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Letters to the Editor (12/20/23)

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Published December 20, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 21, 2023 at 11:42 a.m.


Squier 'Distinguished Himself'

[Re "Ken Squier, a Legend of Vermont and NASCAR, Dies at 88," November 16, online]: Ken Squier was the lone broadcaster-journalist who personally approached me after a panel discussion on the merits of featuring controversial content. In that conversation, Squier committed himself and WDEV to carrying "Democracy Now!," the independently produced news program. In that conversation, I believe Squier distinguished himself from Mark Vogelzang, former president of then-Vermont Public Radio, who rejected the program.

Squier took seriously his responsibility as a professional journalist in the public forum and brought relevant points of view to his listeners.

Peggy Sapphire

Craftsbury

What About Renters?

In reading ["Burlington Takes Initial Steps to Redevelop Memorial Auditorium and Surrounding Properties," November 7, online; Last 7: "Gateway to Development?" November 8], I was struck by how the building at 234-6 Main Street was barely mentioned; only in the online article was there a passing mention of an "adjacent [building] that houses a tattoo parlor and witchcraft store." This is particularly striking in that 234-6 Main is the only residential property on the block; it has several apartments in addition to the Inkwell Emporium.

I moved into one of the apartments at 234-6 Main back in 2017, when I was in need of housing I could afford on a near-minimum wage. It wasn't a luxurious place, but it was quiet, clean and drug-free, and the price was unbeatable. I eventually found a better-paying job and got a new apartment with my partner this past summer. I'm very grateful for my time at 234-6 Main; it enabled me to stay in Vermont and get on my feet financially.

Too bad other people trying to get on their feet won't have the same opportunity. Instead of the large-scale construction of public housing that's needed to ameliorate the housing crisis, Mayor Miro Weinberger and co. are pushing redevelopment schemes that just make the rich richer. You'd think that the people who'll be displaced by this latest redevelopment scheme would be important enough for Seven Days to interview or at least mention, but no.

If ever proof were needed that working-class renters don't exist in the eyes of the Burlington establishment, here you go.

David Wilcox

Winooski

'Incredibly Disappointing'

I'd like to open this letter with an expression of gratitude for the reporting and high-quality local journalism that Seven Days provides our state. The event depicted in the article originally published in the print edition is utterly heartbreaking ["No Room in the System: A 14-Year-Old's Murder Arrest Draws Attention to Vermont's Lack of a Juvenile Facility," November 8]. As a state, we have some significant growth edges in working together to create a safe place for children to learn, grow and thrive — especially for kids who are underserved by universally applied institutions such as public schools, etc.

The editorial decision to include the child's photo, name and other identifying information in the article is utterly and incredibly disappointing. This is a news event that clearly requires discourse, and Seven Days has a journalistic responsibility to cover this content; however, aiming focus upon the individual child distracts from the true message of the story. At the end of the day, this tragedy is another devastating example of children experiencing permanent — and fatal — trauma from gun violence in our state. The article chews upon a "lingering contradiction between how Vermont treats serious crimes committed by juveniles and a contemporary understanding ... that kids should be treated according to their age."

I encourage future coverage of children to be more "contemporary," thoughtful and mindful of impacts upon children. Was a child of color in a jumpsuit essential for this article to go to print? Hate apparently hides well in the rocky soil of Vermont.

Kevin Kareckas

Vergennes

Hold the Photo

[Re "Burlington Teen Charged in Shooting Death of Fellow 14-Year-Old," October 31]: I just want to know why you felt a need to publish a photograph of a child in your article about a 14-year-old child who has been charged with murder. Yes, he has been charged as an adult, but at this point he is pleading not guilty. And at this point it is unclear in which court he will end up as proceedings unfold over the following weeks and months. It is quite likely it will move to a family court setting, and those, as we know, are closed to public scrutiny. I wonder if your lawyer is going to try and get the judge to let the media into a family court, as well.

What has happened is horrendous for both families involved. What did the photo do to enhance the story? I know you are a news outlet, but I didn't think you would stoop this low. Shame on you.

Alison Segar

Burlington

Some Justification

Thank you for printing and responding to the letter [Feedback: "Boy Deserves Anonymity," November 15]. However, I cannot support your justification for printing this young person's name and photograph. Writing "we make editorial decisions independently of other news organizations," then adding, "we did note ... that several had, in fact, already published the name," is a logical fallacy at best and dishonest at worst. If your decision can stand on its own, then it should do so.

There is a story worth covering here, but that story does not require this child's name in print. Instead, as you rightly note in the second half of ["No Room in the System: A 14-Year-Old's Murder Arrest Draws Attention to Vermont's Lack of a Juvenile Facility," November 8], that story includes our state's abhorrent failure to have any safe and appropriate facilities for minors accused of crimes.

Another important side to this story might be to dig further into the insanity of the "few options" available to prosecutors if a child is accused of "one of a dozen types of violent crime." Children were playing with a gun. It went off, accidentally, according to all the coverage I can find in your and other publications, and a young man lost his life.

As long as guns remain all too accessible in our society, these kinds of tragedies will occur. Responsible journalists should avoid compounding this horror by making it follow a child for the rest of his life, no matter the poor decisions of other publishers and state officials.

Mark Brown

East Calais

Clarification: Noting that several other news organizations chose to identify the alleged shooter was not a justification for our decision to do so; we thought it was important for readers to notice that local media outlets made different calls on this crime, the particulars of which are unprecedented in Vermont. There are no established practices and protocols for how to cover a 14-year-old being charged as an adult — unlike, say, the collective agreement that police, prosecutors and reporters all protect the anonymity of victims of sexual assault.

'Complete Destruction of Hamas'

[Re "Rep. Balint Reverses Course, Calls for Cease-Fire in Gaza," November 16, online]: In her well-meaning commentary, U.S. Rep. Becca Balint correctly concludes that Hamas "can't remain in power in Gaza." And then she proposes a cease-fire, which would make the goal of removing Hamas absolutely impossible to achieve.

We must believe Hamas, whose charter states that their ultimate objective is the total annihilation of 9 million Israelis. And we must remember their promise that, if given the opportunity, they will repeat October 7 many times. A cease-fire will enable them to regroup, rearrange their human shields and effectively resume their murderous campaign.

Loss of innocent lives is a horrible by-product of war. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and Berlin suffered hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. Historians agree that the result of those catastrophes was that our German and Japanese enemies no longer remained in power and millions of lives were saved. Tragically, but practically, the complete destruction of Hamas, not cut short by a cease-fire, is the only choice both for Israel and, ultimately, for the long-term well-being of the residents of Gaza.

Robert Alper

East Dorset

Israeli War Crimes

I recently read the article covering the protests organized by Jewish Voices for Peace-Vermont, pressuring U.S. Rep. Becca Balint to call for a cease-fire in Gaza ["Protesters Disrupt Balint Fundraiser to Demand Cease-Fire in Gaza," November 9, online]. I would like to say that, when discussing this issue, I think it is absolutely critical, as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stated, to recognize that the attack of October 7 by Hamas "did not happen within a vacuum."

For 75 years, Amnesty International has determined that Israel has committed the crime of apartheid under international law, in addition to massive seizures of land and property, unlawful killings, infliction of serious injuries, forcible transfers, arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement, and denial of nationality. We must acknowledge that Israel is a powerful colonial state that has been displacing and killing thousands of Palestinians for over 75 years. In addition, experts have concluded that Israel shows clear genocidal intent coinciding with its current actions.

The attack of Hamas on Israeli civilians was horrific, but we must recognize that Hamas is a resistance group and would not exist if the Palestinian people were not being oppressed. This resistance, whether it be violent or peaceful, will not stop until its people are no longer subjected to violent apartheid and oppression.

We all want both Israeli and Palestinian lives to be spared. In order for this to happen, and for a path toward reconciliation to be found, Israel must be tried for its crimes of apartheid and crimes against humanity.

Eleanor Reilly

Warren

Loans Don't Help Everybody

["State Announces $15 Million in Low-Interest Flood Recovery Funds," November 28, online] was an interesting article about low-interest loans for businesses struck by the July flooding. While admirable, it doesn't cut it for some small businesses. A friend of mine and his wife ran a farmstand and a food trailer next to a river in Barton. The floods rose to four feet high in the greenhouses, farmstand and food trailer, destroying pretty much everything and leaving almost a foot of mud. I told them that, since it was declared a federal disaster, they should get some federal relief. They found out about low-interest loans offered, but their business was paid for and they aren't interested in taking on debt even at a low-interest rate. They didn't have insurance because it was too costly in a flood zone. So, they have closed permanently. Sadly, another small business serving the community for many years is gone.

Mark Richardson

Wheelock

Hate Crime?

[Re "Three People Shot Near UVM Campus in Burlington, Police Say," November 25, online; "Three Victims in Burlington Shooting Were of Palestinian Descent," November 26, online]: While trying to process and understand the heinous act of violence recently committed against the three Palestinian students while they were in Burlington, I find myself trying to understand what the perpetrator of that act was thinking and seeing at the time. I am not, nor do I think anyone else is, able to do so. That said, it seems that there is no end to opinions that seem to contradict my dilemma. Those opinions are readily voiced and written by loving family members, professional counselors, state and national officials, and basically anyone who feels that they have the knowledge and ability to determine whether the act should be categorized as a hate crime.

As much as I empathize with all of these folks, I would hope and plead that they realize that understanding the motivation for such a violent act may well be beyond their ability, regardless of the amount of professional or other credentials they claim to have.

Judging and defining this violent act, as in many other similar situations, only tends to polarize the divides within our country and throughout the world. I feel that defining such acts would be better approached if we could agree that they were gray areas that we should all seek to understand better, rather than to immediately categorize. This may well be a frustrating goal, but I think it's one worth pursuing.

Bob Furrer

Shelburne

Mulvaney-Stanak for Mayor

[Re "Joan Shannon Wins Democratic Nomination in Burlington Mayor's Race," December 10, online; "Emma Mulvaney-Stanak Is the Prog's Pick for Burlington Mayor," December 4, online]: Now that the two front-runners for mayor of Burlington have been made clear, I would like to announce my support for Emma Mulvaney-Stanak. She is the best-qualified candidate to bring our city together and will best represent the entire city of Burlington. Her empathy and connection to the very serious problems that face our city make her the best person to be our next mayor and move our city forward in an inclusive and comprehensive fashion.

Kevin Barry

Burlington

Reality Check?

It's unfortunate that the Burlington City Council did not pass a resolution condemning violence against Palestinian students ["Calls for Gaza Cease-Fire Derail Burlington Council's Attempt to Condemn Shootings," December 12, online].

Rather than focusing on the tragedy in Burlington at the meeting, many speakers said "Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians." The fact is that the genocide is being conducted by Hamas. They use innocent Gazans as human shields and set up military operations in hospitals. They are terrorists, and what they do is murderous both to Israelis, who are fighting to survive as a country, and to Palestinians.

In arguing for the text condemning Israel, Councilor Gene Bergman said the city has a "long history of being part of a global movement for peace and justice." It was also said that "passing the cease-fire resolution would take a stand against oppression." Has Burlington called for a cease-fire by Russia in Ukraine? Taken a stand against oppression in China, where over a million Uyghur Muslims have been detained in camps since 2017? In the many other countries where violence and oppression occur?

The article says, "Andy Simon, who is Jewish, said people shouldn't equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism." If he's correct, why does Israel, which comprises 0.1 percent of the area in the Middle East, receive this much negative attention?

Things are far from perfect in Israel and in any other country in the world. Please join me in praying for peace and for the recovery of the three innocent young men who were brutally shot in Vermont.

Vivien Brown

St. Albans

Council Counsel

[Re "Calls for Gaza Cease-Fire Derail Burlington Council's Attempt to Condemn Shootings," December 12, online]: I could not attend Monday's city council meeting because I was taking care of my sick kid, but if I could have, this is what I would have shared: Mother Teresa said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." Buddhist teacher Rev. angel Kyodo williams echoed this truth when she said: "Whether we like it or not, our liberation is bound together."

Mother Teresa's and Rev. angel's words could not be more poignant at this moment, whether we are in Israel, Palestine or here in city hall in Burlington, Vt. It is essential that we disagree with each other. And as we disagree with passion, anger and sorrow, we need to remember that our liberation is bound together and we belong to each other. We cannot build bridges by villainizing the "other." It is likely that if we stood in the shoes of the "other" and had the same conditioning, identity, life experiences, disposition and, yes, even the same curated social media, we might be arguing on the other side of this resolution.

Whatever was included in this resolution could have been seen as divisive, but that doesn't mean that we have to divide. I'll close by quoting Nigerian philosopher Bayo Akomolafe: "How do we process this grief? How do we pray, do we act, do we think, in ways that do not reproduce the conditions that nourish the dominant tendencies that have produced this war?"

That is my two minutes.

Lindsay Foreman

Burlington

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