August 31, 2015

Right to the Point11/20/08

Obama – broken promises and a future of change

Nov. 20, 2008

By Mike Benevento

The elections are over and Barack Obama was the big winner. Now is the time for all Americans to support Obama — even if they did not vote for him. Since it is every American’s duty to support the office of the president of the United States — no matter which party occupies it — we all need to back Obama after he takes office. Remember, country first, political party second.

This concept may sound foreign to many elite liberals, who have been vilifying and rooting against President Bush the past eight years. During that time, the left has displayed a great deal of contempt and hatred toward Bush. At times, they labeled him a cowboy, an idiot, a murderer and compared him to Hitler.

Democrats often use Bush as the scapegoat for the country’s problems. Among other things, Bush has been accused of being behind the Sept. 11 attacks, invading Iraq under false pretenses solely to benefit his oil buddies, torturing enemy combatants, greatly contributing to global warming and taking advantage of Hurricane Katrina to harm minorities.

Once Obama takes office, conservatives must avoid the partisan hate politics practiced by the left. That does not mean conservatives will yield to Obama’s every whim. Far from it.

However, it will require that conservatives formulate logical opposing arguments, stick to the facts and avoid name-calling and scare tactics. In doing so, conservatives will change the tone of the opposition party from one of hatred to one of bipartisanship.

Breaking campaign finance promises


Early in the campaign, all the leading presidential candidates promised to accept public funding. By doing so, they hoped to reduce the influence of lobbyists, special interest groups and dirty money on their potential administrations. While Hillary Clinton and John McCain kept their promise, Obama broke his.

Breaking his campaign finance promise allowed Obama to obliterate every political fundraising and spending record in U.S. history. While McCain was limited to $84 million in federal funds, political reporter Jonathan Salant recorded that Obama raised more than $650 million for his presidential campaign. Obama used this huge amount of cash to defeat Clinton and then swamp McCain in the last two months.

The advantage Obama gained by not keeping his word was startling. As Republican consultant Craig Shirley said, “Barack went into the knife fight with a machete and McCain went in with a pen knife.”

Bill O’Reilly pointed out that the far left outfit raised an astounding $88 million for Obama. Of course, the organization expects payback for its huge contribution. Since Obama accepted lots of its money, watch out for him to reward — and others — during his presidency.

The end justifies the means


At times during the campaign, Obama’s actions revealed an underlying lack of principles and a troublesome belief that the end justifies the means. In addition to breaking vows and shifting positions, Obama did not hesitate to deny relationships whenever convenient.

Obama glossed over his association with known terrorist Bill Ayers and his real estate dealings with Tony Rezko. When Rev. Jeremiah Wright — Obama’s pastor of 20 years — became a liability because of his continued anti-American preaching, Obama dumped him for political expediency.

Since he quickly disassociated from his friend Rev. Wright after drawing criticism, how much spine will Obama display when Ahmadinejad’s Iran makes threatening moves?

Which promises will Obama toss aside when further difficulties arise? Will it be his tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans? Will he abandon his promise to remove troops immediately from Iraq? Will Obama throw his promise of change in the trash? Who knows?

What to expect


With this month’s election, Democrats now control both chambers of Congress and the White House. They can essentially thrust their liberal agenda upon the nation, especially because Republicans are a severely weakened minority.

If Obama keeps his word, America’s future will include a greater redistribution of wealth and a growing entitlement culture. He will work to eliminate nuclear weapons, oppose privatizing a portion of Social Security and advocate a carbon-credit system to raise money and fight pollution.

Obama will push to nationalize health care, appoint Supreme Court justices who agree with his idea of a living Constitution and call for more open borders. Additionally, Democrats will continue to fight for the right to abort innocents, while — ironically — opposing the death penalty for the guilty.

In closing


Over two weeks ago, America voted for change. If Obama is true to his word, America will get it. However, do not be surprised if four years from now, Americans wish they never asked for it.

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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Liberally Speaking11/20/08

Election reflection

Nov. 20, 2008

By Steve Mount

In our lives, it is important to look back on past events and reflect on what has gone before, to learn lessons, to make plans for the future. In elections, time gives us a chance to do all that, but it also gives us a chance to do something just as important — hold recounts.

Or just counting in the first place. For days after the election, it looked clear that convicted felon and Republican incumbent Ted Stevens of Alaska would be returning to the Senate, at least long enough for the Senate to expel him. But after 65,000 of 90,000 absentee ballots had been counted as of last Friday, the tide had turned and Democratic challenger Mark Begich had taken the lead.

In Minnesota, Democratic challenger Al Franken trailed incumbent Republican Norm Coleman by only 206 votes, out of 2.9 million cast. A recount is mandated by state law, and began Wednesday. It will be next month, though, before the result is certified. Franken (actually running on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party ticket because of some interesting historical quirks) was in Washington to work with the Democratic leadership, just in case the recount went his way.

In Georgia, there is little question about the vote count, but since none of the candidates got the required 50 percent, a run-off election is scheduled for the two top vote-getters, Republican incumbent (and plurality winner) Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin. A key issue in the run-off campaign so far seems to be support for the Fair Tax, which Chambliss supports and Martin does not.

Speaking of run-off elections, thankfully, no such election will be needed here in Vermont. Here, if no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer gets 50 percent of the vote, the election is thrown to the Legislature, with the top three vote-getters eligible for election.

For a while on election night, it was unclear if incumbent Republican Jim Douglas would be able to get the required 50 percent, but after all the votes were counted, he handily won and passed the threshold with 53.4 percent. It is not easy to unseat an incumbent in Vermont. Despite several hard challenges in both of their careers, Jim Douglas and his predecessor, Howard Dean, fended them all off.

Since Douglas did win the needed 50 percent, the more interesting aspect of the governor’s race was the fight for second place. Though he eked it out by just 257 votes, independent Anthony Pollina beat Democrat Gaye Symington for Douglas’ leavings. His success in beating out Symington may or may not be helpful to Pollina, a well-meaning and well-spoken man who has made something of a career of being a spoiler and also-ran.

Seven Days columnist Shay Totten reports that some Democrats are pushing to allow Pollina to run against Douglas as a fusion candidate in 2010. It seems unlikely to me, barring a decision by Douglas not to run or a major scandal in the Douglas administration, that any challenger could possibly win. That might be their point — let Pollina take the fall for another loss.

In any case, we have at least a week or two before the next campaign season begins in earnest, so no decisions have to be made right now.

In terms of statewide offices, the governor’s race was the one the incumbent won by the lowest percentage. According to the secretary of state, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie won with 55 percent; Secretary of State Deb Markowitz won with 70.8 percent; Attorney General Bill Sorrell won with 72.6 percent; Rep. Peter Welch was sent back to Congress with 83.2 percent; Auditor of Accounts Tom Salmon won with 83.8 percent; and Treasurer Jeb Spaulding won the highest percentage of all with 89.9 percent.

And, of course, Barack Obama won Vermont’s three electoral votes with 67.4 percent. There were seven other candidates for president on the Vermont ballot. Republican John McCain garnered 30.4 percent of the vote; the only other player to get at least a full percentage point was independent Ralph Nader, with 1.02 percent.

For the country, this was, indeed, a historic election, and one which is not quite over in some states. Here in Vermont, though, it was more of the same, with incumbents enjoying the protection of their offices. It is not necessarily true that we’ve gotten the best that we could have gotten, but what is true is that we picked them.

Now our job is to keep an eye on them, and I hope you’ll join me as we do just that.

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

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Nov. 20, 2008

Last week’s article “Williston students turn to Stern Center for extra help,” incorrectly identified the groups of students that can receive additional educational support with financial help from the Williston School District. The district is only required to fund supplemental services to economically disadvantaged students. The money comes out of the district’s federal Title 1 funds for low income students, which are allotted based on the number of those students in the district.

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Around Town11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008

Observer online

The Observer has launched some new features on its Web site, Go online to check out a staff blog, or register to post comments on articles.

Both features are in their infant stages, so please be patient with updates.

Williston resident joins Peace Corps

Carly Brown of Williston joined the Peace Corps and left earlier this month for a two-year service as a secondary science educator in Kenya. Brown will work with Kenyan students to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills in science, help teachers instruct students in science subjects and help communities improve their understanding of HIV and AIDS.

Brown is a graduate of Champlain Valley Union High School and attended the University of Vermont and University of Hawaii, where she earned a bachelor’s in biology in 2007. Most recently, Brown was an AmeriCorps volunteer in Oregon. She is the daughter of Williston residents Patrick Brown and Amy Huntington.

Brown said she wanted to join the Peace Corps for several reasons, including improving the United State’s image in the world and helping people in Kenya, not just in the short term, but also in the long term.

Brown also said she’s eager to see Africa and look beyond images the media portrays of destruction and despair.

“When many of us think of Africa we think of HIV/AIDS, famine, and civil unrest,” Brown said in a statement. “I am excited to see the other side of Africa that we don’t normally see in the U.S. and share it with the people back home.”

Thanksgiving dinner

The Williston Federated Church is hosting a free community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day. The church will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at noon in the church hall. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Call Denise at 878-0617 by Nov. 24 to register. All are welcome.

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CSWD seeks permit revision for recovery facility11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Officials with the Chittenden Solid Waste District will go before the Development Review Board on Tuesday to ask for a permit revision, which would allow the district to double the weight of recyclable loads to its Material Recovery Facility.

The permit, originally granted in December 1992, currently allows CSWD to truck in a maximum of 100 tons per day to the facility, better known as the “Murf.” The permit allows a peak allotment of 52 vehicles per hour.

Under the proposed revision, CSWD wants to increase its tons per day to 200 — it already exceeds the 100 allotted tons — while keeping the same amount of peak trips.

The Murf is located on Avenue C, off Industrial Avenue. The site processes all recyclable materials for Chittenden County.

Brian Wright, project manager for the district, said CSWD had been conducting a review of all permits and conditions when he said he noticed Williston’s permit limited trips and tonnage.

“We really just want to upgrade our permit and be in compliance with the town,” Wright said.

Wright said as more people recycle, the Murf has become busier than ever.

“People continue to recycle more and more,” Wright said. “With more materials comes somewhat more traffic.”

Currently, CSWD is averaging 158.8 tons per day while traffic has increased by 10 percent to 15 percent, Wright said. Traffic has not increased enough to warrant a revision to the 1992 permit, he added, saying that in a peak hour the facility will see 30 vehicles.

With the increase of recyclables will come the additional need for space, Wright said. CSWD is looking at expanding its operations on Avenue C and in the next few years will see if there is room to expand at the current location.

“We’re up to our rafters over there,” Wright said.

The Development Review Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

They may not feel like they deserve special recognition, but several local residents who quietly donate countless hours to help area youths no doubt earned the honors handed to them earlier this week.

Known as the “Aw Shucks” Award and given out by Chittenden South Supervisory Union’s Connecting Youth organization, the accolade recognizes those that have volunteered at local schools in the supervisory union.

“They affect kids and go above and beyond what’s expected,” said Jan Bedard, administrative director for Connecting Youth.

Bedard said the award got its name from the reactions people gave when they learned of the honor and felt they didn’t deserve it: “Aw shucks, I haven’t really done anything special.” The award is now in its 14th year. A ceremony recognizing the recipients was held Tuesday night at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Bedard said the people chosen this year were “no brainers.”

Winners included Williston residents Tim O’Brien and Charlie and Ruth Magill. Charlotte resident Rahn Fleming was recognized for his work at CVU. St. George resident Micaela Wallace received the first ever Brian O’Regan Mentoring Award, named after the former superintendent of CSSU. Other volunteers from Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne also took home awards.

Rahn Fleming

    Courtesy photo
Rahn Fleming

Fleming, who is CVU’s Learning Center director and hall supervisor, is being honored for his contributions outside of school hours. But Bedard said Fleming’s work with students in and out of school is intertwined, which is why students nominated him.

“You just have to recognize Rahn because he just does everything,” Bedard said. “He’s everywhere doing everything for everyone.”

Fleming has coached youth football for five years and youth baseball for seven years, and participated in countless volunteer activities. He’s especially proud of his rapport with students and his job at the learning center.

“The number one most important and satisfying role I have is being dad to my two kids,” Fleming said of his sons Connor, a sophomore, and Ryan, a freshman.

Whether it’s for his children or students at CVU, Fleming said he’s always there to help and be a friend and helper.

“I’m genuinely humbled (by the award),” Fleming said. “My face hurts from grinning so much.”

The Magills

    Courtesy photo
Charlie and Ruth Magill of Williston were given an ‘Aw Shucks’ award Tuesday night by CSSU’s Connecting Youth organization.

Charlie Magill said he and his wife, Ruth, feel that giving back to the community is something they have to do and don’t feel worthy of earning a special award.

“We both just tend to try and stay active,” Charlie Magill said.

But Nancy Carlson, Connecting Youth’s mentoring director for Williston, said the importance of the Magills to the town can’t be described in words. For instance, Carlson said Ruth Magill spearheaded a scholarship that allowed 20 St. George youths to participate for free in Williston’s summer recreation program.

Charlie Magill, who served on the CVU School Board from 1978 through 1988, said he and his wife heard they would receive the award while working on the so-called Vermont House in Three Rivers, Miss., volunteering with other members of the Williston Federated Church to rebuild a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Incidentally, he helped several CVU students who were also building the house, something he also does when students get involved with Habitat for Humanity as part of their eighth grade or high school graduation challenges.

Carlson called the couple a “dynamic duo.”

“They’re perfect for the Aw Shucks award because they never call attention to themselves,” Carlson said.

Tim O’Brien

    Courtesy photo
Tim O’Brien

Like many recipients of the Aw Shucks award, O’Brien doesn’t feel like he should be singled out for his volunteerism. He said his reasoning for helping is simple: “My answer to people is ‘you just do it,’” O’Brien said.

Williston Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan said O’Brien has been “incredible” in his contributions, which include being a member of the town’s Recreation Committee, and being involved with Little League and Cub Scouts for 10 years.

“If he’s got a kid in the sport, he’s coached it,” Finnegan said. “He’s really one of those unsung guys.”

O’Brien did say he’s honored by the award, but doesn’t find volunteering extra time a chore since much of his work revolves around his children — CVU sophomore Nick, seventh grader Emily and fourth grader Christopher.

“Without the help of my family and my wife (Danielle), I couldn’t do what I do,” O’Brien said. “I share this right along with her.”

Micaela Wallace

    Courtesy photo
Micaela Wallace

Wallace, who received the Brian O’Regan Mentoring Award, said she’s been mentoring for six years at Williston Central School and has been working with one mentee for four years. She also serves on the mentoring program’s advisory board.

“I’m fortunate to be able to put some time into this,” said Wallace, who also works as a math para-educator at Williston Central.

Carlson said Wallace’s contributions have made all the difference in the mentoring program.

“She’s an extraordinary, caring and wonderful mentor,” Carlson said.

Wallace also helps put on three events for the mentoring program, which includes all mentors, mentees and their families. It’s an event that Carlson said she couldn’t do without Wallace’s help, calling her the program’s “creativity director.”

Wallace said she feels “uncomfortable” being given the award, because the purpose of mentoring isn’t for special recognition. It’s about being a good friend to students.

“It’s nothing special, really,” Wallace said. “It’s just something I want to do.”

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Williston Food Shelf celebrates grand opening11/20/08

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Thanks to the perseverance and dedication of Williston resident Jill Lang, who recognized a need in town, the Williston Community Food Shelf has become a reality, holding its official grand opening over the weekend.

More than 30 community members and representatives for area food shelves gathered in the 688-square-foot room in Maple Tree Place to dedicate the new food shelf. Also on hand during the ribbon cutting were Gov. Jim Douglas and his wife, Dorothy


    Observer photo by Marianne Apfelbaum
Williston resident Cathy Michaels and her son Evan give Gov. Jim Douglas and his wife, Doroth, a tour of the Williston Community Food Shelf at its grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 8.

“It’s been amazing and I’m so happy this community cares so much,” said Lang, who serves as president of the Williston Community Food Shelf.

The food shelf officially opened on Nov. 1, but had its grand opening and ribbon cutting on Nov. 15.

Town Clerk Deb Beckett helped conduct the proceedings and showered Lang with praise for her dedication.

“She had the passion and zeal, and energy and enthusiasm — more than I’d ever seen before,” Beckett said.

Beckett also praised officials from Inland U.S. Management, the owners of Maple Tree Place, for donating the space for the initial six-month period.

“Inland management graciously stepped up to the plate,” Beckett said.

Inland Vice President Bill Parks and Maple Tree Place Property Manager Richard Golder were on hand to accept an award presented by the food shelf. Parks said the shopping center was an important part of the community and Inland wanted to help out as best it could.

“We hope it works well for everyone through the winter months,” Parks said.

Awards were also handed out to businesses and individuals who had contributed through donations or through proceeds for the recent Williston Eats Out benefit.

Before going on a tour of the food shelf, Gov. Douglas spoke to the gathering. He said the food shelf would be a big help for families in need during the coming months of economic uncertainty.

“This is a tough time and I think everybody understands that,” Douglas said. “It’s going to take an effort from all Vermonters to help.”

Doug Gunnerson, who helps run the Hinesburg Food Shelf, agreed it will take a lot of help this winter to meet the growing demand for food. He said the Hinesburg Food Shelf’s record number of families helped in one day was 30, and that happened Friday.

Gunnerson said he expects the Hinesburg and Williston food shelves to work together helping families.

“It’ll certainly give families more resources,” Gunnerson said.

Lang said the Williston Community Food Shelf saw four families in the morning before the grand opening and has served a total of 40 families in the two weeks it has been open. Concerns about the food shelf’s location in a public place aren’t an issue anymore, she said.

“And our hours are better and more convenient for a lot of people,” Lang said.

Vermont Foodbank Network Relations Manager Joe Dauscher said the Williston Community Food Shelf’s numbers are encouraging for the amount of support it can provide.

“It’s a good sign that people feel comfortable coming here,” Dauscher said.

The Williston Community Food Shelf is open 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. For more information, call 735-6303.

Busy times at Hinesburg Food Shelf

The Williston Community Food Shelf is not the only area organization gearing up for the busy winter months.

The Hinesburg Food Shelf, which serves some Williston residents and is located in the Hinesburg United Church, is collecting turkeys for Thanksgiving. Many have been provided by the Shelburne-Charlotte-Hinesburg Rotary, Hannaford and Lantman’s Best Yet Market, but the food shelf is in need of more birds.

Furthermore, a $10 donation will help the food shelf provide accompaniments for a turkey dinner.

Last month the food shelf provided more than 7,000 pounds of food to 87 families, and co-director Doug Gunnerson said the food shelf serves 90 families a month.

“Funds are tight, much of our funding comes in at this time of the year,” Gunnerson said. “Supplies cost more and we need more for the increasing demand.”

To volunteer or donate turkeys, call co-directors Doug Gunnerson at 482-3069 or Laurie Sweeney at 482-5519.

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Budget for Williston schools to require two votes11/20/08

Proposal likely to exceed state spending cap

Nov. 20, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Williston School Board members and school officials learned an unfortunate truth last week concerning the district’s budget.

The budget proposal, to be released in January, may exceed the state’s school spending cap mandated by Act 82. Unless significant cuts are made, voters may have to approve two budget articles in March.

“This is so hard to accept at the beginning of the process,” School Board chairwoman Darlene Worth said at last Wednesday’s meeting.

If Williston’s budget vote was held today, voters would have to to decide upon a school budget of $16.44 million, and a second article for an additional $325,000. Chittenden South Supervisory Union Chief Operations Officer Bob Mason said the numbers are rough estimates at the beginning of the process, but it’s likely the two-vote requirement will affect Williston.

Act 82, passed this year by the Vermont Legislature, poses potential challenges for school districts across the state. The state has set a maximum 3.9 percent increase for all districts, which led to the cap of $16.44 million in Williston.

If a district’s budget increase exceeds the 3.9 percent raise, a second vote is required for extra funds. Mason said the increase is determined by the state based on per pupil spending, and could vary annually.

Unless major budget cuts occur in Williston, the district will likely need the two votes to pass what the School Board believes will be a complete budget.

While Williston’s baseline budget — the total cost if nothing is cut or added from the current school year — is a 3.03 percent increase, the district’s revenues have dropped considerably. Mason said a number of factors contributed to revenue declines, including smaller interest yields in the district’s investments in certificates of deposit, changes in special education costs, and requirements for Williston and other supervisory union schools to move some federal Title 1 funds for low income students to CSSU.

In all, revenue dropped 8.09 percent, causing the estimated Williston budget to exceed the spending cap, Mason said.

“It’s ironic that we have the lowest per pupil spending in the (supervisory union), yet we’re the ones with the penalty,” School Board member Holly Rouelle said at the meeting.

Mason said Hinesburg and Shelburne would not have to deal with the two-vote requirement, while Charlotte’s budget is still in the works.

Worth said after the meeting that the reality of exceeding the state’s spending cap would likely require her board to make sacrifices and cuts to the budget. She’d prefer to not have residents vote twice for the budget, but hopes there will be understanding in the community if it does comes down to two votes.

“It’s still one budget, whether there are two votes or not,” Worth said.

Around the county


Other schools in the region are still forming baseline budgets with the Act 82 limitations in mind. John K. Stewart, business manager for the South Burlington School District, said he’s been fully cognizant of the possibility of two votes as he works to form the budget. Already, South Burlington’s baseline budget has come very close to the spending cap.

“We came in at $166,000 short, but there are still factors that could change that,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the South Burlington School Board would have a better idea of final figures by a Dec. 10 meeting.

In the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, which includes Essex, Essex Junction and Westford, budgets are still being formulated. Grant Geisler, CCSU’s executive director of operations, said Westford’s budget looks to stay under the spending cap, but the Essex budgets are still in the works since voters make budget decisions in April. He hopes Act 82 doesn’t pose a problem, but it’s too early to say.

“Most districts (in the state) will have to deal with the limitations of it,” Geisler said. “We tried to position ourselves so we can get through it this year without having to deal with it.”

Overall, Williston School Board members did not hide their frustration over the two-vote system. Worth said she wants to make appeals directly to the state’s Legislature to change the language and requirements of Act 82.

“We’ll be complaining about it a lot,” Worth said.

“I’ll be complaining with you,” Mason added.

[Read more…]

Recount requested in state Senate race11/20/08

Barnard points to voting irregularities

Nov. 20, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

State Senate candidate Denise Barnard first thought she had won. Then she learned that she lost. Now she wants the results checked one more time.

Barnard, a Democrat from Richmond, has asked for a recount. She finished seventh, 417 votes behind Tim Ashe of Burlington for the final place in Chittenden County’s six-seat senate delegation.

Initial reports showed Barnard finishing ahead of Ashe, who was running as both a Democrat and a Progressive, by a few dozen votes. But those results did not include Burlington’s count, which was later corrected to reflect a recording error involving one ward.

Barnard said hundreds of supporters have called and sent e-mails urging her to seek a recount. That support, combined with Burlington’s ballot-counting problems and the won-then-lost result, convinced her to seek a recount.

“I’d always wonder for the next two years if I didn’t ask for a recount,” Barnard said. “I just want to make sure every vote was counted the way it was intended.”

The recount, scheduled to begin Dec. 3, will be time and labor intensive, said Chittenden County Clerk Diane Lavallee.

She hopes to have 20 representatives from each of the state’s three major parties — Democratic, Republican and Progressive — to help count ballots by hand. The effort is expected to take 10 days.

Roughly 95,000 ballots were cast in Chittenden County, said Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections for the Secretary of State’s office.

Neither DeWolfe or Lavellee could attach a price tag to the recount. Each count is different, they said, and costs vary considerably. Those helping count votes will be paid the same as a juror, $30 a day plus reimbursement for mileage and parking.

To request a recount, a candidate must finish within 5 percent of the winner. In the Senate race, that percentage is based on the vote total divided by six to account for the number of seats being contested. Barnard said the margin between her and Ashe was about 3 percent.

Barnard reviewed voting records at the Secretary of State’s office last week. She said she discovered multiple problems with the Burlington count, including tabulation sheets with crossed out numbers. And she said vote totals on Burlington’s Web site did not match the Secretary of State’s tallies.

“It was a mess. It was an absolute mess,” Barnard said.

Jonathan Leopold, Burlington’s chief administrative officer, did not return a phone message Monday seeking comment. But DeWolfe said the differing vote totals were simply the result of Burlington officials not having time to update numbers posted on the city’s Web site.

Barnard is the owner of Bridge Street Hair in Richmond. She did not run for re-election to the Vermont House of Representatives so she could seek a Senate seat.

Barnard emphasized that she respects the hard work of election workers who counted the vote. No matter what the outcome of the recount, she said residents will be pleased with their representation in the Senate.

“What people need to keep in mind is that Chittenden County will be well-served with the five Democrats and one Republican we have in the Senate,” she said.

[Read more…]

Panel advises against sex offender ordinance11/20/08

Experts say education helps keep kids safe

Nov. 20, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

A panel of experts agreed that ordinances that restrict where sex offenders can live are ineffective and instead emphasized education as the best way to protect children from predators.

That advice came during a forum titled “How to Keep Our Children Safe” held Nov. 13 at Williston Central School. The event grew out of a proposal by Selectboard member Chris Roy to consider restricting where convicted child abusers can live.

The forum featured a panel of four experts on the topic: Robin Castle of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont; Sally Borden, executive director for the KidSafe Collaborative; Cathleen Wilson, executive director for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center; and Chris Ford, a counselor at Williston Central School.

Each made an opening statement and then took questions from the small audience of about a dozen people, including four of the town’s five Selectboard members.

Jim McCullough, who represents Williston in the Vermont House, asked the panel what it thought about residency restrictions.

Panelists said there is no research that shows such rules — typically ordinances that forbid sex offenders from living close to schools and other places children frequent — are effective.

Borden said residency rules tend to drive sex offenders underground, away from family support and treatment.

“That might in fact do the opposite of what we are trying to do, which is protect children,” she said.

Roy, who has three children, noted that Barre has already enacted an ordinance barring sex offenders from living near schools and childcare facilities. With Burlington also considering an ordinance, might Williston need similar rules lest it become a refuge for sex offenders?

Panelists said that me-too approach is flawed because it further marginalizes sex offenders to the fringes of society. Borden said judges can impose restrictions based on the specific circumstances of a given case, a much more effective method of keeping kids safe than a one-size-fits-all ordinance.

Instead, panelists emphasized education, both for adults and children, as the best way to prevent abuse.

Ford said kids should know the difference between healthy and unhealthy sexuality and good and bad touches.

“Messages to ‘just say no’ don’t work,” Ford said. “It’s hard to say no to adults and to those that are perceived of having power over an individual.”

Castle said children should be taught the correct names for body parts and told that they can refuse physical contact — even with adults who intend no harm.

“You have to back them up,” she said. “So if they don’t want to give Aunt Mary a kiss, that’s OK.”

Borden said adults should know the signs of sexual abuse.

“Educating ourselves as adults is even more important because children may feel uncomfortable or yucky about what has happened,” she said.

Sudden behavioral changes may indicate abuse, Castle said. Children may become withdrawn or aggressive or behave like a much younger child.

“Reactions to abuse are as different as children are,” she said. “But as adults we should be looking for anything troubling.

Selectboard member Ted Kenney, who has two daughters, ages 4 and 6, said he was worried about recent cases in which the abuser threatened to kill anyone the children told about the abuse. He wondered how to broach such scary subjects.

Ford said age-appropriate information can be shared with even the youngest child. For example, kids can be taught that surprises are good but secrets are not — and touching should never be a secret.

The forum was held the day after the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report outlining a 34-point plan for improving how the state handles child abuse. The committee was convened in the wake of the slaying of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett. Her uncle, Michael Jacques, has been indicted on charges of murder and sexual assault in the case.

The report echoed what panelists said: residency restrictions are ineffective and perhaps counterproductive. It instead recommended that the Vermont League of Cities and Towns work with local communities on education efforts.

“I think part of the reason why is that because the reality is that in so many of the cases the perpetrator is known to the victim,” said Wilson. “Residency restrictions are sort of based on the principle of stranger danger, and we know that is not really the reality of sexual violence.”

Roy said in an interview Monday that he hopes the town continues to explore ways to protect children so the forum doesn’t end up being a one-shot effort.

He said panelists convinced him that residency restrictions are a bad idea. He said their informed opinions were even more credible because their concerns centered on children.

“There are people who clearly don’t have a soft spot in their hearts for sexual predators,” Roy said.


Sex abuse facts


* In all, 322 children in Vermont were sexually abused in 2007. That represents a 58 percent drop from 1990.

* Many abusers are themselves young, with 43 percent of perpetrators under age 20.

* Most victims are young or very young children. Eighteen percent of child sex abuse victims are 5 years old or younger; 43 percent were 6-13 years old.

* Sexual abuse cases account for 38 percent of all child abuse cases.

Source: Vermont Department of Children and Families

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