Letters to the Editor (12/23/20) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (12/23/20)


Published December 23, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 24, 2020 at 11:34 a.m.

Smoking Gun?

[Re "Weinberger Knew of Burlington Police Chief's Anonymous Twitter Account," December 15]: There is one way to get to the bottom of the mayor's apparently false account of the actions he claims to have taken when he learned of the chief's online activities. If he took the chief's gun and badge, there would be documentation at the police department regarding the disposition of those sensitive items. In fact, there should be a record of the mayor turning them in within a day or so of him taking them from the chief. Such records would give great weight to the mayor's version of events. A lack of such records — well, just sayin'.

Steve Goodkind


Staying Alive

[Re "In Season," December 9]: Like Murphy Robinson, I grew up in a family that abhorred hunting and have since done a 180 in my views on the activity. Though I don't hunt myself, I fully support those who hunt ethically for meat (not trophies), for all the same reasons Robinson and others mentioned. I applaud them for bringing hunting instruction to a wider audience.

However, as an ecologist, I must take issue with Willow Kraken's comment about "gaining a kind of consent from your prey." Ah, no. The drive to keep living has been ingrained in organisms by evolution for the last 3.5 billion years. Hunt all the deer you want, but don't pretend the animals aren't desperate to stay alive. The idea that they would or could give any "kind of consent" to your killing them is delusional and, in my opinion, offensive.

P.S. Loved the article on Pete's Pines and Needles Tree Farm ["O, Christmas Trees," December 9]. It's so nice to step away from the newspaper with a smile on my face rather than a sinking heart.

Sonia DeYoung


Paper Covers Rock

[Re Off Message: "UVM Announces Plan to Eliminate More Than Two Dozen Academic Programs," December 2]: In early December, we heard that the University of Vermont College of Arts and Sciences proposed to eliminate the geology department, leaving future students without the option to major or minor in geology and ending the geology graduate program.

Beyond educating generations of geoscientists, UVM's field geology curriculum has given environmental scientists, journalists, artists, field naturalists and curious people a priceless window into the geophysical template defining the natural communities of Vermont. What would a public university in the Green Mountain State be without people who can tell the story of its mountains?

Vermont is a place where residents brag daily about the Lake Champlain Thrust Fault and drivers pass "whale tails" symbolizing our state fossil. It is a place that takes pride in the generations of quarry workers who built cities in the Northeast with Vermont granite and marble. Eliminating this program would plunge UVM geology faculty — who guide Vermont's decision making around hurricanes, landslides, soil contamination and PFAS hazards — into an uncertain future. It would leave Vermont the only state in the country without a graduate geoscience program.

If you or your family have ever gone fossil peeping at Isle La Motte, marveled at the shiny phyllites underfoot in the Greens or toured the Rock of Ages, I urge you to indicate your support for UVM geology to your legislator and contact the UVM provost, president and board of trustees to make your voice heard.

Jenny Bower


Who's 'Out of Touch'?

[Re Off Message: "Tracy Wins Progressive Nomination for Burlington Mayor's Race," December 3]: For the Burlington Democratic Committee and its chair, Adam Roof, to label Max Tracy "out of touch" flies in the face of the facts. It is the Progressives who have been flipping seats on the Burlington City Council, including Roof's seat by a 60-40 margin.

Being out of touch does not win voters' support. And casting the Progressives as "dogmatic ideologues" — in the same desperate way Republicans cast Democrats as radical socialists — shows how worried Mayor Miro Weinberger's minions are. 

Even a multi-candidate race may not squeak out the mayoralty for the Democrats this time.

Roof's aspersions charge that Progressives are no longer "pragmatic," and he baselessly fearmongers the notion that they'd be dangerous during a pandemic. 

Tracy can and would do as much as Weinberger or any mayor to manage this public health crisis.

It is the Weinberger administration that has run our city in the style of dogmatic ideologues, insisting that we coddle big-money developers to build our way out of a housing crisis and saddling us instead with an unsightly, tax-draining hole in the ground. 

Weinberger and his planning department advocated for that project fanatically, not pragmatically. Had the mayor listened to people like Tracy does — instead of pretending to consider token public input and then doing as he pleased from the start — that stalled and ill-fated mall redevelopment would be up and running by now, and our downtown all the better for it, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Michael Long


Another View of the Flu

Rarely do I disagree with Paula Routly [From the Publisher: "Pressed for Time," December 2], but I think the 1918 pandemic info was a matter of location. Sure, there were the Palmer Raids targeting suspected Communists and the beginnings of the "police state" that affected reporting, somewhat. My aunt Gladys was 10 or 11 at the time and lived very near Camp Devens, where so many young, otherwise healthy men died. Like all viruses, it spread like wildfire. Listen to Hot Tuna's version of Rev. Gary Davis' "Death Don't Have No Mercy" song written during that era. The flu lasted into the 1920s, taking out both Dodge brothers in 1922.

"Media blackout"? Hardly. Sure, the U.S. Postal Service was monitoring mail and newspapers, thanks to a little news item about some "Bolsheviks" stealing a revolution from some "Mensheviks" in Moscow that had a lot of support from some "reporters" here in the USA. But today, especially after antibiotics and advanced medicine, we just don't recognize dying as part of living, like they did back then. History is a complex soup sometimes not easily explained away, even with the recipe at hand.

Steve Merrill

North Troy

Not That Old

"Separation Anxiety" [November 25] was a thoughtful, if sobering, read about how we're navigating these physically distant times. We all long to be together once again. As Molly Dugan of Support and Services at Home noted, these times are especially tough for older folks, who disproportionately struggle with loneliness and isolation.

I do want to offer one correction, though: The writer described SASH as a program that helps "the elderly" and adults with special needs who live independently. In fact, SASH is available to anyone who receives Medicare — most often, people age 65 and up.

Well, that covers me, and thank you, but I am not "elderly." This vague, catchall term is overused and, frankly, meaningless. I have friends and relatives in their seventies and eighties — and even nineties! — who are active and involved in more things than I was in my fifties. I suggest it is time to toss this term in the trash as one small step in combating the "ism" that people have yet to rally against: ageism.

Deborah Bouton


Bouton is director of communications and outreach at Cathedral Square, which administers the Support and Services at Home program.

Choose Wisely

[Re "The Big Jab," December 9]: Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont's health commissioner, offered good advice in his COVID-19 update on June 17: "Armed with information, and weighing the risks against the benefits, make your choices wisely," Levine said. This is appropriate and sound advice.

A certain level of risk in our lives is accepted as necessary to achieve benefits, such as driving a car — a risk most of us have accepted. Taking medicine to help with our health is something we are also used to doing. We understand that the risk of taking an aspirin for a headache, or blood pressure medication to help control hypertension, is small but worth the benefit.

Do not make your choices out of fear or haste.

Rick Levey

North Fayston

Divisive Comments

[Re Off Message: "At Caucus, Burlington Democrats Offer Counter to Progressives' 'Extreme Ideologies,'" December 6]: Holy Dem-o-Crap, Weinberger! Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger seems to think that "Progressive" equals "nut job" with a comment like, "As the Democratic Party has been establishing itself both locally and nationally as a party committed to helping people through policy and progress that are based in science, data and expertise, today's Burlington Progressive Party has been moving in a different, rigid, ideological direction."

He certainly has not learned to tone down the rhetoric and reach across to Progressives who may vote for him. Comments like that are divisive and beyond insulting. Boy, could I compile a long list of his misguided directions that Weinberger's "science, experience and data" have landed us in! Come on, Mayor, don't sink to that level. We expect more from a mayor and any city official!

Patrick Johnson


No Vaccine for Me

The great thing about the current medical crisis is the wealth of real science available online.

In the letter titled "Pseudo-Science Lesson" [Feedback, December 9], the writer questions people's sources and reasons for refusing vaccination. The World Health Organization recently published a peer-reviewed study by Stanford professor John Ioannidis based on eight months of data showing the death rate and hospitalization rate for COVID-19 to be nearly identical to the seasonal flu. Ioannidis is Harvard University-trained in infectious disease and epidemiology. COVID-19 has killed only 100 children under 18, and people under 65 have a 99.86 percent survival rate.

The No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. is from prescription medicine. Pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer have paid billions of dollars to settle lawsuits for fraud, wrongful death and bribery. Big Pharma is currently twice as big a lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., as the military-industrial complex. Standards and methods for testing new medicines have been diluted constantly over the past 20 years, thanks to the lobbying of Big Pharma.

In 2009, during testing for an H1N1 vaccine, labs were unable to kill a mouse, a ferret or a monkey with swine flu, so animal testing was bypassed. The swine flu vaccine was a disaster, causing irreparable harm to over 1,000 people. Vaccine compliance by health care workers has been between 50 and 80 percent over the last 10 years. I will not be taking a vaccine based on this science, and forced medication should not be part of any democratic government's plan.

Peter Garritano



I must respond to the self-satisfied comments made by Todd Callahan and George Lawson in the article regarding their decisions to disregard the health and safety of their congregations and communities ["When State Meets Church," December 2]. Their churches "don't do masks"? I am wondering if Lawson and Callahan would implore their congregants to stay and pray in a church in which there was a gas leak, or to continue assembling as saints in a church flooded with raw sewage.

The spread of COVID-19 is a reality, more than 100 people dead in Vermont is a reality, and more than 300,000 dead nationwide is a reality, and I don't think anyone's Jesus would have them spread disease and death for the sake of sticking with comfortable routines and conveniences. No one is going to end up "standing in hell" for trying to keep others and themselves safe from disease. Wearing a mask doesn't make you a sinner.

I get the sense from my understanding of Christianity that easing the suffering of others is central to its belief system — not making people ill and putting them in the hospital. I thought that giving of yourself, making sacrifices in a time of need for the sake of others, was part of this belief system. These churches are creating health and safety problems not only for their own congregations, but for everyone in their communities. "Laying hands on the sick" is about easing suffering, not creating it. 

Rachel Daley


Teacher's Recommendation

[Re "After Public Health Crisis, Vermont State Colleges System Charts a Difficult Course," April 29]: Since the Vermont State Colleges System, the Vermont legislature and Gov. Phil Scott's administration seem unlikely to find an alternative solution to shuttering Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College, perhaps this plan would work. The plan is based largely on my experiences within the VSC and continuing concern about its viability. I taught at VTC for 20 years and earned a master of studies in natural sciences at Lyndon State College, took education courses at Castleton before it became a university, and pursued one or two peripheral credits at the Community College of Vermont over my 47 years in Vermont.

My vision involves close cooperation with another major, taxpayer-supported Vermont educational institution: the University of Vermont.

The vision: Move some or all of the agricultural programs from UVM to VTC's rural and fully equipped, but relatively unused, Randolph Center campus. Tie the VTC technology programs in Williston to UVM, thereby allowing students the option of earning a VTC associate of applied science degree or continuing on in a UVM engineering program for a bachelor's. Transfer all or most nursing programs from VTC in Randolph Center to Castleton University. Designate NVU in Lyndon for specialization in science and science-teaching programs and NVU in Johnson for specializations such as journalism, literature, music and fine arts. Define CCV's role as preparatory and remedial education for Vermont high school graduates who are motivated but not fully ready for undergraduate rigors. The CCV mission could also include that of VTC's former pre-tech discipline.

Joseph Whelan


'Not Their Job'

I sympathize with Barbara Zucker's recent encounter with an anti-masker in Dunkin' Donuts [Feedback: "Follow the Law," December 2]. These people are at best infuriating and at worst dangerous.

However, I would kindly ask you to examine your privilege when putting the onus of dealing with the said anti-masker on the low-wage worker standing behind the counter. You decided to leave. That worker didn't have that privilege. 

Across the nation, low-wage workers have been putting their health and the health of their loved ones at risk to provide "essential" services like vanilla lattes. We cannot ask them to also risk their safety and enforce the law. That is not their job. They are doing enough already.

Meg Hoffmann


Next Time, Disclose

Nice piece on Vermont architects [Nest: "Sustainable by Design," December 16]!

Regarding the inclusion of politics in your story, I was intimately involved in the bill last year and Gov. Phil Scott's subsequent veto. It was a bit more complicated than indicated in the piece, mostly because the legislation being pushed by Rep. Amy Sheldon (D-Middlebury) — who is the spouse of the featured firm's principal in the story — created exemptions for developers and architects that would have further degraded water quality and impaired high elevation habitat.

The story would have been improved had it noted Sheldon's relationship to Vermont Integrated Architecture, her spouse's firm.

Of course, I would be happy to speak at greater length with you or refer you to others who had front-row seats to the corporate corruption being passed off as environmental protection. There are many who challenge the notion that the problem created by growth can be solved with yet more growth and consumption.

James Ehlers


Election Fraud?

Why did your December 14 article [Off Message: "Vermont Casts Its Three Electoral College Votes for Biden and Harris"] include the statement "President Donald Trump continued his attempt to subvert results of the election"?

There is credible evidence that widespread voter fraud occurred, especially in swing states, during the November presidential election. If the election has been intentionally subverted, then this is very scary news, as it means that any very-well-funded minority interest could literally overthrow our country's Constitution.

Today, polls show that half of the country's voters do not trust our voting systems or the election results and that even 30 percent of Democrats nationwide think the election was stolen. This is a horrible situation for a democracy, especially one that claims to hold the worldwide standard.

At this time in our nation's history, we need to do whatever it takes to make our election systems robust and trustworthy to the vast majority of citizens. To do otherwise supports a future in which whoever wins can care less about engendering the people's trust and care more about increasing their own power and control.

Robert Fireovid

South Hero

Editor's note: President Donald Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud have been rejected by dozens of judges, as well as election officials of both political stripes.

Another Kachelöfen Lover

[Re Nest: "Feeling the Heat," December 16]: Sometimes it's really important to focus on the simple practicalities of daily life and the impacts those items or actions have on a grander scale. Heating one's home is one of those, especially here in the Northeast. How we choose to do this daily cold-season task has repercussions on a global scale.

I was thrilled to see Dan Bolles' piece about the kachelöfen, or masonry stove. They are indeed wonderful. We actually have two in our home. They were built in 1985 by Canadian Norbert Senf, who developed his unique formula for putting together components and building on-site. His motivation was to find an environmentally friendly heating system. And they are just about the best — but that's another story that I'll write someday.

At the time, construction of our stove was said to be the first in Vermont. Who knows? Now 35 years old, with only one repair of a couple cracked bricks a decade ago, these stoves still serve. I wish there were many more, but, as Bolles points out, they can be expensive. Although, like anything, there are various styles and models, from the fancy kachelöfen to the Tulikivi to our more "homemade" version made with local materials. But considering there's only been the one $200 repair in 35 years, what's really expensive? I wouldn't have any other system.

Kimberly Hagen

North Middlesex

Tobacco Ads — Now?

My parents have read Seven Days since I was little, and even though I just graduated from college, I am also quite fond of the paper. I think Seven Days has a reputation for thorough investigative journalism and does a great job of capturing Vermont's outdoorsy and adventurous spirit. 

However, when I was reading the December 16 issue, I saw something disappointing: on page 59, a full-page cigarette ad. Not only that, but a full-page ad during a pandemic. Considering the skyrocketing number of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19, a virus that impacts the respiratory tract, I do not understand the thought behind including this advertisement. 

I find it very upsetting that Seven Days would accept an advertisement promoting smoking cigarettes, knowing how detrimental smoking is to one's health. This advertisement leads me to believe that Seven Days does not have Vermonters' best interests at heart and also makes me question the thought process behind including this ad. I expect more from Seven Days and hope to see a change in the future. 

Leah McCleary 


Local Lucky Strike?

Does Seven Days have guidelines around advertising — size, verbiage, location, company? The recent full-page ad for cigarettes from a national brand, Lucky Strike, was very unexpected when flipping through the paper. I am sending this because I think Seven Days holds itself to a higher standard and that allowing this full-page national ad with no mention of where to buy locally was an oversight.

Before sending this, I tried finding company values online, but I could not find them. Maybe I am off base thinking Seven Days deeply values local? As a reader, I am not sure what Seven Days values other than what I can infer, and that is muddied with this ad.

Caitlin Pascucci


Editor's note: Seven Days has championed all things local since our first issue on September 6, 1995. National advertising, although welcome, has been a rarity in our pages; generally speaking, media buyers at large advertising agencies view Vermont as a very small market. Wherever the ads come from, they help support our award-winning, community-based journalism and all of the local businesses and nonprofits with which we routinely partner.

We do not censor ad content — unless the client is promoting hate, violence or an illegal product. Nor do we dictate what businesses can say in their paid advertisements — unless it's blatant misinformation. We recently rejected a full-page ad that discouraged mask wearing. Seven Days targets an 18-plus audience, and the average age of our readers is 41 — old enough to make informed decisions about consuming regulated products such as tobacco, beer, wine and spirits. The paper is a forum for free speech and a reflection of the diversity of desires and beliefs in our community.