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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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.  

One of Vermont’s two landfills will close next week. 

The Agency of Natural Resources says it has reached an agreement with the Moretown Landfill which requires it to stop accepting trash on Monday, July 15. 

The landfill’s owners had challenged a state denial of their request to continue operating. 

Agency Secretary Deb Markowitz says the agreement avoids a court battle, protects the environment, and addresses concerns of those who live near the landfill.

The state says IBM has dropped its objection to the disclosure of the number of jobs cut at the company’s plant in Essex Junction. 

In the wake of IBM’s decision the state has announced that 419 people were laid off this month.

On Monday IBM told state officials that the disclosure of the layoff information would violate a provision of the public records act that protects trade secrets.

According to the state, IBM argued that the number constitutes highly sensitive and confidential commercial information.

AP/Toby Talbot

IBM has provided the state with details about the number of jobs cut at its Essex Junction plant, but it wants the state to keep the information from the public. 

The company claims that releasing the number could harm it.

The number of employees given pink slips in Essex Junction a month ago has been the subject of much speculation for weeks. 

Under Vermont law IBM is required to inform the state of mass layoffs and respond to requests for additional information. 

Update: The F-35 Debate

Jul 16, 2013

This week there were several developments in the debate over basing the F-35 jet fighter at Burlington International Airport. 

Supporters won a victory Tuesday when the South Burlington City Council reversed an earlier decision and voted to support having F-35s in their city. 

Wednesday night, Winooski which would see increased noise levels from F-35 training missions took an opposing stand when the city council passed a resolution declaring the plane would not be welcome. 

There’s still no official word on the exact number of layoffs at the IBM plant in Essex Junction. 

The deadline for the company to inform the state was this past weekend, and state officials believe that the company is cutting hundreds of jobs. 

Meanwhile the labor department has organized a job fair today for displaced workers.

The department had hoped 80 employers with immediate openings would express an interest in attending the fair.  Labor commissioner Annie Noonan says the interest has been even greater than anticipated.

The state is still waiting to hear how many jobs are being cut at IBM’s Essex Junction plant.

The company told officials last month that employees were being laid off and it's believed the number of jobs is in the hundreds, but the state isn’t sure and the uncertainty is prompting talk of changing the rules that require companies to inform the state of large layoffs.

IBM has done nothing wrong under state rules which require companies to inform the state within 24 hours when 25 or more employees are terminated.

Flickr/themonk

Friday 7/12/13 at Noon & 7PM: At least 340 IBM employees are being laid off at the Essex Junction plant this month, and the number will likely be higher when it becomes official on Friday. We talk with Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan about the state's programs to assist laid off IBMers, and with economist Art Woolf about the role of IBM in the state’s economy.

AP/Toby Talbot

As federal officials visit Vermont to take stock of last week’s flooding more homes have been inundated by localized heavy rains.

Williamstown is the latest addition to the growing list of Vermont towns hit by flash flooding. 

Late Monday night heavy rains forced the Jail Branch Brook over its banks in the center of the village.

Town Manager Jackie Higgins says the damage to roads and property is more extensive than the 2011 floods that hit Williamstown.

Vermont's largest hospital is now state's largest private employer. Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington says it employs 7,100 people. 

That’s a significantly larger workforce than at the nearby IBM plant in Essex Junction, which was Vermont’s largest private employer for many years. 

Layoffs in recent years have resulted in a decline in the number of IBM jobs; from a high of more than 8,000 to an estimated 4,000 today in Chittenden County. The company does not release information on employee numbers.

When Tropical Storm Irene raged through Vermont it shattered homes and businesses, roads and bridges. 1,400 households were displaced.  Many people were left with nothing, except the muddied remnants of their belongings. Some lost their homes and their jobs. The storm had eroded the foundations of many people’s lives. But others reached out to help.

Interactive Map Of FEMA Funds Distributed/Allocated In Vermont

Vermont State Police say rescue crews have recovered the body of a man who drowned when he was swept over Bartlett Falls in Bristol.  26-year-old Steven Orvis disappeared Thursday.  Efforts to find Orvis were curtailed due to rain and dangerous conditions.  His body was found Friday morning.

On Friday police reported a drowning at Lake Groton.  24-year-old Kirk Biancardi of Grafton, Mass. was found in about 2 feet of water.  Authorities say there were no signs of foul play.

VPR/Patti Daniels

Transportation officials estimate the damage to state roads from this week’s flooding exceeds $3 million.   

Town roads in numerous communities have also been damaged.

Governor Peter Shumlin says some of flooding is washing away work that was done less than two years ago along the same stretches of road that were destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene.

VPR/Steve Zind

Agriculture officials say the rain has been a problem for Vermont farmers, but it’s difficult to generalize about its affect.  The amount of rainfall, the type of soil, the crops being grown and the farming practices used, are all factors.

But the rain is a challenge even where fields aren’t inundated.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture doesn’t keep a tally of how many acres of farmland are affected by the heavy rains, but there’s plenty of anecdotal information about delayed or ruined crops and hayfields too wet to harvest. 

VPR/Steve Zind

Roads in Central Vermont are the latest to be closed as heavy downpours continue to plague the region. 

Late Thursday afternoon state police reported the following roads were closed:

Courtesy Brigantine Media

Author and scholar Franklin Reeve of Wilmington has died.  Reeve was 84.  He was the father of the late actor Christopher Reeve.

Franklin Reeve was many things:  Poet, novelist, translator, teacher, scholar, critic.   He was a tall, rugged man; vigorous and charming says writer and Middlebury College professor Jay Parini.

“Sometimes people make a vivid impression in the world.  When you meet them, they have a kind of radiant quality.  Frank had this kind of luminous intelligence,” Parini says.

Mapping The Money / VPR

VPR’s online Mapping the Money project includes a breakdown the $185 million spent by FEMA on Tropical Storm Irene. 

The largest expenditures were for road and bridge repair, but there was money, also, to tend to the emotional needs of those recovering from the storm’s devastation.

Thousand of Vermonters feeling the emotional impact of losing a home or property to Irene took advantage of the services to alleviate what one mental health case manager called “The Mess of Stress”. 

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and president pro tem of the Senate, Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy managed the effort to win approval for the immigration bill known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. 

In January, Leahy announced that immigration reform would be his committee’s top priority.  Approval of the bill by the U.S. Senate vote comes after a series of hearings and five mark-ups.

VPR/Annie Russell

In Vermont long-time supporters of equal rights for same sex couples celebrated Wednesday’s  U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Vermonters who have fought for recognition of same-sex marriage felt a particular stake in the court case and pride in the ruling because of the state’s role in the history of the movement.

At the RU12 Community Center in Burlington members of the LGBT organization celebrated when the Supreme Court decision was announced.

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