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Letters to the Editor (7/10/19)


Published July 10, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

Cop Out

[Re Off Message: "'Did You Just Swear at Me?' Bodycam Captured Violent Encounter With Burlington Cop," July 3]: Frankly, I am appalled that a "trained" police officer behaved in the same manner a punk or hoodlum behaves when challenged — in this case, by an old, out-of-shape, fat man who, even if his punch landed, would have done little harm. Police officers are trained just as we at the hospital are trained in MOAB (management of aggressive behavior) techniques and other tension-reducing measures. Officer Cory Campbell, it seems to me, lost his temper, and an individual with a temper should certainly not be a police officer!

I expect the union to stick up for one of their own, but I think they would be wise to get rid of this particular officer before he loses his temper again. At the very least, they should help the officer prepare for the next threatening situation.

Daniel Curtin

South Burlington

Curtin is a nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

All About Innovation

Kudos to Dan Bolles for his cover story "Unreal Genius" [June 19]. Although some may downplay Matt Benedetto's "almost useless" creations as silly or frivolous, his Chindogu approach to invention is being taught at engineering and business schools! Why? Because Chindogu disrupts conventional mind-sets, encourages design anarchy and feeds creative problem solving. At Champlain College, we assign a Chindogu project in one of our management and innovation courses. Students enjoy the teamwork, creative challenges and "thinking with their hands" as they build their projects.

Make no mistake: Designing a successful Chindogu creation poses a significant challenge! Chindogu objects must bridge the paradox of being both ingenious and farcical. Working in this unsettling gray zone is what shakes up conventional linear thinking and stimulates innovation. Chindogu also promotes design integrity. The best examples, like Benedetto's, are well conceived and engineered. Along with their absurd functionality, they must have visual appeal and carry catchy "brand names." (Kenji Kawakami's book documents more than 200 of them!) And, as your article emphasizes, Chindogu is just plain fun! Researchers report a strong correlation between playfulness and heightened creativity. Play allows our minds to wander and gives our freewheeling subconscious brains a chance to engage and pose the what-if questions that can fuel fresh insights.

Hopefully your excellent profile of Benedetto will inspire readers to support and celebrate the disruptive (and sometimes quirky!) thinking that has built Burlington's national reputation as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Joseph O'Grady


O'Grady is a professor of management and innovation at Champlain College.

Stickin' to His F-35s

Gun control is not the only subject on which Bernie Sanders tries to have it both ways ["Stickin' to His Guns?" June 26]. Here are three more.

1. In June 27's debate, Bernie said the Democrats need a candidate with "the guts to take on the military-industrial complex." Yet Bernie supports the F-35 strike fighter project, the most expensive weapons system in history. The only proven value of the F-35 so far is to create "yuge" profits for Lockheed Martin.

2. Bernie gives lip service to supporting affordable housing. The easiest way to maintain an affordable housing base is to not destroy existing affordable homes. The U.S. Air Force's career scientists report that the F-35 will cause more than 1,000 homes to be "incompatible with residential use" or, in plain English, too noisy to be safe to live in. The air force acknowledges it could take up to four years to provide noise remediation to all those homes. I asked Bernie's Senate office where those families would live while waiting for "remediation." They had no answer.

3. Science denial. Bernie rails against those who do not believe the established science of climate change, but he prefers to not accept the air force's own established science on the devastating effect of noise on residents near F-35 bases. The science does not support Bernie's predetermined view, so he denies it.

To recap, Bernie supports the military-industrial complex he rails against, he supports the loss of affordable homes, and he is a science denier. We can do better.

John Floyd

South Burlington

Dysfunctional Situation

[Re "How Veronica Lewis Went From Jail to a Mental Hospital — and Back Again," June 26]: So many informed, powerful voices limn Veronica Lewis' story, and the end result is frustration and uncertainty. It's the narrative for anyone who interacts with the mental health system, which is still sort of medicine's, the culture's and government's unloved family member.

One comment, just telling it like it is: Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell's department is set up to treat short-term illnesses and return individuals to the community. This is public policy since, what, the 1970s or '80s? Right about the time homelessness started to climb. People are homeless for all sorts of reasons, but a lot of those reasons are under the heading "trouble functioning in the culture." That dysfunction often involves mental health. As Derek Brouwer reports, the best minds in the business do their best but are ultimately frustrated about what to do with Veronica Lewis and how to protect and make Darryl Montague whole.

As a society, we have an endless list of difficult issues to address. Mental health seems to be way down that list. It's not a subject that is rewarding for politicians and policy makers to wade into — and it is even often avoided by the people it affects, which I guess, in one way or another, is all of us. 

Gene Cassidy


Say Bonjour-Hi

Great to read a feature story on a town and place to visit in Québec on the Vermont border ["Good Neighbors," June 18]. Looking forward to more of these features that promote cross-border visits and appreciation of the cultural life in the Eastern Townships of Québec — so close to us here in northern Vermont.

Douglas Coutts


The Right Words

[Re "Proud Pictures," July 3]: The Dan Bolles and Kelsi Brett depiction of Brenda Perretta-Gagne's work to compile an Abenaki dictionary shows why it is an important endeavor. Children need to know about the language of their roots, and words depicting animals and nature are vital to showing who we are.

Decisions by compilers of the Oxford Junior Dictionary reveal what's at stake. They removed such words as acorn, adder, bluebell, clover, dandelion, heron, kingfisher, newt, odder and wren. The justification was that "lesser-used words" had to be removed to make room for blog, bullet point, broadband, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail. 

We all lose when children lose clover and herons, and we will all benefit when they learn about azban, megeso and wajo.

Susan Ohanian


Highway Hypnosis

Andrew Simon is right that the Southern Connector is outdated [Feedback: "Parkway Is Outdated," July 3]. The thing is a relic of a Johnson-era scheme for a big beltline around Burlington — like Route 128 in Boston. Back then, moving cars to downtown was trendy urban planning. Experience in cities like Detroit and New York City shows that feeder roads such as the Connector harm neighborhoods and degrade urban living. They also fail. Traffic gets heavier, burning more gas. This is not the road to carbon neutrality.

Since the Connector was planned, downtown has taken on new life, and Pine Street is thriving. Connector traffic will set them back and kill what's left of the residential areas around Flynn and Lakeside avenues.

The mystery here is why City Hall allows the zombie project to keep walking. The Weinberger administration promised a "fresh start" and surely has the competence and integrity to conduct a fresh review of the Connector — with an open mind and respect for public opinion — to double check whether the city is still well-served by the big road. A lot of good Burlingtonians feel like helpless victims of bureaucratic inertia. There's no worse reason for something than "The feds will pay for it." The Connector is a strange inheritance from past mayors, but if Mayor Miro Weinberger persists, it will be his legacy.

Samuel Press


Press is a former chair of the Burlington Electric Commission.

Where's Joni?

Enjoyed the [June 26] movie review of Echo in the Canyon, which I just saw on Friday last. Does writer Rick Kisonak have any insights regarding the complete absence of Joni Mitchell from the project? Seems odd, since Mitchell was there at the time, living with Graham Nash, and working with him and David Crosby on songs. ("Ladies of the Canyon," anyone?) Did her music not fit in neatly to the film's design, or did she decline to participate, or what? Mystery...

Gina Logan


Copwatching Is Not Enough

The article "How Should Burlington Police Its Cops? In the Street, Activists Say" [May 22] mentions policy, transparency, training, civilian oversight, suspending or firing police officers who abuse citizens, and copwatching. All are terrific. All are also insufficient.

Investigation, criminal prosecution and jail time for abusive cops is also needed, as is done for any other kind of abuser. But the current system, in which a Vermont state's attorney or the attorney general conducts the investigation, is deeply flawed.

State's attorneys and the attorney general are not independent of the police. They depend on the police to investigate their ordinary cases. Their success in their regular jobs depends on retaining strong working relationships with police and with the chain of command. They have a built-in conflict of interest that inherently impairs judgment and precludes impartial decision making with regard to a police officer. Thus, with rare exceptions, they quickly decline to prosecute. 

The result is a failure to provide equal justice under law.

A solution is available. In cases of alleged police misconduct, an independent and impartial special prosecutor must be appointed. This special prosecutor should be a highly qualified criminal defense or civil rights attorney — an attorney who is fully independent from government officials and the police, who can impartially conduct an investigation and decide whether to prosecute. And then who can zealously prosecute the cop without any conflict of interest.

James Marc Leas

South Burlington

Appreciate Police

[Re "How Should Burlington Police Its Cops? In the Street, Activists Say," May 22]: Burlingtonians have a very squirrelly relationship with law enforcement. If the police respond too quickly to our calls, we complain they're too aggressive. If they're not quick enough, we complain they don't care. If they use their guns, we complain. If they use Tasers, we complain. If they use any force at all, we complain. We want them to protect us from active shooter situations, but if they buy the equipment necessary to do so, we complain.

When was the last time any law enforcement agency in the state raided someone's home, took an individual to an undisclosed location, denied that individual any contact with loved ones and made those loved ones go through a judge if they ever wanted to see that individual again — a judge the loved ones knew was firmly in the back pocket of law enforcement? People would be marching in the streets! Yet the Department for Children and Families does this routinely, and we look the other way. I don't fear a police state. I'm concerned about the present welfare state that controls people by holding hostage their income, their housing and even their children.

I wonder how many people from Copwatch would stand between your loved ones and some nut job with a knife. But these are the things police officers do. These are husbands, wives, sons, daughters, dads and moms laying down their lives to keep our city safe. They don't deserve to be harangued by everyone with a chip on their shoulder.

Douglas Hoffman