Steve Zind

Senior Reporter & Special Projects Producer

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.

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Governor Peter Shumlin has chosen Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford to fill a vacancy on the Vermont Supreme Court.

Crawford is a Harvard Law School graduate who was in private practice in Burlington before being appointed to Superior Court in 2002 by then-Governor Howard Dean.

In announcing the selection today, Shumlin praised Crawford’s compassion and intellect.

Crawford serves on the boards of Dismas of Vermont in Burlington and the New England Organ Bank.  

His appointment will have to be confirmed by the Vermont Senate.

VPR/Steve Zind

The state says there has been significant progress made to expand cellular phone coverage in Vermont over the past few years.  Yet it’s hard to tell how much progress has been made and what remains to be done. 

That’s why Mike Ray and Jo Wilson are spending their days driving the roads of Vermont this month in a vehicle with two Coleman coolers mounted on the roof. 

Often in their work they use fairly high tech gear when measuring radio frequencies for broadcast stations, emergency responders and wireless providers.  

VPR/Steve Zind

The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont has released a new report it says documents a dramatic increase in the surveillance that Vermonters are subject to since September 11, 2001.

The ACLU says there’s too little oversight of how the information is used and it’s calling on the legislature to take steps to regulate some activities.

According to the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA), cable for more than 32 miles of the 36 mile Orange County Fiber Connector has been hung on utility poles, and seven miles of the system is already active. 

The VTA says the entire line should be active by year’s end. 

ECFiber Network and Fairpoint Communications have lease agreements with the state to use the line to provide service to customers along sections of Vermont Routes 110, 113 and 132 in the Towns of Chelsea, Vershire, West Fairlee, Thetford, Strafford, and Sharon. 

Herb Swanson

On September 21, Governor Peter Shumlin and other state officials will accompany the owner of Jay Peak on a nine-day Asian trade mission in hopes of secure money for a series of projects in the Northeast Kingdom.

The effort is centered on the federal EB-5 program, which offers Green Card status to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500,000 in approved projects.

VPR/Steve Zind

The Vermont Public Service Board held the second of two hearings Tuesday night to hear public comments on a controversial 41 mile natural gas pipeline proposed for Addison County.

The project would be an expansion of the Vermont Natural Gas System’s Chittenden County pipeline.

Most speakers at the hearing opposed the project.

Before the hearing opponents staged a rally outside the Middlebury Middle School.

AP/Toby Talbot

The state has reached a settlement with the owners of an inactive asbestos mine that officials say poses an ongoing pollution threat in two Northern Vermont towns. 

It’s unclear, though, how much money the settlement will provide to pay for the cleanup.

Asbestos is a carcinogen and the mine, in the towns of Eden and Lowell, is the state’s biggest hazardous waste site.

VPR/Steve Zind

Unlike neighboring South Burlington and Winooski, the Burlington City Council has never taken a position on the proposal by the Air Force to base F-35’s at the Vermont Air Guard facility at Burlington Airport.

Now the plan’s opponents want Burlington to do something the other communities are unable to do.

As a new school year gets underway in Vermont, thousands of students are newly eligible to receive free lunches.

A law passed by the legislature provides students who previously received reduced price lunches with the free meals. 

Under the old reduced lunch program meals cost 40 cents.  Now that all students from income eligible families will receive free lunches, the state expects greater participation. 

Laurie Colgan is Child Nutrition Program Director for the Agency of Education. 

The state has detected eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in more mosquitoes collected in areas of Whiting, Leicester and Brandon.

The viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and the three towns in Rutland and Addison Counties are considered hotspots for EEE.

But state infectious disease epidemiologist Erica Berl says there’s evidence the virus is much more widespread.

AP/Toby Talbot

The state office complex in Waterbury has been largely empty since Tropical Storm Irene flooded it two years ago, and the displacement of state workers has hurt many local businesses that depended on them.

Thursday the state announced that FEMA would provide a critical piece of construction funding.

It won’t necessarily speed up the project, but the announcement was an important step on the way to returning state employees to Waterbury. Ever since Irene Albert Caron has been down to just one full time person at his Waterbury village garage – himself. 

Social service advocates and the state have settled a lawsuit over the investigation of reports of adult abuse.

Vermont Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont had sued the state over concerns that reports of abuse were not being responded to quickly enough and not investigated adequately.

Barbara Prine, lead attorney of Vermont Legal Aid, said since the lawsuit was filed in late 2011, the state office of Adult Protection Services has largely eliminated a backlog of abuse cases. But other issues remained.

AP/Toby Talbot / Weston's mobile home park in Berlin was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

This week, on the second anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene VPR is completing work on our Mapping the Money Project.  Our online interactive maps and charts show how much money was spent on Irene recovery and how and where it was spent. 

By far, the lion’s share of the relief money went to rebuilt state and town roads and bridges.

Additionally millions of federal dollars has been devoted to helping individuals and families. 

According to the 2010 U.S. census, 62 souls live in the town Northeast Kingdom town of Victory.

The town has no schools and just a handful of children yet education costs are causing a  dramatic increase in property taxes.

Victory resident Carol Easter says she was stunned when she opened her property tax bill.  In a single year her taxes more than doubled to $3,400.

“I was flabbergasted,” Easter says. “I have no idea where I'm going to get that kind of money."

Easter isn’t alone. 

The number of community based clinics providing health care to Veterans continues to grow. 

The clinics complement the services provided by the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in White River Junction. 

The VA says the clinics are just one aspect of a significant shift in the approach to health care for veterans.

Senator Bernie Sanders chairs the Senate’s Veteran’s Affair Committee.  Sanders says there have been some issues when it comes to providing VA services to veterans, like a backlog in processing claims.  

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says at this time he does not favor halting aid, including military aid, to Egypt in light of a police crackdown that has resulted in more than one thousand deaths.

Some members of Congress, including Arizona Senator John McCain who recently returned from Egypt, want to cut aid to the country’s military leaders as a way to pressure them to stop the killing.   Sanders disagrees.

Vermont Telecommunications Authority

Vermont officials continue to promise that the state will have 100% broadband coverage by year’s end, but they’ve always stressed that they can’t make a similar pledge for cell coverage. 

Improving cell service involves financial and technological challenges different from broadband. 

Consider the basic differences between broadband and cell service.

Broadband only has to be available in those places where people live and work. Cell service has to cover the miles of highway between work and home.  A small gap along the way is all it takes to drop a call.

The state is seeking to bolster existing broadband service in some communities in an effort to help local economies.

Until now, the efforts of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority have been devoted to making sure broadband reaches all areas of the state.

Executive Director Chris Campbell says with that goal in sight, the authority is looking beyond it and trying to determine how to meet increasing demands for bandwidth.

Vermont Center For Geographic Information - VCGI

Vermont is again ranked as the state with the highest average internet speed according to the latest Akamai Quarterly State Of The Internet Report

In the past officials have cited the report as proof that Vermont is doing well in its broadband efforts, but there’s no shortage of people who are skeptical of the report’s findings based on their own broadband speeds.

Resiliency has been a buzzword ever since Tropical Storm Irene.

The goal of resiliency is to improve the ability of communities to recover from natural disasters.  In some cases that involves building bigger culverts and better bridges.  But there’s also a digital side to resiliency.

After Irene, bulletin boards sprang up in many towns hit by the flooding.  They were covered with announcements, pleas, offers, announcements and other information.