Lincoln Lore Correction
[Re: “Going to the Mountain,” July 6]: Frederich “Dutch” Wehage was the ’60s practitioner of crazy wisdom and psychedelic psychotherapy and student of Kalu Rinpoche — not Dutch Leahy. Thanks for the article otherwise.
Mayor Walks the Walk
I enjoyed the photo and breakdown of Mayor Kiss’ bumper stickers [“Bob’s Bumper: A Read on Mayor Kiss’ Pickup Lines,” July 6], but wanted to make a slight correct on the comment for #12. He may have biked to his office during Way to Go week, but that doesn’t mean he drives his truck all the rest of the time. I have seen him walking to work multiple times, even in the winter. I remember wanting to tell him to put a hat on or he would catch a cold.
Lay Off Hospitals
Shay Totten’s “Exemptions and Excuses” article [Fair Game, July 13] on hospital budgets got the numbers right but the story wrong. In numerous studies and reports, Vermont ranks as a top-notch healthcare state, including high-value hospitals. In a 2009 MedPAC report, Vermont’s hospital spending per Medicare beneficiary was 85 percent of the national average. Fletcher Allen Health Care’s Medicare spending was 82 percent, making it one of the nation’s most efficient teaching hospitals.
There’s much more of a story behind the numbers. For one, hospitals have made real progress in containing costs, including painful choices like targeted layoffs and employee benefit changes. In a recent Vtdigger.org article, Ham Davis concluded that hospital efforts have helped slow health inflation.
Our not-for-profit hospitals provide local, round-the-clock care to all patients in need. As needs increase and other costs rise (like malpractice insurance), so does the hospital spending, which results in a need for increased revenue.
The “exemptions” are investments in health care reform, like the necessary — and expensive — installation of electronic health records, the employment of physicians and the spread of the statewide medical home effort (Vermont Blueprint for Health). We cannot hope to create a financially sustainable, high-quality health care system that meets the needs of Vermonters without them.
No easy task. Not cheap. The Shumlin administration, the legislature and I believe Vermonters get that this investment in our future makes sense — hence the “exemptions” that are allowed by law. No excuses necessary.
Grause is president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.
The first thing I saw in last week’s issue of Seven Days was the comic about Peter Shumlin taking undisclosed vacations [“Newcomb,” July 13]. Right on; he may have been chosen for his political prowess, but his behavior is completely selfish and unnecessarily boorish. He crashed my parent’s 25th anniversary party last year at the Sheraton to hand out his business card, right after he crashed the wedding reception the floor below us! Where is his decency? Have some pride, man.
Your readers deserve better than Andy Bromage’s “conflict of interest” article [“Is a Conflict of Interest Behind South Burlington’s Development Slowdown?” July 13]. An intelligent reading of attorney Steve Stitzel’s letter shows conflict-of-interest law differs depending on the individual’s task. It explains the law is most flexible when applied to legislative tasks — my current task on the city council. Bromage cites other tasks in his examples — law enforcement, grant and contract awarding, and judicial tasks. By lumping together apple, peach and plum examples with my orange, he confuses your readership about conflict-of-interest law.
Bromage also omits that since receiving Stitzel’s letter, Liam Murphy spoke at two city council meetings and never raised the conflict-of-interest issue. Bromage included unfounded allegations of my engaging in ex parte communications with planning and zoning staff without checking this out with me (which I refute) or city staff.
Bromage quotes incorrect census data. South Burlington’s population increased from 14,879 in 2000 to 17,904 in 2010, a 20 percent growth rate, not 13 percent as Bromage stated.
Bromage misleads when describing my response to his question about a Quarry Hill proposal coming before city council. I said I did not know what I would do but, should the situation arise, I would seek legal advice and make a decision. This occurred during the second of three conversations with Bromage. Then I realized that this would be a quasi-judicial task, like Development Review Board work. Therefore, different law would apply and I would likely recuse myself. Perhaps 10 minutes later (not “a minute”), I called Bromage again, explained my thinking and indicated a likely recusal. So much for journalists’ responsibility to inform and be accurate and fair.
Dooley is chair of the South Burlington City Council.
Reporter’s note: South Burlington’s census data were taken directly from a U.S. Census press release. On February 10, 2011, the Census reported South Burlington’s 10-year growth rate —between 2000 and 2010 — at 13.2 percent.
Currier Case Is Important
In its effort to obtain information in the Currier disappearance case, the Burlington Free Press is seeking a judicial answer to an important question [“Burlington Free Press Wages a Battle — for Documents and Headlines,” July 6]. Can Vermont law enforcement obstruct all public access to records connected with investigations — or just information that, if released, could compromise an investigation, put someone in danger or otherwise cause harm?
The question is important because a blanket exemption means even the most innocuous of records can be withheld. When that happens, the public isn’t served, and neither are police. A perception is created that police are withholding information because the information is embarrassing to them and would reflect poorly on their job performance or conduct.
If Vermont were to join 24 other states and adopt the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) standard for access to police records, investigation information could be withheld as long as police had a good reason to do so. Absent a good reason, the information would be released.
Also, under FOIA, an entire record need not be considered exempt. Redaction can be used to blank out any compromising bits, but the rest of the document is released.
As part of the new state public records law passed by this year’s legislature, a study committee will be taking up problem exemptions such as the police records exemption. The committee could clear up the current confusion (and eliminate litigation) around investigation records by replacing the current language with the widely accepted FOIA standard.
Gilbert is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.
Creemee and Me
I just loved Lauren Ober’s creemee article [“I Dream of Creemee,” May 25]. I quote it whenever I can and point people to your website to read it. My first creemee haven was the Pink Palace in Rawsonville, Vt., where I grew up. It seemed every cone that came out of that place had at least eight inches of creemee on it (well, I was only about 4 feet tall, so it’s all relative), and despite living within a quarter mile of the Pink Palace, creemees were a rare treat. Now, I indulge too often to have them taste very special, but the concept, the numinousness of creemees, never fades for me. Any chance you might print T-shirts with the amazing color illustration that accompanied the article?
You Forgot Phoenix Books
Thanks for the article and mention of several indie bookstores [“A New Page for Burlington?” July 6]. Another one, not to be forgotten, is Phoenix Books at Essex Shoppes & Cinema. It is doing a great job with events, a café, gifts, etc. — indie at its best for those of us in northeast Chittenden County.
An article to highlight its importance and energy for success would be great. Sign up for its e-newsletter for events and programs. It has a great member program, too!
Dooley Didn’t Do It
I would like to set the record straight regarding the article inferring that the chair of the South Burlington City Council, Sandy Dooley, is acting out of self-interest by advocating for the interim zoning proposal [“Is a Conflict of Interest Behind South Burlington’s Development Slowdown? July 13]. Sandy Dooley had nothing to do with the initial interim zoning proposal; I take full responsibility for this effort. I campaigned on overdevelopment, its destruction of our natural environment and the negative effect it is having on the residents of South Burlington. For me, responding to development and its consequences are ethical, environmental, financial and legal imperatives.
I proposed interim zoning, not Sandy Dooley. In fact, Sandy Dooley voted against my interim zoning resolution, which was far more inclusive than the version currently being considered. To suggest that Sandy is pushing for interim zoning is false. To imply that she did anything for personal reasons is preposterous.
From my brief association with Sandy Dooley and the other members of the South Burlington City Council, I’ve come to believe that we all have the best interests of our city at heart, and none of us serve on the council for any personal gain or self-interest. I think Sandy Dooley is owed an apology.
Greco is a South Burlington city councilor.
“South Pork” Fan
In Ted Rall’s last cartoon, “South Pork” [July 13], Rall argues that Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s newest musical endeavor about Mormon missionaries, The Book of Mormon, is an example of them “selling out” artistically. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Mr. Parker has been a passionate fan of the musical theater form since he was a child; he even joined a community theater troupe as a teenager. In college, Parker majored in music, and his first collaboration with Matt Stone was the feature-length Cannibal: The Musical. Musical theater has played a central role in many “South Park” episodes, and the film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song. As for the topic of Mormon missionaries, from their second film Orgazmo to their “All About Mormons” episode of “South Park,” Parker and Stone have also always held a constant fascination for Mormonism. Personally, I feel that The Book of Mormon was a labor-of-love project that came out of true artistic inspiration rather than any motive for financial gain, as Mr. Rall suggests. I was lucky enough to see the musical and found it just as subversive as any classic “South Park” episode. Although I agree with Mr. Rall that Broadway tickets are overpriced, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone are planning to take the show on a tour of the U.S where, at local theaters, the prices will hopefully be less formidable.
Cabbie Can Write
My wife and I read voraciously, and Jernigan Pontiac is without a doubt the best writer in Vermont [“Hackie,” July 13]. It is a true talent to be able to relate in a touching and meaningful way the multitude of experiences that capture the essence of what the human experience is. Every week, we immediately turn to the “Hackie” column and are continuously amazed at the ability of the writer to transport us along with his patrons on whatever trip he relates. Jernigan, do us all a favor and write your novel! I can only imagine where you might take us!
Editor’s note: “Hackie” appears biweekly, and Jernigan Pontiac has published two books: Hackie: Car Driving and Life and Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn.
Last week’s cover story [“Long Shot,” July 13] listed the wrong email address for Bruce Ryan. His correct email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.