‘You Don’t Own Me’ presents intriguing questions about ownership

“You Don’t Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie’s Dark Side” by Orly Lobel, 2017, W.W.Norton, $27.95, 304 pages.  As a kid, what was your favorite toy? You can probably remember it instantly: the thing you couldn’t bear to leave at home, the doll you spent hours with, the toy truck that road-tripped your imagination. Just thinking of it gives you a warm feeling and a wistful smile, but in “You Don’t Own Me” by Orly Lobel, you’ll read about two toy companies that weren’t playing around. Years after it happened, Carter Bryant couldn’t tell you what spurred him to think the way he did that sunny afternoon.

A resident walks past a row of tiny houses at a homeless encampment in Seattle where full size homes stand behind. Elaine Thompson / AP PHOTO

Tiny houses are trendy, unless they go up next door

The Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa — As he tows a 96-square-foot house around Des Moines, Joe Stevens is overwhelmed by the intense, sometimes tearful support he receives from churches, schools and service groups for his plan to use the trendy little structures to help homeless people. But when Stevens actually tried to create a village of the homes in Iowa’s largest city, the response was far different. “We got shot down,” said Stevens, who leads a group that proposed erecting 50 tiny homes on a 5-acre industrial site north of downtown Des Moines. “It was a sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt, a kneejerk situation.”
Tiny homes have been promoted as the solution to all kinds of housing needs — shelter for the homeless, an affordable option for expensive big cities and simplicity for people who want to declutter their lives. But the same popularity that inspired at least six national TV shows about the homes often fails to translate into acceptance when developers try to build them next door.

Loss of estate tax won’t just affect wealthy

As Congress begins discussion on proposed changes to the tax code, there are often small points that take a while to attract the public’s attention. One of those is the proposed elimination of the federal estate tax. By current law, estates under $5.49 million are not subject to estate taxes. With a bit of planning, a married couple can have $10.98 million of an estate shielded from estate taxes. The current law pegs the taxable level to inflation, so the amount subject to tax will move with the economy.

One of Killington Ski Resort's high-efficiency snow cannons blankets the area in 2015. Snowmaking technology such as this has helped Killington to be named the most energy-efficient resort in Vermont that year.

Snow guns at the heart of ski-area efficiency

Ski areas throughout the state have invested millions in energy-efficiency measures such as wind, solar and recharging stations for electric cars, according to Chloe Elliott, communications manager at Ski Vermont. The most critical and expensive cost areas face, however, is snowmaking. A 17-year trend to improve snowmaking efficiency and sustainability has resulted in the use of high-tech snowgun and compressor technologies. In honor of Bromley Mountain’s continuing innovations, having completed a reported 27 energy-efficiency projects since 2000, Efficiency Vermont recently awarded the area a 2017 Energy Leadership Award for Project of the Year, Innovation. In presenting the award, Efficiency Vermont Director Karen Glitman praised the area for “an impressive commitment to efficiency improvements.” Citing the installation of 10 new, high-efficiency Sledgehammer snow guns and the fine-tuning of air compressors this summer, she noted Bromley has adopted “nearly every energy-efficiency technology in snowmaking.”
The Sledgehammers are low-energy guns developed by SnowGun Technologies in partnership with LP Snowsystems. SnowGun Technologies is a subsidiary of The Fairbank Group, the father-son team of Brian and Tyler Fairbank, who own and operate Jiminy, Cranmore and Bromley resorts.

Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, speaks about the state's rural economy and the importance of education at a hearing Nov. 7 at the State House in Montpelier.

School mergers seen as barrier in rural economy

MONTPELIER — According to the nearly three dozen witnesses who testified at a Nov. 7 hearing of the state’s Rural Development Caucus, Vermont’s small towns are losing population, have unreliable internet, fewer job opportunities, higher transportation costs and a smaller tax base that makes paying for essential services difficult.
Despite these challenges, they said, Vermont’s small towns offer an unmatched quality of life and are ready to make the investments needed to welcome new business and create new jobs. The hearing, organized with support from House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Vermont Council on Rural Development, was held to help lawmakers determine what Vermonters think are the most significant factors impacting Vermont’s rural economy. “The economies and economic development challenges of rural areas are different from those of more densely populated parts of the state,” said Rep. Chip Conquest of Newbury, co-chairman of the caucus. Co-chairwoman Rep. Laura Sibilia of Dover, agreed.

Photo courtesy of Efficiency Vermont
Christa Alexander at Jericho Settlers Farm in Jericho.

Farm grows year-round with efficiency help

Fifteen years ago, Christa Alexander and Mark Fasching started selling extra produce from their prolific vegetable garden. They invested in some chickens, then some livestock, some more land, and before they knew it were farming full-time. Fast forward to today. Jericho Settlers Farm is a thriving diversified, organic farm with a large number of wholesale clients as well as CSA, farmers market offerings and a farm stand. And now, by pairing onsite solar power and biomass heating with energy efficiency, the farm has managed to extend its growing season almost to year-round.

Red B Fencing lines the race courses at the 2016 Women's World Ski Cup at Killington Resort.

World Cup race helps Killington boost safety gear

KILLINGTON — With an expected draw of more than 30,000 spectators to the area over the course of the two-day event, Killington Ski Resort and the surrounding area prepare to host the Audi FIS Women’s Ski World Cup races that will be held Thanksgiving weekend: Friday, Nov. 24, to Sun., Nov. 26. “The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and Killington Resort submitted a proposal to the FIS (Fédération Internationale de Ski) two years ago at the FIS Congress to host this event,” said Kristel Fillmore, communications, public relations and social media manager for the resort. “The FIS officially awarded Killington the event in the spring of 2016 at the FIS Conference in Cancun, Mexico.”
Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Ski Resort, has said the race raises the profile of skiing in the Northeast and at Killington.

Nick Richardson outside the Vermont Land Trust's head office in Montpelier. Richardson takes over as the trust's new president in December.

Richardson takes up reins at Vermont Land Trust

MONTPELIER — For 40 years, the Vermont Land Trust has been singularly focused on protecting the state’s farm and forestland, helping to preserve nearly 2,000 parcels of property and 700,000 acres. Starting next month, the Vermont Land Trust will entrust its mission to Nick Richardson, who replaces Gil Livingston as president of the 3,000-member organization. It shouldn’t take the 39-year-old Richardson long to get up to speed on his new job. For the past five years, he was the Land Trust’s vice president of finance and enterprise. Don’t look for Richardson to shake up the organization.

Josh Squier, co-owner of Breezy Meadow Orchard and Nursery in Tinmouth, stands next to a 4 kilowatt photovoltaic array that was destroyed by the wind storm last week.

State assessing storm’s damage to Vermont farms

MONTPELIER — Vermont farms this week continued efforts to recover from the monster wind storm that left nearly one out of three Vermonters without power last week. State officials said they’ve yet to calculate the full extent of the damage from the Oct. 29 storm, or its impact on Vermont agriculture and maple sugar production. “Certainly, it was a doozy (of a storm) — no doubt about it,” said Anson Tebbetts, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in Montpelier. “One plus is it was warm enough to deal with.”
Tebbetts said about three dozen farms last week reported damage to buildings and equipment or crippling power outages, and “we know there are many more.”
“We have a tremendous amount of farmers that are using generators to power their farms and feed their (livestock),” he said.

Greek entrepreneur Stathis Stasinopoulos is pictured with a cargo bike in front of the old town hall in Bremen, Germany. In July, Stasinopoulos took his family, and dream of a self-made business and moved them from Athens to bicycle-friendly Bremen, a city in northwest Germany.
Martin Meissner / AP PHOTO

Greece finally growing, but taxes crush startups

The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece — If Greek business needed a role model, Stathis Stasinopoulos would make an ideal candidate. An athlete, engineer and entrepreneur, he invented an easy-folding bicycle design and began building them himself and created a small company. The project was shortlisted for a national startup award in 2014 and, the following year, he peddled onto the stage to applause to give a motivational speech. Today, he has some advice for young Greeks with a good idea: “Get your passport and leave.”
In July, Stasinopoulos took his family and dream of a self-made business and moved them from Athens to bicycle-friendly Bremen, a city in northwest Germany. Years of effort had been crushed by high taxes and outdated bureaucracy.