In "Cashing Out?" [June 10], I was fascinated to see comments from Department of Liquor Control commissioner Michael Hogan and other privatization opponents that privatizing liquor sales in Vermont would lead to increased alcohol abuse, public health and safety concerns, higher rates of alcoholism, drunk driving, and emergency-room visits. In my opinion, this viewpoint is ludicrous; why would alcohol abuse significantly increase? I think the state's control of liquor has nothing to do with those things. If anyone tells you otherwise, their head is too big for their body. I wish you took a harder stance on people who made this comment because, in my mind, it's clearly grounded in hyperbole and fear tactics.
Hogan lambasted the state of Washington for privatizing liquor sales and seeing prices skyrocket. If I know the American people like I think I do, I'm pretty sure higher prices are not related to increased consumption; I would say the opposite would actually be true.
I think Ken Picard missed an opportunity here as a journalist. He could either have found corresponding data to confirm and support this point of view, which I doubt exists, or called out the commenters on this rhetoric, because it is a clear stretch of the imagination that alcohol abuse would increase in Vermont if the entity in charge of selling it changed.
'No' to Privatization
It seems as if the article "Cashing Out?" [June 10] answers its own question. Should the state of Vermont divest itself of its Department of Liquor Control? A resounding no was echoing in my head by the end of the piece. Why would the state want to lose the $167 million it pulls in each year? Why would it want to pull its support from the small artisanal distilleries? There is no reason. The state is desperate for money. The DLC is bringing it in! Consumers get steady pricing. Perhaps the "sale" prices aren't stellar, but you're not shocked at the jump in costs from store to store, either. Personally, I can't see how a lack of advertising would ever drive a Scotch drinker into a can of Mike's Hard Lemonade. If you've developed a taste for a certain spirit, there's not much that will sway the steady consumer. It sounds as if the state is investing in sales by upgrading the computer system. Privatization has its place in business, but this is not one of them. Vermont is a costly place to live already; consumers don't need the added burden of fluctuating booze prices piled onto their backs.
"Shelter Skelter: Domestic Abuse Survivors Wind Up in Seedy Motels" [June 3] got me thinking about Women Helping Battered Women and its bottleneck shelter problem. I understand that the need for safe, affordable housing is high, and there just doesn't seem to be enough to go around at any one given time. What perplexed me is why WHBW doesn't transition the people who have been staying in the shelter for extended periods of time — and most likely have support and a plan to move forward — into the motels. They'd more likely be out of the immediate crisis period than a person who has just left an abusive situation, and in a better position to handle a living arrangement outside of the shelter. The person who has just escaped his or her abusive situation is most in need of a supportive environment. It might also help them not go back to an abuser.
Paul Heintz's closing comments in Off Message: "Campaign Vets Share Tips for Vermont's Gov Contenders" [June 12] were sad and depressingly true. He wrote, "Candidates are likely already courting the state's traditional power brokers, such as Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce president Tom Torti, Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, St. Albans Messenger publisher Emerson Lynn and, of course, 'the Burlington Bishops.'"
Gubernatorial supplicants genuflecting before the likes of Torti, Powell and their ilk and kissing the rings of "the Burlington Bishops" illustrates how Vermont politics is infected by the same terminal virus as American politics generally: Namely, you need to win the wealthy elites before you then go on to pose — momentarily — as a man or woman of the people.
Leonard Cohen sang it better than I could: "Everybody knows that the dice are loaded/ Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed/ Everybody knows that the war is over/ Everybody knows the good guys lost/ Everybody knows the fight was fixed/ The poor stay poor, the rich get rich/ That's how it goes/ Everybody knows."
Right Size, Right Place
[Re "Time to Grow Up? Burlington Considers New Building Heights," June 10]: While I'm underwhelmed by the design of the Town Center mall building, I am hopeful that 300 units of housing downtown could put a dent in what has been called a "housing crisis" — provided that the units being built are actually what's needed. If the city is going to sound the alarm for housing, it must do everything in its power to make sure that what is built directly addresses the problem. Otherwise, pressure gets put on areas that should be preserved as open space or protected for other uses. Building lots are too limited to be wasted on nonessential luxury condos.
I do wonder if we could get the same number of smaller units — 400 to 500 square feet — into something lower than the proposed 14-story height. This would help with affordability as well. I attended the People's Housing Summit recently, and one woman said she would like to see the apartment equivalent of a tiny house option. This makes good sense and could prove a thoughtful development approach that puts people ahead of profits.
Lastly, I have some real concerns about form-based code. A system in which net- zero buildings don't fit the code and the public-review process is greatly reduced doesn't sound like an improvement on traditional zoning. I'd like to see Burlington Planning and Zoning take a step back and consider reforming traditional zoning. Addressing actual problems in a known system is more cost-effective than months of PowerPoint presentations on something overly complex that may be seen as tomorrow's urban-renewal folly. The Queen City made one big planning blunder by erasing an entire neighborhood and blocking streets with a mall. Let's not make another with form-based code.