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Letters to the Editor (3/30/22)

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Bad for Burlington

Thanks for "House Impossible" [March 9], featuring what happened at 117 Lakeview Terrace, a house that went on the market and was bid up and bought by a group of investors.

I dispute what Sean Hurley, an investor speaking on behalf of the group, said. In answer to my rhetorical question in the story, "Who wanted to make memories [in that home]? Who wanted to live there?," Hurley claimed to have those goals. So why didn't he move in?

Hurley and the other investors formed a corporation to turn the home into an Airbnb, a non-owner-occupied short-term rental. You can now find the house listed on airbnb.com for $750-plus per night during the summer. But Hurley said they are "friends who've worked together to renovate a house" and mentions local people and sweat equity. Sweat equity? Neighbors only saw their contractor readying the house for the Airbnb listing while leading everyone to believe the owners were Hurley and his family, who would soon move in. Of course, the owners turned out to be the corporation, and there would be no family moving in.

Another member of the corporation who owns it is an attorney known for investing in Burlington properties.

Businesses are buying our city's housing stock. And, left unchecked, why wouldn't they, at $750 per night?

Neighborhoods, any and all, are and will be affected.

Corporations do not make memories; people do. Corporations make money. Is this what we want for Burlington?

L. Diana Carlisle

Burlington

'Homeless Lives Matter'

[Re "Burlington Takes Aim at Ending Homelessness With 'Shelter Pod' Community," March 23; "Burlington Council Fails to Override Short-Term Rental Veto, Approves 'Shelter Pod' Plan," March 22, online; "Burlington to Build 'Shelter Pods' for Homeless, Review Encampment Policy," February 8, online]: Our cities are not set up for the thriving and humanity of their occupants, both housed and unhoused. They are set up for business as usual, and this creates the cracks in the system that are so easy to fall through.

I wish to shed light on a problem that is very intertwined with the source of houselessness: the indifference and disdain of the housed public eye. Take, for example, this quote from someone recently, referring to the debate on allowing camping in parks: "[Camping] will substantially diminish the ability of the vast majority of residents and visitors to enjoy the city."

Seriously? Our general public is so precious and sheltered that simply the sight of an encampment is too disturbing for their sensitive, privileged eyes and must be kept out of sight?

Face it, people: Houseless people belong here, too. They are part of our city just as much everyone. If you truly love our city, you must be willing to face the issue of houselessness on the ground, in real life. All of it.

If you are disturbed by the notion of people having to camp in the park because they don't have a home, good! You have the power to help change that. But, please, be aware that walking through a park full of people's camping/living equipment is not anywhere near the same as actually needing to live without a home because you don't have a choice.

Homeless lives matter.

Miriam Goldthread

Burlington

Patients Before CEOs

[Re "Projecting Millions in Losses, Vermont's Largest Hospitals Ask for Rate Increases," March 18, online]: So what else is new? Health care costs keep rising. Primary care doctors and nurses are in short supply, overworked and underpaid. There is nowhere for new recruits to live. We must rely on travel docs and nurses to get help, and if we need to see a specialist, we must wait months.

Has anyone thought about how much we all must pay for administrative costs under this weird and unsustainable system? What are the CEOs of OneCare Vermont, the University of Vermont Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield and all the other intermediaries being paid to make sure that patients are not getting "unnecessary care"? And why are patients/consumers not considered to be "stakeholders" in this nonsystem? Shouldn't we the people have a say in what we need and are able to pay for health care according to our incomes? Where is the equity in all of this? If we are seriously ill, we must start a fundraiser.

Universal, publicly financed and administered health care is the only solution that jumps out at me. Let's get rid of all those so-called private administrators and pay the providers a living wage!

Mary Alice Bisbee

Montpelier

Tribute to Tyeastia Green

[Re "Tyeastia Green, Burlington's Racial Equity Director, to Resign," February 15, online]: The recent resignation of Tyeastia Green as Burlington's director of racial equity, inclusion and belonging has infuriated not only BIPOC residents of the city but the rest of the state, as well.

Black and brown residents throughout the state hoped that Burlington would set the momentum for dismantling discrimination that other municipalities might follow. However, the lingering legacy of bigotry against marginalized Vermonters has cautioned us against getting our hopes up too high in a state where many whites still refuse to acknowledge the systemic nature of white privilege. It is from this sector of ignorance that the greatest resistance occurs, pressuring politicians to slow down or stop this progress entirely.

Mayor Miro Weinberger has succumbed to this pressure and, by so doing, become part of the problem. Despite the many gains Green accomplished in this role, the mayor never fully embraced her efforts and, in some cases, undermined them.

It is my hope that the mayor will not have the final say on how the REIB office will be directed, but that BIPOC residents will weigh in with the city council on insisting that this office be placed under a separate city commission.

BIPOC Americans have long suffered broken promises when white politicians have had the final say.

If racism is a public health emergency, then the patients most infected by the disease should not have the last word concerning its cure.

Rev. Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas

Underhill

Thomas is pastor of Jericho's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Work With— Not Against — Police

["Murad's Indefinite Role as Burlington's Acting Police Chief Raises Questions About Mayoral Authority," March 16]: Here's an idea: The Burlington City Council members who voted against Jon Murad as permanent chief of police should actually try one day on the job as a police officer. Maybe two days, if they could last that long? Like with every police force in this country, certain things do need to change and evolve with how the Burlington Police Department handles certain types of conflict and dangerous racial biases. But these men and women are risking their lives every day — yes, even in little ol' Vermont — and it's incredible that any of them has stuck around this long with so little gratitude and support from the community.

Is Murad warm and fuzzy? No. You wouldn't survive as a police officer if you were warm and fuzzy. The things police officers face and deal with every day would make most citizens run and hide. The Burlington City Council should be supporting growth and change in how BPD handles certain types of conflict and racial biases by offering opportunities to learn instead of constantly condemning them all. A few bad apples don't define the whole bushel. There are a few bad apples in every career category on this planet — including teachers, doctors, librarians, accountants, etc.

The BPD is mostly filled with brave individuals who have dedicated their careers to keeping your city safe. Say thank you. Work with them instead of against them. Enough with all this toxic drama. It's not working, and it's ridiculously childish. It's time to support Murad in making BPD a solid, educated and thoughtfully empowered part of what makes Burlington such a wonderful place.

Ginger Vieira

Essex Junction

Native Son

[Re "'School Branding' Bill Would Ban Discriminatory Mascots," March 2, online]: I support efforts to ban oppressive mascots in Vermont and anywhere else. I am a mixed-race person, including Wabanaki Indian (Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy), white, Black, Latino and Ashkenazi Jewish. Skowhegan, Maine, was ground zero for an intense mascot battle, and I had relatives on both sides.

I can pile on reasons to support the bans, but I write to encourage all Native people and our allies to start implementing this ban within our existing spheres of influence. Here are a few ways.

1. Host an apparel swap. At your school/workplace, allow people to trade in their oppressive mascot apparel for some other kind of apparel. Best-case scenario: Trade for apparel from your organization. This puts more of your organization's spirit into the world and takes oppression out of the world. At the end, do not donate the oppressive apparel; destroy it. Find donors or raise the funding to purchase the new apparel. I have oppressive mascot apparel I need to exchange.

2. Ban these symbols at your school or in your place of employment. Wherever you cannot display a swastika, do not display an oppressive logo.

3. File complaints for a hostile work or learning environment. If someone wears an Atlanta Braves logo in my workplace or at my school, they are creating a hostile environment.

We already have some power to influence our own schools and our own workplaces. Within our existing spheres of influence, we can be the change that we want to see in the world.

Justin Salisbury

Burlington

Further Feeding

[Re paid post from Hunger Free Vermont: "Vermont Schools Are Feeding All Students. Let's Make That Permanent," March 14]: As someone who always had a cafeteria account in the negatives in elementary school, I teared up reading about Hannah Prescott's efforts to provide snacks to make sure students don't go hungry and the efforts of others urging for legislation that will continue pandemic-era relief for children in poverty. The temporary government efforts during COVID-19 to help low-income families and children need to remain in place. We all know that the majority of the kids who didn't have lunch money before would go right back to being hungry if relief ceased.

A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that government interventions during the pandemic were amazingly successful and that in 2020 the poverty rate actually went down in the U.S. That was thanks to federal assistance for things like universal school meals and the Child Tax Credit.

Why now, when average people are pinching pennies at the grocery store and gas pump and struggling to pay utility bills, is Congress not racing to extend assistance? In December, 51 U.S. senators let CTC payments expire, resulting in the child poverty rate jumping by 41 percent in January. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders should immediately urge Washington, D.C., to extend the 2021 CTC with permanent, full refundability and resume the monthly payments as soon as possible to help keep these children from falling back into hunger and poverty. Pay for it by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

Felicia Bonanno

Essex Junction

Remembering Peggy Luhrs

I was really disheartened to read your nasty piece about Peggy Luhrs ["Turf Wars," March 9]. Your descriptions of her played into all the clichés about lesbian feminists and, frankly, read as though in a time warp. Ironically, Peggy was one of the women who, with many others, worked so hard to change the derogatory view of lesbians with her early talks in schools, her unflinching activism throughout many decades, and her refusal to give up in light of the misogyny toward women and lesbians in the present day. She was respected internationally and still spoke with vigor and clarity very recently, in her late seventies.

Despite yourselves, everything Peggy has done, and her strength, shines through in your ungenerous article. You seem unaware of the huge number of women internationally who supported Peggy. At our Million Women Rise march two Saturdays ago, Peggy came up, as the march two years ago was where we women in the UK met her. One lesbian recalled that women had been crying in the virtual breakout room of Women's Declaration International after they heard of her death. You clearly have no idea of what she did for women; the impact she had; how she fought; of her brilliant chapter in Not Dead Yet; her capacity for friendship, both in Vermont and in London; and her humor.

We in the UK were looking forward to seeing her this summer at a women's gathering and were shocked to hear of her illness and far-too-early death. Shame on you.

Elaine Hutton

Bristol, UK

Editor's note: At the end of her life, Burlington activist Peggy Luhrs was a participant in online discussion groups organized by Women's Declaration International, a volunteer-run organization open only to women who were designated female at birth. Seven Days received numerous letters from WDI members all over the world. Find those and other feedback about Luhrs and "Turf Wars" below.

'Trans Women Are Women'

In reading the letters to the editor referencing "Turf Wars" [March 9], I was appalled by the flagrant transphobia. It is clear that Peggy Luhrs was an accomplished activist who supported a lot of incredible organizations, and I am grateful for her work with survivors and the lesbian community.

Transphobic ideas (like "trans women aren't women'') are rooted in racism and misogyny: If someone doesn't fit the traditional view of a "woman" (childbearer, homemaker), one is otherized and treated as less than. This is a common discourse in conservative circles and, I believe, only serves to perpetuate misogyny, racism and sexism.

However, just like women still face oppression today, trans women experience that same oppression (and more). There is no benefit in stoking a divide within women as a group that only creates more infighting and further detriment to our fight for equality.

Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman, led the LGBTQIA movement in New York for 25 years. At age 23, she was a leader of the Stonewall riots, which served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States. But she wasn't the only one: Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Stormé DeLarverie were all key leaders of the Stonewall riots, and they were trans women.

I wonder if Peggy, and those who wrote to the editor, are aware of the amount of work trans women have done for the rights of women and the rights of the queer community.

Trans women are women. End of story.

Olivia Taylor

Burlington

'What a Woman Is'

[Re "Turf Wars," March 9]: Peggy Luhrs fought for the rights of women her whole life, and you have the audacity to attack her after she passed away and can't answer your ludicrous charges against her. Shame on you.

Peggy knew what a woman is, as does every misogynist on the planet, as did every person who ever lived, until five minutes ago, when the idea that a woman could be a feeling in a man's mind took root.

Peggy was a woman, a mother, a fighter, a leader and an indefatigable feminist. I had the pleasure to meet her in her last years. Rest in power, sister. You will not be forgotten, and your hard work will not be for naught.

Julie DeLisle

Bradenton, FL

'Patronizing' Piece

I'm horrified by the patronizing, hateful and ridiculing slander aimed at Peggy Luhrs in ["Turf Wars," March 9] now that she can't defend herself. I agree with the other letters criticizing this nasty hit piece. I met Peggy only briefly at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change conference in 2014 when she came to my workshop, and we became good friends. Only later did I see the photograph showing Peggy and me standing near each other at the march in San Francisco in 1980.

I so appreciate everything she's done for lesbians and women and girls. Even the few times we disagreed, she never once was insulting or out of control. Peggy was always kind, caring and strong in her defense of all females. I appreciated her anger because it was always accurate and needed in our defense. But clearly that made some men and their collaborators enraged. When I posted about the tragedy of Peggy dying, my Facebook page was filled with nasty laughing emojis and jokes. That says it all.

One example of the gaslighting that Peggy was fighting is in this article: "TERFs, a vocal minority within the feminist movement that uses scare tactics to advocate for banishing trans women from women's spaces." "TERF" is a slur aimed at women who say no to men. The real "scare tactics" are the rape, mutilation and death threats we get for simply saying no.

Bev Jo Von Dohre

Oakland, CA

Bad Reaction

[Re "Turf Wars," March 9]: Peggy Luhrs reacted to the world that excluded her. Too bad an article about her did, too, eh? 

Nina Tryggvason

Vancouver, Canada

Friends of Peggy

Chelsea Edgar's "Turf Wars" [March 9] tells us as much about Chelsea's world view as it does about Peggy's life and even her death. Peggy lived well because she had courage to be herself, but not just for herself. Her legacy is the legacy shared by many women across the world — one of hard-won improvements in the lives of women.

I met her late in life, but we shared our memories and experiences of Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp and the campaign to refuse the expansion of NATO and USA-controlled nuclear bombs in Europe. This international work by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and other women for peace contributed to the ending of the Cold War. As we see now, this work is still needed.

Peggy died knowing she had many friends who were sending her love during her last hours — friends who will not forget her and will continue to resist the erasure of lesbians and women as adult human females.

Jill Raymond

Cinderford, UK

'Distorted View'

I was somewhat perplexed to read your recent article about Peggy Luhrs ["Turf Wars," March 9]. It gives a very distorted view of who Peggy is and her legacy.

I'm Maltese and got to know Peggy through the breakout rooms of the weekly Women's Declaration International webinars. She was one of the first women to welcome me there, and she was always ready to help and support others. Her refreshing clarity, her sense of humor and her activism earned her the respect and care of a worldwide community of women. She was, and even now continues to be, a treasured, much-needed example for younger lesbians and feminists.

I come from a country where women-only and lesbian-only spaces are virtually nonexistent. Peggy understood how vital these spaces are, so she strove to safeguard them and to help create a sense of community online, as well as in her hometown. She cared deeply about issues that affect women and children.

The blatant contempt for older women in your article is something that Peggy was well aware of. She knew how much harm intergenerational conflict causes, and she did her utmost to build and strengthen connections among women, and she succeeded. Peggy's death is a tremendous loss to us all. Her legacy will live on globally in all the women she continues to inspire.

Rosa Borg

Birzebbuga, Malta

'Sisterhood Is Powerful'

Peggy Luhrs was one of millions of feminist women all over the world fighting for women and girls not to have to conform into stereotyped gender roles, including the one saying that women and girls should be sexually available to men — and dominated by them. For us, it was horrifying to see how gender became even more narrow and limiting. Those who didn't conform or were same-sex-attracted started to be diagnosed and told that they needed to become another gender and mutilate their bodies.

Another experience Peggy Luhrs shared with many of us older feminists was the joy and power we shared with younger women when they finally got in contact with feminism and realized that they were women simply because they were born women, no matter how they were or who they loved. Unfortunately, some of those young women have already gone through a process of believing the lies about them being trans before they found reality-based feminism, but still it is a source of knowledge, strength and joy for all women who get in contact with it.

Peggy Luhrs fought for her truth at the benefit of many women, lesbians and girls. Sisterhood is powerful and the root of women's liberation.

Bodil Wandt

Malmö, Sweden