Mental Health's Hot Potato
The story of Francis and Simon ["Committed," April 25] struck home; my 13-year-old daughter was just recently diagnosed with a serious mental illness, which afforded me a first-time foray into the tragically nonsensical and disjointed mental health care system in Vermont.
The system is broken, which means critically ill patients are "hot-potatoed" between police, hospital ERs, Brattleboro Retreat and home in reactive, crisis-driven and expensive ways. We need thoughtful, coordinated care at the following levels: crisis stabilization in settings such as ER psych wings and Brattleboro Retreat; inpatient therapeutic step-downs of 30 to 180 days; and then intensive outpatient or perhaps even therapeutic residential services. Currently, families are seen as both therapeutic step-downs and providers of intensive outpatient functions, which they are not.
Additionally, mentally ill patients could create a type of advance directive with their mental-health team in their lucid moments, which outlines their wishes for medical interventions, including involuntary medication and commitments, should they be unable to take care of themselves. This advance directive would ameliorate the worry about depriving a person of their liberties.
Lastly, I believe that with rights come responsibilities — and with responsibilities, rights. If a family member is expected to have the responsibility of caring for a mentally ill adult, as is often in that person's best interest, they should have more rights and resources to enable them to do so, especially since that care is so all-encompassing, 24-7.
UVM Could Learn From Champlain
Great credit goes to Champlain College for its commitment to housing 90 percent of its 2,100 students ["New Champlain College Dorm to Ease the Student Housing Crunch," April 18].
In sharp contrast, the University of Vermont leaves approximately 4,000 of its 10,000-plus full-time undergrads to search for housing at the end of their sophomore year. Reporter Molly Walsh's description of a Greene Street "packed with cars ... and litter [blowing] around the curbs and sidewalks" is typical of student-dominated streets. The student rentals characteristically look run-down and not well cared for. This is not a healthy urban environment.
The demand for student housing creates an incentive for property buyers to pay top price for properties to be turned into rentals. Many UVM graduates say they would like to stay in Burlington, but they cannot afford to rent or buy. Investors outbid 24- to 36-year-olds.
President Tom Sullivan said UVM has a "public responsibility to advance the economic and societal well-being of the state" in the spring 2015 issue of the UVM quarterly. If he were true to his word, UVM would increase its student housing and make it more affordable to attract students.
With the reduction in student demand on Burlington's limited housing stock in working-class neighborhoods, a new population of homeowners and renters would have the opportunity to spur an economic resurgence along with citizen engagement in the city.
Bad Food, Bad President
You are what you eat! Just as artificial foods are created to imitate real foods, the presidency of Donald Trump imitates as well. Vinny DeToma ponders in his letter to the editor [Feedback: "Don't Dis McDonald's," May 2] that liberals are having trouble understanding why the president won the 2016 election. Sadly, this proud liberal has no such trouble grasping this concept. Just as fast food is designed and marketed to the masses, so was this carnival-barker charlatan designed and marketed for our consumption — in a tragic and sad chapter of American reality TV I'm labeling "As the Stomach Churns."
[Re Off Message: "Barton Man Busted After Blasting Smoke Detector With Shotgun," May 1]: Leroy Mason used a 20-gauge shotgun, a double-barreled one. Was it a Parker? What grade? Now, if it is a Parker — one of the finest guns ever made in the U.S. — Mason's main concern is getting back that Parker.
Save the Trees
Burlington is in a frenzy of cutting down trees [Last 7: "Unkindest Cut?" April 11]. First it was the majestic trees that surrounded the UVM Alumni House. Now it's the conifers for the Cambrian Rise project. Soon it will be the trees at City Hall Park.
Meanwhile, Mayor Miro Weinberger recently reiterated his condemnation of the federal government led by President Donald Trump for failing to meet its fundamental responsibility to address climate change. Hypocritical?
Trees clean the air by photosynthesis and provide a leafy canopy that helps reduce global warming. Pavement, on the other hand, absorbs and magnifies the heat of the sun, increasing the ambient temperature.
Our city parks should be useful in combating global warming, not contributing to it. Those changes will make the park bleak and cold in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer. The park will no longer be a place of sanctuary and refuge. Isn't that its purpose?
If the trees in City Hall Park are not healthy, it's because they have not been properly maintained. The elms there survived the Dutch elm disease that swept through North America in the last century. Now, those same stately elms may soon fall victim to the chain saw.
I implore the mayor and city council to refrain from removing any trees from City Hall Park. Cutting down venerable trees violates every aesthetic and environmental principal there is.
[Re Fair Game: "Into the Arena," April 18]: As a South Burlington resident, I was going to answer Vermont Republican Party chair Deb Billado's call for a candidate to take on state Rep. Martin ("He's a California scoundrel to boot!") LaLonde. But then I remembered I was born in New York State, which apparently makes me ineligible to serve in public office in her Vermont.
Hey, Deb, do you know what the word "democracy" means? How about "citizen"? What about "taxpayer"? How about "Proud to be a Vermonter, no matter where I was born"? That works for me. What about you, Deb?
Having lived in Korea for years, I was pleased to see that Vermont finally has a Korean restaurant to call its own and equally glad to see that Seven Days felt it worthy of coverage ["Capital Korean," April 18]. By the description, the restaurant sounds both authentic and delicious, and I'll look forward to trying it out.
The one point I wanted to add that might be interesting to Seven Days readers is related to the dish that owner An Na dubbed "Old Boy," which shares a name with the most popular film ever to come out of Korean cinema. If the dish at Banchan is a "cheesy, gratin-style mélange of chorizo fried rice with kimchi and eggs," the film, released in 2003 and directed by Park Chan-wook, is a mélange of far darker, more violent human ingredients.
While I can't speak for the reason An Na chose the name, it would be impossible for a Korean restaurant to name a dish "Old Boy" and not intend for a connection to the film. To me, this gives local diners who haven't seen the film a chance for a complete dinner-and-a-movie Korean experience, albeit separately, at least until Banchan decides to host a movie night.
[Re "Food Fight," April 18]: The interest in using soil-less hydroponic systems to grow food is an example of what Teddy Goldsmith decried in his book The Way as "the methodical substitution of the technosphere or surrogate world for the ecosphere or real world."
Goldsmith goes on to say, "To question the efficacy of this substitution, or to suggest that it might not be entirely beneficial, is to blaspheme against the holy writ of what is in effect the religion of the modern world. The inestimable benefits provided by the normal functioning of the ecosphere — such as a favorable and stable climate, fertile soil and fresh water, without which life on this planet would not be possible — are totally ignored and assigned no value of any kind. It follows that to be deprived of these non-benefits cannot constitute a 'cost' and the natural systems that provide them can therefore be destroyed with economic impunity."
Common sense and centuries of knowledge confirm that a biologically active fertile soil is the most efficient producer of highly nutritious and pest-resistant crops. Therefore, it would seem that only a distorted religious belief in the sanctity of man-made technology could possibly explain the defense of hydroponic techniques as making any sense at all as a substitute for true soil culture. None of the water-based, soluble-nutrient delivery systems, be they hydroponic, aquaponic or whatever, can come close to duplicating all the nutritional, environmental and sustainable benefits of soil-based organic food production.
Burlington Police Watch
Do black lives matter to Burlington's mayor and city council?
Both Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Chief Brandon del Pozo have consistently opposed robust civilian oversight of our police force ["Oversight Unseen: Who's Watching the Vermont Police?" April 18].
When Wayne Brunette was killed by officers in the New North End and Seven Days reported that two witnesses directly contradicted the words of the officers involved, none of our local elected officials nor our police officials took the step to demand and support more accountability and transparency.
As our current police commission chair, Christine Longmore, stated, the current police commission is "oversight make-believe."
Strong police oversight has a proven record of bringing transparency and trust to communities, particularly communities of color. Larger cities such as Seattle and Portland, Ore., have successfully implemented robust civilian oversight — and it's time we bring it to Burlington.
If black lives do matter to our elected officials, they should have no trouble putting trust back into the hands of our most marginalized community members.
Principles Before Politics
I read with deep concern and chagrin about the threats leveled against Gov. Phil Scott, presumably around shooting him while stock-car racing, for signing the various gun bills into law [Fair Game: "Into the Arena," April 18]. Sadly, if this isn't evidence of the need to put safety measures and controls on gun violence, then nothing is. The irony of someone making a threat against someone's life for supporting reasonable gun control should not be lost on anyone.
Even though I didn't vote for Scott for governor when he ran last time, I would certainly be proud to vote for him next time he runs. He has shown himself to be a man of principle who put his ethics and values ahead of politics.
And, by the way, Gov. Scott didn't craft and pass those laws — our legislators did; all he did was sign them. This was a group effort, so whether you credit or discredit his signature, at best he was supporting the efforts of many.