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The Amazon Effect in Vermont

Stacy Mitchell, the co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says that is more than a retail giant. The company now produces original TV shows, handles food delivery in cities, and even acts as a defense contractor, managing data storage for U.S. intelligence agencies. Mitchell is the co-author of a report called “Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip on the Economy Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities.” She says that...

Duration: 00:24:05

Burlington Telecom’s Fiber Fight

Earlier this week, the Burlington City Council asked the final two bidders for Burlington Telecom to combine their plans to take over the city’s fiber network. Representatives for the for-profit company Ting and the co-op Keep BT Local say they will work on a joint proposal. But some city councilors and others remain skeptical that the bids can be combined. The council twice failed to choose one bidder over the other at its meeting Monday night. Some councilors now speculate that...

Duration: 00:18:25

Nuclear Options at Vermont Yankee

One year ago, Entergy, the company that owns the defunct Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, announced a deal to sell the facility to NorthStar Group Services, a New York-based decommissioning company. One year later, federal and state regulators are still reviewing the proposal. In that time, we’ve learned more about Entergy and NorthStar’s transition plan, which both companies say will lead to a faster cleanup. But there are still major questions about Vermont Yankee’s future that haven’t...

Duration: 00:18:38

The Nordic Way

When author Anu Partanen moved to the United States in 2008, she knew she would encounter some social policies that differed from those of her native Finland. But she didn’t anticipate the anxiety that would come next. “That was a surprise to me,” she told Mark Johnson at a VTDigger News & Brews event. “I just started feeling like I can’t handle anything: these mobile phone contracts, or credit card companies, or health insurance.” Eventually, she realized, “everyone around me was anxious...

Duration: 00:28:24

From Needles to Narcan

The spread of drugs like heroin and fentanyl throughout Vermont is an ongoing issue without an obvious solution. But the opiate overdose reversal drug naloxone, or Narcan, has been proven to save lives. Since 2013, the Vermont Department of Health has distributed free naloxone to a variety of drug treatment facilities around the state. A recent VTDigger analysis found that the bulk of that supply went to syringe exchanges—nonprofit programs originally established to combat the HIV/AIDS...

Duration: 00:20:19

A “New Ruralism” for Vermont

Jon Margolis has written columns for VTDigger since 2010. This week, his piece on a national economic survey showing the relative strength of metropolitan areas compared to rural ones raised broad questions about the future of Vermont’s economy. “Metropolitan areas grow organically,” Margolis says. Vermont is unlikely to build new ones from scratch. So how can a predominantly rural state chart a long-term path? On this week’s podcast, Margolis discusses some suggestions he’s heard from...

Duration: 00:20:50

Clocking the Congressional Calendar

Last Saturday marked the end of the federal fiscal year. Leading up to September 30, members of Congress worked to meet deadlines on multiple authorizations that fund government programs across the country. In Vermont, decisions on the children’s health insurance program and the Federal Aviation Administration carry major impacts on state services. Meanwhile, debates about health care and tax reform indicate the Republican-led Congress’s ongoing priorities. On this week’s podcast,...

Duration: 00:19:08

Pollution Politics on Lake Champlain

Dozens of beaches up and down Lake Champlain were on high alert this week due to toxic algae blooms. In Franklin County, similar cyanobacteria has kept Lake Carmi closed for over four weeks. Both sites have seen this problem before. Excess phosphorous from farms, roads and parking lots has caused algae blooms in waters across Vermont for decades. While multiple governors have worked to address the pollution, including passing legislation to strengthen water quality regulations, no...

Duration: 00:20:16

A Hard Bargain in Burlington Schools

This week, a teacher strike that kept thousands of Burlington students out of school for four days came to an end. Both the teachers union and the school board have expressed relief that they were able to arrive at an agreement. VTDigger’s Morgan True discusses the consequences of the strike, and recaps how negotiations finally led to a deal. Plus, two lawmakers worry that this dispute could be a sign of what’s to come in school districts across the state. That’s why they plan to...

Duration: 00:20:51

Better Living through Poetry

[caption id=”attachment_206621″ align=”aligncenter” width=”610″] Participants respond to a writing prompt in a Writers for Recovery workshop in St. Johnsbury. Photo courtesy Bess O’Brien[/caption] When Bess O’Brien organized a writing workshop in 2014 for people recovering from addiction, she was mainly hoping to continue gathering stories from the St. Albans community she spotlighted in her 2013 documentary film, The Hungry Heart. But over the past three years, she and writer Gary Miller...

Duration: 00:20:57

Kaj Samson Talks Use Tax

Earlier this week, VTDigger reported that Vermont’s tax department was sending about 20,000 letters to Vermonters notifying them that they may owe use tax, an often-ignored tax on some out-of-state or online purchases. Kaj Samsom, Vermont’s tax commissioner, said that fewer than a quarter of residents pay the use tax they legally owe the state. That’s why his department is setting out to “change the culture” around the tax. Readers quickly responded with a range of questions: When is...

Duration: 00:22:17

The Week in EB-5

Since 2014, VTDigger has investigated allegations of fraud at Jay Peak Resort and related developments in the Northeast Kingdom. This week, we reported on two new steps towards the resolution of this case. On Monday, Governor Phil Scott announced that US Citizenship and Immigration Services intended to shut down Vermont’s EB-5 regional center, which was charged with overseeing the developments. On Tuesday, we found out that Ariel Quiros had agreed to drop his challenge to the fraud...

Duration: 00:29:08

The Rescission Makers

For the past several fiscal years, Vermont has seen a series of revenue downgrades: Economists project a shortfall, and the governor proposes mid-year budget cuts to make up for it. For the current fiscal year, lawmakers approved $12.6 million in rescissions to counter a $28.8 million revenue downgrade projected in July. On this week’s podcast, reporter Elizabeth Hewitt talks about how the Scott administration identified ways to resolve this year’s budget gap. Plus, editor Anne Galloway...

Duration: 00:22:28

The Care Board’s Balancing Act

The Green Mountain Care Board made two decisions this week that, taken together, affect health insurance premiums for every customer on Vermont Health Connect. On Wednesday, the board declared that MVP Health Care could raise premiums by an average of 3.5 percent, and on Thursday, they capped Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont’s increases at 9.2 percent. Regulators set both rates lower than insurers had requested, but many consumers, advocates, and even members of the Green Mountain Care...

Duration: 00:21:44

Returning to Coventry

Cynthia Diaz, the now-former clerk and treasurer in Coventry, admitted in civil court this week to destroying a thumb drive containing records of the town’s finances. Diaz still has not faced criminal charges over town officials’ allegations that she embezzled over $1.4 million in public funds. Reporter Dan Schwartz posted his last dispatch from the Northeast Kingdom town this week. In it, he describes how the Selectboard’s Scott Morley fought to get control of town functions out of...

Duration: 00:24:03

Repeal Debate Redux

Since returning from the July 4th recess, Senate Republicans have continued to push for a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Last week, faltering support for their repeal-and-replace measure, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, left observers wondering if the bill was doomed. A dramatic vote to proceed on debating the proposal earlier this week has touched off days of tension in Washington. On this week’s podcast, VTDigger’s Elizabeth Hewitt calls from a Capitol Hill phone booth to...

Duration: 00:22:03

Inside the McAllister Trial

Norm McAllister, a former state senator from Franklin County, has continually maintained that his relationships with three women who accused him of sexual assault and prostitution were consensual. But over the past two years, those accusers—and state prosecutors—have told a different story. McAllister’s weeklong trial on one accuser’s charges came to a conclusion last Friday night with a mixed verdict that left neither side satisfied. VTDigger’s Morgan True and Seven Days’ Mark Davis were...

Duration: 00:31:29

The Trump Budget Threat

While new information regarding Russian government involvement in President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign dominated national news this week, VTDigger’s Washington, D.C. reporting has focused on a different story from the Trump White House. Multiple budget proposals released by the Trump administration this spring have provided a revealing look into the president’s funding priorities. If Congress approves a budget that looks anything like these blueprints, federally funded programs in...

Duration: 00:21:17

Obamacare Repeal and Vermont

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would delay its vote on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Next week, legislators return to Washington to resume discussion of a health care proposal that could have a major impact on Vermont. VTDigger health care reporter Erin Mansfield explains how the ACA has impacted the state and what health care in Vermont might look like if the law is repealed.

Duration: 00:18:58

Jane Sanders and Burlington College Explained

Last week, VTDigger reported that Jane Sanders, the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders, has hired attorneys to represent her in a Justice Department probe of a land deal she orchestrated as president of Burlington College. Records obtained by VTDigger in April confirmed that the investigation was taking place. This week’s podcast features two stories about Sanders’ leadership at the school. Morgan True talks about the land deal that has brought federal investigators to the now-defunct college’s...

Duration: 00:32:31

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