In Guard We Trust?
[Re Off Message: "Scott Defends Vermont National Guard, Says No Investigation Needed," December 6]: Sexual harassment revealed? Cut the whistleblower's benefits and give him a dishonorable discharge. Misuse of government equipment? Give the perp notice so he can retire before being disciplined. Brought to task for a wide range of malfeasance? Remove the reporting news outlet from your contact list.
But what happens when the F-35s arrive? Can we trust the Guard to be honest and transparent about the aircraft's many problems when it's deployed here? The command can't be honest and transparent about its culture and current operating deficiencies now, and the recent news conference and continued denials do not lead us to believe the Guard is willing to change or even be honest.
I think Col. Jason Batchelder is being treated unfairly with regard to submitting the tooth from a bear he shot in Vermont on November 16, 2017 ["The Whole Tooth? Vermont's Head Warden Targeted for Covering His Tracks in Bear Case," November 7]. When Batchelder was a warden in our area, he was a competent, hard-driving enforcer of our game laws. A lot of us really liked having him in our district prosecuting fish and game law violators.
When we heard he had become head of the Fish & Wildlife Department, we were glad the position went to a warden of his caliber. But there is more to it. The retired lieutenant Greg Eckhardt, mentioned in the story as leading the charge against Batchelder, was the other person in contention for the position in 2014. Could there be sour grapes here? Also, Eckhardt was involved in a little incident of his own when he and his wife shot two moose on one permit in Bennington County. It was a mistake and treated as such.
But it seems he and his fellow wardens don't think Batchelder should be afforded the same courtesy. The tooth was sent in late, that's all! Liken it to the delinquent tax list in our town reports. If you pay after the tax deadline and before the report goes to print, your name comes off the list. As for the wardens turning against their boss: I hope it wasn't one of them who leaked the information to Brenna Galdenzi. Move on!
[Re Off Message: "BTV Loses Its Only International Commercial Flight," November 28]: As a frequent flier on the Porter Airlines flight from Toronto to Burlington, I want to say how great it was, compressing a brutal nine-hour drive from Canada's largest city into a scenic flight that was frequently less than an hour.
Officials mention "logistical problems" and "low boardings." The flights were well-advertised at first, and I recall reports noting that they were 70 percent full, justifying extra flights — four times a week — in the second year.
The remote customs location gave a bad impression — whose idea was that? Preclearance in Toronto was promised, but the real problem for the skier-friendly flight was the midafternoon departure, which meant two days were lost. An evening round-trip would ensure that nothing is wasted at either end.
From my dozens of flights, I can testify that Porter's service was first-class, with free wine, beer and snacks. I muse about the challenges for officials, but the attraction to the public, of Porter introducing a Toronto-Burlington-Boston flight. It would take care of Toronto skiers and Boston business, and capitalize on through traffic to keep Burlington's airport as advertised: international.
[Re Off Message: "Madaila Band Member Charged With Defacing Burlington Mural," December 7]: I moved to Vermont in 2002 and just left in August for a job. I really miss it, but one thing that's very true is that there's not a lot of diversity in terms of people. Chittenden County is somewhat of an anomaly compared to the rest of the state.
At the time the "Everyone Loves a Parade!" mural was painted, it reflected accomplishments that were current, regardless of who made them. And being from Vermont, they happened to be mostly white males. Given the topic, I think the artist portrayed an accurate picture at the time. But, unfortunately, it's not what people want now.
When the mural is replaced, maybe try making the subject more focused to include those people who specifically need to be depicted. Let's stop complaining and defacing unless we have a workable solution to propose.
[Re Cannabeat: "The Cannabis Catch-Up: Weed Wins the Elections," November 9]: Weed won the elections, but students on campuses across Vermont should proceed with an abundance of caution. Despite polls showing support for the legalization of marijuana topping 60 percent nationwide and Vermont legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, students should not expect any change in schools' zero-tolerance policies.
Federal law is a stubborn thing. Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Schools receiving federal funds must comply with the Controlled Substances Act, which criminalizes possession and distribution of marijuana, and with the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which prohibits use, possession and cultivation of marijuana on school property and at sponsored events off-campus. Schools are required to publish and enforce their policies in accord with federal law or risk losing much-needed federal funding and financial aid for their students.
For example, the University of Vermont's policy provides that "cannabis possession and use by UVM students, employees, or the general public is not allowed anywhere on UVM property, including in residence halls or at UVM sponsored events. This policy has been adopted in compliance with federal law, and the University's obligations as a recipient of federal funding, irrespective of Vermont's recent legislation regarding small amounts of recreational marijuana and the state's therapeutic use (e.g. Medical Marijuana) statute."
Typically, offenders of campus marijuana policies receive much harsher penalties than offenders of alcohol policies. The lack of parity continues on campus, despite the ever-fading marijuana taboo.
Fix Article 3
I read with a mixture of interest and bemusement Paul Heintz's December 12 Fair Game column about the upcoming effort to push through three amendments to the Vermont Constitution to: 1. enshrine the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision; 2. adopt a broadened version of the failed federal Equal Rights Amendment; 3. alter Article 1 to remove references to slavery; and 4. expand the governor and lieutenant governor's terms of office from two years to four.
While I wholeheartedly support the proposed abortion and equal-rights amendments, I have to admit to being fuzzy on the details about changing Article 1, and I firmly oppose expanding the governor and lieutenant governor's terms of office unless the amendment also imposes a limit of two terms. Eight years is enough for any governor or lieutenant governor. Just ask Jim Douglas.
What bemused me about Heintz's article was the reference to Article 3 of the Vermont Constitution, which, as anyone with knowledge of constitutional law will tell you, is unenforceable. Article 3 is trumped by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits any government endorsement of religion while at the same time barring the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
Article 3, with its unambiguous endorsement of Christianity, clearly violates the First Amendment — to say nothing of being a slap in the face to Vermonters of other faiths (of which I, a practicing Wiccan, am one). I'm frankly amazed that Article 3 has neither been repealed nor rewritten to comport to the First Amendment. The time for its repeal or rewrite is long, long overdue.
'Boom, Knock It Down'
[Re Off Message: "Moran Redux? Officials Present New Plan for Burlington Landmark," December 10]: The never-ending saga of a power-producing, Ice Factoring piece of crap continues as outgoing Community and Economic Development Office interim director Neale Lunderville drops a nuclear bomb in his final days with a piecemeal proposal that will involve yet another waste of time long after he has left his position.
Time for the implosion — yes, at a cost, but a one-time cost — to make the Mural Plant go away for some treasured green space.
I have long respected Lunderville's work and service, but leaving us with this idea puts him on about the same level as a former mayor of Burlington to me.
Boom, knock it down.
Sinex on Moran?
I recently read of yet another attempt to salvage the Moran Plant [Off Message: "Moran Redux? Officials Present New Plan for Burlington Landmark," December 10]. For the life of me, I cannot understand the fascination with saving that hideous thing.
The Moran Plant is surely a Guinness World Records setter in the category of ugly, and to compound the insult, it's smack in the middle of the Burlington waterfront, the jewel in the Queen City's crown.
Here's what to do: Hire Don "Kleenex" to build some equally ugly monstrosity in the place of the Moran Plant. (Hideous, outsize monstrosities seem to be his specialty.) When Kleenex's crews complete the demolition of Moran and construction of the new big, soulless, ugly thing stalls for months, sever the deal with Kleenex for breach of contract, and ... problem solved. Moran is gone, and it didn't cost Burlington taxpayers a dime.
Where Moran once stood, plant some trees, build a picnic shelter or right-sized outdoor performance space, and you're done!