MONTPELIER — The availability of personal contact information of House legislators is being changed as a precaution against potential security and safety threats.
The review of security protocols comes after several events during the last 18 months that prompted legislative leaders to take action to protect lawmakers, said senior officials involved.
New security measures include removing home addresses, and home and cellphone numbers from legislators’ official state government web pages. An official personal phone number will be listed where messages can be left or calls forwarded to a legislator.
The new legislative session starts next week.
The change follows racial comments, threats of violence and harassing visits to legislators’ homes in the wake of controversial legislation and other broader, national political conflicts.
Specific events that have prompted concern include:
— The decision by former representative Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, the only African-American member of the House, not to seek re-election in November after receiving online racial comments and threats to her safety.
— The passing of H.707 in June to address sexual harassment in the Vermont workplace in response to the broader #MeToo movement.
— Gun rights advocates who opposed new gun legislation signed by Gov. Phil Scott in April in the wake of an alleged high school shooting plot in Fair Haven in February.
Work on enacting the changes began last month and continued through the holidays.
The information of some House members has already been changed and will likely continue with senators’ information into the new year.
The changes are slated for completion by the start of the new biennial session next week, officials said.
Legislative leaders and State House security officials said every effort is being made to keep access to the State House and its members as open as possible while still providing sufficient security for lawmakers.
“One of the best things about the Vermont Legislature is how open and accessible it is,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-Grand Isle-Chittenden. “Anybody can walk straight in any time, enter a committee room, with their knees poking the chairs of the legislators sitting in front of them. That makes them very accessible, and I’m really proud of that and want to make sure that that feeling and that accessibility … and democracy are maintained.
“We’ve had a series of issues over the last year, year and a half, with threats to people’s homes, angry constituents appearing at people’s homes, threatening phone calls and angry emails have really increased quite a bit,” Johnson added, noting that she, too, had received threatening calls.
Johnson noted the highly publicized racial remarks and threats directed at Morris, but was reluctant to reveal the specifics of some of the other threats, particularly toward women, including an instance toward one member she described as “a very dangerous and volatile issue” for her.
Johnson said she was concerned about threats to young and middle-aged women, and a record number of freshman legislators who might not be aware of potential dangers to them.
“Some of them started asking questions about that and how security is handled,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she reached out to legislators in other states, asking them how they dealt with security.
“They said, ‘Wait, what? Your home phone number and home address are printed publicly,’” Johnson said. “The thing is, we don’t have other options. If somebody wants to do that, that’s fine, absolutely, go right ahead. But the fact that it’s part of your job to be accessible, and the state has never offered an alternative in a time when there are increasing security concerns in the world, is a problem.”
Johnson said the Legislature’s IT department was working to set up inexpensive, independent 10-digit numbers for all legislators that will accept voicemail messages and could also be forwarded to a legislator’s cellphone. Official email addresses were not considered as problematic and would still be posted on members’ legislative web pages, she said.
Legislators also have the option of receiving mail at the State House rather than their home address, and out of session, mail could be forwarded by the sergeant-at-arms office, Johnson said.
“So every Vermonter still has a way, by phone, snail-mail and email to reach out to their legislator directly,” Johnson added.
Senate Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, said there had been no directive to have senators’ contact information removed from their legislative web pages. Ashe said it was up to senators to decide what they wanted to post as contact information and referred inquiries to Capitol Police Chief Matthew Romei.
Romei confirmed the update of legislators’ web page information was part of an ongoing review of security and safety procedures at the State House.
“One of the things we received from an outside evaluation a couple of years ago is that we had a tremendous amount of members’ personal information on the web, and that was not a best practice,” Romei said.
From Kingdom Brewing in Newport all the way down to J’Ville Brewery in Jacksonville, hop-timism is taking the Green Mountain State by the barley pop.
Vermont is the friendliest state for small-batch suds with 11.5 breweries per capita that produce more than 150 pints of beer per adult, according to a recent report by C+R Research with information from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the Brewers Association, a group of over 7,200 craft brewers and distributors.
“I think a lot of it has to do with confidence in the product,” said Riker Wikoff, one arm of the trio that launched Brandon’s Red Clover Brewing in November. “It’s confidence in Vermonters as consumers.”
Vermont is now home to over 50 craft breweries with more slated to open in the coming year.
“We’ve found, in Brandon, a lot of support from the town,” Wikoff said. “It just seemed, as we were talking about it and planning it, people were enthusiastic about getting us connected.”
As of 2018, Vermont tops the list as the most popular state for craft beer, followed closely by Montana and Maine, which each boast 9.6 breweries per capita, followed by Oregon and Colorado.
The study indicated there’s no slowing trend: The number of breweries in the nation has soared from 1,511 in 2007 to over 7,000 today, with around 1,000 more breweries slated to open in 2019, data showed.
There’s as least one brewery in every state, but Mississippi came last in number of breweries, with 0.6 breweries per capita.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Dale Patterson, owner and founder of Hop’n Moose brewery and restaurant in Rutland, which opened a second location in Killington just before Christmas. “There’s lot of loopholes, a lot of things you don’t know heading in, a lot of things I learned along the way.”
Vermont’s craft brew industry boosted the state economy by $764 per person, with Colorado’s profits coming in close second with $681 raked in annually from beer sales alone, the report showed.
“I think it’s partially due to beer tourism,” Wikoff said. “But the drive for locally-made products that people are proud of is part of it. It builds on itself too.”
Wikoff said Red Clover, which currently only has Wikoff and its other two owners Pete Brooks and Andy Gates as employees, was the dream of three friends from upstate New York whose parents moved to Vermont to start their own dairy farm.
What began as a fun project between friends became a passion. When Wikoff’s sister married Gates and moved to Rutland County, the three friends decided Brandon was the place to be — close to family, and at the heart of a community on the verge of a potential downtown renaissance.
“Our goal is to stay small and serve the local community,” Wikoff said. “We’re really proud of the beer and like the atmosphere of living in Vermont.”
Now 7 weeks in, Wikoff said the brewery is doing well. They have 10 beers on tap, with plans to rotate but stay small and local.
“The goal is to stay nimble and adapt, and brew beer that we like to drink,” Wikoff said. “We’ll see how we go from here.”
Twenty minutes into the heart of Rutland, Quebec-native and University of Vermont graduate Patterson said launching his lagers came with unforeseen logistical challenges.
“It’s a pretty neat place to be participating in this,” Patterson said in an interview Monday after he finished brewing 1,300 gallons of beer. “Vermont, it has its challenges, like anywhere. There’s a lot of red tape and paperwork, but at the same time, there are not many other ways to set it up.”
Patterson started brewing beer in his garage as a hobby, and when he began exploring the idea to start a brew pub downtown, he said many people thought he was crazy.
“We sort of collectively proved everyone wrong,” Patterson said. “I think that, for whatever reason, Rutland has a bad rap. I don’t think it’s any different anywhere else.”
Patterson said he opened the pub in 2013, but even then his struggles weren’t ceasing entirely.
“Good employees are always a challenge,” Patterson said. “We have great employees, so we’re lucky, but it can be tough to replace good people.”
Patterson said the state Department of Liquor Control was supportive of his new endeavor, and he found new allies in the Craft Brewers Association of Vermont.
“We’re in a bunch of new places, so we’re in pretty good shape,” Patterson said. “No plans to expand right now, we’re working at filling capacity.”
KILLINGTON — Up on Killington, not far from a ski trail, stands a home that, as far as architects are concerned, is the best in Vermont.
The American Institute of Architects, Vermont Chapter recently announced the results of its 2018 Excellence in Architecture Design Awards Program. A home in Killington designed by Birdseye Design, a Richmond-based company, won first place in the AIAVT Peer’s Choice event, besting 36 other entrants.
Jeff McBride, project architect for Birdseye, said Monday the clients — the people who live in the home — asked the firm not to identify them or release their address.
“It’s a novel form,” McBride said of the home. “It definitely stands out in a crowd.”
He said the homeowners approached Birdseye in 2015.
Birdseye, which has designed homes all over Vermont, won two other awards, said McBride. It won a 2018 AIAVT Merit Award for “ADK Camp,” in New York’s Adirondack Park, and a 2018 AIAVT Citation Award for “Hygge,” a home on the eastern side of Lake Champlain.
The home in Killington is referred to by Birdeye as “Lift House.” McBride said it was designed to have a “floating” quality to it, with the footprint of the base being smaller than the footprint of the upper floors.
McBride said there wasn’t much land to work with when designing the home, hence its boomerang shape. From the time the owners approached the design firm, it was about 18 months until it was built, he said. The clients said they wanted a contemporary design, McBride said.
It’s common for designs to change during construction, he said, but here there wasn’t much difference between the final product and the vision Birdseye and the owners had for it.
“The site dictated a lot of things,” McBride said.
Birdseye did some of the interior design, as well. McBride said the bedrooms are on the first floor with the rest up top making the most of the views the property offers.
As the name implies, the Peer’s Choice awards are chosen by a vote from other architects, said McBride. He said the place appeals to architects because of its distinctive look.
Other Vermont projects honored by AIAVT, according to a release from the group, were for the Brattleboro Music Center, for which Scott Simons Architects, of Portland, Maine, won an Honor Award.
Tied for second place in the Peer’s Choice awards were Elizabeth Herrmann, designer of “Little Black House” in Fayston, and Gossens Bachman Architects for “Red Clover Common Housing,” in Brattleboro.
“It was not complicated, and, as my mother pointed out, not even personal. They had a hotel; they didn’t want Jews; we were Jews.
“We’d been to Cape Cod and Cape Ann, to Old Orchard, Salisbury, and Hampton Beaches, to Winnipesaukee and the Finger Lakes. That year, she wrote to Vermont, which someone had told her was heaven. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce listed some twenty accommodations on Lake Devine. She sent the same letter to a dozen cottage colonies and inns inquiring about rates and availability. One reply was different, typed on textured white stationary below a green pointillist etching of a lakeside hotel.”
“The inn’s letter said, ‘Dear Mrs. Marx: Thank you for your inquiry. Our two-bedroom cabins rent at the weekly rate of $65.00. We do have a few openings during the period you requested. The Inn at Lake Devine is a family-owned resort, which has been in continuous operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are gentiles.
Very truly yours, Ingrid Berry, Reservations Manager.”
This is the somber and sour beginning of a wry, light-hearted novel, published in 1998, “The Inn at Lake Devine” by Elinor Lipman. Although the novel is set in the early 1960s, it speaks of an earlier era of “restricted” hotels and resorts in Vermont which deliberately and openly excluded Jewish guests.
During these times, a phrase similar to one of the following was inserted in brochures and advertisements: “Restricted Clientele,” “Gentile Clientele,” “Protestant and Catholic,” “Gentiles Only.” It was intended to send a not-so-subtle signal. While not all hostelries limited accommodations to Christians, many did, and those were often the most exclusive inns at the more famous destinations. The practice appears to have been half-heartedly endorsed by the state of Vermont. The Blakemans, proprietors of Greenhurst Inn in Bethel, replaced “Restricted Clientele” in its advertising with “Under Christian Management” at the suggestion of an officer with the Vermont Board of Health.
Resort owners often defended their discrimination by insisting that their clientele demanded this restriction, but there was evidence of an innate anti-Semitism, as well.
While Vermont was not widely regarded as a bastion of prejudice, membership in the Ku Klux Klan flourished there in the 1920s, and cross burnings were, at that time, a common occurrence in Montpelier. Klan activities in Vermont were primarily directed at immigrants, Catholics and Jews, rather than African-Americans.
Two “America First” proselytizers professed their anti-Semitism after leaving the Green Mountains. William Dudley Pelley, a Vermont newspaperman who was born in Massachusetts, and Eugene Sanctuary, from Hinesburg, both achieved national notoriety for their pro-Hitler advocacy during the 1930s. Nationally, men of influence such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford promulgated anti-Semitic views, ceasing only when the United States entered World War II on the side of the Allies.
Some Vermont Republicans were vociferous critics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal programs, and vouched for arcane conspiracies involving communists and Jews. William L. Blaisdell, of Underhill, was the foreman of a railroad section crew and he held spurious views that he articulated in letters to the Burlington Free Press. This example is from June 6, 1939: “A Jew is a Jew whether he buys rags or buys bonds of Franklin D., and it is a well-known fact that nearly all international bankers are of that race, and who live on the exertions of others, produce nothing and are recognized as parasites.
“No one in America except the Jews can legally possess gold. The Jews monopolize money, pictures, radio and even the country’s newspapers, as is amply illustrated by the cancellation of Father Coughlin’s broadcasting contract.”
Charles Coughlin was a right-wing priest whose demagogic tirades on the radio presaged the excesses of today’s radio shock jocks. His audience in the 1930s numbered more than 30 million. A brief biography states that “he was forced off the air because of his pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
While most Vermonters’ views were not as extreme as Blaisdell’s, there was, among some native Vermonters, a xenophobic distrust and, sometimes, contempt for Jews. Vermont students, with a sneer, referred to the state university as “Jew”VM – mostly in reference to students from New York and New Jersey.
Perhaps they envied them. The out-of-state students were often from wealthier families, had their own cars and no shortage of spending money. Small-town residents often regarded successful Jews with disdain and suspicion. It is likely that their prejudice was as much xenophobia as anti-Semitism, as it was rarely informed from any first-hand, real-life experience.
In the Catskills, just hours from the Green Mountains, resorts for Jews were created in opposition to the restricted hostelries that were booming in the rest of America, and, when a Green Mountain Parkway was proposed to run the length of the state, the comparison with “the Jewish Alps” was brought into stark contrast. Bruce Post’s 2016 account for the Burlington Free Press is more explicit: “Pernicious ‘dog whistles’ were sounded about Jews and undesirables. Lt. Gov. George Aiken, who publicly was neutral, raised an ominous specter. Aiken empathized with Windham County newcomers who felt the Parkway would cause the Green Mountains to go the way of the Catskills, bringing in the class of people they came to Vermont to get away from. Professor Arthur Wallace Peach, an implacable Parkway foe, also invoked the menacing Catskills, adding ‘We know there are certain types of people who are destructive of values we want to preserve in Vermont: Why not be honest about it?”
Other Vermonters were outspoken in their objections to this obvious bigotry. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, for example, asked state officials in Montpelier to intervene in the matter. Julia Ehrhardt’s Writers of Conviction noted, “In 1943 she asked Vermont’s governor to open the state’s restricted resorts to Jewish tourists, and in 1946 she happily reported to friends that an Arlington couple who had displayed a ‘Tourists Accommodated-Restricted’ sign had decided to relocate to another town due to the neighborhood ‘horror’ their sentiments had elicited.”
But others happily embraced the ban on Jewish guests. Larry Heyer, an early and successful hotelier in Stowe, owned the “Ski Inn.” In a response to a letter critical of the practice of restricting Jews from staying at Vermont inns, Heyer, in 1946, proclaimed without apology, “Frankly speaking, a resort guest establishment must either accommodate all Gentiles or all Jews, as the mixing of the two is disastrous and inevitably results in the loss of the Gentiles. Thus a proprietor with a gentile following cannot accept even a single Hebrew guest without facing the loss of his entire business.
“I operate a very successful inn: I do not accommodate Hebrews, and I have a clear conscience.”
A reporter for the Burlington Free Press was offended by Heyer’s assertion and found, that in a brochure listing 46 places to stay in the Stowe area, 23 operated on a “restricted” basis. The article pointed out that “this is not a situation peculiar to Stowe.” The reporter continued, “It is a sad commentary on all of us who claim to believe in the Christian principle and the American ideal of equality of races that there still exists among us a sentiment so strong against a minority group.”
By 1952, the American Jewish Congress decided to blow the whistle on the discriminatory practices of Vermont innkeepers. At a meeting of the AJC in Boston, they said that their investigators determined that “a large number of Vermont hotels and recreational centers engaged in discriminatory practices as well as discriminatory advertising.” They asked Gov. Emerson for legislation banning these practices.
Borden Avery, of the Norwich Inn, and secretary of the Vermont Hotel Association, dismissed the complaint, saying the American Jewish Congress was “screaming its heart out just to remind people that it represented a minority group.” He added, “it is a matter of selectivity among people, not among races. And the American Constitution has not yet taken away the right to select the people you surround yourself with.” Avery and other Vermont innkeepers denied the charge that there was discrimination at Vermont hotels, but the AJC listed the offenders by name; and the list included some of the state’s most famous resort hotels, such as the Basin Harbor Lodge, Quimby’s Inn at Averill Lake, Camp Elizabeth Inn at Newport, Pisgah Lodge at Lake Willoughby, Worthy Inn at Manchester, Bromley Lodge in Peru, and Camp Skyland and the Lodge at Stowe. They also cited a pamphlet “Where to Stay — Mount Mansfield, Stowe, Vt., ” which listed 24 accommodations, of which 20 were restricted. The Vermont Hotel Association vigorously opposed Emerson’s plan to study the issue.
It took three more years, but finally Vermont Attorney General Robert Stafford had had enough. In early September 1955, Stafford declared that “it was illegal to bar a person from a public establishment in Vermont because of race, color or creed.”
Furthermore, he advised the Vermont Development Commission against free-advertising in state-financed publications for any “accommodation place” which practiced discrimination. Stafford went on to assert that “the very cornerstone of our nation and our state governments is based upon the equality of man.”
With this single proclamation, much discrimination in hotel and resort lodging vanished from Vermont. A statute enacted in 1957, Act No. 109, codified “Full and Equal Enjoyment of Public Accommodations” into Vermont law.
Larry Heyer continued to run a successful inn in Stowe for many more years and it was open to all.
Paul Heller is a writer and historian who lives in Barre.
“The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security.”
President Donald J. Trump, in a tweet commenting on the partisan impasse that keeps the U.S. government partially shut down for a second week. — A6
Rutland Beer Works expands its successful craft beer enterprise from the city’s Hop’n Moose to a new brewpub in Killington. A2
Central Vermont Medical Center, of Berlin, denies culpability as accused in a lawsuit claiming a woman was fraudulently impregnated by the gynecologist who treated her. A3
An adult comedy in 481 emails. $10, 7:30 p.m. The Brick Box in the Paramount Theatre, 30 Center St., Rutland.