'Disarming the Maniacs'
As Paul Heintz ably points out in his article ["Stickin' to His Guns," June 26], Sen. Bernie Sanders has not been entirely consistent in his positions on gun control. What the article also shows, if only between the lines, is where Sanders has been consistent: namely, in his desire for a more just and equitable society, in his willingness to put working-class concerns above those of liberal elites, and in his calculated pursuit of political power to further that agenda.
The last of these will always be irksome to those progressives who love their own rectitude more than the causes they espouse. Their identity as "right-thinking people" always comes first. In contrast, Sanders wants what scares many of his critics half to death: the power to effect systemic change. Like many others post-Sandy Hook, he has become more committed to "disarming the maniacs," but he has always been most committed to destroying the social soil in which maniacs grow.
Recently my wife and I, both of us longtime Sanders supporters, joined a protest calling for stricter gun laws. We carried signs demanding the abolition of assault rifles. Still, I couldn't help but reflect on the fact that while the left is busy tweeting photos of themselves at demonstrations, the right is stockpiling military-grade weapons. It's too early to say whether the rise of Trumpism will eventually lead us to civil war. All that can be said with any certainty is which side intends to win.
The Good Fighter Plane
Anya Hunter is sensitive to the noise of the F-35 [Feedback: "Sound and Fury," June 12]. It brought flashes of World War II to her mind. I wasn't alive for WWII, but if I were a victim of the Nazi invasion of Europe — or, worse, captive in a concentration camp — I am sure I would have preferred a force of F-35s coming to my rescue over a fleet of quiet glider planes dropping water balloons on the Nazis.
We need fighter planes. It's the reality of the world in which we live. The F-35s need to be sited somewhere on the East Coast. Hunter's letter is a classic example of NIMBY privilege. Where does she propose the F-35s be sited? Unfortunately, we have a history of siting things we don't like in poor black communities. Polluters and pollution are disproportionately located in communities of color. Burlington, while you wave your Black Lives Matter flags, do you want to ask our black brothers and sisters to site the F-35 in their communities? I suggest Hunter turn up NPR on her headphones loud so she can get over her fear of a plane taking off.
P.S. I grew up in South Burlington and lived in Burlington for most of my life. I spent a week out at Hill Air Force Base last summer. I'm familiar with the sound of an F-16 and an F-35.
[Re "Since Pot's Legalization, Vermonters Have Been Fined for Public Use," June 5]: Nadav Mille, interviewed for this article, deserves our empathy. He feels harassed by the ticket he received even though he states he is a medically legal user. He also conscientiously requested excuse from jury duty because of his PTSD history.
Yet the cartoon figure, Mr. Weed smoking "weed," makes legalization into a joke. Key sources for Taylor Dobbs' article are employees or advocates of commercial marijuana lobbies: Tim Fair, lawyer at Vermont Cannabis Solutions; and Matt Simon, New England political director for the pro-pot Marijuana Policy Project. Who is paying their expenses, and why?
No representative from Vermont's children/teen health care providers or member of the Vermont Medical Society was interviewed for this article. Pediatricians who have followed current science agree that marijuana is damaging to the developing brain up to age 25. One in two emergency-room admissions in Amsterdam is now for psychosis linked to cannabis use.
Lobbyists for Big Tobacco and other suppliers of addictive products swarmed the Statehouse in the last session. The addiction industry could make millions from commercial marijuana by increasing Vermonters' addiction to weed, according to RAND author Beau Kilmer. If you have children or grandchildren, do you want pot smoke or a pot shop with marijuana-laced sweets in your neighborhood? If commercialization passes, it could happen.
Catherine Antley, MD
[Re "Pop-Up Campers: As a City Policy Rewrite Stalls, the Homeless Pitch Tents," May 29]: The police are reacting as they usually do with most issues, according to Chief Brandon del Pozo: "In almost all cases, we don't give them a hard time."
That's wonderful. The people who happen to own the property these squatters live on should feel really good about a police department that won't protect the property they are required to pay taxes on. The homeless set up "shanty towns" with tarps, leftover wood, metal, etc. I've seen a few of these "towns" and, believe me, they ruin the property: trash and garbage strewn all over, plastic bags, the "treasures" they've accumulated — not to mention that these homeless people defecate on the surrounding areas.
When they decide to move to another area, who gets to clean up the filthy mess? The property owner, at his or her own expense.
Matias Frias says, if the city doesn't like them in the woods or parking lot, etc., "House us." What? Great attitude. In hearing this statement, I wouldn't give him one dime. We don't owe these people one thing.
Clean this mess up and take care of the people who pay the bills: taxpayers.
[Re "Priced for Scale: $8.5 Million Listing Could Limit Options for Burlington Cathedral," June 26]: It's unfortunate that real estate agent Steve Donahue "and parish leaders" have decided to price the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for its "maximum build-out potential" rather than for a reasonable reuse. A couple that come to mind: a center for another religious community, or a gallery and studios for artists and craftsmen.
Such uses would be consistent with the stated goals of the zoning ordinance "to promote the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and sites" and "to preserve, maintain and enhance Burlington's historic character, scale, architectural integrity, and cultural resources." Indeed, the ordinance does not permit the demolition of a structure eligible for listing on the national historic register — as the cathedral undoubtedly is — unless "the proposed redevelopment of the site will provide a substantial community-wide benefit that outweighs the historic or architectural significance of the building proposed for demolition."
Zoning department staffer Jay Appleton is noted in the article as "scoffing" at the prospect of reuse and saying, "We need housing more than we need trees." That's debatable, though, especially if it's more luxury condos or downtown student dorms. In view of the 272 apartments promised at CityPlace Burlington, 43 more at One Lakeview and a whopping 739 at Cambrian Rise, some might say "Enough already."
It remains to be seen whether 10 Burlington residents will come forward to challenge the demolition, as the ordinance allows. If they do, $8.5 million could prove a lot to pay for a legal challenge a maxed-out buyer could lose.
Road to Ruin
Mayor Miro Weinberger's letter to the editor [Feedback: "Just Say Yes," June 19] reminds me of when concerned citizens fought the 14-story mall. The mayor promoted the project and asked us to say yes even though the feasibility report was redacted, Don Sinex was sketchy, and the height of the project was out of scale with our city and planBTV. Our worst fears have been realized with a long-standing hole in the ground.
Once again, the mayor is calling legitimate concerns "obstructionist" and opponents "those who are seeking to block any change." This couldn't be more wrong. Tony Redington is a dedicated and earnest citizen with decades of experience in transportation policy development who volunteers his time to envision positive change for the Champlain Parkway.
I invite the mayor to open his mind to the Pine Street Coalition's forward-thinking ideas to improve safety and environmental protection and create a truly modern road design that will save money and be more effective than the current plan. This is not "blocking any change." In fact, it's asking for more change and better change. The 40-plus-year-old parkway plan is outdated. The director of public works himself admitted it is not the road we would build today. Let's do it right the first time and build a road the public will support.
[Re Feedback: "Just Say Yes," June 19]: Burlington's mayor lashes out at Seven Days for covering the "obstructionists" challenging an outmoded Champlain Parkway design [Off Message: "Burlington Citizen Group Sues to Stop Champlain Parkway," June 11] but neglecting his beloved Burlington Housing Summit.
He must be either oblivious or brazen when "City Hole," aptly named by Sandy Kish [Feedback: "City Hole," June 19], is staring him in the face.
Miro Weinberger led the parade to advance a reckless, incompetently planned and senselessly hyped project. He leveled the same simple-minded sound-bite smear at the critics of this project as he levels now at opponents of the stale parkway plan. They were against change, against progress; they were radicals against everything.
But it was Weinberger and the marching band behind him who were unwilling to engage in good-faith dialogue to forge a sensible path forward. And now, if he has his way with the parkway, we will likely have a complementary disaster.
The housing crisis for Weinberger is a marketing opportunity for deregulation of development.
It's true that in San Francisco and elsewhere, exclusionary zoning has contributed to runaway housing costs.
But Burlington is far from San Francisco. Here housing costs have been driven up because the city gives free rein to predatory landlords, not because zoning laws prevent development.
CityPlace Burlington eviscerates the theory that zoning laws have made housing unaffordable: The mayor and city council changed and tailored our zoning laws to fit the developer's dream project — and so far, nearly a year after the mall demolition was completed without financing secured for even a construction site trailer, we're stuck with City Hole.
Changes for the Worse
In response to the peevish letter from Mayor Miro Weinberger [Feedback: "Just Say Yes," June 19], let me point out that the Pine Street Coalition has been hard at work the last two or three years with a redesign of Pine Street that will make the dated, $45 million Champlain Parkway unnecessary. We have met with local and state highway officials and Gov. Phil Scott to show them our plan. We also reached out on three different occasions to Weinberger but never received the courtesy of a reply.
When the mayor calms down, I would suggest he direct his attention to the vacant Macy's building and the abandoned construction site between Cherry and Bank streets. They are blights on the city. While he's at it, how about scuttling the unnecessary and extravagant makeover of City Hall Park, including the loss of 30 mature trees?
Are these changes to Burlington really necessary, or are they merely padding for the mayor's résumé with an eye toward his political future?