Last week, Seven Days' arts and culture writers tried to find some humor in the idea of a high school being relocated to a shuttered department store [Live Culture: "Questionable Authority: Burlington High School Considers Move to Former Macy's Site"]. Numerous readers responded via letters, calls and social media posts to tell us we missed the mark. The article was part of the occasional "Questionable Authority" series, in which our writers "weigh in on topics about which they may or may not be qualified to speak." We appreciate the feedback and will refrain from riffing on such painful and difficult subjects during the coronavirus pandemic. Seven Days' news team will continue to probe the causes of the closure of Burlington High School and its effect on students, families and taxpayers.
The closure of Burlington High School is a catastrophe for this community and especially for the high school students who study there. These students are losing months of their education. Many will never graduate from high school because of this crisis. Others will have to forego higher education because of the inadequacy of the high school education we have provided. Others are suffering from mental health crises due to the prolonged social isolation caused by the school closure. And the taxpayers in the city will be paying millions of dollars for years to come to solve this crisis. There is nothing funny about any of it. I am disappointed that you decided to laugh about this catastrophe rather than provide serious reporting.
This "comedy" is lazy and poorly written. It is offensive to the 950-plus students who no longer have a school to attend. It's offensive to the families and community members trying to do their best to remedy a complicated and terrible situation. It is not funny. It is not creative. It shows no empathy or caring for the community that has been dealt a terrible blow. Unacceptable, Seven Days. Seriously. Do better.
[Re Feedback: "Neighborhood Isn't Ready," November 4]: As Wendy Bratt's letter points out, Burlington's Development Review Board "chose profits over people" when it approved Burton Snowboard's plan to host Higher Ground nightclub, ignoring the need for "sidewalks, crosswalks or bike lanes, because they knew they lacked funding." This is akin to moving a family of elephants next to a pond inhabited by a few frogs and turtles.
Our tax dollars support these city review boards, and now, to oppose the decision that ignores the 500 households that surround what would be Vermont's largest music venue, more of our personal dollars have to be spent. At the very least, I think city dollars should be set aside for concerned citizens to present their cases. And there should be deadline extensions prior to approving this.
The small families in the affected neighborhoods have labored to find a quiet and safe place to raise their children. They now face the futility of such efforts. The noise, the traffic, the untimeliness, the potential social problems that can accompany such events... How thoughtless of the DRB to do this.
No Plan B
[Re Off Message: "Cyberattack Disrupts UVM Health Network Operations," October 29; "National Guard to Aid Hospitals After Cyberattack Cripples Networks," November 4]: The University of Vermont Health Network has conclusively demonstrated that it did not have a computer-systems disaster plan answering this fundamental question: When our computer systems become unusable for any reason, what will we do to restore their operations immediately?
Failure to have a computer-systems disaster plan within a critical-care hospital system is exemplary incompetence. Will irresponsible executives who are responsible be fired?
How Many Conservatives?
Paula Routly described the challenges New England media outlets are experiencing to recruit conservative editorial voices [From the Publisher: "Talking Cure," November 11]. May I suggest a different perspective on their plight? Conservatives don't see themselves as editorial arm candy to be shown off at the next regional newspaper conference — or a box to be checked, or as the token conservative. The deeper foundational issue is the employment practices and composition of the news/editorial staff and their work product. After reading the editorials and articles, maybe conservatives say to themselves: "I'm not welcomed here."
Conservatives are at ease with organizations in which they periodically see and hear opinions similar to those they hold. They will share their opinions more freely to media who hire their kindred spirits to produce stories and editorials.
Seven Days should conduct a confidential poll of news staff and editorial employees of Seven Days, VTDigger.org and Vermont Public Radio. How many consider themselves conservative, served in the armed forces, donated to Republican presidential candidates, belong to the local fish and game club, fly an American flag, watch NASCAR, support local police, etc.? The results might illuminate blind spots and recruitment opportunities. It could lead to an increase in readership and advertising dollars, too.
For the second consecutive presidential election, the media polls were off and missed "shy" conservative voters. Vermont media should do a better job ensuring their opinions are heard and debated in Vermont's marketplace of ideas.
'Park Is a Sad Reflection'
[Re "Less Shade, More Light," November 11]: City Hall Park may have been degraded, but it accommodated our farmers market, which was relocated without proper thought or adequate city assistance, according to the many farmers I spoke to. Now, after uprooting our most important outdoor market to a less desirable location to make way for the renovation, we have a typical splash fountain and some benches and tables with lots of concrete.
The park fails to reflect the inner creativity of our city and overlooks our very green, organic soul. It could be a plaza in the most mundane of places. It is boring to the eye and calls out for fewer hard surfaces and more comfortable green gathering places. It is sad to see our city transformed by a vision of concrete and urban development instead of the funky creativity and farm-to-table vision that made our City Hall Park a mecca for visitors and citizens every Saturday for decades.
The contributions of those who kept the plaza as green as it remains are deeply appreciated, and the harm prevented was worth every protest. But in the end, we lost the battle, and the new park is a sad reflection of what our current leaders thought we needed — not who we are.
Megan Epler Wood