Wrong About Eva!
I, for one, am quite impressed with Eva Sollberger's Stuck in Vermont [Feedback, "Can't Please Everybody," August 30]. I love the whimsical style of her videos and have found so much more to love about Vermont through her videos.
Sometimes I do feel stuck in Vermont, and watching her pieces often makes me feel grateful for all the fun and funny things that happen here.
Thank you, Eva, for the fun and informational vids. We are so lucky to have you!
Barre or New Jersey?
The article on Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon caught my attention ["Playing to Win," September 6]. In my former position as director of the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax, I was tasked with identifying potential sites for the new facility, which ended up in Hardwick. An official from a central Vermont economic development agency contacted me and said that the mayor of Barre wanted to show me potential locations for the building.
While Barre was not in the primary target area for the new center, a request on behalf of a city mayor warranted at least a courtesy visit. I was surprised when Lauzon said that he owned all the sites he was showing me and that the regional economic development official was fully aware of this when she contacted me on his behalf.
The Barre sites were not selected for reasons unrelated to Mayor Lauzon's property ownership status. What I will say is that, as a consultant, I have been involved in feasibility studies, business plans and site selection processes for approximately 24 facilities similar to the Vermont Food Venture Center in 16 states from coast to coast. On most of those projects, I met with local property owners and local government officials. Of all of those locations, only people involved in one project in New Jersey appeared to have a cozier relationship among local officials and people with private development interests.
Are New Jersey's ethical standards good enough for central Vermont?
Old News on Lauzon
So, what was the point of that article ["Playing to Win?" September 6]? The mayor of Barre was not a favorite of mine when I was an overtaxed resident of Barre. However, I never thought he was any more of a shyster than any other businessperson. This article seems to lead the reader down the red-herring pathway, then presents no more facts than those that have already been published.
The bottom line: Thom Lauzon is a canny and successful businessman who has happened to get elected in uncontested mayoral races several times. He gets his bosom buddy and admirer hired as city manager. No news there. A new councilor stands up and makes a valid point about open meetings and transparency, and she's an enemy on the city council. No new news there, either.
I've complained that Barre residential taxpayers get short shrift in favor of business owners and often pay and pay for city-driven benefits for them. Meanwhile, they get told how it's all for them in the end. They seem to like it that way. They vote; he wins. He intimidates the city council; he wins again. So, what's the problem?
That article, while well written, was basically a Reader's Digest of my last 15 years as a taxpayer of Barre. Yawn.
Love Seven Days — and Hackie!
I have been a frequent and grateful Vermont visitor over the last few years for temporary work and voluntary hiking and cross-country skiing. I have so appreciated your paper that it has prompted a response. Are Vermont readers aware that the alt-weekly newspaper, which had its heyday in the '60s and '70s, is almost extinct in this country? The Boston Phoenix has gone, and now the Village Voice — the best known and most successful in the field — has announced its forthcoming demise.
I am impressed with the quantity and quality of the reporting in Seven Days. While your success is, of course, about the talent that is producing it, I would add that it also says a lot about the community that is supporting it.
My favorite column is Hackie. I hope its creator is thinking of putting the essays together for a book that would have a wonderful Studs Terkel tone. I plan to fly into Burlington on my next visit on the chance I might get a ride with that cab's riveting driver.
Editor's note: Hackie columnist Jernigan Pontiac has published two story collections. The first one is out of print, but the second one, Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn, is still available.
Inhumane and Stupid
[Re Off Message: "Advocate: Transient's Latest Arrest Exposes Holes in Social Safety Net," August 25]: Eight hundred sixty-one contacts with police, $12,000 in fines, more than 100 arrests. How much money has this poor soul cost Vermont? At the same time, the Windsor prison, which is almost empty, is costing Vermont $83,000 per inmate ["Vermont's 'Most Beautiful' Prison Has an Uncertain Future," September 6]. Do either of these items make any sense to anyone? Who in state government is looking at the big picture? Convert half of Windsor to a residential mental health facility, reduce Department of Corrections expenses and increase mental health facilities in one fell swoop.
As an aside, what are the courts doing with mental health issues? How can this person pay fines? Why impose them? Why arrest him if he is released the next day with no address, no money and no life? This is inhumane, pointless and just plain stupid!
Case Study of 'Need'
I'm not sure if "State of Need" [August 30] was meant to engender sympathy or anger the folks who are not getting state benefits, working two or three jobs and paying a third of their incomes to state and federal taxes. The "cases" highlighted therein exemplify seeming absurdities.
Case No. 1: a second-generation welfare recipient who hooked up with her "high school sweetheart" to have two kids, yet neither "has been able to hold down jobs."
Case No. 2: a single mom who "suffers mental disabilities" yet decides, in a more lucid moment, to have four children?
Case No. 3: Her partner works. She has no driver's license and has "chronic depression and anxiety" yet has two kids and bemoans living "a mile from the closest convenience store"? That's a short hop for most Vermonters!
Cases No. 4 and 5 involve foreign nationals, one with a "deported" partner and another with no partner yet who has two kids and speaks no English? And some advocate for importing more hard cases to reach some vague notion of "diversity"?
Stories like these do nothing but reinforce stereotypes about current welfare recipients — but, hey, our new state motto could be "Vermont: slightly less generous benefits; only Massachusetts and New Hampshire can beat us!" Our planet is choking from the weight of our ever-expanding human onslaught, and yet folks who cannot get or keep their stuff together decide to have multiple progeny knowing that there's a generous safety net and see this whole insane system as sustainable enough to contribute to its demise?
As the W.B. Yeats poem "The Second Coming" says: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." We're screwed.
I hope we will remove Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from the Vermont children's book award ["Surrender Dorothy?" June 21; Off Message: "Library Board Delays Decision on Renaming Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award," July 11]. The Vermont eugenics movement, which was centered at the University of Vermont under professor Henry Perkins, was a shameful chapter in Vermont's history that did much harm to its victims, their families and their heirs. It must not be whitewashed or swept under the rug but rather taught and discussed in our state's schools, colleges and universities so that it will never be repeated. I think Judy Dow has given ample proof that Fisher was a follower and played a role in writing some of its materials and publications.
Vermont as a state has never admitted to the genocide and broken treaties that gave us this land we call "ours." How many times must we tread on the natives of this country? We have a chance here to begin the healing. I hope the librarians of Vermont will lead us!