Last week's cover story, "De-Stress Signals," and specifically the "Into the Wild" article, resonated very strongly with me. As it has been for most people, COVID-19 has been just one in a long list of anxiety producers in my life in 2020.
Recent parental death; the profound hurt and utter confusion of a failed relationship; work; the unstitching of the United States; the constant background hum of a global plague and its effect on my kid's schooling and socializing; and the overarching unknown of it all have brought into high relief the fragility of my own mental and emotional well-being. The stress and anxiety it has caused has turned the last several months into an unwanted test case for what my body is capable of doing after regularly getting less than three hours of sleep a night.
While therapy has helped somewhat, it is the salve of friendship that has kept me sane. I have been extraordinarily lucky to have a number of old and new friends in my life who have been there for me every step of the way — listening to me; walking and running with me — all the while never holding back with their sympathy and empathy, especially after I kept going on and on (and on).
I hope that, in some way, our many interactions have helped them, just as they've helped me, through this crazy time. So thank you, my dear friends: You all know who you are. The world is a better place with you in it.
I am surprised: It appears that the gang who worked on "De-Stress Signals" [October 14] has not gotten the message of inclusion. Luke Eastman's illustrations show one person who might be considered light tan; everyone else is white. And Dan Bolles' summary introduction whitewashes the daily, hourly experience of and resistance to the stress of systemic racism with the phrase "civil unrest." The word "racism," the concept of discrimination, and how to de-stress from constant microaggressions are all missing from his piece and the package that follows.
I hope that you have not taken the outraged public backlash to "Battery Power" [September 23] — which purported to be about a major, long-running anti-racism demonstration, along with causes and effects, but instead was about the hurt feelings of a white reporter — as a demand that you not cover issues of racism. You should not be content to retreat in order to nurse your bruised feelings.
BTW, freedom of the press is promised as a safeguard against government interference or censorship. Let's not use it to bludgeon members of the public who react negatively (even burning copies of the offending free publication, which I don't condone) to poor portrayals of their lives. As a former journalist and editor, I take it seriously. I value Seven Days' perspective and contribution to the discussion. But I'm disappointed that in your October 14 cover article, you've served up a bland, nearly all-white meal.
[Re "Bold Designs," October 14]: It was refreshing to get a glimpse into the vision of a future Burlington. These proposals should be welcomed and discussed instead of scrutinized or perceived as "pie in the sky." The abundance of un- and underutilized land in Burlington is notable, not to mention an eyesore.
I'm not advocating for high-risers, but we should craft land-use policies to promote sustainable growth and density (which drives affordability) while preserving neighborhoods' unique personalities. After all, sprawl exacerbates climate change by inducing longer commutes, among a range of other costs on society. Development is complicated, but transforming empty space into more productive uses — be it community gardens, parks, housing or a mixed-use project — that foster modern urban design is a win-win for our city and the entire planet.
Amy Lilly's fun run through imagined but potential city projects by teams of Freeman French Freeman architects ended with a caveat on the Moran FRAME project ["Bold Designs," October 14].
If you are not a spectator of the current technical takedown of the Moran building to steel frames these days, you are really missing something.
Amid the machine din of trucks, excavators and jackhammers, and the recreational clatter of skateboards being put through their paces at the A_Dog skate park, emerges not just the building's frame but also the super concreted pedestals in the belly of the beast.
The Moran structure is unique beyond sight of the steel frame, which stands apart from the honeycombed "floating" foundation and which cradled the mess of three exterior steam boilers on the north side.
Each of the now-emerging concrete pedestals bore the weight of an exceptionally heavy steam turbine electric generator set combo and a main condenser slung underneath. Besides supporting precisely designed equipment, the pedestals were made huge to also dampen the slightest vibration attributed to the core of a spinning mass of shafts.
The first artistic renderings of the FRAME concept missed the internal elevations of the troika of pedestal platforms leading the height of the structure on the south side. Their complicated three-dimensional geometries will further accent the structural steel frame and offer entertaining contrasts to the basins, wavy flumes and half-pipes of the skate park.
[Re "Has Phil Scott Made Vermont More Affordable?" October 7]: Vermont is in the middle of one of the largest crises it has ever faced. We are extremely fortunate to have a governor who has met this challenge in the best possible manner. Gov. Phil Scott's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic should serve as a model for others.
His weekly press briefings with the state's health commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, provide clear, up-to-date, factual information. Other state personnel are on hand to answer questions for which they can provide expertise. Everybody is treated with respect and, if there is a question they cannot immediately answer, they say so and promise to get the answer.
Gov. Scott is negotiating a very difficult situation, balancing caution with the need to have some economic activity. The proof of how well he is doing is shown by our best-in-the-nation status in these difficult times. Competence matters. Gov. Scott, by his actions during the COVID-19 crisis, has made the case for his continued leadership during these challenging times and deserves reelection.
[Re "Has Phil Scott Made Vermont More Affordable?" October 7]: In a recent debate, I heard Gov. Phil Scott brag about increasing "affordability" by reducing taxes by $70 million. Sounds great, but what does it really mean? Who benefits?
The veto cut $50 million that was earmarked to pay down the state employee pension funds deficit. He avoided helping that problem, kicking it down the road for future taxpayers.
After the veto, the state's contribution to property taxes was changed by many hands and issues. Presumably, the $50 million from the pension funds ended up here.
So, who benefits from lower property taxes? The median household income for Vermont is around $56,000. Only a small percentage of Vermonters who earn this or less can afford to own property, so a property tax cut does not make these lives more "affordable."
It is reasonable to assume that the wealthier you are, the higher the value of your home. It is also reasonable to assume that the nonresidential investment property is largely owned, again, by the wealthiest. So, following that logic, it is reasonable to assume that a very large percentage of the $70 million the governor diverted to property tax relief went into the pockets of the wealthier Vermonters, making their lives more "affordable." Middle-income Vermonters did not benefit much from Gov. Scott's "affordability" actions.
Gov. Scott's actions to veto the minimum wage, veto family leave and oppose universal primary care hurt "real affordability" and expand the wealth gap that our state suffers.
This false "affordability" of Gov. Scott is not what I want.
So Many Substances
Derek Brouwer's article, "Relapse in Recovery" [September 16], is excellent in capturing the scope and breadth of a humbling, pernicious issue. Indeed, he describes the harm-reduction treatment and recovery climate without sacrificing clarity or conciseness, and by offering nuance potentially challenging the "enabling" properties of this system. And he could not have chosen more dedicated and caring professionals than Tracie Hauck and Jackie Corbally to underscore some of the concomitant realities.
How many of the deceased were medication-assisted treatment patients? How many met the clinical criteria for cannabis addiction to the mood-altering chemical THC-9? Society and even the local government, treatment, recovery, Department for Children and Families, and corrections communities seem to have normalized this drug. How about alcohol addiction, the chameleon drug that "plays" with the opioid receptor sites? And cocaine addiction? Yes, it is currently everywhere. I wonder how many might be alive if all their substance-use issues were consistently and comprehensively addressed?
I wonder whatever happened to abstinence?
Craig S. Smith
Smith is clinical director of Bradford Psychiatric Associates.
Your writer's article about the Burlington protesters' silence was spot-on ["Battery Power," September 23]. If they will not speak, her observations become the best report that can be made. Kudos to you for engaging the reporter, her assignment, her work, and your courage to print and support this information offered to the public.
I am drawn only recently to your rather progressive paper by the premature embalming of the 200-year-old Burlington Free Press.
Let Them Vote
[Re "Split Ticket," October 14]: I moved to Winooski from Connecticut pursuing a job post-Great Recession. When I got here, I looked around and thought to myself: Now this is white-bread! Where are all the brothers and sisters? But as I settled in, I watched a parade of Black and brown children walking up Main Street or getting off the bus on their way to school, sometimes accompanied by their fathers — more often, their mothers. And, of course, their white counterparts walked along with them.
Living in Winooski is like living at the United Nations, I tell my tristate friends. I am proud to be a Winooski resident precisely because it is so diverse a community. I used to bicycle to work year-round and was asked how I got used to the cold in winter. I said, "Stay out in it." If you want to get used to people of different colors from different cultures, live with them.
All residents living in Winooski of ordinarily eligible voting age should be allowed to vote locally. It will not adversely impact state or federal elections, and it will give them the voice they need to positively affect the welfare of the city of Winooski. And mark my words, their votes will be the most conservative, most inclusive, most caring and most pro-business you will find anywhere in the republic.
[Re "Has Phil Scott Made Vermont More Affordable?" October 7]: With Democrats holding a supermajority in Montpelier, your cover story should have been: "Can Democrats Make Vermont More Affordable?"
Yes, Democrats can! If you can afford more taxes and believe more are the answer!
Let's highlight some great "near achievements" that went sour from Vermont Dems in Montpelier, costing us hundreds of millions of dollars!
We had Howard Dean and his commuter rail to nowhere!
Gov. Peter Shumlin and a failed master plan for Vermont to have its own health care for all.
Now, the Global Warming Solutions Act that is set up perfectly to keep increasing taxes and limiting personal choice, along with keeping business growth and jobs away from Vermont.
The GWSA is set up so well, it guarantees Montpelier will tax you until the Dems get it right, or you can file a lawsuit against them!
Crude math calculations tabulate that Vermont's emissions effect on the climate and environment is six one-hundredths of 1 percent, compared to China's. Can we build a wall into the stratosphere to protect and save our state?
No, but we can tax ourselves there!
Gov. Phil Scott has the veto pen.
The GWSA, for starters, will greatly limit your personal travel and restrict how you heat your home. The committee of 24 to oversee the GWSA will dictate how to live your life.
Yes, do our part to save the planet, but in Vermont it's more about political power and control.
How you vote will determine our affordability!