Taylor Dobbs

Digital Reporter

Taylor is VPR's digital reporter. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.

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Taylor Dobbs / VPR

More than 500 high-school girls converged on Vermont Technical College in Randolph Thursday to get real-world experience in male-dominated fields such as firefighting, welding, construction, and auto mechanics.

The event, Women Can Do, is in its 15th year this year and grew by about 100 participants. Tiffany Bluemle, executive director of Vermont Works for Women, the non-profit that puts on the event, said the point is to show young Vermont women a part of the workforce that women typically aren’t in.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

  For the second time in two weeks, the Vermont Air National Guard summoned the press Thursday to set the record straight in response to claims made by opponents of the F-35.

U.S. Air Force officials are working to choose among basing options for the high-tech fighter jet. Burlington International Airport is high on the list despite opposition much more intense than at the other bases in consideration.

After two weeks on the ground, the Vermont Air National Guard’s pilots are taking off once again this week despite the continuing government shutdown.

Capt. Dyana Allen, a spokeswoman for the guard, said the Air National Guard is resuming training operations so their skills don’t fade.

“They have been directed by the Director of Air National Guard that they will fly to maintain readiness levels,” Allen said.

Allen said the Air Guard’s F-16s will be heard over Burlington again by the end of the week.

Burlington City Council at a Sept. 23, 2013 meeting.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Now insured against lawsuits related to Burlington International Airport, Burlington’s city council plans to discuss a total ban of the F-35 at the airport later this month.

A resolution drafted by Councilor Vince Brennan proposes a complete ban on the high-tech fighter, citing public health and safety concerns as well as liability issues for the city.

The city of Burlington purchased an insurance policy on Friday that will allow city officials to further discuss banning the controversial F-35 fighter jet from the Burlington International Airport.

City Attorney Eileen Blackwood began exploring the legal possibility of a ban weeks ago and discovered Burlington was not insured against lawsuits stemming from airport-related issues. That lapse left city officials, including city councilors, open to liability if the discussion of an F-35 ban led to a lawsuit.

Toby Talbot / AP

The federal government shutdown has delayed a key project in the state’s continuing effort to clean up Lake Champlain.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner David Mears said the state’s work with a team of EPA scientists and policy experts was put on hold this month because the federal officials were furloughed.

Vermont Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Scores of federal workers in Vermont deemed “essential” during the government shutdown are working without pay and the state says it can’t pay them unemployment benefits.

According to Gene Richards, the director of aviation for Burlington International Airport, almost 100 Transportation Security Administration officers have been working without pay since the federal government shut down Oct. 1.

The Selectboard of Cornwall sent a strong message to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office last week, condemning Vermont Gas Systems’ plan to build a pipeline through the town to the International Paper Mill in Ticonderoga, N.Y.

“While a plausible case is made that the ‘Phase 1’ pipeline to Middlebury will serve Vermonters’ economic public good, NO such argument can be made for the so-called ‘Phase 2’ pipeline” to the New York paper plant, the letter says.

AP/Evan Vucci

In a rare joint appearance on VPR’s Vermont Edition, the state’s congressional delegation on Thursday delivered their strongest condemnation to date of the Republican Party as the cause of the government shutdown.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch met with Vermont Edition hosts Bob Kinzel and Jane Lindholm at National Public Radio’s headquarters in Washington. The three all had strong words about Republicans in Congress.

UVM President Thomas Sullivan speaking at a ceremony this week.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Food service workers at the University of Vermont are facing a total loss in benefits this year if the university administration doesn’t step in.

Sodexo, the Maryland-based food service giant, is changing its definition of what it means to be a full time employee. Because of the change, most UVM food service workers who don’t work during the university’s summer vacation will lose health care benefits as well as paid sick days.

VPR/Taylor Dobbs

The University of Vermont celebrated the launch of a new “Career+Experience Hub” in the Davis Student Center today.

The hub is an addition to the Career Center, located on a different part of campus, and seeks to supplement its services. With two new staff members in charge of coordinating with employers to help students find internships and jobs, the center represents a step in the university’s larger plan to beef up its experiential learning programs.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has all but ceased operations as their funds dried up today, forcing the government safety regulator to furlough more than 90 percent of its employees.

In a statement, spokesman Neil Sheehan said the NRC website, including information portals that allow the public to see the status of all nuclear power plants, will be “static after tonight.”

Among the 300 remaining at work are the resident inspectors assigned to each nuclear power plant across the U.S.

Vermont state agencies and the city of Burlington announced open data initiatives this week that will make government information available online to the public. Both the Burlington initiative and the state-level effort are smaller versions of what officials say will be a larger trend towards more open, available government data.

VTDigger.org’s Hilary Niles reported on the state effort.

The Middlebury Selectboard approved conditions for Vermont Gas Systems' planned pipeline extension into the Middlebury area last night.

The conditions come in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement, to be signed by Middlebury officials and Vermont Gas Company officials. After signing, it will be submitted to Vermont’s Public Service Board.

The Public Service Board, in weighing the decision to allow the project, will consider the Middlebury agreement a conditional nod of approval from the town.

Gov. Peter Shumlin spoke about the implications of a lingering government shutdown on Vermonters as Maj. Gen. Steve Cray looked on.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Governor Peter Shumlin and a group of top administration officials say Vermont has the funds to keep vital assistance programs running through the month, but the federal shutdown could mean big trouble if it lasts another week.

Jeb Spaulding, Secretary of Administration, said the state scrambled to get payment up front from as many federal agencies as possible as the shutdown drew near.

Despite the partial shutdown of the federal government that has furloughed 800,000 government employees nationwide, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) relating to F-35 basing was filed on time today.

After the completion of the study, officials announced it would be filed with the federal government on Oct. 4, starting a 30-day waiting period. After that period, the Secretary of the Air Force may decide at any time where to base the F-35 fighter jet.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen and three other "human guinea pigs" converged on Burlington City Hall today to protest the possibility of the F-35 fighter jet being based at Burlington International Airport. The group's intent was to express their feeling that basing such a new fighter jet so close to Burlington's dense population makes residents "guinea pigs" for the Air Force.

One of Governor Peter Shumlin’s youngest staffers is hitting the road next week, leaving Montpelier for the rough and tumble world of Massachusetts politics.

Leigh Appleby, who has served as the Governor’s Director of Digital Media and Communications since January of 2011, is leaving the office to serve as Press Secretary on the gubernatorial campaign of Don Berwick.

Berwick, a longtime pediatrician, got a taste of government when President Barack Obama appointed him as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

The Department of Defense released a report this week criticizing the F-35 program’s quality assurance systems, noting that the program does not have legally required checks on “Critical Safety Items” involved in F-35 manufacturing.

The report, issued by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, examined the quality-assurance practices in place at Lockheed Martin and five “major subcontractors” involved in the fighter jet’s manufacture.

The number of rapes reported at the University of Vermont nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, a new report shows. UVM officials reported 12 "forcible rapes" in 2012 in an annual public safety report released this week. School officials reported seven in 2011.

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