Letters to the Editor (2/28/18) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (2/28/18)


Published February 28, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated March 8, 2018 at 10:49 a.m.

Driscoll — This Time

[Re "Infinite Possibility? Mayoral Candidate Culcleasure Aims to Lead From Behind," February 14]: I find myself strangely heartened to hear Infinite Culcleasure's campaign is not simply about this election. Though I think his campaign is inspiring and represents some of the best of Burlington, he isn't getting my vote. I'm glad he's offering fresh perspective and outsider ideas. Some of those ideas are great, but I think others are muddled or unworkable. And while he has great philosophical and large-scale insights, he hasn't demonstrated the clear understanding of government that he needs to enact his vision. For just one example, I recently heard him suggest that he might find funding for one of his proposals by cutting the salaries of the highest-paid teachers. This appears to show that after 12 weeks of campaigning, he has yet to learn basic facts about the job that he seeks: The mayor has no authority over school budgeting. 

I'm voting for Carina Driscoll, because I think she's the only candidate who combines good ideas for a more equitable, vibrant city with administrative and policy experience to bring those ideas to life. But if the movement truly does continue long after March 6, it has my full support in fighting to bring the voices and needs of our city's most marginalized to the center of the conversation. And if Culcleasure stays in politics, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he blossoms into a great leader and earns my vote in the future.

Ben Dube


A Matter of Judgment

[Re "Carina Driscoll Says She'll Run for Burlington Mayor Her Way," December 13, 2017]: This election comes down to: Who would you rather manage your finances? On one hand, you have Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, who's received multiple credit upgrades without raising general property taxes, received the first clean audit in 15 years and won a national municipal accounting award for strong financial management.

On the other hand, we have Carina Driscoll, whose dealings with her mother, Jane O'Meara Sanders, at Burlington College are at best bad optics; at worst, nepotism. After O'Meara Sanders pushed the woodworking school through, more than $500,000 in student tuition went to her daughter's school.

Shouldn't Driscoll have asked herself some simple ethical questions, such as: Should her proposal have gone through an open bidding process to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest? And: Should she be leveraging her familial relationships in a college that people know is struggling to survive?

Driscoll's financial judgment worked out for her, not so much for Burlington College. I believe the whole deal comes from Driscoll's sense of entitlement. It's the type of hubris that's symptomatic of dynasties and something Burlingtonians should be wary of when we consider supporting our own. The only positive outcome of Driscoll's Burlington College deal is that it makes choosing easier.

Weinberger carries no such baggage.

David Aiken


Mr. Smith Goes ... Wherever

It's high time for respected publications such as Seven Days to finally examine the famous proverbial revolving door through which Mike Smith has been coming and going with impunity [Off Message: "Media Note: Mike Smith Leaving WDEV Radio," February 8].

One day he's a government employee — in the governor's office, no less.

Then he's out with the old and in with the new — job, that is, temporarily allegedly helping a bankrupt college renew its tarnished legacy.

When he's done with that lucrative but temporary contract, he's suddenly a radio or TV commentator, allegedly nonpartisan.

The day after that, he's a columnist for VTDigger.org.

Then he's a radio talk show host again.

Then he suddenly announces he's quitting the radio and newspaper jobs. And he provides absolutely no public explanation.

Then, lo and behold, he announces he's taking a new job in the corporate world.

A guy who travels back and forth between politics — including high-ranking government appointments and the corporate world — needs to be subject to the same rules of nonpartisan fairness as would a journalist.

Is he a journalist? Seems so, depending on what day of the week it is.

That is what's insidious about the revolving door through which Smith passes: No one ever forces him to explain to whom he is accountable.

Worse, by jumping from one job to the next, he shrewdly avoids having to account for his politics, and no one can ever tell who his master is.

Ted Cohen


Editor's note: Seven Days' Alicia Freese wrote about Smith and his job-hopping in a June 17, 2015, cover story entitled "Interim Fixer-in-Chief."

The 411 on 911

Since Seven Days reported that Burlington would vote on whether to regionalize dispatch services, six more municipalities — Colchester, Milton, Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston and Winooski — have warned of this item on their March ballots [Off Message: "Burlington Residents to Vote on Regional 911 Call Center," December 18, 2017].

This proposal would have significant operational and budget impacts in all participating towns and cities. Tens of thousands of voters are about to weigh in on the proposal, without much press to inform them.

An affirmative vote in at least three towns would initiate the formation of a special taxing district — aka a union municipal district — called the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority, which would pool our emergency dispatch resources in a single location.

Please note the majority of dispatchers countywide are not in favor of this proposal for a variety of reasons. Nor were local dispatchers involved in its top-down creation.

Having attended 10 meetings of the Joint Survey Committee that drafted the CCPSA agreement — and being the only person in the room each month with no direct ties to public safety — I was able to view the proceedings at arm's length.

I've sought to add value to the larger conversation by creating an accessible website to explain to fellow voters the basic issue, pros and cons, etc. This website was designed to provide an unbiased overview of the issue. Please take a few minutes before voting on March 6 to visit chitcountydispatch.org.

Irene Wrenner


Editor's note: Katie Jickling reports on the dispatch proposal in her Town Meeting Day roundup.

Where There's Smoke...

[Re "Heady Times: Eli Harrington Champions Pot in Vermont," February 7]: Eli Harrington may be responsible in the use of marijuana, but how many are not, and what will be the fate of them and those affected by them? I guess we'll all find out as this thing unfolds, yes? A final note from the "old school": The legalization of drugs still sends the wrong message. It is "freedom" until it is bondage.

Thomas Welsh


Gun Language Can Misfire

[Re Off Message: "In Historic Shift, Vermont's GOP and Democratic Leaders Embrace Gun-Control Measures," February 22]: The phrase "gun control" is heavily charged with opinions, commitments, power, control and, of course, money. It is not a phrase that regularly permits civil dialogue for any length of time. Emotions flare quickly. It would be good to have another phrase, since both the words "gun" and "control" mean different things to different people. When the writers of the Constitution wrote, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," they obviously were not privy to the future invention of multi-caliber individual weapon systems. So perhaps some guns need to have controls around them while others do not. Is that such a radical idea? It does not need to be all or nothing. It is much more complicated than that.

We need to start using language that allows people of different opinions to discuss the senselessness and tragedy of the mass murders of our innocent citizens in these last years so that something can actually happen to impact this dreadful reality. The first outcome would hopefully be making multi-caliber assault weapons unmarketable to the general public. I applaud Gov. Phil Scott's interest in having a dialogue regarding controlling these assault weapons. I am skeptical that the gun lobby will allow such change. I have heard some say that the regulation of firearms is the start of a slippery slope. We are already on one of senseless mass murder.

Christine Ketcham


Saluting Two Schools

I am writing in support of the students and authorities at Montpelier High School who decided to fly the Black Lives Matter flag for Black History Month [802Much: "Banner Year," January 31]. This is a very important issue that needs to be in the forefront and discussed in a meaningful way. The mere fact that so many people, especially non-Vermonters, are trying to suppress the issue shows that the time for discussion is now.

I am as white as they come, but I have never judged people for the color of their skin or their race. I judge people for their actions and how they treat other beings. That is not to say that if I am walking along and see someone I don't know nearby I am not going to be more alert — particularly when I have my family with me.

More people need to stand up for what is right, and common decency for all beings is what is right. So I applaud the work of everyone at both Montpelier and Burlington high schools for the great work they are doing [Off Message: "Burlington School Board Approves Flying the Black Lives Matter Flag," February 13]. I hope that more schools and organizations will follow their lead and take steps to show their support for those who are treated as less than equal. It does not have to be BLM, #MeToo or any other movement. It should just be a genuine way of showing your support.

Ian Ross


Gun-Control Leader

[Re Off Message: "At Statehouse Rally, Vermont Students Join Call for Gun Control," February 20]: I appreciated the recent statement from Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger thanking Gov. Phil Scott for his timely and appropriate decision to finally consider new gun legislation. 

The mayor's statement could have easily focused on his own solid and long-standing advocacy for closing gun-show loopholes. He modestly chose not to do so. But I would like to give him the credit he deserves.

I first met Weinberger when I was advocating for sensible gun laws at the Vermont Statehouse. His personal commitment and activism on these issues were remarkable. In addition to speaking out strongly on universal background checks, he fought tirelessly to advance Burlington's voter-approved charter changes on firearms storage and restricting guns in bars. He continues to do so.

Knowing him now for more than five years, I have no doubt that he will continue to be a state leader on gun issues and school safety.

While many are thankful for what is now seen as a sea change on these controversial issues, we should also be sure to acknowledge those, like Mayor Weinberger, who had the dedication and political courage to lead the effort from the beginning. 

Sen. Michael Sirotkin

South Burlington

Sirotkin is a state senator representing Chittenden County.

Mayoral Reporting Mess

I am disappointed by Seven Days' coverage of the Burlington mayoral race. Your "reporting" has done little to educate the populace regarding the records and platforms of the candidates. The latest piece about Infinite Culcleasure ["Infinite Possibility? Mayoral Candidate Culcleasure Aims to Lead From Behind," February 14] seemed to be written just so you could whine that, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, he declined further interviews with Seven Days. There was nothing new in the article.

I am supporting Carina Driscoll for mayor. Your coverage of her campaign has been minimal and, when existent, has focused on titillation rather than substantive information. You have not covered her accomplishments as a school board member, state legislator, entrepreneur or member of Weinberger's transition team on finances six years ago. You have not interviewed her about her platforms such as sustainable mixed-use affordable development, lake cleanup, increasing access to senior housing, leveraging partnerships for small business employment and education, increasing truly affordable housing in part through changing zoning to allow tiny houses and more shared living space, or building a stronger relationship between the city and the schools.

Hearing Driscoll speak on the issues shows she has a firm grasp on the budget and financial arenas, knows how city government works, and has well-thought-out, concrete ideas for refocusing our resources to build and support a thriving city for all. Driscoll has the ideas, experience, ethic and skills we need. It is too bad that Seven Days dropped the ball on responsible journalism this election season.

Debbie Landauer


Biased Portrayal

I am deeply disappointed in Seven Days' portrayal of Ebony Nyoni in the recent article "Winooski Candidate Ebony Nyoni Has Competition — and Legal Trouble" [February 21]. It does not do justice to her good character, the crucial work that she has done or the value she would undoubtedly add to Winooski's city council. From the title of the article, the layout of the photographs and the pertinent information not included to the irrelevant gossip that is included, the entire article is overtly biased against her. 

In the time that I have had the pleasure of knowing Nyoni, I have been continually impressed with her vision, leadership, optimism and grit. She is an asset to our entire state. Last August, I had the pleasure of working with Nyoni closely on the My Sister's Keeper Challenge Conference. She and I not only organized a powerful, successful women's conference but also became good friends. I've spent many hours at the Shop 4 Change, where my children love to play with Nyoni's small dog, and I have introduced her to my husband, extended family and neighbors. I feel very grateful to have her in my life as a leader, an inspiration, a colleague and a friend. 

Seven Days, in your tactless treatment of people of color, especially women of color, you have chosen to uphold white supremacy, and you need to do better.

Sabrina Leonard


Vote Against Tobacco

Burlingtonians can weigh in on a public health issue on March 6: recommending to lawmakers to raise the age of the use of tobacco products from 18 to 21. We had a bill in the state Senate last year that would have accomplished that, but it was just two votes short of passing [Off Message: "Vermont Senate Rebuffs Attempt to Raise Smoking Age," April 25, 2017].

Everyone knows smoking is bad for you: It causes all kinds of cancer, from the mouth to the kidneys, and it can lead to diabetes and strokes. One thousand Vermonters die each year of causes linked to smoking, and smoking accounts for more than 28 percent of all cancer-related deaths in Vermont. It is estimated that raising the age from 18 to 21 will reduce smoking-related deaths by 10 percent and will save the lives of 10,000 Vermont youth who are now age 18.

I was a strong proponent of raising the age when this bill was in the Vermont Senate, and I hope you will vote in favor of this measure. Smoking is an addiction and, like all addictions, it kills. Ninety-five percent of current adult smokers say they started before they were 21, according to the Vermont Department of Health. As I know from personal experience, you don't always know when you're a teen where decisions you make will take you later, and beginning addictive behavior leads to lifelong problems. We aren't doing our teens any favor by giving them license to start smoking. Instead, let's help to make their lives less difficult.

Sen. Debbie Ingram


This Isn't 'Cop Land'

I'm not sure what's happened to Seven Days lately, but red-herring headlines seem to be part of it. In the article about Vermont State Police Trooper Christopher Brown ["Questions About a Trooper Arose Long Before Deadly Shootings," February 21], the headline indicates "questions" about his unfortunate brushes with armed and either drunk or mentally unstable individuals and his need to take his weapon out of its holster to defend himself. However, the article is about one man, Robert Smallidge, and the investigation after the incident involving him. A good deal of speculation is put forth, Fox News-style and, in the end, the writer seems to be quite put out that Smallidge killed himself, short-circuiting any potential legal action against Trooper Brown — or other self-perpetuating juicy news articles.

I've had interactions with Trooper Brown and found his demeanor professional and efficient. He is the poster child for the VSP and professional law enforcement. I sympathize with him and the predicaments he has found himself involved in over the last few years, but I could never believe that he is the officer this writer tries to make him out to be. No officer of the law wants to go home knowing he or she is the cause of someone's demise. Ever.

This isn't Cop Land, and Brown isn't Harvey Keitel. Sorry, but that's how it is.

Christopher Maloney


Candidate's Corrections

There are a couple of things that don't add up in "Infinite Possibility? Mayoral Candidate Culcleasure Aims to Lead From Behind" [February 14], which was pretty heavy on the innuendos and light on direct quotes.

First, while noting that I wouldn't sit for a one-on-one interview, Katie Jickling failed to disclose that I had already sat with her for an hour in a previous interview and that my primary concern was that I wasn't quoted very much, which leaves people open to someone else's interpretation. 

I never expressed any concern about the color illustration making me look like Kanye West; where did that come from? Nor did I express any concerns about a perpetuated stereotype of black men. The only time I have spoken directly about race in this campaign was in response to questions about the mural. 

The article refers to a 90-minute meeting during which I outlined "complaints and said [I] had no interest in speaking with Seven Days again." That is simply untrue. It is also misleading to leave out the fact that there were other individuals present at that meeting, who actually spoke more than I did.

If you care at all about accuracy, please quote what I said in that 90-minute meeting, as well as what other members of the campaign had to say.

Infinite Culcleasure


Culcleasure is a candidate for mayor of Burlington.

In Defense of Nyoni

In response to ["Winooski Candidate Ebony Nyoni Has Competition — and Legal Trouble," February 21], I feel compelled to share some of Ebony Nyoni's significant contributions to Vermont. As human beings, we have complicated stories. Our lives often include many chapters with numerous twists and turns. If we only read one page or one chapter of someone's story, we only gain one opinion of the person. For a full picture, we must commit to reading more. With this thought, I'm sharing the tremendous accomplishments I have recently witnessed in Nyoni's story that weren't highlighted:

• Last January, when I was first dipping my toes into racial justice, it was motivating to have a local chapter of Black Lives Matter to connect to. As cofounder of the organization, Nyoni had the courage and vision to launch BLMVT in an overwhelmingly white state where racism shows up in both overt and covert ways. The foundation she created provided an important entry point for new activists.

• Last August, Nyoni was an organizer and presenter at the inaugural My Sister's Keeper Challenge Conference, bringing together women from all over the state to examine racism in Vermont. 

• As someone who works in the restorative justice field, I have witnessed increased referrals related to racial harassment and have been thankful that Nyoni serves the community by providing voice, support and assistance to Vermonters hurt by these harmful actions.

I look forward to the growth of BLMVT as the organization enriches our conversations about the role that race and racism play in our lives. 

Karen Dolan

Essex Junction