Wildlife for All
Re ["Going for Gobblers," May 11]: Louis Porter, commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, claims that his department adheres to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. He calls this approach to management "a very democratic idea" in which "wildlife belongs to all people" and says that "regulated hunting, fishing and trapping provide the way to manage those species and also provide revenue to pay for their conservation."
The NAMWC has come under intense scrutiny and criticism by environmental professionals. It is flawed, inadequate and poorly constructed, with a biased historical basis and a misguided ethical premise. Hunters have traditionally claimed that their "sport" supplies the funding for conservation efforts nationwide. In fact, recent studies demonstrate that 94 percent of total funding for wildlife conservation and management comes from the nonhunting public. But hunters make virtually all decisions regarding wildlife management.
In reality, there is little adherence to the seven guiding tenets of the NAMWC by Vermont Fish & Wildlife. Two principles routinely overlooked include the stipulations that wildlife resources are a public trust and that science is the proper tool to discharge wildlife policy. Rather, there is no transparency, no inclusion of the public in Fish & Wildlife policy decisions, nor any sense of accountability to the public. Letters to the board and recommendations from wildlife biologists are ignored, no members of the nonhunting community sit on the board and public commentary is rarely allowed. The department is biased toward special interest groups who recklessly kill wildlife with no regard for conservation principles or the rights of the nonhunting constituency.
Who Failed Burlington College?
The trustees of Burlington College had a fiduciary responsibility for the fate of the college. They purchased the diocese land, and they sold it. ["After Burlington College's Collapse, More Questions Than Answers," May 18] indicates that "Jane O'Meara Sanders was the school's president when it took on the debt that led to its demise." This makes it seem as if the purchase of the land had been unwise, whereas it had been a courageous response to an exceptional opportunity by an ambitious president, and the college had succumbed to a series of financial accidents: The expected enrollment increase didn't materialize, the burden of the mortgage was overwhelming, the bank inexplicably withdrew the line of credit.
But none of those would have destroyed the college if the trustees had done their job. Instead, they failed to support the original mission of the college and — in a move that is baffling and, from my point of view, criminal — simply refused to do any fundraising after incurring a $10 million dollar obligation. No fundraising to service the debt, no fundraising to bring the original diocese building up to code, no fundraising for scholarships, no fundraising to create a viable endowment. Nothing. Zero. Their only actions were to sell off the most valuable assets of the college and to stand by and not lift a finger while the college administration pilfered a restricted gift meant to provide scholarship aid to deserving students.
The debt did not lead to the demise of Burlington College; the trustees did.
Lionni served on the Burlington College Board of Trustees in the 1980s and the early 2000s.
More Than Lunch
["What's Wrong With Burlington's Senior Centers?" May 4] rightly points out the need for more public financial support.
However, as a member of the Champlain Senior Center, I object to the breezily condescending tone. Jell-O strengthens fingernails. Armchair exercise keeps us limber. Some of us dance more than the hokey pokey with Bhutanese seniors to promote friendship, and our Bhutanese neighbors are avid card players.
Director Bonnie Campono organizes it all on a budget that has never been more than $138,000 — I checked. She finds people to give expert advice complete with Q&As about nutrition, knee or hip replacement, and relaxation methods, to name a few of the topics. Then there are sing-alongs, talks about poetry and fiction, and lessons in American Sign Language.
Lunch is not just a balanced and nutritious meal; it is about conversation. We talk about family, health, the weather, and local and national politics. We are Vermonters, after all.
These conversations have a common denominator: the comfort of companionship that comes from knowing that we share the experience of living for more than six decades.
Many cultures value that experience; ours does not.
Linda S. Smith
One bill that passed this year but was not mentioned in ["Pass/Fail: The 2016 Legislative Session's Final Tally," May 11] is H.95, which directs that all misdemeanors and most felony crimes allegedly committed by 16- and 17-year-olds be filed in Family Division, aka juvenile court, and not Criminal Division. Presently children as young as 16 may be charged as adults for any crime. The decision on where to file is solely that of the prosecutor.
Recently prosecutors, to their credit, have begun filing most cases in Family Division. However, a significant number of 16- and 17-year-olds are still prosecuted as adults. The result of a conviction is an adult criminal record, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for youth to access employment, public housing and college loans.
Advocates have been seeking this change for more than three decades. There are numerous people to thank, notably Reps. Maxine Grad, Willem Jewett and Barbara Rachelson of the House Judiciary Committee and Sen. Dick Sears of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was also championed by the state's attorneys, Ken Schatz and Cindy Walcott of the Department for Children and Families, and Marshall Pahl and Sara Puls of the Defender General's Office.
This change recognizes principles of adolescent brain development and the overwhelming number of studies that show far better results when the justice system treats children as children and not adults. It's a reflection of a society that views young people as prospective productive citizens rather than young criminals. Bravo!
Sheil is a former juvenile defender for the State of Vermont.
Mind the Size
Re ["Up Against the Mall," May 25]: As an out-of-towner, I go to Burlington's Church Street to walk about, eat dinner and then head down to the waterfront. I don't go to shop, certainly not indoors. When I need something, Burlington's mall, whatever its state, is not where I'll shop, unless it offered something truly different, funky and enticing. More commercial development, especially oversize high-rise buildings with the same old shops, is just more unsustainable development — not worth the cost and the potential damage to Burlington's mellow, right-size downtown. I predict that, if built, the new mall will be just as hollow and empty as the current mall is today.
Make It Better
The historical account of development in Burlington should serve as a warning to unchecked development in a small city ["Up Against the Mall," May 25]. The inability to practice foresight management and the failure to see the relationship between construction, development and urban planning can spell generations of awkward inner-city navigation, wasteful domino-like spending and inconvenience compounded with inherent missed opportunities for community-enriching growth.
People seem to be either completely for or against the mall project. I don't see the proposed development as that black and white. With a developer eager to invest in the city — something that other cities and municipalities have to beg for — Burlington has an opportunity to set a standard for development in small cities across the country and maybe even the world. Imagine: a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative complex, built with sustainable construction management practices, powered by geothermal and solar energy, with a green roof and more. Also imagine telling Don Sinex and his architects to go back to the drawing board with sustainability as the main focus, not only for materials and building practices, but also conceptually for the basis of aesthetic design. The entire shape and vibe of the mall complex would change. Now imagine the entire country watching: A community acts as a progressive lens for development and sets a new standard for sustainable construction. As a culture, we need this.
As a progressive city with a strong sense of community, we have the power and duty to ask these questions and the right to the answers.
No Special Deal for Sinex
Kevin J. Kelley's "Up Against the Mall" [May 25] provided an excellent history of Burlington's downtown renewal forays in the context of Don Sinex's 14-story mega-project. What's missing in this piece and in the accommodating media coverage generally is the startling sweetheart deal erasing Burlington zoning laws to let Sinex write his own.
His project may in the end be a good one, but it should be built according to our laws, not his.
Our thoughtful and established zoning law allows downtown development up to 65 feet. Developers can earn up to 40 feet of additional height and other bonuses by providing the community with valuable things such as senior housing, parking, energy efficiency and art.
Even if the city had made the overly generous offer of four more stories — 105 feet — and kept in place the chance to earn 40 additional feet through bonuses, Sinex would have topped out at 145 feet.
Instead, the city rolled over twice and committed to giving Sinex the right to build up to 160 feet without any incentive to give back by earning height bonuses.
The elephant in the room is that, per the predevelopment agreement, building height limits downtown more than double from 65 to 160 feet, and the height bonuses to provide special values to the community are abandoned.
Our zoning laws are a promise to the community. When the city makes special deals with any developer for radical and wholesale changes to zoning law, that promise to the community is broken.