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Letters to the Editor (7/29/20)


Published July 29, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated August 4, 2020 at 7:13 p.m.

Ashe Is a Compassionate Leader

I'm voting for Tim Ashe in the lieutenant governor primary [Off Message: "Gray, Ashe Take Heat During Democratic Lieutenant Gubernatorial Debate," July 16; "Ashe Kicks Off Campaign for Lieutenant Governor," May 28]. 

I met Tim 10 years ago when he arrived in the Senate. He was young and keen to learn, and his values were akin to mine. But after serving with him on two different committees and seeing his work as pro tem, I learned something else about Tim: He's a genuinely nice person. As pro tem, he treated all his flock (the senators) with respect and compassion. When our personal lives impacted us, he was sympathetic and helped us deal.

As pro tem, he's steered us toward passage of major pieces of legislation, including major investments in our mental health, child care and housing systems; protecting workers from harassment; major gun-safety legislation; protecting reproductive rights; major climate initiatives; addressing systemic racism; funding the purchase of legacy lands to protect our environment; and making sure schools' water supply is lead free.

But he really showed his leadership when COVID-19 hit. He held us all to task, was patient with those of us who are not techies, and acted quickly but not rashly. We were the first Senate to meet remotely and function well. He'll tell you that he didn't do it — that it was a whole team that worked together. He's right, but the team only functions well if it has a good leader. 

Tim will make a really good LG (and governor, if need be), but he'll be missed in the Senate.

Jeanette White


White is a Democratic Windham County senator.

Fruit of Knowledge?

[Re WTF: "Why Do So Many Apples Grow Along Vermont's Back Roads?" July 22]: I knew the answer right away, but after reading the article I realized that no one at Seven Days knew it. The apple trees grow there, just like anything else, because they can. The reason they remain is because they are protected. Road crews all over Vermont know this; they can cut all other trees and brush from the right of way but will leave the apples.

The next time you young folks have a question, I suggest you ask someone who is over 80 or has lived in Vermont longer than you have been alive. 

Tom Turner

Peacham Corner

Sirotkin for Senate

[Re "Senate Scramble," July 22]: Your article highlights the unfairness to Chittenden County voters of having primaries with a dozen or more candidates. It turns the race into a name-recognition contest rather than one based on merits. That is why Sen. Michael Sirotkin introduced a constitutional amendment and legislation to downsize the current six-member district into multiple districts of no more than three senators. This is typical of Sen. Sirotkin's politics — putting the average Vermonter ahead of his own political interests. 

I first met Sirotkin in the early '80s, when I was an assistant U.S. attorney here in Vermont. I had cases with him in federal court, where he frequently fought for disability benefits for senior citizens, something he did tenaciously and effectively. This went on to be typical of his representation throughout his professional life — fighting for constituencies with little voice.  

Sen. Sirotkin has been hard at work in the legislature addressing COVID-19 issues — ahead of campaigning for reelection. His leadership expanded unemployment and workers' compensation benefits and provided approximately $100 million in housing assistance and even more in small-business grants. In addition, during this year he was the Senate's clear leader in championing minimum wage and paid family leave. In the previous session he took on Apple and Amazon and changed their auto-renewal disclosure policies nationwide. He also led the successful fight against Comcast to maintain internet neutrality. 

I enthusiastically support his reelection for Vermont Senate and hope others will join me; we need him in the Senate.

Jerry O'Neill


Champion of Democracy

[Re Pandemic Primary Voters' Guide: "Champagne Wishes and Ballot Box Dreams," July 22]: Andrew Champagne is one of the most tenacious advocates for the franchise I've ever met. His love of politics and of the mechanics of government uniquely suit him for succeeding in his ambitious goal of registering another 500 Vermonters to vote in time for this year's general election. Our country is filled with cynical observers of the political process, and it's inspiring to see someone like Andrew working to get people involved, regardless of their affiliation.

Peter Cammann


Ingram Fights for All

I support Debbie Ingram for lieutenant governor [Off Message: "Gray, Ashe Take Heat During Democratic Lieutenant Gubernatorial Debate," July 16; "Debbie Ingram Kicks Off Bid for Lieutenant Governor," June 26].

In the 10 years I have known Debbie, she has never wavered in her commitment to making sure that all Vermonters get a fair shake — whether that is access to health care, affordable housing, or advancing racial and social justice. One of Debbie's strengths is her willingness to listen to differing points of view and to bring people together around shared values.

As a nurse practitioner, I see the effect that policy making can have on patients, families and communities. Debbie's work on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and as chair of the Advisory Council on Child Poverty and Strengthening Families is especially close to my heart, including her introduction of bills relating to substance use, paid family leave and dental care.

In this time of immense uncertainty, it is so important that we have leadership like Debbie's to ensure that Vermont remains a wonderful place to live, work and play.

I have already cast my vote for Debbie, and I encourage you to join me in electing her as Vermont's next lieutenant governor.

Vote for Debbie on August 11 in the Democratic primary!

Martha Whitfield


Invest in Zuckerman

[Re "Running in Circles," July 22]: I enthusiastically support Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman in his bid to be Vermont's next governor. Here's why: David will do the best job of leading Vermont's economic recovery. His priorities are clear: 

• Rural economic development, including expanding quality broadband to all parts of Vermont;

• Raising the minimum wage;

• Providing paid parental leave; 

• Saving the state colleges; 

• Creating green jobs that pay well and address the climate crisis; and

• Supporting restaurants and farms by expanding the Everyone Eats program and creating a supply chain to preserve and distribute Vermont farm-grown foods to Vermonters during this crisis.  

We can't get stuck in the Republican model of addressing this crisis with budget cuts. David knows that an economically prosperous future requires investment.

Please join me in voting for David Zuckerman for governor in the August 11 Democratic primary and in November.

Peter Clavelle


Clavelle is a former mayor of Burlington.

Nothing Offensive About It

It was profoundly disturbing to read about plans to destroy "The Underground Railroad, Vermont and the Fugitive Slave," a mural at the Vermont Law School by Sam Kerson [Live Culture: "Vermont Law School to Remove Mural Considered Offensive," July 14]. 

Using the excuse of student complaints, the administration has taken it upon itself to determine what we shall be allowed to see.

One reason cited: Figures were painted in greens. Apparently, these censors are unaware that great artists like Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso also painted green figures. Should their work be destroyed?

Also cited: the "exaggeration" of figures. Again, apparently the aspiring lawyers and school administrators are unaware that great African American artists, as stylistically diverse as Robert Colescott, Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence and Jean-Michel Basquiat, exaggerated and distorted the human figure.

It is authoritarian regimes that demand "realistic" art — most famously demonstrated by the 1937 "Degenerate Art Exhibition" organized by the Nazi Party. Such animosity to modernism is because it encourages people to think critically.

It's appropriate for students to raise questions about art, which they may not understand. It's also fine for people to dislike a work of art.

But discomfort is not a good reason to destroy art — controversy should be cherished at an institution of higher learning.

Sadly, such censorship is not entirely unexpected. After all, we are burdened with politicians who do not read books. Should we be surprised that leaders of an educational institution are art-illiterate?

Instead of censorship, let's defend free artistic expression. There is nothing to fear from art.

Mike Alewitz

New London, CT

Gray Brings Vermonters Together

[Re Off Message: "Gray, Ashe Take Heat During Democratic Lieutenant Gubernatorial Debate," July 16; "Shumlin Endorses Molly Gray for Lieutenant Governor," June 25]: During the 31 years I worked as a journalist, I followed local politics and public policy closely. I had the opportunity to see up close what it takes to be a good, effective public official.

The best are those who bring people together with a can-do spirit, creating realistic, sustainable solutions that have all of our best interests at heart.

Molly Gray is that leader. That's why I'm voting for Molly for lieutenant governor in the August 11 primary.

As someone born and raised on a vegetable farm who earned high school, college and law degrees from Vermont schools, Molly stands out as a rising star who can help lead the state to a bright future.

She cut her teeth learning about public service working for Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.). She honed her leadership skills working around the world for the International Committee of the Red Cross. She bolstered her knowledge of state policy and negotiating ability with a law degree from Vermont Law School and subsequent work as a criminal prosecutor.

There are no easy fixes to the challenges we face today, whether it's education, the economy, equality or any other topic. We need smart, ethical leaders with the intelligence to figure out where old systems have failed and the resourcefulness to reimagine how they can be rebuilt to be more equitable, responsive and sustainable. Molly Gray is that leader.

Please join me in voting for Molly Gray for lieutenant governor in the August 11 primary.

Terri Hallenbeck

St. George

Protect All Beings

Hunting, fishing and trapping — lying in wait with the intention to harm or kill living, feeling individuals — are crimes against life and should be abolished [Off Message: "Scott Signs Bill Recognizing Abenaki Hunting, Fishing Rights," July 14].

That they are legal can be attributed to speciesism, defined by author Joan Dunayer as "a failure, on the basis of species membership or species-typical characteristics, to accord any sentient being equal consideration and respect."

The legislation signed into law may appear to be a victory for the Abenaki culture and equality, but for the nonhuman animals already in danger — on land, in the water and in the air — it is a sad testimonial to their status as property, with no legal rights.

May we evolve, individually and collectively, and embrace a new paradigm, one that accords equal consideration, respect and rights — first and foremost, the right to live free from human-inflicted exploitation, harm and death — for all beings.

May such a paradigm augur a time of peace, love and justice, relegating the aforementioned blood "sports" and other traditions that exploit, harm and kill to the dustbin of history.

That will truly be a time worthy of celebration by all. 

Mark Wiesenfeld

Boulder, CO

Ram Is a True Liberal

I am not a Democrat, but I will vote for Kesha Ram for Vermont Senate ["Senate Scramble," July 22].

I met Kesha 10 years ago in the Vermont Statehouse. I watched a young freshman legislator handle a very difficult hearing. I supported her four years ago for lieutenant governor, saying that she did not talk to people — she talked with people. That was important then, and it is even more important now. Kesha is a true liberal in the original and longtime meaning of that word. It was a philosophy about looking for truth through logic and open debate.

"Keep the company of those who seek the truth, run from those who have found it!" said Václav Havel, the first elected president of Czechoslovakia after the Communists fell. I did not know how close to home it was going to become.

Today, on the right, we have people who are certain they have found the complete truth and their truth cannot be questioned, along with leaders who are trying to destroy the very idea of truth.

On the left, we have those who call themselves liberals but also think they have found all truth. Anyone who presents a nuanced version will be punished. They have become those we should run from!

And then there is Kesha, a decent, thoughtful, confident but humble, liberal human being. Like a lighthouse on a rocky, fogged-in shore, she is a ray of hope in a dismal, sickly partisan social and political landscape.

Wendell Coleman

South Burlington

Missing Stone

I'm a longtime admirer of Gordon Stone [Live Culture: "Vermont Musician Gordon Stone Dies at 70," July 12], going back to the '80s and the Decentz. Besides Gordon, they had a lead singer who, some people might remember, went on to be elemental in the history and ongoing success of Seven Days. Gordon was truly a world-class phenomenon on any instrument he played. His pedal steel was smoothly astounding. Alas, always hoped for a Decentz reunion. Maybe some kind soul will reissue some tracks.

James Lienu


Say No to Nazi Items

[Re "Not Buying It," July 8]: Read this article and was horrified, not only for my Jewish friends, but the gay men and women and gypsies and all who were victims of this hate long past but brought back in reminders like this.

And I know it well, having directed The Sound of Music. When this flag flew, it sent shivers and sorrow through all of the audience, including the cast and me.

As for the sale? Pure business — in other words, money. Let's not kid anyone here. The company response — that to "destroy these items or sweep them into the shadows only does a disservice to the period of history from which they originate, to those who were systematically murdered by the regime they represent, and to those who fought and died to annihilate that regime in the name of democracy" — is a line from an entitled position in the community. As is the auction house's decision to remove comments that were deemed "tainted."  

Will we ever learn? 

Sean Moran


Siegel Is an Advocate for All

[Re Off Message: "Gray, Ashe Take Heat During Democratic Lieutenant Gubernatorial Debate," July 16; "When Reform Is the Norm," July 22]: While all the candidates in the lieutenant governor's race have made positive contributions to our public life, I will be supporting Brenda Siegel in the upcoming Democratic primary. In my mind, Brenda has shown her commitment through her life's work and consistent advocacy for key policies that would achieve greater economic security, social justice and environmental sustainability for Vermonters.

Brenda understands that even before our pandemic, it was not acceptable for almost 40 percent of Vermonters to be underinsured, struggling with out-of-pocket costs that deter them from seeking the health care needed. Brenda is a strong supporter of health care as a human right, starting with making primary care a universal public good with no out-of-pocket costs.

Brenda is also unequivocal in supporting a progressive tax structure and the need to reverse the Trump tax cuts on the wealthy on a state level so that the state can gain needed revenue. Finally, she is committed to resolving the problem of broadband access for all Vermonters, essential for our economic health and for equal educational opportunities.

With her clear commitment to these issues, as well as to racial and environmental justice, she will be a powerful advocate for Vermonters. Her experience as a low-income person has informed her view, and she also has the breadth of analysis to understand that to achieve justice, we must strive for systemic changes that give power back to people rather than to corporations and the wealthy.

Ellen Oxfeld


Bright Knight

I am so excited to learn that you are bringing Keith Knight's "The K Chronicles" back to Seven Days [From the Publisher: "'Tooning In," July 8]. It was a sad day when both Knight's cartoon and Alison Bechdel's "Dykes to Watch Out For" were discontinued — for different reasons — in your paper. And aside from Harry Bliss, Tom Tomorrow and Jen Sorensen, our household has found the cartoon section less than creative, funny or amusing for several years. While it seems a bit questionable (tokenism?) that you bring back Keef at this historical moment (due to Black Lives Matter and national politics rather than the merits of his great work), we welcome the addition. He has just the insight and humor and intellect that our community and nation need now. Thank you so much!

Kirsten Isgro


Ashe Is a Progressive, Experienced Leader

[Re Off Message: "Gray, Ashe Take Heat During Democratic Lieutenant Gubernatorial Debate," July 16; "Ashe Kicks Off Campaign for Lieutenant Governor," May 28]: I wholeheartedly support Tim Ashe's candidacy for lieutenant governor. Tim's extensive experience, leadership and record of accomplishment are unmatched. He understands the nuts and bolts of making policy and legislation. Tim's voting record is excellent, and I challenge any Democratic candidate in this race to find a specific vote of his with which they would disagree.

Under Tim's strong leadership, Vermont now has one of the most progressive agendas in America. Tim's record reflects a lifelong dedication to all Vermonters. As a mental health counselor, I appreciate his leadership in bolstering our mental health system, affordable childcare and housing, and gun-safety legislation. As an outdoorswoman, I am grateful for his long-standing work on climate change, restoring and protecting our environment, and natural resources. As someone who spends time online, I value his passage of Vermont's net neutrality law, restrictions on large "data brokers," and Vermont consumer protection legislation.

During his time as president pro tem, Tim's intimate, pragmatic understanding of the Senate prepared him well to be lieutenant governor. Should, God forbid, anything happen to Vermont's governor, Tim Ashe is equipped from day one to step in. There is no other candidate as prepared. Be a voter! Please join me in voting for Tim Ashe for lieutenant governor in the August 11 primary.

Kim Lang


Scott in Trump's Party

[Re "Running in Circles," July 22]: Gov. Phil Scott's COVID-19 response has in general been admirable, especially compared to that of the national Republicans and many in other states. His non-COVID activities are open to discussion. But the Republican Party is now Donald Trump's party, almost 100 percent at the national level and to a sickening degree in most states. As long as Scott chooses to remain in the party headed by Trump, he is giving tacit acceptance to this situation. To merit the votes of Vermonters, the one thing he must do is join the resistance to Trump and his malicious policies by renouncing his party affiliation. Otherwise, whatever anti-Trump lip service he may come up with, a vote for Scott must be interpreted as a vote for Trump.

Dennis Bouldin


Testing, Testing

[Re Off Message: "Legislatures Doles out $577 Million in Aid, Adjourns Until August," June 27]: Concerning COVID-19 virus testing, I thought that the plan was to get as many people as possible tested throughout our population — symptoms or no symptoms. But it's not so easy. The reason for doing testing was to identify the ailing and also to get a geographic mapping of all persons infected regionally, statewide and nationally. This would allow for steps to be taken to fend off further spread of the epidemic. The preventive tactics were: track personal exposures and relationships of those found infected and require quarantining of those found infected. And document every bit of it.

So what is the Vermont Department of Health doing? It looks like two initiatives:

1. If you have symptoms (fever, cough and shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell), you are allowed to have your doctor prescribe a test for you.

2. If you have no symptoms, then it is up to you to decipher the way to get a test without a doctor.

For that purpose, the state is providing so-called "pop-up" testing sites at certain times in communities throughout the state.

If you might consider it a civic duty as an "asymptomatic community member" to get tested, then call 802-828-2828 for an appointment. They will treat you well.

Bob Howe

North Bennington

Ingram Is a Social Justice Champion

Debbie Ingram is my choice for lieutenant governor of Vermont [Off Message: "Gray, Ashe Take Heat During Democratic Lieutenant Gubernatorial Debate," July 16; "Debbie Ingram Kicks Off Bid for Lieutenant Governor," June 26].

For the past 16 years, she has championed causes that improve the lives of Vermonters and advocated for those who don't have a voice. Debbie is on the right side of every social justice issue I care about: affordable housing, health care, criminal justice, raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, equal pay, racial justice and LGTBQ rights.

It's one thing to care and another thing to drive change. For the past three years, I've worked with Debbie as a member of Vermont Interfaith Action — an organization that, under her leadership, has grown from seven affiliates in Burlington to 60 affiliates statewide. I have experienced firsthand Debbie's extraordinary ability to organize and mold an inexperienced group of volunteers into a motivated and effective change-making machine.

Debbie is one of the most creative people I know. Undaunted by her inability to connect face-to-face with voters, she devised a "virtual tour" of Vermont. It's a creative way to safely introduce herself and her values to the voters. In each tour, Debbie features a brief interview with a local business owner and a nonprofit leader, highlights a scenic attraction, and addresses the economic and social issues confronting the citizens of each county. If you haven't had the good fortune to experience one of Debbie's virtual tours of Vermont, visit ingramvt.com and sign up.

Vote for Debbie Ingram in the Democratic Primary on August 11!

Sue Brooks