A Different Kind of 'Gun Guy'
I'm sorry you were the target of so much ire at the hands of "gun guys" [From the Publisher: "Sounding Off"; Feedback: "Easy Target," August 18]. I thought the offending piece ["Shots Fired," August 4] by Kevin McCallum was balanced and fair.
I visited Parro's range after the article was published. I took my college-bound son for a last father-son hurrah. He's not a gun guy — I am — but he graduated from a Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Hunter Safety Course, has a strong foundation of safe gun handling and was willing to humor me. I also think there was a little awareness that he was about to embark on a whole new chapter of his life, one that did not entail proximity to his parents.
I pulled out all the stops, and we spent a couple hours shooting half a dozen different handguns and two AR-15s. Most of his gun shooting has been via video games, typical for his age cohort. It was a lot of fun, the staffers at Parro's were great, and the facility was attractive and welcoming, right down to the baby changing station in the men's room!
Most of my shooting is done outdoors; I was struck by how much louder it was indoors. It was a full-body experience: The concussion, blast and sound were greatly enhanced in the indoor setting, and I was wearing earmuffs that had the highest-decibel sound-reduction rating available from the store where I purchased them. I didn't want to double up with earplugs and muffs because I needed to hear my son and be able to offer instruction when needed.
Long story short, I totally understand McCallum's reaction to the physical experience of shooting indoors. He wasn't making any political statement, just relating his kinesthetic experience. Kudos to him and Seven Days for publishing the article. You covered it right, IMHO.
Out of Balance
I want to correct paraphrased words attributed to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter in my letter to the editor that was published on July 7 [Feedback: "Name of the Nongame"]. Note that the wording I submitted, drawn from memory, "devoting somewhere approaching half of its resources," was changed in print to "devotes almost half of its resources." Porter says the paraphrase is not accurate. I have finally tracked down a tape of the 2020 hearing. He actually stated, "I'm confident in saying more than half of our work goes to nongame species. It's really hard to offer a dollar-by-dollar breakdown."
Porter's comment motivated me to contact someone on the department's fiscal staff, who explained enough of the budget to convince me that one-third-plus of department resources go to game management. I couldn't determine the upper end because he stopped responding before we reviewed all items. I believe "somewhere approaching half" is, in fact, an accurate summary, given the sketchiness of available information.
I am not advocating for "defunding" game management, as another letter writer suggested. It's clear that traditional hunting is here to stay. I'm pointing out the totally absurd imbalance in distribution of resources for game versus nongame. Game is significantly less than 1 percent of all species. The truth is, nongame funding has always been "defunded." Given the long-term dominance by hunters of wildlife management, that won't change until hunters, and department leaders, commit to righting the balance. Meanwhile, the need for more nongame resources, according to the department's own report, is "urgent."
Editor's note: We stand by the edit of the original letter. "Somewhere approaching half" is a wordier, less committal but nonetheless equivalent way of saying "almost half."
Old Boys, New Tricks
["Green Mountain 'Good Old Boys,'" August 11] is upsetting because I hear the same old kick-the-can-down-the-road excuses. This is not a slam against the Vermont National Guard but a slam against a club that denies the problem. Not believing a "good old boys" culture exists is a major problem and a serious blind spot.
Does anyone realize what a "good old boys" culture is? The club is created by a group of people with a shared interest who do not readily allow others to join them. They breathe superiority, and their egos are fed by the power they hold. It's a boys' club because the U.S. military began as an all-male unit. Assimilation is the ticket to success. Women conform to the masculine identity, use femininity to bring favor or become superwomen overachievers just to succeed.
Privileged males who assimilate without discomfort give little thought to why minorities are not achieving success at the same pace. Many are in complete denial of the club's powerful influence on getting ahead.
Bias is everywhere. In male-dominated organizations, the cultural norm is: Applaud masculine, minimize feminine. The report found that this culture particularly inhibits professional growth for women service members.
The military is supposed to institutionalize service members to the core values of the unit, and it hasn't figured out how to eradicate sexism while hanging on to the club.
Sumner is the president of Empowering Gender Opportunities and a former manager of the Equal Employment and Diversity Program for the Vermont National Guard.
Third World War?
[Re "Sound Effects," July 7]: Words, words, words! These are but letters written on this page flying in formation, spelling the utterances we force out to the air; involuntary armed forces coerce us to volunteer the wages of rebellion, suffering not the slings and arrows but preemptive security of unnatural projectiles as baffled words sung without the dancing vessels of human bodies, passing in the dark, collateral and guilty without cause, effectual in the dream within the nightmare as it, be or not be the Third World War within the F-35s.
Eric Johnson Wallace-Senft
Yes, Vermont has a housing crisis ["Nowhere to Go," August 4].
Vermont is changing and diversifying, and people — from young workers looking for an affordable home to small businesses looking for employees — face new challenges. Zoning regulations need to consider that people work from home, that "family units" have changed and that employers need nearby housing to attract employees. It's time for an open discussion about what is truly in the public good. Vermont must rethink the way regulation affects access, affordability, and where and how people are allowed to live.
Even with heroic efforts by nonprofits and creative use of the $150 million infusion of federal funds for housing, much-needed projects face uphill regulatory challenges.
Vermont should adopt smart-zoning reforms that are beginning to ease restrictions, increase supply and house diverse populations nationwide.
• Eliminate single-family zoning. Allow more multifamily units, co-ops, SROs, boarding houses, tiny homes and mobile home communities.
• Allow higher density, smaller parcels and reimagine zones that restrict housing, like industrial, agricultural and forest zones.
• Adopt inclusionary zoning that provides affordable units in all developments, including college and property tax-exempt development projects that place significant pressure on the housing market.
• Streamline Act 250 review for projects that comply with voter-approved community plans.
What is being protected with zoning and Act 250, and at whose expense? The income-secure often say Vermont cannot afford to compromise environmental and community values. But let's ask the homeless, young families, farmworkers, seniors, employers and working people: "What matters most to you?"
[Re "Nowhere to Go," August 4]: Reading about people priced out of the housing market because landlords decide to sell their rental property makes me wonder how many of the buyers are out-of-state corporations eager to make a killing. That's right, a killing. They get richer, and everybody else, including local businesses that can't find employees, suffers. What is the use of having plenty of jobs available, and even somewhat higher wages, if people can't afford to live here?
In the past, businesses and colleges had solutions. My father-in-law worked for the Bell Telephone Company. Its employees lived in homes the company bought and rented to them. In the 1990s, Westmont College in Montecito, Calif., found that professors could not afford housing there anymore, so the college built housing on land it owns, and professors are provided with homes.
Champlain Housing Trust does not seem to be helping. It has bought up affordable neighborhoods, making outside rent much steeper due to less competition, and it doesn't help ordinary people. Indeed, it is possible to get kicked out of affordable housing if you get a raise or change jobs and earn more than your contract with the trust allows. So the middle class is getting squeezed from both ends in Vermont.
It is encouraging to see an emerging public understanding of why housing has become so expensive ["Nowhere to Go," August 4; "Tax Burdened," August 18]. Economists tell us the problem is one of simple supply and demand. For those of us who have been following this issue for decades, "investment syndrome" is a more accurate explanation.
The housing bubble, its collapse and the ensuing Great Recession were largely driven by the transformation of residential housing into an alternate stock market. At the same time, waterfront property, ski area properties, country view lots, trendy urban condos, academic environs and foreign-owned "ghost" properties were largely bought as investments. Following the 2008 collapse, corporate owners scooped up the casualties and turned them into expensive rentals, aided by short-term rental entities.
A basic human need — shelter — has been turned into a volatile casino by an ignored syndrome raising prices, raising rents and greatly reducing available supply. It is natural to choose from among the emerging "culprits" based on politics. But those unwittingly responsible run the gamut: "bad" guys, "good" guys, the clueless and the indifferent. Anyone with the power to intervene is vested themselves.
Supply is not the problem. Appropriation and upgrading of supply for investment purposes is the problem. Increasing construction of affordable homes will not help. Unless armored with ironclad protections, new construction will simply be sucked into the maw. Meanwhile, no commercial builder is going to waste their time building affordable homes when demand for luxury homes continues to rise.
The syndrome itself, a product of lopsided wealth, must be challenged.
Our Police, Ourselves
Mark Johnson's August 4 Fair Game column ["Cops Out?"] quotes an anonymous officer saying: "The job used to be fun and occasionally satisfying and rewarding but now it's constantly miserable."
Why was it so great before? The police department had more officers, but people petitioned the Burlington City Council to cut its numbers, which makes it harder for the police who remain.
Can our police have a satisfying job? Was it really fun and satisfying before? Do they feel people don't respect them? Do they deserve respect?
What I think: The police should get to know the people in the community. Police tend to cluster and avoid casual conversation with citizens. If they're friendlier, people might like it, and the officers might like it, too. Are they miserable because we, the citizens, are miserable?
Folks, give the police a chance to improve. I don't know who first said, "Defund the police," but that's not a solution. If we have no police, we have to be the police. We have to be vigilantes. Perhaps you've heard how badly that works out.
We need police to help us. They are needed to be firm, honest, kind and helpful, rather than seeming like an occupational force. They should live here.
They are us. We must make it satisfying to be in the Burlington Police Department: enforcing laws, treating people fairly and helping them when they need help.
There's a way out of this predicament, so let's find one.
[Re Soundbites, August 18]: Once again, another Battle of the Bands is behind us, and, once again, the judges were picked from the Burlington scene and have ties to some of the bands. How about picking objective judges? It was fairly obvious as a member of the crowd that there was a bit of familiarity, especially when one band called out to a judge and said, "Hey, we are playing this song next because of our conversation last night."
Also, what's with the judges not being consistent with the scoring? They ripped apart one band for how it dressed when most were wearing shorts. It's obvious that none of the judges has made it outside the Burlington circle as an artist. That's just one of the many such observations noted about the judging. One judge even reduced points from a band because it had a five-string bass, like that's not harder to play.
It was obvious that the winner was not who was picked, and even the MC shouted out to who he and the crowd thought was the winner. All you had to do was watch the crowd. Who had everyone up and dancing? Who had them excited and cheering at the end of the set?
I guess objectivity isn't a prerequisite in the Burlington music scene.