Ski Season Not So 'Dismal'
I was surprised by the headline "After a Dismal 2020-21 Season, Ski Areas Report Strong Early Sales" [November 10]. Based on my 20 years of experience with the Vermont ski industry, "dismal" is not a word I would use to describe last season. If Vermont skier days were down by a lot, then there was something else in play besides just COVID-19.
Québec, our neighbor to the north, closed its province to outsiders even tighter than Vermont closed its borders but still managed to exceed its 10-year skier days average. New Hampshire reported visitation that mirrored its 10-year average. Utah, a major fly-to destination that was as seriously challenged by COVID-19 as Vermont, posted its best season on record. Colorado, which is especially dependent on international travelers, was just 3.7 percent below its five-year average. And the National Ski Areas Association reported that, based on the all-important metric of skier days, the 2020-21 season was the fifth best season on record.
Ski Vermont, an industry trade association, began the season with cataclysmic projections and stuck with that narrative even as the season improved. But Ski Vermont hasn't released the number of skier days for last season.
It would be interesting to get an actual number of skier days and see if that really matches the narrative of "dismal." I'm confident that it was reported to NSAA for inclusion in its data set, but it was curiously not shared locally. If Vermont really posted a "dismal" number of skier visits, COVID-19 wasn't to blame.
Editor's note: Seven Days did request details about ski visits and ski-area revenues from Bryan Rivard, the spokesperson for Ski Vermont. Rivard said ski areas report that information to the association on the condition of confidentiality.
Let's Go ... Where?
[Re Off Message: "New VTGOP Leaders Jump on the 'Let's Go Brandon!' Bandwagon," November 8]: When I read the news clip about the Vermont Republican Party electing Paul Dame to the chair and that he planned to celebrate by holding a "Let's Go Brandon" party, my first thought was: Yow! The inmates are finally running the Republican asylum. That was quickly followed by another thought: Comparing the deranged meanness of today's Republicans to inmates is offensive and insulting to all inmates, past and present.
Today's Republicans have carved out a category of mental deficiency and vitriol for our country that puts them in a category that is unique and hard to comprehend. Does Gov. Phil Scott think we won't notice his dallying with the sickness that infects the Republican Party?
In memory of another politician named Paul, I am now chanting "Let's Go Sarbanes" in my head.
I thank Seven Days for the excellent story on the University of Vermont Medical Center's use of temporary nurses ["Health Care Premium," November 3]. These extra millions spent on the temporary nurses come from our fee, premium and tax dollars. That money ought to support local doctors, nurses, staff and our health care — not only at UVM Medical Center but also at all our other hospitals.
I found it telling that the hospital's permanent staffers were "skeptical" about UVM chief of nursing Peg Gagne's statement that "We really do want to get back to our own staff being a much higher percentage [of the workforce]," given that staff feels "the hospital has shown little interest in keeping them around."
This phenomenon isn't new. After surgery at a Vermont hospital some years ago, I was helped by nurses from Alabama, Colorado and New Jersey.
Why should our money feed a raft of traveling nurses? I don't blame the traveling nurses, and I understand why a UVM Medical Center nurse would want to join their ranks to obtain better compensation. I do think that UVM and the rest of us need to consider why things have reached this point.
Has UVM been treating staff as expendable resources to support high salaries for the CEO and the growing number of other highly paid executives? Has this policy now "trickled down" to this?
In the inevitable state investigations to follow, it is time to reconsider UVM's approach and carefully devise statewide regulations to govern our health care workforce — before more bad things trickle down to us.
Don't Let Up on Landlords
["Roaches and Broken Locks," November 3] only scratches the surface of the issues that are associated with landlords who are systematically let off the hook for abhorrent conditions. They rent not only to those whose choices are grossly limited but also to those who are scared and unable to make better choices for themselves and their family, due to time restraints, financial burdens, language barriers, lack of know-how, and a slow and broken system.
Granted, there are a lot of wonderful landlords who go above and beyond and who do not take advantage of families, knowing how difficult things are for those entrenched in the system. But the reality is: Once a landlord is aware of how difficult it is for a family to vacate, it becomes much easier for them to carry on without any regard for the mental and physical health of their renters.
I am speaking from experience. I have a thick folder of photos and communications with every entity and organization that I can think of to help navigate what to do when faced with a landlord full of promises and zero follow-through. How long do you wait? Whom do you call? Who can help?
Even when you are given an answer and your fears are substantiated, what do you do with limited time, money and resources in a market in which finding a rental in your budget is like striking gold?
I've been a landlord in Vermont for four years and in Washington, D.C., for 15. I have 12 units and never charge more than fair market rent. I regularly witness the struggles many people face to keep a good, affordable roof over their heads. When I started up here, I was told that Vermont is a "tenant's state." The excellent investigative article "Roaches and Broken Locks" [November 3] shows how ridiculously untrue that is. Sure, the Boves are shysters, but, from my experience, it seems that they are simply operating within Vermont's terribly lenient or nonexistent rental regulations and enforcement.
Especially compared to D.C.'s, Vermont's laws and practices are heartless toward tenants. The most egregious to me is that, outside of Burlington and Barre, landlords are allowed to ask for first and last months' rent and a security deposit before occupancy, which is frequently prohibitively difficult for lower-income people; the practice is illegal in D.C., as well as in New York and New Hampshire. I've spoken with Vermont legislators about how unfair this is, and, while they often agree with me, I'm told that the Vermont Landlord Association lobbies hard against taking away "first, last and security," claiming that landlords need to protect themselves.
Come on! If a tenant trashes your place, which is so rare, that extra deposit won't make a real difference for the landlord. But coming up with it represents a significant hardship for tenants. And, if necessary, landlords can find redress in court. The one time I took legal action against a tenant in Vermont, I found the courts fair and responsive.
Sweat, the Details
I appreciated ["Sweat Equity," November 10], about sauna culture. I grew up in north-central Massachusetts, where there has been a large Finnish American population for about 140 years. The first house I bought was an entry-level, circa-1948 bungalow home that came with a stand-alone wood-fired sauna and adjacent homemade poured-cement plunging pool, as do many homes of that vintage in that part of New England.
There are public steam baths still keeping up the tradition there for folks who don't have a sauna at home. Gardner, Mass., has what used to be the West Street Steam Bath and is now the EZ Steam Club. There may still be others in Fitchburg and environs.
Thanks for the tour of sauna culture in Vermont. You lit a nostalgic fire to nudge me to install our own!
Burlington History Lesson
[Re Last 7: "Council Won't Halt 'Heartless' Eviction," November 17]: I am so tired of the ignorance and offensive rhetoric of some of Burlington's city councilors. They act as if they are the only people who have any concerns about housing or those who aren't housed. I am tired of them ignoring all the efforts this town has put into creating housing and addressing the many and various needs of the homeless.
As if no one in Burlington for the past 40-plus years has ever even thought about the topic.
As if there haven't been hundreds of affordable housing units built in the city of Burlington in the past several decades.
As if hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless folks haven't become housed in the last several decades in Burlington.
As if no unhoused person or family ever became homeowners in Burlington.
As if no one has ever thought about or supported the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS).
As if no one ever thought about or supported warming shelters.
As if no one in Burlington ever cared about others.
Maybe the councilors don't know the historic efforts this town has made already. Maybe they should learn that before they condemn the community and the current actions regarding Sears Lane.
And it wouldn't hurt if Seven Days remembered history, too!
[Re "Shorter Winters, Hotter Summers," November 10]: Seven Days' coverage of the 2021 Vermont Climate Assessment was well timed and appropriately alarming, as the United Nations Climate Change Conference wound down with the expected chorus of apocalyptic warnings of climate disaster. Those who remain unfazed by grim accounts of current and potential future impacts on the planet and humanity should at least note the impact on their wallets. This year alone, 18 weather disasters in the U.S. have cost roughly $1 billion each — shared by all Americans, including Vermonters.
Of course, Vermont must do its part to reduce its rising greenhouse gas emissions. This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis. But we must be honest with ourselves. Without bold federal action, the needle will continue to move further into the red.
Despite the drone of partisan acrimony in Washington, D.C., there is some good news. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a carbon tax on polluters, with "rebates for low-income taxpayers and a border-adjustment tax aimed at ensuring foreign companies don't get an advantage." This approach would work faster than any combination of programs to cut emissions and has bipartisan appeal. It's also the single best tool to ensure that President Joe Biden meets his goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.
If you are concerned about climate change for whatever reason, please take a minute to tell Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, Rep. Peter Welch, and President Biden that it's time our government takes decisive action by making polluters pay with a carbon fee.
Focus on Enforcement
I want to thank Seven Days for the excellent reporting and article on the topic of rental housing code enforcement in Burlington and across the state ["Roaches and Broken Locks," November 3].
When I first got into the rental housing business, I started listening to the testimony from tenants advocating for a "just cause" eviction law and realized that their need was actually for better code enforcement of existing laws, not the creation of a new law that will only fall short on enforcement, as well. So I started calling around on behalf of the tenants who had testified and was dead-ended in the same ways described in your article. Even when a problem is reported, there doesn't seem to be much being done to ensure that it's fixed. And that's the problem.
Where are the resources to support enforcement? Where are the resources to support the perpetual need for rental housing improvements and maintenance? And also, how do we better equip tenants to properly care for the homes they rent so that problems can be prevented?
Living With Pollution?
There are many reasons why housing on Burlington's Barge Canal is a bad idea ["Russ Scully Wants to Rezone Part of Burlington's South End for Housing," November 10]. The most obvious: the impact on the people who would live there. Toxins in the soil of the private parcels include coal tar, PAHs and benzene, all potentially deadly to humans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long put "institutional controls" on the land development: no residences, no childcare centers. The feds have not changed that restriction in decades. Why would it be safe for humans to live there now?
The other impacts would be on the land and on Lake Champlain. For years, the canal and surrounding land have been slowly but steadily regenerating. The wetland is inhabited by numerous species of animals and has been recolonized by trees and understory plants. The plants and their associated microbial and fungal life serve to stabilize the soil and gradually transform toxins. Why not let nature continue her remediation of this land?
'The Conscience' of the Senate
I am writing to commend and thank Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy for his exceptional and distinguished leadership in the U.S. Senate [Off Message: "Leahy Won't Seek Reelection Next Year," November 15].
We thank him for his work on the Judiciary, Appropriations and Agriculture committees, where he advanced myriad issues for farmers, protected the environment, improved nutrition for schoolchildren, expanded voting rights and worked on many other issues affecting our families' daily lives; and for his leadership during the impeachment hearings and presiding over the trial.
I thank Sen. Leahy for initiating projects in Vietnam to clean up sites at Bien Hoa and Da Nang of the dioxin Agent Orange, starting programs to help Vietnamese severely injured from the war and programs to remove land mines and unexploded bombs. He called the spraying of Agent Orange "a colossal mistake."
I honor him, too, for his vote to stop the war.
Our family prayed for the tragic war to stop. My parents were deprived of seeing family for decades because of the war.
My uncle, Dr. Pham Vàn Can, top graduate of the University of Saigon Dental School, never got to practice dentistry, as he was drafted into the army. He was killed by a bomb detonation in a restaurant. His young bride was severely injured; their young son, orphaned.
Sen. Leahy stated, "For me, there can be no excusing the folly of that war, nor diminishing of the immense destruction and suffering that it caused."
Sen. Leahy, I stand with Vermonters and millions of Americans in thanking you and expressing our deepest gratitude for your extraordinary leadership and distinguished statesmanship and for being the conscience of the Senate.
San Francisco, CA