June 23, 2018

Mobile vote boosts turnout10/23/08

Early balloting expected to set record

Oct. 23, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

A first-ever mobile voting drive conducted last week gathered scores of ballots from Williston seniors.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett and other local election officials visited Eagle Crest Senior Housing, Falcon Manor Senior Housing, Taft Farms Senior Living Community and Whitney Hill Homestead over a four-day period. A tabletop voting “booth” was set up for a few hours at each housing complex.

A total of 85 ballots were cast and 14 residents registered to vote, said Beckett.

The effort was “absolutely” worthwhile, she said, noting that a significant proportion of residents at each location cast ballots. At Whitney Hill, for example, 20 of the 41 residents voted.

It was all part of a statewide mobile voting effort taking place this election. Williston was one of about 20 municipalities participating in the new program.

The idea of reaching out to voters who might have a hard time getting to the polls or obtaining an absentee ballot was discussed during a brainstorming session last year attended by Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, town clerks and advocates for people with disabilities. Markowitz concluded that mobile voting for seniors was the most practical way to increase voter participation.

Mobile voting will provide a small boost to what is expected to be a record number of ballots cast in advance of the Nov. 4 election in Williston.

Beckett said the previous record for early voting was about 1,200 to 1,300 ballots. As of Friday, 1,020 ballots had been cast, said Beckett. She said the total number of votes cast before Election Day could top 2,000.

Total turnout is also expected to set records, both locally and nationally. Williston had 7,219 registered voters as of Friday, an all-time high.


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Meet the candidates: Six Republicans vying for Senate10/23/08

Oct. 23, 2008

The Republican Party has fielded six candidates to run for Chittenden County’s six seats in the Vermont Senate. The Observer provided each candidate with a brief questionnaire, and responses appear below. Republican Dennis Bedard of South Burlington did not return his questionnaire by press deadline.

Fourteen candidates have come forth to vie for the Chittenden County Senate seats. In addition to the Republicans, the field includes six Democrats and two third party candidates. Their responses appeared in last week’s paper. Election Day is Nov. 4.

Darren Adams

Town of residence: Milton

Age: 33

Profession: Command post controller, Vermont Air National Guard

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 28 years

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue? Affordability is clearly the biggest issue; everything is more expensive, from fuel to taxes, and people cannot keep up anymore. If elected I will do everything I can to bring new business and expand existing business to provide higher paying jobs to the area. Much of this can be done simply by reforming our current regulatory/permit process, which is currently a disaster to small, local businesses that want to expand or locate in the area.

No matter what your views are, Chittenden County must first be a safe and affordable place to raise a family! Montpelier needs a voice from people like you and me who live or are close to living paycheck to paycheck before it can change.

Agnes Clift

City of residence: South Burlington

Age: 53

Profession: Employed by Gardener’s Supply Company, part-time seasonal. B.S. in Horticulture from Purdue University.

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 30 years

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue? Chittenden County will bear the brunt of Vermont’s budget shortfalls. Vermont relies heavily on revenues from Chittenden County. Expenses will be shifted to local communities.

I will help realign budget priorities and hold taxes down by bringing questions like these to Montpelier and demanding answers. Can we reduce spending on superfluous studies? CVU’s wood furnace project was exemplary, but cumulatively these expensive projects have placed Vermont under a tremendous debt; why not provide energy audits and cost-effective conservation projects for schools instead? Does recently expanded preschool funding consume money needed for K-12 programs? How much does Vermont funnel into private entities for non-essential services?

I will find ways to provide opportunities for Vermonters, especially our youth, by encouraging economic development with sensitivity for the environment.

Robyn Myers Moore

Town of residence: Essex Junction

Age: 40

Profession: Senior financial analyst at IBM

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 30 years

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue? The most important issue facing Chittenden County is the extremely unfriendly business climate. We need businesses that offer jobs with good salaries and benefits. The legislature should be reviewing all policies that affect businesses to make sure those practices aren’t driving businesses away or discouraging people from starting new businesses in Chittenden County. The permitting process, the impact of a statewide property tax to fund education, road improvements such as the Circumferential Highway, etc. all need to be addressed to keep the business community in Chittenden County vital.

Diane B. Snelling

Town of residence: Hinesburg

Age: 56

Profession: Artist, creative consultant, state senator

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 55 years

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue? Chittenden County and Vermont are facing severe economic uncertainty like the rest of the country. There aren’t any easy answers, but we must maintain necessary services. Citizens are already struggling and can’t afford more taxes.

If I am re-elected I will continue to work hard on behalf of all Vermonters by making difficult decisions that help protect the long-term health of the state. As a member of Senate Appropriations, I understand there are many competing needs for a limited amount of dollars and that every choice to cut programs affects many people. As your senator, I believe it’s my job to work collaboratively, and I’m proud of my record for focusing on issues, and for crafting non-partisan solutions.

Paula Spadaccini

Town of residence: Charlotte

Age: 67

Profession: Co-owner of Spadaccini Construction with my husband Jim, and I work part-time at the Shelburne Museum

Number of years living in Chittenden County: 36 years

What is the most important issue facing Chittenden County? If elected, how will you address that issue? There are many issues facing Chittenden County in the coming years: Managed growth, housing that everyone can afford, attracting clean and environmentally safe businesses and crime prevention.

At this time, crime prevention has to come to the top of my list. People who drive drunk should be incarcerated. No more then one warning and a fine. After that, severe punishment should be mandated. These people just keep on violating the law and possibly injuring innocent people. The law should change throughout the state of Vermont, making drunk driving a criminal offense and jail time a must. Police must have the ability and resources to keep our streets and roadw


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House hopefuls detail positions10/23/08

Duffy seeks first-ever elected office

Oct. 23, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Brennan Duffy has seen firsthand the challenges facing Vermont’s economy. Now he hopes to use that experience in the state Legislature.

Duffy, who is director of recruitment for the Vermont Department of Economic Development, is one of four candidates seeking the two seats representing Williston in the Vermont House. The other candidates are Republican Shelley Palmer and Democrats Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough.

It is Duffy’s first run for elected office. He said he was motivated by the problems he sees in his job of attracting employers to Vermont.

A self-described moderate Republican, Duffy’s views echo those of Gov. Jim Douglas. He wants to create a more welcoming business climate, supports stricter penalties for sex offenders and believes the state government should consider cuts to deal with the economic downturn and budget shortfalls.

“In these tough economic times that we are facing right now, I think we really do need to tighten our belts across the board and prioritize projects and programs that are of key importance,” he said.

But Duffy then softened that stance, adding the cuts should be carefully targeted so programs that serve the state’s most vulnerable residents or those that produce revenue are spared.

Duffy, 36, was born in Bethesda, Md. but moved to Vermont when he was just 1. He grew up in Hinesburg and attended Champlain Valley Union High School.

He majored in political science at the University of Vermont and later received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island.

Duffy lived in California for several years, working as an insurance salesman and in other jobs. After moving back to Vermont, he and his father, Leonard, founded a company called Over the Edge Products LLC. The company’s flagship product is a cookbook holder that hooks over the edge of kitchen cabinets.

Duffy and his wife, Brooke, have a 2-year-old daughter. They have lived in Williston since 2002.

Given his background, Duffy not surprisingly sees economic development as the key issue facing Vermont. He said the first thing the Legislature should do next session is address the economy.

“I really think growing Vermont’s economy right now is the most important to the state, both short and long term,” he said. “Trying to create better jobs in the state, trying to keep our employers here in the state and trying to make Vermont more business friendly so that we can attract new companies and so we can help our companies grow.”

On the much-debated topic of penalties for sex offenders, Duffy supports the mandatory minimum sentences proposed by Douglas and other Republicans.

“I don’t know if 25 years is the magic number or not,” he said. “But I certainly support a very stiff mandatory sentence. Especially if there was a repeat offender situation.”

On problems with the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Duffy said the facility should continue to operate as long as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission deems it safe. If so, he said the plant should not be decommissioned in 2012.

“Our employers like IBM rely on that energy, so we need to do everything we can to keep a source of clean, reliable energy in the state,” he said.

Duffy thinks limits on school spending are needed, although he is unsure on specifics.

“I think we really need to take a hard look at the education system as a whole in the state of Vermont,” he said. “With enrollment declining, there has to at least be a hard look at containing costs.”

Duffy said one way to reduce education expenses is to consolidate school districts, but acknowledged that proposal may be unpopular. He also suggested teacher contracts are too generous given the sagging economy.

“I have utmost respect for teachers, but I think at some point they have to be, like the rest of us as private citizens, dependent on the economic climate we are in,” he said.

Duffy said he is a “fan of limited government” and so wishes the state would return some control over budgets to local school boards. But on the other hand he likes the new, state-mandated two-vote rule that requires separate votes for school budgets that increase more than a preset amount.

On transportation, Duffy wants the state to spend wisely and fix the roads and bridges in poorest shape.

“I would first prioritize the infrastructure needs we have,” he said. “What are the most pressing? If we have bridges that are falling into rivers that would probably be important.”

Duffy is unsure if issuing long-term bonds is the solution to the overwhelming number of overdue road and bridge repairs.

“I do think by perhaps being a little more frugal there is a way to get by with the money we have now,” he said, adding that spending a little on ongoing maintenance now could produce big savings in the future.

Duffy said his education and employment background give him insight into economic issues often lacking in what he calls an “out of touch” Legislature.

“I am positive we can do better here in Vermont,” he said. “I’m going to be the voice for the Williston worker. I understand the issue of economic development and I want to continue to grow the state’s economy.”


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House hopefuls detail positions10/23/08

McCullough seeks fourth term

Oct. 23, 2008

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

Jim McCullough was hardly a traditional conservative before switching to the Democratic Party in 2002. So it is perhaps unsurprising that he generally sides with his adopted party.

A three-term incumbent in the Vermont House, McCullough voted with the Democratic majority on most legislation during the past session, a review of his record shows. Though McCullough bridles at the liberal label — he asserts he has represented all voters regardless of their party affiliation — it seems to fit most of his positions.

McCullough is one of four candidates seeking Williston’s two House seats in this election. The others are Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig, also a Democrat, and Republicans Shelley Palmer and Brennan Duffy.

As a small businessman and an ardent environmentalist, McCullough said he can navigate the frequently conflicting demands of those worried about the state’s threadbare economy and those who want to protect Vermont’s pristine environment.

“I’m a voice for business, landowners and the environment,” he said. “Vermont is inextricably mixed with those three major ingredients that we need to protect and grow. So I think that’s what I bring to the table, an ability to do all of those things.”

McCullough, 63, has perhaps the most recognizable name and face in Williston. A towering man with an Abe Lincoln beard and folksy manner, McCullough is widely known through his business, Catamount Outdoor Family Center, and from his involvement in numerous civic activities. He and his wife, Lucy, have three grown children, including Abbie Bowker, an art teacher at Champlain Valley Union High School.

McCullough was a lifelong Republican until he switched parties six years ago when he ran for his first term in the Legislature. He said at the time that he was disgusted by the party’s rightward drift under President Bush.

But even before that, McCullough said his family knew he hardly fit the Republican mold.

“Well, my children laughed when I said I was switching parties to be a Democrat. They said, ‘Dad you voted in a Democratic fashion, you walked the Democratic walk for years.’”

But McCullough insisted that “Democrat does not equal liberal.” He said he fits well with a Democratic majority in the Statehouse that is actually relatively conservative. He acknowledged, however, that taking a position also means taking sides.

“If you take anything on a single-issue basis, there is a line in the sand,” he said.

But he asserted that what is good for the environment is also good for business, so a vote for the environment is not an anti-business vote.

In the last biennium, McCullough supported a resolution urging the end of the Iraq war, a bill regulating groundwater use and a measure requiring the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to set aside enough money for decommissioning.

He opposed a law requiring two votes for local school budgets that exceed statewide averages for per-pupil and total spending. McCullough also was against a bill that would have lowered compensation for workers injured on the job.

His record has earned perfect 100 percent ratings by the Vermont League of Conservation Voters, the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the Vermont National Education Association over the past few years.

But Republicans have made an issue of his rating by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, which said McCullough voted for business interests only 14 percent of the time in the past session. Many Democrats earned similarly low ratings.

McCullough disputed the score, claiming that six out of 11 votes he was rated on involved amended legislation that was widely opposed by both Democrats and Republicans.

He spoke passionately about his opposition to the Bush administration and the state and national Republican leadership’s effect on the country and the state of Vermont. He repeatedly linked the policies of President George Bush and Gov. Jim Douglas.

McCullough said the war resolution, criticized by some as a waste of time, was worthwhile — “If we didn’t vote, silence is complicity.”

On issues the Legislature is likely to face next year, McCullough is against mandatory minimum penalties for sex offenders and a state cap on education spending. He supports the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee.

Other states have found the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for sex offenders referred to as Jessica’s Law to be unworkable, McCullough said. Such punishments reduce the chances of striking a plea bargain, he said, and thus force victims to recount the “horrible, gory details of all the horrible, hateful things that have happened to them” during a trial.

Instead, McCullough said he wants to increase funding for special units that investigate sex crimes. He complained that funding to do so was vetoed by Douglas.

As for the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, McCullough favors borrowing money through bonding to fund repairs. He also thinks the state should alter the way it funds transportation needs through the fuel tax. Revenue from the tax has dropped as gas prices increased. So McCullough wants to base the levy on a percentage of sales rather than a set amount per gallon.

McCullough supports decommissioning Vermont Yankee by 2012, even if it means a big increase in energy costs. He said a shift to renewable energy is key to the state’s economic future.

“Vermont is very well positioned right now to explode its renewable energy businesses,” he said. “If we rely on nuclear energy to be our major player … we will fail to grow our renewable energy at the same rate.”

The cost of education in Vermont has continued to rise despite falling enrollment. Some blame teachers, who have negotiated annual pay raises larger than the rate of inflation.

But McCullough said teachers deserve decent pay. He said concern about rising education expenses stems in part from the increasing cost of health care — and envy.

“Right now a lot of the anti-teacher angst is health care driven,” he said. “They’ve got health care, I don’t. I’ve got health care and I pay through the teeth for it and it isn’t nearly as good as theirs.”

He said the solution is to provide health care coverage for all Vermonters.

McCullough argues that unfunded federal mandates like No Child Left Behind and higher fixed costs like heat and maintenance have much to do with rising education expenses.

“The declining (student) population and the escalating requirements are at cross purposes,” he said. “While it’s OK to say, ‘Well, my God there’s less kids there right now but there aren’t less teachers,’ that doesn’t get it done because the requirements are going up.”


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Food Shelf opens in Maple Tree Place10/23/08

Oct. 23, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

The Williston Community Food Shelf will no longer operate out of Jill Lang’s garage.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Boxes of donated food wait to be placed on shelves at the Williston Community Food Shelf’s new location in Maple Tree Place.

The nonprofit organization has found a home at the Maple Tree Place shopping center, and is scheduled to open on Saturday, Nov. 1.

Lang, the president of the Williston Community Food Shelf, is “incredibly happy” to find a stable base of operations and a large space needy families can visit for assistance.

“It’s the biggest food shelf I’ve seen,” Lang said. “And it has such a wonderful view.”

Located on the second floor in the building above the Asian Bistro and Belle’s Café, the food shelf overlooks the Shaw’s parking lot and the Green Mountains. It is accessible to the public by elevator and has plenty of space for food donations.

Bill Parks, vice president of Inland U.S. Management, the Illinois-based company that owns Maple Tree Place, said the space is being donated rent free through early next year. He said the contract would be reevaluated in the spring, and hopes the partnership between the food shelf and Maple Tree Place can be long and successful.

“We firmly believe Maple Tree Place is very much part of the community,” Parks said. “We wanted an opportunity to give back in these economically unfriendly times.”

On Monday morning, boxes of food and water were scattered in the 688 square-foot room. Shelves were piled in a corner, ready to be assembled and filled with items. Lang said the shelves came from a Shaw’s in Bristol that was switching out its units.

Refrigeration units and a freezer are due to be installed in the coming weeks, but might not be up and running for the Nov. 1 opening.

“We might not be able to give out perishables right away,” Lang said.

Lang also said donations continue to pour in, and the food shelf received 4,000 pounds of food on Friday from a charity in Utica, N.Y. The food shelf only had to pay for truck rental and fuel.

The large shipment would help the food shelf get off to the right start, Lang said. She said the food shelf still needs more donations and would start receiving regular shipments from the Vermont Foodbank in November.

Fundraisers are in the process of being scheduled for the rest of the year, starting with a community-wide “Williston Eats Out” on Tuesday, Oct. 28. Participating restaurants will give 10 percent of the day’s proceeds to the food shelf.

Other restaurants are planning to help in other capacities. The incoming Texas Roadhouse will donate proceeds from a future Friday and Saturday night bar tab. The Longhorn Steakhouse is looking into donating meats, and other restaurants are donating gift certificates for a raffle at next month’s Williston Central School craft fair.

Lang said the food shelf will primarily help needy families in Williston, St. George and Richmond, but would serve other communities if necessary.

The food shelf will 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. Lang said the hours will be adjusted if necessary. She also said community members who want to volunteer to work at the food shelf or in some other capacity, such as making home deliveries, should call the food shelf at 735-6303. She said she’s already had a large outpouring of help in recent months.

“I just open my mouth and people come and help,” Lang said.

A grand opening is scheduled for Dec. 6 and Gov. Jim Douglas has already confirmed he will be attendance, Lang said.

To donate money or food to the Williston Community Food Shelf, contact the food shelf at P.O. Box 1605, Williston, Vt., 05495 or 802-735-6303. Residents can also call to register for food with the food shelf. Registration forms are also in this week’s School Bell.

Williston Eats Out

The following restaurants will participate in next Tuesday’s Williston Eats Out to benefit the Williston Community Food Shelf by donating 10 percent of that day’s proceeds:

Belle’s Café

Dunkin’ Donuts in Simon’s Mobil

Garden of Eatin’

Mexicali Authentic Mexican Grill

Old Brick Café


Ponderosa Steakhouse


[Read more…]

Gubernatorial candidates outline economic plans

Oct. 23, 2008

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Jim Douglas

On a recent tour of the Williston Fire Station, Douglas talked about his plans to improve the state’s economy, attract businesses to the state and keep young, educated Vermonters from leaving the state for better jobs.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Gov. Jim Douglas (right) gets a tour of the Williston Fire Station from firefighter Lynwood Osborne on Wednesday, Oct. 15. 

In particular, Douglas highlighted his seven-part economic growth plan, which features proposals including research and development tax credits for businesses, an innovation challenge for companies to create cutting edge technologies and the creation of “opportunity zones” which would provide tax incentives for businesses to renovate and expand into vacant industrial spaces.

“I believe the state that succeeds is the state that has innovation,” Douglas said. “We’ve got to set ourselves apart. We need businesses to set up shop.”

Douglas said everything is tied to the slow economy, including high food and fuel prices. He said he has a track record of dealing with dips in the economy and creating new jobs. He touted his “E-State Initiative” — a plan to offer all Vermonters cell phone and Internet service — and this year’s state tax holiday as economic successes.

Douglas admitted to facing difficulties with the Democratically-controlled Legislature in recent years while trying to pass his economic plans, but believes legislators have to act this next session.

Douglas says Vermonters should expect more “belt-tightening” and understands people are struggling, but is confident his ideas can address problems. He said his opponents don’t have fully realized economic plans, and Vermonters will realize that during upcoming debates.

“My record on fiscal responsibility and economic leadership is proven,” Douglas said.

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Splash of color10/16/08

    Courtesy photo by Stephen Mease
A hardy water skier cuts a wave in the cool water of Lake Iroquois last Thursday evening against a colorful backdrop of autumn leaves. 

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District meet up next for CVU cross country10/16/08

Oct. 16, 2008

After a solid day at the Middlebury Invitational last Saturday, the Champlain Valley Union High cross country teams will compete for the Northern District crowns Saturday at Missisquoi Valley Union High in Swanton. Start time is 1:30 p.m.

The defending state champion girls team, once again showing depth and balance, captured the team title in Middlebury with a low of 25 points. Second place Essex High finished with 47 points.

CVU’s Maddie Christian placed second to winner Emily Anderson of Middlebury, trailing by a tad more than 12 seconds.

Behind Christian came the usual crowd of red and white runners, led by Summer Spillane (third), Adrienne Devita (fifth), Nora McFadden (sixth) and Danika Frisbie (ninth).

The top individual performance of the day belonged to boys team leader Tony Sulva, who ran to victory in just under 21 seconds over runner-up Justin Bouffard of Essex. The boys finished second overall to Essex, with John Dixon taking seventh, Justin McKenzie eighth and Zack Pate ninth.

In a look to the future, the girls jayvees won their division while the junior varsity boys were second to Essex.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent


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CVU boys soccer team eyes home playoff game10/16/08

Oct. 16, 2008

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

In the unusual position of looking up at the top seeds in the looming Division I playoffs, the defending state champion Champlain Valley Union High boys soccer team took a 6-5-1 record to Colchester on Wednesday, the next to the last game of the regular campaign.

The Redhawks finale is on Friday, when they entertain tough Burlington High at their Hinesburg nest. CVU nipped Burlington 1-0 in the season opener on the road.

Coming off last Friday’s 4-0 trouncing of Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, CVU had hopes of sweeping through the final three games, which would enhance their position in the playoff pairings and possibly ensure at least one home game.

Following consecutive 2-1 losses to division leaders South Burlington High and Essex High, the Redhawks took it out on BFA, with goals coming from Colin Frost, Kyle Logan, Zach Blanchard and Mark Vecchio. The Redhawks out shot the winless (0-9-1) Bobwhites, 14-4.

Goalie John Milbank picked up the shutout, the Redhawks’ sixth of the season.


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Field hockey opens playoffs at home10/16/08

Oct. 16, 2008

Seeded second in the Division I postseason tournament, the Champlain Valley Union High field hockey team will meet either seventh-seeded Colchester High (7-5-2) or 10th-seeded Rutland High (3-9-2) in Hinesburg at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

Colchester and Rutland played Wednesday, after press deadline, for the right to advance and meet the Redhawks. The game was at Colchester.

While not facing Rutland this season, CVU (9-2-3) tripped up Colchester 1-0 early in the regular season at the Lakers’ field. The teams tied 2-2 on Sept. 27 at the Redhawks’ spread.

Coach Kate McDonald’s Hawks got the second seed despite being tied in division rankings with Essex High (11-3), which drew third seed. CVU beat the Hornets twice during the regular season.

Top seed went to undefeated Hartford High (13-0-1).

The Redhawks attempt at a 10th regular season victory for the first time as a Division I team was dashed last Thursday by Mount Mansfield Union High. The 2-9-2 Cougars scored with five minutes left in regulation to forge a 2-2 deadlock in Jericho Center.

Lucy Barrett and Kelsey Gagnon (5th goal) scored for CVU, which held an 11-9 advantage in shots on goal.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent


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