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Letters to the Editor (8/11/21)


Published August 11, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated August 13, 2021 at 12:02 p.m.

Economics 101

[Re "Nowhere to Go," August 4]: The story on Vermont's housing crisis, while in many ways informative, is nevertheless lacking a crucial, seldom-acknowledged part of the story of how this crisis came to be.

Measures taken by the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, to rescue the economy from every market disturbance in the last 30 or so years (steadily declining interest rates and, since 2008, ever-escalating quantitative easing practices) have caused unprecedented increases in the prices of financial assets (stocks, bonds and real estate), driving wealth inequality to extremes and pricing essentials such as housing above what most citizens can reasonably afford. This cycle is self-reinforcing: As the stock market bubble further inflates, the wealthy have plenty of cash to spend on inflating housing prices, furthering the upward spiral.

The financialization of our economy is a driving force in the housing — and inequality — crisis dynamics in the U.S. yet is poorly understood by most people. Articles on the housing crisis that neglect to mention this further reinforce the overall lack of awareness of a crucial factor that shapes the lives of Vermonters and millions of U.S. citizens.

Paul Marangelo


Stowe Is Vermont's Hollywood

[Re "Nowhere to Go," August 4]: Stowe is like Vermont's Hollywood. I don't expect to find a home in Hollywood. Why would two young twentysomethings expect housing in Stowe? They may have to commute to Vermont's mecca, but it seems presumptuous to have housing in Stowe at a fledgling age. I agree, housing prices are high and we need more affordable housing, but this article needs context.

Jeffrey Schnoor


Airbnb's 'Vampire Housing'

[Re "Nowhere to Go," August 4]: Want to provide Vermonters somewhere to live? Bring back to life the vampire housing units created by the Airbnb housing pandemic. Either outlaw Airbnb rentals outright or disincentivize them by slapping a 50 percent tax on each rental, then use the revenue for direct subsidies to struggling renters. Drive the tourists and other visitors into commercial rental units — aka hotels, inns and traditional B&Bs — that are located in appropriate zoning districts.

Neoliberal legislative fantasies — like further weakening of the land-use permitting process and leaving the solution to "market forces" — have not worked. The failure of Democratic and Progressive politicians to take meaningful steps to satisfy the basic need for housing strengthens the quietly building backlash in this state among those previously identified as "the deplorables" and will sweep away the progressive culture that has grown in the Green Mountains over the last 50 years.

Ed Stanak

Barre City

'We Don't Have a Supply Problem'

Vermont does not have a shortage of the supply of housing ["Nowhere to Go," August 4]. We have an overconsumption problem with housing.

Our housing stock, including in Chittenden County, has grown faster than our population. From 2010 to 2019, Chittenden County grew by 7,200 people and 5,569 housing units, which translates to 11,000 bedrooms. People who used to split apartments now insist on one of their very own. Simply put, people don't want to live with other people anymore.

This desire is only more reinforced by advocacy groups decrying that a single person earning minimum wage deserves but can't afford a two-bedroom apartment. Why should they? Why not point out that they can't afford a four-bedroom house, either? That person can afford to share a three-bedroom apartment and pay their share of rent and utilities for 30 percent of their income.

Your great-uncles slept four to a bed. We don't have a supply problem. We have a consumption problem.

Alan Bjerke


Try the BBC

[Re From the Publisher: "Kilometers to Go," August 4]: Like Paula Routly, I too enjoy the Olympics, despite the commercial overhype. Watching people try to perform their very best in whatever they do is great, and there are always amazing achievements and moments. Really enjoyed Elle Purrier St. Pierre's quest and hope she feels that she did her best. Plus, of course, she's a dairy farmer, as I was for 40 years, though I could never run as fast as her!

I turn to the BBC online to get more complete coverage and a better perspective on other countries.

John Roberts


Rooting for Robinson

Vermont will be well represented on the appeals court [Off Message: "Biden Names Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson to U.S. Court of Appeals," August 5]. Justice Beth Robinson will always remain one of my heroes.

Her work on the civil union legislation was without a doubt a huge reason the legislation passed. An interesting note: Last summer I was working at the boat access on Echo Lake in East Charleston when two ladies were launching their kayaks. We looked at each other and immediately recognized each other. We had a very nice conversation. Beth, as I knew her during the civil union debate, will always perform at the highest level. My best to her in the future. Hope it involves coming back to Echo Lake!

Michael C. Vinton

East Charleston

'Another Devastating Blow'

[Re Off Message: "Burlington to Pay $45K Settlement in Kilburn Wrongful Death Suit," July 3]: Sadly, the family of homicide victim Douglas Kilburn has been dealt another devastating blow regarding the brutal and untimely loss of their loved one.

The City of Burlington and its legal team have come to a very disturbing and shameful financial settlement stemming from the March 2019 incident. The lawsuit brought against the City of Burlington by Douglas' wife, and the subsequent $45,000 settlement she received, are disturbing turns of events for Douglas' loving father and mother, siblings, and entire family. It's a miserable and failed attempt at compensation for the gross injustice inflicted on Douglas.

On behalf of his family, I want everyone to know that no amount of money could ever compensate for the loss of Douglas' life. We, the Kilburn family, will forever mourn his loss. We want to distance ourselves from those who have accepted this settlement; all involved should be embarrassed and ashamed.

Lisa Webber

Essex Junction

Webber is Kilburn's sister.

Nothing Rotten in Winooski

[Re "Slow Motion," July 21]: Winooski has represented the best of Vermont, like no other Vermont community, in welcoming in great numbers an incredibly diverse ethnic, cultural and racial population and should be complimented for taking on the huge challenges thrust upon it. That goes for administrators, teachers, school board members, and the much liked, respected and necessary school resource officer!

Winooski High School alum Evelyn Monje may have the best of intentions, but I strongly disagree with her that Winooski's schools and the United States are built on the "rotten foundation of racism"!

Changes are needed, and there's much to improve, but look around at the exceptional teachers you have in Winooski, a remarkable community.

Robert Devost


Reassessment a 'Shambles'

[Re "Gilded Age," May 5]: Burlington's property taxes are in inequitable shambles. Reappraisal is intended to tweak valuations to make them more equitable because the market evolves and some properties appreciate at a higher rate than others.

This reappraisal, perversely, has made property taxes less, not more, equitable. Redistributing the tax burden to renters and homeowners is especially outrageous and contrary to any purported commitment to affordable housing.

And beyond the hefty discount for commercial property owners is the more fundamental problem: a reappraisal that was done shoddily via drive-by and flyover. Many of the values assigned are arbitrary and absurd — just obviously wrong. For example, the mayor's Summit Street house in a prime, low-density residential zone is sited on a lot valued at $15,500 less than a medium-density residential lot less than half the size and down the hill, just west of the Hill Section.

How can this be? It can't possibly be, but the reappraisal says it's so.

I am pro-tax. I support taxes to fund the schools, parks, streets and services our community needs, enjoys and believes in. But there is no excuse for unfair taxation or for radical decreases for some property owners at the expense of radical increases for others.

Transparency and clear explanations are in order. Taxpayers are required to present evidence in support of an appeal. The appraisers often just say no without any explanation whatsoever. Fair dealing requires something far different than Burlington taxpayers have been confronted with in this reappraisal.

Michael Long


Trust in Donoghue

[Re Fair Game, July 28]: Mike Donoghue has been a journalist in Vermont for 50-plus years. His award-winning newspaper career has included three decades of working with undergraduate journalism students. He has spoken at too many journalism conferences to count and done whatever he could to strengthen the profession in Vermont and beyond. His career is exemplary.

I've been a colleague and friend of Donoghue's since I met him in 1986. He was on the board of the New England Press Association when I was the organization's president. He was the executive director of the Vermont Press Association when I was its president. We are both members of the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame and were both elected to the Academy of New England Journalists.

Donoghue's encouraged resignation from the board of the New England First Amendment Coalition and a suggestion by a Seven Days columnist that he should be removed as the executive director of the Vermont Press Association are unhinged.

Donoghue was and is open about his appointment and work on the statewide diocese committee that researched clergy sex abuse, past and present. He made clear to editors, the NEFAC board and the public that he would not write stories about priest sex abuse.

Journalists must be open to discuss their potential conflicts of interest and do their best to avoid them. Donoghue has always been open about his non-journalism activities and made sure he did not cross the line and report on those activities.

Donoghue is a journalist readers can trust.

Ross Connelly


Connelly was copublisher and editor of the Hardwick Gazette from 1986 to 2017.

Enough Garbage

[Re "Beneath the Surface," July 28]: Vermont shouldn't be polluting our lakes or sending our pollution to our neighbors to the north. While waste management companies may be dealing with leachate "garbage juice" pollution by shifting its dumping away from the Memphremagog watershed into other waterways, do you know what's even better? Reducing, reusing, recycling and composting. Landfills and incinerators pose public health and environmental threats. One simple solution could stem the need for landfills such as the one in Coventry: We must implement and enforce Vermont's Universal Recycling Law and stop producing so much garbage in the first place.

Hayley Jones


Pollution Solution

[Re "Beneath the Surface," July 28]: I appreciate that the state is actively looking at potential pollution coming from the landfill. I would also suggest that the state look at requiring manure injection equipment for farms to reduce or eliminate runoff. That would certainly help reduce algae blooms and improve the quality of the lake. It's common equipment now in most farms outside Vermont. It would do more for the water quality than the Shoreland Protection Act, which limits landowners' ability to enjoy their lakefront property.

Abe Prandini

Belpre, OH

Prandini owns property in Newport.

Is Burlington Safe?

[Re Fair Game, August 4]: Burlington is facing the same crisis as many other cities after making knee-jerk changes to its public safety departments. I'm concerned for the safety of my family and property.

Last week, going to American Flatbread, I noticed the new City Hall Park was overrun with people drinking and smoking dope, but there was no enforcement to get them out so families could enjoy a nice summer evening. The Burlington Police Department had trouble responding to a shooting and drug bust, L.L.Bean is leaving downtown due to crime issues, and there are homeless people on and around Church Street. None of these things is good for business and the visitors to the city.

Mayor Miro Weinberger has tried to add to the BPD, but the city council won't correct its mistake? When you vote in the special election on August 17, think hard about whom you vote for. Save our city now!

John Day


Vax Should Be Mandatory

[Re Off Message: "UVM Health Network to Require Vaccination or Weekly Testing for Employees," August 6]: The list of professional associations and health care organizations in Vermont now supporting vaccination mandates for employees is long and impressive. It includes Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical center, the Vermont Medical Society and nearly every hospital in the state. It's about time.

But I still have concerns about two of the most influential health care organizations in Vermont: the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and the University of Vermont Health Network. Why has UVM Medical Center not created a vaccination requirement for employees but announced instead a policy that allows weekly testing as an option to vaccination? Why has the nurses' union been silent thus far on the issue of employer-mandated vaccination policy? Is the union resisting such a policy and making it difficult for UVM Medical Center to enforce a mandate? I hope that's not the case, but as a patient I need to know. When I enter UVM Medical Center for treatment, I'm terrified that some members of my health care team are unvaccinated. And I strongly suspect that is the case.

I call on UVM Medical Center to enact a policy requiring employees to be vaccinated, and I call on the Vermont Federation of Nurses to publicly state its support for such a policy. It's time to work together fully on this. Half measures such as weekly testing options (in lieu of vaccination) are insufficient; they only use up other valuable resources unnecessarily.

Thank you to all our health professionals who so conscientiously tend to the needs of Vermonters.

Mary Hurlie



“Dear Jack Hanson,” a letter in last week’s Feedback section, did not describe an actual assault claim — as the writer noted, he has never met Jack Hanson, a Burlington city councilor. The letter was intended to satirize the nature of the sexual assault complaint previously made by an anonymous individual and reported by Seven Days and other local media outlets.

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