Letters to the Editor (7/21/21) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (7/21/21)


Published July 21, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated August 17, 2021 at 2:45 p.m.

Bakery Booster

[Re From the Publisher: "Working Nine-to-Nine," July 14]: I'm sure it was unintentional, but your reference to the Barton Baking Company being closed "with no explanation on the front door" sounded judgmental — as if the married couple that owns it were rude to do so. They have no employees.

Small businesses like theirs need positive press, not a casual mention to bolster the angle of your article that clearly doesn't apply.

I go there frequently, and it is always open with amazing baked goods, smiles and positive energy.

The couple deserved better. By your writing, have you now deterred some folks from going?

Rob Miller


Editor's note: A post on the Barton Baking Company's Facebook page notes that the business was closed on the day Seven Days publisher Paula Routly visited — and the day after — because of a death in the family. The bakery reopened that weekend but has since shut down again for a "short baking vacation." The phone message says it will be back in business "towards the end of the month."

'Why Am I Still Living Here?'

[Re "Sound Effects," July 7]: Every time those damn planes go over, I say to myself: Why am I still living here? It is unfathomable that these jets have been sited here. I know five households that have moved because of this insanity, including a third-generation Winooski resident and former city councilor and his family. You want to keep people in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott, Rep. Peter Welch, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, and Mayor Miro Weinberger? This sure as hell is not the way to do it.

Deb Bouton


Doctor Debt

[Re From the Publisher: "Brain Drain," July 7]: Dr. Stephen Leffler didn't mention what may be the worst contributor to the physician shortage problem — the debt incurred to attend university and then med school. How is he going to find residents, even if he gets more funding, if the med schools can't turn out the specialties that are needed?

Jeanne Keller


BPD Stretched Too Thin

[Re "Midnight Blues?" June 30]: Recently, due to staffing levels, the Burlington Police Department was not in the downtown area during bar closing times when someone was shot; nor were the resources available to respond to a street party in the Old North End that resulted in gunfire. So, let's add another concern to the list of tangible reasons to slow down the approval of the Burton Hub/Higher Ground project. Clearly, Burlington's decision to reduce staffing creates concerns that the BPD will not be able to guarantee police oversight to protect the safety and property of surrounding areas.

And police services will be needed. From June 2018 to May 2019, there were 137 "calls for service" to the South Burlington police and fire departments from Higher Ground at its current location. More than 90 of these were for "directed patrols," motor vehicle complaints, intoxication and "disturbance."

Former interim Burlington police chief Jennifer Morrison, writing to the Burlington Development Review Board on April 17, 2020, stated: "The challenge will be that some large events at the new Higher Ground/Mixed Use Hub have the potential to divert BPD resources during a time when those resources are normally focused on downtown Burlington's 'bar closing.'"

The public should know about this issue of policing inadequacy. The neighbors in both Burlington and South Burlington should not have to worry about their privacy, property and peace of mind. The people of South Burlington should not bear the costs of extra policing and potential harm to the Red Rocks Park natural area.

Mark Furnari

South Burlington

Bad for Burlington

[Re "Midnight Blues?" June 30]: Budget cuts do affect all of us. No one can say if police presence would have made a difference in the response time to a gunshot incident on June 5 or if directed patrol also would have made a difference. But clearly the community at large has lost faith in its leaders to do the right thing. No one visits an area that is notable for lack of protection or serious crime unless they have to, are uninformed or are the perpetrators of such incidents.

I feel for Burlington business owners and staff, those living in the area, and those of us who live outside the area who once enjoyed going there. The police department is clearly standing alone in this, and that's very sad, indeed. Crime prevention starts with its residents, who want to do the right thing: reporting crimes, making statements as witnesses, supporting the efforts of the justice system. Right now, it doesn't make sense to go to Burlington or work for Burlington, and that's a real shame!

Thomas Fraga


'Proud to Be a Thought Criminal'

[Re Off Message: "Burlington GOP Council Candidate's Transphobic Tweets Resurface," June 22]: Seven Days, like VTDigger.org, wants a purity test to run for office. That test demands that you adhere to an ideology minted in the last decade or so declaring that women are no more than a figment of men's imagination. If you believe, as the vast majority of the world does, that we are a dimorphic species and that women can define themselves, you'll be labeled transphobic, and any harm done to you will be excused.

Multimillionaire Martine Rothblatt, whose robot "wife" resides in Lincoln, tells us in From Transgender to Transhuman that transgenderism is the on-ramp to "transhumanism" and that we will conquer "fleshism." Future's so bright I have to wear shades of Mary Shelley's and Mary Daly's predictions of men's preference for a machine world. Nature is being destroyed at a rapid pace. But let's break human connection to nature; don't say "mother," say "pregnant parent." Replace biology, declared transphobic, with a faith-based belief in a gendered soul that, amazingly, matches every retro sexist stereotype.

I'm proud to be a thought criminal opposing this backlash to women's rights. I won't bow to compelled speech. The day is coming when detransitioners suing for the harm done to them by an industry making a mint on their misery will show the world what the mob is at such pains to hide and put an end to this travesty.

Peggy Luhrs


Sound Study

Thanks for the excellent story on the F-35 noise ["Sound Effects," July 7]. I, too, have suffered from the noise and called the Vermont Air National Guard line. I also have a professional interest in this. My courses and book, Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet, cover airport noise. A thesis done by my student Bryan Johnson at Harvard Extension School for his graduate degree in sustainability looked at airport jet flight path noise. What he found gets to the heart of what people are experiencing with the F-35s.

His thesis findings are, in short, as follows: 1) The impact to humans occurs from takeoff and extends to a space envelope one to two miles from the airplane itself, much larger than the Federal Aviation Administration government criteria would suggest. 2) Shaking windows and doors happen because of the low frequency/infrasound passing through structures and the human body. This sound is not being measured by the government criteria. 3) This type of sound causes vibrations within people's bodies, affecting their health in a range of ways. 4) The government will always default to the existing criteria, which has extremely low value toward helping address health issues related to aircraft noise.

I have begun a process of bringing a professional community noise measurement project to Burlington, which can document the issues with F-35s in a yearlong process with independent analysis done at the Community Noise Lab at Boston University. I will keep the public informed.

Megan Epler Wood


Headache Doc Responds

I read with chagrin Paula Routly's account of her recent migraine attack and her frustrations in seeking follow-up care [From the Publisher: "Brain Drain," July 7]. I'm the director of the University of Vermont Medical Center Division of Headache Medicine. I make no excuses for what she experienced. But it helps to understand context.

First of all, migraine is deeply misunderstood — by nearly everyone. It isn't headache. It's a highly heritable nervous system disease evidenced by recurrent disabling symptoms, with or without head pain. These symptoms may include environmental sensitivities, nausea, vertigo, sinusitis, cognitive/mood impairments, and sometimes dramatic alterations of vision, language, sensation or strength called "aura." Migraine is complex.

Diagnosing migraine is often straightforward, based on a detailed medical history. Hence the need for a long new-patient questionnaire. But it can also be challenging if symptoms overlap with other conditions. This is because migraine is invisible; there are no reliable physical examination findings or diagnostic tests to confirm it. Hence the need to sometimes exclude other diagnoses (e.g., stroke) with CT scans or MRIs.

Migraine is very prevalent. One in six Vermonters (greater than 100,000 people) will experience a migraine attack this year, and 35,000 of them will have headaches at least four days per month. Seventy-five percent of them will be women. In light of its high prevalence and impairments, migraine comprises the second-leading cause of global disability.

Despite this huge societal burden, migraine receives the very least National Institutes of Health research funding relative to it. Why? Largely stigma. Migraine is inextricably linked to headache, and few take headaches seriously. Stigma limits the research funding available to understand the disease and discover effective therapies, and, crucially, it discourages doctors and scientists from choosing to address these problems in the first place.

UVMMC has four doctors with certification in the specialized field of headache medicine. Nonetheless, we're booking new-patient appointments more than six months out. This is unacceptable. But four doctors cannot reasonably care for the 35,000 Vermonters most impacted by migraine, plus the thousands of others with serious causes for headaches. Yet, remarkably, Vermont actually has the best per capita access to headache doctors in the nation. Five states have no headache doctors at all.

The U.S. needs many more headache doctors. Our recent analysis found that 3,700 headache doctors are currently required just to care for the most affected Americans, but there are only 564 such U.S. doctors. The U.S. also needs better training for primary care doctors in headache medicine to reduce specialist referrals. My colleague here at UVM, Dr. Adam Sprouse Blum, is currently leading a major national initiative toward that end. Not everyone with asthma needs a pulmonologist, and not everyone with migraine should need to see a headache specialist.

In response to the limited resources available to my patients, I founded an organization in 2007 to address inequitable policies at the federal level, the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. AHDA is Vermont-based, and our executive director, Katie MacDonald, is a native Vermonter living with chronic migraine. At our recent Headache on the Hill annual advocacy day, patient and doctor advocates from 47 states met with more than half of all congressional offices — in 272 Zoom meetings. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch have been our dependable allies, and, with their key leadership, AHDA has changed policies for the better across the government (Food & Drug Administration, NIH, Medicare, Veterans, Social Security, Defense). Regarding the headache doctor shortage, we've also been working hard to increase funding for headache medicine training fellowships. There is more work to do.

I'm sincerely sorry that Routly has not yet received the care that she deserves. I share her frustration. We will continue to work to improve our patients' access to quality migraine care. But the problem for Vermonters with migraine isn't "rationed" health care. It's a comprehensive societal disinterest in a major medical problem.

Robert E. Shapiro, MD, PhD

Professor of Neurological SciencesChief, Division of Headache MedicineUniversity of Vermont Medical CenterLarner College of Medicine, University of Vermont