Wither Free Press?
[Re Fair Game, February 20]: In 1995 and 1996, I worked in the composing room at the Burlington Free Press. Back then, the paper's print circulation was 58,000 daily and 72,000 on Sunday.
Like many other local readers, I've watched it steadily wither away in the past decade, from 39,000 daily and nearly 47,000 on Sunday in 2008 to a paltry 11,700 daily and 15,000 Sunday now, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, which monitors the circulation of daily newspapers.
Much of that decline is attributable to the rise of the internet and digital media. Even the New York Times' daily print circulation — which peaked at 1.1 million — is now roughly half that: 554,000. But the Times rose to the challenge by launching online and mobile editions that currently enjoy a robust 4.5 million subscribers.
The Freeps' parent company, Gannett, instead imposed wave after wave of cutbacks, resulting in far fewer people in its newsroom producing a much smaller news product, both in print and online. Is it any wonder that Vermonters are abandoning the Free Press in droves? Why should anyone plunk down $2 a day for a nearly razor-thin paper that has hardly any news in it?
Is it also any wonder that Seven Days now enjoys the largest print circulation of any newspaper in Vermont, at 36,000?
Seven Days achieved this by beefing up rather than slimming down its newsroom staff and by taking full advantage of its weekly publication schedule to publish more in-depth and investigative stories — the kind you don't see even in the Sunday Free Press anymore.
The frame idea for the Moran Plant is a terrible one and should be dropped immediately [Off Message: "Burlington to Move Forward With Moran Plant Redesign," February 19]. Ten years ago, the Ice Factor proposal was based on bringing an outdoor activity — ice climbing! — indoors, out of season. Fortunately it went nowhere. Now the frame proposes the opposite: Bring indoor activities such as movies and art exhibits outdoors in a very short season — with no walls and almost no roof! This is just as silly. What to do? Demolish Moran. Plant grass, not asphalt. If an ice rink is desired, flood a section seasonally. The maximum building could be a one-story, 600-square-foot warming hut with a bathroom, walls and a roof.
Wrong Message From Donovan
I am troubled by Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan's lack of action in regard to former state rep Kiah Morris [Fair Game: "Donovan's Dilemma," February 20]. Although Donovan found insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against her abuser, he could have pursued the matter by taking him to court regardless of the outcome. Not having done so makes him appear slack despite the fact that racism continues to plague American communities in ways that mimic, and even exceed, the violence of the civil rights era.
We in Vermont ought to send a message that racism will not be tolerated. Given the alarming increase of racism in our nation, this is perhaps the worst time to allow an avowed white supremacist to intimidate a duly elected state representative out of office. It's a shame and should be viewed as such by all Vermonters. I would like to urge Donovan to give this matter his utmost attention, not to consider this a closed case. As a person of color, I am feeling more and more vulnerable in the current climate of racism, especially because people with the power to bring about change don't appear eager to.
Build for the Right Reasons
[Re "Exodus? Tenants Flee a Newly Built Burlington Apartment Complex," March 6]: Affordable housing, like universal health care, is something that should be available to everyone in a wealthy community.
Its opponents are often among those who tout it most. "Building our way to affordability" has become a handy slogan for leveraging affordability to streamline zoning, increase profits and trust that market magic will reduce the cost of housing as supply grows. This is an approach to affordability that serves other interests first.
Good zoning — not unrestrained development — leads to socially responsible growth and more affordable high-quality housing. Enacting and upholding such regulations is a primary responsibility of city government. When developers and real estate investors gain undue influence, the balance is skewed and the public interest is compromised.
This is what happened when the zoning regulations were changed for CityPlace Burlington so that the project could be much taller without providing an increased percentage of inclusionary units or other public benefits. This is why so much front- and back-lawn parking and extralegal paving needlessly pollute Lake Champlain.
Unleashing developers through less rigorous zoning serves the development community directly, but the community as a whole picks up the tab.
So yes, more affordable housing in the form of lower rents and prices for existing and newly minted apartments, condos and houses would benefit our community immensely. But build, build, build is not the way. Making affordability our first priority is.