I read your Seven Days article "Raising Homes" featuring our town, Westford [June 15]. Many of us in town feel that the construction of a municipal wastewater system will negatively impact the lovely rural town we have now. In fact, a municipal wastewater system coupled with the current zoning in the town center will completely change our town's character.
This fact was brought to light recently by a project the Westford Planning Commission has been promoting called the 1705 Project. The Planning Commission developed and presented to the town a conceptual plan for a three-building, multiunit housing project to be built within a few feet of the town's only major highway, Route 128.
There is an abundance of state and federal dollars available right now. However, unless the character of Vermont is preserved, we will lose the essence of what we love about the place. Westford is a rural gem in the middle of significant development in Chittenden County. We see our Planning Commission chasing grant money that's contrary to our vision of a rural town.
Please take a look at our Keeping Westford Rural website. Please watch the video "Keeping Westford Rural Part 2." In this video, you will understand how the proposed municipal wastewater system will change Westford.
Garage to Give
[Re "Raising Homes," June 15]: Why not convert garages to apartments? The foundation, walls and roof are already there.
We have a nonprofit ready to donate a perfect two-car garage, two retired building contractors and an electrician ready to volunteer. We need a webmaster, organizers, material donations, help to apply for grants, skilled and unskilled workers, and more.
On June 13, Seven Days and two other media outlets published pieces examining alleged "red-boxing" on Sen. Becca Balint's web page ["Balint's Campaign Site Appears to Use Questionable 'Red-Boxing,'" online]. Were they unknowingly part of a carefully executed negative campaign strategy by Lt. Gov. Molly Gray? It would seem so, as two days later the campaign sent a breathless, hyperbolic fundraising email with links to the three articles, warning that "dark money will flood the airwaves and drown out the voices of Vermonters" and "crypto billionaires" will subvert the election.
Balint's campaign responded to concerns about the information in the "About Becca" page on her website by taking it down, and she had already agreed to denounce any super PAC support, even if she can't actually stop it. In contrast, one could argue that Gray has peddled influence much more directly and unapologetically via her personal fundraising calls to D.C. lobbyists, and she says she'll keep doing it ["In Vermont's U.S. House Race, D.C. Insiders, Lobbyists Sign Up for Team Molly Gray," May 18].
I wholeheartedly wish our campaign finance system were designed to prevent the peddling of influence. That's not the case, and it's near impossible to define which campaign supports are truly unconditional, if any. Ultimately, that's up to the candidate, so what matters most to me is how candidates communicate their values and show results. The Gray campaign's three-step strategy to sling mud as we approach the next fundraising deadline is not something a candidate in a strong position and with authentic relationships with Vermonters would do.
As a politically engaged woman who has been awaiting this moment for decades, I know who I want representing me.
Fay is a former state representative and board member for Emerge Vermont.
While the "Promised Lands" cover story [June 8] paints a beautiful picture of Vermont and its history, it fails to talk about wealth hoarding in the form of landownership. It doesn't once mention the Abenaki or other Indigenous groups in the area who had their land stolen. If the goal is to preserve, conserve and respect the land, then why not give it back to the people who originally stewarded it? Vermont Land Trust is a white-led, wealthy nonprofit that gets put on a pedestal. Why was $2 million donated to VLT for "BIPOC land sovereignty"?
Don't Trivialize Gun Violence
A longtime city resident and former city councilor is hit by a fragment caused by gunfire while sitting in his Old North End yard, directly across from a public park. And in Seven Days, this rates an "Emoji That" ["Neighborhood Watch Out," June 8], next to a tweet about a mayonnaise shortage?
Full disclosure: The victim is a dear friend. But even if he were not, I would have expected this incident, coming in the throes of a national debate on gun violence, to be treated with much more gravity by Seven Days.
You might, for example, investigate whether similar gunfire incidents have increased since the city police department was downsized and whether city residents feel less safe than they did two years ago.
Dodging open gunfire, in a residential neighborhood on a pleasant Sunday evening, is not something to be trivialized.
Cops Need Protection, Too
[Re "Prudence or ... Panic?" June 1]: The author of this article paraphrases Jay Diaz, general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, saying, "He believes there's a strong case to be made that 'Don't Tread on Me' or 'Blue Lives Matter' flags are associated with the exclusion of students of color and therefore would be disruptive to their education."
On "60 Minutes," Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray detailed a 59 percent increase in cop murders in 2021, for a total of 73. Assassinations of police officers are at an all-time high, including Black Baltimore officer Keona Holley, who was assassinated with two bullets to the head while sitting in her patrol car in December of 2021. Ambush attacks of police were up 115 percent in 2021.
According to the Washington Post, six unarmed Black people were fatally shot by police in 2021, while criminals killed close to 10,000 Black Americans in 2021.
The average age of police officers who died in 2021 was 48, and he or she left behind, on average, two children.
In a South Burlington public school, "artwork" was hung that had the acronym ACAB, which stands for All Cops Are Bastards.
George Orwell, who wrote the incredibly relevant to modern times dystopian novel 1984, stated: "There are some ideas so absurd only an intellectual could believe them." That perspective is applicable to Diaz's perspective on "Blue Lives Matter" being "disruptive or hostile to an educational environment." In truth, it is essential that students learn that police officers are essential to a civil and safe society.
Gray Didn't Vote
I am dismayed that Washington, D.C., corporate lobbyists and insiders have chosen to prop up Lt. Gov. Molly Gray as their preferred candidate for U.S. Congress by sending big donations from inside the Beltway, as described in the well-researched article by Sasha Goldstein ["In Vermont's U.S. House Race, D.C. Insiders, Lobbyists Sign Up for Team Molly Gray," May 18].
Gray did not bother to vote in Vermont for 10 straight years, only casting her first ballot in a decade shortly before she sought statewide office ["In LG Race, Gray and Milne Clash Over Their Voting Records," September 25, 2020]. How could someone who cared so little about the direction of our state be seriously considered for such a crucial leadership position?
Just as troubling, in a public debate Lt. Gov. Gray was not truthful about her extensive failure to vote — falsely claiming that she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She did not vote at all in 2016. I prefer people who seek positions of public trust to discuss their strengths and weaknesses honestly with voters.
D.C. power brokers appear to be trying to purchase votes for a candidate who did not herself care enough about Vermont to vote for a decade and who has no record of legislative accomplishment. Here in Vermont, we should choose our own path — and I hope we do.
Two Million Acres
Thanks for the informative article describing seven areas where the public is allowed to recreate on private land [“Promised Lands,” June 8]. What the article didn’t point out is that little of our more than 2 million acres of private land is available for public use, even though the public pays most of the property taxes. Current use has likely kept a lot of land out of development, a great result. Under the system, owners pay approximately $3 per acre annually in property taxes, roughly a 90 to 95 percent discount that results in approximately $225 per household in property taxes for everyone else.
Under the current rules, owners can fully post, preventing any public access or use of the land. I’ve spoken to my legislators, who refused to touch the issue, likely because landowners tend to be wealthy, powerful and influential.
A tiered system whereby owners would only get the full discount if they allowed hunting and recreational access would certainly result in hundreds of new properties being opened to hunters, bird-watchers, snowshoers and folks just wanting to take a walk. Greater recreational access would be a big win for Vermont’s economy and Vermonters, but change will only happen if folks demand it from their elected officials.
Whither Ward 8?
Regarding the article by Courtney Lamdin titled "Burlington Council Wants to Save Memorial Auditorium — but Next Steps Unclear" [May 24], which included reporting on redistricting Burlington's city wards: There are additional reasons to favor the restructure of Ward 8, the "student-heavy" ward, other than the one mentioned in the article, which was that long-term residents object to students having "outsize influence in city elections."
First, Ward 8 has very low voter participation, consistently the lowest in the city by far. Many students choose to vote in their home state or town, where they feel their vote will count most. However, the low participation presents challenges with finding qualified candidates to run for public positions — the people who will be responsible for making important decisions for both the ward and the city. There are challenges even to find people to work at the polls
Second, in a student ward, any candidate who is not University of Vermont-affiliated would have a deep structural disadvantage, since they would not be allowed to campaign in the dorms.
Third, as the Ward 8 member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting, I received public input regarding Ward 8 not just from Ward 8 residents but from outside the ward, as well.
Lastly, it makes sense for students to vote as members of the neighborhood community in which they choose to live, where their perspective on issues such as affordable rental housing could be influential throughout the city.
Anne E. Breña
[Re advertisement for VT Grassroots, May 11]: On May 14, 10 innocent lives were taken by a white supremacist and domestic terrorist in a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. On the very same day in the state of Vermont, the VT Grassroots organization and the state's Republican Party were hosting two men who further racist and hateful ideology and alt-right propaganda.
If you go to the VT Grassroots website, you will see a video repeating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. In that video, you will see people of color putting ballots in a ballot box. This is accompanied by very dark and dramatic music. If you are easily fooled, it might lead one to assume that they are stuffing ballot boxes. It only furthers the narrative that our country is being "stolen" or "replaced" by people of color. This is violent and harmful, and we will continue to see domestic terrorist acts committed in this country due to white supremacy. There is no proof presented in the video that anything was stolen — just snippets of dark and grainy pictures that promote lies.
I am sure there are those who feel they are expressing their right to free speech. But because your free speech is hate speech, your rights end where the dignity of others begins. Please take a stand against racism and hate in this beautiful state. Please vote for candidates who will continue and build on values that allow everyone to live with dignity and respect in our country.
[Re "Missing Mail, Crowded Post Offices: A Federal Agency's Woes Touch Down in Vermont," December 1, 2021]: At the end of May, President Joe Biden's nominees to U.S. Post Office Board of Governors were confirmed in the U.S. Senate. Why didn't he immediately fire Postmaster General Louis DeJoy? That's the sort of low-hanging fruit that could boost his approval rating.
I voted for indictments. I voted for accountability, change and a return of an ethical government.
Biden is failing to rise to the occasion. I hope he does not seek a second term.