Nothing 'Sidetracked' About It
On Monday, December 17, the Burlington City Council voted 10-2 to place a plan to reform Burlington's permitting system on the Town Meeting Day ballot in March. The plan would create a new, unified Permitting and Inspections Department to better coordinate functions that currently are split among three different agencies, and it also would make the director of planning directly accountable to the city's elected officials. This vote came on the heels of three prior supportive votes in early December, signaling that this decision was imminent. Yet the week before, Seven Days published an article with a headline that mischaracterized the initiative ["Political Maneuvering Sidetracks a Plan for Permit Reform in Burlington," December 12]. The city council vote on the 17th shows that not only is the plan not sidetracked, but in fact it has significant support and forward momentum.
The headline is only one of several characterizations in the article that are misleading to Seven Days' readers. Another example is how the article presents the "permit reform" effort as almost unrelated to the proposed changes to Burlington's planning department. In fact, this plan has been led by the city employees who do this work, and they realized that creating a "one-stop shop" for all of the city's permitting also would require changes to what is currently a combined Department of Planning and Zoning.
I'd like to invite readers to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about this plan, and I'm hopeful that voters will support permit reform on the ballot in March.
Mayor Miro Weinberger
Faith in Article 3
Being snarky or condescending about any religious tradition is always revealing of a lack of faith — except for a deep faith in one's own brilliance as a "journalist." Unfortunately, Paul Heintz should have checked his "faith" at the door, along with his claim to some infantile understanding of Vermont Constitutional language, when writing Fair Game ["Can I Get an Amend?" December 12].
Article 3 is a detailed, comprehensive assertion for Vermonters' freedom of worship and for conscientious objection to the same. (Read: Atheism and agnosticism are protected, too.) It also proscribes any tax or other authority to compel a citizen to support any organized sect or to be restricted in any other civil rights because of any religious belief they or others may hold. Wow!
Vermont has enjoyed the blessings of liberty and the protections of law from religious intolerance for 240-plus years.
As a nuance to Article 3, the founding authors offer an encouragement to practice the most common of the sacramental choices: the Sabbath. Read within the entirety of Article 3, it should be clear to even an atheist with little or no Constitutional insight that absolute freedom of conscience was paramount in the goals established by the Republic of Vermont in 1777. Too bad it does nothing to spare us the jabber of those whose only faith seems to lie in their own opinions.
William R. Moore
'Strangely Wonderful' Bridgman
I was saddened to read of the death of Josh Bridgman [Live Culture: "Playwright, Actor and Burlington Icon Josh Bridgman Dies," December 18]. I am proud to have been his friend. When I arrived in Burlington in the mid-'90s, seeing Josh perform his monologues was one of the things that made an impression on my teenage brain and led me to the artistic/working-class life where, for better or worse, I have remained.
I admired Josh for a number of things. He survived a very difficult childhood and turned his experiences into art. He was formidably well read, in spite of being dyslexic. I remember once, at the parking garage where we both worked, a customer expressed surprise that a simple parking attendant would be reading War and Peace.
"The original Russian was better" was his riposte.
Josh always exuded a disheveled dignity in the face of others' assumptions about him. I cast him in my production of Wallace Shawn's Marie and Bruce, and he was effortlessly, hilariously perfect. We used to have breakfast together regularly at the old Nectar's (when it was Nectar's Nectar's), and his frequent laughter — an indescribably piercing, demented shriek of glee — would invariably cause the other diners to glance over in alarm.
We lost touch over the years, but I will never forget him. He was too strange and strangely wonderful to forget.
New Orleans, LA
Inmates Deserve Treatment
[Re "Hundreds of Vermont Prisoners Get Addiction Meds, but Challenges Remain," December 19]: I strongly believe people who enter a correctional facility already on a drug treatment program need to remain on it. The Department of Corrections should not have the right to discontinue a medically prescribed medication for any reason.
I also feel DOC staff need to be trained in substance abuse disorders to better understand the reasoning in drug treatment. Many of them, including medical personnel, treat residents inhumanely due to their lack of training and understanding.
[Re Fair Game: "Can I Get an Amend?" December 12]: Although I usually respect professor Peter Teachout's legal opinions, I found that his comments about removing references to slavery in the Vermont Constitution seriously missed the mark. While it is true that Vermont's constitution was the first in the nation to prohibit slavery, it did so conditionally, prohibiting it only for adults and still allowing indentured servitude to pay back debts.
For the 18th century, this was ahead of its time, but for the 21st century, this is obviously unacceptable for the simple reason that owning another human being is morally reprehensible under any circumstances. Add in the racial component — that this provision applied almost exclusively to people of color — and it is indisputable that it is well past time these references be removed.
As for modernizing Article 3, specifically the references recommending that Christians worship regularly, surely it is obvious that while this may be anachronistic, it is not offensive. As a matter of fact, I am an ordained minister myself, and I once brought up this article to a statewide gathering of fellow clergy. We had a chuckle over the state's recommendation that we do what we would do anyway — worship in the way we see fit — but no one was degraded by it, as some Vermonters undoubtedly are by the references to slavery.
Surely we can teach our children in our history books that Vermont was a pioneer in the 18th century and still right the wrong that was not entirely addressed at that time.
Sen. Debbie Ingram