Where Students Live
Thanks for "House Impossible" [March 9] and for publishing L. Diana Carlisle's letter to the editor [Feedback: "Bad for Burlington," March 30]. Airbnbs are not the only commercial properties that are causing the deterioration of neighborhood homes. Our limited housing supply is used by the University of Vermont for its corporate financial benefit to house 42 percent of its full-time undergraduate students in off-campus rental units. There are around 4,429.
Investor corporations have bought up beautiful older housing for rentals near the shopping and entertainment core of our city, a very desirable urban location for professionals to walk and bike to work and play. Most of the rental units are leased in the fall for occupancy the following June. Any graduate student, young nonstudent worker or family is locked out of this housing in the current student rental area. When homes suitable for couples similar to those in your article are for sale, the investors are able to outbid other home buyers and pay with cash. UVM creates the housing demand. Real estate agents and investors benefit financially. Homeowners and nonstudent renters living in the neighborhood become unofficial, unpaid monitors for landlords of their renters' behavior.
Neighbors make relationships over time. The short-term student renters rarely develop relationships with their nonstudent neighbors. Committed Burlington residents deserve better from UVM.
Worth Waiting for Local
[Re "Myti Ambitions: A Burlington Entrepreneur Plans to Launch an Amazon Rival With a Buy-Local Mission," March 30]: Buy local? Heck yes! I will sign up with Myti the day it opens to the public. As small business owners, we urge our customers to buy from us whenever they can, and, no, we cannot compete with Amazon prices.
I get it. Amazon's prices are unbeatable. How could we possibly compete with its mega-bulk purchasing power? And for some folks, price has to be the main decision when making many purchases.
However, if you can afford to spend a few extra dollars, why wouldn't you spend those dollars in your community? Why wouldn't you help pay a local salary? Why wouldn't you want all of your money to stay here, nearby, so that our people and our small businesses can stay alive? Do you really need to have the product tomorrow?
And what about that packaging? You buy three things from Amazon, and each comes in its own roomy cardboard box. Sure, you recycle, but not having the packaging to put into the recycling bin is a far greener decision.
We quit Amazon several years ago. We buy locally whenever we can, sometimes in person and often online, and we sometimes have to wait a few days for our purchase. And we usually survive the wait.
It costs more, and it is worth every penny.
Susan McMillan and Kit Roberts
[Re "Hard Time," March 23]: I have worked in prisons as a health care professional and have every reason to believe that our correctional facilities should provide safety to both the public and the inmates, as well as provide rehabilitation.
I am grateful that these inmates have been able to live through the pandemic long enough to complain about the restrictions that saved their lives.
Do Your Part
After reading "The Bear Necessities" by Rob Gurwitt in the March 23 issue of Seven Days, I felt compelled to reply and add to the comment by Stephen Gorman that people need to see climate change as not just that but also as climate overshoot — that we have overshot the planetary boundaries and that consumer capitalism is the hammer that is smashing the planet.
It's not just climate overshoot that we are facing, it is economic overshoot that is the core problem. A system based on more, better, faster — and go into debt to keep up — profits over service to the community. Meanwhile, the damage to the environment continues, and so many people are kept in indentured service to the system as they go deeper into debt.
Then there is Ed Koren's comment lamenting that people still travel far afield, flying to take vacations in distant parts of the world, and that even small things "[add] to the messy stew."
It is sad how individuals do not see their part in this, maybe thinking, I'm only one person among almost 8 billion now. It all adds up, and fast. A longtime friend of mine, a self-taught economist, came up with a bumper sticker decades ago that read:
EARN LESS MONEY
BUY TIME FOR MOTHER EARTH
SHORTCHANGE THE INDUSTRIAL SYSTEM
We can't wait for governments to fix this. For those who can and are not on the edge, get out of debt and spend less.
In World War II, Americans embraced rationing; for the climate crisis — nothing?
Think Twice About Chickens
[Re "Spring Chickens: Local Franchise Offers Seasonal Rentals to Help Vermonters Raise Backyard Hens," March 15]: When I first moved to Vermont 12 years ago, I had high hopes of having my own chickens, but before embarking on that journey I did some research. I'm glad I did, because there were more than a few who warned me that having chickens requires a steadfast commitment to keeping them safe from wildlife. As someone who's involved with wildlife protection in Vermont, that pricked my ears up.
I initially hadn't thought about that fox vixen looking to feed her hungry kits with one of my beloved bantams. Or the coyote who eats the voles in our yard maybe instead setting her sights on my free-range flock. I would never fault a wild animal for killing a domestic animal for food. I know how irritable I get when I miss just one meal, and I have the privilege of opening up my fridge. Not so easy for wildlife.
Through my volunteer work at Protect Our Wildlife, I sadly come across too many people who do not take the time to secure their chickens behind electric fencing, and they are too quick to kill wildlife. This often happens during times of the year when wildlife are feeding their young, which means when you kill that hungry mother fox, you're leaving a den of kits orphaned. The "lucky" orphans end up with volunteer wildlife rehabilitators who are already overburdened.
Check out POW's "Got Chickens? Got Predators. No Problem!" flyer for tips. I encourage people to do their research before making the decision to have chickens. Both the chickens and the wildlife depend on it.
Galdenzi is president of Protect Our Wildlife.
Slow Down for Climate
[Re Feedback: "Support Vermont's Climate Plan," March 23]: Letter writer Jud Lawrie is right, of course: We need to support the Climate Action Plan. But there is a glaring omission in the steps planned for the transportation sector: There's nothing addressing the greenhouse gas emissions from the 99 percent of vehicles that now run on gasoline or diesel in Vermont. Their numbers will decline as electric vehicle production increases and we ramp up electric vehicle infrastructure. Unfortunately, that won't happen quickly enough.
Based on the most optimistic projections for the speed of electrification, the internal combustion engine will be the dominant means of propulsion in Vermont and nationally for many years to come. The impact is huge, making transportation the single largest source of CO2 emissions in Vermont and nationally — around 40 percent in Vermont.
In 2020, 262 million gallons of gasoline and 61.7 million gallons of diesel were sold in Vermont. The CO2 created when those gallons were combusted, mostly in cars and pickup trucks, totaled more than 6 billion pounds.
Anyone who drives the interstate knows that 70 miles per hour and higher is the norm. That norm consumes fuel much faster than the 65 mph limit — 9 percent faster at 70; 20 percent faster at 80. By sticking to the speed limit, we'll keep 10 to 15 percent, or more, CO2 out of the atmosphere. That's hundreds of millions of pounds.
Yes, support the Climate Action Plan, but also slow down. It's simple, costs nothing (you'll save money) and can start with your next motor vehicle trip.
Who Pays for Health Care?
One sentence in Colin Flanders' informative article ["As Costs Rise, Vermont's Largest Hospitals Demand More Money," March 23] goes to the heart of Vermont's health care debate these past 30 years: "Hospitals have relied more and more on these commercial insurers over the years as payments from government-sponsored plans fail to keep pace with inflation."
This is not a problem because of inflation. Medicare, and especially Medicaid, have always underpaid hospitals, by as much as 50 percent in the case of Medicaid. Hospitals have no choice but to shift their costs away from government, which refuses to pay, and onto customers of commercial insurers. It's a hidden tax on those customers, wrapped into their premiums.
Without this cost shift/hidden tax, hospitals simply could not survive on Medicare and Medicaid payments, at least not without severely rationing services. This is why 100 percent government-paid health care, aka single-payer, can't possibly work at anywhere close to the level of care people expect, unless politicians raise the tax dollars to redress the chronic and deliberate government underpayment. They won't.
McClaughry is a former state senator and president of Ethan Allen Institute.
They're Asking for How Much?
[Re "As Costs Rise, Vermont's Largest Hospitals Demand More Money," March 23]: Hold on. Did I read that correctly? The University of Vermont Medical Center is asking for a 10 percent midyear cost increase because it is projecting a $40 million deficit while it has $1.2 billion in cash on hand? Are you serious?
How on Earth did they end up with $1.2 billion — with a B — on hand? If you are keeping score at home, that's $2,000 for every single Vermonter.
According to the Economic Research Institute, the median hospital CEO pay was $360,000, while the 75th percentile highest-paid CEO was making $750,000. UVM Medical Center has four executives making more than the 75th percentile of CEOs and 21 people making more than the median.
If UVM Medical Center set its max executive salary at the national median for hospital CEOs, it would close almost $6 million of the gap right there. If it reduced all executive salaries to the 25th percentile of hospital CEOs, we (the health care consumers of the state of Vermont) would save more than $10 million.
Now, maybe that is chump change compared to a budget of $1.5 bil, but it is a quarter of the deficit the hospital is using to justify a massive midyear increase.
Frankly, no, raising prices on private insurance isn't the only way to improve the finances. Do a more efficient job. In the private market, we are forced to do that every day, or we go out of business.
The Problem With Pods
[Re "Small Development: Burlington Takes Aim at Ending Homelessness With 'Shelter Pod' Community," March 23]: If Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and the city council think this is going to end homelessness, then I'd love to know what drugs they are all on! There's no way that it's going to work. Plus, they are taking away more parking spaces that are being used.
The city council didn't listen very well to the people who are against it, showing that their members couldn't care less about what people want! They have a list of 10 places that would work just as well, but they don't give a damn.
And where are the people going to go when their time is up? I don't think they have thought about that part, and that shows how brain-dead the council and Weinberger are! It's time for the mayor to go!
I'll Give You 'Conservative'
In response to Matt Krauss' recent letter [Feedback: "More Conservative Voices, Please," March 16], calling for more "conservative voices" in the pages of Seven Days, I have to say, I frankly don't even know what he's asking for. Is a conservative voice a witty P.J. O'Rourke (RIP), a staid George Will, a "Get the hell off my lawn" John McClaughry or a bilious Ben Shapiro?
Many media outlets have turned into shadows of their former selves because their solution to rectify what was seen to be a lack of balance was to invite a liberal and a conservative into the studio and have them scream over the top of each other until the segment ended. That's not balance; it's bad television.
Instead, I would like to see Seven Days hire good journalists who research articles, check facts, treat their subjects fairly, report accurately and seek balance within their articles, which they almost unfailingly do. Media outlets have viewpoints in the same way that individuals do, which means it is up to the consumer to seek out differing viewpoints. If you read the New York Times and the Boston Globe, read the Wall Street Journal and National Review, as well.
Finally, is the implied message in Krauss' letter that only a conservative could do a story on guns? I have a degree in journalism; voted for Howard Dean, James Douglas, Phil Scott and Bernie Sanders; subscribe to the New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal; and could unbutton someone's shirt with a .22 at 50 feet. Would I be qualified?
More, Better Reporting
Thanks for reporting on the fundraising disclosures in Vermont's 2022 congressional campaigns [Off Message: "Gray Outpaces Balint in Early Fundraising for U.S. House Race," January 31]. It's crucial political reporting, given the magnitude of this race and the insight that a campaign's fundraising and donors can give into the campaign itself.
Your last story, though, left out half the story. Yes, it's important to report total contributions and notable donors.
But what your last story omitted — and I hope you will include next time — is the makeup of those contributions. How many people donated to each campaign? How many were from Vermont? What about out of state? What was each candidate's average donation size? Which candidates have the most big-dollar donors? Or small-dollar donors? How much of each candidate's total contributions came from double-counted donors who have already given the maximum for both the primary ($2,900) and general election (another $2,900)?
It means one thing if a campaign is getting $2,900 donations from out-of-state (or even in-state) mega-donors. It means something else to get hundreds of ordinary Vermont voters giving $29. I hope your reporting on the upcoming April 15 disclosures will give us that insight.