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Teen activist nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

MONTPELIER — The 16-year-old Swedish girl leading a worldwide climate change rally Friday, including one in Montpelier, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta Thunberg, figurehead of the Youth Strike for Climate movement, was nominated for the prize Thursday afternoon. Her protests have inspired students across the globe to go on strike March 15 to demand politicians take action on climate, jobs and justice.

High-schoolers from Montpelier and U-32 will march to the State House in conjunction with protests in more than 100 other countries. Students in Middlebury, Brattleboro, Woodstock and other Vermont communities also are expected to participate, according to climate justice organization 350Vermont.

Also on Friday in Montpelier, representatives from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy will host a town hall-style meeting on climate change from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 11 at the State House, and the Green New Deal for Vermont will host another open forum from 1 to 4 p.m, also in Room 11. In between, students will take to the State House steps to make speeches.

Montpelier High School senior and student rally organizer Emma Harter, 18, was excited to learn Thunberg was nominated ahead of the student march.

“It is particularly justified that a young person has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in the name of combating climate change,” Harter said. “We’ve inherited a global environment that has been disrespected and abused for generations.”

Her classmate, Apollonia Tabacco, agreed: “Selecting a student for this award makes visible the incredible energy that this generation has put into making our voices heard,” she said. “We are willing to do whatever it takes to make change happen in our state.”

Gwendolyn Hallsmith, one of the co-conveners for the Green New Deal of Vermont, said Thunberg’s nomination only creates more significance for Friday’s event.

“It’s really exciting that other students around Vermont are following her lead and walking out,” Hallsmith said. “I think it will be bigger than people imagine it.

“If the word (about Thunberg’s nomination) can get out, I think it will make all the students that are standing up for what’s right feel that much better about what they’re doing,” Hallsmith continued.

Thunberg began her movement last August, when she started skipping school every Friday to protest in front of the Swedish parliament to demand policies in line with the Paris climate accord. She told The Guardian she learned about climate change at age 8, and it drew her into a depression.

“I kept thinking about it and I just wondered if I am going to have a future,” she told the newspaper.

The teenager, who was once diagnosed with selective mutism, has gone on to speak in front of thousands at climate rallies. Thousands more are expected to join her today.

Thunberg is one of 301 candidates for the prize, the Guardian reported.

“Honoured and very grateful for this nomination,” Thunberg tweeted Thursday afternoon, appending a heart emoji.

Harter said it’s vital young people address climate change on a local level and had a message for Vermont’s political leaders.

“If we do not take drastic action today, adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change will be more difficult and costly,” she said.


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

enjoy the weather

Bike racer Josh Saxe, of Montpelier, takes his first road bike ride of the year Thursday on County Road in East Montpelier. Saxe is a regular competitor in the Green Mountain Stage Race and works in the outdoor industry.


Local
DMV to offer third gender option on licenses

MONTPELIER — Vermonters will be able to identify a third gender on their driver’s license starting July 1.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday that those applying for or renewing a license will be able to choose from male, female or other as their gender. Those that choose other will see “X” as their identifier.

DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli said the change comes as part of an ongoing process to modify the state’s driver’s license system.

“It’s appropriate for Vermont at this time to make the changes,” Minoli said.

She said other states and Washington D.C. have made similar moves: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah and Washington have non-binary gender markers on their licenses.

“We see it as increased safety and inclusion of all Vermonters,” Minoli said.

She said it can be uncomfortable for those that don’t identify as male or female to have to pick one or the other for their license.

Gustavo Mercado Muñiz is the transgender program manager at the Pride Center of Vermont, a community center for the state’s LGBTQ community. Muñiz identifies as they or them, not he or she.

Muñiz said as a non-binary person who works with non-binary people every day, “it’s a wonderful change” that makes them feel less marginalized.

“(Picking M or F) is one of those things that you do for so long that it becomes sort of second nature,” Muñiz said. “For my whole life I’ve only had one of the two options.”

Muñiz said having to indicate their sex, not gender, on something like a driver’s license or job application erases part of themselves in order to be recognized by a system. It forces non-binary people to explain their gender identity in spaces they may not feel safe, they said.

“A lot of community members who identify outside of the binary are sort of feeling seen in a way that they haven’t been up to today, at least in Vermont,” Muñiz said.

While they celebrate the change in driver’s licenses and the community is excited about it, Muñiz said there’s still work to be done. They said while the state has laws in place against discrimination, those laws need to be enforced.

“And sort of find a better way to make sure that when folks are being discriminated against in a workplace because of their gender identity that it’s respected in the same way as discrimination for any other criteria,” Muñiz said.

Muñiz said health care is another area that needs improvement. They’ve heard of cases where health care providers mis-gender people even after being told the person’s actual gender.

eric.blaisdell @timesargus.com


Local
Barre Partnership taps Tuper-Giles as interim director

BARRE — The Granite City’s designated downtown organization will soon be shopping — again — for an executive director after opting to fill the vacant position on an interim basis.

Unable to continue operating without someone at the helm and unwilling to make another job offer after three were turned down, the Barre Partnership board has agreed to regroup, reorganize and re-launch a search on the heels of the one that finally fizzled in February.

It isn’t optimal, and it’s a little awkward because it required the board’s president, Jeffrey Tuper-Giles, to resign in order to accept the interim job he applied for on a permanent basis last year. Tuper-Giles, who also serves on the City Council, has been doing the job part-time since Josh Jerome stepped down last September, but all agreed that informal arrangement was insufficient.

Tuper-Giles announced the transition this week, days after the partnership’s board approved a plan that precipitated him stepping down and immediately stepping up.

Weeks away from launching the “Reynolds Inn” in the newly restored Reynolds House, Tuper-Giles said he agreed to serve as interim executive director while the board readies for a search it hopes will end better than the last one did.

Three candidates turned down job offers — decisions that were driven in part by the proposed compensation package.

In retrospect, Tuper-Giles said it was probably a mistake not to advertise a salary range for the position that attracted 10 applicants with widely different levels of experience. He said the board is considering rectifying that before advertising the position it now hopes to fill by mid-July.

Board members sensed money could be an issue in January when they floated the idea of securing additional municipal contributions for the organization during a joint meeting of the City Council and the Barre Town Select Board.

At the time, members David Gold and Caitlin Corkins predicted hiring their preferred candidate — one they believed could take the downtown organization to the “next level” — would require a compensation package that was significantly more generous than Jerome’s when he left.

They were right.

The top candidate turned down the subsequent job offer and so did the “business as usual” backup. Though specific details of Jerome’s compensation package were never released, board members indicated it was roughly $50,000 a year without benefits.

The vast majority of the partnership’s roughly $65,000 annual budget comes from the city. The town contributes $2,000, and officials in both communities weren’t prepared to come up with the additional $40,000 that Gold and Corkins said would likely be needed to land a quality candidate.

Since then Mayor Lucas Herring acknowledged there have been some rumblings the city might not be getting what it’s paying for. The partnership plays a pivotal role in organizing the Barre Heritage Festival, the summer series of concerts in the park and other events some feared would be neglected if the position remained vacant much longer.

Herring said the appointment of Tuper-Giles as interim executive director has quelled those concerns at a crucial time of year.

“We want to make sure things get done,” he said.

The partnership’s board approved the plan late last week losing one of its five remaining members in the process.

In order to take the interim job, Tuper-Giles had to resign as both president and a voting member of the board that includes Gold, Corkins, Michael Waggoner and Cynthia Duprey.

The board has not yet reorganized, and Gold said final arrangements for the transition described by Tuper-Giles would not be made until next Thursday.

“That is the path we’re going down, but we have not crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s,” he said.

Gold said the absence of an executive director was starting to show, and carrying the vacancy while re-launching the search was not a viable option given the work that needs to be done.

“We do recognize it’s really important to not be a vacuum,” he said.

Gold said tapping Tuper-Giles as an interim director will buy the board time to conduct a thoughtful search.

“We’re committed to finding the right candidate who can bring their experience and expertise to bear for the betterment of Barre,” he said.

david.delcore @timesargus.com


jebcas / Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  

super sale

Eric Bookland, of Worcester, peruses some of the thousands of books available Thursday at the Kellogg Hubbard Library’s Mud Season Basement Book Sale in Montpelier. The annual sale runs through April 20.


AP
Senate rejects border emergency (copy)

WASHINGTON — The Republican-run Senate firmly rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southwest border on Thursday, setting up a veto fight and dealing him a conspicuous rebuke as he tested how boldly he could ignore Congress in pursuit of his highest-profile goal.

The Senate voted 59-41 to cancel Trump’s February proclamation of a border emergency, which he invoked to spend $3.6 billion more for border barriers than Congress had approved. Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in defying Trump in a showdown many GOP senators had hoped to avoid because he commands die-hard loyalty from millions of conservative voters who could punish defecting lawmakers in next year’s elections.

With the Democratic-controlled House’s approval of the same resolution last month, Senate passage sends it to Trump. He has shown no reluctance to casting his first veto to advance his campaign exhortation, “Build the Wall,” which has prompted roars at countless Trump rallies. Approval votes in both the Senate and House fell short of the two-thirds majorities that would be needed for an override to succeed.

“VETO!” Trump tweeted minutes after the vote.

Trump has long been comfortable vetoing the measure because he thinks it will endear him to his political base, said a White House official, commenting anonymously because the official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Though Trump seems sure to prevail in that battle, it remains noteworthy that lawmakers of both parties resisted him in a fight directly tied to his cherished campaign theme of erecting a border wall. The roll call came just a day after the Senate took a step toward a veto fight with Trump on another issue, voting to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

In a measure of how remarkable the confrontation was, Thursday was the first time Congress has voted to block a presidential emergency since the National Emergency Act became law in 1976.

Even before Thursday’s vote, there were warnings that GOP senators resisting Trump could face political consequences. A White House official said Trump won’t forget when senators who oppose him want him to attend fundraisers or provide other help. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on internal deliberations.

At the White House, Trump did not answer when reporters asked if there would be consequences for Republicans who voted against him.

“I’m sure he will not be happy with my vote,” said moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a GOP defector who faces re-election next year in a state that reveres independent streaks in its politicians. “But I’m a United State senator and feel my job to stand up for the Constitution. So let the chips fall where they may.”

Underscoring the political pressures in play, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., one of the first Republicans to say he’d oppose Trump’s border emergency, voted Thursday to support it.

Tillis, who faces a potentially difficult re-election race next year, cited talks with the White House that suggest Trump could be open to restricting presidential emergency powers in the future. Tillis wrote in a Washington Post opinion column last month that there’d be “no intellectual honesty” in backing Trump after his repeated objections about executive overreach by President Barack Obama.

Still, the breadth of opposition among Republicans suggested how concern about his declaration had spread to all corners of the GOP. Republican senators voting for the resolution blocking Trump included Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s 2012 presidential candidate; Mike Lee of Utah, a solid conservative; Trump 2016 presidential rivals Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a respected centrist.

Republicans control the Senate 53-47. Democrats solidly opposed Trump’s declaration.

Presidents have declared 58 national emergencies since the 1976 law, but this was the first aimed at accessing money that Congress had explicitly denied, according to Elizabeth Goitein, co-director for national security at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice.

Trump and Republicans backing him said there is a legitimate security and humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico. They also said Trump was merely exercising his powers under the law, which largely leaves it to presidents to decide what a national emergency is.

“The president is operating within existing law, and the crisis on our border is all too real,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Opponents said Trump’s assertion of an emergency was overblown. They said he issued his declaration only because Congress agreed to provide less than $1.4 billion for barriers and he was desperate to fulfill his campaign promise on the wall. They said the Constitution gives Congress, not presidents, control over spending and said Trump’s stretching of emergency powers would invite future presidents to do the same for their own concerns.

“He’s obsessed with showing strength, and he couldn’t just abandon his pursuit of the border wall, so he had to trample on the Constitution to continue his fight,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Republicans had hoped that Trump would endorse a separate bill by Utah’s Sen. Lee constraining emergency declarations in the future and that would win over enough GOP senators to reject Thursday’s resolution.

But Trump told Lee on Wednesday that he opposed Lee’s legislation, prompting Lee himself to say he would back the resolution.

The strongest chance of blocking Trump remains several lawsuits filed by Democratic state attorneys general, environmental groups and others. Those cases could effectively block Trump from diverting extra money to barrier construction for months or longer.

On Twitter, Trump called on Republicans to oppose the resolution, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., helped drive through the House last month.

“Today’s issue is BORDER SECURITY and Crime!!! Don’t vote with Pelosi!” he tweeted, invoking the name of a Democrat who boatloads of GOP ads have villainized in recent campaign cycles.

Other Republicans voting against Trump’s border emergency were Roy Blunt of Missouri, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

The National Emergency Act gives presidents wide leeway in declaring an emergency. Congress can vote to block a declaration, but the two-thirds majorities required to overcome presidential vetoes make it hard for lawmakers to prevail.

Lee had proposed letting a presidential emergency declaration last 30 days unless Congress voted to extend it. That would have applied to future emergencies but not Trump’s current order unless he sought to renew it next year.


Spotlight

“This week’s actions send a strong message: Americans can no longer stand for the erosion of institutional checks and balances in the face of creeping authoritarianism.”

Editorial, A4

In the news

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to make southern swing to South Carolina in a bid to win over voters that opted for Hillary Clinton last time around. A2

A comment made by a school board member during a presentation by students looking to raise the Black Lives Matter flag at Rutland High School has drawn criticism. A3

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke made the long anticipated announcement that he would run for the presidency in 2020. B5


BTA Hotspot

Sunday

Auditions: Footloose

Auditions are open to students age 7-18, for summer youth musical. Email or call to register. 12-4 p.m. Chandler Center for the Arts, 71-73 Main Street, Randolph, outreach@chandler-arts.org, 802-728-9878.