I have nothing to do with the Ethan Allen Institute, but Jack McMullen and Rob Roper are correct regarding Dave Gram's Fair Game column of January 27 [Feedback: "All is Not Well," February 3; "Column 'Does a Disservice,'" February 10]. It is shoddy journalism to imply that a legitimate concern about the possibility of election fraud in Vermont is the same as trumpeted lies about a stolen presidential election. In doing so, Seven Days brings the toxic political climate of the nation to Vermont. Look at the story with open eyes. No one wants election fraud, and if there is a chance it is even possible, our officials should investigate, not snidely dismiss. If it is not possible, they should say so clearly and explain why.
I so appreciate reading Paula Routly's personal stories [From the Publisher: "Sole Mates," February 10]. It cannot help but strengthen the connection between paper and reader. Thank you for sharing them with us. Seven Days makes everything brighter.
I do not enjoy grocery shopping these days. I continually challenge myself to come up with creative, nutritious meals with whatever I have on hand in order to procrastinate the dreaded chore. Only Wednesday mornings and the thought of a new issue of Seven Days can motivate me to go to the store and stock up!
Many heartfelt thanks for all you do.
'No Time for Rookies'
[Re Off Message: "Weinberger Raises $86K, Outpacing Tracy in Burlington Mayoral Race," January 31]: Moran Plant, pandemic recovery, Burlington High School downtown, fiscal responsibility — all require an articulate leader to respond to these challenges. It is refreshing to have Mayor Miro Weinberger represent the Queen City. He shows up, he listens, and he acts for all of the people. Miro appreciates our past and anticipates a changing future.
This is no time for rookies.
Funny Photos, Serious Candidate
I did enjoy Courtney Lamdin's story on the mayoral race ["Max-imum Effort," February 3], but the photos irked me. They show candidate Max Tracy being informal, smiling and, on the occasion of hearing that a number of Progressives won city council seats last March, cheering with his mouth open.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, on the other hand, is pictured as serious, so he may seem like a more serious person. I wish that Weinberger could have the joy, energy and commitment that Max has. I don't think joy invalidates Max's position; it shows that he has the energy to turn things around in this city.
I wish there were photos of Miro smiling and carefree — but I have never seen him acting goofy. If you tune in to a Burlington City Council meeting, you will see how calm and diplomatic Max is with the council and that he's serious and methodical about future plans for the city. Max has not shown himself to be impractical or reckless.
Funny photos could infer that Max might do something unwise, though in real life it has been Miro who has made large, costly mistakes. Some people are afraid that Max is against the police, will raise taxes, and really — how can they take seriously a mayor who does not own a car? Times are changing.
Max is just as interested as Miro in the police being fully funded. He does listen to reason, and he's smart. He is not young, silly or inexperienced. Max Tracy would be a better mayor than Miro Weinberger.
[Re Off Message: "Lawmakers May Roll Back Program That Credits Inmates for 'Good Time,'" January 21]: As a society, we throw away too many people. Taking away the rights of serious offenders and not allowing them to earn a reduction in their sentences promotes an atmosphere of fear and is a violation of their constitutional rights.
It is time for us, as a state and a country, to give those with the most serious offenses an opportunity to move forward in their lives. This requires that perpetrators acknowledge their crimes and accept that there is a victim created. If we only judge people by their weakest moments, we perpetuate the idea that some people are beyond redemption.
Our small state should be looking to allow every person, regardless of crime, the same opportunities. Those with "low-level" crimes are going to be given a reduction in their terms; for meeting certain criteria, the "good time" will be automatic.
Why not set a higher standard for the most serious crimes, and those who committed them, so they too can earn time off their sentences? If these offenders complete programming, maintain pro-social behaviors and acknowledge the harm they caused, why wouldn't we offer them "good time"? Allow those in this category to show that they are better than their weakest moment.
[Re "Major Fallout," January 27]: The University of Vermont is a dog wagged by two tails, to the detriment of achieving its mission: One tail is the massive capital debt of a $104 million STEM complex shoehorned into the campus; the other is its association with the medical center.
The resulting technical research and training institute discounts the part of the mission statement that promises "a comprehensive commitment to a liberal arts education." Rather than recruit students based on its mission, it diverts candidates' attention to STEM-related assets. Discounting classics, such as Latin and ancient Greek, does not recognize that much of STEM's vocabulary and many concepts derive from those civilizations.
Postsecondary education has become so expensive that high school seniors look for programs offering immediate remuneration to repay student loans upon graduation. Postgraduate degrees become financially out of reach for many baccalaureate graduates. Emphasizing STEM is shortsighted and does not consider a future saturated market that may then turn to graduates with well-rounded science, technology, engineering, arts/humanities and mathematics (STEAM) degrees.
I graduated from UVM in 1968 with departmental honors in ancient Greek. Harvard Graduate School of Design accepted me for its master's in architecture degree because my undergraduate program gave me a solid, well-rounded basis to succeed in my professional career. Classics remain very relevant today and an integral part of our history: Our Constitution's framers were well versed in classics; much of our governing system is based on the Roman republic and Athenian democracy. UVM is at a crossroads: Will it seek short-term financial gain or follow its mission?
[Re "Major Fallout," January 27]: The University of Vermont is a state university funded with state, and certain federal, taxpayer dollars. With taxpayer funding comes accountability — to the legislature and the citizens. We can continue to hear and argue about what a succession of UVM presidents, at least as far back as president Dan Fogel, have done with university funds for the liberal arts. Or we can press for an action that will give everyone facts about the funding and how it has been used.
My request to the governor and legislature is simple: Require a full state audit of UVM finances. All funding sources, accounts and how they have been used, from at least 2014, should be audited by the state. This would include not just Vermont state tax funds but all funding sources.
Some years ago, UVM aimed to change its development office to 501c3 status, which would mean that only the state or the federal government can see its books, and even that might take a court order. As someone who has worked for million-dollar nonprofit organizations and seen misuse of federal grant funds, I say so be it. All UVM funds should be audited before the university receives any further taxpayer funding from the State of Vermont.
What's Next — Ads for Oxy?
I was enjoying reading your January 27 edition until I reached page 33. My first thought was that you were writing a piece on tobacco advertising in the 1950s, and then I realized this was a current full-page ad for Lucky Strike. Do you realize that 1,000 Vermonters die each year from smoking? That Vermont spends $348 million in health care costs per year due to tobacco-related illnesses, and that each Vermonter pays $866 in state and federal taxes related to tobacco use? Another disturbing statistic: 10,000 Vermont kids now under 18 will die prematurely from smoking.
I realize that Seven Days needs revenue sources to continue publishing, but is this the best you can do? Why not get a full-page ad for OxyContin? In 2018, 67,367 people died from a drug overdose in the U.S., two-thirds of which involved an opioid. Every year, 480,000 people in the U.S die from smoking. The printing of these ads contributes to this.
Publisher's note: Seven Days rejects advertisements that promote illegal products, hate or violence. We refrain from dictating or censoring the messaging in ads we do publish, as long as they don't include discriminatory language, make fraudulent claims or spread misinformation.
'The Right Questions'
The story by Dave Gram "Audit the Auditor!" [Fair Game, February 3] illustrates why there should be no automatic exemptions from the spotlight for people empowered to represent Vermont citizens. Everyone should be exposed to evaluation and review.
Clearly, Auditor Doug Hoffer has a lot of nerve — nerve for doing his job and doing it well.
The job of seeking transparency and accountability in Vermont is not for the weak of heart. Hoffer has a long history of asking the right questions and seeking measurable results in important and diverse matters within our health care industry, state business and construction projects, not to mention the EB-5 affair, environmental reviews such as the Lake Champlain cleanup and in demanding better outcomes in complex projects like OneCare Vermont.
It is apparent, as reported in the Fair Game article, that there are detractors to the auditor and his office, but let us not be diverted by howls of righteous indignation by those who have reason to fear public exposure and evaluation.
Libertoff was the longtime director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health.
Inside the Auditor's Office
[Re Fair Game, February 3]: I served as Auditor Doug Hoffer's non-audit investigator from March 2019 to April 2020. I resigned to work for the state as a civil servant. I would like to contest two points.
1. Doug claims that none of this is political at all. Nonsense. Non-audit reports allow him to stretch his legs without the constraints of a real audit. He micromanaged the variables, years and colors on charts for weeks until the right trends popped. He chose whether to bold a word, whether to adjust for inflation and whether to weigh equity. He vetoed a map because he had been "fighting Republicans" about the variable for 20 years. As a political appointee, I could be fired at will, and I kept that in mind as I worked.
2. Dave Gram says we need a state auditor to hold government accountable. I agree! But the non-audit reports do not hold folks accountable. The Clean Water report represented the issue with the nuance of a car ad: polished descriptions, pretty pictures and dollar values, but no sense of the metaphorical loan and maintenance costs. The Remote Worker report shot a fish in a barrel, and Doug sprinkled "but fors" on the remains in a final draft. They were not formal program evaluations but stage-managed commentaries woven into a broader political strategy.
It is legit to hold his work to account. How can we know he is effective, "but for" winning as an incumbent against Linda Joy Sullivan and Cris Ericson? C'mon.
Max on Energy
[Re "Max-imum Effort," February 3]: Mayoral candidate Max Tracy's commitment to climate issues is much more consequential than his use of a bike rather than a car. Here is one example.
The McNeil wood-chip plant generates electricity using steam. The water that condenses after the steam does its work is still very hot. In many cities around the world, this heat is sent through superinsulated hot water pipes to heat buildings. It could heat homes and public buildings in nearby parts of Burlington, greenhouses in the Intervale and more. The value of that much energy is immense, and it is now being sent up in a white plume to warm the planet instead of people.
Max has made a serious study of the technicalities of cogeneration, gone to conferences, talked to experts. He knows about the many obstacles, but he is open to the possibilities of this and many other things city government can do about energy.
Cogeneration, public transportation that really works for people — bold initiatives like these can only happen with a mayor whose values and passions are committed to them. Max Tracy has that kind of vision.
Loved the Last Issue
Good articles in the Valentine's Day issue [Love & Marriage Issue, February 10]. I especially liked "Just One Look" — moving, and the couples were so diverse!
I also liked "Love Is the Cure," about the letters from the sanitarium. I just finished reading a novel by Sue Miller called The World Below, which includes just such a love in just such a place. Thank you.