What We Missed
I was waiting for some notice of the killing of Kenneth Stephens to appear in your pages, but I have not seen any mention at all. I was hoping to comment — did I miss it? I have been in Mexico and so have not seen your print edition, but I have scanned your electronic version. I cannot believe that you would ignore an event of such importance, or, if you have, understand what would motivate you to do so. Since your paper is the best place for a letter to the editor to reach the audience I would like to address, I am both puzzled and disappointed. Please let me know if you have, or if you intend to refer to this event or the demonstration that followed, since I would very much like to express my opinion in your pages.
Editor’s note: Seven Days shuts down over the holidays to give our hard-working crew some down time, and this year’s annual break ran from December 23 to January 4 — the double issue that came out on December 30 was produced in advance. As a result, we didn't cover either of the two Burlington shootings that happened during that time period. However, there's a follow-up story in this issue — the first of 2016 — in which crime reporter Mark Davis examines law enforcement's use of no-knock warrants.
School Welcomes All
Thank you, Molly Walsh, for the article "In Burlington, a New School Spending Limit Is Already Under Fire" [December 16], describing the impact of Act 46 on school budgets. As the Ward 4 school commissioner, I know the school board is working hard to limit spending while doing its best to provide the services our children need.
My statement in paragraph 18 of the article, "This week we had 12 new kids. Last week there were over 10 new kids. It doesn't stop," read as if I were blaming the New American children for increasing our school taxes. Not so! Increases are coming from a 7.9 percent health insurance increase, a decrease in federal and state grants, and more. The purpose of my statement was threefold: to welcome all new students; to indicate we need funds to support all students' needs; and to express appreciation for the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program that welcomes 350 people annually.
As gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott and Matt Dunne have suggested, Vermont needs to increase its population from 627,000 to at least 700,000 people in order to grow the economy. The spirit of my statement was meant to welcome people from inside and outside the United States so we can grow the economy and not have to rely on state and federal educational resources as much as we have in the past.
'Make It Beautiful'
I applaud the vision of significant development in the downtown core and encourage the developer to develop in a style that connects the area's past with its future [Off Message: "Overflowing Crowd Attends Burlington Mall Presentation," January 6]. Please, for the love of God, make it beautiful. Develop the space to a human scale and integrate some interesting space for outdoor dining on the roofs of the places.
Lucky Route 7
[Re "Life Stories: Vermonters We Lost This Year," December 30]: Regarding the story about my father, Donald Hovey Hill, and his affiliation with Route 7, I thought folks would like to know that his death occurred on New Year's Day 2015 in a house in Swanton, on Route 7, that he and his wife, Pixley, had owned since 2008. So, Dad was born at home on Route 7 in 1927 and died at home on Route 7, almost 88 years later. Such is the synchronicity that was the story of my father's life. I would like to thank Ken Picard for his kind words about Dad and everyone else. It was a well-written, thoughtful group of stories.
Hold the Bacon
Seven Days' obsession with meat is embarrassing [Bite Club: "Farmers Market Kitchen: Guanciale," January 5]. Not to me, or the many other vegetarians in Vermont, but to you and the dwindling meat-and-potatoes lifestyle. By continuing to publish this content, you are dating yourself. Plant-based foods are on the rise. As you referenced yourself in this article, "bacon fatigue" is ubiquitous. There is no one, in Vermont or elsewhere, who doesn't know how to find a tasty piece of meat. However, people are constantly asking me how to cook with any of the myriad new and interesting plant-based foods on the market: quinoa, coconut oil, seitan. Compared to meat, that is actually news.
Our reporters and photographers were out in force covering Donald Trump's Vermont visit [Off Message: "Trump Storms Burlington, Dispensing Insults and Drawing Protests," "Protesters and Trump Supporters Square Off in Burlington," "Burlington Braces For Trump; Line Begins at 4:30 a.m.," "Vermont Trump Backers: There Are More of Us Than You Think," January 7] and in the days before it, too [Off Message: "Opinion: The Donald Brings a Wild Trumpus to Burlington," "Trump Issues Nearly 20,000 Tickets to Flynn Event," January 6; "Controversy Arrives Well Ahead of Trump's Burlington Visit," January 4]. As always, Seven Days readers had their own views of the show.
I'm a native Vermonter who has lived in Burlington for 20 years. I attended the Trump rally, and I can confirm that the behavior of many anti-Trump protesters was distasteful at best. After leaving the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, a male protester from behind the barricade screamed at me, "Hey, guy with the Trump sign! I'm gonna remember your face if I ever see you downtown." Ha. I was also called a "racist" at least 10 times. A young woman with a Trump placard over her head was repeatedly called a "bitch." Peace and tolerance, BTV-style?
Organizers of Donald Trump's speech in Burlington deliberately made thousands more tickets available than the Flynn could accommodate, creating scarcity and conflict for no apparent reason. Many people who had tickets, who stood in line for hours for a chance to hear him, were turned away at the door if they didn't swear loyalty to him. Then, several people who exercised their free speech rights during Trump's rambling remarks were forcibly ejected from the Flynn by his goons. So much for respecting the First Amendment.
But the low point of the evening was actually outside, where the pro-Trump crowd waiting to get into the Flynn started chanting "Kill them all, kill them all." It wasn't clear if they were referring to the demonstrators across the street or the immigrants, feminists and LGBTQ community whom Trump routinely targets with his hateful rhetoric. Scary stuff, in this normally tolerant and progressive community.
What's next? Will we see Trump's mobs going after mosques with arson attacks, as has already happened in Houston and elsewhere? Jackbooted mobs breaking shop windows of Muslim-owned businesses? Rounding up people of color? This is all starting to look and feel too much like the early years of the Nazis' rise in Germany, circa 1933. Some of my relatives were exterminated in the Holocaust.
This is the ugly face of hatred and nascent fascism, American-style. It must be called out and confronted before it consumes us.
However you feel about Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, chief Brandon del Pozo and the police department, credit must be given where credit is due. During Trump's visit, with very little notice, they orchestrated the event flawlessly. Professionalism and restraint prevailed during what could have devolved into an ugly and potentially volatile scene. Though a Bernie supporter, I'm grateful that the Trump supporters and Bernie supporters carried themselves with temperance and showed the nation how we do things here in Vermont. Friends of mine from all over the country were impressed even as they were on the edge of their seats with fingers crossed while I attended the event with my young daughter. In the end, I felt safe and was glad she got to see the event. I'm glad that the police let the people ejected from the event keep their jackets because, after all, according to Trump, it was -10 degrees out. Kudos to the staff and volunteers of the Flynn for enduring a drawn-out and most likely stressful night.