Letters to the Editor (3/9/22) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published March 9, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated March 22, 2022 at 2:40 p.m.

Skiing Sisters

To continue your story of "Uphill Climb" [February 23] on the development of women Nordic skiers in the U.S., the high school Nordic State Championships were held on February 24 and 28, and 20 schools and 140-plus young women skiers competed. The top three team results went to Burlington, Harwood Union and Mount Mansfield Union high schools. The story behind the race story is that each of these schools featured a pair of sisters: Ava and Julia Thurston of HU, Hattie and Finley Barker of MMU, and Gillian and Maeve Fairfax of BHS.

BHS and HU won the team championships in Divisions 1 and 2, while Ava and Hattie won their individual champion races. Three of these six elite skiers are heading to the Junior National Championships in Minnesota this month, representing the New England Nordic Ski Association after a grueling qualification process.

These young women have known each other and skied together for years, and while highly competitive, they are also friends. They represent the future for U.S. women's Nordic skiing.

Full disclosure: I am the Barker sisters' grandfather.

Ron Barker


'Guilt' Is Not the Answer

Anti-racism education is contentious because both sides are right ["Local Commotion," February 16]. We need anti-racism work because 90 percent of us white Americans are biased — that is, unconsciously racist to some degree. But current anti-racism education exacerbates racism by teaching white kids to feel guilty.

Could it be that asking white teachers to teach anti-racism is unfair and unwise? Their message tends to come across as something like, "We have to be nice to these poor people because of all the bad things done to them." This itself is a racist message. On top of that, it promotes guilt and resentment in whites. Guilt is not necessary; it doesn't help anyone.

I have found the African American community to be tough, resilient, creative, inspiring, joyful. Why not bring Black educators into schools to teach African American history? For example, the Clemmons Family Farm curriculum teaches African American history through the lens of Black joy and creativity.

This approach sounds more real, human, honest, fun — and likely more effective.

Cynthia Norman


Life Isn't 'Smooth'

The other day I noticed a crew of privileged city workers digging and fixing a burst pipe on Pine Street in Burlington. They were working there in the frozen mud and howling wind, all dirty, I think from 6 or 7 a.m. until late at night. It was one of the coldest days this year. I had a deep admiration for their grit.

The head of Burlington's Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging just quit because things didn't go smoothly, according to her ["Tyeastia Green, Burlington's Racial Equity Director, to Resign," February 15, online]. Things didn't go the way she wished they would go. I guess her salary might be more than $100,000? I am not sure. But I am sure her office is pretty warm.

Can somebody explain to Tyeastia Green that almost nothing in real life goes smoothly? Certainly not fixing broken water pipes in freezing February or fixing downed electrical lines after a snowstorm. Being a mayor and running a city doesn't go smoothly ever. Managing an airport is a pain, and I'm not even talking about being a CEO of an airline. Running a daycare isn't easy, or a hospital. Is dealing with inequality expected to be easy?

I would like to thank Green for her great service, and I sincerely wish that she finds an easy job for $100,000.

Evzen Holas


Good Gun Law

[Re "Scott Vetoes Gun Bill, Offers Compromise to Close 'Charleston Loophole,' February 22, online]: This veto by Gov. Phil Scott aligns him squarely with miscreants. And it again demonstrates his complete failure to respect the serious deliberations of Vermont legislators.

As I see it, a miscreant might, under current law, intentionally make a small error in an application for a federal background check, and that intentional and seemingly innocent error — such as reversing two digits of a social security number — would delay the clearance beyond the current three-day limit. Without S.30, once the miscreant waits out the prescribed limited time, they are allowed to purchase the firearm.

I commend the Vermont legislature for seeing through such a loophole. The proposed indefinite delay in allowing the firearm purchase, under S.30, is very much needed. I urge the legislature to stand firm on this requirement and to override the governor's veto.

Hugo Liepmann


Democracy, Wow

Seven Days brings attention to town meeting and the crisis in local news in two detailed and well-reported pieces ["Democracy How?" and "Full Disclosure," February 23].

In "Democracy How?," Anne Wallace Allen describes how the Town of Hinesburg was the only one in Vermont to take advantage of a loophole in state law to permanently kill town meeting. Allen quotes Senate Government Operations Committee chair Jeanette White as follows: "I don't think they went against the spirit of the law; they went against the law." White's committee drafted the law in question.

Would more ongoing press coverage have engaged citizens in this debate and thrown a spotlight on the actions of the selectboard? Would the outcome have been different? We will never know. But it is clear that without local news coverage, citizens are less knowledgeable about their communities and town officials face less public accountability.

Thanks again to Seven Days for bringing attention to these issues. Democracy can't survive without local news.

Richard Watts


Watts is the director of the University of Vermont's Center for Research on Vermont and its undergraduate reporting and documentary storytelling program.

Love for Some

In your Valentine's edition, you published an insightful article about Israel and Cathie Helfand and the therapeutic work they do regarding couples and sexuality ["Coming Clean," February 9]. I appreciated the destigmatizing of sexual fetishes and was intrigued by their couple's retreats — needing some tweaking in my own marriage.

You did mention that "couples travel from all over the world and spend thousands of dollars on their services," so perhaps I should not have been surprised that the actual cost of a week's retreat was $12,000 per couple. But I was surprised. Well, actually, I was appalled. As a therapist myself, I have just begun to deconstruct my own history as a white woman by joining a white women's group. We read books and try to own our personal history of white privilege.

The therapeutic community needs to look at its white privilege. Certain therapists charge exorbitant amounts for an hour of therapy or a retreat, which is essentially a way of saying: "I only can see those who have wealth — those of privilege." An average Vermonter could never afford their services, nor could a middle-class one like myself.

It's time that certain therapists drop the illusion that they are serving "all people." As a colleague of mine recently stated, "I have a boutique therapy practice for white people like myself who can pay out of pocket." She continued: "It's more comfortable to make lots of money and be around people just like me. "

That's owning truth.

Juliana O'Brien


Pricey Pods

[Re "Burlington to Build 'Shelter Pods' for Homeless, Review Encampment Policy," February 8, online]: Wow. $1.47 million for 25 "pods" with no water, just electricity. Let's do the math ... $58,800 per pod. Does that seem like a lot of money for a shelter? The state could buy small campers for a lot less and get more for the money. They could also be moved very easily between locations as needed. I bet a pod will need special moving equipment. Or maybe they will be permanently in place?

I'm in agreement that more is needed to solve the housing problem for the homeless, but let's think about how we spend our money so we can make the largest impact.

Abraham Prandini

Asheboro, NC

Confessions of a Medical Debtor

Thanks to Seven Days for the article "Bill of Health: Proposed Legislation Seeks to Keep More Vermonters Out of Medical Debt" [February 16], and kudos to Vermont Legal Aid for pushing our legislature on this reprehensible feature of our profit-based health care.

Medical debt is unique to the United States of America. It is a by-product of how we treat health care as a market commodity, governed by the unseen and unwritten laws of supply and demand. Its goal is to try to tame our scandalous health care costs by curbing access to care.

No other democratic nation on the globe knows medical debt. They treat health care as a right of all citizens under universal publicly funded systems, regulated by their elected governments.

In 2006 and 2007, I was one of these debtors. I had lost my job and, with it, my employer-sponsored insurance. This is really "customer-sponsored," since an employer's customers pay for it. I faced an uninsured operation, without which I would have died. I not only had to negotiate the price of the operation with the hospital, as if ransoming my life, but I was also trapped in medical debt for several years afterward. It was not $50 a month either, but $400. One missed payment brought the wolves to my door.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." Will our elected representatives do anything about this proposed legislation to end this injustice?

Walter Carpenter


Eyewitness Account of Health Care

[Re "It's Official: Vermont Patients Wait Too Long, State Report Shows," February 16, online]: After a retina repair a year ago, I recently needed cataract surgery. I was on the cancellation list at the University of Vermont Medical Center because the appointment was going to be four months out, and I wasn't comfortable to drive. I would have to get rides to work.

When I got called up to fill a cancellation spot, I needed a pre-op physical. My primary care physician had inactivated me, since I hadn't been in since 2019. I couldn't find any PCP to get in for my pre-op, so I ended up at UVM Urgent Care, a waste of those resources. Now I have started the process of finding a new PCP. I finally found one taking new patients, but it is going to be three or four months before they can see me, if then.

All in all, it sounds like I have been very lucky getting the health care I needed. I was in surgery for the retina within hours of it detaching, so I didn't lose my sight, and I got in to the cataract surgery very quickly, as well. I feel kind of guilty that people with very serious issues are waiting so long.

Amanda Gifford


Time to Fix Health Care

[Re "It's Official: Vermont Patients Wait Too Long, State Report Shows," February 16, online]: We are on the brink of the dystopian nightmare of socialized medicine: long and growing wait times for care; people literally dying while awaiting care; costs eating up an increasingly large share of our incomes. Regulators regularly move to highly paid jobs within the monopoly they were regulating — two of the four heads of the Green Mountain Care Board now work at the University of Vermont Medical Center — and the State of Vermont seems powerless to even understand why things are as they are.

This report is what we have been waiting for?

What we need are implementable solutions, not cloudy, impenetrable research and vague pronouncements of distant solutions, such as "support quality improvement activities to support referral best practices."

I have a solution for wait times: Give patients a choice of providers. They will choose the ones with shorter wait times. Do not allow monopoly conditions to exist. Require insurance companies to pay for care wherever patients want to be seen, without regard to whether they are in or out of network.

The Green Mountain Care Board has built a health care system that is a disaster. Fix it.

Roger Brown


A Case for Karen

Thank you to Seven Days and Ken Picard for having the courage to address Karen name-shaming. Since publication of ["Colchester Karen Wants to Reclaim Her Name From the Haters," February 15, online], I've encountered an artist named Karen whose gallery dropped her when she refused to stop signing her art, an author forced to publish her latest book under a pseudonym and a new employee whose boss renamed her because "Karen" was "too negative." Grandparents and teachers named Karen report children confused and frightened. Patients describe mockery and dismissal by medical and emergency personnel.

Investigations such as one by the New York Times trace the origin of the #Karen meme not to Central Park two years ago or to the Black community, but to white male misogynists in the 2000s. Its popular current usage includes attacking anyone — especially women — for anything in a way that conveniently circumvents technology autofilters. A quick Google search for "Karen" shows prominent misuse, ranging from ridiculing the Canadian anti-vaxxer trucker convoy to Elon Musk dismissing Elizabeth Warren as "Senator Karen." Search images, and you'll discover countless violent images and blanket death threats to people named Karen.

Too many people of conscience remain silent because they have been misled that #Karen is necessary to combat racism. Fighting racism is crucial. But we can use terms like "racist" and "bigot" or create new ones that don't harm 7 million innocent bystanders. Everyone deserves the basic human right of dignity, including people who identify as Karen.

To help curb hatred, please visit and sign the pledge at thepetitionsite.com/318/621/539/the-karen-pledge/#update.

Kaomi Taylor Mitchell


Options, Please

[Re "Zoned Out," February 9]: The conversations about housing and zoning in the county all end up feeling like: This is why we can't have nice things! Our choices seem to be limited to 1) letting developers build a bunch of big, unaffordable single-family houses that use land and resources inefficiently; or 2) preserving habitat for species who have been here for far longer than most of us.

Where do I get to choose option 3: a bunch of small, dense housing that young people in the state can afford, built in collaboration with communities, reserving land for cohabitation with other species? This is addressed to zoning boards and to folks more concerned with the investment value of a home than whether we can support communities: Where is our imagination? Can't we come up with some better options?

Kristian Brevik


Balancing Act

[Re "Zoned Out," February 9]: Housing and conservation — we need more discussion on how to do both: how to incent building smaller, more affordable housing and how to minimize builders' incentives for large, single-family homes and optimize smaller, multifamily units, all while conserving land. I think how is the arbitrator.

Bernard Paquette


Speaking of South Burlington...

[Re "Zoned Out," February 9]: I write as an affordable housing advocate, past president of a Habitat for Humanity board and recent past member of the South Burlington Affordable Housing Committee — and as someone who in 2019 experienced homelessness firsthand in Essex.

First, right across from South Burlington High School, on a major bus route, next to the freeway, is a million-dollar land parcel that the City of South Burlington owns. This site of its former city hall on Dorset Street has room for a 50-unit affordable housing build. 

Neither the city nor the Affordable Housing Committee has worked out a plan to offer a conservation board housing loan to a for-profit developer as seed money to leverage financing for an affordable build. Instead, the building has been leased to the school board for administrative offices, though there is land to build an administrative addition onto the middle school.

Second, again no mention is made of the Transit Overlay Districts already created down Williston Road, Shelburne Road and Kennedy Drive. These districts are near local businesses and on major bus lines to Burlington and Taft Corners. By city law, all future multiple-unit developments must have affordable units. We have heard of no negotiations with developers happening to further new construction.

Finally, the dire condition of Lake Champlain is never mentioned. Wetlands filter phosphates and the pesticides we put on our lawns, which are killing the lake. To destroy the last wetlands is to help destroy the lake we all live from.

Paula DeMichele

South Burlington

Stop Killing Coyotes

[Re "Bill Would Require Vermont Hunters to Eat, Skin or Mount Prey — Except Coyotes," February 15]: Coyote hounding is a method of hunting coyotes in which hunters, often referred to as hounders, use packs of powerful hounds to run down and maul coyotes. Coyotes are chased for hours over large tracts of land, including private posted property, until they collapse from exhaustion and are left to defend themselves. They can't run up a tree to flee, so the lone coyote is left to fight off a pack of hounds. The hounds are trained to attack, maul, bite and even kill their prey — this is legalized dogfighting. The hounders are nowhere in sight, and when they do show up, they photograph and videotape the fight. The coyote is ultimately shot and killed by the hounder and left to rot. Coyote fur isn't selling anymore, thanks to the general public shunning fur, so there's little incentive to retrieve the coyote and utilize it.

These so-called hunters are not required to register their hounds, there are no special permits and they aren't required to report their kills. On private property in Craftsbury, a mother and her two kids witnessed hounds tearing into a lone, bleeding coyote. Can you imagine your kids seeing this torture? There have been many cases like this on private property, as hounders say their hounds "can't read signs!" 

Please support bill S.281, banning the inhumane, unethical and horrendous sport of coyote hounding in Vermont, and write your state representatives today.

Sophie Bowater


Bowater is the founder of Peace of Mind Animal Wellness.

Courses Support Wildlife

[Re "Bill Would Require Vermont Hunters to Eat, Skin or Mount Prey — Except Coyotes," February 15]: Vermont has a tradition of hunting, trapping and fishing. I hunt and fish, and I trap mice. I don't sell or use their pelts or eat the meat. I have never had a dog or cat caught in a trap during my 72 years in Vermont.

The wildlife protection groups should first take the three education courses required to obtain hunting and trapping licenses. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department offers these for free. You don't need a safety course to buy a fishing license. Then the wildlife groups could support wildlife as hunters, trappers and fishermen do, by paying for it through license fees. These fees are used to protect and conserve all wildlife, maintain fishing access areas that you like to use, purchase land for wildlife management areas, and pay for fish and wildlife wardens.

The wardens protect you from bears, coyotes, beavers and other wildlife that raid your trash, eat your birdseed and your animals, and flood your property. They also protect wildlife from you.

Glenn Towne


Some Survey

Not quite sure whether Vermont animal rights groups can really boast that a "wanton waste" law has "strong public support" ["Bill Would Require Vermont Hunters to Eat, Skin or Mount Prey — Except Coyotes," February 15]. 

It appears that Protect Our Wildlife frequently refers to a survey that lacks any statistical significance to justify its cause. Only 613 Vermonters responded to the poll — not really a representative sample of Vermonters.

Skewed data and self-righteous ideology do not really initiate a meaningful dialogue regarding hunting and wildlife management. In the November 15, 2021, issue of the New Yorker, "Deer Wars and Death Threats" proclaims: "Only a fraction of wildlife management is about biology. 'The rest is sorting out why people believe what they do.'"

Jay Petrillo


Don't Be Cruel

It's confounding that proposed bills to end some of the cruelest methods of killing wildlife are controversial ["Bill Would Require Vermont Hunters to Eat, Skin or Mount Prey — Except Coyotes," February 15].

"Leghold trap" is a euphemism for "steel-jaw trap," a device that slams shut on an animal's leg or paw, cutting into their flesh — often down to the bone. Animals may struggle for hours or even days before the trapper returns to kill them — if they haven't succumbed to exhaustion, exposure, blood loss, shock or predation first. Some animals, especially mothers desperate to return to their young, attempt to chew off their trapped limbs. When they can't escape, their babies are left alone, unable to fend for themselves. These traps don't discriminate; they can ensnare cats, dogs, birds, endangered animals and even hikers. Because of the inherent cruelty, steel-jaw traps are banned in many states and countries.

Just as no animal deserves to suffer in a steel-jaw trap, none deserves to be ripped apart by packs of dogs — which are also often injured. 

Coyotes mate for life and live in close-knit families. National Geographic reported on a coyote fidelity study, concluding that "these canine cousins are loyal to their mates and never stray. Not ever ... These canids are remaining faithful both in good times and bad." And they generally seek to avoid contact with humans. If we don't want to attempt to coexist peacefully with wildlife, the least we can do is not kill them in ways that cause prolonged, unnecessary suffering. 

Michelle Kretzer

Clearwater, FL

Kretzer is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.