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Letters to the Editor (4/7/21)


EZ-ier Still

[Re "EZ Does It," March 31]: Your article about the company EZ-Probate stated: "The estate can cover any legal fees, but the assets are often tied up in property that has to be vacated or sold. And outstanding debts can sometimes wipe out what little money an estate has, leaving families to pay the attorney's bill."

This is generally false, since attorney fees and other costs of administering the estate are a first priority. "Outstanding debts" would not be paid until there are sufficient funds to pay the estate legal fees and other costs of administration, including the fee to the executor or administrator.

If you hire a lawyer to help you with an estate, you are hiring a highly regulated professional who has a professional code of responsibility and who is accountable to the client, to the court and to the professional conduct board. To whom are Byron Batres and his company EZ-Probate accountable?

Most information about starting the probate process and managing a straightforward estate is available at vermontjudiciary.org under the Probate Division section, including all forms necessary to open an estate.

George Belcher


Save New Haven Station

[Re "Out With the Old," March 17]: New Haven's historic train station has been a community landmark since the summer of 1868. The Burlington Free Press of August 17 that year reported that "a new and commodious brick depot is in the process of construction on the east side of the track..." Middlebury and Vergennes papers reported similar progress. I find it mind-boggling how the media has been taking wild guesses at its birth year, ranging from 1841 to 1903! The correct year is 1868! This classic country depot has stood its ground for 152 years and six months.

There was a time when this venerable building served a second railroad. From 1892 to 1929, the six-mile Bristol Railroad chugged into town, pulling up to the east side of the station. So much history took place within the shadows of its eaves, including the transfer of agricultural goods and coffins from Bristol Manufacturing Company — the largest of its kind in the Northeast. I was disappointed even Seven Days couldn't find this information with a quick newspaper search. My recently published book, New Haven Junction to Bristol, Vermont: Crossroads to Caskets, provides this information, as well.

The sadness and anger I feel about the likely loss of this beautiful brick landmark runs deep. I'm grateful veteran railroaders such as George Smith, a former agent there, didn't live to see this travesty. I encourage anyone who feels as I do to speak with their representatives. Ask them to save New Haven station, a link to the past since 1868.

James Jones


Red Flag?

[Re "Race for Equity," March 3]: Saturday, March 20, was the perfect first day of spring to walk to the University Mall from Burlington. As I approached the Interstate 89 overpass, I saw a white man holding a big American flag fluttering in the wind. I immediately tensed up. I'm Black. I was so relieved he was friendly. This is the legacy of Donald Trump. Instead of automatically feeling solidarity with someone holding the American flag, I felt fear.

Gwen Shervington


Trust in Kids

[Re Kids VT: Growing Up Green: "DIY Kids," February 28]: I am very grateful to my parents, who had the nerve to let me make my own choices at a very early age. I was a juvenile diabetic in a university-based program regulating the diabetes with a strict diet. No insulin. Just diet and exercise.

When I started first grade at age 5, my mother told my teacher and the cafeteria staff not to try to second-guess what I should eat. She told them I knew that I had to be careful, that I couldn't have bread and potatoes, that I had to skip the gravy, and so on. I knew that, on the rare occasions when nothing was suitable, my mother had left cans of soup for me.

Everybody wanted to sit next to me because I always chose dessert and gave it away.

My father took charge of the exercise. In fourth grade, I took physical education with the boys because I was the only girl who knew how to play baseball.

Looking back, I'm amazed and impressed that my parents had the courage and steadfastness to put a 5-year-old in charge.

Susan Ohanian


Kindsvatter Is Brave

After reading [Off Message: "UVM Professor's Viral Video Prompts Calls for His Resignation," March 16] on the most recent "woke" kerfuffle at the University of Vermont, I watched the YouTube video by professor Aaron Kindsvatter. I was surprised that such a thoughtful, careful analysis of the problem he sees in his department's decision to enforce a dubious orthodoxy upon its members would provoke such a howl of protest from the university community. But then it occurred to me that UVM has long since ceased to be an oasis for diverse intellectual thought and freedom of expression and instead has become a hotbed of intolerance, where color of skin and ethnicity are elevated above all else.

In this environment, Kindsvatter's protest video was the act of a very brave man. He is willing to raise his voice against a hypocritical and intellectually dishonest ideology that holds one to be racist if one doesn't confess that by being white, one is, of course, a racist.

For his temerity in speaking up and not acquiescing to this twisted logic, the university will be avenged. Tenured or not, Dr. Kindsvatter will be made an example of. The Inquisition tolerates no dissent. Heretics must burn. Students will be encouraged to avoid his classes; his lectures will be boycotted. His fellow faculty will shun him. By some pretext or other, he may possibly lose his job.

Shame on the dean and provost, who rushed to breathlessly announce that students who were upset with Kindsvatter's views could avoid his classes and still complete their majors! Rather, these students should be required to attend his lectures so that they might actually be exposed to a different point of view, something that these sheltered minds have likely never experienced, to their great loss.

Crocker Bennett


Pension Perspective

[Re Feedback: "Pension Tension," March 31]: Responding to the state health department worker's understandable grievance about her pension being cut, I would like to point out that there are significantly varying tiers of pay and benefits for public servants in Vermont. Community mental health workers are paid much less than state workers with comparable education and skills, and they receive no pensions at all.

I sympathize with her loss of expected pension amounts yet must say that better pay for mental health workers is the greater need. Pensions for us are simply not going to happen.

Jim Scheid

East Middlebury

Short-Term Insanity

[Re Off Message: "Senate Passes Measure to Regulate and Inspect Short-Term Rentals," March 30]: This bill is recommending a standard fire inspection and registry for short-term rentals and long-term rentals. However, this story implies that short-term rentals are an unruly and even rogue form of lodging in our state. This is simply not true.

When all lodging was shut down during the pandemic, so were short-term rentals. In fact Airbnb and Vrbo both turned off reservations for Vermont. Very fair. 

A VP of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce is quoted as saying: "The pandemic has put a fine point on what can happen during a public health crisis." I can tell you exactly what happened during this public health crisis: Hotels were being used to house our homeless and unfortunately seeing a rise in crime rates that made them unsafe lodging options for tourists. Family inns became less available due to strict COVID-19 guidelines. Therefore, the only "COVID-safe" places for visitors to stay were privately owned, short-term rentals. 

This reporter says that the "impact on the state's economy is unclear." However, it's very clear. Short-term rentals pay millions of dollars in rooms and meals taxes, property taxes, and income taxes. Guests spend plenty of money in the local economy.

Now, on the verge of a travel boom, the commercial lodging industry and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce are starting a smear campaign against the most viable, popular and safe places to stay in Vermont.

Lisa Ford


In Defense of Dodson

[Re Off Message: "Dodson Plagiarized Portions of Report on Burlington Police Transformation," March 26]: I am a longtime YMCA member and personally do not know Kyle Dodson. As the CEO of the Y, Kyle deserves much credit for the successful move of the Y to its new location. He has done an amazing job of turning the Y into a huge success.

He was asked to do an impossible job mediating between those who want to keep the status quo of policing and those who want immediate reform. Both sides are engaged in a character assassination and demonizing Dodson. This tactic is a distraction and does nothing to solve the problems at hand regarding police reform. I am not interested in seeing a report with recommendations. We need action, with both sides coming to the table with open hearts and a willingness to work hard and actually develop a plan for police reform.

Debra Clemmer


Bias Check

[Re Off Message: "'I Made a Mistake': Weinberger to Allow Racial Equity Director to Oversee Police Study," March 17]: During David Goodman's April 1 "Vermont Conversation" podcast, Tyeastia Green, Burlington's director of racial equity, inclusion and belonging, made the statement: "I do believe that there are probably good people — more than likely there are good people — in the Burlington Police Department. However, they are abiding by rules of a system that says that my life does not matter, and that's a problem."

Maybe the mayor wasn't so off when he worried about her biases.

Patrick Cashman

Portland, OR