WAY TO EXPOSé
Thank you so much for your exposé on the Blue Cross Blue Shield golden parachute [“Fair Game,” March 18]. I was glad to see the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus picked up the story. You may be our last hope for investigating reporting in Vermont. Thanks again, and keep up the good work.
IN YOUR FACEBOOK
Excellent article [“Friends with Benefits,” March 25]. You really captured the essence of Facebook! I laughed reading and ashamedly admit that I felt similar. Cyber popularity!
LIGHTEN UP, BISEXUALS
There is a problem with the letters being sent in response to the Seven Days sex survey [“Stimulus Package,” February 25; Letters, March 11 & 25]. It’s not that these writers are pointing out that sexual identity can take more than one or two forms, as they mention. I think we can all agree that humanity shouldn’t attach a specific number to the types and varieties of us out there. No, the problem is that some people have taken a 2000-word piece and fixated on 20 or so words. The offending “finally made up your minds” comment was obviously an attempt at humor. It was not an attempt to pigeonhole sexual identity into one of two categories. It was a joke.
It’s disappointing that public discourse on sensitive matters no matter how unintentional must now be presented in a humorless manner so as not to offend. The great thing about humor is that it’s a subversive medium that chafes against all sacred cows and trying to browbeat it into “appropriate guidelines” is a fool’s errand. I guess Oscar Wilde was right when he said, “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” Burlington would do well to remember that political correctness and humor are not often handmaids, and for humor’s sake, that may be for the best.
Thank you so much for “Digital Switchover Leaves Some Vermont Viewers in the Dark” [Local Matters, March 25]. I keep hoping that someone is making a list of all the people who can’t get the digital signals and are therefore forced to pay for TV or do without.
I started working on the switchover in October 2008, along the way buying two converter boxes and a new set of amplified rabbit ears (could get two analog stations very well), talking to Vermont Public Television and all the phone-in events prior to February 17, the FCC in Washington, Jim Condon in Vermont, my local legislator (who didn’t return my call — see if I campaign for him again!) and on and on.
In the end I had to give up and sign up for cable — luckily Jim Condon told me that they were offering a deal for $10 per month for people like me so I knew to ask for it. Now I pay $30 a month for faster Internet service (I was on dial-up) plus very basic cable TV.
So I’m happy in the end, but still unemployed, so any extra expense is a problem. The idea that I was forced to give up free TV really sticks in my craw.
I have been in the event business for over 30 years and have worked with over 5000 brides, grooms, parents and extended families as the owner of Vermont Tent Company and founder of the Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals. I have come to love this industry and have tremendous pride in the work we do. The story [“Groom with a View,” February 11] from the groom’s side presents a vague complaint that there was no contact with the tent company. Why didn’t the couple meet the “tent people”?
Who would you presume the meticulous floor plan is laid out with? (Incidentally, it was my company that provided the computer-aided drawing of the floor plan for this wedding free of charge, even though we did not provide tents nor receive any compensation for our assistance.) I just want to make sure that “tent people” are not painted as unprofessional and disconnected from the clients we serve. It is unimaginable that there was such little contact with the vendor. I am curious as to what was incredibly nerve-wracking? Did the couple request meetings and site visits with the “tent people” that were declined? There is simply no excuse for such business practice if that was the case. The groom fails to mention if there was a problem with the tent or accompanying rentals.
We live in a beautiful state, where some of the most spectacular celebrations have been outdoors in the majestic natural beauty. We should and do have vendors who take the greatest care to ensure and insure the best possible events. The wedding professionals here in Vermont are some of the best in the country. If the groom was unsatisfied with one particular vendor, I hope readers will consider other apples in the barrel.
Ken Picard, the “groom,” responds: “Groom with a View” was a first-person humor piece meant to encourage future grooms to have fun while planning their own weddings. Vermont Tent Company was neither our tent provider nor were they asked to perform any services for my bride and me.
I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed Elisabeth Crean’s article on the Wake Robin residents’ recollections of WWII [“Talking ’Bout Their Generation,” March 25]. Not only were the stories fascinating, she treated the memories and the residents respectfully, as they deserved to be. She made the assumption that her readers knew the basics of the war, and she didn’t at all degenerate into smirking derision — an all-too-common tenor for the alternative press these days. I thought the writing was simply wonderful, and while I don’t normally even notice who authored a Seven Days article, I will make it a point to look for Crean’s.
James “Buzz” Surwilo
CUT IT OUT, DOUGLAS
Jim Douglas is using the economic mess to blackmail state employees [“Fair Game,” January 28]. His “5 percent pay cut” proposal is actually over 14 percent, and he is not promising these give-backs will save any state jobs. State employees offered nearly $20 million in give-backs, but it wasn’t enough.
Look at some of the jobs Douglas is proposing to cut: Reach-Up workers who help people get off welfare; nurses and social workers who provide essential services to our most vulnerable citizens; finance clerks who pay the state’s bills; prison employees, so he can send more prisoners out of state; meat inspectors, knowing the Bush administration has gutted the FDA.
The higher the unemployment rate, the more need for government services.
Gov. Douglas needs to answer these questions: Why are there 30 percent more state managers than when he was first elected? Why were so many managers given merit bonuses? Why does the governor get more money in two weeks for a meal allowance than a family of three on food stamps gets in a month? What did it cost to reorganize, realign and relocate state departments and employees? Why are EDS, UVM and FAHC paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts for work that could be done by state employees at a fraction of the cost? Why are state positions that are fully funded with federal money being cut? What will closing the prison do to the economy in St. Johnsbury?
What’s unsustainable is not the state labor force; it’s Jobless Jim’s governance.
Theresa R. Lefebvre
SICK, SICK, SICK
I would like to thank Shay Totten of “Fair Game” fame for his piece, “The $7.25 Million Dollar Man,” in the March 18 edition of Seven Days. This was on the “$7.25 million in salary, bonuses and retirement cash” that the former top executive of Vermont’s Blue Cross Blue Shield received as a “golden parachute” upon his retirement in 2008. While it is great that he and his family will be set nicely for their retirement, one wonders how much of the constantly rising costs of health insurance that so many Vermonters simply cannot afford (despite Catamount) or are struggling hard to keep up with went to finance this “golden parachute.” How many Vermonters, watching their jobs evaporate, will even get to retire, much less receive a parachute? It is just one more manifestation of how sick our health care system is.
It is too bad that this was not mentioned at the recent health care forum in Burlington hosted by Gov. Douglas and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. It should have been just as much as the uninvited protesters outside carrying signs for a single-payer health care system, based on human rights, not on rights of employment or purse. Dr. Deborah Richter, who was an invited guest at that forum, had it right when she said, “Why don’t we just say, everybody in, one system, and pay for it through taxes?” Why not?
FRIEND OF IRV
Letter writer Robert Norman [“Deconstructing IRV,” Letters, March 25] suggests how IRV can go awry, but his example is too simple to match real-life elections. We had four good candidates for mayor this year: three well qualified with roughly equal constituencies and a fourth with considerable support who shows promise for the future.
IRV narrowed a five-way race into a three-way, then a two-way, all in the fell swoop of a few hours, losing only a few voters along the way. Of 8980 ballots cast, the final total was 8374. If we had held a second actual election, let alone a third, the chances of even half those voters following through would have been small.
IRV is modeled on the tradition of holding a second election between the two front-runners of a first one, and I think it works uncontroversially there. If your candidate is one of two running, you expect him or her to win or lose unequivocally. But if you’re in one of three camps, you’re more critical if you think yours is being shuffled aside. IRV is logical, though, and more fair than letting a few second-time, die-hard voters stand for a consensus. They don’t; we just pretend they do.
Fred G. Hill
The whole preface of the switchover from analog has been a sham, and I don’t feel it’s lived up to all the hype [“Digital Switchover Leaves Some Vermont Viewers in the Dark,” March 25]. I don’t get half the stations I got when I was using my rabbit ears antennae. I went out and picked up a converter box, and it only gave me more frustration. I called, emailed and spoke with folks from WPTZ, WCAX and VPT about the problems I was having … I had read the directions: hooking things up one way and then another, pushing buttons for this and that ... to no avail. I haven’t seen VPT since the conversion and WPTZ [maybe a few times]. I went to a couple Radio Shacks and WCAX for help, suggestions, and other info. I went from getting 11 channels with analog to three, maybe four, channels with the conversion box (which includes channels 57 WCFE, 22 WVNY and sometimes 3 WCAX).
Basically, what it comes down to is that I don’t have a direct signal from Mt. Mansfield. I have a few things preventing it — they’re called trees and other land masses. I won’t quibble about not having a view of Mt. Mansfield. I like where I live and I like my views. I know I am one of many silent(ed) by progress … But it would be nice to catch the news and a couple other shows. I don’t do cable (can’t get it anyways). So I guess I’ll be checking into a “dish” and another bill at the end of the month.
Vermonters need and deserve a continuation of Shay’s exposé of Blue Cross Blue Shield [“Fair Game,” March 18] and exactly how this debacle came into being. Now that he has found out who approved this tax-free 7.25 million dollar lotto bonanza, along with finding out about their disgustingly obscene salaries, who appointed this board of unscrupulous individuals to their exalted positions? Certainly many of us are in the dark and would like to see Shay get to the bottom of it. What can we as citizens do to combat this obvious waste of money? Why isn’t Attorney General Sorrell protecting us? How could Douglas let this happen on his watch? Please keep digging. This same scheme is taking place at Blue Cross Blue Shields all across our country. A movement to stop it should begin here in Vermont.
The late Lucinda Mason, the subject of last week’s art review, died of “natural causes” — not a brain aneurysm, as stated in “Cosmic Connection.”