Letters to the Editor (2/27/19) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (2/27/19)


Published February 27, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated February 28, 2019 at 5:41 p.m.

'Hooked' Matters

Kate O'Neill's "Hooked" [February 20] is superb writing on a horrific, widespread problem — but also a personal one with the tragic death of the author's sister. Living in Vermont, I knew we had an opioid problem, but reading someone's experience and sharing through words the struggles from prison to treatments and rehabs and the courage of Katie Counter to live clean with her addiction was an eye-opener. In this crazy world of government chaos, mistruths and unkindness to each other, Seven Days never fails to bring its readers excellent humane and thought-provoking articles and to remind us of what really matters. Please keep up the good work!

Deb Chadwick


Heartbreaking Story

[Re "Hooked," February 20]: Great piece of writing — powerful and moving. It's a perfect blend of research, history, and the personal and human story that breaks all our hearts — forever.

Steve Cahill

East Burke

Vermont Can Lead

[Re Off Message: "Walters: GOP Lawmakers Claim 'New Wind Blowing' in Vermont Statehouse," January 25]: How puzzling that our governor is willing to support a tax on e-cigarettes of more than 90 percent, as he should, to protect our young adults — but he won't support a tax on carbon, which impacts the health of all Vermonters, especially young children. 

Please don't argue that Vermont's contribution to greenhouse gases is negligible. All states and countries need to get on board here, and Vermont, like British Columbia, can lead a nation. Please, Gov. Scott: Heed the recommendations of the committee you appointed.

David Ellenbogen


Racist Review Policy?

["UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades," February 13] quotes University of Vermont graduate Simeon Marsalis, mentioning his novel As Lie Is to Grin, which is wonderful. It's relevant to the current moment, it's a great book and it's set in Burlington. So why didn't Seven Days review the book when it came out? Not only that, but why did they actually refuse to publish one?

Overall, Seven Days has hardly reviewed any books by people of color. The numbers are embarrassing. The guidelines state that they only cover Vermont authors. What does "Vermont author" mean? Does it mean actively living here? No, because they have published reviews of books by people who own a home here but don't live here or even identify as Vermonters. (See Rebecca Makkai, for example.)

If exceptions are made, why are they only made for white authors whose books have nothing to do with Vermont? Why not make exceptions for a book about being a young black man feeling isolated in Burlington? This type of decision making by a cultural institution only confirms those feelings of isolation, only confirms that, for many, a "Vermont writer" couldn't possibly be a black man.

In December, Seven Days reviewed a book by a white woman from Plattsburgh, N.Y., Kate Messner. She is more of a "Vermont author" than a black UVM graduate writing a novel set in Burlington? Then they have the audacity to finally acknowledge Marsalis when writing about the Kake Walk? It's appalling.

But read As Lie Is to Grin. It's worth it. 

Patrick Smith


Editor's note: Locally focused Seven Days only reviews books by authors who live in Vermont or very close to the border. That includes some part-timers and the occasional writer in Plattsburgh, N.Y., where the paper is distributed. Last year, Rachel Elizabeth Jones critiqued MEM, the debut novel by African American author Bethany C. Morrow, a North Country resident. In January, Jim Schley reviewed University of Vermont professor Emily Bernard's Black Is the Body. Geography, not the author's race, is the determining factor in our literary coverage.

Chances Are...

Near the end of "Why Do Some People Get Called for Jury Duty but Not Others?" [WTF, February 13], the author quotes Joanne Charbonneau, clerk of the statewide courts, who, in attempting to explain how a Seven Days staffer could get called for jury duty four times in seven years when many people are never called, said that "if you flip a coin 49 times and it always comes up heads, your 50th toss still has a 50-50 chance of being heads."

This example is misleading on at least two counts. First, the concern is getting selected four times (in seven years), not once. While the chance of a head on a single flip is 50 percent, the chance of four heads in a row is 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.0625 (6.25 percent), and the chance of getting four heads in seven flips is 27.3 percent. So, multiple occurrences are less likely than a single occurrence. Second, if the jury pool selection is truly random, then the chance of being selected is much lower than 50 percent. If, for example, there are 1,000 people in the staffer's selection pool, then each time jury selection is done, the staffer would have a one-1,000th chance (0.10 percent) of being selected.

Here's a simple example. Take 20 packs of playing cards and assign each card in each deck the number corresponding to the deck number. Assume that jury selection is done five times each year, so in seven years it would be done 35 times. Mix up the (1,000-plus) playing cards, blindly select one card and repeat this process 35 times. Does it seem likely that in 35 blind selections you would select the three of hearts from the 17th pack four times?

Andrew Pond


Scooter Warning

[Re "Residents Wary as Burlington Rolls Out E-Bikes and E-Scooters," February 20]: As a longtime proponent of alternative transportation, I am happy that Burlington is looking at other ways of getting around, such as e-bikes and scooters. That said, Montpelier conducted a short experiment last fall with scooters and, in my opinion, it did not go well. The scooters did fine on the flats, but on the slightest incline they bogged down. Getting from downtown up to Vermont College, for instance, was not possible. Burlington will see the same kind of problem.

Additionally, I found the scooters unstable. If I took my left hand off the handlebars to signal a turn, the front end would shake enough that it made one-handed steering dangerous.

I have suggested that Montpelier consider e-bikes rather than scooters, as they are neither underpowered nor unstable. The city council, I believe, will look at that option this spring. As an electric-bike dealer, my bias is obvious.

Whatever choice Burlington, Montpelier or any town makes, improving infrastructure to accommodate more pedestrians and more two-wheeled vehicles will be a good investment. Protected lanes, dedicated streets, covered bike racks and just simple signage will go a long way toward a less fossil-fuel-based transportation system.

Larry Gilbert

East Montpelier

Gilbert is the owner of ZoomBikes, an e-bike retailer.

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