Plump on Trump
I would like to thank you for that wonderful likeness of me that graced the cover of your fine newspaper ["Trump Roast," January 13].
Ronald J. Plump
Plump is an Elvis impersonator and self-described "aerobics instructor to the stars."
I've always admired Sandra Bernhard for her turn as openly gay Nancy Bartlett on "Roseanne." Not to take away from her trailblazing or Dan Bolles' excellent interview ["Live Wired," January 13], but the latter required a fact-check: Nancy was not the first openly gay character on a network sitcom. Billy Crystal's Jodie Dallas was out on ABC's "Soap" years earlier.
Peter J. Olson
Let the Man Speak
Tim Newcomb's January 13 cartoon is perfect. While I am not a Trump supporter, it is the man's right to come here and speak. This is America, and freedom of speech is a cornerstone of what makes this country great.
Last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin surprised a lot of people when he asked the legislature to work on divesting state pension funds from fossil-fuel investments [Off Message: "Shumlin Puts Marijuana, Fossil Fuel Divestment on Table for His Final Year," January 7; "State Treasurer Pearce Opposes Shumlin's Coal Divestment Plan," January 8]. In light of the staggering human health consequences of inaction, the behavior of the groups who belittle the overwhelming scientific evidence is both un-American and inexplicably inhuman. The time has come to stand up and demand that our legislative bodies fight back against the voices that ignore science and common sense.
The power of divestment is that it's a political statement with teeth — just as taking money out of South African investments in the 1980s helped shine a big, bright light on apartheid. Those who argue that shareholder engagement will keep fossil fuels in the ground do not understand corporate law — or the weaknesses of capitalism.
Unfortunately, the Vermont legislature has many painful decisions to tangle with this year. But, in the end, if we toast the planet, all the rest is in the noise. Yogi Berra once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" I'd guess Yogi would agree that the governor has put a historic opportunity in front of us. If we don't act now, our kids, and kids in every corner of the planet, are in for a world of hurt. It's time for each of us to ask our representatives to once again show that Vermont is a beacon of hope — and guts.
'No One Wants It'
Terri Hallenbeck implies that only landowners and environmental activists agree it's irrational to continue unnecessary pipeline expansion [Off Message: "Vermont Gas Pipeline Wins Public Service Board OK," January 8]. The Vermont Public Service Board received thousands of public comments on Vermont Gas' application. Ninety-five percent were negative. Last year, International Paper, for whom the pipe was upgraded at significant cost to consumers, balked at VG's new price; the project no longer made business sense. Last summer, 500 ratepayers wrote to the Public Service Department saying they couldn't afford higher heating bills to pay for new pipelines. On December 17, 2015, 150 prominent Vermonters from business, faith, farm and academic circles wrote Gov. Peter Shumlin saying market and climate developments led to one conclusion: Construction must stop now. By January 8, 2016, 1,350 more leaders, ratepayers and average Vermonters had signed.
Expect rate shock when temporary drops in fuel prices and an unseasonably warm 2015-16 give way to 30-plus years of sustained rate increases — "hypothetically" 12 percent, according to VG — for expansion to Middlebury. For construction to Rutland, customers will see 1 percent added to rates and one to two more years of payments for every $10 million VG spends. Some might eventually see rate reductions, but many of the 17 percent who are over 65 will never see rates come down again. They'll only catch the pipeline's damage to Vermont's farmlands, natural resources and climate.
Just before the holidays, the cashier at a Williston retailer asked me whether I lived in the area. I told her I was back home helping my mom deal with Vermont Gas. Her response: "Oh. The pipeline. Everyone's fighting that around here. No one wants it."
Thanks for adding Rachel Lindsay to your comics lineup. As someone who appreciates comics about the everyday lives of my neighbors, I've felt a void since James Kochalka stopped publishing "American Elf." "Rachel Lives Here Now" helps fill that void.
In "Entrepreneurial Dream Team Sets Sights on Marijuana" [April 15, 2015] citizen Will Raap calls for marijuana commerce to be "Vermont-like. Organically produced, small-scale, high-quality clusters of businesses that collaborate together but don't dominate any one business."
One way to keep marijuana businesses small is canopy limits — laws saying how many square feet of marijuana anyone can cultivate. California's well-funded 2016 Adult Use initiative, expected to pass in November, sets the canopy limit at 43,560 square feet — one acre — per citizen. Canopy limits — wealth-spreading quotas — were part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal rescue of failing farmers.
Another way is to tax big grows or farms more than small farms. (This idea comes from growers in Humboldt County, Calif.) Per-square-foot canopy taxes could be higher on big farms than on little ones. Otherwise, large farms' economies of scale could put small farms out of business. Canopy taxes could favor marijuana grown in natural sunlight over hothouse plants that use electricity.
Another tool to keep scale small is state-affiliated retail stores, maybe like Vermont's liquor model. Those stores could keep marijuana advertising and marketing tolerable to the public — and set prices flexibly enough to defeat the nimble black market, and then to provide revenue for the state.
Chapel Hill, NC
Oglesby founded the nonprofit Center for New Revenue and is one of the authors of the RAND report on marijuana for Vermont.