Love and Support
As the parent of a 29-year-old transgender woman, I wake each day with concern for her safety. The murder of Fern Feather ["'A Star-Being': Friends Mourn Fern Feather, a Transgender Woman Killed in Morristown," April 15] has surfaced my fears, anxieties and anger.
I call on the religious and political leaders who seek personal and political gain by espousing hatred for those who fall outside our paradigms of gender to stop the hatred. Your gain comes at the cost of lives. I hold you complicit in the death of Fern Feather and the 57 trans or gender-nonconforming murder victims in 2021, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign. Your views and perspectives, couched in the preservation of the family, help fuel the fires of hatred. In a country founded on the beliefs of freedom and individual rights, I'm confounded by the way you've turned your backs on people you are expected to represent, support and defend.
From my perspective, the path toward the recognition of one's authentic self can be fraught with isolation and the loss of family. As a parent, I learned that failing to recognize and embrace my daughter's identity risked her disappearance from our lives. To truly embrace her, I placed myself in a position of love and unconditional acceptance.
I mourn the loss of Fern and pray for my daughter's safety. I pray for the safety of others and implore us all to put aside hatred and recognize the value of support, acceptance and, if possible, love.
Imagine the surprise and delight I experienced reading Sally Pollak's piece ["Walking in Rhythm," April 20], coming upon her description (apt!) of my poem "New Watch."
Seems there are few real, wonderful, head-shaking surprises in life. Thank you for the gift of your words. You made my day.
No Cannabis Cartoons
A lot of grassroots work has been done by Vermonters in the last decade to destigmatize cannabis use with the goal of legalizing this important plant-based medicine. Thankfully, we have crossed that finish line and retail cannabis sales will become a reality this year. Unfortunately, the media continues to lag behind in its representation of this plant and the characterization of the entrepreneurs looking to gain entry into this emerging, legal market.
The artwork that Seven Days chose for the April 20 cover story ["Betting Big on Weed"] is a prime example. Do we really need a Joe Camel-like character smiling over his gambling chips to represent the potential positive economic impact and/or risk that this new industry will have for hopeful Vermonters? I don't think so. It continues the negative stereotype that cannabis is a vice and that the business of cannabis is shady.
As a parent, I am also very concerned about your use of a cartoon character to represent cannabis. This goes against the efforts our communities and government have made to protect minors from the health hazards related to cannabis use and the developing brain. Cannabis is for adults. Let's not market it to children.
Vermonters have worked hard to bring cannabis out of the darkness and into the light. We need the media's help to keep it here. Seven Days is well positioned to lead on this front if it chooses to, and I am hopeful that it will. Thanks for listening.
Editor's note: Illustrator Luke Eastman's whimsical "weed guy" has been a recurring character in our coverage of the legal cannabis industry in Vermont, giving us a way to visually convey a shift in attitudes toward cannabis. He's been depicted driving a car; stocking store shelves; working as a Realtor; as a legislative bill; as an older gentleman wearing reading glasses. His image always accompanies articles written for adults. And unlike Joe Camel, he's not selling — or smoking — anything.
Bad Decision on Deck
I read Paula Routly's description of trying to put a deck on her house [From the Publisher: "In My Backyard," April 6]. As someone who has served on two separate community planning commissions, I would say the situation she described seems to be a misapplication of the zoning rules. If it is not, then I'll bet members of the planning and zoning commissions didn't know this would be the effect of what they were doing.
Because of its crowded nature, the neighborhood you described should have been exempted from the setback as impractical. The zoning and building administrators should have taken that into account, as well as the fact that you were staying on the original footprint. Their job is both to enforce the statutes and also to help homeowners, who pay the bills, to build what they need while staying within the rules. You should have been advised to seek a variance before the planning and zoning commission; we heard them all the time. And you should have used the power of the pen to alert residents of this and seek a change to the statutes.
In the second case, I hope that before the multistory apartment building went up, neighboring owners were advised and informed of hearing dates so they could express their concerns. Sure, NIMBY is ridiculed, but out-of-character development is a valid concern to people in neighborhoods. Just as homeowners should build or remodel while respecting their neighbors, so should developers and local zoning officials.
Cows v. Bees: A No-Brainer
["Land of Milk v. Honey," April 13] forgets to mention a few crucial key issues. Cows' digestive systems aren't made to ingest corn. Doing so causes multiple health issues, which farmers combat using antibiotics, which in turn cause multiple issues in humans consuming "antibiotic-treated" milk. Eating corn may cause cows to suffer bloating and even death. A diet of corn can cause acidosis in cows. Over time, acids may break down the rumen wall, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which ultimately can cause acid-resistant strains of E. coli. This strain (0157:H7) will end up in our waterways, in our soils and in the food we eat.
Deciding between feeding cows something they are not meant to eat, because it is easier and heavily subsidized, and keeping our bee populations alive seems like a no-brainer. Yet again, greed often overrules common sense.
Bees and Birds
Thank you, Seven Days, for bringing the neonicotinoid issue to light ["Land of Milk v. Honey," April 13]. Neonicotinoids are affecting not only honeybees but all insects, which are at the bottom of the food chain. In my lifetime, I have seen steep declines in birds, especially aerial insectivores. Vermont's summer skies always held barn swallows and tree swallows 30 years ago. Now there is none in my neighborhood — the skies are empty. In fact, bird populations have declined by an estimated 3 billion birds in the last 50 years.
Do we need another Rachel Carson to write another Silent Spring to wake people up? The height of Vermont exceptionalism hypocrisy is when the ag agency's Cary Giguere suggests he needs proof of the harm of neonics in Vermont, as if the systemic chemicals contained in every cell of the plant, including the windblown pollen, somehow have less of an impact in our "clean and green" state. Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts cohosts the "For the Birds" show on WDEV, but his agency's defense of dangerous neonicotinoids belies his support of avian life. Perhaps he should go back and reread Carson's book.
[Re "Obstruction Zone," April 6]: Form-based code was first created in 1982 for a Seaside, Fla., development project. In the years since then, form-based code has taken hold in the United States and been considered by some to be "the Congress" for New Urbanism.
If towns or cities in Vermont are considering form-based code, please come visit us in Winooski to watch this adopted concept unfold in real time, understanding that once this rapid development program is put into place it can be very tricky to alter if the needs of the community change.
The form-based code and other revitalization projects will present renderings of what your town could look like. For example, in 2014 the Public Design Workshop Report for Winooski showed a large grocery store beautifully presenting itself on the corner of Main and Stevens streets. Admittedly, this kind of renewal takes time, but if your community votes to adopt form-based code, recognize that the rendered drawings may not be what you end up with at all.
Lastly, determine and define clearly which older structures are important to people in your community to preserve. Make sure those desires are in the legal language of the form-based code before the rapid development begins.
Winooski is having to learn some of this the hard way.
Sarah van Ryckevorsel
Way to Make a Difference
Let's be honest about Vermont's ability to impact climate change ["Temperature Rising," March 2]. We're such a small state with such a small carbon footprint that we could be regulated back to the Stone Age and it wouldn't impact climate change one bit.
I shared these concerns with one of my state senators, and he replied, in part, "I agree that if we removed 100 percent of Vermont's GHG emissions, there would be no impact on climate change. The reason for Vermont to address climate change seriously is to provide leadership so that others follow."
In other words, the sole reason we have to endure the hardships of present and upcoming environmental regulations is so our elected leaders and environmentalists can feel good about themselves.
Even they know our ability to effect lasting, global change is nil.
If you're an environmentalist, why are you in Vermont? Why aren't you in South America or Africa trying to save the rain forests? Or in developing countries trying to stop their burgeoning industries from spewing poison into the air? Or in countries that use their waterways as garbage dumps? As long as these things remain unchanged, any climate regulations imposed on Vermonters are a complete waste of time, effort and money.
The only reason any environmentalist would reside in Vermont is because it's easy here: easy to receive accolades, easy to impose environmental sacrifices on others and easy to deceive yourself into believing all this activity is actually having a global impact.
[Re "Ram Hinsdale, Balint Outpace Gray in First-Quarter Fundraising for House Race," April 16, online]: U.S. Rep. Peter Welch tries to talk a good game about serving the people. But his performative puffery, like bragging about not taking PAC contributions while still raking it in from trade associations that are nothing but a PAC with another name, show that he is at the heart of the problem that the U.S. Congress has become.
Welch is very popular in Vermont. His Republican opponent faces an extreme uphill battle to get traction in the race, and the media marginalizes any challengers from outside the two main parties.
Yet Welch is not satisfied with the more than $2 million he already has in campaign funds. He's still been shamelessly working the phones, begging for more from those who know a good investment when they see one. Because what Welch is selling here is not a chance to help him beat a tough rival. He is selling access and connections, pure and simple. All the trade associations and wealthy donors know he will take their calls, consider their pleas and, ultimately, vote in their favor when push comes to shove. Those without the cash to buy access will be left to watch and wonder as the U.S. Congress continues to cater to the whims of the wealthiest while the country sinks ever lower into the abyss of inequality, division and anger.
Not surprisingly, trade associations and the rich ponied up over $800,000 for Welch in the first quarter alone.
[Re "Burlington Takes Aim at Ending Homelessness With 'Shelter Pod' Community," March 23]: There may be a mixed reaction among neighbors, some fearing that the quality of life might be harmed by this new development. Still, we have a problem here: homelessness. And it is our problem, because we all live here. We may need to try some different approaches to solve it.
Homelessness is a huge problem nationwide; Vermont is no exception. Today, people become homeless for a variety of reasons. Today, a minimum-wage job doesn't pay enough to rent an apartment. That still astounds me!
Vermonters have always held that we have an obligation to care for our most vulnerable — the children, the elderly, the sick, etc. True, today we also must deal with COVID-19, Vladimir Putin and climate change. But let us always remember our duty as responsible human beings to care for our most vulnerable neighbors.
Residents of the planned "shelter pod" community will have only a six- to eight-month stay there, during which time resource staff will help them find permanent housing. So this is not a free ride forever but a helping hand to find permanent housing — something everyone needs in order to build a good life.