What Would Freyne Do?
Thank you for resurrecting the great Peter Freyne [20/20 Hindsight: "Bernie & Howard," February 17]. It is so refreshing to flash back to his insightful and witty takes on Ol' Bernardo, Jeezum Jim and all of the Vermont politicos he brought to life for us readers. Wish he were on the campaign trail with Ol' Bernardo these days. What fun that would be.
Neil E. Callahan
Same Deal — for Everyone
An ultimatum from Redstone's Erik Hoekstra demanding lower property taxes will not endear him to the community, many of whom are paying higher tax rates than those that outrage him [Off Message: "Amid Tax Dispute, Redstone Developer Issues Ultimatum," February 2]. Nevertheless, property tax inequities are pervasive in Burlington, and Hoekstra may have a legitimate gripe.
The $3 million assessment on his North Winooski building amounts to $150 per square foot of living space, whereas Packard Lofts, one of Miro Weinberger's projects, is assessed far less at $100 a square foot. Hoekstra's building offers no striking views; Weinberger's is on a bluff overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Since when do lake views make a property less valuable?
On the other hand, if you're a homeowner or a landlord with just a few units, you're likely paying more than either of these developers. Assessments of $175 or $180 per square foot are common. It's time to end the good deals, special deals and raw deals. It's time for all property owners to pay their fair share in a fair deal.
The '86 Percent'
It's worth noting that clean, renewable energy is flourishing in Vermont, despite the opposition of Annette Smith and her band of followers ["Annette Smith Is a Lightning Rod in the Renewable-Energy Debate," February 10].
In fact, a national report released by the Solar Foundation on February 9 shows that Vermont ranked third in the nation for solar jobs per capita in 2015. In describing the positive outlook for solar in our state, the report said: "Vermont may be the second smallest state by population, but it has emerged as a solar powerhouse."
That's good news because we need more clean energy. State law calls for a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. And our state's Comprehensive Energy Plan — just updated in December — outlines how Vermont can meet 90 percent of our energy needs with renewable power by 2050.
Vermonters know that by tapping our wind and solar resources, we can save money and cut our use of dirty fossil fuels. These fossil fuels take hundreds of millions of dollars out of state while contributing to air and water pollution, as well as global warming.
That's why clean energy is so popular. For instance, a statewide poll conducted for Vermont Public Interest Research Group in 2014 found 71 percent support for building wind turbines along Vermont's ridgelines. It also found 86 percent support for the state's ambitious 90 percent renewable energy goal.
So let's figure out how we can build our clean energy future together, not stagnate in the dirty energy of the past.
Burns is executive director of VPIRG.
Wedding Isn't War
I was thoroughly disgusted by Jackie Watson comparing her job as a wedding planner to the stress of a first responder or a military service member ["Dream Weavers," February 10]. I am neither, but I have friends and family who are military veterans. The stress of trying to get "a specific linen" to overprivileged wedding clients is not comparable to the stress of first responders managing an accident scene with mangled bodies or being in a standoff with an armed person. Many of our servicemen and -women who are overseas for extended periods of time are away from their families, not knowing if they will make it out of a war zone alive!
Jackie, you need to rethink the way you phrase the stress of your job, and think about the real stress and hardship that people are facing to protect and serve the whole community daily. Please consider applying your sensitivity in selecting color schemes to choosing words sensitive to your potential clients, who should be equally disgusted.
[Re "Annette Smith Is a Lightning Rod in the Renewable-Energy Debate," February 10]: Terri Hallenbeck's profile of Annette Smith was welcome, but I take exception to her description of Smith as "self-contradictory" for opposing industrial renewables while powering her own off-the-grid home with solar. This is like saying you can't oppose whaling if you eat sardines.
To her credit, Smith can tell the difference between appropriately scaled, well-sited projects and those that impinge on critical wildlife habitat, threaten wetlands and headwater streams, damage the health of people living nearby, and (via the selling of renewable-energy credits) enable higher greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. Too bad the Public Service Board can't do the same.
It's been hard sometimes in Vermont to figure out what to do about renewable-energy siting ["Annette Smith Is a Lightning Rod in the Renewable-Energy Debate," February 10]. When Vermonters see wind turbines and solar panels as ugly, unwanted development, or feel personally affected by those projects, values of thriftiness, independence and good environmental choices clash with our values of self-determination and preserving natural beauty.
But we only have three options with renewable energy. We could keep going as we have and bring on worst-case climate change, with more Tropical Storm Irenes, new pests, refugees, crop failure and all the rest; we can give up technology and go live in caves; or we can put everything we've got into renewable energy and the smart grid.
We already know what we need to do; the fear of change shouldn't cloud our judgment. Let's not fall into the trap of thinking the view out our windows today is more important than saving our world for tomorrow.
Until we all come around to supporting renewable energy, those other worlds will get more and more real. To steer us into that brighter future, the United States needs to lead the way, and no U.S. state is as forward-thinking and agile as Vermont. If we can be the first state to ban slavery and the first state to create civil unions, we can also lead the rest of the country in this. Let's please do exactly that.