Problem With Progs
[Re "Progressive Setback: The Party Label Is Losing Its Luster in Montpelier — and Burlington May Be Partly to Blame," November 23]: Once upon a time, the Progs meant something. Scrappy, they were grassroots. They really were an alternative.
Then they started winning, and neither U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders nor state Sen. Anthony Pollina nor anyone else seems willing to put in the necessary guardrails. Why does Martha Abbott get to be a kingmaker, and who vets her judgments? Similarly, who audits Josh Wronski's decisions on who gets support as they run and who gets sabotaged?
I'm all for diversity, but ultimately, it's not about just filling seats with symbols. When highly educated, masterfully savvy white and/or older and/or dudes get shunned for the youngest among us, BIPOCs, women and the LGBTQ+ — only to see them not come back, drift away or be led as if they were puppets — you have become a machine: Dems Lite. Many do their best, and that's nice, but that's not authentic functional political power.
Do you really want someone who represents a significant part of our population to have on-the-job training? Most Progs can't even win anymore without a cross-endorsement. Can any? You guys didn't smell this coming? You're dying now. Seems like a last chance to breathe life back and possibly get it back on track. It will take more than navel-gazing — more like a long, hard look in the mirror with a willingness to make hard decisions.
Conductor in Charge
[Re "Working on the Railroad," November 16]: Thanks to Ken Picard for a fine piece on Vermont railroading, including his "head end" (railroad jargon!) ride from Rutland to the Burlington yards. Also his profile of the Wulfson family, so key to Vermont rail history since the 1960s.
I did miss one detail I always look for in railroad stories. Train conductors, not engineers, are the ones in sole charge of the entire trip. On the run that writer Picard took for his story, conductor Jonathan Dikeman is described as having a "youthful voice" and having joined the company "last year," at age 24.
In contrast, engineer Justin Gibbs has had many years of rail experience.
Unless Wulfson has some unique arrangement regarding federal rail regulations on his company's short lines, conductor Dikeman had senior responsibility for all the train movements, start to finish, that day.
The same is true of passenger trains, including Amtrak. A conductor, who may be checking your tickets at the time, also carries with him/her the role and responsibilities of "commander in chief" of your train trip, including the personnel running the locomotive up front.
Yes, it's true! Both freight and passenger trains all have conductors in charge!
Explain EV Incentives
[Re Paid Post: "Time to Switch to an Electric Vehicle? New Incentives Make It More Affordable," November 14]: My answer is a resounding yes! I have been a dedicated EV owner since 2017 and am on my second car. I love passing gas stations without having to stop — and looking at my plug-in hybrid dashboard to see that I'm getting 97.6 mpg. My decision to go electric was definitely influenced by the incentives available. They really help someone without enormous resources be able to afford the technology and move us closer to our sustainability goals. Thanks for helping that effort.
However, there is something in the article about the federal incentives that is as misleading as the spiel I got from the salesperson who sold me my Nissan LEAF. You say the incentive is "up to $7,500 in tax credits," but I'll bet that most folks won't know exactly what that means. I didn't, and I've been doing my own taxes for decades. I was shocked to only receive $3,500, because that's what I owed in federal taxes. They don't send you a check for the other $4,000. And when, in your table about how incentives affect monthly payments, you list the federal tax credit as $7,500, you are implying that's what everyone will get. Except there is no way someone making less than $50,000 is going to have a federal tax bill of $7,500, so, as usual, those who make less end up saving less and will have a higher monthly payment than their wealthier neighbors.
Editor's note: The information provided in this paid advertisement came from Efficiency Vermont. The incentives vary depending on individual circumstances. As the EV owner at the end of the piece advises: "Definitely do your research; figure out exactly what you're entitled to before you start the process."
'Loud and Clear' Cartoon
Wow! Tim Newcomb's [November 23] cartoon says it all, loud and clear! "NASA's Orion Pays the Moon a Thanksgiving Week Visit" speaks to how a lot of us folks think about the space race, the rat race and the self-destructive human race.
'Slanted' View of Cannabis Ads
I note that "Cannabis Censors" [November 16], and its subsequent exploration of whining and moaning from cannabis sellers, read more like an editorial than a news article. You thoroughly fleshed out what the so-called cannabis industry wants without mentioning what the rest of us want: that is, not to repeat the egregious behavior of two other drug industries — tobacco and vaping — in their advertising directed at young and vulnerable people.
It seems to me that the state is taking a proactive stance toward cannabis advertising rather than having to rein in advertising excesses, as it had to do in the cases of tobacco and e-cigarettes. Including a quote from your advertising sales director underlined the slanted nature of the article and left me thinking you gave yourself a bad mark on the measured news coverage report card.
Balint Is a Mom
One fact of the utmost historical importance in your reporting on Sen. Becca Balint's election to Congress that was left out of [Last 7: "Ms. Balint Goes to Washington," November 9] is that she is the first mother of school-age children to ever represent Vermont in Congress and one of very few nationally who will serve in that role.
It's critically important that we examine why this story has been buried below notations of her identity as a woman of Jewish descent and of the LGBTQ+ community throughout her campaign: Women — especially "ambitious" mothers — who choose the grueling path of pursuing both the nurturing and care of their families and also their career callings are still, even in the year 2022, considered suspicious, narcissistic or self-serving in our society, whereas fathers of the same stage of life are rarely, if ever, questioned about their intentions for running.
Without a cultural change toward accepting that mothers actually deserve to live fulfilling and meaningful lives, both in their professions and at home, we can't move toward realizing our full dream of equality in America.
Balint's voice in Washington, D.C., means a lot to Vermonters who want to be represented by someone who values the core democratic philosophies of balance, fairness and civil discourse that have long defined this state.
But her perspective as a mother — a group long underrepresented in positions of power — should also be celebrated by Vermonters of all stripes as a win that moves us forward and something we can all be proud of.
Mary Alice Proffitt
["Heat Seeking," November 9] provided a great overview of the challenges and changes affecting how we stay warm in our cold climate. Those reliant on heating oil are certainly taking it on the chin this year. It's good to see Vermonters' increased interest in burning local, sustainable wood. Modern stoves are quite efficient and release little particulate matter, and there's no question that wood provides more local jobs than any other heating fuel.
The article discussed heat pumps but had one inaccuracy about their ability to operate in cold weather. There are plenty of models that work down to minus 10 degrees or so with only limited loss in efficiency and heat output. It's true that few existing houses should rely solely on heat pumps, but plenty of new, highly insulated and tight houses are being built using solely heat pumps, with electric resistance backup in the event of extreme cold. I've installed them in three different houses and, in each, was able to reduce fuel use by about 70 percent.
The issue of substantial practical importance to Vermonters that wasn't mentioned at all is the Inflation Reduction Act. A recent survey found that a minority of Americans even knows it was signed into law. There are substantial tax credits and, even better, discounts at the point of sale on everything from heat pumps to insulation to electrical work needed to support more home electrification. The program primarily begins on January 1, so anyone considering reducing their reliance on fossil fuels should wait a bit. Those earning less than 80 percent of the median income can have 100 percent of costs covered — effectively a no-brainer.
Higher-income folks still receive incentives, but typically at about 50 percent. A simple Google search will provide calculators and details from many reputable sites.
I was struck by police commissioner Melo Grant's comment in ["Warning Shots," November 2]: "We have these kids going through the Burlington school system and then ending up in jail. Why is that happening?"
Something I've been thinking about, too.
If I were forced to place blame, I'd start with the broken immigration system that overpopulates schools with non-English-speaking children. For the last six months, I have had the pleasure of volunteering with a large, very lovely refugee family. The children, ages 1 to 15, couldn't be more delightful. But I've become concerned about the older children's futures. Time is not on their side.
Here's the problem: The 15-year-old, never having attended school, is classified as a first-year. Her English speaking skills aren't even that of a first-grader yet, and she has no class specifically concentrating on learning to speak and understand English. So how can she possibly understand anything she is being taught in her other classes?
The age-classification system is designed to push students out of the system.
It doesn't make sense for any non-English-speaking child to be classified at a grade level, no matter their age. The sole purpose of their school attendance should be to master English. Without it, she/he cannot integrate into school or society. Hence, increased crime.
Given the present system, how can it not be creating throwaway kids, particularly older kids — boys?
The question is: Do we want to spend money on school systems or prison systems?
Revenge Is Swede
Many thanks for the excellent book review of The New Power Elite by Heather Gautney ["Less Power to Them," November 30]. That brought to mind an incident I experienced in Stockholm, Sweden, while visiting the university there in the mid-'70s. The late Strom Thurmond, a former senator from South Carolina, gave a talk with a focus on "peace through strength." All of a sudden, a group of students stood up and chanted, "Du är Fascista! Du är Fascista!" You don't have to speak Swedish to understand what this hawk was trying to say.