Known music fanatic Jimmy Fallon trekked out to a record store on Long Island, NY this weekend to support vinyl on Record Store Day. While there he sat down with a WEHM radio broadcaster who was reporting live from the record shop.Fallon shared his scores with the host, Anthony, from the outpost at the store in Amagansett, Long Island. Among them: Weezer’s Green Album, John Prine’s September 78 live album, Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Young Lovers, Willie Nelson’s Teatro, U2’s Songs of Innocence, Courtney Barnett’s “Kim’s Caravan” single, and his most prized find, The Side by Side colored vinyl with Syd Barrett and R.E.M. performing “Dark Globe”. He also urged young people to go out and buy turntables and listen to vinyl. “It’s fun, it’s a different sound,” he said. “It makes you appreciate … My kids right now, I’m gonna raise them on vinyl. You get to hold them, look at the pictures. And it’s a warmer sound. It’s just so much fun.”Listen to the interview below. Ant: Listen to Jimmy Fallon hang with us at Innersleeve Records for Record Store Day! #RecordStoreDay The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonPosted by WEHM on Monday, April 20, 2015
Bonsignore has matured as a driver throughout his career on Tour. He‘ll tell you that. It‘s a change he‘s noticed in himself this year.“I think as you get a little older in life, you get smarter,” Bonsignore said. “I think as I‘ve gotten older the last few years, it‘s definitely something I‘ve paid more attention to.“I thought a lot about it over the offseason last year, and I wanted to make sure I was smarter this year with my calls. I feel like I was noticeably calmer at the racetrack during practice, during the races, making smarter decisions.”The results? A season so consistent and so dominant that his average finish in 2020 (2.7) was even lower than in 2018, when he won half the races on the schedule. It stands as the best average finish by any champion in Tour history.Bonsignore credits his close relationship with Massa, now going on 11 years, as being a big part of the success.“He‘s all I‘ve ever known on the Tour. They‘re like a second family to me,” Bonsignore said. “It‘s not just the racing.“No matter what, if the years were up or down in the past, he stuck with me, I stuck with him when things were tough on either side. We just stuck with each other. Through thick and thin, he‘s always had my back, whether it‘s racing-related, personal life, financial advice.”RELATED: Dynasty in the Making: How Kenneth Massa Motorsports turned into a Whelen Modified Tour juggernautThe chemistry that he‘s had building with his crew, many of whom have remained with the team for nearly a decade, was also crucial in a season with so many curveballs.“When the schedule comes out, my guys don‘t miss races,” Bonsignore said. “They plan their family vacations, they plan their days off work, they plan everything around our schedule. That‘s a huge commitment.”But this team had talent in the past. It always had great chemistry, too. The one thing missing? The crew chief.Enter Ryan Stone, who agreed to join the No. 51 team back in 2018. Since Stone began calling the shots, Bonsignore leads the Tour in wins, top-fives and top-10s.“It was just instant chemistry between me and Ryan, and Ryan and the whole team,” Bonsignore said. “He fit right in. He‘s a funny guy. He knows when to joke and when to be serious, and the team is behind him one thousand percent. When we‘re at the racetrack, everyone looks to Ryan for direction. Nobody wants to let Ryan down, and Ryan doesn‘t want to let any of us down.”RELATED: Justin Bonsignore Career Stats | Ryan Stone Career StatsJoining a select group of Modified greats didn‘t sink in for Bonsignore until the championship celebration after the season finale at Thompson.“It was really humbling to see the trophy and know we‘re on there twice now, and not that many people are,” he said. “The guys that are are the best of the best of our series.”With his three wins, Bonsignore sits tied with Coby at 29 — good for sixth on the all-time list. Next up are Jeff Fuller (31) and Tony Hirschman (35). Seventeen of those wins have come in the last three years.He also has 16 career Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Awards and is 16th all-time. He’s only 12 out of fifth, a eminently reachable goal considering his recent run of success.After earning the fruits of years and years of labor the past three seasons, you could say that Bonsignore is living the dream. It‘s something he thinks about from time to time.“There‘s many days you‘re driving home from work and just thinking ‘wow, this is unbelievable what we‘re able to accomplish right now‘,” Bonsignore said. “I‘m sure after all this racing stuff is done, many years from now, we can all get together, and just talk about racing, and the trips, and the fun we had and all the success we‘re having.”But Bonsignore wants to put the emphasis on “many years from now.” Unfortunately for the rest of the Tour competition, Bonsignore hasn‘t spent too much time dwelling on the winning he‘s done. After all, there‘s another title to be won in 2021 and onward.“It just makes me want to be the guy that can get to three now,” Bonsignore said.Only 32 years old, Bonsignore has a lot of racing ahead of him. More important to him than going down as an all-time driver, however, is making sure the entire No. 51 operation itself goes down as an all-timer.“I don‘t need the people to say that I‘ll go down as a great driver,” Bonsignore. “I don‘t care for that type of brag. I want to go down, as a group, as one of the best teams, because they deserve the credit just as much as me.”No matter what happens next, it‘s pretty clear that Bonsignore and the No. 51 team have already cemented themselves as one of the most unstoppable forces in Modified history. “My personal confidence was sky-high,” Bonsignore said. “You go to another brand-new race track and you‘re like ‘okay, well I just did this a couple weeks ago my first time there, so there‘s no reason we can‘t go to another new racetrack and do the same‘.”That‘s exactly what the team did.Two weeks later, on Independence Day at White Mountain Motorsports Park, Bonsignore passed Matt Hirschman late in the going en route to another win. Already, Bonsignore was up 17 points on his closest full-time competitor, Coby.He didn‘t look back.A third win later that year at Monadnock bolstered Bonsignore‘s stranglehold on the points lead.The No. 51 team finished no worse than fifth the entire season, an incredible accomplishment. They never trailed in the point standings. It was a good, old-fashioned beatdown.2020 Justin Bonsignore Race-by-RaceA seventh at the season-ending World Series 150 at Thompson locked up the title. Mike Stefanik. Doug Coby. Tony Hirschman. Jimmy Spencer. Donny Lia.Those are the drivers who have won multiple championships on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. After a dominant 2020 campaign, Justin Bonsignore can now add his name to that very special list.A native of Long Island, New York, Bonsignore has gone toe-to-toe with some of those legends during his Tour career. Now, he‘s well on his way to establishing himself as a Modified legend of his own.The tone was set from the outset of the season, when the series headed to Jennerstown to open things up, more than three months later than initially planned. Bonsignore had never been to the track, and he‘d been out of the driver‘s seat longer than perhaps any point in his career. No matter. Bonsignore sat on the pole and led every lap en route to a win at Jennerstown on June 21. The butterflies Bonsignore had from such a long offseason went away in a flash.
AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to EmailEmailEmailShare to RedditRedditRedditShare to MoreAddThisMoreThis 7-year-old girl has lived her whole life with only one leg – so when her friends see her sporting a brand new pink prosthetic, they can’t contain their joy.Anu, who is a student at an elementary school in Birmingham, England, can be seen striding confidently into her playground in this clip from the BBC Midlands Today. Her friends can be heard saying “Is that your new pink leg?” and “Wow!”Another little girl simply wraps up Anu in a big hug before they all start playing on the tarmac.RELATED: Watch the Tears as Community Pays For Beloved Crossing Guard’s Prosthetic RepairsAnu’s leg was amputated soon after she was born. Her new prosthetic, supported by the West Midlands Rehabilitation Center, will allow the 7-year-old to run, dance, and play just like her friends.The purity of welcome she received is enough to bring a grown man to tears.(WATCH the video below)Click To Share This Sweet Story With Your Friends AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to EmailEmailEmailShare to RedditRedditRedditShare to MoreAddThisMore
Mendoza College of Business adjunct instructor Christopher Stevens delivered the keynote address at the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Leadership Symposium on Sunday morning at Legends of Notre Dame.The symposium focused on promoting a welcoming and tolerant atmosphere via strong leadership. Stevens’s remarks touched on a variety of topics related to these issues and the broader theme of what determines successful leadership.Stevens said inequality is growing problem. He cited the rising incomes of the wealthy and the stagnant and even declining incomes of the poor as well as underrepresentation of women in leadership positions at major companies. He said these issues need to be addressed by the next generation of young leaders.“You’re not going to do it alone,” he said. “Your success will be determined not by how high you climb or many mountains you conquer, but by how many people that you bring with you.”Stevens said his own experience as one of the founders of Keurig Premium Coffee Systems taught him about the driving forces behind success as a leader in the business world and beyond.He played of a video clip of retired Gen. Colin Powell describing the essence of leadership after a reporter asked him to distill leadership into one word. Powell answered this question by saying trust was the most important component of leadership in his life. Stevens said this illustrates the value of working and serving those you lead with humility.Disagreement and debate, however, are crucial to cultivating cultures of success, Stevens said, in order to avoid complacency.“If two partners always agree in business, one of them is unnecessary,” Stevens said.According to Stevens, leaders need to have a powerful vision behind what they are doing. He used the examples of Walt Disney, Mary Anne Radmacher, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dolly Parton and Henry David Thoreau to illustrate the importance of this kind of creative dreaming and commitment to a cause.“People don’t buy what you’re selling,” he said. “They buy why you’re selling it and what you believe in.”Stevens said finding success in sales and business requires channeling these values into a recognizable brand. He said examples of this abound, including McDonald’s, GEICO and BMW.Stevens said building a strong reputation is not a simple task, however.“Creativity can make the difference between an acceptable solution and an exceptional one,” Stevens said.Failure is a universal experience but too many lose hope after stumbling at first and not learning from their mistakes, Stevens said.“’No’ is an invitation to dialogue,” he said. “It means you haven’t given me enough reasons to say ‘yes’ yet.”Stevens said he learned this lesson from his work growing Keurig against competitors ranging from the standard cheap coffee that most offices previously bought and the ubiquitous luxury option of Starbucks.Stevens said the three rules of former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz simplify many of the themes he discussed: Always do the right thing, do the best you can at whatever you’re doing and show people you care.Tags: 2015 ACC Leadership Symposium, ACC symposium, Christopher Stevens, Keurig
While Notre Dame is a Catholic university, the students and community members that make up the Notre Dame community are not all of one faith or background. Better Together ND, a leadership program sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns (CSC), aims to foster conversations between people of different religious and humanistic beliefs through workshops and events. “It’s [a] leadership program that trains and prepares students for an environment containing people with multiple intersectionalities,” sophomore and student leader for Better Together ND Meenu Selvan said. “It’s a series of workshops that teaches students how to interact with other leaders from different backgrounds to unite in solidarity for a common cause and to organize.”Director of leadership formation for the CSC Melissa Marley Bonnichsen said the groups are made up of undergraduate and graduate students who meet up to discuss their different life experiences and how they have impacted their beliefs — religious or otherwise. “The groups are open to anyone who [welcomes] interfaith dialogue and collaboration including students who come from any religious experience or non-religious experiences and or who identify as atheist, agnostic or secular humanist,” Marley Bonnichsen said in an email.Senior and student leader Heather DiLallo said the only requirement is the willingness to have a conversation with people who may have vastly different beliefs than what one is used to.“All we ask is that every student has ears to hear what others have to say and respect for the dignity of each person, no matter how different they are from you,” DiLallo said in an email. Photo courtesy of Melissa Marley Bi Members of Better Together ND gathered for a winter celebration dinner in November. The club has its first spring meeting Thursday.Selvan said she decided to become involved with Better Together ND because she currently serves as the director of faith and service for student government and wanted to improve her ability to work with people who have different beliefs. “I wanted to be equipped with the skills to collaborate with leaders who [represent] individuals with specific faith-based identities,” Selvan said in an email. “I wanted to transform Student Government’s space intended for faith to be more inclusive of interfaith work. Better Together ND has provided me [with] the skills, resources and platform to accomplish this.”Marley Bonnichsen said that amid a divisive political climate in the United States, it is important to focus on what brings us together. “We must be able to get to know people who are different from us, who may agree and disagree and have different lives in order to understand our shared and partnered future together,” she said. “It is in this place that I believe that we can then strive together for the common good regardless of our background or story, race, ethnicity, religion or political alignment … But mutual respect and understanding are necessary and critical first steps in the process if we are to go far together.”Senior and student leader for Better Together ND Isabel Weber said the initiative can help to demonstrate that there are lots of different ways to be religious — or even to simply care about the world at large.“Reaching out to different world view communities helps us create lasting solutions that foster unity rather than division,” Weber said in an email. “I also think Better Together will help people see that faith is not so homogenous here as people might think. Even within Catholicism, there is a wide diversity of faith practices, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together to help others.”Weber said one of the reasons she decided to get involved with Better Together ND was because her parents are an interreligious couple and she grew up celebrating both the Catholic and Jewish faiths.“I know firsthand how much goodness and love can come from interfaith dialogue,” Weber said in an email. “My parents have so much more that unifies them than makes them different, and I firmly believe that holds true for all humans of all belief systems.”DiLallo said she is part of a minority faith tradition at Notre Dame and that during her time at the University she has learned extensively about Catholicism, but not much about other faiths or beliefs. This, she said, fuels her belief that Better Together ND is an important initiative at Notre Dame today. “This is a great way to start dialogue and help people who may have never deeply interacted with someone outside their own faith background to really learn and grow,” DiLallo said. Marley Bonnichsen said the ultimate objective of Better Together ND has been to facilitate conversations between people of different beliefs, faiths and backgrounds. “This goal highlights the importance of relationships and my hope is that the participants will remember this each time they engage in a larger conversation or debate about what’s happening in our world, that they’ll remember it when they vote, that they will remember it when there is conflict around them and when it seems so hard to understand the others’ point of view,” Bonnichsen said. Better Together ND will be hosting its spring launch meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Geddes Hall Coffeehouse. Tags: better together ND, Catholicism, Center for Social Concerns, interreligious dialogue, religion
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in an investigative series on the accessibility and effectiveness of mental health resources available within the tri-campus community. When junior Alexandria Leonardo’s grandparent was undergoing cancer treatment, she turned to the Health and Counseling Center for help.“Having a grandparent go through cancer treatment is just really stressful on that patient and the whole family,” she said.Whether Leonardo was sick with strep throat or simply needed to talk with someone, the center gave her a place to talk about her anxieties and seek treatment for physical illness.“They’re really awesome about trying to get the girls in as soon as possible,” she said.However, she believes some students may be embarrassed to seek assistance for their mental health.And there’s research to support that belief.The “Healthy Minds Study,” conducted by the University of Michigan — which includes data from Saint Mary’s — reported that 47% of all students surveyed believed “‘[m]ost people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment.’”In October, The Observer circulated a form asking students to share their experiences about campus mental health facilities and mental health awareness. Several Saint Mary’s students responded to the form and detailed their journeys in finding both resources and acceptance on campus.Many students on campus have misconceptions about mental health, psychological sciences professor Catherine Pittman noted. A licensed psychologist, she often sees people who believe negative thoughts can be changed by positive thinking, or that mental health struggles are always the result of a traumatic event.“There’s not just a stigma among people, but people who have a mental disorder often have that stigma and when they realize they have a problem, then something develops called self-stigma where they feel embarrassed [or] ashamed,” she said.When Pittman teaches, she tries to fight this stigma and battle negative assumptions about mental health.“There are ideas that people with mental disorders are dangerous or somehow worth less than other people,” she said. “The average person on the street gets their education about mental disorders from the media.”However, this representation of mental disorders usually leads to misinformation regarding mental health, Pittman said.She believes mental health awareness should be an integral part of a student’s education from early in their studies.“It’s so easy for a person to really feel on top of dealing with the disorder they’re dealing with, but they’re also dealing with stigma and they’re also dealing with hostility toward them or people’s fear of them,” she said.This fear of hostility can lead students towards isolation. Saint Mary’s alumna Elizabeth Stockwell (‘18) felt pressured by the social stigma of anxiety and depression, which prevented her from reaching out to her friends, family and faculty when she needed them the most.“I’m still struggling,” Stockwell said. “I’m still trying to work through my thoughts about mental health and how I can work within myself to not see this as a negative thing.”During her sophomore year, Stockwell’s anxiety disorder grew to be unmanageable on her own.“Sophomore year I had some anxiety and panic attacks,” she said. “During Mental Health Awareness Week, I decided to reach out to somebody. When I called the Health and Counseling Center, they said they couldn’t get me in for two weeks and that was a moment when I felt like they weren’t there for me, especially since it was such an important week, they should’ve had more appointments available.”The national average for counselors to students is 1:1,600. The ratio for counselors to students at Saint Mary’s is 1:521, which is above the national average.But Stockwell said because she was not able to establish a connection with a counselor, the subsequent semester and the next year became almost too much to handle.During her senior year, Stockwell began seeing counselor Katharine Barron. Depending on her needs, Stockwell could go to counseling every week or other week, and her mental health improved.Once she graduated, however, Stockwell’s anxiety only got worse. She wished graduating seniors received an informational packet at their last counseling session, which would have helped her navigate the mental health care system outside of the College.For the Saint Mary’s administration, carving out time, money and labor to provide mental health resources on campus can be a challenge, Pittman said.“For the vice president for student affairs, this is one little sliver of her job, so it’s easy for this to get pushed to the side,” Pittman said.While many on campus — including the vice president of student affairs — monitor the mental health resources available on campus, the treatment of students’ mental health crises falls on the Health and Counseling Center.“The [Health and] Counseling Center, they are so overwhelmed,” Pittman said. “I don’t know if they could maybe hire more people, but you know, the College is on a budget.”While the Health and Counseling Center offers individual counseling to students, group therapy is not available to students. The University Counseling Center at Notre Dame offers many forms of group therapy experiences, but according to its website, most of these groups are only available to undergraduate students enrolled at Notre Dame.Karen Johnson, former vice president of student affairs, said the College has no plans to facilitate any counseling or therapy groups outside of the grief and loss support group organized by Campus Ministry.“However, once the new [Health and Counseling Center] director is hired we will reconsider that,” she said.There is still work to be done to combat stigmas surrounding mental health at Saint Mary’s, but organizations such as the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) and other confidential and nonconfidential sources can help, Leonardo said.When thinking of ways to encourage students to seek help at the Health and Counseling Center, Leonardo said advertising and encouraging students to schedule appointments is so important.They should take their mental health seriously because taking care of the mind is equally as important as taking care of the body, she said.“Self-realization about that issue is important and so is being a good support system for friends,” she said. “I tell my friends, classmates and peers that mental health is just as important as physical health if not more, because your mind is so powerful.”Improving one’s mental health awareness can begin in the classroom or at presentations offered in the tri-campus community, Pittman said. Having students take courses related to mental health, she said, will also allow them to learn about mental health since that is one of the best routes to begin educating people on the subject.“There’s just a lack of knowledge that we really have to address if we’re going to go anywhere so I’m just trying to get that information out there to as many people as I can,” she said.News writer Gina Twardosz contributed to this article. Tags: counselors, group therapy, Health and Counseling Center, Healthy Minds Study, Mental health
‘ Legal counsel will be contracted out to experienced EB-5 counsel, if issues arise that require their services,’ Mooney said.Mooney says Brent Raymond, who heads Vermont’ s EB-5 Regional Center, knowingly signed off on the USMS Team, LLC, as a placeholder substitute for DreamLife’ s more complex legal arrangements.‘ We have in-house legal counsel now, and will add legal counsel as demand requires,’ he said. ‘ And we will have specialized legal counsel if we need it. That arrangement was made very clear.’The state’ s cancellation letter also cites inquiries regarding trade professionals on materials American Dream ‘ used to market its EB-5 project.’ The company named architect Tom Leytham and engineers Carl Childs and Edward Pearson, as project participants on their website although neither knew they’ d been listed, nor given their consent.In an interview, Raymond said this could be seen as ‘ false marketing.’Mooney said he’ d spoken to Leytham on March 28, and that Leytham ‘ categorically denies’ he told the state he objected to being included on DreamLife’ s website.‘ He’ s been receiving money from us. He’ s been involved all along, and had no objection whatsoever,’ Mooney said of Leytham.Leytham couldn’ t be reached for comment.Mooney is preparing letters from people who are reiterating they have no objection to being associated with DreamLife, adding: ‘ This is common practice in our industry, that you list your subcontractors in your project.’‘ This list has been around for two years,’ said Mooney. ‘ All of the people on the list were more than happy to be on the list.’Pearson, whose firm is supposed to handle DreamLife’ s electrical, mechanical and geothermal engineering, said he met with company officials once, in Stowe in 2011, and he hasn’ t done any work for them.Childs, an engineer from Williston, last heard from DreamLife principals almost two years, at a June 2011 meeting in Stowe.‘ I don’ t know if it’ s active or not,’ Childs said.Childs is listed as the structural engineer for DreamLife, and his resume was posted on DreamLife’ s website in an undated document that compiled the resumes of the entire construction team.Although Childs hasn’ t performed any paid work for DreamLife, he doesn’ t object to being linked to the development.‘ As far as I was concerned, the project was dead a year and a half ago,’ said Childs. ‘ To me there is no project, there is no connection there. If they want to put that stuff up there, I suppose I should object. On the other hand, I don’ t see anything bad coming out of it.’Mooney isn’ t sure when the list was last updated, saying it could be four or six months ago.On Friday, the list of contractors disappeared from the American Dream website.A questionable videoWhile on a trip to China with Mooney earlier this month, Raymond received an anonymous email complaint about DreamLife promoting Vermont as a great place to host projects.The anonymous complaint alleged that DreamLife’ s website violated Securities and Exchange Commission laws about how securities can be marketed.Within hours, according to Mooney, securities lawyers advised him the website was already in compliance with federal regulations. But they encouraged him to ‘ tweak’ some ‘ legalese’ in their disclaimer.Alarmed, Raymond ordered DreamLife to take down an online video in which he and the state endorse the project, until they had received legal advice clarifying their website met all SEC regulations. The video, which featured a text scroll that Raymond had not approved, has since been taken down.Susan Donegan, commissioner of the state’ s Department of Financial Regulation which regulates securities, explained to VTDigger anybody marketing securities must not mislead investors with marketing materials that tout the ‘ merits of the possible future success of the project’ while failing to disclose major risks.‘ Nothing is to be sold or solicited in a way that is to mislead investors,’ said Donegan. ‘ You want there to be full disclosure about the risks of an investment.’She said a website notifying investors of the existence of an EB-5 project is generally acceptable, though disclosing too much detailed financial information before vetting potential investors is generally prohibited.Donegan declined to comment on DreamLife’ s website.‘ We don’ t, here at the department, opine on those kinds of things. I have no opinion,’ Donegan said. ‘ Someone must file a complaint to trigger our investigatory requirements.’Lack of property investment raises questionsDespite actively searching for sites in Vermont for at least two years and seeking foreign investors, the DreamLife development project owns no land and holds no options on any property.Jeffrey Carr, an economist who has produced hundreds of job projection reports for EB-5 projects nationally, said that a project that lacks ownership or control of land while still actively seeking investors is an odd combination.Jeffrey Carr Lawrence Miller, the current secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, cancelled the agreement with American Dream in September and then reinstated the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in November after he and other state officials were assured that Mooney would lead the company and that a new escrow account had been secured.The state’ s latest decision to cancel its agreement with American Dream, based on the aforementioned ‘ material misrepresentations,’ comes on the heels of accusations that the company may have violated Securities and Exchange Commission rules with regard to marketing to investors.Agency Secretary Miller said it’ s unlikely the state will reinstate the American Dream MOU. In the cancellation letter, he wrote: ‘ Based on the nature and significance of the examples of material breach, we do not foresee American Dream Life Fund I being able to cure them or remedy the broken trust.’State officials say the Vermont EB-5 Center, which so far has a 100 percent success rate, must maintain its stellar reputation in order to continue to attract investors.John Kessler, general counsel for the commerce agency, said as the No. 1 ranked regional center in the country, the Vermont EB-5 Center is under scrutiny from the nation’ s biggest media outlets. The Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, he said, ‘ come to us.’‘ We’ re kind of in a bull’ s-eye of a target for a lot of things, and we’ ve done really well,’ Kessler said. ‘ Our approvals at the adjudication centers are the best in the country, and so what it comes down to for us is a matter of confidence.’Confidence, Kessler said, is crucial for the success of the center and the state’ s other 14 projects. ‘ We’ ve worked hard for 16-plus years to get where we are with this regional center, and we do have unparalleled success, and our reputation is important so if our confidence level is shaken, and if we read about things and ask ourselves how confident are we, that’ s a very important factor,’ he said.David North, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies and a vocal critic of the EB-5 program, said he’ s ‘ never heard of a regional center doing something like this.’‘ Vermont is the only one in the country that is an arm of the government, as opposed to Chamber of Commerce regional center,’ North said. ‘ It’ s perfectly possible that the Vermont entity has a different agenda and a higher standard than other folks.’One national expert on EB-5 projects, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing clients, told VTDigger that making a ‘ material misrepresentation’ is a ‘ bad thing to do, if you’ re trying to get a project done.’The state and other developers in Vermont have a lot at stake. In December,Bill Stenger, an owner of Jay Peak Resort, proposed a sweeping $600 million megadevelopment in the Northeast Kingdom that would be financed by the EB-5 visa program and generate as many as 10,000 jobs. The projects include a new conference center, improvements to two ski areas, regional airport improvements, the construction of a biotech research firm and a window manufacturing plant. It has been hailed as the largest investment in economic development in the state’ s history and a game changer for Vermont’ s most remote rural area. Half of the state’ s 14 EB-5 projects are associated with Stenger’ s Northeast Kingdom developments.Gov. Peter Shumlin and the three members of Vermont’ s congressional delegation ‘ Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, and Rep. Peter Welch ‘ have been vocal supporters of Stenger’ s project. Shumlin was criticized in the press for helping to sell the project to investors at a meeting in Miami earlier this year.Bill Stenger, owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts, shows lawmakers plans for development in the Northeast Kingdom on Feb. 5, 2013, at Jay Peak. File photo by Nat Rudarakanchana EB-5 and the stateThe questions about American Dream highlight issues confronting the federal visa program used to attract foreign investors to projects. The EB-5 visa program is designed to infuse capital into risky projects and offer foreigners an opportunity to obtain a green card for two years with the possibility of gaining permanent residency if the projects create jobs. Investors, who must make at least $500,000 in cash available to participate in the program, are not guaranteed a return on investment, nor is there any promise that their investments will be held harmless.Investors are eligible for permanent residency if the company they invest in generates 10 new jobs that last for at least a 24-month period. In the case of DreamLife, each of the six resorts ‘ at a cost of $24 million ‘ is projected to create 153 direct jobs and generate work for 205 additional people, Mooney said.The federal EB-5 visa program has been championed as an effective tool for job growth in America, and last August, Sen. Leahy pushed hard for a three-year extension.Vermont has a long history with the federal program. Former Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, was a proponent of EB-5, and in 1997 helped to develop Vermont’ s program. The center was authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in 2007 and was approved for EB-5 visa investments in 2009.Vermont’ s center is unique because it is the only state-run EB-5 program in the country that certifies and approves businesses, and it currently maintains 14 different projects. Most centers are for-profit and are directly tied to individual projects, state officials say.Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Photo by Vincent Gallegos by Nat Rudarakanchana April 3, 2013 vtdigger.org A development company that hoped to build high-end assisted living facilities for retirees in Vermont has lost approval from the state’ s EB-5 center.The company, DreamLife Retirement Resorts, LLC, with representatives in Quebec, Ontario, Vermont and Florida, hoped to build six well-appointed, 160-apartment unit projects.The plans for the assisted living facilities include spas, salons, libraries and movie theaters. In February, the company was negotiating purchases of sites selected in Bennington, Rutland and Montpelier, documents show. DreamLife planned construction at two of the sites within the year.In order to make that plan a reality, the company, doing business as EB-5 American Dream Fund I, Inc., needed to raise more than $144 million and attract more than 300 foreign investors who, under a federal program known as EB-5, receive green cards in exchange for cash investments, according to the company website and state documents.Officials with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development cancelled the agreement with American Dream on March 27 because of ‘ material misrepresentations.’ Three of the four individuals who represent the company cited themselves as attorneys for the project; none of the men identified are licensed to practice law in Florida, where the law firm cited in the agreement, USMS Team, is registered.Nearly three years have passed since American Dream first received permission from the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center to seek foreign investors for two apartment buildings, and in the intervening period, the DreamLife developers have not purchased land or obtained options on properties, nor have they attracted a single foreign investor. Though it’ s not uncommon for a project to take three years to attract adequate funding, officials and experts say, it’ s difficult to bring on investors if a site hasn’ t been secured.In addition, American Dream listed a DreamLife construction team on its website that state officials determined were not notified that they had been identified as contractors for the project. Several said they did not have contracts with the company.American Dream has 14 days to respond to the state’ s notice of cancellation. Phil Mooney, the managing director of DreamLife and a former CEO and president of the nonprofit Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, told VTDigger the company would resolve the issue with the state in a few days. As of April 3, there was no update from the company.‘ We can refute and justify everything,’ Mooney said. ‘ We have 14 days to provide a remedy, and we believe we can absolutely do that. Not even in 14 days, in just one or two. We disagree completely with the letter and are busy preparing a response which will see us continue as an EB-5 project under the [Vermont] Regional Center.’It’ s not the first time the state has lost confidence in American Dream. In September, the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center cancelled its memorandum of understanding with the company when officials discovered that American Dream had changed its development plans and neglected to send an economic assessment to the state. Originally, DreamLife proposed two retirement resorts; in 2011, the developers decided to expand the number to six without formally notifying the Vermont center, according to the state.Over the last 20 years, Parenteau has created and dissolved more than two dozen companies in Florida and Vermont, some of which list his sons Marc-Andre and Richard Jr. as business associates, according to information from state websites. Five of the entities bear the DreamLife name, including an insurance company, a real estate firm and a finance company, all three of which are now inactive.Last spring, state officials became aware that a key participant in the project recently stepped down from a leadership role in the company. Richard Parenteau, the founder of DreamLife, who state officials say is now a ‘ background investor,’ was convicted of perjury in Quebec last summer, according to court documents, after a decade-long dispute over a will. State officials say as a result of the conviction, Parenteau, a former Rock Forest (Quebec) chief of police, is no longer able to cross the border for meetings in Vermont. Parenteau has also been accused of violating labor rules in Quebec, according to court documents.Parenteau declined, through Mooney, to be interviewed for this story.Mooney defended his longtime business partner and friend.‘ I understand that certain individuals have raised questions about past and present developments,’ Mooney wrote in an email. ‘ My belief is that as soon as we begin operations, and better yet, as we deliver on our promises, these stories will be seen to be irrelevant.’Mooney described Parenteau as a generous person who is a ‘ typical entrepreneur.’‘ He gets really big ideas, and he’ s not afraid to invest in them,’ Mooney said. ‘ People like that who get ideas ‘ sometimes they don’ t all work out.’State officials, including the former head of the Vermont EB-5 Center, and Kevin Dorn, the former secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development who signed the original agreement with Parenteau in 2010, apparently knew little about the businessman’ s past. It wasn’ t until last spring that state officials were alerted to Parenteau’ s legal difficulties.Lawrence Miller, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, speaks at a press conference with Gov. Peter Shumlin. File photo by Taylor Dobbs There are approximately 160 centers nationwide, according to Jeffrey Carr, an EB-5 analyst who also serves as an independent economist for the Shumlin administration.American Dream was one of the state’ s first projects. It sought approval in July 2009 and entered into an agreement with the state a year later. In all, the state has 14 projects, including seven associated with Jay Peak and Stenger’ s megaproposal, Sugarbush Resort, Trapp Family Lodge, DR Power Equipment and Country Home Products.In May of last year, Brent Raymond, who had just become the head of the Vermont EB-5 Center, started getting phone calls from the former head of the project. He learned at that time that DreamLife’ s economic study had changed significantly from just two buildings to six. In September, the state pulled the agreement with American Dream.‘ That combined with their not being active for a couple of years, we weren’ t comfortable with the MOU they were working under as being current because the economic impact study is very material to our decision-making as well as to USCIS,’ Raymond said.After the developers made a concerted effort to document their progress and changes with DreamLife project and were able to show they had a bank escrow account, the state signed a second memorandum of understanding with American Dream in November.American Dream, like all projects through the Vermont center, is required to file quarterly reports with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Officials provided VTDigger with the two agreements and other documents, including the cancellation notices, but at press time, the progress reports were not available.Once the DreamLife project was reinstated by the state in November,Mooney and his team traveled with Raymond to attract investors from China and Vietnam.It appeared that DreamLife might have secured tens of millions in funding early this winter after visits to Asia, but the situation was complicated by news that broke last month about a scandal involving the EB-5 center associated with the Chicago Convention Center. More than $145 million in securities were fraudulently sold and about 250 largely Chinese investors lost $11 million in administrative fees for the Chicago project before the Securities and Exchange Commission froze the project assets and shut down the center.Even though the Chicago project is unrelated to DreamLife, the scandal didn’ t help the Vermont American Dream project, or any other EB-5 program for that matter, in its quest for investors.According to the LexisNexis Corporate and Securities Law Blog, the SEC prosecution has been widely reported by China Central Television, the largest TV network in China, and the Chinese government has warned investors about fraud in the EB-5 program.‘ It is very rare for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make such a bold comment,’ the authors, Mona Shah and Yi Long, wrote. ‘ The important issue that should not be forgotten is that the joint action of USCIS and the SEC actually prevented the investment funds from being dissipated.’American Dream runs afoul of state officialsIn the cancellation letter sent to American Dream on March 27, state officials said project leaders falsely claimed to have retained licensed attorneys and listed people as project partners without their knowledge or consent.Mooney denies that American Dream is responsible for these claims, which the state labeled ‘ material misrepresentations.’The letter from the state contends that American Dream’ s legal counsel, USMS Team, LLC, consists of Richard Parenteau, Richard Beaupre and David Gervais, all of whom are involved in the DreamLife project, and none of whom are licensed to practice law in Florida where USMS Team is registered. Gervais, the project’ s chief operating officer, practices law in Quebec and New York state.DreamLife contends this should not present a problem.Phil Mooney. Canadian government photo. Image was taken when Mooney was the CEO of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). ‘ People usually have control of the land before they sink all the money into an EB-5 project,’ said Carr. ‘ The problem is that if you don’ t control the land, and then lose control of the land, then your project is done [dead], if you can’ t build the project you said you were going to build. If you know that a parcel is available and then go off and try to build an EB-5 project without actually owning the land, it’ s kind of a silly thing to do, because you could lose control of the land and then your project would be dead.’David North, a national EB-5 policy expert with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., said if projects don’ t have even an option on the land, in which the landowner is obliged to sell the land at a specified price and time ‘ that would sort of raise some very large questions about the whole thing.’‘ They should certainly have control of the land first, if they’ re going into a specific building project,’ he continued. ‘ I’ d think that’ d be a necessary thing. Otherwise you get the money, and where are you going to build the building, if you don’ t have control of the land?’Under EB-5 program rules, funds from foreign investors cannot be used to buy land. Properties must be purchased with other funds, often from company principals who are managing the project.A USCIS spokesperson told VTDigger that the agency, which processes I-526 immigration petitions that foreign investors file for conditional green cards, has no regulations that specifically address land ownership or control.‘ Each case is looked at, in its totality and its circumstances, for compliance with our eligibility criteria,’ she said.Mooney said that it would be ‘ irresponsible’ for DreamLife to purchase land without first securing investors. He said the company is weeks away from securing its first committed investor, with about 30 investors at varying stages in the long process between initial meetings and laying down funds.‘ It would be highly irresponsible to go out and purchase land, which doesn’ t count towards EB-5 investment, before you actually have investors,’ Mooney said. ‘ We didn’ t get into this business to own land.’‘ We have done all the work to acquire land, but we won’ t put out the money or capital on the land, because once you do, you own it. And you can’ t turn around and sell it the next day,’ Mooney said.Mooney wouldn’ t disclose how they’ d finance a land purchase, but said that company principals, primarily himself, chief operating officer David Gervais, CEO Richard Beaupre, Richard Desilets, and former chief Richard Parenteau, had already invested about $500,000 in cash from their own money over the years, as well as collective time and effort worth about $1.5 million.James Candido, former director of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center from 2005 to 2012, said when the state first approved DreamLife, he repeatedly told company principals that they needed to buy land and acquire permits. ‘ I don’ t know if they internalized it or not, but they were aware of it,’ he continued.‘ There were different parcels of land that they kept trying to work on. And just each parcel didn’ t work out,’ he said. ‘ That was sort of what was hanging everything up.’‘ Frankly, the biggest issue with the project was just honestly that there was no activity from it,’ said Candido of his years working with DreamLife. ‘ There was none. As far as I could tell, they never talked to an actual investor. ‘¦ So as far as I knew, and so far as they told me, their marketing was somewhat non-existent.’Candido said the project appear to be speculative ‘ in the sense that it didn’ t own land. And if you don’ t own land, you obviously don’ t know where it’ s permitted.’ Although speculative projects across the nation tend to be less successful, Candido said, that doesn’ t mean a lack of land is a hurdle that can’ t be overcome ‘ with the right strategies.Raymond told VTDigger it’ s ‘ totally fine’ for DreamLife to market to investors despite not controlling land, so long as they disclose that up front. But he added: ‘ I honestly would not have approved the project knowing that they hadn’ t selected properties, and that there’ s potential permitting issues ‘ except that they had already been approved previously.’Raymond is now actively reviewing state standards on the question of land ownership and how far projects have progressed on land use permits. ‘ I can say that is not the only project I know of that hasn’ t had land in hand,’ in terms of EB-5 projects nationally, Raymond added.‘ In the future, if we made any changes to whether we approve projects, it wouldn’ t be necessarily about owning land. It’ d be: Do you have permits in place? Because that’ s what really takes time,’ he said.Parenteau’ s perjury conviction and role in DreamLifeState officials have raised serious concerns about DreamLife’ s founder, Richard Parenteau, who is still involved with the company on a daily basis.Parenteau was DreamLife’ s project manager from 2009 until the summer of 2012, according to Mooney. Parenteau founded the project and authored the project’ s overall vision. He also signed the first memorandum of understanding with Vermont’ s Regional Center, in July 2010, as a general partner.Now Parenteau is a senior adviser for DreamLife: He helps to structure the project’ s complex business consortium, and he selects partners and contractors, according to Mooney.In October 2010, a Quebec court convicted Parenteau of perjury, a conviction which he later unsuccessfully appealed, according to Canadian court documents. The former police officer fabricated false documents, records show.‘ I’ m aware of it [the conviction], and it gives me no concern,’ Mooney said. He encouraged people to read the actual court records and see that the conviction stemmed from forgivable and well-intentioned mistakes on Parenteau’ s part. ‘ [Richard] stands by his friends,’ he added. ‘ If he has a fault, he’ s too trusting.’ Mooney said Parenteau is free to travel in and out of the United States, despite his perjury conviction, contrary to what state sources alleged to VTDigger.Two of Parenteau’ s other businesses, Can-Am Investment Construction Job Center and Work Permits USA, have faced claims from employees that they haven’ t been properly paid. Two employees have won their court cases; in another, Parenteau prevailed.In one case from May 2008, Can-Am Investment Construction Job Center was ordered to pay $696 Canadian dollars to contractor Diane Chicoine for ‘ canvassing’ work, although Parenteau denied that Chicoine delivered tangible results, with the court agreeing that Chicoine could not produce detailed proof of the work she did.In another case from September 2011, Fair Ways Development claimed Work Permits USA, an immigration firm, owed them about $5,000 Canadian dollars in unpaid bills for web design work, and won that payment, plus interest.Mooney said that Parenteau doesn’ t handle investors’ money in DreamLife. Mooney, CEO Richard Beaupre, and chief operating officer David Gervais are now the key decision-makers, he said. Neither the three partners nor Parenteau are paid at the moment, said Mooney, partly because the company hasn’ t generated any revenue yet.Vermont EB-5 Regional Center director Brent Raymond said that Parenteau’ s background wasn’ t of material relevance when the state reinstated DreamLife’ s MOU in 2012 because Parenteau is no longer a decision-maker for the project.Yet, information that came up while he vetted the background of the entire DreamLife management team, Raymond said, ‘ caused me to question his [Parenteau’ s] business, how he operates as a business person.’Raymond said DreamLife project principals (i.e., Mooney and others) presented a different side of the story as to the perjury conviction, but also assured Raymond that Parenteau couldn’ t apply undue pressure within the project.For Raymond, a big reason for later re-approving DreamLife was that its new management team was led by Phil Mooney, instead of Richard Parenteau.‘ I didn’ t see somebody like Phil Mooney, with his excellent reputation, putting his reputation on the line for a project like this’ if there were unacceptable risks, Raymond said, citing Mooney’ s distinguished career and work with the Canadian government. ‘ With a new management team, I thought everything would be OK.’ ‘ These [new management] structures that I’ ve seen [and Mooney’ s leadership] provided me comfort that even though he [Parenteau] is involved behind the scenes, and still has an interest in the project, he is not a decision-maker,’ Raymond said.Raymond’ s predecessor, James Candido, says that in 2010 he didn’ t conduct a review of the principals at DreamLife and remained unaware of Parenteau’ s background.‘ It wasn’ t typical for us to do a personal background check, on someone coming with an EB-5 project,’ said Candido. ‘ We didn’ t do background checks. It just wasn’ t within the scope of what we approved.’‘ We would approve them on the merits of their EB-5 [project],’ said Candido. ‘ We don’ t monitor anything else. It’ s not in our jurisdiction.’ But, Candido added, if someone had come forth with evidence of problems with company directors, even outside of their limited EB-5 project arena, he would have investigated.‘ One of the ways that I describe it is that an EB-5 application is similar to a land permit,’ Candido said. ‘ You don’ t look into everything, into the background of the people necessarily for a land permit. You just look at the validity of the land permit.’Editor’ s note: Anne Galloway contributed to this report. This vtdigger.org story was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
by Anne Galloway April 16, 2013 vtdigger.org Senator Jane Kitchel’ s triple-layer maple cake with boiled icing and Danville butternuts wasn’ t enough to sweeten the mood in Senate Appropriations on Monday.Kitchel, who is renowned for her confections (she was the chief cake baker for the Creamery Restaurant for many years), is also the chef de la maison in the Statehouse for the complicated recipe otherwise known as the Big Bill.Most years by the time Kitchel gets the state cake after the annual pass-off from the governor’ s office to House Appropriations to the Senate, her job often amounts to icing the layers.No such luck this session. Kitchel is ready, thanks in part to the substitutions proposed by the House, to start from scratch on some parts of the $5.2 billion state budget, and members of her committee are following her lead. Kitchel is especially critical of the administration’ s 69 new positions in the budget and she told senators on Monday that she is proceeding on the premise that none of the state jobs are necessary until they are proven otherwise.This do-over mentality in the Senate’ s most powerful committee spurred the Shumlin administration to do something out of the ordinary on Monday. Instead of simply sending Kitchel et al. a memo outlining the governor’ s position on the House version of the budget, officials came to the committee, with memos and spreadsheets in hand, to explain what can only be described as a compromise proposal.Though Gov. Peter Shumlin found not much to like in the House spending plans, especially the accompanying revenue bill that raises $27 million in new taxes next year and $32 million the following year, he has capitulated on several items that lawmakers have heavily criticized.To wit: That $17 million tax on break-open tickets that lawmakers openly ridiculed the day of the governor’ s budget address? Now reduced to $6.2 million, based on a 6 percent tax rate instead of 10 percent. (The House proposal gives pickle card tax an honorable mention and pencils in $700,000; the Joint Fiscal Office estimates for the tax were $6.5 million ‘ at the 10 percent rate.)Shumlin’ s $17 million transfer of Earned Income Tax Credit dollars for low-income Vermonters (a two-thirds cut in the program) to child-care subsidies has been reduced to $12 million. The administration has revised the calculation for EITC ‘ it will not reduce the credit for families with three or more dependents, and the rate of the the reduction for people with no dependents would be 11 percent, Spaulding said. The average cut would be about 12 percent.The message as delivered, however, was not in the spirit of compromise, but in the tone of an executive branch issuing orders.Jeb Spaulding, secretary of the Agency of Administration, chastised the House for raising new taxes that, in his view, are ‘ unwise and unnecessary.’ His evidence was anecdotal. He ‘ doesn’ t know anyone,’ he said, who is bucking for tax increases.Instead, the administration proposes to balance the budget without raising broad-based taxes, i.e., income, sales and rooms and meals by using $55 million in one-time monies (which will not be available next year, hence the projected $50 million gap for fiscal year 2015), and to pay for program expansions such as the Low Income Heating Assistance Program ($6 million) with the break-open ticket tax and child-care subsidies with EITC.Spaulding warned senators repeatedly that the governor would tolerate ‘ no new taxes,’ and said the administration rejected all of the House tax proposals, including the elimination of a sales tax exemption on soda, candy, bottled water, vending machine food, supplements and vitamins and purchases of clothing of $110 or more. Shumlin also vehemently objects to the itemized deduction cap, a 0.5 percent increase in the meals tax and an increase in tobacco taxes.There is, however, a tax increase in the governor’ s new and improved plan. Spaulding told senators the administration proposes a new tiered bank franchise tax on the state’ s five big banks ‘ Keybank, People’ s, Merchants, Citizens and TD Banknorth ‘ and that would bring in about $2.4 million and cover the cost of making the so-called ‘ cloud tax’ moratorium, a sales tax exemption on downloaded software, a permanent fixture of the state’ s tax code.The governor is wedded to his EITC proposal and will not consider any other source of funding for child-care subsidies, Spaulding said, no matter how much money is directed toward the program.The administration is also maintaining that the Legislature must also support a Reach Up cap that would go into effect Oct. 1 and save the state $4.2 million next year. Any ‘ unrealized’ savings would be absorbed by the Agency of Human Services, Spaulding said. The House booked no savings for the program in fiscal year 2014 and passed a version of the caps that opponents say are so lenient as to be practically meaningless.Repeal of the $15 million employer assessment? Forget about it. Spaulding told lawmakers they’ d need that money next year to pay for state health care programs.The House proposal for $9 million reserves in the event of more federal cuts? No reason to raise taxes in Spaulding’ s view. The state, he said, cannot afford to ‘ backfill’ reductions in federal spending for programs. The $2.5 million the administration sets aside for the General Fund budget stabilization fund is enough, he said.The reception from the senators on the Appropriations committee was chilly. They questioned every aspect of the proposal. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said he remained skeptical about the break-open tickets estimates. The Reach Up and EITC proposals generated criticism from Sen. Sally Fox, D-Chittenden, who questioned whether the administration was really addressing the child-care ‘ cliff,’ which she believes the House addressed by including $3.3 million for additional child-care subsidies. Kitchel, for her part, is committed to ‘ scrubbing the budget,’ to ensure that state agencies are being accountable to taxpayers.Senate Appropriations is expected to advance its budget bill out of committee this Friday.
Green Mountain College shook off the threat of rain and awarded diplomas to 24 graduate students and 124 undergraduates during its 176th commencement ceremony Saturday morning. Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, a national and international leader in environmental sustainability, corporate responsibility and social justice, addressed the graduates and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from GMC.”This stage is so crowded ‘my mother and my father are here in spirit, and my grandparents are here,’she said.She recounted other teachers, mentors and influential people including one of her Howard College friends who died in a traffic accident.‘He might have been the brightest person I ever met in my life,’she said. ‘So many of us were devastated when he passed. I felt part of my responsibility was to live for, and to live up to, his potential in the world ‘not as a burden but as a promise and a commitment to his spirit and to his life.’Dillon-Ridgley is the chair and a trustee for CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law) and has served as the U.N. Headquarters representative for the Center for International Environmental Law since 2005. She was appointed by the White House to the U.S. delegation for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in New York in June 1997 (known as UNGASS-’97), and World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002 in South Africa, making her the only person to serve on all three U.S. delegations.In the private sector, Dillon-Ridgley has served as a director at Interface, Inc., a global manufacturer of environmentally-responsible modular carpet and an industry leader in sustainable design since 1997. She also served as a director at Green Mountain Energy, a leading retailer of renewably produced electricity.Ernest Klepeis of New Paltz, N.Y., a graduate of the college’s progressive program in visual/performing arts and philosophy, and Meiko Lunetta of Francestown, N.H, a double major in sustainable agriculture and environmental studies, gave the student speaker address together. In a spirited repartee, the duo traded.recollections of the class’activities in sustainability over the past four years, including promotion of the ‘real food’movement through the installation of a local food freezer, helping with the opening of a community food co-operative in Poultney, and construction of a new solar garage that will serve as a powering station for an electric vehicle.‘Wherever you travel to, know that you impact the people you meet. For years we have looked up to those who motivate and inspire us. Know now that as you complete 16 or so years of schooling, you are one of those role models who we watched crossing this stage in years before us,’Lunetta said. ‘So stand out ‘be someone who does yoga in airport.’”Or be the person who plays the devil’s advocate,’responded Klepeis. ‘Aspire to become the person that others will draw inspiration from,’he said.
by Bill Schubart The right to vote becomes a moral obligation when voting is understood as fundamental to the functioning of our democracy. In Australia, voting is mandatory – and failure to vote is punishable by a fine or community service. But here, as many as 40% of eligible voters will stay home on Election Day. Apart from voter apathy, the next biggest threat to the democratic experiment is our historical and current efforts to make it more difficult for certain racial and political blocs to vote – especially when voter fraud is a statistical myth. Only in the last century did we fully enfranchise women and African-Americans. But discredited practices designed to favor partisan votes – like gerrymandering and voter competency and ID tests – continue to undermine the right to vote.To vote is easy. It’s choosing your candidate that isn’t. Many people won’t vote for a party, an ideology, a narrative, or personality. I’m one of them – I vote for ideas and I don’t vote out of fear.To vote responsibly is to rise above competing and seductive narratives. All parties oversimplify complex issues to win; some even invent them, appealing to latent fears, making up so-called facts, manipulating data, and even lying. This may seem new but it’s been going on forever.The responsible voter considers all sides of an issue, separates truth from fiction, courts opposing viewpoints, and questions most of what he or she hears in campaign rhetoric. The campaign narrative is rarely the leadership narrative.Ultimately, each of us must decide whether to cast our vote as a personal statement that won’t mean much to anyone but ourselves or to choose the best available person to lead us, which entails consideration and compromise. This test comes in the voting booth, where we deliberate whether to indulge ourselves to feel better, or commit to the risky business of choosing the best possible leader from the candidates available.It’s true that your vote also matters to some who don’t have your best interests at heart. So far, a billion dollars has been contributed to support favored candidates but also to curry influence, while another half a billion dollars has flowed into super PACS.But your vote can count if you let it – if you use it wisely and vote the best interests of your family and your country.This commentary by Bill Schubart first appeared on Vermont Public Radio.