Just Say Yes
On June 11, the city hosted the Burlington Housing Summit. Over the course of two meetings and dozens of small group conversations, the city got to hear from more than 200 Burlingtonians about our community's housing challenges and opportunities and how to reform our housing policy to create more homes in Burlington. It was an exciting day focused on one of our city's most critical issues.
Unfortunately, readers of Seven Days wouldn't know. Instead of covering this major community conversation, on the same day Seven Days decided to instead write about the latest lawsuit filed by a group seeking to block the construction of the Champlain Parkway [Off Message: "Burlington Citizen Group Sues to Stop Champlain Parkway," June 11]. While hundreds in our community were focused on productive, forward-looking solutions, Seven Days' coverage spotlit those who are seeking to block any change.
Later in the week, the New York Times editorial board published a piece putting our efforts in the national context. "The United States is suffering from an acute shortage of affordable places to live," the piece reads, "and perhaps the most important reason is that local governments are preventing construction." The Times goes on to discuss ways that progressive cities around the country are exploring how to reform restrictive land-use policies and say yes.
By choosing not to cover a conversation about solutions to one of Burlington's most urgent issues and instead continuing to give a megaphone to obstructionists, Seven Days is slanting its coverage in favor of those who are focused only on saying no.
Weinberger is the mayor of Burlington.
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Council Hears Updates on Kilburn Case, Mall Development," April 29]: Finally! We have our long-awaited multiple warm, sunny days in a row. We can enjoy the sounds of birds, the gentle breeze in the fresh green leaves, lovely jazz music and ... construction?
No on that last bit, because despite amenable weather and a desperate need for housing and high-paying jobs, a gigantic hole in the heart of my hometown is doing little more than breeding mosquitos in the idle puddles of mud on the site of what was promised by Don Sinex and Mayor Whatsisname to be the beginning of an unimaginably glorious future for us all. How's that looking right now?
We run the risk of becoming one more comically dysfunctional town that tried to do everything it could to please billionaire investors and millionaire tourists while forgetting that our waitresses and clerks, our janitors and security guards, our nurses and even our cops also need to be able to afford to live, love and play downtown, right along with the coddled students and tourists.
There is a gigantic muddy hole in the heart of my hometown, and I am angry — not least of all because I supported this project in its early days. Now I feel ashamed and guilty, but I should not be alone in feeling that way.
Build something, damn it!
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Council Hears Updates on Kilburn Case, Mall Development," April 29]: I worked in Budapest, Hungary, for 10 years. While I was there, the government decided to build a new National Theatre in the center of the city. They dug the foundation, and then construction stopped. This is much like CityPlace Burlington. In Budapest, the government decided to relocate the National Theatre to another location. The hole in the center city remained for five years and was called the "National Hole."
In Budapest, the National Hole has been put to good use. Might we call the hole in the center of Burlington "City Hole" until it, too, gets put to good use?
See for Yourself
[Re Off Message: "Three Arrested After Climate Protest Halts Vermont House Action," May 16]: While I appreciate Seven Days' coverage of the climate change demonstration in the Vermont Statehouse, I think ORCA Media should have also been mentioned in ["'Just Right?' Vermont Lawmakers Finesse Final Bills in Overtime," May 22].
ORCA Media published the whole 25-minute interaction without interruption, which gave me a fuller understanding of what had happened from the beginning to the end: shouting protesters showering many hundreds of small paper messages into the well; Speaker Mitzi Johnson's clearing of the well of the House of the Representatives without listening to the protesters; seeing the two representatives who stayed; the Statehouse police talking with the press and removing the demonstrators.
It was clearly the in-your-face, awkward confrontation that it was meant to be and showed the frustrations of trying to work within our government's rules to get something done about this life-or-death issue. The ORCA video is on YouTube under the title "Extinction Rebellion Vermont — Swarm the Statehouse."
Oh No, Ono
I must commend Rick Kisonak for refusing to nurture the lionization of the late John Lennon in his review of the film John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky [Movie Reviews, May 22]. His point is especially well taken about the persona of the man as a younger Beatle, particularly in contrast to the sanctimonious, self-righteous and often strident tone of Lennon late in his tenure with the group and early on as a solo artist and in collaboration with Yoko Ono. And the description of the latter segments of the documentary sound particularly on-point in terms of Ono's self-serving interests — even to someone like me who doesn't subscribe to the conspiracy theories about how she contributed to the breakup of the iconic foursome.
Let's hope Kisonak brings an equally discerning eye to the forthcoming film covering the Let It Be phase of the band's career, to be overseen by The Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson. (Yikes!?)
Hands Off, Governor
[Re "Mentally Ill or Criminal? Dismissals of Murder Cases Spark Firestorm," June 12]: So, in one week, Gov. Phil Scott takes a cheap political shot at the lady prosecutor from Chittenden County by encouraging the attorney general to spend millions in feel-good trials ostensibly in the name of public safety. As if she didn't make a thorough review in reaching her own conclusions.
He does this even after a grueling trial that brought relief — but not much justice — to five families in central Vermont with the Steven Bourgoin verdict. Is that what the governor believes constitutes public safety? Because that would have been the likely outcome in the three cases that were dismissed.
I wonder, because true public safety and prevention of impulsive decisions that result in tragic circumstances certainly could have been the outcome of a waiting period to buy firearms. Sorry to see that despite being "a good guy," Scott is also quite exposed as a cheap political hack. In appeasing a minority of rabid people (many of whom I imagine have no problem imposing a waiting period on women for health procedures), he sandbagged a democratically reached decision after legislators left town and weren't there to challenge him.
In the limited words of our Dear Leader: sad.
I found your back-cover ad on June 12 to be a little ironic. The ad was for Shelburne Museum and shows a dog standing on its front paws next to the lake. Shelburne Museum used to sponsor Shelburne Museum Goes to the Dogs, an extremely popular community event that drew thousands of canines plus their people from a wide area for a day that all participants truly gloried in. A few years ago, the museum stopped it abruptly with little explanation. So the museum is now going back to the dogs — that is, to use them for a corporate marketing campaign. Just don't try to bring a real dog to the museum anymore. It's a museum.
'Look Both Ways' — or Else!
[Re 802much: "Dude, Where's My Scooter?" June 5]: I'm new to Burlington and find the city to be clean and quiet. The people are friendly and will go out of their way to help in getting around. Even drivers will anticipate a pedestrian wanting to cross the street and wait.
But what I don't like is this laissez-faire attitude toward cyclists and skateboarders. Even though there are signs — for example, on Church Street — against their use, you can see at least a few who gleefully ride through. Why gleefully? There is no visible law enforcement on any steady basis, even in the dark, when the danger is obviously more of a concern. No, that thoroughfare shouldn't look or feel like an armed camp, but we shouldn't have to look out for rolling individuals who are going faster than us, either.
And what about that narrow space on the side of the Macy's building? For cyclists and skateboarders, it's a fun ramp starting from Cherry Street, but do we have to look over our shoulders to avoid the speeding riders, instead of relaxing and enjoying this nice shortcut? What about the parent who comes out of the garage pushing a baby stroller just ahead? When that child comes of age — assuming it's undamaged — will that parent instruct the child to "look both ways when crossing the sidewalk"?