July 21, 2019

Visions of Youth10/30/08

Oct. 30, 2008

By Kayla Purvis

Muted votes

Only a small fraction of high school students are old enough to vote in this year’s presidential election, leaving a large number of students unable to take part in making changes.

The truth is that most high school students have opinions; we just can’t act on those opinions in the polling booths. We can voice them, talk about them, share them and even advertise them. We just can’t use them to vote. So, without a vote, do we still care? Should we care?

I say yes. Regardless of whether or not we get to vote in this election, our futures will be led by one of two leaders. Within the next four years, most of us that are in high school now will be either in college or beginning a career. Whoever our president may be is going to affect us no matter what. Our lives within the next four years are going to be impacted by whoever wins this election. That’s why we should care, even without a vote.

Some people who can vote simply don’t. I don’t really know why; I’m sure they have reasons, but my question is why not vote? So many people, like high schoolers, have opinions and know what they want … they just can’t do anything about it. If you’ve got a voice and the opportunity to have that voice make a difference, why not use it?

My history and English classes are combined every day, and the upcoming unit of study will be the election. My teachers realize that students have opinions, we have questions, and we want to be able to share them. Their goal is not only to educate us on some of the major issues, but also to give us a place to share our voices; they’re getting us involved.

Having the chance to vote is possibly the biggest and easiest way to get involved with the election, but those who can’t vote have to find other ways to be involved. I’ve seen some students wearing t-shirts that advocate for one candidate or another. And I’m sure we’ve all seen the signs planted on front lawns. But I think there are better ways than advertising to get involved.

Students should watch the presidential and vice presidential debates. We should also read or watch the interviews with both candidates. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to listen to questions that other people get a chance to ask each nominee, and hear the answers that are given. Chances are that if you have a question about or for one of the candidates, so does someone else.

If you have the chance and the opportunity to vote, you should do so. Because there are many of us who have opinions and have voices but can’t do much with them. We’re at an age where we know what’s going on in the world, and we have ideas and views that we want to be heard.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a sophomore at Champlain Valley Union High School.


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Little Details10/30/08

Oct. 30, 2008

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

We the People

“I don’t even want to vote,” my friend Czesiek muttered under his breath as we passed a poster displaying candidates for Poland’s Parliament. “What’s the point? They’re all Communists. It’ll just be more of the same … corruption, propaganda, lies.”

Welcome to the electoral system of mid-1980s Eastern Europe. As a law student, Czesiek was intimately familiar with the text of the Polish Constitution which, on the surface, appeared a positive testament to citizens’ rights. In reality, it was a mere piece of paper, usurped by police-state tactics.

Had Czesiek “protested” by declining to vote, he might jeopardize his shot at getting a passport for a temporary stint in the West. He had a job lined up for the summer, working as a janitor in Amsterdam. He knew his passport request could be denied by the authorities for any reason, including voting abstention.

From the fuzzy annals of childhood memory, I remember my mom slipping on her shoes and coat after dinner to walk to the polling station down the street from our house. Dad would follow soon after. My parents voted in shifts so as not to leave my sisters and me alone at home at night.

As naturalized American citizens, Mom and Dad came from a communist nation where elections were not free. At least in America, there were distinct choices to be made regarding whether politics was about preserving privilege or creating opportunity for those willing to grasp it.

My parents voted solidly Democratic, believing these candidates would stand up for hard-working people who hoped for something better for their children. Politics was not a philosophical abstract in our family. Politics was about health insurance, fair wages and access to quality education.

Dad, having arrived in America a decade before my mother, cast his first presidential vote for John F. Kennedy, a Catholic from Massachusetts. My father went on to support Johnson, Humphrey, McGovern and Carter. Feeling the stress of taxes on his workingman’s wages, he temporarily jumped ship to become a Reagan Democrat, much to my dismay. As a college student, I measured a candidate’s worth based on his or her commitment to expanding educational opportunity to include students from less affluent families. Dad didn’t quite “get” that the Pell Grant, loans and Work-Study I received somehow made up for the fact he didn’t earn enough money to help me pay for school. We made our “political peace” in 1988, both casting ballots for Mike Dukakis.

Personal politics are often influenced by the families in which we were raised, the education we received and the political conditions we experienced. I was deeply affected by my blue collar roots and inspiring teachers who challenged me to think critically about a candidate’s words and actions. A study-abroad stint in a communist nation solidified my understanding of the importance of protecting civil liberties.

It’s not my place to tell you how to vote. It is my place to encourage you to vote and to vote your conscience. America is mired in an unceasing war on multiple fronts. Our financial system, as evidenced by the collective price we’re paying for unfettered greed and compromised regulation, teeters in uncertainty. Some folks right here in Williston — our neighbors — are experiencing food insecurity. One hundred jobs have been lost by the closing of Hinesburg’s Saputo Cheese as rumors of layoffs at other employers circulate. Williston witnesses the failure of one of its “big box” stores, collapsing into insolvency while leaving behind a hard-to-fill sarcophagus, a reminder of bloated expectations.

If you find yourself on the fence about whether or not to venture out on Nov. 4, please consider the following:

 If you’ve ever lived as a renter, you were denied voting rights until the mid 19th century.

 If you descend from immigrants, literacy tests were used to discourage naturalized citizens from voting.

 If you are a black man, you were denied voting rights until 1870 and yet, Jim Crow danced a discriminatory jig, conspiring with poll taxes and threats to keep you from the ballot box.

 If you are Asian, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 explicitly denied your ancestors citizenship and, therefore, the right to vote.

 If you are a woman, remember your sisters who endured epithets and imprisonment to earn the privilege to cast their votes in 1920.

 If you live with a disability, polling places were not required to provide accessibility until the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Wherever you may fall on the political continuum, get up, get out and vote. It really does matter. We the People so desperately need a new lease on American life.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at editor@willistonobserver.com or LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com.


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Oct. 30, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Holiday shopping season it is not, but sales have come early to Williston this year as one of the town’s largest retail stores is going out of business.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Shoppers leave Linens ‘n Things in Maple Tree Place. The store is in the midst of a going out of business sale.

Linens ‘n Things, a nationwide home goods retailer with a location in Maple Tree Place, is going out of business and currently having a massive liquidation sale.

The store sells merchandise for bed, bath, kitchen and home décor.

Richard Kaye, executive vice president with Hilco Merchants Resources, a member of a joint venture group that purchased the company’s assets, said Linens ‘n Things had been having financial difficulties for some time. Stores that were considered “underperforming” had been closed to consolidate assets. Kaye said there was a certain point when the company hoped to get rescue financing, but instead had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May.

An auction was held earlier this month to buy Linens Holding Co., the parent company of the home goods retailer based in Clifton, N.J. Kaye said the only bidder was a joint venture group of investors.

“Nobody else showed up at the auction,” Kaye said.

The joint venture group consists of Hilco Merchant Resources, Gordon Brothers Group, Hudson Capital, SB Capital Group LLC, Great American Group LLC and Tiger/Nassi Group. The group purchased $475 million in assets.

The venture group decided to sell off all inventory and the sale will be finished once every piece of merchandise and equipment is sold, Kaye said. Each Linens ‘n Things will close on its own once inventory is sold and employees will then be laid off, Kaye added.

Kaye expects the Williston sale to last six to 12 weeks, but perhaps closer to six weeks since the holiday shopping season is approaching. Currently, all items are on sale between 10 percent and 30 percent off. Kaye said there were no definite plans to reduce prices further and a price reduction is monitored on a daily basis. Kaye urged shoppers to come in early to get what they need before it sells out.

“From the consumer standpoint, it’s always better to come in earlier,” Kaye said.

Richard Golder, property manager for Maple Tree Place, said he did not know if there was any business interested in leasing the space. A message to the Inland Real Estate Group’s leasing office, which runs the Taft Corners shopping mall, was not returned in time for press deadline.

Kaye said the group would still own the brand name of Linens ‘n Things and would not rule out a future return of the company.

“If history repeats itself, the Linens ‘n Things brand could be back,” Kaye said.


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Oct. 30, 2008

A profile of Vermont House candidate Shelley Palmer published in the Oct. 16 edition of the Observer (“House A profile of Vermont House candidate Shelley Palmer published in the Oct. 16 edition of the Observer (“House candidates outline positions: Palmer critiques business as usual”) stated the wrong year for his simple assault conviction. He was convicted in 1997.


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Plant a Row wraps up for the season10/30/08

Need for food assistance continues to grow

Oct. 30, 2008

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Participating in the Observer’s Plant a Row for the Hungry Program for the first time, one Williston resident used the experience to teach her children about hunger in the community.


    Courtesy photo by Meghan Cope
Sisters Eva, 7, and Lia Cote, 5, work in the family’s vegetable garden in July. The girls and their mother, Meghan Cope, participated in the Observer’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program for the first time this year.

Meghan Cope said her two daughters, ages 5 and 7, helped her plant the family’s vegetable garden. Once the veggies started to grow, the girls — Eva and Lia Cote — helped pick the lettuce, beans, zucchini, herbs, carrots, tomatoes and other crops and bring the vegetables to the Observer office each week.

“We talked about what we were doing and why,” Cope said.

Part of a national program created by the Garden Writers Association, Williston’s Plant a Row for the Hungry effort recently came to an end for the season. Each week starting at the beginning of the summer, residents brought pounds upon pounds of produce to the Observer office, which volunteers then drove to the Hinesburg Food Shelf every Friday morning.

Having moved to Williston from Essex in January, it was Cope’s first time participating in Plant a Row.

“Food is expensive, and it’s hard for families to be able to afford fresh vegetables,” Cope said she taught her daughters. “We grew because we had extra space, and it was easy for us to do and we wanted to support other families in the community.”

Not that residents needed to grow food to take part in Plant a Row.

“I learned about it from the Observer, read a little thing in the paper,” said Sue Scheer, who drove veggies to the food shelf each Friday in September. “I thought, ‘This is something I’d like to get involved with.’ I wasn’t in a position to plant or grow vegetables, but I could drive them somewhere.”

Participating for the first time this year, Scheer said just dropping off food served as an eye-opening experience — one that she wanted to share with her 7-year-old daughter. Though she never managed to take the girl out of school for a trip to the food shelf, Scheer believes such a visit would serve as a fantastic way to show kids that local families truly need help.

“Every time I went in there was lots of activity, lots of people, either there to receive items or people there working,” Scheer said. “It really broke my heart to see some of the recipients of the food. People that are really down and out, people that really needed help. It was a reality check for me, and wow, what do I want to say, it just opened my eyes.”

For others, who have been involved with Plant a Row for the past three years, the need for food is an ever-present thing, and one that has grown even more consuming in recent months.

“In spring and again in summertime, numbers were up 25 percent both times (over last year),” said Doug Gunnerson, co-director and treasurer of the Hinesburg Food Shelf. “For instance, in July we had 71 families. August went to 80. September went to 90.”

Gunnerson said the food shelf sees two to four new families each week and, with Hinesburg’s Saputo Cheese factory shutting down and leaving dozens of workers unemployed after last month’s fire, more calls are coming in. The food shelf serves residents in Hinesburg, Charlotte, Huntington, Starksboro, St. George and Williston.

“With fuel prices going up, people have to make tough choices,” Gunnerson said. “You have to pay the fuel bill, utilities, and there’s not much left to put food on the table.”

The Observer’s Plant a Row program collected 1,227 pounds of produce in 2008, good for roughly 998 meals. The total fell short of the Observer’s goal of 2,750 pounds, but not for lack of caring.

“I’m not a gardener, but I think this is such a great community project, and I’m happy to be needed to do the driving,” said Jan Randy, who delivered food at the end of July and through most of August.

A large portion of the food came from the Master Gardeners plot in the Williston Community garden. The Master Gardeners, a volunteer group that promotes successful and environmentally friendly gardening, have contributed to the Observer’s Plant a Row program since its inception.

This year, the Master Gardeners dropped off weekly harvests of string beans, tomatoes, potatoes and other veggies. With the garden recently tilled, the group is already looking ahead to the next growing season.

“We’re already making plans for next year, what we’re going to grow,” said June Jones, a Master Gardener.

Jones said the group has already picked up seeds for blight resistant tomatoes in next year’s garden.

The need for food, almost certainly, will remain next summer. In addition to the Hinesburg Food Shelf, the new Williston Food Shelf moved into Maple Tree Place earlier this month, and will also benefit from Plant a Row.

In past years the Observer has held a small get together to thank volunteers and donors. This year, however, the Observer will send thank you notes to those who participated and donate $100 to the Williston Food Shelf.

The Hinesburg Food Shelf is located in the Hinesburg United Church and open from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday mornings. Food recipients are asked to come once a month. The Williston Food Shelf opens Nov. 1 in Maple Tree Place above Belle’s Café. It is scheduled to be open on Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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Home sharing a viable cost reducer10/30/08

Oct. 30, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A troubled economy, high fuel costs and the possibility of a hard winter have Vermonters looking at different ways to make a potentially painful season much less difficult.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
HomeShare Vermont participants Al Kupiec (left), Mark Mueller (second from left) and Morgan MacKenzie (right) listen as Gov. Jim Douglas speaks about the program, which pairs homeowners with people seeking affordable housing options. An Oct. 15 press conference at Kupiec’s home in Williston highlighted the program as a way for Vermonters to deal with rising food and fuel costs this winter.

Williston homeowner Al Kupiec has been taking a unique approach for more than 10 years. Kupiec has been involved with HomeShare Vermont, an organization that matches homeowners with people seeking affordable housing options.

Kupiec, a semi-retired real estate broker, has lived in his Hickory Hill neighborhood home for 42 years. After his wife died in the mid-1990s, Kupiec wanted to stay in his house. He joined HomeShare Vermont in 1996, and his first match lived with him for several years.

Now Kupiec shares his home with Mark Mueller, an employee at AirTran in South Burlington. Both say it’s a good situation.

“I’d just hate to leave here,” Kupiec said. “It’s good to talk to someone after I’ve been alone for a while.”

Mueller transferred for work from his home in St. Louis. The idea of home sharing worked for Mueller because he was looking for affordable housing and “companionship,” since his wife and family remain in Missouri. He pays Kupiec $350 a month for expenses.

“It’s so much better than living in a motel,” Mueller said.

Morgan MacKenzie home shares in Hardwick with her 88-year-old housemate, Peggy Dutton. Admitting she was “picky” in her selection of houses and roommates to move in with, she’s happy Dutton has become a trusted friend and a new member of the family.

“It makes so much sense, I don’t know why more people aren’t doing this,” MacKenzie said.

Mueller, Kupiec and MacKenzie talked about their living situations at Kupiec’s home during a visit from Gov. Jim Douglas, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, state Sen. Diane Snelling and members of the HomeShare Vermont organization. Douglas spoke at length about the necessities of programs such as HomeShare for Vermonters, especially in light of what he said would be a “challenging winter.”

“It’s a concept that can make a difference in the lives of many people,” Douglas said.

Kirby Dunn, executive director for HomeShare Vermont, said the interest in home sharing has risen dramatically over the past year. Dubie also highlighted the increase.

“The calls for people exploring HomeShare are up 57 percent,” Dubie said. “It shows there’s a need out there.”

Dunn, whose organization serves the Champlain Valley, said it is aimed at Vermonters who need financial help to stay in their homes, as well as people interested in saving money on housing and perhaps making a difference in someone’s life.

“Our job is to find that right person, right fit,” Dunn said, adding she’s worked for more than 25 years matching interested parties.

Dunn said the matching process is an involved one, but is necessary to protect individuals. Home share partners must meet each other well ahead of time and both parties have to agree to the situation. The housemates spend a two-week trial together before deciding whether the match will work.

Dunn said the organization also does five different background checks on everyone involved, and makes regular check-ins at homes.

Betsy Reid, director of HomeShare of Central Vermont, said the involved process shouldn’t turn people away from the idea. She said, as a whole, there are more home seekers than home providers available.

“The more home providers and more home seekers we have, the better matches we get,” Reid said.

Dunn added there is no age or income restrictions, and the organization has helped people ranging from teens to residents in their 90s. Collectively, both HomeShare Vermont organizations have made nearly 100 pairings this year.

Kupiec and Mueller said home sharing has created an easy living situation. Kupiec joked that while he and Mueller’s differing political views can create lively discussions, he’s been able to get Mueller to start rooting for the Red Sox. Mueller said he still roots for his native Cardinals when they’re on television, but has newfound appreciation for the Boston team thanks to his housemate.

“It’s all in good fun,” Mueller said with a laugh.


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Huge turnout expected on Election Day10/30/08

Ballot filled with national, state races

Oct. 30, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A high-profile national race and a long list of candidates will likely draw a record turnout on Election Day.

The presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama, of course, is the main attraction in the Nov. 4 vote. But the ballot also includes contests for statewide offices ranging from governor to auditor, as well as two key local races.

Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett expects an unprecedented turnout due to the presidential race. The town had 7,219 registered voters as of Oct. 17, an all-time high and up by more than 300 since Town Meeting Day in March.

Beckett has added poll workers and expects to have about 15 people working each shift on Election Day.

A large number of early voters, however, will help avoid an overwhelming crowd at the polls, Beckett said. The number of ballots cast in advance could exceed 2,000.

In local races, four Vermont House candidates are seeking to represent Williston, and 14 candidates are vying for Chittenden County’s six seats in the state Senate.

In the House race, incumbent Democrat Jim McCullough is joined on the ballot by fellow Democrat Terry Macaig and Republicans Shelley Palmer and Brennan Duffy. The top two vote-getters win the right to represent Williston in the 150-member House.

McCullough, co-owner of Catamount Outdoor Family Center, is seeking his fourth two-year term. He won the second-highest number of votes in the 2006 election, finishing just behind Mary Peterson, who decided not to run for re-election this year.

Macaig, a lobbyist and administrator with the Vermont State Employees Association, and Palmer, an equipment operator for a local paving company, are making their second run for the House. Macaig ran unsuccessfully in 2000; Palmer came up short in 2004.

Duffy is director of recruitment for the Vermont Department of Economic Development. He is seeking his first elected office.

Both Duffy and Macaig have promised to cut back on their current job duties if elected to avoid conflicts of interest. Macaig has said he will no longer serve as a lobbyist for the employees’ union. Duffy said he will not work for the Department of Economic Development when the Legislature is in session.

In the Senate races, voters will see a lengthy list of candidates and many unfamiliar names. Six Democrats, six Republicans, an independent and a minor-party candidate are on the ballot.

Incumbents have usually held their seats in the past few elections, including Ginny Lyons of Williston, who was first elected in 2002.

Information on the Senate candidates’ is available at the Observer’s Web site, willistonobserver.com. Profiles of each of the House candidates are also available by going to the archive section of the site.

Also on the Williston ballot is an item that asks voters to approve two changes to the town charter.

One change shifts the zoning administrator from a three-year, appointed position to a hired, at-will employee. The change was prompted by a controversy over former zoning administrator D.K. Johnston, who resigned only after his term ended when he was charged with stalking and disturbing the peace in an incident involving a real estate agent who sold him a condominium.

The other change involves contracts with solid waste companies. Such agreements are now governed by state law, which says towns “may” enter into agreements. Town officials, however, assert that such language puts Williston at a disadvantage when negotiating agreements with the town’s three solid waste companies. So the town charter would say the companies “shall” enter into contracts.

Election Q&A

When and where does voting take place?

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voting on Nov. 4 takes place at the Williston Armory next to Town Hall.

Where do I park?

You can park behind Town Hall, where there are approximately 70 spaces. Almost all spots will be reserved for voters. Town Clerk Deb Beckett said she hopes to have someone direct cars into and out of the lot, which was at times chaotic during voting last March.

When is the deadline to register?

The last day to register to vote was Wednesday, Oct. 29. If you registered but your name does not appear on the checklist, you will be allowed to vote if you fill out an affidavit attesting that you did in fact register, said Beckett.

I’m busy on Nov. 4. How can I vote?

Ballots can be cast any time between now and Election Day. Ballots can be picked up at Williston Town Hall during normal business hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. People with disabilities can have ballots delivered by calling 878-5121 before noon on Nov. 3.

I don’t want to vote in some races because I don’t know or like any of the candidates. Will my ballot still count?

“Absolutely,” said Beckett. Ballots with no selections in some races are common and will in no way invalidate the votes you do cast.

On the ballot

President and Vice President

John McCain and Sarah Palin (R)

Barack Obama and Joe Biden (D)

U.S. Representative

Thomas James Hermann (P)

Peter Welch (D)


Jim Douglas (R)

Anthony Pollina (I)

Gaye Symington (D)

Lieutenant Governor

Thomas Costello (D)

Brian Dubie (R)

Richard Kemp (P)

State Treasurer

Don Schramm (P)

Jeb Spaulding (D, R)

Secretary of State

Eugene Bifano (R)

Deb Markowitz (D)

Marjorie Power (P)

Auditor of Accounts

Martha Abbott (P)

Thomas Salmon (D, R)

Attorney General

Charlotte Dennett (P)

Karen Kerin (R)

William Sorrell (D)

State Senator

Darren Adams (R)

Tim Ashe (D)

Denise Barnard (D)

Dennis Benard (R)

Agnes Clift (R)

Ed Flanagan (D)

Ginny Lyons (D)

Hinda Miller (D)

Robyn Myers-Moore (R)

Doug Racine (D)

Diane Snelling (R)

Paula Spadaccini (R)

State Representative

Brennan Duffy (R)

Terry Macaig (D)

Jim McCullough (D)

Shelly Palmer (R)


Note: Independent and minor-party candidates and those running uncontested are not included in this list. Due to the large number of names, candidates for justice of the peace were also omitted.


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House candidates argue the issues10/30/08

Forum features contentious debate

Oct. 30, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Candidates fielded questions and traded jabs during a sometimes heated debate held Monday night at Williston Central School.


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Candidates for the Vermont House of Representatives — (from left) Democrat Terry Macaig, Republican Shelley Palmer and Democrat Jim McCullough — appear at a Williston-Richmond Rotary forum at Williston Central School on Monday night. Republican Brennan Duffy also took part in a portion of the forum.

The event, sponsored by the Williston-Richmond Rotary, featured the four candidates seeking two seats representing Williston in the Vermont House: Democrats Jim McCullough and Terry Macaig and Republicans Shelley Palmer and Brennan Duffy.

The debate covered issues ranging from education funding to prison overcrowding. Questions were posed by moderator Mike Coates and members of the small audience during a freewheeling, 75-minute discussion that also allowed interaction among the candidates.

Some of that interaction involved attacks on McCullough — and barbed responses by the incumbent.

Duffy, who missed the first hour of the debate because he was attending a charity event, asked McCullough to explain his published statement that he would not vote for Jim Douglas if the governor fails to get 50 percent of the popular vote and the race is decided by the Legislature. Duffy said Williston voters favored Douglas by a large margin in the past two elections.


    Observer photo by Greg Elias
Brennan Duffy, Republican candidate for the House, participates in a Williston-Richmond Rotary forum.

“I really felt that being a representative — not that you represented the wishes of your constituents — how do you justify saying you would never vote for somebody who obviously had much more of the popular vote in the town you represent?” Duffy asked.

McCullough said he couldn’t support Douglas after six years of “working for” the governor, and then he pointed to Duffy’s political inexperience.

“You’re new to politics,” he said. “I could give you some advice of politics: Always let people know where you stand instead of giving the doublespeak.”

Another question about a campaign flyer recently sent by the Vermont Republican State Committee to Williston residents provoked more rancor.

The flyer asserted that McCullough’s votes on issues impacting business are “dragging our economy down” and claimed Macaig “supports the same failed agenda.” The flyer was based on a low rating McCullough received from the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

Palmer, who has also run advertisements in the Observer critical of McCullough, said he had no advance notice of the flyers. But he said pointing out a candidate’s voting record was perfectly legitimate.

“It’s fair game,” Palmer said. “It’s part of the political arena.”

McCullough hit back, calling the flyer a “Swift Boat” attack.

“It’s an embarrassment to Republican candidates that the state Republican Party would do this,” McCullough said, adding that the ratings were based in part on amendments to bills unpopular with both parties. He said the amendments were crafted so votes could later be deployed as political weapons against Democrats.

Macaig said his name was misspelled two different ways in the flyer and noted that no one asked him his views before he was linked with McCullough.

One question touched on funding for the Department of Corrections and crowded prisons.

McCullough and Macaig said dealing with overcrowding by sending inmates to out-of-state facilities was the wrong approach.

“When they come back they have learned good skills from people who are not necessarily good people,” Macaig said.

Instead of sending more people to prison, Macaig said, the state should concentrate on providing enough programs and case workers so released prisoners do not re-offend.

On education spending, Palmer said with costs now exceeding $13,000 per student and scores on standardized tests mediocre, something has to change, although he admitted he had no solutions.

“Right now I think we are spending almost more than we can bear,” Palmer said. “And we’re not getting extraordinary results for the extraordinary amount of money we are spending.”

Palmer and Macaig agreed that Vermont’s public school system was so expensive in part because of the large number of school districts. Yet Macaig said residents’ desire for local control stymies consolidation.

A question about municipal property appraisals that have resulted in a shift of the tax burden from businesses to residents prompted a discussion of the economy.

Duffy noted that Williston lost a high-tech employer last year when Qimonda moved its facility to North Carolina. He said permitting needed to be streamlined to ensure other businesses stay here.

“Actually, the town went out of its way to rezone” property Qimonda needed for a larger facility, Macaig responded.

Duffy acknowledged that the permitting process may not have been a factor in the company’s move. But he said the state needs to do more to retain businesses.

“If we don’t have employers, we don’t have jobs,” he said. “Then we’ll see what happens to property taxes.”


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Redhawks flying high after field hockey championship10/30/08

Oct. 30, 2008

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Coach Kate McDonald and her Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team went into the heat of a Division 1 championship contest on Saturday … and played like it was just another day at the office.

Or in the oven. The Little Muffins, as McDonald often calls her team, rose to the occasion like a brilliant French soufflé in scoring an emphatic 3-0 victory over top-seeded and previously undefeated Hartford High (15-1-1) at the University of Vermont’s Moulton-Winder Field.

Not wind, not rain, not title game pressure could keep the Redhawks from this crown, the first Division 1 field hockey hardware in the school’s history.

CVU’s only other field hockey title came in 1998, when the school played a Division 2 schedule and was also coached by McDonald.

While complimentary of Division 2, McDonald admitted, “There is something about Division 1. This is incredible.”

Her team’s performance was solidly incredible in all phases of the game.

In goal, junior Elizabeth Goddette stopped six Hartford shots in recording the (12-2-3) Redhawks’ 10th shutout of the season.

Offensively, CVU got goals from Emmaleigh Loyer, Katie Longshore and Louise Gibbs, the fifth time it has scored three or more times in a contest.


    Observer photo by Karen Pike
Champlain Valley Union High field hockey player Kelsey Jensen (22) goes up against Hartford’s Ashley Brown (5) during the first half of the Division 1 Championship on Saturday.

Loyer’s score, assisted by Kelsey Jensen, came with a little more than 12 minutes gone in the first half and turned what until then had been a tentative CVU performance into the more dominating effort that would take it through the remainder of the game.

The first minutes had McDonald a little concerned. She noted the team had experience on the UVM turf and felt good about its chances going in.

“Once the time comes and the whistle blows, there is some anxiety there,” she added.

Loyer told reporters that once the first goal went in, “we kicked it up a notch.”

And that notch paid off about three minutes later when Longshore, always a presence around the cage, popped in the Redhawks’ second score off a penalty corner. It was the senior shot maker’s 12th tally of the campaign.

Sophomore Gibbs iced the game with a little more than three minutes left in the second half, rushing in off the right side and firing a clean shot past the Hurricanes’ net minder, Emily Glick.

It was perfect timing for Gibbs’ second pointer of the year.

Helping to keep Hartford off its game were Jensen with her usual FedEx long range delivery whacks of the ball up the field, plus defender Kathryn Powell and others who made life difficult for Hurricanes attempting to get in close for shots at Goddette.

Hartford coach Heather Scudder praised the Redhawks’ hard running game, adding that all three scores “were good goals. It was their day.”

The tone for the successful crowning appearance was set a week ago Tuesday when the Redhawks knocked out Middlebury Union 2-0 in a semifinal to make up for a disheartening, 1-0 double overtime semifinal defeat last year in Middlebury.

Saturday’s game was the high school career finale for seniors Lucy Barrett, Kelsey Gagnon, Anne Bertolet, Danielle Michael and Longshore.

And rooting hard for the team and joining on-field celebrations was junior KK Logan, who fired in five goals in the season’s first seven games before a knee injury ended her playing time.


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Two men dead in apparent murder-suicide10/30/08

Oct. 30, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

What police are calling Williston’s first murder in nearly 20 years occurred over the weekend at a home on Isham Circle.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Two men were killed in this Isham Circle home early Sunday morning in what police are calling a murder-suicide. 

Police say Michael Putnam, 55, of Waterbury shot his estranged wife’s boyfriend, Gary Smith, 59, of Shelburne before turning the gun on himself.

Putnam forcibly entered the house at 279 Isham Circle shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday by throwing a rock through a back patio window, said Bart Chamberlain, Williston’s acting police chief.

Once inside, police say, Putnam walked upstairs to the master bedroom and confronted Smith with a handgun. Putman’s wife, Louise O’Hare, escaped with one of her three children before shots were fired. The children, who are not Putnam’s biological kin, are between the ages of 9 and 16.

State Police Lt. Brian Miller, who is handling the investigation, said there were “some comments” between Putnam and his wife before the shooting.

According to Miller, Putnam shot Smith four times before turning the gun on himself. It was after the shooting that police received a 911 call from O’Hare at a neighbor’s residence. A 911 call was also received from inside the house by one of the children, Chamberlain said.

Williston Police responded to the home soon after the call went out. Because initial details were sketchy, police officers evacuated nearby homes. Along with Williston Police, tactical units from the Vermont State Police came to assistance, as did officers from the Essex, South Burlington and Richmond Police departments.

“We didn’t exactly know what was going to happen, what we would find,” Chamberlain said of the need for extra assistance.

After making sure the other two children escaped the house, police entered the bedroom to find both men deceased.

Putnam and O’Hare had been married for 18 months and living in Williston before Putnam moved to an apartment in Waterbury one month ago, according to police. Chamberlain said police had never been called to the home before and the family was “new to us.”

Miller said it was unclear whether Putnam and Smith had known each other prior to the incident. Miller said Smith had a separate apartment in Shelburne, but had been staying over in Williston recently.

“You can speculate (Putnam) knew there was another man in the picture,” Miller said.

Putnam also left suicide notes to family and friends at the Isham Circle house, where three notes were found, and his apartment in Waterbury. Miller declined to give further details, only saying the notes corroborated the incident was a murder-suicide.

Miller also said there was nothing in Putnam’s past to indicate he was capable of murder. He did say there was a past assault conviction on Putnam’s record from more than 30 years ago in New Hampshire.

According to Chamberlain and Miller, Putnam was not registered as having a gun and police are trying to determine where he obtained the firearm.

Several neighbors who were contacted by the Observer declined to comment on the shootings.

Chamberlain said the last murder in Williston happened around 1989. Incidentally, it was a murder-suicide. A husband murdered his wife in the IBM parking lot before turning the gun on himself.

Miller said the current investigation is not complete, adding police were awaiting the results of a forensics test.

HED: Schools react to shooting

Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli e-mailed parents on Monday, informing them, “The Williston School District Crisis Team from (Allen Brook and Williston Central Schools) met on Monday morning along with representatives from First Call to prepare for student responses that might occur as a result of the murder/suicide in Williston.”

In the e-mail, Nardelli said staff went through guidelines for how to respond to student questions and concerns, as well as monitor student behavior. The principal said school counselors were available to help students and teachers.

“Our Crisis Team recommends to parents that you listen and validate your child’s feelings related to this incident, answer questions based on factual information that has been released through the news media and closely monitor for any behavior changes,” Nardelli wrote, urging parents to contact a student’s guidance counselor with questions or concerns.

— Greg Duggan, Observer staff


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