Flout Versus Flaunt
It was kind of distressing that Terri Hallenbeck didn't know the difference between "flout" and "flaunt" in her description of Sen. David Zuckerman's fundraising efforts for his campaign for lieutenant governor [Fair Game, February 3]. He apparently flouted Vermont's laws pertaining to public financing.
Making it worse was that your copy editor, if you have one, missed the error, too. And then, to cap it off, someone selected the erroneous passage — "Sen. David Zuckerman is flaunting the rules, openly and deliberately" — as a compelling pull quote, placed prominently on the page. It made my skin crawl.
Editor's note: Every story in Seven Days gets edited and proofread — twice. So we're all guilty as charged, although the "usage discussion" on the Merriam-Webster website suggests the two words are often confused. In our defense, flaunt can mean "to show a lack of respect for (something, such as a rule)" and "to treat contemptuously." But flout is clearly the better word choice.
On the Cold Case
[Re "A New Major Crimes Unit Faces a Growing Caseload," February 3]: It's a great idea to form a team to work on cold cases of murders and missing persons in Vermont, but without the time and resources, it's a daunting task.
Instead, what about creating a core of long-term, reputable and highly skilled volunteers? Some that come to mind are web sleuths, forensic scientists, research specialists, a media professional and someone to digitize those cases. Champlain College?
With the right people and a firm commitment, you might get better results.
Yoga for the People
As a yoga instructor and practitioner, I was excited to read the Wellness Issue, including the story about a young lady heading off for a yoga competition ["Striking a Pose," January 20]. Her dedication to her practice is truly incredible.
That said, I was extremely disappointed that other studios and types of yoga were not highlighted in the issue. Yoga is much more than taut, tattooed bodies perfectly displaying difficult poses, and shame on the author for over-sexualizing this woman's beautiful practice. Yoga is about our minds and bodies connecting with our breath and spirit. It empowers us as individuals to work through difficult situations in our lives and to get in touch with our inner selves.
Seven Days should have highlighted the many studios in town that have been present for a long time. Sangha Studio is a not-for-profit, donation-based studio that makes yoga affordable and accessible for all. They also do outreach in the community, providing yoga to populations in need. The Wellness Collective hosts incredible classes and amazing holistic workshops. Sukha Yoga provides dynamic and strong daily classes and awesome workshops. The LoveYourBrain Foundation provides a teacher training so that our community can better serve traumatic brain injury survivors. Evolution Physical Therapy + Yoga is committed to children and family yoga. The list goes on.
Yoga in Burlington provides so much more than just a place to get hot and fit. It has a strong presence in our town that gives back to our community and empowers individuals to make real, positive change.
Editor's note: Seven Days has organized the first-ever Vermont Yoga Week to encourage people to sample Burlington's numerous yoga studios and their various approaches. Drop-in classes cost $7 at participating studios from February 22 to 28.
Vermont Needs Ethics
In Terri's Hallenbeck's Fair Game [February 3], she details Sen. David Zuckerman's campaign finance challenges and the case against 2014 lieutenant governor candidate Dean Corren. What she failed to point out was that the man who assessed a whopping $70,000 fine for a mistake worth a couple hundred dollars is also mired in his own campaign finance problem. That, of course, is Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell. Hallenbeck did not make reference to the personal antipathy Sorrell has had for his Vermont Progressive Party neighbors over the years.
One of the worst-kept secrets in Vermont politics is the dislike Burlington Progressives hold for the city Democrats and vice versa. As I write this, I am not completely sure whether any of that personal history affected the path this case has taken to the courthouse, and that's the point. Under our current system, the level of transparency is poor. Did Sorrell's own campaign finance concerns lead to a historically disproportionate fine?
Progressive State Sen. Anthony Pollina has introduced ethics reform legislation; Senate Bill 184 creates a state ethics board. Vermont is one of only a handful of states without an independent ethics board. The cost of not putting a cop on the street to create order in Montpelier is much greater than whatever financial outlay it might require. Please support S. 184.
A Candidate With Values
We've been hearing a lot about how Sen. Bernie Sanders' message hasn't changed for more than 30 years. We have a candidate running for lieutenant governor in Vermont who also is consistent in his message. Sen. David Zuckerman is a strong supporter of public financing and has been for years [Fair Game, February 3]. I appreciate that he is highlighting the need for clear interpretation of the current public financing law and working to create a level playing field for any publicly financed candidate.
I was told at David's kickoff last December that my check would not be accepted because it exceeded the $50-per-individual limit. Dave clearly explained why he chose not to wait to start his campaign, his desire to qualify for public financing and his intention to continue with a traditionally financed campaign if public financing was not a viable option.
Some people think obtaining public financing is an easy way to get money, but it's not easy to find 750 individuals from all around the state who are ready to contribute at the start of a campaign. As of the last campaign finance report, one of Dave's opponents had raised more than $103,000 from only 89 people, not all of them Vermonters.
Dave's been forthcoming with his intentions: Vermont needs more forward-thinking candidates like him whose vision supports all possible candidates, whether they can afford to run or not. I don't see his effort as a "quandary" so much as a bold move to question the status quo.
As a taxpayer and consumer of liquor, I am appalled that the State of Vermont remains in the business of selling booze ["Old Fashioned? Some Say It's Time to Update the Liquor Department," February 3]. First, it's immoral; it's also inefficient and inappropriate.
State Auditor Doug Hoffer found that having the state operate a monopoly business wasn't clearly cost-effective. Then why do it? The union's interest is solely about jobs for state employees.
I can't get the brands of liquor I like at Vermont liquor stores. The owner shrugs and says that getting the Vermont Department of Liquor Control to order and stock products that aren't mainstream is time-consuming and frustrating. Worrying about warehousing alcohol isn't necessary, if that responsibility is managed effectively by a host of private resources that would do a better job. Wine and beer sales do not burden the state government. There's the model.
The state monopoly doesn't do as good a job of marketing and selling liquor as diverse, private-sector, free-market players would. Vermont should get out of the business entirely and stick to enforcing liquor laws and collecting taxes. Derive a tax rate that will balance any perceived revenue implications, and shed the cost of administration and operation.
Privatization would result in more liquor stores, more product sold and taxed, more jobs, and more sales tax and commercial and employment tax revenue. Not to mention happier customers and shopkeepers.
Forget moral arguments about free market capitalism driving more consumption. This is New England, the cradle of liberty. State of Vermont, get your hands off our booze and your nose out of the business of adult citizens exercising their rights.
Regulations for a Reason
So, pesky environmental regulations are slowing the rapid pace of development in Burlington ["What Lies Beneath: Burlington's Dirt Problem Isn't Cheap," February 3].
In their laments about the high cost of disposing of contaminated soil, Mayor Miro Weinberger and attorney Brian Dunkiel overlook that existing standards were developed to protect human health and the environment, and are based on sound science, not to facilitate inexpensive and unfettered development.
The risks from contaminated soil are not restricted to exposure to the soil. Contaminated soil can leach toxic levels of chemicals into groundwater and drinking water. Consequently, they are required to be disposed of in certified lined landfills.
It's apparently not enough that Act 52 gave developers an exemption, allowing them to circumvent these requirements for PAH-, arsenic- and lead-contaminated soils. The neighbors of Leddy Park know all too well how this ends. As do the citizens of Flint, Mich.
It is this hubris that takes a toll on the communities that receive our contaminated soils. Years of toxicological data exist, and evaluation of more recent scientific data generally results in lowering, rather than raising, risk-based limits.
Rather than complain that existing regulations slow development in Burlington, the administration should be concerned with safely remediating these sites, before the contaminants leach into Lake Champlain and our drinking water supply. That would be actual public service.
Dems the Breaks
I heard Paul Heintz on WVMT last Wednesday talking about [Fair Game: "Bern, Baby, Bern," February 10]. The real losers in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary were governors Madeleine Kunin, Howard Dean and Peter Shumlin, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. They all supported Hillary Clinton, and she tooted their horns in the last debate, but it did nothing to move voters. While I am a political junkie and not a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I find it interesting that nothing has been said about their endorsements and how ineffective they were. I wonder where Congressman Peter Welch stands?
Bernie Is a Folk Rapper
Though it's been well over a year since Seven Days interviewed me for the article [Off Message: "Bernie Sanders Recorded a Folk Album. No Punchline Required," September 17, 2014], I think it's worth commenting on this piece because it continues to be quoted by other news organizations and has helped perpetuate an irrelevant aspect of the recording: that Sen. Bernie Sanders can't sing. I'll take part of the blame, since I may have overemphasized Bernie's lack of musical prowess in the interview.
Just to set the record straight, Bernie does not sing on his 1987 album. He speaks. Once I realized that he was not a singer, we opted for a spoken-word approach, similar to Rex Harrison's performance in My Fair Lady. We called it folk-rap.
I suspect that most media outlets and late-night comedians have based their entire opinion of the album on a 30-second preview of "This Land Is Your Land" — admittedly the most amusing part, but they're missing the real substance of the album. With the exception of Stephen Colbert, media people have continued to emphasize the "Bernie can't sing" theme.
Meanwhile, the buyer comments on Amazon and iTunes paint an entirely different picture. Those who have taken time to listen to the entire album, past Bernie's Brooklyn accent to the message itself, have given the album high praise. Musically, it may sound a bit dated to some people, but its message is more relevant than ever.
Todd R. Lockwood