U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) announced today nearly $10.3 million in funding to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) to spur development of affordable housing in Colchester, Montpelier and Windsor, Vermont. The funding, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will allow the VHFA to provide sufficient equity funding to complete ongoing construction projects in Windsor, Colchester and Montpelier. The ARRA investment will help create 130 affordable housing units and an estimated 175 jobs by leveraging over $20 million in construction funding.VHFA will use the funding to provide credit to the following projects:Union Square, Windsor – This project includes 43 units of mixed-income housing and is expected to provide 76 construction jobs.Brookside Village, Colchester – This project includes 42 units of mixed-income housing and is expected to provide 76 construction jobs.North Branch Apartments, Montpelier – This project includes 45 units of mixed-income housing and is expected to provide 27 construction jobs.The Treasury announced $486 million in funding to affordable housing projects in 12 states, including Vermont, on Friday – the fourth installment in a $3 billion ARRA program. The money comes as the number of housing starts has fallen almost 80 percent since 2006 and as the number of houses under construction has reached a 13-year low.Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of the VHFA said, “Vermont has been very fortunate to have great support from our local and regional banks and investors in providing tax credit equity for affordable rental housing – but they can’t do it all. With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of the national equity market, we desperately needed an alternate investment option like the tax credit exchange program. This will allow us to complete 130 units of affordable housing and leverage over $20 million in construction funding.”Sen. Leahy said, “As a result of the economic downturn our state and nation are facing, many affordable housing developments in progress or about to break ground would have faced disaster without these recovery funds. The complicated tax incentives that have been successfully used for years to help incentivize affordable housing developments have fallen victim to the economic crisis. We are pleased that these funds will help VHFA and other organizations around the state complete much needed affordable housing and put people to work.”Sen. Sanders said, “Not only will this federal investment begin to provide concrete solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Vermont, it also will create decent-paying jobs. These federal dollars demonstrate a commitment to increasing affordable housing opportunities and putting Vermonters to work.”Rep. Welch said, “This recovery funding will ensure that critical construction projects in Vermont do not grind to a halt at a time when we need them the most. By putting people to work while creating much-needed affordable housing units, we are making just the sort of investment Vermont communities need. I’m pleased these federal dollars will be put to good use in Windsor, Colchester and Montpelier.”Source: Sanders’ office. WASHINGTON (Friday, July 10) — # # # # #
Burlington marketing firm Brandthropology has teamed up with Emphase, an engineering firm and a division of Logic Supply based in South Burlington. Brandthropology will revamp the Emphase image, including a logo redesign and a website overhaul. ‘We’re really excited to have another great tech client, especially one located here in Vermont. Our firm’s process-driven approach to helping brands evolve is a great match for Emphase’s progressive, innovative product offerings. It’s really a win-win.’ said Matt Dodds, founder and Chief Brandthropologist at Brandthropology. Emphase serves the embedded computing market, coupling internal component design capability with streamlined manufacturing in order to offer both custom and pre-engineered solutions to OEM clients. They focus on custom component design, solid state storage, and hardware and software development.Brandthropology [brÃ¦ndâ ¢thruhâ ¢polâ ¢uhâ ¢jee] is a Burlington, Vermont based marketing firm with a distinctly Darwinian approach. It creates highly evolved marketing systems for a select group of clients who are interested in embracing change ‘ and the many opportunities that new technologies now offer.Source: Brandthropology, www.brandthropology.com(link is external)
Community health centers at Springfield, Plainfield and Richford were awarded $4.3 million in the first round of grants under a new health care law, the Vermont congressional delegation announced today.Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) fought for $11 billion in The Affordable Care Act to expand health centers and double to 40 million the number of patients served nationwide over the next five years. ‘A week after breaking ground on the new health center in Burlington, it is extremely exciting to see expansion projects approved for Springfield, Richford and Plainfield,’ Sanders said. ‘This will create jobs in the short term, but most importantly it will improve access to affordable primary health care, dental care and low-cost prescription drugs.’Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, ‘This is another example of how health care reform will improve access to care for Vermonters, particularly those who live in rural areas. Community health centers are an integral part of the health care network in Vermont and these funds will allow their expanded facilities to care for more patients,’Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said, ‘Our community health centers provide top-rate affordable health care to thousands of Vermonters. This funding makes critical resources available to three pioneering Vermont health centers in their effort to expand access to high quality primary and preventive care in their communities. This is a double win ‘ creating jobs and expanding health access to rural Vermonters.’Springfield Medical Care Systems will receive $2.5 million for a new outpatient facility in an old mill building. The Health Center in Plainfield will receive $988,700 to construct a facility for behavioral health services that also will house cardiac rehabilitation, exercise and health-promotion services and a garage for a dental van. The Richford Health Center will receive $850,000 for a new building at a satellite center in Enosburg Falls.Altogether, the $4.3 million for Vermont will be used to address pressing construction and renovation needs and expand access to quality, affordable health care. The projects are expected to create 27 construction-related and health center jobs.Nationwide, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced awards of $727 million to 143 community health centers. The new funding under the health care law is in addition to a $2 billion nationwide investment sponsored by Sanders in last year’s economic stimulus package. Vermont has received $21 million for health centers through the stimulus bill, including $10.9 million to rebuild the Community Health Center of Burlington. Ground was broken Sept. 27 on that stimulus-funded expansion. Centers in Rutland, Bradford, Morrisville, and St. Johnsbury also have seen significant boosts recently.Vermont has eight community health centers with 41 satellite offices providing primary health care to more than 108,000 patients regardless of their ability to pay. Source: Congressional delegation. 10.8.2010
DOUGLAS: No, thousands, because there are hundreds of boards and some turnover. VBM: Did you meet your wife (Dorothy) while you were a student? Douglas: As you know, my wife is and was a ‘townie.’ I met her at the local dentist’s office of Doctor Langfeldt where she worked and still works, and it was love at first bite! She hopes to retire with him in the near future. In 1976-7 budget years, Governor Tom Salmon was struggling with an economic downturn and a revenue slide and he proposed raising the sales tax by a third, from 3 percent to 4 percent, in a special session of the Legislature in the fall of 1975. Dick and I and others resisted that strongly and successfully believing that we could tighten our belts in state government first. Then and in the budget adjustment act in the next session in 1976 which was contentious, we found ourselves in the same mind as it related to restraining state spending. VBM: Tell me about ‘Jim says yes, but Frank Ses-no’. (former CNN anchor and Washington Bureau Chief) DOUGLAS: I am surprised that they published it. But I think that policy makers have to confront the burden of the property tax. It is hurting a lot of our families and I think that it is going to impair our ability to compete in the future. I talked with a farmer this morning. It was so frustrating and he was so blue. They are trying to do something on the side. The price of milk is so low. If you don’t get something for your product, you can’t service your debt. I almost thought that I should call mental health services. DOUGLAS: Working with the teachers and the state employees, we have made some changes that will be helpful and they are now contributing more. Our problems are not as bad as most states. But the bigger problem is the post-retirement health benefits. The vesting process is tiered so the benefit is not earned fully until 20 years of employment instead of five. The actuarial tables show our state getting older and older which is great but costly. DOUGLAS: It affects our bond ratings for municipalities, the airport, and perhaps others. It does not reflect well on our state I have been told by Wall Street when our largest municipality is having financial problems. VBM: In 2004 the bumper sticker war was Jim+Jobs versus Jim=George. Permit reform was one of your objectives. You created the E-Board. Did that work well? DOUGLAS: I think that Vermont Yankee has a role to play in Vermont’s energy future. There have been many problems lately which breads lots of frustration on both sides. New personnel helps. I hope that we can find a way to keep it going as it provides low cost, low emission, stable priced power that we have enjoyed. VBM: Have you made headway with the cost of workmen’s compensation insurance for business? DOUGLAS: I was news director at WRMC-FM at Middlebury College for a couple of years and I enjoyed that experience. And then I was working in town after graduation at WFAD. DOUGLAS: As state Young Republican Leader, I became an ex-officio member of the Republican State Committee. I got to know many leaders of our party including Richard Snelling while I was in college. He had run in 1966 against Phil Hoff unsuccessfully. He had returned to the Legislature in 1972 so we were ‘freshmen’ (chuckle) together. It was a contested four-way primary and a four-way general election. My margin of victory was smaller than the number of new voters, which I had personally registered. I had become a notary and have been ever since. I took the voter registration forms with me as I went door-to-door seeking votes and voters.I visited every home, at least all those that I could find, and wore out some shoe leather. VBM: Is that because you raised a few taxes yourself such as sales tax and the unemployment tax? DOUGLAS: They remain fiscal and economic. There is a $112 million hole in the budget. The ARRA funds are over except for a trickle here and there. The faucet will be turned off because the federal debt is a real big hole. You can’t patch, cut, and there is no tax capacity. I admired his intellect and his acumen in starting businesses and creating jobs in our state and he was a very effective legislator. He became majority of leader in our second term and I decided to become his assistant whip. The house GOP caucus was held in December in the House chamber as we had a large caucus in those days. He had a contested race for majority and won, and then he nominated me for whip and I was elected without any opposition. DOUGLAS: (more laughter) I did not overlap with Frank as he was Class of 1977, but I knew him as I was still broadcasting and he was on campus radio and then he worked at WCFR in Springfield. I did overlap with Chris Graff for a year. Another classmate is Brian Collamoreof WSYB, Rutland. The law also changed the party status so that as a third party you must now register your complaint at the beginning of the process, not just jump in when you like. You could no longer come in at the last moment just to hold things up. I think that we made some good changes. It was not as extensive as I wanted but it is the essence of compromise. Peter Welch was the Senate pro tem at the time, and we had a very respectful process. VBM: Was it similar in the treasurer’s office? DOUGLAS: Yes, and it continues to be. Very frustrating. Before I took office in 2002 I was the only statewide Republican public officeholder. I worked hard to get the Bush Administration to put the Circ on a list of seven projects which by presidential executive order were given priority status to be expedited. That worked well until a special interest group went to court and received an injunction from the federal court. I understand that the environmental impact statement was 16 years old at that point and needed to be refreshed. We have spent eight years and a lot of money updating the environmental impact statement and we spent a lot of time with the US Corps of Army Engineers and the EPA. The EPA now has a very different and unhelpful complexion to it, quite frankly, since Mr Obama was elected. This despite the fact that I am President Obama’s favorite Republican governor. (chuckle) It has been a real frustration. I have heard from many of my colleagues around the country that the EPA seems to be very unhelpful everywhere. I believe we need to get that project back on track. Douglas: I don’t mean retire and like go with him! I meant simultaneously with him. VBM: What were some key things that you learned from Snelling? VBM: Do you think that smaller and better located energy plants are a good idea? VBM: Lots of different energy options are being considered now: wind, solar, biomass, independent power producers, nuclear, Hydro Quebec, water, oil, and even gas. Is your biggest success putting Hydro Quebec back on track? VBM: Were you successful in bending the cost curve? The League of Cities and Towns reported that its carrier, Cigna, is raising its rates about 17 percent. VBM: Please tell us about your broadcast career. DOUGLAS: Dick Snelling is someone whose mind is always working, thinking ahead. He gave a lot of thought to the economic cycles and what we needed to do to be competitive. He believed in ‘full cycle’ budgeting, which means that you don’t spend every dime you have in good times as good times will not last forever, and you don’t tax up to what you would like to spend in bad times. You work to find an equilibrium that makes sense. DOUGLAS: I went to an activities fair at Procter Hall and, after looking around, I joined the Young Republican Club, became its president, and then state chairman. After I graduated and was trying to decide what to do now that ‘I had grown up,’ I decided to pursue the Middlebury House seat (in a two member district) that was being vacated by a gentleman who had been appointed to fill a vacancy and was not running. DOUGLAS: It was a good learning process about the complexity of the elections. The business regulation monitoring as well broadening my understanding of the business community. VBM: Has the Circ (Circumferential Highway in Chittenden County) been frustrating? It was similar with health care two years later; we found common ground to pass a bill which is now the envy of the country. DOUGLAS: Oui! I think that securing that portion of our baseload power supply for 26 additional years is a major accomplishment. I am proud of our lowest emission record in the country, our success in moderating our rates. I didn’t understand why we were having such an adversarial relationship with the folks who supply one third of our electricity from a renewal mission three stable source. DOUGLAS: I did not have any ambitions beyond my leadership post at that time. I wanted to be a good majority leader to help him accomplish his goals. We changed the labor relations laws, the election laws, the public utility regulation structure including the Public Service Board and the Public Service Department that we have today. There were a number of things that we did to make state government work better. The sales tax increase worked for a couple of years by lowering the property tax, but by year three we were back to where we started. Without cost containments on the local school budgets, it was not successful. At least five times I recommended caps on spending and they did pass the two-vote bill, but for the most part they have ignored my request for caps. VBM: What is the effect of Burlington Telecom’s financial woes? I learned a lot about fiscal and economic policy from him. DOUGLAS: It is happening. We will get it done. It is successful. We may be about $3 million shy of our goal. Our inmate population has stabilized and even decreased lately. I think that things are moving well. DOUGLAS: The future is starting to clarify itself. I appreciate going back to the campus I left 38 years ago to teach. I will enjoy spending time on campus. But I will look at opportunities as they come. VBM: Thank you, good luck in your future endeavors. DOUGLAS: Yes, I talked with Vermont Gas Systems about extending their lines. They are in Chittenden and Franklin counties and the next logical extension is extending lines into Addison County. There are not as many large employers, but there are significant customers. James Dwinell interviewed Governor James Douglas on December 1st in his Pavilion office overlooking the State House. VBM: As a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, what brought you to Vermont? Jim Douglas promised to be accessible to the people when he was first running for governor. He has famously lived up to that promise, and seems to have remembered everyone’s name along the way. Here he speaks before the official grand opening of Sugarbush’s $10 million addition on December 10. To his left is Sugarbush CEO Win Smith. Behind him is a specially commissioned painting by Woody Jackson.Douglas: I had some teachers in high school who were alumni and they knew that I was interested in foreign languages and encouraged me to apply. Middlebury College is a school that is and was renowned for its foreign language departments. I do not regret the choice. DOUGLAS: I proposed the green growth zones based on that concept with a locally generated energy facility with less transport and fewer transmission lines and without the loss of power via resistance. VBM: Is Challenges for Change going to come up short in savings? VBM: What do you think that your legacy is? DOUGLAS: I hope that people will remember that I worked hard on their behalf, that I was accessible to them, that I laid out a plan eight years ago and governed from that plan. I recall at a fair a woman paying me the highest compliment, saying, ‘Thank you for doing what you said you were going to do.’ That is what public service ought to be about, that is the accountability that the constitution talks about in our public servants. I feel strongly that the nature of representative government is that you lay out a platform of how you would govern and you do it. DOUGLAS: Yes, we did, but it didn’t make any sense. I decided that I was going to do something to repair that relationship. It began with our cleaning up Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog and the election of Jean Charest in 2003. With Jean we found a willing partner. His real focus has been energy and the environment. He is a liberal party member but he was a conservative when he was in Ottawa.Governor Douglas received L’Ordre National du Quebec in March 2010 from Premier Charest. The two helped repair the political damage to the Vermont-Quebec relationship done by the 1998 ice storm. He is very environmentally sensitive and wants to help with air pollution and of course Hydro Quebec is renewable. I realized that the previous contracts were fixed prices for a very long time; sometimes the price was good, sometimes it was high. In thinking about the new contract I thought that we could put together a contract that used a formula to set that price that reflected the market and that is what we did. VBM: How does it feel leaving elected office after serving for 36 years? VBM: Maybe it was that we sued them over an Act of God ice storm, saying somehow it was not an Act of God that caused the delivery system to fail, but lack of good management. VBM: Did they take credit for that? VBM: Was serving as secretary of state helpful when you became governor? DOUGLAS: I was working hard to avoid unemployment tax increases, knowing that the fund was getting tight, and we were doing quite well. I don’t think anyone saw the rapid rise in unemployment that we experienced when the recession hit and as a result the demands on the fund were more than we expected. We made some structural changes but it could have been a tougher bill. DOUGLAS: First of all, I was pleased that George Bush received more votes in Vermont than my opponent Peter Clavelle. Our permit reform efforts were positive. By consolidating appeals from five bodies into one, the court made it more expeditious and secondly it made it more consistent. The Environmental Board with nine Vermonters from different walks of life, bringing their own differences and perspectives, along with the nine environmental commissions did not provide a consistency of decision making that I think that the state really needed. The E-Board did that. VBM: Do you have regrets? VBM: What was your interest in running for state government? VBM: Please tell us about your relationship with Governor Richard Snelling. I became majority leader in the next Legislature and Snelling ran for governor, successfully this time. I was such a fan that I became co-chairman of his campaign and we continued to have a close relationship. VBM: Were you involved in student government? DOUGLAS: That’s hefty. I think that we are making progress. I understand about the premiums but because of the global commitment waiver that we were able to persuade the federal government to give us, we estimate that over its five years that we are spending about $250 million less than we would have. Medicaid visits are down, Medicaid emergency room visits are down, expenditures for Medicare patients are lower. Because of the waiver, the strategy of Blueprint for Health, and our commitment to wellness, we spent a lot less than we would have. We not only a share a border but also many family and cultural ties. It was strange to have such a poor relationship. I am proud that I helped to fix that. VBM: If Peter Shumlin asked your opinion today about Vermont Yankee, what would you say? VBM: Is the underfunding of the state employees and teachers’ pensions going to be a big problem soon? I am particularly proud of health care reform, substance abuse efforts, the e-state initiative, the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, and the smart grid. I hope people will remember that I got up every day and looked forward to working hard for the future of our state. VBM: Is part of the problem the attitude of the state employee towards business and the appointments that a governor makes? VBM: And with you, too, I guess. (lots of laughter) VBM: Do you think that you will write about your career? VBM: Did you consider natural gas energy plants? DOUGLAS: That is related to health care costs but we have seen some rates drop, others moderate. We have put together safety and information programs and workplace wellness and safety programs to make the workplace safer. In agriculture we focused on the cultural and language barriers between farm owner and farm workers and that seem to help bring down the costs. The long-term solution is to bring down health care costs. DOUGLAS: Nope. DOUGLAS: I regret that property taxes are still far too high. Everybody’s. We are the second highest property taxed state in the nation, according to the National Education Association in a report that they came out with earlier this year. VBM: How many people do you think that you have appointed, hundreds? I have offered a variety of ideas to bring down the property tax over the years but most of which have been rejected by the Legislature. In Bennington the first section is open, the second will open soon, and the third and last section is soon to begin. And here we have a heavier concentration of population and commerce in northwestern Vermont. And we can’t move this thing forward. It is impairing our economic future. IBM has made it very clear what a priority it is for them and we just can’t get it done. And the sooner we do it, the cheaper it will be. We have even had to resurface the earlier sections of the Circ before we finish the whole. DOUGLAS: It is a dilemma which any new governor has. Look at what is happening in the transition. Shumlin is keeping some of the appointments that I made and thereby annoying his base. He is making some new appointments which disappoint others. He is making some moderate appointments which do not satisfy others. It is obviously easier to keep folks who are doing a good work. But it is important to put your own imprint on it. DOUGLAS: We worked well and regularly with Governor Dean’s office as we have worked well with Jeb Spaulding. When we had to put together our first budget, we had really been working on that for some time. And it appears that the rating agency likes the fact that we have had a governor of one party and a treasurer of another, and that they work together in a professional and non-partisan way. VBM: Was there a skill that you learned from him that you emulated to become more successful? VBM: What do you think (Governor-elect Peter) Shumlin’s biggest challenges are? VBM: Do you have your next job lined up? DOUGLAS: It is something that I would like to do, but I don’t know if I have the discipline. I said to somebody that I thought that I might need a libel attorney. I would not need to protect my legislative initiative any longer. Maybe instead of using people’s names, I could write instead of a middle aged solon from a certain part of the state. DOUGLAS: Mixed. I have enjoyed it, though it is a lot of hard work. But I feel that it is time to move on. We do not have term limits as many states do, but I want to have as much energy on my last day as I had on my first. I want people to think well of me as I take my leave and not be asking, ‘Why did he stay too long.’ I think that this is the right tour of duty. It is the right amount of time to make a contribution but not to overstay your welcome. DOUGLAS: Thank you. I am looking forward to them. James Dwinell lives in Norwich. He conducted this interview with Governor Douglas on December 1, 2010 in his Pavilion offices.
It takes practice to perfect clinical skills ‘ from drawing blood to inserting intravenous lines to working as part of a trauma team. This practice has been difficult or impossible to obtain other than in the field. Now, thanks to a collaborative, interdisciplinary project of the University of Vermont (UVM) Colleges of Medicine and Nursing and Health Sciences, and Fletcher Allen Health Care, experience can be obtained in a non-patient care setting. UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel, Ph.D., and Fletcher Allen President and CEO Melinda L. Estes, M.D., helped usher in a new era in health care professional clinical education March 2 as they, along with UVM College of Medicine and College of Nursing and Health Sciences leaders, students, faculty and staff, officially opened the Clinical Simulation Laboratory in UVM’s Rowell Building.The Simulation Lab’s 9,000 square feet of newly-renovated space on the second floor of UVM’s Rowell Building will serve all levels of learners, including medical students, nursing and physical therapy students, medical residents, physicians and nurses across the region, community EMTs and Vermont National Guard members. Designed to allow users to practice patient care skills in discipline-specific groups or as teams, simulation technology has been shown to positively impact patient safety, health care quality and outcomes. At a cost of just over $4 million, the Lab was supported by a generous gift from the late Thomas Sullivan, M.D., a UVM/Fletcher Allen medical alumnus from Etna, N.H., along with a $1.75 federal grant secured by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.Features include adult and child mannequin simulators that demonstrate physical responses; six in-patient hospital rooms, each equipped with video cameras for recording and communicating; a multi-purpose room that can function as a simulated Operating Room, Emergency Room or Intensive Care Unit; a professional skills/task training lab with body-part models for learning how to draw blood, wound care, lumbar puncture, joint injection, insertion of central lines, insertion of IV line, arterial blood draw, chest tube insertion, and airway management; a virtual reality lab for practicing surgical skills; and debrief rooms. Standardized patients ‘ community members who have been specially trained to accurately portray specific roles or conditions ‘ will be used in conjunction with simulation technologies in this facility.‘At the University of Vermont, it is our mission to prepare students to be accountable leaders who will bring to their work dedication to the global community, a grasp of complexity, effective problem-solving and communication skills, and an enduring commitment to learning and ethical conduct,’ said President Fogel. ‘It is a true joy to see fulfillment of that mission happening right here in this new Clinical Simulation Laboratory, to celebrate the achievements arising from an unprecedented level of collaboration and partnership, and to honor our shared commitment to the most important missions of teaching and learning.’‘This new space benefits not only students and trainees ‘ but health care professionals and technicians at all stages of their careers,’ said Dr. Estes. ‘Most importantly, it will have an impact on the way we deliver care to patients and their families ‘ and help us to continually improve the quality of care.’In addition to Fogel and Estes, key partners in the Clinical Simulation Laboratory project include UVM College of Medicine Dean Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., and Patricia Prelock, Ph.D., UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences Dean. The Simulation Lab leadership team includes Director of Clinical Simulation Michael Ricci, M.D., Director of Operations Cate Nicholas, M.S., P.A., Ed.D. For more information about the Lab, visit http://www.med.uvm.edu/TB1+I+C+RL.asp?SiteAreaID=1428(link is external) . ###