Tall Enough Now
[Re "Time to Grow Up? Burlington Considers New Building Heights," June 10]: Is Burlington a physically modest small city nestled between lake and mountains, or a taller-is-better competitor of Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia? Supporters of the new Burlington mall seem to promote the latter, asking for a variance that would allow a building 20 percent higher than any in Vermont. Each of those distant cities has a population 12 to 15 times larger than Burlington's; the same factor applies to the metro areas, so the comparison is a long and odious stretch. Burlington's hipness and cachet are largely based on its integration of vibrant culture and natural beauty on a human scale. This combination diminishes as size and height increase without limit. In Burlington, we can still see the sky, the lake and trees growing in the ground — not in pots on a rooftop. The buzz of openness and nature is an integral part of Burlington's uniqueness. Hold the line on building height.
A Plug for Barbara Grimes
["Power Broker: Under Neale Lunderville, Little Burlington Electric Plans Big," June 10]: While I'm excited to read about all the wonderful projects the Burlington Electric Department has going on, credit for BED reaching 100 percent renewable status belongs mostly to Barbara Grimes and her stellar 15-year career as head of BED. Not to take anything away from Neale Lunderville, who seems to be making great strides himself, but Queen City folk should feel lucky that their publicly owned utility has, and has had, such bright and forward-thinking management.
Capitalizing on Cannabis
[Re "Entrepreneurial Dream Team Sets Sights on Marijuana," April 15]: Our Vermont Cannabis Collaborative team is in full agreement with the letter writer [Feedback: "Pot Problem," May 27] regarding cannabis legalization as a social justice issue. But this does not preclude our emphasis on finding a way to stimulate greater social and economic opportunities for all Vermonters around cannabis legalization, guided by multiple bottom lines — social, economic, environmental, quality products. The stigmatization of cannabis over the past decades has had a host of negative consequences for all of us, and society as a whole. We at VTCC are working to create a win-win for Vermont around cannabis legalization: increasing entrepreneurial opportunities for farmers and small businesses; creating more jobs in what could be a new growth industry for Vermonters; providing greater access to the medical and health benefits of cannabis; and crafting a thoughtful approach for educating young Vermonters about the health and safety concerns surrounding cannabis and brain development. We hope all Vermonters will support our efforts. Find out more at vtcannabiscollaborative.org.
Williams is writing on behalf of fellow VTCC steering committee members Dan Cox, Michael Jager, Judy MacIsaac, Hinda Miller, Alan Newman and Will Raap.
Nothing 'Seedy' about Services
Thank you for highlighting the issue of homelessness among those fleeing domestic violence ["Shelter Skelter: Domestic Abuse Survivors Wind Up in Seedy Motels," June 3]. Few realize that domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness. Although Alicia Freese did an excellent job describing the system of emergency housing for the people we serve, the article did not emphasize enough the role that Women Helping Battered Women plays in helping survivors of domestic abuse secure emergency housing and other services, even when our shelter is full. Contrary to the implication that those in need are "turned away" from WHBW and abandoned in "unsupervised motels" when there is no space in our shelter, we offer advocacy and support services regardless of the location in which a survivor is housed.
In Chittenden County, those seeking emergency housing due to domestic violence through the state's Economic Services Division are screened by WHBW through our 24-7 hotline, and are offered the full range of WHBW services, such as legal advocacy, housing assistance, supportive services to children and youth, and economic stability programming. Finally, referring to the places that some domestic violence survivors have to call home as "seedy" is insulting, and may actually prevent a reader who is considering fleeing a violent situation from doing so.
Dougherty is executive director of Women Helping Battered Women.
South End Endangered
As Alicia Freese glossed over in [Off Message: "Mayor's Plan to Build More Is Questioned at Housing Summit," May 21], experts on market-rate housing such as speaker Tom Angotti have made it abundantly clear that the plans our current administration have to change industrial zoning to mixed-use and residential in the South End arts and enterprise district will spell disaster for this tiny area. At just 4 percent of the city and 27 percent of the South End, it accounts for almost all of Burlington's industrial area. This devil's bargain won't provide any meaningful return in affordable housing, but will sacrifice a neighborhood while scandalously ignoring the values and interests of the community. When developers are given the chance to build high-profit residential or medium-profit commercial, guess which one they choose?
Mixed-use zoning would mean the demise of this beloved self-generating engine of change. Burlington City Arts and the planners supposedly hired by the city to preserve the viability of the South End need to offer more than a few token glitzy arts complexes serving only a handful of people in exchange for this vital, diverse, economically and culturally productive area. The planners' draft plan for the South End will have come out by the time this paper goes to press. We must carefully analyze it to see if it reflects the concerns of a growing number of residents, small-business owners, local industrial craftspeople and artists who are demanding of their public officials a genuinely collaborative planning process and meaningful legal zoning protections for the enterprise zone. If it is not, as promised, "our vision, our plan," we must demand a return to the drawing board and the grassroots engagement that once made this city great.
What About Beth?
In [Fair Game: "Gone Gov," June 10], Paul Heintz asks, "Will we ever elect women to higher office in this state?" Paul, meet Beth Pearce, Vermont's state treasurer. Peter Shumlin appointed Pearce in January 2011 to succeed Jeb Spaulding. Voters subsequently elected her to remain in the position, which as a statewide office sure would seem to qualify as "higher office in this state." Shouldn't Paul have known about — and mentioned — Pearce?