Wheelchair Users Eat, Too
As a foodie, I welcome another excellent eating opportunity with the arrival of Poco on lower Main Street [Bite Club: "Dolce VT Food Truck Owners Open New Restaurant, Poco, in Burlington," April 17]. But how does it happen that after extensive renovations, there's no access for patrons with physical disabilities? If this were a one-off, I'd get it. But in Burlington, to openly discriminate against the disabled is not only pervasive, it seems to be tacitly accepted as functioning social policy. Where are the city's Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer and zoning board? And, more importantly, where is the social conscience of Burlingtonians in all this?
I pose these questions because, over the past decade or so, I've watched a number of restaurants open, thrive and then leave this space only to have it occupied by yet another. As a foodie, I've watched with anticipation. Will this be the one? Will I have access to barbecue? Funky doughnuts? A great sandwich? Truffle fries? Alas, no — and again, no!
It makes one wonder: Are the building owners dead set against providing access? Do they loathe wheelchair users? Did one of my wheeled brothers or sisters wheel over their toes? Why? Why are Vermonters with disabilities still experiencing this level of structural violence and discrimination in the 21st century? Come on, Burlington. We eat, too!
Protect Our Wildlife's ad depicting animals caught in traps should be an eye-opener for everyone [March 20 and 27; April 10 and 24]. In my opinion, the pain, stress, terror and torture that traps inflict on animals is unacceptable, deplorable and reprehensible. The death that they then experience at the hands of trappers is nothing short of barbarism. It is abominable that, in the 21st century, these traps are legal. I do not believe that our Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department allows this abhorrent practice to continue. I believe that Vermonters would like to see more otters, foxes, bobcats and other wildlife on our landscapes, not caught in leghold and body-crushing traps and killed for recreation and "tradition."
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Council to Question Mayor, Police Chief About Death Investigation," April 26; "Man Who Died After Fight With Cop Had Broken Jaw, Eye Socket," April 24; Off Message: "Cop Involved in Altercation at Hospital Sues to Obtain Bodycam Footage," April 23; Off Message: "Governor's Staff Emails: Burlington Mayor's Autopsy Request 'Does Not Feel Right,'" April 18; Off Message: "Burlington Officials Sought to Change 'Homicide' Finding in Police Case," April 17]: Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo has a history of acting as both a police chief and a judge, inserting himself into private citizens' and other officials' jurisdiction, claiming to be a champion of transparency while also erratically choosing if, when and how much public information will be shared in any given case. Del Pozo's responses do not revolve around transparency, justice or community policing, but rather around boosting and protecting his personal profile and narrative.
This is concerning, because the chief has shown a consistent disregard for being held accountable for his actions. In fact, he has made several veiled threats at police commission meetings that he would quit if held responsible for his words and actions by a civilian board, even crying wolf and invoking the First Amendment to claim that he has been unconstitutionally censored by private citizens who have expressed concern about his behavior.
Laws and policies should be applied equally and evenly, democratically overseen by a group of elected citizens, not decided by a single person who has a personal stake and a very public reputation in each outcome. We need a police chief who is a public servant invested in the entire community, not a chief who acts more like a politician looking for positive press and public accolades.
Get the Lead Out
[Re Off Message: "House and Senate at Odds on Lead Limit for Vermont Schools," March 25]: As a pediatrician, every day I talk with the parents of young children about the risks of lead poisoning. I explain to them that lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes IQ loss and developmental damage, even at very low levels. I let them know that there is no safe level of lead exposure and that even limited exposure can lead to lasting damage. In the past, I asked the parents of babies and toddlers to check their homes for signs of old, flaking lead paint. But now I also ask the parents of school-age children about lead in their children's schools.
There is currently no law in place to mandate that schools test for lead in their drinking water. This month, the Vermont House is considering S.40. To address this problem adequately, it is fundamental that this bill contains a health-based action level of one part per billion. The one-part-per-billion action level is both technically achievable and cost-effective. Passing a bill with a higher action level continues to put our children at risk and would unfairly disadvantage children who attend schools and childcare facilities with fewer financial and advocacy resources.
There is no tolerable level of damage to the developing brains of our children. The House needs to vote S.40 out without delay to show our youngest citizens and their parents that Vermont is fully invested in their health and future.
Ethics in Action
A tip of the hat to Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly for allowing such cutting-edge journalism — which she could easily have spiked in the name of domestic harmony ["Will the Revolution Be Monetized? Bernie Sanders' 'Dark Money' Org," April 24].
As Paul Heintz, the writer, noted in the editor's appendage, Routly's "domestic partner" is a state senator who has benefited from the so-called "dark-money" organization profiled in the piece.
Routly isn't new to courageous journalism. She has published previous stories raising questions about state Sen. Tim Ashe's politics.
Not only does she not veto these pieces, she obviously knows before she sees them in their publishable form that they are in the works.
Yet she continues to bravely sponsor this no-holds-barred journalism.
Two years ago, when Seven Days ran a piece that was critical of Ashe, I wrote the following to the editor:
"Routly may now be sleeping on the couch, but if she's not, I also include her partner Ashe as an example of courage — for loving a partner who buys ink by the barrel."
Congrats also to Heintz for his courage to go after this great story despite the potential for newsroom disharmony.
Editor's note: To clarify, Seven Days' editing process is set up so that Routly does not assign, edit or read any of the stories for which she has a conflict of interest.