Invest in Youth
[Re "Warning Shots," November 2]: The City of Burlington, unfortunately, is getting a big bang-bang for the no bucks it devotes to coordinating youth programming for its low-income and disadvantaged youth. Investing in preventive measures, such as adding police and enforcing stricter gun control, might keep the problem of youth violence in a box, but it won't get to the snake that lives within: disaffiliation and lack of connection with mainstream human values.
Spectrum Youth & Family Services, the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, the Greater Burlington YMCA, Big Heavy World and the schools are doing what they can, but Burlington depends entirely on the impoverished nonprofit sector to do the job that the city should be doing. I worked in Chicago creating and managing arts programs for kids at the height of the crack epidemic, and the civic support from all aspects of mayor Richard M. Daley's administration was impressive: Arts programs, sports programs and jobs programs flowed down from city government, targeting the kids whose families, for myriad reasons, could not give them the foundation they needed to realize their best potential.
The Bernie Sanders administration was responsible for developing youth programs such as 242 Main, a program that, after 30 years, is now defunct. The focus has shifted from human development to real estate development. Kids killing kids sends a message: It's time for Burlington to develop a youth commission and focus on programs that develop our human resources. A pretty Main Street is great, but not if a kid's body is lying on it.
[Re "Weinberger Names New Director of Racial Equity Department," November 3, online]: Is it not peculiar that the City of Burlington has hired someone from Iowa, whose résumé shows no connection to Chittenden County, to be director of its diversity programs? One would think that an intimate knowledge of a community would be an essential qualification for undertaking to remedy its racial and other diversity-related problems. Were there no qualified candidates with local ties and roots? Or does the mayor think that because the person he has appointed is a woman and Black that he has sufficiently checked the boxes? If so, such a cookie-cutter approach — treating diversity as if it were a generic set of issues, regardless of local history and conditions — is doomed to failure.
[Re Life Stories: "Willem Jewett 'Was a Real Doer,'" October 26]: Thank you for your article on former state representative Willem Jewett, which so warmly conveys the richness of his life and how important it was to him to be able to choose how he died.
For readers who would like to learn more about how medical aid in dying works under Vermont's Act 39, there are comprehensive resources at patientchoices.org. A number of patients and families are featured on the video page, and the site includes information about who qualifies and how to talk to your doctor. The site is provided by the nonprofit organization Patient Choices Vermont, which is dedicated to educating Vermonters about end-of-life choice.
Walkerman is president of Patient Choices Vermont.
For a state whose population prides itself on ecological consciousness, and with many Vermonters identifying climate change as an existential threat to life on the planet, I was shocked to learn that a staggering 78 percent of Vermonters who died since 2020 chose cremation ["New Undertakings," October 26].
It seems that, in life, people choose, often very publicly, to do what is best for the environment but, in death, don't have a problem burning fossil fuels in order to convert themselves into CO2.
Who's a Misfit?
In the Death Issue, there was a letter labeling Republicans as "misfits" [Feedback: "'Passed Over' for a Reason?" October 26]. My values are mostly in line with the Republican positions, and I will put my morality and ethics up against that letter's author anytime.
Seven Days Is 'Alive and Well'
Upon being informed of Seven Days' publication of articles such as "Trade Wins" [August 17] and "Full Disclosure: New Class Prepares Community Journalists to Report the News" [February 23], a friend of mine remarked that the pieces reminded him of Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), author of the classic Democracy in America, since these two stellar examples of original journalism evidence ordinary Americans' genius for voluntary associations, for local action outside of institutional programs, contexts and constraints. Whereas mainstream media seem convinced that American democracy is dying, Seven Days repeatedly shows that its fundamentals are alive and well, at least at the grassroots level.
And that is not all. Christopher R. Martin argues persuasively in his 2019 work, No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class, that most major U.S. newspapers cater to upscale audiences, leaving the working class (i.e., most Americans) uncovered, in terms of news reporting on issues concerning them. Seven Days is redressing this imbalance. An excellent recent example is "Upward Mobility: With Housing in Short Supply, Mobile Home Parks Are Having a Moment. For Good Reasons, It Turns Out" [August 17]. Affordable housing is critical in Vermont — but in other states, too, where the number of "nomads" is increasing.
Seven Days' focus on ordinary lives, voluntary associations and grassroots dynamics reveals how, in a time of national stress, government "of the people, by the people and for the people" still flourishes, fostering innovative solutions to social ills. In providing citizens with free access to information, the paper further demonstrates its commitment to democratic ideals. Clearly, Abe Lincoln is smiling!