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Letters to the Editor (2/15/23)

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Published February 15, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated April 11, 2023 at 2:34 p.m.


Spend Wisely

[Re "Who Cares?" January 11]: Once again, the Democratic Party supermajority in Montpelier has another grand plan that amounts to the same old message: Overregulate, overtax and overspend!

Much like former governor Howard Dean's Commuter Rail to Nowhere and former governor Peter Shumlin's Vermont Health Care for All, we now have Democrats' Childcare for All and, worse, the so-called Affordable Heat Act.

No question, we need more daycare for struggling families. But the catch is that if you have more children in the game, you own up, out of pocket or in tax dollars, to face the financial burden.

Single, no children? Pay less in social service taxes!

At the same time, many seniors, already paying education and other taxes, now find themselves overtaxed on Social Security income or military and other pensions.

If you help struggling families with daycare, help seniors to eliminate or reduce their taxes, or you risk more social government-run programs.

Next, we face the shame known as the misleading Affordable Heat Act that allows the legislature to bypass direct responsibility in allowing the Climate Council — from behind the curtain — to force its misguided agenda on us.

My crude math, in measuring Vermont's emissions compared with China's, is that Vermont cranks out one-100th of 1 percent emissions compared to China!

Vermonters want to make their own decisions and choices — not to be directed by Montpelier's governmental overreach.

Robert "Bob" Devost

Jericho

The Church Forgets

I read with interest the letters from Dan DeWalt and Gwen Shervington [Feedback, January 25], regarding what the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington calls "sacred" property.

DeWalt and Shervington were correct in pointing out the diocese's hypocrisy in its concern that the property might be used in the future for activities the church doesn't condone. According to Bishop Christopher Coyne's own list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, no fewer than 10 abusive priests worked at the former Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Burlington. I call them the "Cathedral 10." It's doubtful that anything much worse than that will happen on the property once it is officially sold to secret buyers. That would be hard to do.

Since the Cathedral 10 likely caused much hurt and heartache to abuse victims, I recommend that proceeds from the sale be used to assist those who were abused. But, since Bishop Coyne, or Bishop COIN, as I call him, only cares about money, I doubt that will happen, and that's unfortunate.

Maura Labelle

Colchester

Protect the Children

[Re "Lawmakers Approve New Pesticide Rules for Vermont," January 19, online]: Regarding Vermont lawmakers protecting farmers by allowing the legal use of pesticides and pesticide-treated seeds, this is bad news for many. Children exposed to these chemicals over their lifetime are more likely to develop cancer later in life or early puberty resulting from unwanted changes in their hormones.

Why didn't our lawmakers consider this research? Don't they and the farmers care about cancer prevention?

Also, have we forgotten Rachel Carson? Believe it or not, it was president Richard Nixon who banned DDT.

Anne C. Sullivan, M.Ed.

Hinesburg

Sullivan is a retired child-development specialist.

Invest in Recovery

The article ["An Ounce of Prevention?" January 11] is about the drug settlement funds that Vermont is receiving and the ideas for distributing them. The Vermont legislature has formed an advisory committee to make recommendations. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine chairs the committee.

The article talks about many important ideas for the funding: prevention, Narcan distribution, treatment, harm reduction, hub-and-spoke clinics. These are all very important things to fund.

What is equally important, but not mentioned at all, is helping people in recovery stay in recovery and lead healthy lives. This work is so important. There are 13 Turning Point centers in Vermont that employ certified recovery coaches. They are all members of Recovery Partners of Vermont. They all need more funding support. The grants received from the health department are important but not enough to hire coaches, pay them appropriate salaries, and provide health care and other benefits. They also need help to have and maintain appropriate office and meeting spaces.

Bob Donnis

Bristol

Donnis is a board member for the Turning Point Center of Addison County.

Masks Work

Why did Seven Days even print [Feedback: "Breath Is Life," January 25] from letter writer Amy Hornblas? I get the "Blah, blah, both sides, we must be fair," etc., thing. But some people don't deserve the benefit of the doubt or to have their half-baked ramblings printed in a newspaper. Printing it, even as a letter, gives validity to nonsense and is flagrantly irresponsible.

The suggestion that masks could be causing long COVID is depraved. Across Asia for decades now, people have worn masks for many reasons, medical and otherwise. If masking caused ill health effects, we would have known by now.

Health care workers are tired, fatigued and headache-y and have difficulty concentrating after long shifts? Quelle surprise!

I can speak from personal, albeit anecdotal, experience to the efficacy of masks. I have allergies to common airborne irritants, as well as asthma. Mask wearing prevents many of those pollutants and allergens from being breathed in.

It's also worth noting that, due to climate change, allergy seasons have been getting longer, with much more pollen every year. We can only expect this to get worse. Air pollution/quality will worsen, too. People will die because of it.

If you think mask wearing is bad, you have no clue what's coming. Without revolutionary action on climate change, we're all going to have to wear masks every time we go outside, to avoid choking to death on the air.

Breath is life, Amy? You don't know how right you are.

Cassidy Kearns

Tunbridge

The Truth About Masks

[Re Feedback: "Breath Is Life," January 25]: The letter writer is correct that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that health care workers who wear respirators such as N95 masks during extended shifts may exhibit symptoms similar to those of long COVID. But does that mean that wearing masks increases the odds of getting long COVID?

Let's start with a simple and obvious fact: To suffer from long COVID, one must first come down with COVID-19. No COVID-19, no long COVID. So, the way to avoid long COVID is to not get COVID-19 in the first place. What can be done to avoid getting COVID-19?

According to a report from the American Medical Association, people who said they always wore some type of face mask indoors in public were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to those who did not wear a mask. Those who wore surgical masks reduced their odds of testing positive for COVID-19 by 66 percent. Those who wore N95 respirators reduced their odds by 83 percent.

To reduce long COVID, one must reduce the incidents of COVID-19, and the way to do that is to wear masks, especially N95 respirators.

James Thomas

South Burlington

Becca Boost

Reading ["Ms. Balint Goes to Washington," January 25] lifted my spirits and affirmed why we Vermonters sent U.S. Rep. Becca Balint to Washington, D.C.

There's the old adage that one person can effect change and another adage dispensing advice on attracting bees. In this age of vulgarity, depravity, violence and hostility, Balint shows another way. She's an exemplar of another adage, "When they go low, we go high." I say, beam on, Becca. Show them the Vermont way — be the change.

Donna Constantineau

Newport

The Price of TIF

[Re "State Audit Finds Burlington's Waterfront District Finances 'Rife With Errors,'" January 23, online]: Burlington's mayor and his department heads and councilors have had great success selling tax increment financing to voters over and over.

But once the millions are in hand, the city has failed to track or allocate the dollars responsibly. The state auditor finds in a report issued on January 20 that the general fund must shell out $1.2 million to the Waterfront TIF District to make up for unauthorized expenditures. It concludes that the city's errors in the management of the waterfront TIF "were so numerous and of so many different types" that "a new process is required." To paraphrase: The city's TIF management is a mess.

The auditor's report enumerates "49 separate mistakes ranging from $457 to $250,000," concluding that the city's TIF program is "plagued by millions of dollars in financial mistakes."

Burlington paid $1 million more for projects than voters authorized and spent $178,098 "without the approval of the city council." It spent "$173,056 on projects not eligible for TIF funding" and "shortchanged the education fund by $197,510."

The mayor admits to "major errors" and promises corrections, but instead of owning up that the buck stops in the mayor's office, the four-term mayor faults the previous administration for its financial disarray and trumpets the city's improved credit rating.

Vermont's auditor states bluntly: TIF "isn't a cheap way to pay for infrastructure" and estimates that "Burlington will pay more than $11 million in interest for $32.6 million borrowed" — not cheap and not what the voters were sold.

Michael Long

Burlington

Cop Watch

Thanks to Seven Days for the most recent eye-opening exposé of the Burlington Police Department ["Crime Pays," January 25].

I hope letter writer Jack Scully of Colchester read the article. Scully states in Feedback [January 25] that "it's no wonder the Queen City now looks like Crime City" and goes on to articulate the tired, ill-informed and oft-mentioned blame game, pointing fingers at Burlington's city council and Chittenden County's state's attorney for the increase in crime. Perhaps it has more to do with Burlington police officers lining their pockets by patrolling private neighborhoods instead of remediating the "staffing emergency" in Burlington?

Kudos to the Burlington City Council Progressives and Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George, who advocate for evidence-based practices and policies that promote safe, healthy and strong communities.

Laura Hill

Burlington

Breaks for Whom?

Amid a housing crisis that is affecting nearly every person I know, housed and no longer housed, in and around Burlington, I'd like to know more about the 40 percent reduction in the property taxes for the Burlington Country Club in 2021 referred to only in passing by Derek Brouwer in an otherwise thorough piece ["Greens Houses," January 25].

Seems like that would add to other properties' tax burden, thereby affecting rents, thereby affecting affordability, which is one driver of the housing crisis the article was about. Am I right in not being happy about that?

Aaron Fiore

Winooski

Editor's note: In "Tax Burdened," a cover story published on August 18, 2021, Seven Days detailed the results of Burlington's pandemic-era property tax reassessment. Many commercial entities, including the Burlington Country Club and hotels, had assessments lowered while homeowners' assessments, driven by the spike in housing prices, tended to rise.

Back the Blue

[Re "Crime Pays," January 25]: I believe it's wonderful that off-duty Burlington police officers are willing to help out a community that is in need of protection.

The crime rate is out of control! How can you chastise qualified officers?

The city council is looking at this situation the wrong way.

Please let them continue doing what is very necessary. Everyone in that neighborhood should come together and support these officers!

Rosanne Gray

Montpelier

Trigger Warning

I had to chuckle after reading "True 802" in the January 25 edition of Seven Days. While these four women were in Montpelier for lunch, they noticed a "nice-looking car" that apparently caught their ire.

The vehicle license plate showed pride in not taking the vaccine, and the owner apparently was proud of being white and, lastly, had the audacity to question authority.

They were so triggered by this vehicle and its apparent messages that I suspect they couldn't even eat lunch. Perhaps they should consider moving to Montpelier. They would fit right in.

Dave Spaulding

Montpelier

'Worth a Shot'

[Re "'Bigger Than Basketball': Black High School Student Athletes Speak Out About Racism in Vermont Sports," February 1]: Anyier Manyok's friend's mother has a great idea: The Vermont Principals' Association should put together a board of student athletes from around the state to make decisions about discipline relating to high school sports. Let the student athletes govern themselves. It's worth a shot.

Tom Simon

Burlington

Enough Already

[Re "'Bigger Than Basketball': Black High School Student Athletes Speak Out About Racism in Vermont Sports," February 1]: This letter is calling for the resignation of Jay Nichols as the head of the Vermont Principal's Association.

There have been far too many incidents this year in Vermont school sports that Nichols should have stepped down months ago. The latest tragedy in Alburgh ["Alburgh Man Dies After Brawl at Middle School Basketball Game," February 1] should be evidence enough that new leadership is needed.

Don Fagnant

Jericho

Fagnant is a school counselor at St. Albans Town School.

Burlington Is Fine

I sincerely appreciated Seven Days' rebuke of the November 12 article that characterized Burlington as a violent and desperate place ["'Violence and Despair': The New York Times on Burlington's Bike Thefts," November 14, 2022, online]. I generally enjoy the Times and was disappointed in its tabloid-esque reporting on the state of affairs here. In my opinion, sensationalizing a successful community's struggles in an exposé-style piece is lazy and unconstructive — in short, bad journalism — and I was pleased to see that my local newspaper agreed.

However, I have been displeased with a few of the recent offerings from Seven Days publisher Paula Routly, including "Summer of Strife" [From the Publisher, September 7] and "'Wellness' Check: Burlington" [From the Publisher, January 18] that strike the same tone as that initial Times article.

Routly goes to remarkable lengths to center herself as the victim in these pieces, lamenting the three health club memberships she has had to purchase after the Greater Burlington YMCA's relocation and complaining of slumber disturbed by the distant cries of an unhoused woman in crisis. She concludes these pieces by assuming that her experiences are universal and adding to the chorus of alarmists and doomsayers purporting Burlington's downfall.

My experience does not align with this narrative. I find that Burlington continues to be a creative and dynamic city full of caring, inspiring people who prioritize building community and creating joy. I hope that, going forward, the weekly publisher's note can be a space that recognizes, honors and supports the people and organizations that work hard to cultivate hope and resilience in our city, even in the face of struggle and uncertainty.

Marty Gillies

Burlington

Good Catch

Your January 25 article points out the poorly located batteries in the Statehouse basement ["Short Circuit: A $400,000 Battery Pack Promised Greener Emergency Power for the Statehouse. Then Insurers Called It a Fire Risk"].

I think it was good that the insurance company, Continental Casualty, made the state move them to a safer location. I also question why the state electrical inspectors did nothing about their location.

Bill Werfelman

Wilder

Questions for Cops

Some questions and observations related to ["Burlington Police Chief in Spotlight After Revelation of Private Patrols," February 1], which would put the issue in fuller perspective:

1) How much are Burlington Police Department officers paid per hour?

2) How much are BPD officers paid per hour in overtime?

3) How much weekly overtime are BPD officers allowed?

4) What was the hourly rate Burlington paid Vermont State Police troopers "to battle crime downtown"?

And if "the city is currently farming out to the Vermont State Police to battle crime downtown" — i.e., a selected neighborhood — then it is not contracting "for one-off events, such as fundraisers, parades, bike or running races, and construction projects."

This would be a nonissue if the BPD had its full complement of adequately compensated officers. Joseph de Maistre said over 200 years ago, "Every nation [people] gets the government it deserves."

A final note: It seems much more than a little hypocritical that Burlington City Councilor Zoraya Hightower (who was in favor of defunding the police) complained about the extra security she was afforded at River Watch after the article appeared and not while she was benefiting from it.

Robert Wood

Derby Line

Lowering the Sail

Thanks for covering the heartbreaking news about International Sailing Center ["Longtime Sailing Center Is a Casualty of the Lake Champlain Real Estate Boom," January 27]. I am hoping your article made more locals realize what a mistake the loss of the lease will be.

My husband and I discovered the sailing school in 2018 and have been able to become more accomplished sailors with the expert teaching we received.

We feel the closing of the school will be a great loss for Malletts Bay and surrounding businesses. We have been driving from Albany, N.Y., to be part of the sailing club since our first sailing class in August 2018. At the club, we have met people from all over the United States, Canada and various other countries. It has truly been a unique experience.

Thank you again for a well-written article about this special place.

Mary Lou Nolan-Gillham

Albany, N.Y.

Support Vermont Youth

Many thanks to Colin Flanders for highlighting the essential need for youth mentoring in Vermont ["A Friend in Need," February 1]. We all can play a part in ensuring that young people have the supportive relationships they need to thrive. While it is important to focus on interventions to address issues like mental health and substance abuse, more investment is needed in prevention, and more investment is critical to expanding mentoring opportunities.

As a board member at MENTOR Vermont, I often see people think of mentoring as a free resource. While mentors are typically volunteers, and youth mentoring is an incredibly cost-effective tool, mentoring programs require sustainable funding in order to meet community needs. The work of youth mentoring agencies includes recruitment, screening, training, onboarding and continued match support to ensure successful mentee-mentor matches. Our community members who staff these organizations work tirelessly with limited resources, oftentimes as the sole staff member, to initiate and maintain these powerful relationships. Additional funding is needed to increase staff hours and ramp up recruitment. Our goal should not be just recovering numbers to pre-pandemic levels but also ensuring that every youth seeking a mentor in Vermont has the supportive relationships they need to thrive.

The responsibility of supporting Vermont youth falls to all of us. Tell your local lawmakers that funding mentoring is a short- and long-term investment we need in our communities. Utilize MENTOR Vermont resources to find a program in your area and commit to developing a mentoring mindset anytime you interact with young people.

Beth V. Perlongo

Burlington

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