Friday, December 4, 2009

Next Meeting/Holiday Party!

Please join the Northfield Democrats for our December meeting and annual holiday party:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Brown Public Library (downstairs in the community room).

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reorganization Caucus - Sept. 21st @ 6:00 p.m.

Just a friendly reminder to everyone that we will be reorganizing the town committee on Monday, September 21st at 6pm (prior to the health care forum) at the Kreitzberg Library (multi-purpose room) at Norwich University.

Since many of you expressed interest in the health care forum and are likely to attend anyway, it made sense to have the meeting prior to the forum, and at the same location. The meeting is being warned in the Times Argus, and I'll have it posted at the library and the town offices. After the meeting I'll file all the appropriate paperwork with the State Party and the Town Clerk (just names of committee members, not contact information) per the rules.

So, please come even if you cannot stay for the whole health care forum. We need to elect our town committee and its officers. This meeting will be brief lasting 20-30 minutes maximum. Just enough time to sign everyone up and to elect our officers. Hope to see you then. Thanks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Next Meeting - 8/22 at 9am!

Just a friendly reminder that our next meeting is: Saturday, August 22 at 9am for breakfast at the village pizza (formerly red kettle).

As we frequently do, if anyone wishes to bring food items for CERV, it's encouraged. I stopped by CERV today and they said they are short on the following items: cereal, jam/jelly (to go with peanut butter which they have in abundance), canned beets, pasta sauce, any fresh fruits or vegetables, cheese, and butter. They'll be delighted with anything folks care to contribute, but those are the kinds of items they are short on right now.

Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The Vermont House of Representatives voted 100-50 to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of the legislature's budget.

This is a huge political victory for Speaker Shap Smith, and a sure sign that the power dynamic in Montpelier has changed for the remainder of the biennium. No more can Gov. Douglas count on the veto to sustain his conservative agenda.

While Speaker Smith will justifiably get the lion's share of the credit, don't forget about the very able Majority Leader, Rep. Floyd Nease, who is responsible for making sure they get the votes.

Among the other winners are: Sen. Peter Shumlin, who orchestrated a 23-5 vote in the Senate, and advocacy organizations who mounted considerable opposition to the Governor's proposed budget.

Oh yeah, and let's not forget the biggest winners of all - middle-class, working, and low-income Vermonters. This includes Vermont property tax payers who will not have to worry about the massive property tax increase Jim Douglas had in mind. The social safety net remains intact, if a little tattered. But the fight is really just beginning. Next session look for another attempt to cut social programs.

It will be interesting to see who wins the spin wars: Douglas will claim the Democrats now "own" both the budget, and the economy. Democrats should insist that Douglas take responsibility for getting us into this mess, and that they prevented his massive property tax increase. The real question will be this: does the economy turn around? If it does, the Dems will get all the credit and Douglas will be in real trouble. If it doesn't, Douglas is going to blame all the ills of the world at the feet of the Democrats. Will voters buy it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vermont Democrats Hire New Executive Director!

That's right... after months of speculation and a critical position at the top to fill, the Vermont Democrats finally made their selection. Ladies and gentlemen (drumroll please), I give you Robert Dempsey.

Dempsey hails from Buffalo, NY originally and most recently worked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee out of the mid-west. Shay Totten posted a pretty good overview over at Blurt (the Seven Days blog) with choice quotes from VDP Chair, Judy Bevans and Mr. Dempsey himself. You can check out the official news release from the party, here.

Welcome aboard, Robert!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Northfield News: Dems Raise Money for CERV

If you missed it, there's still time to pick up a copy of the Northfield News, or cruise on over to its website to read about our Town Meeting Day efforts to raise funds for CERV.

Here's a brief excerpt:

On Town Meeting Day this year, voter debate about the issues wasn't the only thing brewing. The Northfield Democrats brewed hot coffee and supplied free baked goods, requesting contributions to CERV in return. Altogether volunteers raised $120.49 for CERV, plus another $10.00 for the Vermont Foodbank.

"Our committee met the Saturday before Town Meeting Day," explained Christopher Curtis, Chairman of the Northfield Democrats. "And, we all agreed as a group that this was something we wanted to do," he said.

Linda Gray, CERV Coordinator gladly accepted the contribution. "We have seen an increase of fifty percent in need this year," she said. "And, we're up to 400 visitors this month compared to 300 last month," said Ms. Gray. "We could really use more food donations, and more volunteers," she said.


Great job everyone!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The 8-Vote Opportunity

Nate Freeman posted a great summary of the activity at town meeting day over at Green Mountain Daily. Here's a brief excerpt:

"The floor activity on Town Meeting Day in Northfield had dwindled to a 20 minute affair by 2008, but this year it drew what appeared to be 200 or so folks. While I couldn't attend past 12:30pm, the show got off to an auspicious start with the mundane task of electing a moderator. Apparently, Mr. Larry Drown called for a paper ballot vote, nominating Rep. Anne Donahue against long-time moderator, Steve Jeffrey. Something as simple as the vote for moderator turned into a 45+ minute event.

A call for 100% Australian Ballot voting brought out some folks who prefer to maintain the tradition of floor activity on Town Meeting Day.

This led into the approval of minutes. A lengthy discussion ensued.

Another contentious issue derived from a petition to reconsider a special town meeting vote in November. The question related to whether or not the Town and Village should share an equal tax rate for road and bridge maintenance. This question brought out many residents of the Town who did not want to share the highway maintenance burden with the Village because their tax rate would rise slightly. Northfield is one of about 14 towns in Vermont that continues to operate with a town/village municipal system, requiring twice the level of governance over the same community. Questions such as the one raised today unmask a shortsighted reality of taxpayer rationale: 'My taxes pay for the town truck to plow my road, not theirs...'

The Australian Ballot vote on the school budget was refreshingly close despite its failure."

One of the things I liked about Nate's post is its upbeat assessment of the school budget vote. Obviously, most of us are disappointed that the budget was voted down so narrowly, but Nate's take on it is decidedly optimistic. His point is that in these difficult times it's in some ways a victory to come so close (especially in a town with a history of voting down school budgets - sometimes repeatedly). So, in a sense, we're continuing to close the gap.

Maybe this is our "8-vote opportunity" to re-organize, rally around our public schools and communicate a message that really explains what the school budget dollars will fund and why they are needed. This may be a great organizing opportunity to get out there for the special election and rally for public education.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Town Meeting Day: Cleaned Out!

Town Meeting Day!
It's always great to participate in this important exercise in democracy. But this year was especially fun. At our last meeting, we agreed to pull together a bake sale to benefit CERV, our local foodbank.
Despite a slow beginning, our bake sale was a ringing success. By the time the actual town meeting began (voting by Australian ballot started by 7am, of course, but town meeting doesn't start until 10am) people were ready to start browsing. And, once folks realized that this year's meeting was going to be longer than normal our little concession stand became quite popular.
A giant coffee maker (courtesy of Carolyn and John Stevens) kept the high test flowing, and almost everyone on our little committee came by with cookies, brownies, or what-not. Initially, I thought we'd far overshot our audience and that we'd have leftovers galore, but this year town meeting went through early afternoon. We were cleaned out!
The best part is that together (and with the generous donations of everyone who came to our booth) we raised $129.11 total for CERV. This was a great exercise in service politics, and a way to not only be present and partcipating at town meeting, but to have a little volunteer activity on the side. Thanks to the entire committee for coming up with this idea, supporting it on short notice, and helping to make it happen. I especially want to acknowledge Siobhan Smith, Ruth Ruttenberg, and Aaron and Sonya Rhodes (and Anastasia!) for volunteering their time at the booth.
One of the other things I really like about town meeting is that a lot of kids come with their parents. Not only is it great for them to see "democracy in action", but it's a fun social time as well. I know I'm not the only one who enjoys watching my son interact with everyone from town, and especially to have the opportunity to play with other kids of various ages who attend. And, everyone watches everyone else's kids. So, a great day all around.
I'll give a little report on the actual votes that took place at town meeting once we get the reports that include all the balloted items.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Next Meeting: 2/28 (9:00 AM) at the "new" Village Pizza

Hi Everyone,

Looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday, Feb. 28th at 9am at Village Pizza for coffee and breakfast. Lots to talk about. Am sending around the agenda by email.

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rep. Maxine Grad: Legislative Update


This week I will update you on my committee work, work of other committees and pass on some resources that maybe of interest or help to you.

My Committee Work: The House Judiciary Committee continues to work on S.13 the comprehensive sex crimes bill. It is very unusual for the House to work on a Senate bill before Town Meeting or “cross-over”. Usually we do House bills first. However, because this is such an important issue to Vermonters we have made it our top priority. Our goal is to vote the bill out this week and get it back to the Senate, through conference committee and on the Governor’s desk before Town Meeting Day.

Committee on Judicial Rules, Foreclosure Notice to Homeowners: I also serve on the joint committee on Judicial Rules. There are 4 members of the House and 4 members of the Senate. We review rules that the Judiciary has proposed that relate to judicial procedure. The Legislature’s review is part of the checks and balances of our system. The Supreme Court has proposed a rule that is now in effect that requires a notice to homeowners who are subject to foreclosure information on foreclosure counseling. The rule recognizes that the number of foreclosures has been increasing in Vermont. Many foreclosure defendants are not represented by attorneys and may not be aware of resources or not learn of them in time to take effective advantage of them. The notice give names of Vermont Homeownership Centers and the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities & Health Care Administration’s (BISHCSA) Toll-free Mortgage Assistance Program. I have listed those numbers below.

COMMITTEE REPORTS—submitted by House committee members

Government Operations: We are continuing our quest for an understanding of the impact of the 600 state employee cuts and the projected 17 million dollar savings. Trying to understand the impact on services to our constituents, how the RIF process is affecting the skilled state government workforce and what impacts it will have on the unemployment fund. Why does the plan call for laying off employees who received federal funding for part or all of their salary? What is the rationale in the projected cuts for each department? For background, there are 8900 state employees but the 600 cuts will only come from a pool of 5300. No commissioners, deputies, public safety, or 24/7 employee will be affected.

Fish Wildlife & Water Resources

In the past two weeks much of our time has been devoted to H.15, "an act relating to Aquatic Nuisance Control." The goal is to allow the State to respond quickly to newly discovered invasive species. The Farmer's Watershed Alliance and Friends of Missisiquoi Bay, among others, testified that algae blooms are a serious threat to tourism. H.15 is supported by many advocacy groups in part because it puts together all the laws on invasive species in one place. Permitting is the number one barrier to a rapid response and if chemical controls are needed, rapid response is not possible. There was consensus that ANR needs resources and authority to react quickly to invasive species.

As might be expected, funding the Invasive Species Act is the most controversial part of the bill. Some groups support a sticker program for non-powered craft to bring in revenue. Others have said that this is not the time to add yet another fee for Vermonters to pay. Instead they advocated a "Waterways License" that would allow a license holder to use any boat without paying a separate charge for each non-powered craft he/she owned.
All the testimony we heard on H.15 agreed that water recreation is an important driver of Vermont's economy and that aquatic resources support much economic activity.

Another area of economic concern is addressed by H.16, a bill relating to deer doing damage to forest resources. Deer problems occur in the regeneration stage. During natural regeneration, there is a period of time when saplings are vulnerable to deer browsing. The deer like to feed on Sugar Maple, Red Oak, White Ash, and Black Cherry, four of the State's most valuable hardwoods. Estimates show that in some areas of VT there are twelve to twenty-three deer per square mile on forestland, which should support only a third to a half that number. Testimony shows that the land's carrying capacity for deer is out of balance with the ability to regenerate forest. To get the number of deer down to a sustainable number we need to harvest more each year. Because trees are not now considered an agricultural crop, woodlot owners are not allowed to shoot problem deer on their land as farmers can. Provisions in H.16 are a start in helping control deer browsing. ANR told the Committee that it is neutral on the bill, saying H.16 doesn't provide any new authority that they don't already have.

In addition, we heard from the Secretary of ANR about the agency's budgeting process. While he feels that ANR is still able to adequately carry out its mission, some services have been cut because of the loss of positions. In FY 2010 the Agency will have 515 employees, down from 623. While most of the cuts to date have been by attrition, he estimates that the bulk of the additional 45 cuts planned will be by layoffs. While they have been able to leave the enforcement and permitting programs pretty much untouched, educational programs, overtime for wardens and other small cuts should be sufficient to meet their budget targets. However, one major cut is the La Rosa Lab in Waterbury. Testing currently done at that lab will be outsourced and will have a significant impact on public and non-profit groups needing water testing.

We have also been working of H.28, which would allow temporary wastewater system permits in cases where a dwelling has been rendered uninhabitable and no link to a more permanent wastewater disposal system is available. H.28 should come out of the committee fairly quickly. Committee also held hearings on, H.56 Mercury in Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, H.83 on leaking underground storage tanks and H.80 on the use of Chloramines as a water system disinfectant. These topics will be taken up in future reports.

Film Series - Domestic Violence:
Battered Women’s Services and Community Connections are co-sponsoring a film series this winter on domestic and dating violence, gender, and the media. All films are 1 hour or less, and will be followed by a discussionRefreshments are provided. No charge, but donations are accepted.Defending Our LivesTuesday, February 17th, 20097:00 pm, Montpelier High School, room 103 Defending Our LivesThe women in the documentary are members of 'Battered Women Fighting Back!' a grass-roots organization dedicated to exposing domestic violenceas a critical human rights violation threatening the majority of the population: women and children. 'Battered Women Fighting Back!' began as a prison support group for battered women who had killed their abusers,with the support of human rights activist, Stacey Kabat.
Federal Stimulus Package

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns web site has a list of "shovel ready" projects in our towns that might be eligible for federal stimulus money. To view the lists go to:

Northfield Childcare ForumRecently the Northfield area has lost many childcare options. Parents and employers have expressed concern about the potential shortage of childcare. Additionally, new individuals to the community often find it hard to locate childcare. If you are a parent, employer, or a childcare provider, please join us for an open forum on childcare issues at Brown Public Library on Monday, February 16 from 6:00-7:00p.m. to discuss concerns and questions of what childcare options are or could be available.

How to File An Unemployment Claim:
Tips on getting through to the Department of Labor to file an unemployment claim: Labor recommends that an applicant try to dial repeatedly in one sitting rather than trying to get through 10AM, noon, 2PM, etc., and to expect about a 20 minute wait time on hold once they have gotten through. Unemployment Insurance - (802) 828-4000

[Eds. Note: If you don't want to wait on the phone, you can file electronically, or by mail. Follow the instructions at the DOL website above].

Mortgage Payment Help:
If you are having a problem paying your mortgage, you should call BISHCA before you start missing payments and certainly before foreclosure proceedings have started.
Mortgage Assistance - 1-888-568-4547

Also there is a Vermont Homeownership Center in Barre at 476-4493—

Please stay in touch—828-2228 (State House); 496-4244 (home) or email:

Local Considerations... Public Health, and the Veterans Place

Local Letters Digest:

1) Gordon Bock recently submitted this letter to the editor on the issue of public health - in particular head lice among school-age children - in our public schools. Don't know about you, but if your kid has ever had it, or been exposed to it, your ears prick up. Nasty little nits. An excerpt:

"We parents were hearing for months about different instances in which entire class sections were brought to the school nurse for lice checks. But it was our children, not school officials, who were keeping us apprised of the situation, and then only in a piecemeal, anecdotal fashion. The responsibility for keeping us informed -- - fully informed, and on an ongoing basis --- rests with the school officials, not the children."

** Eds. Note: the school district did send out a flyer regarding the public health threat posed by head lice and what to do about it.

2) Nate Freeman says the proposed Veteran's Place Lacks Answers in this letter to the editor on the issue of the proposed Veteran's Shelter here in Northfield:

"Asking questions or raising concerns about anything related to veterans can feel downright unpatriotic. But lets face it: here in Northfield we are all patriotic and we are proud of the service men and women in our community. In one way or another, we are all connected to Norwich University, the oldest and most forward thinking private military school in the United States. Many of us volunteer in the community and help provide for people who are in need. Yet we can also ask legitimate questions about a development that can create a significant impact in our town."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

S.O.S. - Save Our State - Rally 2/2/09 at 5pm

Concerned Vermonters everywhere are rallying to protest further budget cuts that erode our social safety net and harm low-income and working families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Join in! Go to a rally site near you. In Northfield, folks are meeting up at 5pm at the Village Green/Depot Square. Bring yourself and add your voice to the chorus saying "stop the cuts", "raise sustainable revenues", "put people first."

What: SOS (Save Our State) Rallies (Statewide)
When: Feb. 2nd @ 5pm
Where: Village Green/Depot Square in Northfield (other locations statewide)
Why: To protest budget cuts and advocate for raising new revenues to help low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities.

For more information about this effort, just go to the SOS Vermont blog and get involved!