Thanks to Kevin J. Kelley for his story on arsenic in the soil at the Moran Plant — overall a good analysis of the extent and source of contamination there [“Arsenic and an Old Place: Burlington’s Moran Plant Turns Up Toxic,” April 8]. However, my quote regarding arsenic and Community Sailing Center (CSC) activities would seem out of context — the area now fenced off is not and has never been part of the program area utilized by this important nonprofit.
The CSC, which has operated out of the Moran site for over a decade, is committed to the safety of their program participants, and to the ecological health of Lake Champlain. This is evidenced by their dynamic educational programs and by the Center’s strong partnership in redeveloping Moran, which includes the cleanup of the site and building. The Environmental Protection Agency, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission have committed over $270,000 to date towards environmental assessment and cleanup of the site. Most recently, Governor Douglas announced a $100,000 grant to clean Moran’s interior. Check online at cedoburlington.org for updates, and PDFs of environmental reports, and mitigation plans for the building and site.
Warner is a special projects manager at Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office.
A REAL CHEF, ER, COOK
I just wanted to comment and express my happiness to see Chef Sue get some due recognition [“Epicure for a Day,” April 1]. Although I have never officially worked for her, I have worked next to her. Sue is one of the hardest-working chefs I have worked with. She does it all in that kitchen, from soup to nuts, and nothing falls short. That is the true definition of a first-class, professional cook. (Yes, she is a chef, but I have heard her comment on the importance of being a great, all-around cook, and the unfortunate, diluted triviality that the title “Chef” has become in our country. This is a philosophy that I adopted long ago myself, and working with Sue was a refreshing departure from the often too frequent norm in the industry these days: lazy, unskilled, unread, unrefined “kitchen managers” that have usurped the title Chef.) Sorry for the rant. Sue rocks.
Millon is chef-owner of Restaurant Phoebe in Montpelier.
IRV FOR COUNCIL PRESIDENT?
As Shay Totten points out in “Fair Game” [April 8], the Burlington City Council voted 12 times without success to choose a council president. Perhaps the council should use the same IRV system we use to elect a mayor: one round, guaranteed majority winner, no more wasting time going round and round.
Thank you, Seven Days and Dr. Emmons, for an incisive look at insurance and profiteering [Op Ed: “Doctor’s Orders,” April 8]. Another good commentary on this issue was recently posted in Medscape: “The Ponzi Scheme That Is Health Insurance.”
Katharine Hikel, MD
THE INSURER RESPONDS
In a recent opinion column [“Doctor’s Orders,” April 8], Robert Emmons, MD, made several inaccurate assertions about programs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont that encourage the use of generic drugs for conditions for which they are available. We offer the following comments to correct the record and clarify any misimpressions Dr. Emmons’ column may have created.
First and importantly, our programs are designed to support prescribers and members in their use of prescription drugs. Generic drugs that are significantly less expensive than their name-brand equivalents are available for a wide variety of conditions, offering the opportunity of significant cost savings without any degradation of care. The combined focus of prescribers and insurers such as BCBSVT has helped tens of thousands of Vermonters take advantage of the lower-cost drugs available to them, saving them many millions of dollars in the process.
Dr. Emmons’ quick arithmetic, which he cited in his column, grossly understated the extent of the savings that are being achieved. In 2008, BCBSVT members who took advantage of generic drugs rather than higher-priced brand-name equivalents reduced their copays by about $2.8 million, and lowered overall drug expenses by about $9 million. So, rather than saving our members 98 cents per member per month, as Dr. Emmons estimated, the actual savings that resulted from the transition to generic drugs was about $5.77 per member per month for every one of the 130,000 BCBSVT members who have prescription drug benefits.
That translated in premium savings for each of them of about $70 a year. Those members who switched to generic drugs had an additional savings related to reductions in their co-payments. This savings averaged $29.62 each time they had a prescription filled. The vast majority of this savings was achieved with the full support of both members and prescribers. Of course, we have programs and processes to review those relatively few cases in which prescribers and/or members believe that the generic equivalent drug should not be used.
Employers, members and even state policy makers look to health insurers such as BCBSVT to use their resources and data to work with providers to both improve the quality of care and better manage health-care costs. We believe the record shows that the programs helping members move to generic drugs when they are appropriate have achieved significant success in achieving both of those goals.
J. Scott Strenio, MD
Strenio is the senior medical director of BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont.
Thank you for spreading the word on financial-ed opportunities in the area [“Fighting Financial Illiteracy,” April 1]. However, a very important resource has been overlooked! The Growing Money Program of CVOEO (Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity) provides free financial classes and coaching to low- and moderate-income Vermonters. We serve residents of Chittenden, Addison, Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Hundreds of people have taken our classes over the last five-plus years, and we hear wonderful feedback about the positive impact on their financial lives. Please check us out at www.cvoeo.org or call me at 860-1417, ext. 104.
Grover is coordinator of the Growing Money Program at CVOEO.
IN DEFENSE OF ALEX ALDRICH
A note to all artists and arts leaders [in response to “VAC Director Takes Heat for Controversial Blog Post,” April 8]: Art is war. It was for Titian and the di Medici family, Picasso. I could name more. War is as compelling and hard as it is risky and scary. It gives us a platform for anything truthful that must be expressed. Look at Peter Schumann for Bread and Puppet. He fights like [VAC Director] Alex [Aldrich]. Alex is on the artist’s side. We cannot criticize this passion and conviction our fearless leader Alex feels. I won’t, anyway. I feel that he believes that his opinion does matter and that it will help keep Vermont’s arts scene rich, open and alive. I, for one, have been seeking this in Vermont. Bring it on, Alex Aldrich. I am right by your side. On freedom’s side.
SELLING SOFT PORN
In regard to the full-page ad for American Apparel’s Flex Fleece on the back of section B of the April 1 Seven Days, I’d like to request a little critical thought when accepting advertising dollars. The female model in the ad can’t be older than 16, and in three of the six images her fleece jacket has been unzipped to expose her braless cleavage and midriff. Can’t American Apparel sell their “unisex” fleece jackets without resorting to soft porn?
What message does this ad send to young girls about their bodies, and what message does it send to boys and men about what to expect from young girls? It’s up to us, as members of a democracy and citizenry that care about the culture in which our children must cope and grow up, to push back and voice our opinions to the corporations who continue a race to the bottom when it comes to selling their products using soft porn and thus co-opting healthy human sexuality.
DeBrosse teaches media literacy at UVM and St. Michael’s College.
I agree with your assessment of the “cutover” from Verizon to FairPoint [“FairPoint at Failpoint?” April 15]. However, Vermonters need to know that there are hundreds of hardworking FairPoint and former Verizon employees that have been working 12-hour days, seven days a week, to fix the problems. Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine-nine percent of these people (many of them your neighbors) live and pay taxes right here in Vermont.
Also realize that our company is one of the few employers actually hiring people in this down economy! Over 100 in 12 months. Myself included! What other company is doing that?
Has the transition gone poorly? For the most part, yes. But has anyone mentioned that we’ve also spent $40 million (local economy) on the “Next Generation Network” (NGN) that will provide broadband to 96 percent of the state by EOY 2010! It’s something Verizon obviously had little interest in doing — which may be why they sold their assets in Vermont, Maine and N.H., to FairPoint in the first place.
That said, the NGN will bring lightning-fast Internet (including IP TV) to both homeowners and businesses over SONET ring technology with multiple paths for greater redundancy in the event of a fiber cut.
No other telecommunications provider has made this kind of investment in our economy. And no other company has attempted this large a conversion (600 Verizon systems, down to 60!) in the U.S. There were bound to be problems, which I am not trying to minimize.
But in the scheme of things, unless it is an emergency, we can survive without phone service. And everyone has had to deal with erroneous bills from phone and other companies. It’s not the end of the world.
So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, people. And most of all, let’s also appreciate the hard work by dedicated and tireless employees. Believe me, they want to get past this, too — probably more than you.
Skorstad is an account manager at Fairpoint Communications.
CORRECTION: Last week’s cover story, “On Course,” noted that this fall at UVM, “17 percent of undergraduate classes will be in the 150- to 300-seat range.” It should have read, “17 percent of the available undergraduate seats will be in classes in the 150- to 300-student range.”