Letters to the Editor (7/19/17) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (7/19/17)


Published July 19, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated July 19, 2017 at 5:36 p.m.

'Homeless Advocate'?

[Re "Walters: Advocate for the Homeless to Challenge Sanders for Senate Seat," July 7]: If Jon Svitavsky truly plans to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders, I hope John Walters goes beyond simply transcribing delusional quotes and does a little reporting. Here are a few questions he should ask the "homeless advocate":

1. How do you reconcile being a "left-wing Christian" with your practice of turning away people in desperate need during the dangerously cold months of winter just because they were struggling with alcoholism?  

2. Did you ever wonder how many of those you humiliated and turned away were veterans, young men from all over Vermont who suffered unimaginable losses while serving in Vietnam?

3. Surely you knew those subzero temperatures might kill them. Was that troubling to you?

The Waystation project was launched by volunteers, a Committee on Temporary Shelter now more familiarly known as COTS, who were worried about the growing number of unsheltered Vermonters not welcome at Svitavsky's place.

COTS' Waystation opened its doors on Christmas Eve 1982 to ensure that no one froze to death on the streets of Burlington. The administration of then-mayor Sanders was instrumental in this effort because it believed that shelter should be a refuge for anyone in need.  

Back then, there were no "low-barrier" options in Burlington, as there are now. COTS' Waystation was opened as a lifeline for the most vulnerable, regardless of their religion or sobriety.

Svitavsky's claims about Sanders are false. 

Rita Markley


Markley is the executive director of COTS.

Siblings Speak Up

Regarding ["Culture Saving Place," July 12] about Dr. and Mrs. Clemmons' beautiful Charlotte farm: Although the article says that Lydia Jr.'s siblings declined to comment, we were not aware of any attempts by Seven Days to contact us. It is regrettable that Lydia Jr. disclosed private family matters. We have worked to keep any family conflict out of the public arena but are now placed in a position to publicly respond. As our sister stated, our 94-year-old parents are "land rich, not money rich." Thus, our priority has consistently been to identify adequate resources that can be dedicated to their golden years so that they can age in place, in their farmhouse, with dignity. Any child of aging parents would want the same. In such situations, hard decisions need to be made.

However, this is not an all-or-nothing scenario. As the article reports, our parents' farm is extensive. Therefore, one could liquidate some of the property to ensure our parents have the resources to put in place a high-quality plan of care that is responsive to their needs as they age, as well as a safety net. Unfortunately, having their property completely tied up in a heritage farm project prohibits this from happening. We hope that other families in our situation can avoid such painful and public discord by engaging in a healthy and thoughtful planning process with every family member at the table to address the needs of aging parents.

Laura and Naomi Clemmons


Editor's note: Laura and Naomi Clemmons did not decline to speak to reporter Sadie Williams. Their sister, Lydia Jr., would not provide their names or contact information, saying her sisters had decided against speaking to the press. 

NorthStar Treatment

In John Walters' July 5 Fair Game column, "Fast, Cheap and Good?," a Citizens Awareness Network spokesperson describes NorthStar Group Services' decommissioning plan as "new" and "an experiment." There is nothing technologically new or experimental about this plan. The applied science is all established. The only new parts — related to budgeting and organization — are being scrutinized by the Vermont Public Utility Commission and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Kudos for debunking the fear that ratepayers might be on the hook if NorthStar fails. As Walters notes, this option doesn't exist for merchant power plants. When a hardware merchant folds, taxpayers aren't on the hook to pay off his debts. The same deal exists with a merchant power plant, nuclear or otherwise. 

In addition to protections such as performance bonds, contingency budgeting and $125 million in insurance, there is a $73 million surplus over budget in the decommissioning trust fund. 

The regulatory review process is designed to thoroughly assess financial viability, environmental impact and nuclear safety. Saying no to NorthStar means lost economic opportunity and delaying decommissioning by up to 50 years. Furthermore, NorthStar views this job as a showpiece for future nuclear decommissioning work. NorthStar has not come to Vermont to fail. 

If NorthStar can demonstrate the soundness of its plan and resources, Seven Days is right: "It's going to be very difficult for state or federal regulators to say no." 

Guy Page


Page is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership.

Schooling Jane Sanders

As a graduate of Burlington College, I'm glad to see Jane O'Meara Sanders investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for her actions as college president [Off Message: "State Official Refutes Report That Feds Sought Grand Jury Testimony in Sanders Investigation," July 10]. 

I'm also a Bernie Sanders supporter, and it does not sit well to see this issue causing problems for his movement. But that is not the point. To me, Jeff Weaver's recent comments, as reported in the New York Times, that O'Meara Sanders is a scapegoat in a politically driven investigation sound like deflective bluster of the sort we've come to expect from typical spokespersons for politicians. O'Meara Sanders' actions caused, and continue to inflict, real damage on the lives of students and alumni. 

From 2008 to '11, I watched her take an innovative and sustainable alternative college and drag it into the ground. Of course, I was not aware of everything that was happening. But I knew that the misguided changes she made to the degree program I was a part of, and how she implemented them, caused me to have tumultuous experiences over my final two years at the school.

It's extremely frustrating — and potentially professionally damaging — to have paid a lot in time, effort and money for a degree from a college that no longer exists. I'm angry, and I would at least like to see O'Meara Sanders apologize for an awful situation for which, I believe, her actions were the main cause.

David Luekens

Bangkok, Thailand

Luekens is a 2011 graduate of Burlington College. He lived in Burlington for 12 years.