While Mark Szymanski's letter [Feedback, "DCF's Problem," October 8] was grossly insensitive, he does raise a deeply troubling societal problem that needs more public conversation. Lately I've been brought together with high-risk, neglected babies who have repeatedly been removed from their parents. Consequently, I have given much thought to this very disturbing tragedy plaguing society.
The fact that we can breed shouldn't give us the right to. Many precious, helpless newborns are facing the hellish consequences of reckless, drug-addicted sexual behaviors. Ethically, birth should not be forced upon them.
Probably no one would disagree that prevention is the most viable solution. All pregnancy-prevention methods and abortions ought to be state-paid for girls and women without the resources to pay themselves. Ideologies to the contrary only serve to increase suffering and worsen deeply entrenched societal problems, while solving nothing.
I once heard Harvard's favorite philosophy professor, Michael Sandel, share a story for his students' consideration about a wealthy European woman who paid homeless, drug-addicted women and girls $300 to abort their pregnancies. At the time the suggestion seemed repugnant. Today, not so much.
Aren't we incentivizing, through our welfare system, living conditions for children that are even more repugnant? Most likely, there is no way out of this problem that isn't going to be terrifically hard to swallow. But, given present outcomes, out-of-the-box thinking is needed, and all options should be on the table.
Words from the Woodshed
Ken Picard's "Wood If I Could" article [October 8] rings heavy of procrastination for this Old Yankee who used wood and coal as a kid in the late '50s, again with Nixon and the Oil Embargo, and ever since. You have to plan ahead — far ahead — to keep a good supply.
One thing that helps both my wood man and me is buying in early spring, when he's short on money and long on bills. He knows me well enough to call because I am willing to help him when money is tight — after plowing snow and before his maintenance biz kicks in. I know that some 10 percent of a two-cord load will need further splitting, be too long, or be way too big and gnarly. Yet I don't bitch; I actually get insulted with every delivery (think Don Rickles with a delivery truck). I wouldn't have it any other way! Derrick from Derby had a good year this year, I got my four-plus cords, he got early cash and I got all the insults hurled my way (half the fun is hurling them back).
The time to think about wood is when the snow melts, not when the leaves start falling. So split, move, stack and repeat as necessary, but do it no later than March or you'll be out in the cold — literally.
Blame Act 60
[Re Fair Game, "Single Issue," October 8]: In response to a court order mandating education funding equity, the legislature passed Act 60 in 1997, and control of local education taxes went from our towns to Montpelier.
The main problem is that in recent years, the education fund and local property taxes have become a way to cover expenses and to add programs outside the original scope of the legislation. A good example of this (and the financial sleight of hand that was all too common in the last legislative session): years of underfunding the health benefits for retired teachers. The legislature added a new tax that will increase every year, to be paid for by the local property taxes. Then they borrowed an additional $28 million from the state's rainy-day fund to help make up some of the shortfall — without saying how it would be paid back.
What would be a reasonable course of action to address the property-tax crisis?
First, there must not be any more new state programs to be paid for by property taxes or the education fund, and all other intended sources of revenue for the education fund must be fully funded.
Second, programs other than the funding of K-12 education must be decoupled from the education fund and paid for from other sources of revenue.
Any major legislation, such as educational funding, must be examined regularly and tweaked to ensure fairness, efficiency and financial integrity. However, unless we go back to the original scope intended by Act 60, other changes will only amount to window dressing, and our property-tax crisis will only worsen.
Freitag is an independent candidate for the Vermont House of Representatives.
What Goddard Was Thinking...
[Re Last 7: "Fighting Words," October 8; Off Message: "Controversial Goddard Graduation Secretly Moved," October 6; Off Message: "Goddard's Commencement Speaker is Controversial Mumia Abu-Jamal," October 1]: As a WGDR programmer at Goddard College, I would like to vocalize my opinion concerning the intentions of the community with which I am involved. Hosting Mumia Abu-Jamal as a speaker on behalf of the 2014 graduating class had very little to do with the case in which he is involved concerning the murder of Daniel Faulkner, and more to do with incarcerated citizens having the right to free speech alongside other Americans. Goddard College did not intend to make a statement about Mumia Abu-Jamal's case or current issues that the modern-day police task force is facing. It was about giving Mumia Abu-Jamal his right to speak for himself about issues that were greatly unrelated to his own incarceration.
Goddard College has a long-standing history of reflecting on complex and controversial opinions in the name of human liberty and discovery. I think inviting Abu-Jamal was a statement about valuing the opinions of people you might ultimately judge or discriminate against, in the name of complete truth. It's about exercising the rights that constitutional law entitles us to. In no way is Goddard College devaluing the police. I have heard people show support and gratitude toward the Vermont State Police for their dedication to non-discrimination. And I am saying that as someone who is a few points away from having no driver's license.
Abby van den Noort
Back to Basics
Lynn Russell suggests that climate change and dethroning the wealthy from their power over politics should be Sanders' top priority as a presidential candidate [Feedback, "Bernie Better..." October 1]. Call me old-fashioned, but once we are done with this disaster we call the Obama presidency, priorities for our country must be first and foremost: protecting the American people by closing the borders; ISIS, Ebola, TB and the deadly children's virus EV-D68 are threatening our society. No amnesty for the five million-plus illegal aliens that Democrats allow to stay in our country.
My candidate will uphold the Constitution and restore trust to the office. Solutions will be identified to rid us of policies that provide little economic growth and unsatisfactory job creation, and focus will be given to reduce the deficit. Entitlement programs will be reformed and self-reliance will be "hip" again.My candidate will heed the advice of military experts and destroy our evil enemies quickly, and the lone wolves who gun down and behead Americans will be identified as terrorists and thrown in Guantanamo to rot in hell.
The state of affairs here and abroad is insane, and concerns about climate change and the rich seem unimportant in comparison. I dare say when Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, neither will matter. Ask yourself: Are you better off and safer than you were six years ago? I think not, and it's not due to climate change! Democrat policies on the national and local level are killing us.
Adjunct professors should unionize to receive better pay and benefits ["Low Pay, No Benefits: Adjunct Professors Might Unionize," October 8]. It isn't right that people who have college degrees and do the same work as professors get paid an unlivable wage. Some people say it would be bad to unionize because some schools, like Burlington College, are struggling right now, so a new union would cause them to lose even more money. If this were to happen, people may have to be fired to make up for the loss of income. There are also union dues and initiation fees that come with being part of a union. Sometimes these fees can be more than $200 a year. However, even though Vermont adjuncts already get paid at a higher rate than the average, Vermont still has one of the highest costs of living in the country. So even though adjuncts are getting paid more, they can still be living in poverty. Unions typically raise wages by 20 percent, and 93 percent of unions provide health care. This would allow people to live better.
Adjuncts shouldn't have to worry about homelessness, like the 83-year-old adjunct who died in Pittsburgh. Although adjuncts are technically part-time, they still put in extra hours but receive no compensation for it. They work just as hard as professors, but only make $2,700-$3,000 per class. Unionizing wouldn't get them the same pay as full-time professors, but it would still help.