterations that make it consistent with state statutes and one big change. Firearm use, which was not allowed in town-owned parks and recreation areas under the old rules, is now permitted in those places.
The ordinance allows the town to prohibit firearm usage in specific areas on a case-by-case basis. But the board did not discuss which parks and recreation areas, if any, would be posted.
Hunting advocates were pleased with the changes.
“This is a big win for both the people and wildlife of Williston,” wrote Frank Stanley of the Vermont Traditions Coalition in this week’s Guest Column (page 6).
One resident who lives near one of the areas open to hunting said he still has concerns.
John Colt, who lives on the east side of Brownell Mountain in Williston, said hunting near his relatively isolated home “is not such a big deal.” But he’s worried about those living on the other side of the mountain, where there is a denser concentration of homes.
“Each individual (neighborhood) is going to have to get together and decide whether they want the adjacent land posted,” Colt said.
A few hunting advocates and a state official spoke during the Aug. 18 Selectboard meeting, according to a recording of the session.
Mark Scott of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said the amended ordinance was sensible. But he added that state game wardens will not enforce hunting restrictions on town land.
Carrie Deegan, who recently stepped down as Williston’s environmental planner, said the ordinance was changed so it mirrors state statutes governing things such as distances from homes and roads where guns can be fired. And she noted the Selectboard now has authority to further restrict hunting in specific parks and recreation areas without going through the cumbersome process of amending the ordinance.
“I realize that this doesn’t get you off the hook,” she said. “You still have to decide which ones you’re going to post and which ones you’re not going to post. But what it does is make the system a little more adaptive.”
Fehrs said he was voting against the revised ordinance because of safety concerns.
“I know I’m going to be viewed as anti-hunting,” he said, adding that he in fact supports hunting on some, but not all, town-owned land.
The issue of firearm use was first raised last summer after hunting advocates asked town officials to ease restrictions in the ordinance, which was enacted in 1997.
That initiated an off-and-on debate over the past year among town officials, hunters and residents who live near town-owned land. Hunting advocates argued for keeping public land open for all uses, including hunting. Residents and some board members worried about safety amid the increasing number of homes in the town’s rural areas.
The first proposal clarified the existing ordinance, which was vague on what constituted a public park or recreation area, and opened up those town-owned lands to hunting.
Then, prompted by opposition from residents, another round of revisions suggested by former Selectboard member Andy Mikell banned firearm use on town land.
But those changes were also scuttled amid opposition from hunting advocates and complaints from residents whose families had previously donated land to the town with the understanding that it would remain open for all recreational uses, including hunting.
Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig said Tuesday that there are no plans to immediately post any additional land. Hunting is already prohibited at Mud Pond Conservation Area and one other town-owned parcel due to deed restrictions.
Macaig promised that there would be a chance for the public to comment before any land is posted.
Meanwhile, the hunting season is right around the corner. Periods for bear, waterfowl and small-game hunting begin next month. Deer hunting season starts Nov. 1.

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