There Oughta Be a Law
Although Vermont's top investigators worked for nine months, they found no Vermont rule that Attorney General Bill Sorrell violated. Paul Heintz described it well in [Fair Game, "Whitewash," January 27]: "Wait a second. If handing a politician $10,000 while asking him to take official action on your behalf isn't a quid pro quo, what on Earth is?"
By giving Sorrell a pass, the investigation confirmed that Vermont has no rule prohibiting elected officials from taking official action on matters of interest to businesses that spend big money to reelect them.
Such money creates a conflict of interest, what Sorrell himself said were "IOUs, if you will, real or perceived to be there."
The conflict is between responsibility to provide honest service to Vermonters and responsibility to pay up on the IOU created by an envelope holding $10,000. Put aside for the moment that Sorrell decided in favor of the big donor: After getting such an envelope, a reasonable person in his position would view any participation in the matter as participation under the influence of the money.
Legislation must be adopted expressly requiring all Vermont elected officials to recuse themselves on matters in which the independence of judgment of a reasonable person would be materially affected by the election contributions and expenditures of individuals and businesses that are specially interested in the matters. An independent enforcement mechanism is also needed. Otherwise, envelopes with money will continue producing official acts distorted by conflicts of interest.
James Marc Leas
Nutrition Is Science
I want to express my concern about Hannah Palmer Egan's ["Whole Foods," January 20, about nutritional therapist training in Burlington]. It is a scary day when nonscientists can set up shop on street corners and charge people money for advice simply by taking a course. A fascination with nutrition, a love of food or having an appreciation of health does not make someone a qualified health practitioner. Nor does a nine-month training.
To clear any confusion, credentialed nutrition professionals hold degrees and certifications that are recognized by the Vermont Office of Professional Regulations. The OPR enforces educational criteria and rules of practice and allows the public to file a complaint if harm occurs.
Any "nutrition therapist" who is not a registered dietitian will practice in a way that offers no protection to the public. If they cause harm, there is no agency with which to file a complaint, and these "therapists" are also unlikely to have malpractice insurance.
Registered dietitians have a deep knowledge of the science and biochemistry of the human body. Registered dietitians must pass a comprehensive national exam and maintain their credentialing with 75 hours of continuing education every five years. They hold malpractice insurance. The University of Vermont has an outstanding six-year program in nutrition and dietetics.
The science of nutrition is exciting and evolving and holds tremendous healing potential when in the right hands.
Evans is a registered dietician and co-owner of Whole Health Nutrition in Winooski.
A Cut Above
Thanks for the great article on Dr. Bryan Huber and 3D-printed custom knee replacements ["Joint Chief," January 20]. I'm a 70-year-old, active beneficiary of his work. In my case, the custom implant was especially helpful because my femur and tibial plateau meet at an unusual angle. Dr. Huber said they "could have made it work" with an off-the-shelf replacement part, but the result probably wouldn't have been as successful.
How successful has it been? I was doing light hiking and biking within four weeks of the surgery last April, and I've skied almost every day since Stowe opened in November — all pain-free. Pretty remarkable stuff.
Plus, Dr. Huber is an incredibly nice guy who really cares about his patients, and Copley Hospital provides great, personalized care. The only downside I see to this article is that it may make him so popular I won't be able to book him if and when I need my other knee done. Overall, that's a good problem to have.
[Off Message: "Amid Tax Dispute, Redstone Developer Issues Ultimatum," February 2]: Redstone has decades of experience constructing and redeveloping buildings that make Burlington more accessible and walkable while enhancing our quality of life.
Access to housing in Burlington is among our city's greatest challenges. This is true for residents across the income spectrum. It is critically important that we encourage responsible development of new housing in the city to meet growing demand. And, at the same time, we must ensure that the costs associated with those buildings are such that development can occur.
High property taxes drive up rents, making our city less affordable, squeezing out too many. Property taxes are the largest operating expense for rental housing, directly contributing to the financial feasibility of potential projects. A recent assessment pending before the city for a new building in the Old North End has caused significant concern. The mayor and city council are currently considering how to handle the appeal. I am concerned that if this city assessment isn't modified, it is a threat to the future of housing development in Burlington
The reason is simple: Redstone and other good-intentioned developers will not be able address our city's housing needs because financing new development will not be feasible with such a high tax burden. This has serious implications for all of us who live and work in this city.
I am optimistic that Burlington will continue to address our housing crisis head-on in a proactive way that includes due consideration of property tax policy.
Hoekstra is Redstone's development manager.
I was dismayed that the article about Burlington's contaminated dirt problem only mentioned landfilling of dirt or changing the parameters of what is called contaminated ["What Lies Beneath: Burlington's Dirt Problem Isn't Cheap," February 3].
There has been work done in phytoremediation and bioremediation of contaminated soils for decades now. Fungus, plants, and the addition of compost and micro-organisms can clean up the mess we made.
Trucking and burying is not the only answer here. Given the costs discussed in the article, I'm surprised that active bioremediation and phytoremediation nearer to Burlington has not been discussed. This is not new science for these contaminants. It is likely to be cost-competitive and a learning experience, too.