From the Hot Seat
Shay Totten’s commentary in “Fair Game” [January 12] misses the mark. His political banter fails to recognize the seriousness of the problems confronting us.
On behalf of the city, I recently signed a letter of cooperation with Lockheed Martin Corporation to explore potential energy efficiency, renewable energy and other climate change solutions in Burlington. Given the overwhelming evidence, we can’t stand still. We need to transcend politics as usual and continue our work to address climate change.
This agreement is the beginning of a conversation with Lockheed about how to work together. Climate change is one of the most urgent issues of our time, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future and into the next generation. The stakes are high.
Climate change is already a matter of life and death in many places in the world. We may regret that we didn’t do more over the last 20 years, but there’s no place for regrets next year or in another 20 years. The simple fact is, we can’t solve or pay for this problem alone.
Lockheed Martin is one of many partners the city can work with to implement aggressive climate action goals. Together with the resources we’ve already developed in Burlington and Vermont, we must achieve greater energy efficiency, realize sustainable transportation solutions, use McNeil waste heat, and maximize solar, wind and hydropower (see burlingtonclimateaction.com).
I will continue to explore all the options. The consequences are too serious for us not to.
Kiss is mayor of Burlington.
Poor Logic on Sugar Tax
I typically enjoy Judith Levine’s essays, but “Sins of Ingestion” [“Poli Psy,” December 22] has no solid foundation. It seems that all her arguments, and others, against the tax are an impulsive reaction to protect the “poor.” The arguments themselves don’t seem to stand up. At one point she says that the state should “require schools to serve lentils” and then, in the next sentence, “but keep personal sanctions off the plate.” This makes me think it’s just a matter of how you phrase it. Taxing “unhealthy” food is not acceptable, but requiring healthy food is OK.
She also states how the tobacco tax got thousands of people to quit smoking, but then says, “Research shows that taxes don’t change people’s behavior much.” Which is it? And while it is not ideal to have a regressive tax, it is better than taxing those who choose not to purchase sugar products.
The idea here is that these corporations are profiting while the state is paying for the decisions of poor and wealthy people. Should there be other means to get people to have more healthy diets, like education? For sure, and where do the funds come from? Should the corporations support state health care out of profits that are gained through federal subsidies for cheap sugar? I think it would be fair to have a shared revenue source, ultimately. One half-cent added tax to the sugar and one half-cent tax to company profits that goes to a fund. Might as well target candy, also.
Thanks for the Ride
Talk about refreshingly vivid and excellent writing: Lauren Ober made me say “Wheeeee!” with her piece “Zippity Doo Dah” [January 12]. I’ll never be able to ride a zip line myself, but Ober took me there vicariously and gave me a big smile with her humor.
Pray for Sudan
Re: “Vermont’s Sudanese Hit the Road to Exercise Their Right to Vote,” December 8]: I have been praying the “101 Days for Peace in Sudan” prayer. This is most important for this country, and I hope that the freedom we enjoy will be extended to those Sudanese here and in Africa.
Mary Eileen Schoen
Thanks for covering the issue of burning forests for electricity in Vermont, aka biomass incineration … While [Andy] Bromage writes a well-balanced article [“Biomass Busted? Why Wood-Fired Power Is Catching Heat in Vermont,” December 22], there are some inaccuracies. The article states that “depending on how it’s combusted and what pollution controls a plant has, biomass can produce lower net carbon emissions than coal.” While pollution controls can lower — but not eliminate — toxic air pollutants … you can’t filter out carbon dioxide.
Further, the Massachusetts Department of Energy’s “Manomet” study concludes that burning forest biomass for electricity puts out higher smokestack emissions than coal over at least a several-decades time frame — climate scientists insist we must cut our CO2 emissions now.
The article also claims biomass is “infinitely more renewable” than coal, which isn’t the case. Trees grow back, but forests are nothing without soil. The more you log, the more you compact, erode and impoverish soil — particularly with biomass, which robs the high-nutrient tops and branches. It’s time that we accept that infinite growth just isn’t possible on a finite planet.
Schlossberg is editor of Biomass Busters newsletter.
Thank you so much to Ken Picard for [“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: How Did Iranistan Road in Burlington’s Hill Section Get Its Name?,” December 22]. Being a Champlain Valley Vermonter and having lived here for most of my fiftysomething years, I’ve driven past Iranistan Road innumerable times. I have been wondering all this time where the heck that name came from!
I’m a words person, a name person, and I can’t tell you the strange paths my thoughts have taken wondering how the heck that name came to be attached to that street.
You haven’t solved my problem, but to know that I’m not the only one asking the question is very comforting
Dumb About Death
After reading the article by Andy Bromage [“With a New Governor in Power, Will Vermonters Finally Win Their ‘Right to Die’?” January 12], it’s clear to me that Dr. Joseph Nasca, the interim president of Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, really lacks a clear understanding of the legislation in question. For someone who is under no pressure whatever to become involved in something he disagrees with, I think he protests too much and with comments that are off the wall.
Pursing Policy Change
Kaye Borneman’s future was stolen when a police chase ended in her death [“How Vermont Police Train for High-Speed Chases,” Blurt, December 29]. The thought of Kaye’s family and friends facing the long road of mourning and heartache compelled me to make a resolution to advocate for safer police pursuit policies.
I am thankful for Police Chief Michael Schirling’s expressed commitment to fostering a community-wide discussion about the police pursuit safety. Here are some facts compiled by PursuitSAFETY (pursuitsafety.org) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You may be surprised to learn the following:
Police chases for nonviolent crimes kill on average at least three innocent bystanders per week.
Crashes due to police chases and response calls kill at least one officer every six weeks.
The majority of police pursuits involve a stop for a traffic violation.
One out of every 100 ursuits results in fatality.
Even more shocking, FBI reports indicate “the actual number of fatalities is ‘two or three times higher’ than NHTSA’s figures.” This is likely partially due to lack of state or federal mandates for reporting to the NHTSA.
I believe there are safer ways to catch drivers who flee and to respond to calls rather than engaging in high-speed pursuits in densely populated areas. My hope for 2011 is that my neighbors will lend their voice to this vital issue and prevent future tragedies from occurring.
In regards to Mr. Kisonak’s choices for most inexplicable flop [“At the Movies With Kisonak and Harrison 2010,” December 29], I am a bit confused as to what constitutes a flop. The Kids Are All Right grossed $20 million with a $4 million budget and was probably the biggest indie success story of the year. The fact that it made it into the top-100-grossing films of the year is a testament to its huge success (plus, it will probably get an Oscar or two). The Ghost Writer grossed $60 million worldwide. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was the 44th-highest-grossing documentary of all time. Greenberg and Please Give were the only ones on the list that are even arguably flops, though they were both in the top-25 specialty releases. Does a film have to compete with Harry Potter for it to not be a “flop”? These films can’t be compared on the same scale. Why not celebrate the small successes for what they are, rather than be disappointed that they weren’t blockbusters?
Revenge Is Sweet
The January 12 letter to the editor [“Feedback: Fat Is the Problem”] may mislead consumers about high-fructose corn syrup. The American Medical Association stated, “Because the composition of high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high-fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose.”
According to the American Dietetic Association, “high-fructose corn syrup … is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”
Also, contrary to misperceptions, high-fructose corn syrup is not a protected commodity; rather, it is subject to all of the highs and lows of marketplace supply and demand. According to an October 2009 assessment of U.S. farm programs and the corn-refining industry by Promar International, “The net effect of federal programs for agriculture and renewable fuels has been an increase in the price that corn refiners pay for corn. In fact, corn prices over the last three fiscal years — 2006/07 through 2008/09 — have been more than 80 percent higher than the $2.17/bushel average of the prior 10 years.”
As many dietitians agree, all sugars should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle. Consumers can see the latest research and learn more about high-fructose corn syrup at cornsugar.com.
Erickson is president of the Corn Refiners Association.
In last week’s “Fair Game,” Shay Totten identified Doug Hoffer as a Democrat. In fact, Hoffer ran for state auditor last year as a Democrat and a Progressive.