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Letters to the Editor (5/24/17)


Published May 24, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated May 30, 2017 at 4:11 p.m.

'Courageous Journalism'

If you crave courageous journalism, reread Terri Hallenbeck's column [Fair Game: "Rookie Mistakes," May 17].

In fact, I had to reread it several times before I was convinced that publisher and coeditor Paula Routly allowed to appear in her newspaper an article so critical of her "domestic partner."

The piece calls to task state Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe for several alleged personal shortcomings, calling him "impetuous" and "short-tempered," among other unflattering labelings.

The stinging descriptions are contained in a column analyzing three state legislative political leaders — governor, Senate leader and House speaker — who are new in their jobs and not working well together.

Ashe is further described as having an "unwillingness to share information with the public," being rude to an opposing lawmaker and walking out on a reporter who asked a question.

A disclosure appended to the column notes that Ashe is Routly's domestic partner.

Hallenbeck could have taken the easy way out and never written critically about her boss' partner.

And once Hallenbeck wrote the piece, Routly could easily have spiked it.

Courageous journalism can elude the strongest of practitioners.

To see an example of this courageousness in our midst may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

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.

Ted Cohen


Cut the Caricatures

Terri Hallenbeck's contention that the current budget impasse is a result of character flaws and inexperience exhibited by Gov. Phil Scott, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe is a discouragement [Fair Game: "Rookie Mistakes," May 17]. Lack of timeliness, legislative presence and transparency re the collective bargaining agenda has eroded public trust of Scott's focus on accomplishment. Johnson and Ashe, longtime public servants, are viewed across the aisle with respect for their annual contribution to shaping budgets informed by economic justice for all Vermonters.

Hallenbeck's article, in part, focused on the difficulty of players traversing a policy void and getting deal making done in the crucible of the legislative season. Another primary objective, however, was sharing flippant perceptions of their flaws, creating caricatures in a political drama that undermined the hard work, stress, soul searching and sacrifice required of all state legislators — those in clearest sight of the media crosshairs highlighted here. Assigning blame for a stalled budget resolution to Scott's elective grandstanding, Ashe's mercurial temperament and Johnson's lacking political savvy is far too simplistic and unfortunate.

Whether a budget is vetoed or passed, compromises are made. All will live with their role in the process, held to account by voters. Would a deal have been done sooner had the players been more seasoned? Character critique serves only to discourage the next generation of representatives from public service. In her rookie week of writing Fair Game, Hallenbeck deserves respect for her effort. In this spirit, I encourage readers to forgive an off note!

John Abbott


No Exposé?

Mayor Miro Weinberger has been extremely successful at assembling a cadre of not-so-progressive Progressives, business folks who stand to gain from his projects and city councilors in lockstep with his views. Many of his staff and board members come from New Urbanism, development and housing backgrounds. Since all but two of the people reporter Kevin J. Kelley interviewed for ["Better Burg?" April 26] fall into these categories, it's no wonder he found few Weinberger critics. I can only imagine what a more diverse group of interviewees might say or what better investigative reporting might turn up.

1. How do the participants of the planBTV process feel about 14-story towers when they supported a human-scale city plan with buildings under eight stories?

2. How much money has this administration spent on outside consultants for so-called public processes that turned out to be marketing tools with predetermined outcomes?

3. An accounting of what is likely an unprecedented amount of PAC money spent to promote preferred ballot items and candidates.

4. An exposé on the methods to push projects through, for example, predevelopment agreements and impact studies (physical, environmental, financial, stormwater) delayed, ignored or delivered with inaccurate data, images or redacted information.

At a time when big money is damaging our country and honest, in-depth reporting is needed more than ever, Seven Days has missed an opportunity for a much more interesting story.

Amey Radcliffe


Rethinking Reimbursements

Vermont physicians in independent practice aren't the only ones getting gypped by the insurance companies ["The Doctor Is Out; Lawmakers Seek 'Lifeline' for Independent Physicians," May 3]. Over 17 years of independent practice as a licensed clinical mental health counselor and alcohol-and-drug counselor, I've only had a couple of rate increases, by pennies — never enough to cover rises in operating expenses. This means providers' incomes are declining every year. Theoretically, if someone were in practice long enough, his or her income could become negative!

Kelly Lange from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont is quoted as saying that if provider reimbursements increase, that will increase medical costs. Well, we all know that our insurance costs rise every year anyway. In the past, I have written to the banking and insurance commission and politicians asking why those increases occur yet independent providers don't see any of the money. They conveniently chose to ignore the question, instead bemoaning the rising cost of health care. So, I'm still asking: Where is that money going if not to providers?

Also, having worked in institutional settings, including an HMO, I'm skeptical of outcome-based reimbursement. It could take us back to when providers felt compelled to refrain from referring to specialists or to not order tests in order to preserve "quality of care" limits set by insurance companies.

I sincerely hope that practitioners in allied health fields can continue to practice independently in the future. They model a standard of care that provides a comparison to and balance against the dehumanization that occurs in large, impersonal systems.

Luanne Sberna