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Welch elaborates on call for Trump's impeachment

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., on Thursday explained his decision to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Prior to Thursday, Welch was reserved when it came to the topic, wanting to see the results of the Mueller Report and other investigations.

“On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump took his oath of office, pledged to preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and in the 30 months since, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s violated his oath, that he’s unfit for office and that he should be impeached,” Welch said during a conference call with several reporters.

Welch’s statements come a day after the House voted overwhelmingly against furthering a resolution offered by Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat, to impeach the president, according to the Associated Press. Democrats voted 137 to 95 on furthering the resolution. The total House vote was 332 to 95.

According to The Hill, Welch voted in favor of moving the resolution forward.

Welch said Thursday his vote was a procedural one to advance the discussion and not so much a reflection on what he thinks of the resolution itself. He said articles of impeachment would have to come from the House Committee on Judiciary.

“The conduct of the president is putting himself above the law when he’s completely objecting and refusing to cooperate with any Congressional investigations,” Welch said.

He said he’s been reluctant to call for impeachment, given how serious a measure that is, and has wanted to see the results of various investigations into the president’s conduct, “But it’s become apparent that the president is going to refuse to allow Congress to do that job. And under Article 1, Congress has oversight responsibility in the conduct of the president.”

He said the Trump administration has done little but stonewall when it comes to lawful requests from Congress.

“That’s an approach to Congress where the president is putting himself above the law and beyond accountability,” said Welch. “And the Constitution makes it clear that no person, even the president of the United States, is above the law.”

Welch said two things changed his mind with regards to impeaching the president. One was his conclusion that Trump won’t change his “stonewalling” tactics. The other is Trump’s recent comments directed at House Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, suggesting they return to their countries of origin. According to the Associated Press, all were born in the United States except Omar, who fled Somalia as a child.

“It’s very clear that his attacks on American citizens on the basis of their ethnic origin, their religion and their race are intensifying,” Welch said. “And my alarm is, this is extremely dangerous to our democracy. And it’s clear that the president has embraced this approach of being brutally divisive.”

He said the president needs to be someone who unifies people to solve problems.

Welch said it’s not clear how the will of the House will shift with regards to impeachment, but he felt Vermonters need to know where he stands. He said he did not confer with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, before speaking out beyond sending her a text message saying that he was doing so. She thanked him for the message, he said, but had no further comment. Welch said he likewise didn’t confer with Vermont’s senators Patrick Leahy and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Welch acknowledged that Trump might welcome impeachment proceedings, saying the president wants the 2020 election to be about race and impeachment.

“That’s really unfortunate,” Welch said. “I have been one who has been very cautious about this because I did not want this to become seen as a political decision on the part of Congress and certainly on my part.”

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

Cooling off

Evan Fuller, 15, of Montpelier, drops off a rope swing Thursday into the cool waters of the Dog River in Berlin.


Local
ATV committee stalls in Williamstown

WILLIAMSTOWN — The wheels have suddenly come off a committee exploring the possibility of allowing all-terrain vehicles to use some local roads.

Just when it looked like the Select Board-sanctioned committee had gotten back on track after what all acknowledged was a bumpy start last month, the finger-pointing and second-guessing that infected its first meeting returned on Monday night.

Heading into the meeting committee members had hoped to prepare an update Town Manager Jackie Higgins could include in her latest newsletter. However, those in attendance said Higgins held the presses for nothing, because that work remained undone when the sometimes-stormy session ended more than an hour later, and it was far from clear the 10-member committee would ever meet again.

Select Board Chairman Matthew Rouleau was one of several residents who witnessed the committee’s implosion.

“It seems like they’re having a tough time trusting each other, is what it boils down to,” said Rouleau, noting the meeting ended in a rare moment of agreement.

“They suggested they suspend the committee until the Select Board provides more direction,” he said.

After witnessing the meeting, Rouleau acknowledged that was probably best.

“It definitely wasn’t collaborative,” he said. “They weren’t working well together.”

That description was charitable compared to some other accounts, and all agreed the fragile truce Rouleau brokered when the committee last met two weeks ago was fractured Monday night.

Amid public record requests and concern some committee members have held private meetings with residents, Rouleau said Monday’s session got off to an awkward start and never recovered.

Four of the committee’s 10 members, who have stressed the importance of transparency and the need for significant public outreach, bristled at the fact that their informal meetings with neighbors were viewed by some as an attempt to undermine the work of the broader group.

“That’s kind of what they were asked to do,” Rouleau said. He suggested that questions about the committee’s composition and its ill-defined charge need to be addressed by the Select Board when it meets on Aug. 12.

“We need to decide whether to disband the committee, or give it better direction,” he said.

The committee includes board members Francis Covey and Chris Wade, as well as four residents who have concerns about the prospect of opening nearly 20 local roads to ATVs and four others who support an ordinance that would allow that.

Rouleau said more guidance may be necessary.

“Putting them in a room and hoping they would figure it out didn’t work,” he said. “I’ve yet to give up on the fact that a committee with opponents and proponents working out the details could provide the answers we’re looking for.”

Rouleau said a range of issues that have been raised by those who live on roads included in the trail network that was proposed earlier this year haven’t been answered. Those concerns include a range of quality of life issues and a fear property values could be affected.

Although nearly 20 roads were included on a list provided by the fledgling ATV club — the Billtown Wheelers — that proposed the ordinance earlier this year, Rouleau said, it remains unclear whether all, or only portions, of those roads are actually necessary and whether the list could be shortened.

“The Select Board has to make a fact-based decision and we were hoping this committee would bring us the facts,” Rouleau said.

Rouleau said if the board decides to disband the committee, he expects the conversation will continue at the board level and, given strong feelings on both sides of the issue, voters will likely be asked to weigh in next Town Meeting Day.

“It’s probably going to end up on the ballot in March … either from the committee, or from the community,” he said.

Absent a committee recommendation based on significant public input or a petition that forces the issue, Rouleau said he would have a hard time warning a public vote.

“To just charge ahead with a vote is not the right way to do it, I don’t think,” he said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Before Monday’s meeting, the committee had hoped to spread the word about its work and stimulate a community-wide conversation by including an update in the newsletter. That opportunity went by the boards, even as some residents have expressed concern that information about the issue — including minutes and agendas for the committee’s meetings — hasn’t been posted on the town’s website.

david.delcore

@timesargus.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

Protest in the Capital

Demonstrators stand in the crosswalk at State and Main streets in Montpelier on Thursday during a monthly protest against fossil fuel extraction and the banks that support it. From left are: Susanna Lewis, of Bradford, Duncan Nichols, of Thetford, and Douglas Smith, of Sharon.


Local
Vendor dispute roils Capital City Farmers Market

MONTPELIER — The Capital City Farmers Market is considering suspending or expelling a vendor over a dispute that contributed to the newly appointed market manager’s resignation.

The CCFM board will meet after Saturday’s market to discuss the findings of an investigation into the dispute. It will go into executive session to deliberate before a vote on what action to take, said Hannah Blackmer, the board president.

According to accounts of events at the June 29 market, the dispute concerns a conflict between Frank Huard, of Huard Family Farm, and Devon Byers, who was appointed market manager at the end of March.

“Devon has resigned,” said Blackmer. “This (dispute) is not the complete reason why, but it is not unrelated to her resignation.”

Karen and Frank Huard own Huard Family Farm, a goat milk operation in Craftsbury, and have been a vendor at the farmers’ market for nine years. Karen Huard also is a CCFM board member and its treasurer.

The Huards have occupied the vendor spot at the intersection of State and Elm streets, where they would also park their pickup truck. The Montpelier Police Department requires that a pickup truck be parked at each end of the market on State Street to prevent motorists driving along State Street between Main and Elm streets.

According to the Huards, and the official report released by the CCFM board on Wednesday, a dispute arose on June 29 when Byers asked the Huards to move their truck to allow Freeride Montpelier, a nonprofit bicycle repair service, to pitch a booth offering services to market visitors.

According to accounts of the incident on both sides, Frank Huard became upset at being asked by Byers to move his truck.

An altercation ensued in which Frank Huard was allegedly verbally abusive and aggressive toward Byers, fellow market vendor and CCFM board member Alan LePage, and Blackmer.

Frank Huard said he understood that after several years of struggling financially, CCFM hired Byers to be both a marketing manager and handle logistics on market days. He said Byers’ decision to place the Freeride Montpelier booth at the lower end of the market was part of efforts to “build relationships with community members and promote the market.”

But, he said, Byers’ plan involved moving the Huards from their spot in the market, with notification only coming the night before, in the CCFM newsletter. He called it “being evicted.”

“That’s how we found out about this, but apparently she did this with (Blackmer’s) approval but nobody else from the board, especially not with (my wife’s) input,” Frank Huard said.

“So, I reacted negatively. I said some things that were regrettable. I apologized later. I’m a passionate, emotional guy, and so I reacted negatively because I was really upset because (Byers) and Hannah basically conspired to undermine my wife, the treasurer of the board, without her input on a decision that impacted her and our family,” he added.

Huard acknowledged acting inappropriately and using “profane and rude language,” but insisted he tried to make amends, asked for a “cooling off” period and the chance to sit down together to resolve the issue in “an adult-like way.”

The report of investigation said the board had received written statements from both Byers and Frank Huard, in addition to testimony by the Huards and other market members at two board meetings.

The report noted that Karen Huard and LePage had recused themselves from the five-member board during deliberations.

“We find Devon’s statement to be credible in all respects,” the report stated. “When Devon approached Frank to request that he move his truck from where he had parked it near his booth, Frank responded with a series of expletives and intimidating, threatening, and demeaning language over an extended period of time, directed mostly at Devon, and subsequently at Hannah and Alan.

“Devon felt extremely threatened and she has advised she feels unsafe in the marketplace as a result,” the report stated.

The report indicated Byers was “acting within her authority as manager” in directing Frank Huard to remove his truck and that her requests “were reasonable.”

The report said Frank Huard’s behavior constituted “a serious infraction” of CCFM anti-harassment and vendor bylaws.

“We conclude that these infractions are egregious enough to warrant either long-term suspension or permanent expulsion of the vendor from the market ...,” the report said.

“We are worried about Frank’s volatile behavior, and members have expressed fear over Frank’s participation in the market,” the report stated.

A letter from Stephen Coetus, an attorney representing the Huards, expressed concern the CCFM board might suspend or expel them from the market. Coetus urged the CCFM board to exercise caution in actions it might take under CCFM bylaws and any liability it might incur. He expressed hope the dispute could be mediated and resolved, and that Huard’s apology could be accepted.

Byers could not be reached for comment.

Currently, board members are running the market. It is not known at this time whether the board will have to look for a new manager.

stephen.mills

@timesargus.com


Spotlight

Climate change advocates seem to be turning skeptical of (Governor) Scott’s commitment to enact emissions-reduction policies.

Editorial, A4

In the news

The Montpelier Development Corp. has announced the appointment of its new executive director. A3

The U.S. Forest Service is mulling rules on food storage after incidents with bears this summer in Vermont. A3

U.S House Democrats vote to approve a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. The measure now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate. B4


BTA Hotspot

Saturday

Chalk & Talk

Bring your young children for a short informal talk about the shows. then have fun making some art. SPA will provide colorful chalk to make works of art on the plaza at the entrance to the art center. 1-1:30 p.m. Studio Place Arts, 201 N Main St., Barre, info@studioplacearts.com, 802-479-7069.