[Re "Renters' Prison," July 6]: Excellent piece, and not a moment too soon. This story is being repeated all around the country with appalling consistency as the affluent seek to feather their nests by investing in residential property like so many widgets, regardless of the fact that people's lives are at risk. As if depriving otherwise able renters and prospective buyers of the ability to secure housing is not enough, these investors, such as the one featured in this story, like to boast that they are getting their tenants to pay the mortgage!
In other words, tenants are buying the property for the landlord, whose name will be on the deed. The tenant, who is paying the mortgage on the house they are living in, will have zero equitable interest and zero control over their own housing.
This is an iniquitous (the Oxford Dictionary definition of which is "grossly unfair and morally wrong") arrangement. A tenant paying the bulk of a landlord's monthly carrying costs should be considered a co-owner or coinvestor, with all the same rights and interest in the property.
If a landlord needs that kind of "help," they should not be investing in housing for people to live in, let alone jacking up offers in runaway gambles on future value.
Landlords need to take responsibility for themselves, not cynically shove it onto those who have literally no other choice.
Legislators: Are you listening? Or are you one of them?
More Female Cover Artists
I teach Intro to Illustration at Champlain College, and, as an artist, illustrator and instructor, I am always excited to see an illustration on the cover of Seven Days. However, I was disappointed in the cover art for the Cartoon Issue [June 29].
In 2022, Seven Days has hired only one woman to illustrate its cover. She illustrated four covers. The cover art on the other 28 issues, including photography, was created by men.
The cartoon cover illustration shows three superheroes at a cookout. A white man is up front, with the female off to the side. She has no role in the center action. Why couldn't Wonder Woman be front and center? Why couldn't Black Panther be flipping burgers? What if all of them were female or nonbinary or BIPOC? This really isn't on the illustrator; it's up to the art director to hire the illustrator and to give feedback when the illustrator submits their rough sketch.
What is even more perplexing is that, within the Cartoon Issue, an article touts the Ladybroad Ledger ["Broad Ambitions," June 29]. There is a wonderful photo of the three people who now run it. Why not have one of them illustrate the cover? Also shown is artwork by Rachel Lindsay, an amazing cartoonist who lives in Burlington. Why not have her illustrate the cover of the Cartoon Issue? It just seems so obvious to me. I urge you to do better by hiring a more diverse crew of artists.
Editor’s note: We appreciate the diversity audit. In general, our art director chooses artists whose style she thinks matches the subject matter. Our freelance photographers are often assigned based on which of them is available and closest to the shoot. The female illustrator cited here, Diana Bolton, has drawn six covers in 2022, including last week’s. She’s the artist we chose to illustrate “Locked Out,” our series on Vermont’s housing crisis; we expect several more covers from her this year. Incidentally, the Cartoon Issue itself featured work by a wide range of artists.
Superheroes, thank you for performing heroic actions [Cartoon Issue cover, June 29]! You all deserve a break at the barbecue.
Now just one more heroic action: Please ditch the straws and single-use cups. Superheroes have long inspired us and dealt with deep social issues. Lead the way.
Tougher Questions, Please
I was very disappointed in the number of fluff questions provided to candidates in the [Seven Days Primary Voters' Guide, June 29]. With such limited space available, who cares about "Three accomplishments that qualify you" or "Name a Vermonter who inspires you"? Ask questions that force real answers to real issues. Don't spoon-feed them questions that they cannot be held accountable for or have nothing to do with actual policies they would support or introduce.
Seven Days can do much better.
Great Voter Guide
I'm so grateful for the Seven Days Primary Voters' Guide included in the issue of June 29! It is thorough, clear, well organized and extremely helpful. I am consistently impressed — but not surprised — by the quality of everything Seven Days puts out there.
As a member of the Vermont public, I am disturbed by the misappropriation and usurpation of the phrase "Vermont Public" by the combined Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS.
Contrary to the opinion "Sounds good" in the "Emoji That" [Last 7, June 29], I find that the new designation does not sound good. The combined businesses are not the Vermont public. You and your readers and I and all other individuals in Vermont — each of us is a member of the Vermont public. Yet we are all not members of the new business that is trying to pass itself off as the Vermont public.
Instead of the name sounding good, it sounds incomplete and like a theft of the concept of the Vermont public.
Thank Our Sponsor
I'm delighted that Seven Days publicized the habitat restoration project at Dead Creek [True 802, "Birder's Call," July 6]. However, there are a few errors in the story. The most important is the omission of the fact that the event was a collaboration with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, which manages Dead Creek and all of the state's wildlife management areas. Amy Alfieri at Dead Creek has been my contact person. She and Toni Mikula have made it possible for birders to gather there and do some clearing of invasive shrub honeysuckle. I was hoping they would be credited in the article! We're hoping to make this project a yearly event, and we will always need the help and endorsement of Fish & Wildlife.
Biased Against Preston
While the "Open-Seat Season" article [June 22] should have provided a non-biased report on the state of the Vermont primaries, I was extremely disappointed by the bias shown relating to the lieutenant governor's race. The lengthy narratives for David Zuckerman and Kitty Toll were well done and provided a nice picture of these candidates. To be fair to all candidates, this should have been followed up with similar anecdotes for Patricia Preston and Charlie Kimbell.
Unfortunately, what I took away from the article was that Seven Days — or maybe just reporter Kevin McCallum? — supports the established Democrats, especially those with lots of money. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, that's exactly what McCallum is supporting: that retaining the same political veterans will fix the problems with our state that they have been unable to fix during their time in office. What about giving some fresh ideas from our bright young Vermonters a chance?
The comments by the author that Preston is the "youngest candidate" and "lacks political experience" are a biased presentation, leading readers to believe that she is not qualified. And, just for good measure, in case the readers didn't get the message, the comment "first run for public office" sure seems to be sending a message that young female Vermonters — the very people we so desperately need to attract to our state — need not apply.
What a shame for the future of Vermont!
MacLeod is Preston’s father-in-law.
Preston Is Impressive
I take exception to many parts of ["Open-Seat Season," June 22] about the candidates for lieutenant governor and to the bias shown by the author in the way he wrote about Patricia Preston — the youngest candidate in the race.
I have seen the impact her organization, the Vermont Council on World Affairs, has on our state. The VCWA brings international visitors from every corner of the world to meet with local business and political leaders and learn from one another. Patricia has taken an organization that was floundering and grown it by every metric during a pandemic. If that isn't an incredible display of intelligence, adaptability and tenacity, then I don't know what is.
Everyone talks about brain drain — how hard it is to get our youth to stay in or return to Vermont. Patricia grew up in Randolph, then went out into the world. She returned to Vermont and dedicated herself to an organization that works to improve the people and economy of Vermont. She literally did what everyone talks about wanting from the future generations.
We can barely afford to live here. We are scared for our future and our children's future. Patricia said in her closing statement at the last debate: The world is on fire. I am looking to vote for someone who sees that and will be around to live the consequences of the policies they put in place.
But you looked past her impressive education and experience and reduced her to "Molly 2.0." Shame on you. Do better.
A Victim's View of Sarah George
A belated comment on Derek Brouwer's excellent article "Prosecutor Sarah George Offers Chance at Parole to Man Who Murdered His Wife in 1993" [January 26]. I am the victim's brother.
First, the Vermont Supreme Court had already made a factual finding — left out of the parties' court filings — that undermines Gregory Fitzgerald's strongest claim on appeal. (If curious, see "In re Gregory S. Fitzgerald," 2020 VT 14, p. 15, n. 4.) And the murder of Richard Rodriguez, Fitzgerald's hired accomplice and state's witness, a few weeks before trial, certainly gave Fitzgerald all the incentive he needed to reject a plea and go to trial.
Second, it was only in a call with my brother on January 11, 2022, one day before resentencing, that we were informed that the state had agreed to Fitzgerald's resentencing — or had even been in settlement negotiations with Fitzgerald. Notwithstanding State's Attorney Sarah George's comment to the Boston Globe, we were not "kept in the loop" about the settlement negotiations.
Third, the state's attorney gave us no information about "good time" credits that make Fitzgerald now eligible for parole. Nor were we informed about the possibility of furlough release, which we cannot oppose. Now we have been told by the Vermont Department of Corrections that, with his current classification, Fitzgerald will likely be released on furlough in about six months.
A question: What in the world do the words "progressive" and "restorative" have to do with the release of the man who murdered my sister?
Alan E. Zeltserman
George Gets It
[Re "Crime Seen: Long-Term Data From Burlington Police Show Overall Decline," June 25]: Despite irrefutable data that overall crime has decreased over the last five years during Sarah's George's tenure as Chittenden County state's attorney, she is being scapegoated as the soft-on-crime progressive prosecutor responsible for Burlington and Chittenden County's woes.
Her opponent seeks to exploit the social issues underlying much of Chittenden County's criminal activity — substance use, homelessness and unemployment — that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and spin a false narrative that Burlington and Chittenden County are unsafe and that crime is rampant. Capitalizing on the sensationalized media reports and fearmongering, her opponent is engaging in a targeted campaign of misinformation straight out of the playbook of those who see their way of doing business — more than a century of a failed experiment called the criminal justice system — under threat.
I've worked for the last two decades in Chittenden County's legal system. I was an active participant in that failed experiment, first as a probation officer and then as a public defender. Now, I'm a prosecutor. I've had a front-row seat to the system. The arrest-charge-convict-and-imprison cycle of criminal justice is an utter failure. The data support that assertion.
Since 2016, George has implemented policies and practices based on research and data about what works and what keeps our communities safe. You don't have to take my word for it. You don't have to take George's word for it. Take [Seven Days reporter] Courtney Lamdin's word for it. Because I think facts matter, I'm voting for Sarah George.
All Crime Is Serious
[Re "Crime Seen: Long-Term Data From Burlington Police Show Overall Decline," June 25]: I find it very distressing that our city councilors and police commissioners feel so comfortable minimizing the victimization of the residents of Burlington. Having your possessions stolen from your home or car is traumatizing and terrifying. But Councilor Zoraya Hightower doesn't seem to care about the honest, law-abiding citizens here.
We are supposed to give more to those who treat this community disrespectfully. Personally, I am tired of being disrespected and enabling people to continue to act criminally. Their problems will not be solved by turning the other cheek, over and over. Currently, those offending are just learning how easy and inconsequential criminal behavior is in Burlington.
People aren't reporting crime because they have learned after several years that it is a waste of time. Nothing can be done unless the "value lost" in the offense is great enough. Still, having your stuff stolen is a violation and may have lifelong impacts.
I will feel safe in my community when my neighbors stop experiencing stolen bikes, cars and wallets and feel comfortable leaving their cars on the street and their homes for work. And, honestly, when there is less gunfire downtown. That is just my perception.
Ready for Capitol Hill?
I was surprised to see that U.S. House candidate Molly Gray did not have a campaign ad in the June 29 Seven Days Primary Voters' Guide. Or maybe I wasn't so surprised. After all, Seven Days has run a number of reader letters critical of Gray's lack of experience, her work overseeing private security contractors in Iraq and her failure to vote in Vermont elections before she herself sought election.
Gray may ask: "Why should I give Seven Days any advertising revenue? Its readers are probably biased against me, anyway. I'll just have to get my campaign funding from lobbyists and bigwigs I met when I worked in Washington, rather than from regular Vermonters."
But being an effective Congressperson means working with people who don't agree with you as well as those who do. Criticism comes with the job. A person who is thin-skinned or holds grudges will never be successful in public office. Taking your marbles and going home is not an option.
By contrast, Sen. Becca Balint's record shows she has the temperament, experience and skills to represent Vermont as our representative to Congress. In her eight years in the Vermont Senate and its leadership positions, Becca has demonstrated her ability to listen to different points of view, to respect and be respected by colleagues and constituents, and to craft compromises to achieve legislative results. She is altogether ready for the tug and tussle of Capitol Hill, and she will represent us with competence, confidence and common sense.
Way With Wildlife
[Re Stuck in Vermont: "Julianna and Sophia Parker of Otter Creek Wildlife Rescue Help Animals — and Humans, Too," June 30]: I transported a baby robin to Sophia when she was a precocious preteen rehabber 10-plus years ago. I have been a volunteer transporter with Green Mountain Animal Defenders for several years and just this year was trained by the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee to transport injured birds to their rehab facility.
While I am thrilled to see Julianna and Sophia's longtime efforts reach a wider audience, I feel it was a disservice to leave out important information right from the get-go. It is not ethical, nor is it legal, for an unlicensed person to keep a wild animal, except a Good Samaritan's leeway to transport an injured animal to a licensed rehabber. There is more to transporting an injured animal than one might think, as one can easily inflict more damage despite good intentions (such as picking up a snapping turtle by its tail, which can injure its spine).
Also, it's a misstatement to say that Otter Creek can take "any species" of mammal. Animals that can carry rabies, such as raccoons, can only be treated by specially trained wildlife rehabbers.
My major concern with this piece is that it gives the impression that anyone can snuggle a baby animal. This is dangerous. Wild animals do not want to snuggle with humans. It can cause wild babies to imprint on humans. It can lead to humans being injured. As a general rule, leave wild animals in the wild. Thank you, Eva, for your huge compassion for animals.
A Word on 'Energy Justice'
On June 29, Seven Days published ["Fuel for Thought"] on the electrification of a multifamily building in Morrisville and the use of natural gas in a similar multifamily building in Colchester. To clarify, my company, Evernorth, is the codeveloper of both buildings. Evernorth works across Vermont with our partners, including Lamoille Housing Partnership and Champlain Housing Trust, to build the most energy-efficient and affordable housing in the state.
With each building, we make choices in the context of the climate crisis and the housing crisis. Energy justice was not discussed in the Seven Days article. To ignore the costs and affordability of energy is to ignore the need to build more housing and the inequity of those decisions on lower-income Vermonters.
It sounds simple: Electrify all new buildings and add solar panels to offset the cost. That solution adds to the up-front capital costs and ongoing operating costs and results in fewer affordable homes being built.
The discussion to address climate change with building electrification needs to include solutions that address the cost burden on lower-income households. Currently, there are no direct financial incentives to electrify or add solar to affordable housing. Without incentives, the cost of climate change in affordable housing lands on the people with the least ability to pay.
Energy justice ought to be central to efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Policies need to take into consideration the economic burden placed on lower-income households. Together, let's build more energy-efficient and affordable multifamily housing, not less.
Owens is copresident of Evernorth.
Gray Is a 'Political Neophyte'
I have to laugh when Molly Gray decries "dark money" when she was clearly a recipient of such assistance two years ago ["Gray Decries 'Dark Money' — but Has Previously Benefited From It," June 17]. Add to this her failure to vote while she was living in Europe in spite of the fact that Americans living abroad are generally very active in American politics. I am leery of anyone taking the vote so cavalierly.
Finally, does anybody care about legislative experience anymore? Gray has served two years in a largely ceremonial executive role after riding on the strength of a Sen. Patrick Leahy strong arm. Compare this to Becca Balint, whose many years in the legislature led to her gaining the support of her fellow senators when she was made the president pro tempore of the state Senate.
I'd rather have a representative who knows her way through the vagaries of the legislative process than a political neophyte with no more experience than Donald Trump had.
'Worthless Male Opinion'
No second-guessing where Seven Days stands on Roe v. Wade being struck down [From the Publisher: "Woe Is Roe," June 29]!
Women deserve no less than to be given any and all choices and then make what must be the most emotionally and painful decision beyond measure.
I hope Seven Days will publish independent opinions by the best and the brightest to put forth, examine and lay out the sound legal and moral arguments for and against Proposal 5.
My worthless male opinion is that Prop 5 is a terribly weak legal document. Plus, there is no urgency, since current Vermont laws are firmly in the pro-choice camp.
I am angered when politicians like Rep. Peter Welch (who, as a lawyer, must know how poorly crafted Prop 5 is) attempt to distort Prop 5 as a divisive issue for their own political gain (knowing full well that Christina Nolan and other candidates are solidly pro-choice).
So far, I haven't seen Welch condemn violence and property destruction.
What I see lacking in the discussion is: At what point do we place a value on human life itself? At what point is human life recognized as the miracle it is? Do we just write a blank check, as Prop 5 appears to do, to dismiss any and all human life with unlimited impunity?
At what point will any "rights" ever exist or just simply be extinguished for the unborn?
Choice, yes! But weigh in the moral value of an unborn human life!
Robert B. Devost
Give Them Shelter
[Re "Burlington Takes Aim at Ending Homelessness With 'Shelter Pod' Community," March 23]: As a Burlington resident, I support the proposed shelter pods.
I appreciate that the city has chosen a central location. Many homeless people don't own cars and need to be close to social services and work. On a cold, rainy evening, I encountered a homeless woman who regularly had to walk two miles back to her hotel from her underpaid job.
The Community Resource Center will be a vital part of the shelter pod site. I visited the center recently and was struck by the sense of community there. People greeted each other, were treated with respect by the staff and, in return, were so appreciative for the services they were receiving. A man I met there had suffered multiple losses and fallen into addiction. Now on the road to recovery, he told me, "Everyone needs a chance."
Neighbors of the pod site are worried that they will be affected by the people staying there. I live across from a group home. At times there is noise, but no more than from people who come home from the bars downtown.
Imagine transforming a parking lot into a gracious welcome, creating an environment that encourages people rather than demeans them. Neighbors of South Burlington's low-income apartments did just that. With the drastic increase of homeless people in Burlington and the time to house unhoused people in motels running out, we need to take a step. The shelter pods could be a step to a more stable life for people in need.