Light on Facts
The Associated Press erred in citing Norwich as the first town to have all its municipal buildings powered with solar energy [Facing Facts: "Sunny Side Up," April 29]. An array of 26 solar trackers has powered both municipal and school buildings in Starksboro for the last four years.
Pretty Bad Advice
I am "appalled" by the answer Ask Athena gave to Not Attracted to My Wife Anymore [April 22]. This man made it quite clear he loved and respected his wife and felt bad about not being attracted to her. Athena assumed he was holding his wife to culture standards for younger women, but what if his wife did become unattractive? Athena assumed it was "stretch marks or laugh lines," but what about obesity, flabby skin, missing teeth, hair loss, facial hair and flatulence? Does Athena think every guy and gal she meets is attractive? I highly doubt it. Athena needs to back up from the hidden agenda of feminism in the modern world and help this guy — who has an actual problem. If a college kid has a question, she's all about being respectful and helpful; I think if she answered this concern genuinely, she could have helped a lot of older guys, and their wives, in Vermont.
[Re "Brave New Bureaucracy: REAL Licenses Slow Down Vermont Drivers," April 29]: I enjoyed reading your article about Real IDs, having spent 40 minutes at the South Burlington DMV getting my own enhanced license two weeks prior. It was not quite as tedious a process as I expected, though I was surprised by a few of the questions. (Be prepared not just to provide several forms of ID, but also to detail the origin of each document. Good luck remembering where that 30-year-old Social Security card came from.) With all the new procedures in place designed to verify identity, I find it interesting that height, weight and eye color — the most easily confirmed details on a driver's license — are still printed as whatever the individual writes on the application, with no verification required.
My wife and son recently went for driver's license renewals and luckily had all the new documentation required. When asked where and why all this personal information was photocopied and kept by the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, the DMV clerk responded that it is just kept and filed away in Montpelier — for future verification?!
This brings a real opportunity for governmental misuse and abuse of such confidential personal information — a W-2, passport, birth certificate and Social Security number are all required — along with a high risk for identity theft. Lawmakers should not allow the DMV to store such information! Anyone in Montpelier care to respond?
[Re Facing Facts: "Hear Them Roar," April 22]: Winooski is being called "the conscience of Chittenden County" for joining the federal F-35 lawsuit as it seeks to receive full disclosure on the impact to its community and others surrounding the airport. To be clear, the lawsuit does not oppose the F-35 basing. Instead, it cites numerous violations of federal regulations by the U.S. Air Force in its Environmental Impact Statement process. By joining the lawsuit, the Winooski City Council legally requests disclosure of much of the same information that the city has twice sought to obtain from the USAF in its past unanswered F-35 resolutions. Along with Williston and South Burlington, Winooski will be negatively affected by the basing and will suffer significant impacts to the property values, health and safety of its residents. These communities have the right to know the full extent of the impact for long-range planning.
Registry is Wrong
[Re "A Violent Sex Offender Is Released Into the Public Spotlight," April 22]: Nobody seems to want to ask the questions: Is Vermont's public Sex Offender Registry effective? Does it really protect Vermont's children? In 2003, the legislature established a study committee that found "sufficient data have not been systematically collected and analyzed to determine what effect internet registries have on public safety." The committee urged the legislature to take future studies "into consideration prior to expanding or changing the internet registry."
Now, 10 years later, those studies are in. In Gangsters to Greyhounds: The Past, Present and Future of Offender Registration, author Elizabeth Reiner Platt concludes: "Offender registries are backwards, punitive measures that do not make communities safer." In "Does a Watched Pot Boil?," researchers at SUNY Albany reviewed all sex-offense convictions in the state of New York for a period of 21 years — a total of 170,000 offenses. They found that 96 percent were committed by people with no previous sex-assault convictions, and that there was no measurable change in sex offenses committed pre- and post-enactment of the registry in New York. The paper concludes, "There is no evidence that registration and community notification laws affected rates of sexual offending."
Numerous other studies confirm these observations. Public sex-offender registries interfere with offender reintegration and do not improve public safety. Devilishly hard — perhaps impossible — to accurately maintain, the registry doesn't make Vermont children safer, despite unsupported arguments in favor of it. Why are we wasting valuable tax dollars on policies based on fear and misinformation? Vermont should once and for all get rid of this costly albatross.
Paul Heintz completely missed the point in his concerns about new deputy state's attorneys [Fair Game, "Neighbor in Need," April 29]. The problem is not ethical but rather brute stupidity. Given the definition of the problem as "a statewide increase in drug crimes" our governor, attorney general and senators think the solution is to hire more prosecutors! Presumably they can prosecute more addicts and we can send them to jail for a long time. Then we can build more prisons, hire more guards and parole officers, or send more money out of state. And of course this will solve the problem because we all know how well mass incarceration of addicts works. The French statesman Talleyrand put it succinctly three centuries ago: "It's worse than a crime, it's a blunder." More recently it's been, "When you're in a hole, the first thing is to stop digging."
Too Much Corn
Katie Flagg addressed one side of the lake pollution story in ["Sacred Cows," April 1]; Vermont is trying to control something that is almost uncontrollable. Meanwhile, the elephant in the room is corn. Too much corn is being planted — primarily by big factory farms — and in the same spot year after year. The land is left raw and primed for erosion. And here's the real kicker: The federal government is paying the farms to do it, and the state, in the name of Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross, doesn't have the nerve or the interest to stop it.
The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico is attributed to corn grown on upper Mississippi farmlands. Corn is known to be a highly polluting crop, and what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico can well be happening in St. Albans Bay. The feds and our state must know that, and still they push corn.
Subsidized corn is like a drug: Once the farmer gets onto it, it is very difficult to get off. I believe the subsidies should be switched to hay and grass to develop a runoff-resistant sod. Of course the subsidy money probably comes from the corn and chemical lobbies, so they would, of course, resist.