Keep Up the Comic Content
Just wanted to reach out to thank you for putting someone on the Vermont comic book beat. We've got a shockingly rich history with the art form and an even broader future, so it's really cool seeing a paper take an interest in the full scope of it. Chris Farnsworth's stories about Rick Veitch ["Luck of the Draw," July 20] and Earth Prime Comics ["Origin Story," March 2] were thorough, detailed and fascinating.
I can't wait to read more. Keep it up!
On behalf of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, thank you for highlighting the innovative construction behind our Tang Science Annex ["Building for the Future: The Fairbanks Museum Tests Innovative Wood Product in Its New Addition," July 13]. It's important to note that we're able to construct the first building in the world out of eastern hemlock cross-laminated timber because of our partnership with the North East State Foresters Association and its funding through a Wood Innovations grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. Partnerships make projects like this happen!
[Re "Crime Seen," June 25]: I read the recent article quoting several sources stating decreasing crime rates in Burlington. What a relief!
In the Old North End of Burlington, it must be my imagination hearing people say: "Go ahead and call the cops. No one's coming anyway." Frequent posts report on attempted burglaries, burglaries that have been committed and people afraid of walking down the street. The reality is: The standard of living is not reflected by the sources in this article. I would guess people are not bothering to report crimes any longer because they feel it is futile. It gives me no comfort to hear someone from the police commission say it's better than it was five years ago.
I realize there are many factors affecting an individual's behavior and am empathetic to the trials of our population. It is past time for city entities to come together to find a workable solution to what is happening in our neighborhoods. That might be hiring additional police officers and respecting the job they do, hiring social workers who can hopefully guide people who need help and guidance, or providing funds so these entities can come together and do their jobs in a way benefiting the population of Burlington.
The time for council members and politicians lobbing points through the press should stop. It was encouraging after I started writing this letter to read that the mayor's budget includes funding for both police officers and social workers. Hopefully, this is a step in a new direction.
Love This Newspaper
I just love Seven Days. I can't tell you enough how amazing this paper is and how much it sets the tone for life in Vermont. It is one of the top 10 reasons I live here. Many thanks to the whole staff.
Suzanne Journey Blain
["Renters' Prison," July 6] shows what's wrong with a free market system and why we shouldn't use it for housing. What's the housing market supposed to do? Provide housing for most people, or make some people rich? One landlord jacking the rent says it's not about greed. Increasing the rent simply because others are charging more is greed.
Landlords imply that rent is based on costs by saying they will pass a tax or fee increase on to renters. I think rent is only based on cost for newly purchased buildings and new construction, which have costs based on today's market. Most of those buildings are probably making a smaller profit, but it must be enough that the projects are worth doing. Most rentals are in buildings that were bought years or decades ago. The major cost for those was based on the market at the time and is much lower. Some buildings are paid off and have very low costs. There is a wide range of costs for owners, yet there is a small range in rent. Some landlords make lots of money by raising rent when other newly built or renovated apartments are priced higher.
When the market is going crazy like this, sellers and landlords can charge more, not because of anything they have done. And gentrification usually involves public investment in an area. That social investment is turned into private profit. Because of that, I think it's rational and justified to talk about more "radical" strategies like land trusts or rent control.
As Vermonters, we are often proud of our local democratic traditions, such as Town Meeting Day, which dates back to 1762, when what would become Vermont was engaged in a struggle for independence against New York. These traditions are an important part of what makes Vermont the place that it is. However, as ["Renters' Prison," July 6] makes clear, the actual scope of what local democracy can achieve is severely curtailed by the state.
Vermont is one of many U.S. states that operate under the legal precedent of Dillon's Rule, which allows local governments to legislate only within the confines established by the state government. Burlington voters can pass all the ballot measures they want, but if they are outside the confines delimited by the state, they ultimately rely on the will of a state legislature that does not represent Burlington.
The fate of the "just cause" eviction law rested in the hands of representatives from West Rutland and Newark, both of whom cast deciding votes against a measure that passed with almost a two-thirds majority of Burlington's voters ["House Fails to Override Veto of Burlington's 'Just Cause' Eviction Bill," May 10; "Scott Strikes Down Burlington's 'Just Cause' Eviction Measure," May 3; "Burlington's 'Just Cause' Eviction Measure Gets Preliminary Approval in Senate," April 7].
If Vermonters truly believe in local democracy, it is time to cast off antidemocratic precedents and allow local municipalities to make laws concerning the issues that impact them the most.
Handle With Care
I read with interest ["Vermont Considers Paying Parent Caregivers of Adults With Disabilities," April 27]. There are those who oppose the proposal, but they don't have a disabled adult and do not know the issues firsthand. Ideally, adults with disabilities would live in lovely "skilled" homes with caretakers who are trained and competent. In the majority of cases, that is not happening.
Parents should be allowed and supported to decide for themselves how the budget is spent. If the parent wishes to care for their child themselves, that is their right and choice to provide the best care possible.
I live out of state in New Jersey, and the state has made this change permanent. I'm grateful that I, and not well-intentioned strangers, get to make these decisions for my son. If there were appropriate settings for placements, this would not be an issue, but appropriate settings are scarce, and some are outright inappropriate and dangerous for complicated disabled adults.
I will eventually hire back caregivers, but since COVID-19 I have used my son's budget to pay myself to offer round-the-clock, competent care that is steady, dependable and values-driven.
Columbus, N.J. and Chester, VT
CHT on Climate Change
Champlain Housing Trust has developed roughly 3,000 homes over four decades. CHT's work also touches on a wide variety of social, environmental and economic priorities, including but not limited to responding to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19, the opioid epidemic, stormwater runoff, brownfield remediation, mental health issues, transportation access, food security, access to primary health care, housing for people coming out of homelessness and for people buying their first home, and, certainly not least, climate change. We juggle all of this every day.
Seven Days' ["Fuel for Thought," June 29], comparing the energy sources of an apartment building in Morrisville with our new Colchester development, gave an incomplete accounting of our priorities or justification for our decisions. We believe our housing — and those Evernorth develops with others — is not only deeply affordable but also has a smaller carbon footprint than most. If anyone wants to read more about our efforts, there's a statement on our website: getahome.org/response-to-seven-days-story-on-energy-sources. Addressing climate change is not simply a slogan for us.
We must do everything we can to address climate change even as we focus on the state's affordable housing shortage. Vermonters are desperately seeking a place to live.
We should have a discussion about the intersection of equity and climate. If we are asking affordable housing developments to add costs to electrify buildings, we are ultimately asking the cost to be borne by low-income households.
Let's ask: Should we place the economic burden and higher responsibility for addressing climate change on low-income Vermonters?
Demetrowitz is chief operating officer at Champlain Housing Trust.
No Plan B in Westford?
[Re "Raising Homes," June 15]: The wastewater plant project currently being discussed in Westford is only about four years in the planning, since the town's purchase of the Jackson Farm. Prior to that, several other options were being considered.
Yes, there are just over 2,000 residents in town and around 925 tax-paying parcels.
The proposed $3 million plus wastewater project would serve approximately 31 tax-paying properties. This number does not include the town office, library, Brick Meeting House and the Common Hall, aka White Church.
So, to put it simply, about 3 percent of the tax-paying parcels in town would benefit from a "town" project costing more than $3 million. That's it, folks.
Is it just me, or does that seem a little like overkill?
We are told other options are very expensive, labor-intensive and would require high maintenance. Ah. So $3 million-plus is not expensive, and the plant that would be built would not require much labor and wouldn't need maintenance?
Some of us in town would like to hear plan B, that's all. And the answer isn't, "There is no plan B; without the big all-or-nothing plan, we'd be SOL."
How about using the funding instead to develop a smaller, more realistic plan? There's always another way.
Carol A. Winfield
Looking for Teachers?
[Re "Summer Scramble," July 13]: If Vermont wants to secure enough teachers for the next school year, then the first thing it can do is modify the requirements for teaching. There are many, many of us who have taught at the community college level for years or decades — and that requires teaching classes that were two-thirds high school students and summer educational program camps for younger students.
To have spent a lifetime doing this and then be told there is no way to teach without first securing a Vermont teacher's license is just foolish and a waste of our talent pool. The notion that teachers should have a degree in education, rather than real-world experience in the field, and need to pass a licensing exam (that requires knowledge of esoteric theories that are shelved once you hit the real-world classroom) is an outdated way to restrict entry into the teaching field and a way for politicians to claim that they are promoting high standards for schools. Instead, it is creating the very crisis the article identified, and the suggested solutions avoid the issue.
Teachers Can't Afford Vermont
I read Alison Novak's "Summer Scramble" [July 13] with a real personal connection. My husband and I are both educators, with nearly 40 years of experience between us. We spend our summers in Lincoln, and I attended schools in Addison County. My husband has a degree in administration, and I am a school counselor licensed in Vermont. We currently teach overseas.
We would like nothing more than to return to Vermont full time. The truth is: We can't afford it. When the pandemic began, we had to evacuate the country where we were living at the time, and we lived in our home here for five months. We loved settling in to our life here in a new way, experiencing the turn of seasons and finding joy and safety even in that chaotic time in the world. We explored jobs here nearly every day. We combed through our budget — childcare for our two young kids, helping to support family members, paying off educational debt, our mortgage. On two teacher salaries, we could maybe break even at the end of each month. The cost of living here makes it prohibitive to balance the day-to-day without an independent source of wealth.
It crushes us to leave here at the end of each summer, but the imbalance of cost of living and educator salaries leaves us no other choice right now. If Vermont schools can find ways to bring more inspired educators into their classrooms, we hope eventually to be some of them.
Ready for Hire
["Summer Scramble," July 13] left out an important element: the unemployed teacher.
There are many qualified teachers out there looking for work. The obstacle in their way: too much experience. The more experience a teacher has, the less likely it is that they'll get hired. It's not the school district's fault. They have budgets to work with, and it's cheaper to hire a teacher with less experience than it is to hire one with more experience.
With experience comes another obstacle: age. Sadly, we live in an ageist society, and it extends everywhere in the workplace, including education. There are a lot of false notions that affect the hiring of an older teacher.
Another obstacle: out-of-state credentials. My husband has credentials to teach 11 subjects. They are California credentials that Vermont refuses to recognize. This is an obstacle that stands in the way of other teachers moving from one state to another.
This isn't just a Vermont problem. This teacher shortage exists all over this country.
But Vermont has challenges that are different from those in other states — housing, for example. There has to be a solution to help Vermont schools overcome the taboo notion of hiring an older, experienced teacher.
Isle La Motte
Rooting for Gray
I was alarmed to learn, in Seven Days' write-up of candidates' second-quarter Federal Election Commission filings, that unlimited, third-party independent expenditure spending in support of Becca Balint has begun in the race for U.S. House ["In U.S. House Race, Gray Has Most Cash Heading Into Primary Homestretch," July 15].
The sums being spent by these outside groups are dizzying — drowning out any kind of advertising the campaigns may run on their own through traditional avenues. LGBTQ Victory Fund's initial July 15 ad buy was a whopping $160,000. It's just one of three third-party groups that have commenced unlimited outside spending on Balint's behalf.
This spending is distressing but unsurprising, given that Balint's campaign invited this support with a "red box," now removed, on its website ["Balint's Campaign Site Appears to Use Questionable 'Red-Boxing,'" June 13; "Gray Decries 'Dark Money' but Has Previously Benefited From It," June 17]. Although Balint pledged to attend a press conference to demand that outside ads be taken down, she reneged on that promise. Instead, she released a statement saying Molly Gray's denunciation of this outside spending was an attempt to "smear LGBTQ people."
As Vermont's first openly gay state's attorney, elected in 2014 in Grand Isle County, I find that statement galling. Gray has been crystal clear in her denunciation of all forms of outside spending in this race. Additionally, Gray is a trained human rights lawyer — she has the skills and experience to be an especially effective defender of my rights in Washington, D.C. I am rooting for her to brave these third-party spending headwinds and prevail on August 9.
Deconstructing a 'Dropout'
What a meaningless nonstory on a congressional contender ["Sianay Chase Clifford Drops Out of U.S. House Race," July 19].
The reality is, once your name is on a ballot, you can't "drop out" of a race.
A candidate "dropping out" of a race after her name is on the ballot is doing so purely for publicity's sake so that when she ends up in last place with 0.1 percent of the vote on Election Day, she can say, "Oh, well, no surprise here; I already backed out of the race."
The real question not addressed in the story is whom she made a deal with to "drop out" — and what she's been told she will get in return.
Did Becca Balint make a deal with her? Balint is the remaining contender most likely to benefit from the so-called "dropout."
Hard to believe Seven Days bought into this ruse.
Who Is Tom Chittenden?
[Re "Senate Shuffle: Chittenden County Candidates Vie for Votes in Three New Districts," July 20]: For those of you who will be voting for your Democratic state senators in the Chittenden Southeast district, please consider who best represents your values when making a decision. One of these candidates, Tom Chittenden, has not been a friend to the environment.
This past spring, Tom was against versions of the Act 250 bill that included important environmental protection regulations for Vermont's sweeping land-use law. He ultimately voted against the final bill that would have preserved critical forest blocks, a priority for Vermont's environmental organizations.
Tom voted against improvements to Vermont's bottle bill, which would have kept an estimated 100 million more bottles and cans out of Vermont's landfills and off our roadsides annually. The most recent bill passed the Vermont Senate without Tom's vote.
As one of South Burlington's city councilors, Tom consistently voted against interim zoning here to provide time for assessing ways to better protect our rapidly diminishing open space. Another example: Tom's was the sole vote in opposition to committing city funds to help purchase and preserve the 375 acres that now comprise our beloved Bread & Butter Farm.
Tom is proud of stating that "I am unabashedly pro-development." That concerns many of us.
Please consider voting for Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Ginny Lyons and Lewis Mudge. These candidates have been endorsed by Voices of the Environment, a grassroots group of residents concerned about mitigating the climate crisis and protecting the environment.
While Chelsea Edgar's ["Congressional Countdown," July 13] fleetingly touches on Molly Gray's voting record, it seems to have been forgotten — or ignored — by influential politicians in the Democratic Party, just as they "forgot" when she ran for lieutenant governor.
This time, the stakes are higher: She's running for U.S. Congress. Gray did not exercise her right to vote for 10 years! Voting is one of the most important acts a citizen can execute in this country. It is an act of patriotism, an expression of the belief that we as individuals can make a difference — even though, at this moment in time, that may seem hard to believe.
Voting itself is now being threatened in the United States, as we have witnessed in these last tumultuous months. How can we trust someone to lead us who chose to ignore this right? What excuse can justify 10 years of neglecting it and then deciding to dip into politics, as if this omission never happened, never had an impact? (Gray's claim was that she was out of the country, but voting by mail is a snap.)
It's never too late to right a wrong. I'm voting for Becca Balint.
Balint Is a Proven Leader
It's important to note that serving in a legislature — Vermont's or the U.S. Congress — requires diligent work in committees, coalition building and necessary compromise, something I have done as a member of the Vermont House. Becca Balint has that experience and is the only candidate who won't require on-the-job training. She has shown the courage and character to move major progressive legislation in Vermont, and she can do so in Washington, D.C.
["Congressional Countdown," July 13] did a good job of highlighting the candidates, but we need more than a new face in Washington. We need someone who can take traditional Democratic ideals and move them through an increasingly moribund Congress. Leaders act. They make things happen. Becca Balint is a proven leader.