The Vermont Guardian, which earlier this year became the state’s only exclusively online newspaper, will cease publication this month.The move comes three months after the Guardian dropped its print format as a way to cut costs and better reach its growing readership on the Internet. That move drew significantly more readers topping more than 8,000 readers per day (with more than 20,000 page views) and 150,000 readers per month.”The reason we are closing our doors is simple,” said Shay Totten, the paper’s co-founder, editor, and publisher.”While the move to online helped us bring our costs in line with our revenues, and to be more fleet-footed in how we respond to breaking news and analysis, I have been offered an opportunity that, for the benefit of my family, I cannot turn down and it means that the paper must cease publication at this time due to the enormous amount of time that I put into this publication every day.”This week’s issue will be the paper’s last, and will largely be comprised of a “best of” retrospective of some of the most important stories the paper published in its two-and-a-half year run, Totten said. The Guardian’s first weekly print edition hit the streets in September 2004, and its circulation topped 10,000 readers statewide.”We have rightly earned many accolades from readers, pundits, and our colleagues over the years, and everyone who worked with us as a staffer, a freelancer, intern, or volunteer should know they were part of something important and that has had an impact on events and issues that will far outlast its short life,” said Totten. “We were the first newspaper to put breaking news on its website, to offer online subscriptions to readers, and to take our entire news operation online. These are all great accomplishments, and I look forward to seeing what folks come up with next.”Totten will be the new editorial director of Chelsea Green Publishing in White River Junction. The job title encompasses the existing editor-in-chief role, and has been expanded to include the oversight and development of multimedia tools and online content.In the coming months, Chelsea Green plans to launch a new website, which will host much of the new content, and begin thinking of new ways for each authors book project to be more than simply a book, making each a way to help organize action around the core idea and purpose of the title.Founded in 1984, Chelsea Green Publishing Company is dedicated to the politics and practice of sustainability. During the past twenty-three years, Chelsea Green has published a wide range of titles from the political New York Times best seller, Don’t Think of an Elephant, to ecological classics like The Man Who Planted Trees. Its authors are on the cutting edge of politics, energy, agriculture, green building, economics, food politics, gardening, and religion.”It was a very difficult decision, but more than three years of long hours and low pay was, in the end, simply too much to bear for me and my family any more,” said Totten. “Still, I made this decision after a long discussion with my family who has supported me and the paper to the bitter end and with close friends, allies, and our investors. All agreed that the Guardian has much to be proud of, and it is time for me to move on.”The Guardian’s website will remain active indefinitely for subscribers to continue accessing the paper’s rich archives, and more news stories will be posted throughout this week and next to ensure the paper meets its obligations to its many subscribers and advertisers.”I hold out some hope that we can find someone to manage and run the website as a news organization,” said Totten.The paper’s other co-founder, Greg Guma, left the Guardian in early 2006 to take over as executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, which operates the Pacifica Radio Network.
Ed Colodny, long-time member of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra board was recently named honorary chair of the VSO Endowment Campaign. In January, the VSO governing board announced that it has launched a major campaign to raise $3.5 million, and that it had already raised $2.6 million toward that goal. The VSO is so vital to the cultural–and economic–well-being of Vermont, Colodny says. Can you imagine the void if the VSO were not here? I am honored to serve as honorary chair of this effort, and ask all who benefit from the VSO to join in this important campaign.Colodny, a Burlington native, served the Burlington community as interim president and chief executive officer of the Fletcher Allen Health Care, and prior to that, as interim president and chief executive officer of the University of Vermont. He was president and chief executive officer of US Airways before becoming chair of the board of Comsat Corp, leader in global satellite and digital networking services. Colodny has served on numerous boards around the country. Ed Colodny loves this music and believes in this orchestra, says VSO board chair. Ken Squier. We could not have a better leader for this endowment effort. To have someone who has meant so much to all the state in this role is so meaningful and truly an honor for us all.The VSO has brought music to all corners of Vermont for 75 years. It was founded in the fall of 1934, when Vermont s scattered musical forces, including musicians, farmers, bankers, plumbers, and teachers, joined together to become the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. The organization became the first state-supported orchestra in 1939, and over the years as other state orchestras performed from music halls, the VSO continued to bring music to historic and beautiful outdoor locations around the state. Today, under the leadership of Jaime Laredo, the orchestra has become a great professional orchestra.During the 2007/2008 season the Orchestra reached an audience of 61,358 in 161 communities, including 28,198 school children through its popular SymphonyKids outreach program in Vermont schools. Overall the Orchestra produced 339 performances and events statewide 296 of the events were offered free of charge to the audience.For additional information about the VSO Endowment Campaign, please contact the VSO at 2 Church Street, Suite 3B, Burlington, Vermont 05401 or call 800-876-9293, ext. 25. For information about forthcoming concerts, please visit VSO website at www.vso.org(link is external).
Attorney General William H Sorrell announced today that Vermont has joined with other states and the federal government and reached an agreement in principle with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, to settle allegations it engaged in an off-label marketing campaign that improperly promoted the antipsychotic drug, Seroquel. AstraZeneca will pay the states and the federal government a total of $520 million in damages and penalties to compensate Medicaid and various federal healthcare programs for harm suffered as a result of this conduct. Vermont s federal and state share of the settlement is approximately a half million dollars.Since Vermont s Medicaid program is paid with both state and federal dollars, the Medicaid program will receive a check for approximately $200,000 after the federal share is deducted. Attorney General William Sorrell hailed the settlement as “a significant victory for Vermont and its consumers.” The improper marketing practices in this case were particularly egregious given the fact that the unapproved uses of these powerful medications were often targeted at our most vulnerable citizens.Seroquel is one of a newer generation of antipsychotic medications (called atypical antipsychotics) used to treat certain psychological disorders. From January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2006, AstraZeneca promoted the sale and use of Seroquel for certain uses that the Food and Drug Administration had not approved. The settlement resolves a government investigation into promotional activities undertaken by AstraZeneca that were directed not only to psychiatrists but also to primary care physicians and other health care professionals for unapproved uses in the treatment of medical conditions such as aggression, Alzheimer s disorder, anger management, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia and sleeplessness.In implementing its marketing campaign, AstraZeneca was also alleged to have made illegal payments to physicians, paying their way to travel to resort locations to advise AstraZeneca about marketing messages for unapproved uses, to serve as authors of articles written by AstraZeneca and its agents, and to conduct studies for unapproved uses of Seroquel. The settlement resolves claims that, as a result of these promotional activities, AstraZeneca caused physicians to prescribe Seroquel for children, adolescents and dementia patients in long term care facilities, which are uses that were not medically accepted indications for which state Medicaid programs would approve reimbursement.As part of the settlement, AstraZeneca will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which will closely monitor the company s future marketing and sales practices.This settlement is based on qui tam cases that were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by relators private parties who filed actions under state and federal false claims statutes.A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team participated in the investigation and conducted the settlement negotiations with AstraZeneca on behalf of the settling states. Team members included representatives from New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas and California.Source: Vermont AG. 5.5.2010
In spite of the softening real estate market, Vermonters earning the median income still could not afford the median priced home, according to a new report released today.The report, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Housing and Wages in Vermont,” is the latest in an annual series that tracks housing costs in relation to Vermonters’ incomes. For the last several years, Vermont’s tight housing markets have driven up prices while wages, particularly those employing the most Vermonters, have not kept pace. During the recession, even as home prices drop, opportunities for low-income and first time buyers were limited due to high fees and higher interest rates for buyers with moderate credit scores.“The real estate market was helped this year by low interest rates and a generous federal tax credit,” said Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of Vermont Housing Finance Agency. “The problem was those low rates weren’t available to many buyers and the tax credit wasn’t available at closing to help pay for the higher down payments and fees lenders now require. Few first time buyers can save up the down payment and closing costs needed to buy a home even if the median price dropped.”Among the report’s findings:The median purchase price of a home in Vermont dropped by 5% to $190,000, the first substantial fall on record.A Vermont household would need an annual income of $57,000, and an estimated $15,000 for down payment, fees and closing costs, to afford that home.The median household income remained the same as last year, $52,000, although once inflation is factored in, Vermonters saw a 2% decrease in buying power.The average Fair Market Rent for a modest two-bedroom unit is $920 a month, and more than half of Vermont’s occupations have median wages less than the $36,800 needed to afford that rent.An additional 3,000 households become cost burdened annually, meaning more Vermonters paying more than 30% of their income for housing. The state is the 7th and 15th worst state in the nation for cost burdened renters and owners, respectively.The recession is more than many households on the edge can bear. Despite stimulus programs and increased funding, the number of people who are homeless in Vermont increased 22% since 2008 when the recession began.“Vermonters continue to need affordable housing and the state’s economy needs housing construction in order to help it emerge from this recession,” said Rob Naylor of Naylor & Breen Builders in Brandon, VT. “Our company has seen firsthand the effects of the real estate market, but because of the programs designed to fund the construction and renovation of housing for lower-income residents, we were able to keep a crew working to build the units this report clearly shows are needed. These projects have created permanently affordable housing, while also keeping my guys employed.”One family’s story illustrates the difficulty accessing both the rental and homeownership market. Janet Green, her husband and son lived in an apartment in Richmond, but were commuting to work in Burlington. “The commuting had become a lot for us, and we wanted to raise our son in Burlington so we started looking for a place to rent. But it was so expensive!” In May 2009 they decided to attend a homebuyer education workshop to see if homeownership was an option. It was, through the Champlain Housing Trust’s shared equity program, and after searching for a number of months, they bought a condo in Burlington and moved in on Halloween.“We could never have bought a home on the open market — even renting seemed to stretch our budget. But with CHT’s program, we were fortunate to be able to do it,” added Green.Source: VHFA. 6.15.2010. Copies of the new report are available online at the VHFA website, www.vhfa.org.-30-(link is external)
By David Dill. Now that we are about halfway through the summer construction season, many Vermonters have become aware that the Agency of Transportation is replacing all the road signs along Vermont’s interstate system. This work has prompted many questions, the most common is why?Understandably, many motorists believe that our old highway signs are just fine and that the money we are using to replace these highway signs could be better spent repairing bridges, expanding public transit and paving roads. I too would prefer to put every available dollar into these kinds of high-priority programs, but we do have to address our other responsibilities as well.The bottom line is that from an engineering and safety perspective, those old signs are not OK and the state must replace them. Here is why.Congress recently directed the Federal Highway Administration to adopt a national standard for retro-reflectivity for traffic signs and pavement markings. These new standards, which were established in 2008, apply to all roads open to public travel. Compliance with these new retro-reflectivity rules is a requirement that VTrans must meet by 2015 to continue to receive the critical federal-aid highway funds that come to Vermont.Federal-aid highway funds make up $250 million of the state’s $595 million transportation budget, and are used in all facets of the state’s highway, bridge and public transportation programs.The goal of this new reflectivity mandate is to provide signs that are legible during all times of day and weather conditions. This is largely accomplished through the retro-reflectivity of the sign sheeting. The expected life of this sheeting is approximately 15 years. Many of the signs on our interstate system are at least 20 years old, and some that were recently replaced on northern portions of I-91 were the original signs from way back in the 1960s and 70s.The posts and foundations for these signs are also being replaced. All new signposts are designed to be “breakaway” if struck by a vehicle. This modern technology is a valuable safety tool that will prevent injury and save lives. On the financial front, these sign projects do not tap funds that could otherwise be used for bridge, public transit or pavement projects, so they are not in conflict with those programs. Instead, the new signs are 100 percent federally funded with money called “Section 148 Highway Safety Improvement Program” funds, which can only be spent on safety-related projects.Sign improvements are one of several allowable project categories under Section 148. The federal government identified sign retro-reflectivity as an important safety feature, which led to the Highway Administration’s adoption of the mandate requiring states to upgrade their existing signs. As a result, VTrans, over the next few years, will replace all traffic control signs on a system-wide basis, prioritized by sign age, which is why the northern section of I-91 was completed first, followed by the current I-89 projects. The rest of the interstate system will follow so that we complete the work by the federally mandated 2015 deadline.David Dill is the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation8.4.2010
Saturday’s Last Mile Ride – Gifford Medical Center’s annual charity motorcycle ride – attracted more than 180 riders and raised approximately $40,000 for end-of-life care at the nonprofit Randolph medical center.Started in 2006 by Gifford nurse and motorcyclist Lynda McDermott of Randolph, the ride has grown significantly in the five years since in both the number of riders it attracts and the money it raises. This year’s ride took motorcyclists through about 100 miles of central Vermont countryside through Randolph, Northfield, Montpelier, Middlesex, the Mad River Valley, Rochester, Bethel and more. Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak led the ride and combat veterans provided “road guard” services. The ride ended at the hospital with a chicken and rib barbecue and live music from local group “Two for the Show and Company.” Riders were also given free massages and awarded prizes. Riders who raised the most money for the cause received gifts from area motorcycle dealers.Topping the list of riders who raised the most were Tim and Patty Schroeder, who raised $1,847; Linda Chugkowski and Robert Martin, who raised $1,810; and Reg and Rose Mongeur, who collected more than $1,300.Reg Mongeur, a combat veteran, also served as a road guard and rode in memory of his late mother, Caroline Mongeur, who died in Gifford’s Garden Room in May.The Garden Room is a garden-side suite for dying patients and their families. The ride supports free services for those patients as well as for other patients in advanced illness, family bereavement services and special training for Gifford’s staff.“The staff at Gifford and the Garden Room … they made the transition between life and death a lot smoother. Everybody involved from the Gifford side of it, it was like it was their family (member) too,” says Reg Mongeur of how his mother was treated. The experience made Reg all the more supportive of the ride and gave him drive to raise money so others could experience the same service.And Reg – a Vietnam veteran – got a bit of a surprise of his own at the ride.Riders gave the combat veterans a standing ovation for their help at the ride. The act of kindness brought tears to the Vietnam vet’s eyes.This year’s ride also included the raffle of a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low from Wilkins Harley-Davidson in Barre. Art Peper, a 92-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran and prison of war, won the motorcycle.Ride organizer Ashley Lincoln called Peper with the news immediately after the ticket was drawn.“I didn’t believe it,” said Peper, who had collected antique Indian and Harley motorcycles before selling them a few years ago.Schroeder sold Peper the winning ticket on behalf of the hospital. “When Tim sold me the ticket he said, ‘This is the lucky ticket,’ and it was.”Peper bought the ticket to support the ride, not expecting to win. He’s now not quite sure what he’ll do with his shiny new Harley, which Schroeder delivered on Saturday afternoon. “It’s fun, but I don’t think I’ll ever ride it,” said the Randolph resident who has had visitors and plenty of phone calls – some from people he hasn’t talked to in years – since his big win.“It made him very happy,” notes his wife, Rose.Peper’s says he’s just happy the ride raised so much money for end-of-life care.Other winners included Thom Goodwin, a hospital employee from Corinth, who won a stunning quilt make by Gifford nurses. “I’m thrilled and elated. Five nurses poured their heart into creating this. When I look at the quilt I can be reminded daily of what a caring and compassionate community Gifford is,” Goodwin said.And ride volunteer and pediatrician Dr. Mitsu Chobanian was the winner of a 50/50 raffle.The date for next year’s ride has already been set. It will be held Aug. 20, 2010. Visit the hospital’s Web site, www.giffordmed.org(link is external) for updates on 2011 ride and more photos from this year’s ride.The other Last Mile RideMotorcycles roared through the area on Saturday to raise money for end-of-life care at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. But one rider had a much quieter start and finish. Marci White, a Gifford nurse, wife and mother from Braintree, rode her pedal bicycle 37 miles to Northfield and back Saturday morning to support the cause.Source: Gifford Medical Center. 8.24.2010
NRG Systems Inc,Jan Blittersdorf, CEO/Owner of NRG Systems (www.nrgsystems.com(link is external)), was recently named chair of the American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) (http://www.awwi.org/(link is external)). As a first order of business, Jan attended a meeting in February with top White House officials to discuss new wind energy siting guidelines issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. â ¢ The development, with the Nature Conservancy, of a unique landscape assessment tool designed to identify sensitive wildlife habitat and areas that are likely to have low wildlife risk where wind energy development could be prioritized;â ¢ Launch of pilot study to build a comprehensive research information system, gathering existing wind-wildlife data to support critical scientific research and analysis;â ¢ The release of Enabling Progress (http://www.awwi.org/initiatives/mitigation.aspx(link is external)), a report that provides a review of current wildlife related mitigation practices employed in the United States and how those practices might relate to future wind energy development.‘From the outset, Jan’s collaborative style and vision have provided clear direction to this group,’ says Abby Arnold, AWWI executive director. ‘With her as chair, we will continue to benefit from her leadership and advance our vision of furthering wind energy and addressing potential wildlife impacts.’Jan Blittersdorf previously served as AWWI vice chair.The eight non-profit partner organizations of AWWI include: Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists. In addition to NRG Systems, the remaining ten AWWI industry and utility partners include: American Wind Energy Association, BP Wind Energy, GE Energy, Horizon Wind Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, Pacific Gas & Electric, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Ridgeline Energy, Shell WindEnergy, and Vestas Americas.For more information about American Wind Wildlife Institute, visit www.awwi.org(link is external).About NRG SystemsNRG Systems’ wind measurement equipment can be found on every continent in more than 140 countries, serving electric utilities, wind farm developers, research institutes, and government agencies. The Hinesburg (VT) company, founded in 1982, has been nationally recognized for its LEED gold-certified manufacturing facility and its employee best-practices. For more information on NRG Systems, Inc., visit www.nrgsystems.com(link is external).# # #