Letters to the Editor (10/12/22) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (10/12/22)


Published October 12, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 1, 2022 at 3:24 p.m.

Seven Days 'Stands Out'

I am the grandmother of the victim in ["Trust Fail: After Discovering Unsettling Details of Naomi Wood's Death, Her Family Channels Grief Into Action," September 7]. What we thought was a tragic but simple death in May 2020 turned into just a lot of complexities and legal controversies. I wondered how the article would cover the subject.

I guess Seven Days is known for its "investigative" journalism, but I was amazed at how the writing team was so complete and accurate in all the details, just reporting objectively and truthfully to everything that transpired. There was no slant or bias to anything written or quoted.

I want to let the whole team know what a great job it did: Alison Novak, the writer, who showed such care for Nehemiah and the family. Daria Bishop, the photographer, who came to their house and took such an interest in things; the choice of photos was perfect. I also know the editors, Ken Ellingwood and Sasha Goldstein, and the proofreaders, Carolyn Fox and Angela Simpson, had their parts.

In a day when the media has sunk to a real low, you just stand out, far above anything I have read elsewhere. Thank you for doing such a great job!

Dory Kiess


Fluoride Isn't All Good

[Re "Richmond Learns a Town Official Lowered the Fluoride Level in Its Water for Years," September 28, online; "Richmond Vows to Return to 'Full Fluoride' Levels," October 3, online; "Richmond Seeks to Restore Public Confidence After Employee Slashed Fluoride Levels," October 5]: I agree that it seems Kendall Chamberlin should not have taken things into his own hands by reducing the level of fluoride in Richmond's drinking water. However, I think this may have been a more balanced article if Seven Days reporter Kevin McCallum had referenced some of the articles and studies that do address the concern over the toxicity of fluoride, depending on its source. Far too often, we accept the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's endorsement as the gospel truth. I argue that, as science grows and research continues, positions can rightfully change.

Lizzy Sheehan


'State of Emergency'

We wish to thank Alison Novak and Courtney Lamdin for spending so much time researching, preparing and writing "The $165,000,000 Question" [September 21]. We believe the reporting was fair and showed both sides of how the issue is impacting a community working to make a critical decision for our students and city. We also had fun answering questions and working with your team, so thank you!

That said, the article omits one significant detail. In fiscal year 2024, Vermont will enact a new weighted pupil formula, something Burlington's school board advocated to make happen. The most recent state analysis shows that this change will result in a tax decrease for Burlington residents. While we don't have a specific number we can share today, it is essential that taxpayers know this will substantially reduce the tax impact of this project (while still providing us with the opportunity to improve services to students).

We also want to thank the reporters for requesting additional tax impacts that show how those who pay based on income could be affected by this plan. While we were not ready in time for the story, readers should know that estimates are now available on our project web page.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone with questions to reach out. The old building is totaled, and the lease at Macy's will expire; we are in a state of emergency and so are committed to answering every question we can about this important vote.

Tom Flanagan


Flanagan is superintendent of the Burlington School District.

Gov Ops

I'm confused by your binary coverage of the upcoming gubernatorial election ["Candidates for Governor Display Stark Differences at Tunbridge Fair Debate," September 16, online]. What I mean is that this election is not just between incumbent Gov. Phil Scott and challenger Brenda Siegel; it's about dozens of secretaries and commissioners and hundreds of board and commission appointees. If your readers haven't considered the ramifications of this recently, I urge them to familiarize themselves with Vermont's list of agencies and departments, almost all of which are headed by gubernatorial appointees. It's also wise to take a look at Vermont's vast number of boards and commissions, where nearly all members serve at the will of the governor.

These unelected secretaries, commissioners and board members — and the folks who work under them — are the people who run the day-to-day operations of our state. And while it's true that legislators can pass laws to change the conditions those civil servants and bureaucrats work within, it is not a quick or easy process, and the gubernatorial tentacles are almost everywhere.

There is much work to be done on dozens of important issues, such as health care, housing, wages, education, climate, overdoses, the ongoing pandemic, and the many layers of social justice between and beyond, and Democratic nominee Brenda Siegel is the clear choice to make a positive impact.

We have to remember this when we vote: We're not voting for a person; we're voting for the future of Vermont.

Peter Langella


Introducing: IFOs

[Re "UFOMG," October 5]: Standing on a pathway in our 1.3-acre yard of tall forbs, shrubs and trees, I can often be found gesturing wildly at an unidentified flying object. Some fly about as slow as an airborne turtle, while others zoom by reaching speeds of up to 30 mph.

Yes, I, too, am open to the idea that there's alien life that can be seen from our Jericho backyard.

It might come as a shock to learn that Vermont is a hotbed of UFO activity not just high up in the sky, but also much closer to us terrestrials. After over 11,000 observations in Jericho, I can attest to some inexplicable and uncanny airborne life in our midst.

There are occasional mishaps, head-on crashes, grisly predation, glowing eyes and flashing lights, and alien-looking small creatures with no visible ears — some with five, some with eight, some with 30,000 eyes.

Fortunately, I don't have to rely on the Pentagon to identify any of them. I simply load photos onto iNaturalist, and experts in the field help identify these diverse life forms. To date, over 600 species have been identified after being observed and photographed from our yard.

We are definitely not alone. I, too, would not assume that things we see flying near us automatically come from space. I am obsessed with UFOs of the insect world. No abduction yet, but I wouldn't mind being carried away by a dragonfly.

Bernie Paquette


'No' on Merger

[Re "In Era of Mergers, Vermont's Smallest Banks Stay Attuned to Customers' Needs," March 30]: Doing a bit of online research, I see that currently Vermont State Employees Credit Union has a "sustainable" rating, at least in part because it doesn't invest in fossil fuel companies. It also keeps 100 percent of its money in state.

In contrast, New England Federal Credit Union, with whom the proposed merger would occur, currently keeps only 80 percent of its money in Vermont and does indeed invest in fossil fuel companies. This makes it very easy for me to vote no on the proposed merger.

David Ellenbogen


The merger vote referenced in the letters above will take place on November 8.

Perfect Combo

Two of the five finalists, including the winner, of this year's Daysie award for best bank/credit union have proposed merging. The merger documents for the merger of New England Federal Credit Union and Vermont State Employees Credit Union have recently been sent to VSECU members for their approval. As a VSECU member, I am totally in support of this merger.

Earlier this year, Seven Days did an article on small and local banks that spoke directly to the issues involved in this merger ["In Era of Mergers, Vermont's Smallest Banks Stay Attuned to Customers' Needs," March 30]. The article highlighted the balance between having a personal touch that comes from being a local institution and being able to support larger community borrowers, such as community cooperatives and affordable housing projects. 

The merger between two locally grown and managed cooperatives — VSECU and NEFCU — would achieve this balance. 

I would encourage all Vermonters to become a member-owner of a Vermont credit union and support our local financial community.

Alan Matson


Vote Him Out

[Re Feedback: "Council's Fault"]: In response to the letters on September 21 criticizing the Burlington City Council for our current problems, I would like to propose a solution. When I moved to Burlington in 2008, the problems we are having now barely existed.

Since the election of Mayor Miro Weinberger in 2012, things have gotten progressively worse. In the last mayoral election, he only won by 129 votes, or 43 percent, which suggests there is growing dissatisfaction with him. He needs to focus less on expensive development projects and more on the safety and needs of those who live and work here.

The next mayoral election is the first Tuesday of March 2024.

Jack Daggitt


Last Word

[Re "Lit Party," September 21]: A shout-out to the board and sponsors of the Green Mountain Book Festival two weekends ago in Burlington! So many people worked long and hard to bring it to fruition, from board members and private donors to volunteers, all along the way. The events were well chosen and organized, from keynote speakers Ruth Ozeki and Shanta Lee Gardner to the array of panels on various categories of books to the readings, discussions and more.

As a Vermont author, I was pleased to be included in a panel and a reading and especially pleased that the festival lifted up and focused on Vermont writers. What a pleasure to meet and greet old and new colleagues and to feel a real part of this vibrant community of artists.

Nancy Hayes Kilgore


Choice Words

In November, Vermont voters will decide whether to amend their constitution to guarantee the right to an abortion within state borders. Although a potential federal ban would trump the local protection, it's one thing Vermonters can do to defend their "reproductive liberty" — a term, some warn, that has no legal definition. This feedback is in response to a September 28 story in our 2022 Election Guide entitled "Lasting Changes: Revisions to Vermont's Constitution — Dealing With Slavery and Abortion — Are on the Ballot This Fall."

In early July 2022, more than 100 clergy and laypeople of the United Church of Christ in Vermont signed a letter in response to the United States Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs case that overturned Roe v. Wade. This letter included: "We believe that all people have a right to determine what one does with one's own body, recognizing the difficult and painful yet life-supporting and sustaining necessity in making the decision to have an abortion. This is a statement rooted in our Christian faith which opposes any policy, precedent, statement or law that limits a human being's right to bodily autonomy determination, dignity and respect."

Within Christianity, there's a diversity of understandings about what our faith requires. Moved by our faith as laity and clergy in the United Church of Christ, we affirm God's gift of free will and proclaim our support for reproductive liberty. Not in spite of our Christian faith, but because of it, we encourage every Vermonter to vote in favor of Proposal 5/Article 22, Reproductive Liberty Amendment, to the Vermont Constitution.

Rev. Debbie Ingram
Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen
Rev. Karen Lipinzyck
Margaret Campbell
Sally Kerschner

The individuals above represent the Reproductive Liberty Task Force of the Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ.

I am deeply troubled by Proposal 5/Article 22, which would write into Vermont's constitution that late-term abortions will be legal for any reason — or no reason at all. This is not common sense to me.

There is no reason to do something so radical as to make it easy and legal to abort 7-, 8- and 9-month-old babies who could live outside the womb. Taking a life at this stage — whether it is inside or outside the mother's abdomen at this point — is inhumane.

We don't need to become the only state in the country to embody this in our constitution. The recent U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision did not abolish abortion rights; rather, it said that each state should make its own laws regarding abortion. And Vermont already has laws in place that allow abortion in the first and second trimesters.

Even the majority of European countries, which some consider to be more progressive than the United States, have set a reasonable time limit for abortions.

A vote against Proposal 5 doesn't take away anyone's rights. Rather, it keeps Vermont a sane and humane place to live.

Jennifer Coleman


We're told Article 22/Prop 5 is all about abortion rights and choice. But the words "abortion" and "choice" aren't mentioned in the legislation. Instead, the phrase "reproductive liberty" is used, and no one can tell you exactly what that means.

If you're a man, it just might mean you finally get a seat at the reproductive rights table. If your partner is abortion-minded but you aren't, you may be able to sue to stop her from violating your "reproductive liberty." Then again, if you want her to have an abortion but she's not abortion-minded, you may be exempt from all future financial obligations because she violated your "reproductive liberty."

One of the worst effects of this law may be legalizing the deaths of newborn babies. If a woman gives birth, then decides she doesn't want to be a mother, the infant could be left to die so her right to "reproductive liberty" isn't violated. Being pro-choice would now mean approving the abandonment of newborns.

Far-fetched? That's the problem. No one knows what "reproductive liberty" actually means — not until the law is used as a basis for litigation. Once again, a woman's reproductive health would be in the hands of the courts.

This law should not be passed. It should be rewritten to say what Vermonters want it to say.

Douglas Hoffman


If passed, Article 22, aka Proposal 5, would enshrine unlimited abortion in the Vermont Constitution. Current state law permits unlimited abortion up to and including the moment of birth, as long as the baby dies before taking a breath.

While its supporters claim this is simply a women's right to choose, the potential ramifications of such a radical initiative are significant. No other state in America has ever passed such an extreme constitutional amendment. It would effectively prevent future legislatures from passing laws that would limit abortion in any manner. It would bar restrictions based on advances in embryology or psychological and physical effects on mothers. It would prevent the passage of any law that would recognize the parental rights of the father or parents.

The wording of the proposal does not reveal the underlying intent and is deceitful, relying on such language as "That an individual's right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one's own life course..." Many would not find that objectionable, since the word "abortion" is not included.

Proposal 5 would effectively shield abortion providers from state oversight or regulation, potentially leading to harm for young girls and women.

Polling of Vermont residents on abortion revealed that around 87 percent support some restrictions that Proposal 5 would prevent.

Voters should consider whether unrestricted abortion is a value they want included in their state constitution as a reflection of a culture of death rather than life.

James Mathias Jr.


I want to commend Kevin McCallum for writing a clear and thoughtful article about Proposal 5 (which is actually Article 22 on the mail-in ballots that were sent out recently). I am so glad he pointed out "there seems little risk" that Vermont would restrict abortion. Vermont has one of the most liberal laws when it comes to abortion. Many news sources and ads do not mention this in their sales pitch to Vermonters.

Many of you have received ballots that ask you to vote on Article 22, a proposal to amend the constitution with pro-abortion language. If approved, it will be added to the 21 articles of our state constitution. Essentially, this would ensure that abortions at any stage, even up to the moment of birth, would become part of our Vermont Constitution.

Unlike with a bill introduced in the legislature, it would not be easy to make changes to Article 22. Only senators could introduce changes to an amendment. Thirty senators need to agree to vote on changes to the amendment, and a two-thirds majority is required before any changes are made. Due to the large majority of pro-abortion senators in our Vermont legislature, the chances of changing this amendment once it becomes part of our constitution are minimal at best.

Do we want to be known as the state that slaughters innocent babies?

Please vote no on Article 22!

Andrea Peden

Derby Line


Dawn Marie Ellis' answers to the U.S. Senate candidate questionnaire were unintentionally omitted from our 2022 Election Guide. Find them here.