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Letters to the Editor (3/8/17)


No Connection

As board members of the Greater Burlington YMCA and cochairs of its capital campaign, we wish to correct the impression conveyed in last week's story of a link between the Y's decision to close the Winooski facility and the capital campaign ["Y Close Winooski? Gym Was a Drag on YMCA's $22 Million Fundraising Goal," March 1]. Simply put, the two are unrelated.

Ten years ago, the Y helped lead fundraising for the O'Brien Community Center. Over time, other partners in the effort left or scaled back. Despite the loss of 30 percent of Winooski members over the past four years, and 10 straight years of significant financial losses there, the Y remained to serve the community.

The Winooski Y does not, as you suggest, pose a "drag" on the capital campaign; rather, it challenges the community service work the Y provides today. During the decade of financial losses in Winooski, the Y has tripled — to $600,000 — the amount of scholarship funding we provide to people across the area for high-quality Y childcare, wellness, swim lessons, summer camps and more. With need growing and annual losses in Winooski that averaged $50,000 in recent years, the difficult decision was finally made to close the facility at the end of its 10-year lease.

As for our capital campaign, we have a great deal more to raise. However, with more than $4 million raised in the last six months of 2016, we see a community rallying around an organization that has served the community well for more than 150 years and that has a clear plan for its future.

Lisa Ventriss

South Burlington

Phil Daniels


Name Change

[Re Off Message: "Planned Winooski Gay Bar Named 'Mister Sister' Creates Rift," February 27; "'Mister Sister' Controversy Leads to Pride Center of Vermont Resignations," February 28; and "Heated Forum Leads Pride Center to Denounce 'Mister Sister' Name," March 2]: What's in a name? Apparently everything. When word got out that a new gay bar would be opening up in Vermont — in, of all places, Winooski — there was a buzz of excitement. Once the name of the bar was announced, suddenly the gay community was divided like Trump and non-Trump supporters. While I didn't take offense to the name Mister Sister, I also wasn't aware of the negative connotation. I have a hard time understanding why the owner and the community can't come to some sort of agreement on a name. This is especially true when the state has been without a gay bar for a decade-plus.

The cost to change a name of a business, logos, etc., can be high, but it might be a good idea to spend it in order to keep peace between the two parties. My suggestion for the name: Coterie. Definition: "an intimate and often exclusive group of persons with a unifying common interest or purpose." I think that would make everyone feel included, and the division of the community would eventually be resolved. In this time of Trump and haters of anyone who isn't a white, Christian American, we don't need fighting between ourselves.

Dean Pratt

South Burlington

Shady Business

Burlington's proposed 14-story high-rise is represented fraudulently by PKSB Architects in ["In Burlington, Upward Growth or 'Vertical Sprawl'?" February 22]. As a land planner and building designer, I know how 3D representations can mislead or inform the public. The model on page 20 shows about 15 feet of shade cast to the north from the building. However, actual shade cast by this building will cover the entire street to the north and reach into the park while darkening the buildings to the east in the afternoon and stretching over buildings toward the lake in the morning. Fourteen stories casts very long shadows — one of the reasons tall buildings tend to denude public outdoor space. Meanwhile, the model shows roughly accurate shade cast for every other building.

This model should be retracted publicly and a new, accurate model produced. It should represent the shadows at various times of day and throughout the year that the proposed building will cast on its neighbors, streets and the adjacent park.

Ben Falk


Middlebury's History Lesson

[Re Off Message: "Middlebury Students Shut Down Lecture by Charles Murray," March 2; "'Mob' Attacks Middlebury Prof and Controversial Speaker Charles Murray," March 3]: One does not have to agree with Charles Murray's ideas, or even be interested in hearing him speak, to be deeply disturbed by the efforts of Middlebury College students to silence him. The advantage of living in a liberal democracy is that it affords numerous ways in which to challenge speakers with whom one disagrees: engaging those speakers in the marketplace of ideas, for example, or ignoring them entirely.

In contrast, using a heckler's veto to keep unpopular speakers from expressing their views not only stifles a particular speaker but threatens to chill public discourse by discouraging others with controversial ideas from sharing them. Popular viewpoints do not require the protections provided by free-speech rights; objectionable ones do.

What is saddest about the spectacle surrounding Murray's aborted speech is that many of his antagonists seem oblivious to the history of freedom of speech on American college campuses. For much of the second half of the 20th century, from the struggle against McCarthyites and loyalty oaths in the 1950s to the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, progressive students and faculty had to fight for the right to express themselves freely. It is hard to imagine that anyone fully aware of that legacy could wish to suppress others as they were once censored themselves.

Allowing one controversial speaker, no matter how offensive to some, is unlikely to undermine our values or damage our society. Allowing no controversial speakers threatens us all.

Jacob M. Appel, MD, JD

New York, NY

Life Savers

[Re "On the March," March 1]: Ebony Nyoni says, "We need people who will work to save black lives." There is a group of people already doing that. There are more than 1 million law enforcement officers in this country. Every day they pull people from burning buildings and wrecked cars, administer CPR, and use AEDs when people have heart attacks. They take lethal drugs off the streets and administer Narcan to those who overdose. They stop violent crimes and prevent them by arresting offenders.

No one can count the number of black lives saved by law enforcement. Sadly, no one thinks about it at all.

Greg Burbo