For the courage and conscience of your stories, your responsible coverage of problematic and controversial issues, I write to thank you for your commitment to preserve and perpetuate the freedom of the press. Whether practiced here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which can and often does feel remote from the larger world, or in the legendary city of Paris, France, or in Vermont's principal cities, we readers are safe in our democracy only as long as freedom of the press thrives.
With respect to certain state organizations and communities whose memberships respond to controversy from within their ranks with warnings to silence ourselves, I suggest such censoring objections are the precise precursors of the potential for curtailment of freedom of speech. Whoever has lived through generations of war and the deceit of trusted leaders, as well as the celebrations of all who have ever honored our country with the courage to give life to our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, whoever reads your newspaper — especially the young on whom we depend to carry on — I hope we will all give thought and teach our children what is at stake.
Thank you editors, reporters, columnists, cartoonists and publishers.
No Sympathy for the Devil
[Re "2014 Updates: Jailed Winooski Heroin Dealer Struggling With Health Problems," December 24]: Reading the travails of Deirdre Hey, whose quality of health care may be diminished by becoming the convicted felony heroin dealer she readily admits to being, I can't help but recall the theme song to that old TV show, "Baretta." "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time ... Don't do it." Given the abundance of private-, nonprofit- and taxpayer-supported resources, including free medical care, available in Vermont, I'm having trouble empathizing.
We must treat the victims of heroin and opiate addiction (yes, Deirdre, your victims) with compassion and without judgment, in a noncriminal approach. However once an individual crosses the line and perpetuates this evil unto others, or abets this plague in any manner whatsoever, they forfeit their status as worthy of sympathy. Addiction burns more than the addict. It touches and burns so many bystanders. Don't touch the flame or get near it; you will burn!
A decade in lockup will solve Hey's drug addiction, but it won't restore the lives of addicts, their families and the society that reels in their wake. In attempting to provide a balanced and thoughtful original story, Seven Days may have conflated empathy with rationale. The follow-up is a cautionary tale that better balances the consequences of pushing heroin: Cross the line and pay the price.
IRV is the Solution
I read the latest Fair Game ["Round Two," January 7] with great interest. It seems to me that either Senator Pollina's or Senator Doyle's proposal to change our method of choosing a governor would be preferable to the status quo. As Paul Heintz indicates, the indecisive November election yielded great uncertainty, as well as an unseemly "second gubernatorial campaign" by both leading candidates to influence the legislature's decision. Far better to set the threshold at 40 percent rather than 50 percent, as both senators suggest. This would acknowledge the perennial inclusion of third-party candidates in Vermont's election for its chief executive, and how such dedicated individuals can prevent either of the two major-party candidates from receiving a majority of votes cast in any close race.
Heintz deserves the most credit, though, for mentioning the option of instant runoff voting, which to my mind is far and away the best fix of all. You wouldn't need any costly second elections, nor would you ever have to resort to legislative intervention. Other IRV benefits include the elimination of spoilers, a more positive, "issue-oriented" approach to campaigning and a more accurate indication of the appeal of the ideas espoused by those third-party candidates. In short, IRV enables citizens to vote their hopes rather than their fears, maximizes choice, increases turnout, decreases costs and yields a truer indication of the electorate's wishes. That's why it's got my vote. And if you do the research, I have no doubt it'll win yours as well.
I must have missed the Newcomb cartoon about scant voter turnout in November [Newcomb, December 10]. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to respond to Colin Flood's letter [Feedback: "Why Vote?" December 24] decrying us "dupes" who do vote.
In my opinion, Flood would be quite correct to assume that his single individual vote amounted to nothing. My single individual vote also amounts to next to nothing. And when only 40 percent or so of the electorate go to the trouble of casting a vote, we all suffer (or enjoy, depending on your political viewpoint) the outcome.
But indulge my naïveté by imagining for a moment the tangible impact of voter turnout in the 75-percent-plus range. Politicians and big-money interests would have to sit up and pay attention. As evidence of my point, take a look at what local voter turnout in Richmond, Calif., recently did to defeat a blatant attempt by big oil to take over town governance.
Those who don't vote are not necessarily lazy or stupid; nor are they better informed than "the dupes" who do vote. I think they just must have cut class on the day the civics lesson was delivered.
Hard to Believe...
Has Seven Days lost its marbles in validating an official Vermont state symbol [Facing Facts: "Got Marble?" January 7]? Well, at least on a positive note, I have it here for preservation.