Congratulations on a great issue of Seven Days focused on small towns and big issues ["Our Towns," December 5]. Thoughtful stories, and the Ed Koren cover was brilliant. You should be sure to submit this issue to various national competitions. It deserves a wider circulation and recognition.
A thought occurred to me after reading the issue. We know that many small rural towns all over the U.S. are struggling to survive; Vermont is not unique in this regard. But does Canada have the same problem on the same scale? I am not sure it does. If not, is that because its history of settlement was different, or were its government policies different from ours? Might be worth having a reporter look into this.
Local 'Star Power'
[Re Off Message: "Sanders Institute Brings Star Power to Burlington," November 29]: Although I did not make it to the Sanders Institute event, I read an open letter from the Vermont POC Racial Justice Community wondering why none of them was invited to speak. Instead, "star power" prevailed.
It's great that Danny Glover and others made the trip here to support Sen. Bernie Sanders and his progressive agenda. But it feels like the senator is not in touch with his grassroots when he doesn't invite, for example, former state rep Kiah Morris or Mark Hughes of Justice for All. Or he could have asked Beverly Little Thunder of the Peace & Justice Center, or Jabari Jones or Katrina Battle from Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington. Or he might have invited anyone from Migrant Justice or the NAACP. Any one of these activists could have represented racial and social justice issues that are important to progressives right here in this state.
Was this an oversight or perhaps an undersight? Bernie, I support your agenda to "end institutional racism in all its forms." But maybe it starts with acknowledging the leaders and activists in this arena right here in Vermont.
Two Degrees of Cheeseface
[Re "Who Shot Mr. Cheeseface?" November 28]: When I was a kid, my mother dated a man, Stephen, who worked as a messenger for Coleman Younger. I even had a couple of their T-shirts with the art nouveau Böcklin-style lettering. One day we were walking on Second Avenue in New York City when Stephen pointed out a magazine at a newsstand and told us he knew the dog on the cover; it belonged to a guy he worked with, and his cover sold a record number of issues.
Of course we kids were in awe — and later disbelief; he was quite a storyteller — but here we are 45 years later, and who appears on the cover of Seven Days but the same dog! Stephen drove an old DeSoto probably of similar vintage to the panel truck, delivering messages and working on old motorcycles at his shop on East Ninth Street. Stephen taught me to ride both bicycles and motorcycles, and I wore those Coleman Younger T-shirts to rags.
I remember "Jimmy the Iceman" from Montpelier in the '90s, but he probably doesn't remember me. Had I known about the two degrees of separation, I would have said more than "lemon ice" to him. I'm so sorry to hear about Mr. Cheeseface's unfortunate fate, but I'm glad he had room to run and people who loved him. Thank you for the article and the memories it stirred.
Inspect Those 'Apples'
[Re Off Message: "Scott Defends Vermont National Guard, Says No Investigation Needed," December 6]: Gov. Phil Scott says no independent review of the Vermont National Guard is needed because reports of misconduct are limited to "an occasional bad apple."
While it is not clear how Scott knows this in the absence of an independent investigation, let's assume for the sake of discussion that he is correct. As a lifelong Vermonter, he surely knows the full saying he is referencing: "One bad apple spoils the barrel." This is precisely why he must call for an immediate, thorough and independent investigation. Assuming that the media have discovered all the "bad apples" and that the problem is solved would be a shameful dereliction of duty.
The "bad apples" excuse is reliably trotted out every time brutality is caught on video. If most officers do not commit brutality, it is painfully clear that they rarely hold their fellow officers to account. Tight-knit groups tend to protect their own; that's where the barrel is ruined. There is no reason to assume without investigating that the Guard is any different.
Gov. Scott, if you really love the Guard you will call for an investigation to protect not just the victims but the entire corps from the terrible and corrupting situation of having to choose between speaking out against their colleagues and perhaps superiors, or looking the other way.
Reading the "As Goes Chelsea..." segment in the "Our Towns" issue [December 5], I noticed a mind-set proliferating through this state of disowning the locals while encouraging imports, showering them with incentives that they would balk at offering natives and citizens. "Some locals ... suggested that Chelsea open its arms to refugees and New Americans who want to work the land ... 'They would grow their own food, open cafés, open little shops...'"
If only the local noncollege-bound kids were offered the panoply of benefits given to asylum seekers and refugees: Section 8 fuel assistance, Medicaid, small business loans and grants, English as a second language, continuing-education money, etc., in addition to tax breaks and marketing assistance for their products. Would that be enough incentives for their own kids to stay and thrive?
Adding to this is the paradigm shift away from continuous, unbridled "growth" that is killing the planet with a constant mind-set of acquiring ever more landfilling for disposable, unneeded crap designed with planned obsolescence, making all of life a hamster-wheel race that is not only environmentally insane but actually contributes to societal disconnection — while "connected" to devices specifically made to suck ever more of the user's time.
"Growth" is over. We must go static as a species or ruin the very environment providing our sustenance, provide for our own and return to our Yankee roots summed up in that old ditty: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or go without." Vermont saw this before in the great out-migration in the early 1800s, when 80 percent of the cleared land returned to 80 percent forested within a generation.
The answer to your problem is right in front of you: Some will leave; some will stay; maybe more will return if only we treated them as if they were the "refugees" they are now.
Thank you for a thorough investigation of the CityPlace Burlington billboards surrounding the hole in the mall [WTF: "Do the Signs Around CityPlace Construction Site Violate Billboard Law?" November 7]. When the city acts as if it's above the law, we have a serious threat to our democracy.
Mayor Miro Weinberger required these law-busting signs that were supposed to "engage the community," "depict and describe the project" and "communicate that downtown merchants are open for business." Looking at the 61 signs, I counted just one that depicts the logos of the businesses still operating in the old mall. The other 60 signs tout the benefits of CityPlace and include large, repeating CityPlace logos. These billboards are clearly advertisements for CityPlace — exactly the kind of public right-of-way outdoor advertising the billboard law prohibits. Any other business promoting its benefits on an oversize sign in this way would be quickly stopped.
The too-tall mall has been fraught with legal exceptions and has lacked true community benefit from the start, despite the promotion and advertising from Sinex and the city itself. With a redacted feasibility study, lack of Act 250 review, so-called affordable one-bedroom apartments at $1,000 per month, a zigzag approach to reconnected streets and now a construction site that has been asleep for months, this project has clearly not lived up to the hype.
Let's have artists paint over the billboards and get a local developer to present a plan at human scale — the kind of development the public asked for in planBTV.
One Man's Trash...
Your "Weld Done Art" [November 28] brought back lots of good memories. In a farming village in northern California, my dad, who was a handyman who never threw away anything, started nailing car parts and all sorts of other metal ephemera on the fence in our backyard: horseshoes, pitchforks with broken handles, door hinges, and lots of stuff of mysterious name and use. I grew up taking this fence for granted. When, as an adult, I was building my home in Vermont, he sent me a big box of doorknobs. We discovered that it is very pricey to install old knobs with current mechanics, but Dad was very pleased when we used a lot of them as kitchen drawer pulls. Thanks for the good story.
Another Great Realtor
Carolyn Fox's piece on finding a Realtor you'll fall in love with was wonderfully written [Nest: "Feels Like Home," December 12]. I wanted to reveal Vermont's best-kept real estate secret: Amanda Kennedy at RE/MAX North in Colchester. She is the opposite of every stressed-out, pushy Realtor stereotype that every homeowner and buyer fears. She was actually representing the couple who bought our house when we realized she was the best in town! Graceful, but willing to fight for you. Brilliant, but impressively modest. Amanda is a mom, wife and genuine human being who also happens to be a total real estate rock star.