Win Is Not a Mandate
[Re Off Message: "Magic Number: How Weinberger Won the Mayor's Race by 129 Votes," March 4]: Two thoughts about the Burlington election:
1. With ranked-choice voting, Max Tracy would be the new mayor. Is it any wonder that the Democrats on the Burlington City Council and Mayor Miro Weinberger fought so hard to shield the mayoral contest from this eminently democratic voting system? Last Tuesday's results represent a textbook example of why RCV should apply to all electoral choices.
2. The total turnout for this important election was just under 39 percent of registered voters. That means that, with universal mailing of ballots, 61 percent of voters literally threw their votes away — or, hopefully, recycled them. Yes, there are certainly some distractions this year, but the low turnout continues a troubling pre-pandemic trend. Weinberger is the new mayor of Burlington thanks to the support of 16.8 percent of registered voters. That can hardly be considered a vote of confidence or a mandate to continue the policies of the last nine years.
Different Kind of 'Xenophobia'
Dave Gram's statement that a residency requirement for Vermont candidates is "the dictionary definition of xenophobia" is lazy and irresponsible [Fair Game, February 10].
Vermont has a legitimate problem with xenophobia that needs to be addressed, but this requirement is not indicative of it. Rather, requirements that Vermont candidates live in the state they seek to represent and serve must exist to ensure that those candidates are fully invested in the communities they represent and that they will vote and create policies knowing that they, too, will be affected by those outcomes.
As a queer Vermonter born and raised here, xenophobia was jarringly apparent in the "Take Back Vermont" signs of my coming-out years. It was very hard for me to understand the perspective that it was some "outsider" promulgating gay rights when, obviously, gayness does not abide by state lines. Xenophobia was also apparent a few years back when I overheard a local store owner complaining about refugees settling in Vermont and having to spend his tax dollars on that. Refugees deserve respect, compassion, assistance and opportunity!
Xenophobia, which overlaps with racism, exists in both individuals and structures, and we need to create policies that welcome a diverse population. White folks need to address our internalized racism, as well, and reading books such as The New Jim Crow and Me and White Supremacy is a good start. When a person calls something "xenophobic" that is not, it undermines the meaning of the word, and thus, our ability to recognize and address it.
Painting Isn't the Problem
Regarding your recent article "Framing the Questions" [March 3] and the removal of the Thomas Hovenden painting from display at the Fleming Museum of Art, maybe a different solution to the controversy could be possible.
I don't see the painting itself to be "overtly racist," but I do believe the title, "Dat Possum Smell Pow'ful Good," is overtly racist.
I think Hovenden's painting was painted because Hovenden respected the scene he created as a vignette from one Black man's life. Do you really believe that Hovenden painted this fine picture because he was racist? I believe he painted it out of respect for Black lives.
In 2021, the unfortunate title, using dialect, a form of racial stereotype, whether titled by Hovenden or an agent of his, is certainly racist.
Could there be a gentler solution to this dilemma other than removal of this excellent work? How about hanging the painting without a title, with a paragraph explaining the original title as racist from the present-day viewpoint.
I don't believe in changing history, which is very dangerous, or censorship, but I do believe that Black lives matter.
In these "woke" authoritarian times, I feel compelled to comment on and support Peggy Luhrs' letter defending free speech [Feedback: "The L-Word: Left Out," March 3].
A while ago, I participated in a discussion group that had been meeting at the Pride Center of Vermont for four years. After learning that we were going to discuss eugenics, we were told we could not discuss it. Some of us pushed back, and they kicked us out.
Luhrs was attending a celebration of a longtime Burlington peace activist and friend of hers, sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center. The director of the center admittedly does not like Luhrs' speech. She had her removed by the police. The P&JC initiated a petition to defund the police! In the view of Black Lives Matter supporters, that would be called "the epitome of white privilege."
The woke crowd accuses Luhrs of hate. If you want to see hate, watch the WCAX-TV news clip of the "woke" haters in action at the Fletcher Free Library on January 28, 2020, as they prevented Luhrs and others from meeting to discuss trans issues. It was a jaw-dropper when, instead of defending free speech, Mayor Miro Weinberger said, "Everyone is welcome here." Translation: "My political career takes precedence over the Constitution."
In last week's paper, Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon was reported to have said that the divisiveness in Burlington is destructive — a very long-overdue statement [Off Message: "Burlington Police Get Involved After Prank Callers Target Councilor," February 26]. Unfortunately, it's only worth mentioning when referring to the behavior of the Progs.
When I listened to Dave Gram's program on WDEV Radio, I really appreciated his choices of guests, conversational style, easygoingness, openness, questions and remarks. I was really sad that they did not appreciate what a treasure the hours from 9 to 11 were, because it was always so interesting to hear what folks — real folks — on the phones had to say, and there was a slightly unexpected quality to the talk at times that I liked so much.
I also noticed that Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" has disappeared, and that is discouraging, too.
I am delighted to read Gram's articles in Seven Days. Good luck, and good work!