Vouching for Gram
I've known and worked with Dave Gram over the years both as an Associated Press reporter and as the talk show host on WDEV Radio. He is one of the best. I'm very glad that you landed him. His first column certainly speaks well of your choice [Fair Game: "Grand Old Parting?" January 13]. Of course, no one can replicate Peter Freyne — but among those few who might be up to the task of matching his insight and analysis, I would certainly include Dave Gram.
'Take Back' What?
[Re "The Governor's Gambit," January 27]: Does Gov. Phil Scott's proposed revision to Act 250 seem, to other readers, to be demonstrating the same approach as the proposed changes in the Vermont State Colleges System's organization and operations, as determined by a "select" committee? Even with Donald Trump gone, the GOP faithful cling to its precepts, two of which are: Keep decision making to a few trusted allies, and cut costs and taxes for those who can best afford to pay them.
"Take Back Vermont" used to be a popular motto of the die-hard Republicans of yore. Back then, I tried to figure out who took Vermont away and where they took it. After living through decades of the Tea Party, Fox News, Rupert Murdoch media and Trumpsters' social media attempts to undo democracy, my questions have been answered.
I really enjoy Rachel Lindsay's wry, locally sourced humor. Love seeing places and situations that I recognize.
'We Cannot Remain Silent'
[Re "Nothing to Siege Here," January 20]: We cannot remain silent. We condemn the insurrection in our nation's capital on January 6. The continued support many give to violence and untruths subverts the Constitution and the rule of law. The process for electing the president was followed, and no evidence was produced to prove otherwise.
Freedom and democracy are a constant, messy and challenging struggle. Our ills are both national and transnational in origin and scope. The U.S. can and must do better than Germany did with the rise of Adolf Hitler in 1933. We cannot let our ignorance, fear and delusions rule our actions. Peaceful demonstrations for justice are not the same as armed insurrection with the potential outcome of destroying our democracy.
Violence is never the answer for maintaining a civil society. Peaceful protest, dialogue and compromise are necessary when seeking the common good. Dialogue builds; insurrection and violence destroy. We cannot grow into wellness until we address honestly and openly the events that have resulted in our current hostilities.
We face the multiple pandemics of racism, white supremacy, lies about our democratic institutions, and COVID-19 — all laying waste to our country and world. In this time of terrible loss, mistrust and fear, we have no choice — we must reach out and renew our faith in our mutual humanity. We need to create spaces in which we can talk with each other across divides and begin the work to create a nation with liberty and justice for all.
Schneck is clerk of the Northeast Kingdom Quaker Meeting.
Not So Healthy
[Re "Raising the Barbell," January 20]: After 11 years employed by a Vermont "health club," I can recall how many times both our employees and members have experienced colds and sickness. In going to a "fitness" facility to exercise, you use a lot of equipment: dumbbells, treadmills, mats and many other items. It is next to impossible to disinfect this equipment after each user — a perfect storm for spreading germs.
At this point, no matter what is said about safety, I would never use a fitness facility until this pandemic is over.
Vaccines, for Everyone's Sake
[Re Off Message: "Vaccine Appointments for Those 75 and Older to Open Monday," January 22]: This is an open letter to anyone who hesitates or chooses not to immunize themselves or their children. History: Have you ever seen pictures of someone with smallpox? Look on the internet. Millions took the risk to be immunized; now smallpox has been eradicated in the world population. My great-aunt and cousin had the opportunity to be immunized against diphtheria and were not. They both died of diphtheria, leaving behind a husband and small children.
Among my experiences as a student nurse: working at the pediatric hospital in Indianapolis, watching a 10-year-old with tetanus lying on his side with his body and head arched, breathing through a tube. Also at the hospital were large metal tubes. Inside each was a child with Bulbar polio who could not breathe on their own. Their head stuck out one end of the machine; the rest of their body lay limp inside the tube. Care was given through "portholes." They were in "iron lungs."
I cared for children recovering from polio with painful arms and legs. I would apply warm flannel to ease the pain so they could rest. These children were courageous. When I had children of my own, I was grateful that most parents had accepted the risk of an immunization for polio. Because of this, polio is almost eliminated in the United States. It causes me great emotional pain to hear of people refusing to take part in preventing these illnesses.
Toast the Host
Great story on Jane Lindholm ["Radio Head," January 13]. Thanks so much!
'Change or Die'
I appreciated Chelsea Edgar's "Major Fallout" piece [January 27]. As a graduate of an engineering school, I tend to look at things as problems to solve. The important qualification is: What problems are worthy of solving?
Our school's educational plan required a project "out in the real world" connecting engineering principles with projects of social impact — to help us understand what problems to focus on. Additionally, the plan required a research paper that combined elements of related humanities courses across disciplines to develop the other side of the brain. I chose King Lear.
I still find it amusing that I attended an engineering school and the only textbook I kept upon graduation was my Shakespeare compilation. Of the teachers I remember, my Shakespeare adviser, a Jimi Hendrix scholar, was the only one I maintained contact with upon graduation. Might explain why I'm writing this. While some subjects on their own may seem dispensable, they're crucial for developing a well-rounded worldview.
The call for reforming higher ed is not new. Whether we like it or not, it's an industry with an addressable market. Change or die.
So, considering that the University of Vermont's new president arrived from a technical institution, I'm wagering that he's seeking to consult data to drive rational decisions. Is there a disconnect between administrator and faculty salaries? Seems as if connecting the two with some sort of index would help align goals.
UVM has data for this, right? Just a thought.
Save Local Journalism
[Re Fair Game: "Killing the Messenger," January 20]: It is a sad trend: killing local journalism. Who loses? Everyone — not just the staff of the newspapers but the towns they serve. As with a restaurant, it is an unsustainable business model to cut the quality of the product, the number of menu items and customer service.
Column 'Does a Disservice'
As chair of the Ethan Allen Institute, I was disappointed in Dave Gram's Fair Game column of January 27, which criticized Rob Roper, president of the institute, for raising the fact, admitted by Gram, that we lack meaningful ballot security in Vermont's vote-by-mail program.
As Vermont legislators are currently considering expanding vote-by-mail for our elections, it is legitimate — indeed, highly important — to thoroughly investigate the effectiveness of ballot security measures under these new processes. It is also responsible and desirable to hold our elected officials accountable for the policies they put forward and expect them to be able to explain how these systems work. Gram is clearly hostile to these goals of transparency and accountability and does a disservice to your readers.
Gram is also dishonest in his tactic of trying to conflate the legitimate concern over real, demonstrable problems with our voting system in Vermont with conspiracy theories about the presidential election from other states. Neither the Ethan Allen Institute nor its president has ever made or supported theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. We have never condoned the behavior of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol; in fact, we have repeatedly condemned it. By trying to create a false guilt by manufactured associations, Gram again does truth and your readers a disservice.
'Financial Prowess' Doesn't Add Up
Miro Weinberger launched his political career from the springboard of the Burlington Telecom financial crisis. As Courtney Lamdin notes in ["Max-imum Effort," February 3], "Weinberger has touted his financial prowess in every election since." But "financial prowess" may be no more substantive than a campaign slogan like "proven leadership."
Annual management letters by independent auditors repeatedly note loose accounting practices year after year. For instance, the 2017 letter points out that the city should "Improve Capital Project Accounting." It expresses concern that "The City's general ledger for capital projects is very summarized," noting that "all parks' 'Special Projects' ... are accounted for in one general ledger fund. A similar situation exists where all 'Infrastructure Projects' are in only one fund."
The 2018 letter notes that the same deficiencies flagged in the previous year remain. The city responds that now it has hired a consultant, and then, yet again in 2019, identical deficiencies are highlighted and met with the identical city response, that a consultant has been retained.
This does not look like financial prowess.
Weinberger rests his fiscal reputation on the city's improved bond rating, but bond ratings improve for many reasons: Taxpayers passed a fiscal stability bond, and the economy was strong prior to the COVID-19 meltdown. This confirms that citizens support fiscal stability, but it proves nothing about the quality of financial management in city hall.
The annual management letters are evidence of a persistent pattern of loose accounting.
Weinberger didn't restore fiscal stability; the taxpayers did. And loose accounting practices prevail.