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The Real Story on Seat Belts

[Re Whisky Tango Foxtrot: Why Don’t Vermont School Buses Have Seat Belts? August 31]: Whenever I have posed the question to school officials of “Why not?” regarding school bus seat belts, the answer has generally been along the lines of increased legal liability due to the necessity to monitor and enforce seat belt use — if you have seat belts. In other words, if a school system has seat belts in place, they must mandate their use. The result is that the school system is then liable if a student fails to comply in seat belt use and is then injured due to lack of compliance.

The sheer cost of bus monitors alone, coupled with inevitably imperfect enforcement, would be a “lawsuit waiting to happen.” So, no seat belts means no enforcement, which means limiting liability in the event of a crash. While I appreciate the “cost-benefit ratio” perspective the article brings out, the story doesn’t end there.

Bill O’Neill

Shoreham

More About Pete

I may have missed something, but there is one aspect to [“Pete’s Greens Makes Its Garden Grow — Back,” August 24] that has not been recognized.

In 2005, Lamoille Community Food Share received a phone call from a woman named Theresa Snow who wanted to know if our food shelf would be interested in receiving vegetables — for free. We were very interested in adding fresh produce to our offering of staples. Theresa was working for Pete’s Greens and was aware that certain oversized or overabundant vegetables were going to compost. She asked Pete if she could glean these vegetables and get them to those in need, and he said yes.

The rest, as they say, is history. Theresa was then able to acquire gleanings from a number of farms in the area, and we were able to pass a wide variety of fresh produce along year round. Eventually, she joined forces with the Vermont Foodbank, and this program has now gone statewide. But it all started with Theresa’s passion and Pete’s produce.

When we heard about the fire, we knew it would have a huge impact on those who visit our pantry. Our spring offerings were slim, but summer has brought us a bounty of offerings from Pete’s and the many other farms willing to share. We literally cannot keep enough veggies on hand. We want to thank Pete and all our area farmers. Please support them by buying local. And if your garden is producing more than you can use, please consider calling your local food shelf to see if they would be interested in passing that abundance along.

Deb Krempecke

East Johnson

Krempecke is manager of the Lamoille County Food Share.

Climate Change Behavior

Many thanks to Bill McKibben, Gus Speth and the other Vermonters jailed for calling on President Obama not to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from the Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries [“Author-Activist Bill McKibben Gets ‘Disobedient’ About Climate Change,” August 10; Blurt, August 21 and 23]. As the planet’s most important climate scientist, James Hansen, says: Keep burning this kind of unconventional oil, and it is “essentially game over” for the climate.

Although they won’t be arrested, hundreds of Vermonters will be gathering in Montpelier on Saturday, September 24, to participate in the “Moving Planet Vermont — Leading the World to Climate Solutions” rally at the statehouse. Learn more at 350vt.org.

Meanwhile, with no regard for global warming, on September 15 another group of Vermonters will climb aboard a jet plane in Burlington to fly to Scotland to enjoy a tour sponsored by Vermont Public Radio. According to the book How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, each of them will add more than two tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, just in their plane travel.

VPR should be a leader and cancel the planning for any future trips. It is one thing to have to fly to visit family or conduct important business, but adding so much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere just for our own pleasure should be considered immoral.

We need to do more than just change our lightbulbs; we also need to change our lifestyles!

George Plumb

Washington

Local “Homeland”

Judith Levine makes some valid points about America’s addiction to security and the price we’ve paid for it [Poli Psy: “Maximum Security,” August 17]. But she missed the most important part of the story about the $13.8 million VCOMM upgrade. While the need for emergency response agency communication interoperability may have been highlighted by the 9/11 attacks, and the funding has come from the federal Homeland Security coffers, the primary benefit has been to local municipal and volunteer fire and EMS agencies — not the growing police state.

We’ve yet to experience a terrorist attack in Vermont, but we emergency responders regularly use the new VCOMM and V-Tac frequencies for interagency communication at mutual aid incidents and even for intra-agency communication at critical scenes. This would not have been possible without the Homeland Security grants and the infrastructure they funded.

Robert Riversong

Warren

Too Much Homework?

[Re: “Class Consciousness,” August 24]: I was a junior high teacher during the ’60s and ’70s and rarely gave homework because I believed schoolwork was for school and the rest of the day and evening for kids’ projects of their own. I got the idea from Pearl Buck, who, in her autobiography, deplored the time her adopted children had to do homework rather than their own pursuits. “Dream time” not in bed is also important to the young. That’s why summer is so important, for all the other kinds of activities children can engage in. Any homework I gave, for example, involved interviewing their parents about their origins.

Lea Wood

Montpelier

Review Wind Projects

I have to respond to Paul Burns’ letter [Feedback: “Way to Blow,” August 17] in which he dismisses the “fringe” environmental groups questioning wind development of Vermont’s ridgelines. “Fringe” voices such as Steve Wright and Annette Smith have clearly articulated drawbacks and major reservations. People driving down I-91 and touring the Lake Willoughby region this summer have had a jaw-dropping experience: They see how the Sheffield project towers have the capacity to dwarf the ridgelines that are the area’s bread and butter when it comes to tourism and quality of life.

Vermont lacks sufficient policy both in regard to mountainous terrain and in overall greenhouse emission reduction. In its place it seems to have an ad hoc policy that reflects the political power of the moment. We would do well to remember the genesis of Act 250 under Gov. Deane Davis. It was the perceived threat of uncontrolled mountainside development that prompted his farsighted support of coherent development policy. Through policy incoherence, these current projects are dodging sufficient review if we are to harmonize the two goals of landscape conservation and green energy.

Andrew Whittaker

Kirby

Letter to Montpelier

Dear Kismet: Please host sushi nights on varying days [“Suddenly Sushi,” August 24]! The only thing missing for me in central and northeast Vermont is sushi, and I work every Wednesday evening.

Dear Montpelier chefs: Please open a restaurant that serves beautiful fishies at least five days a week. We definitely don’t need any more Italian joints!

Rebecca Agone

Woodbury

Lunch Power

It’s great to see the tide turning in Vermont school cafeterias, thanks to professional chefs with a social conscience and the districts that hire them [“Cafeteria Care,” August 24]. Vermont’s public schools are courageously foraging into the principles supporting the local economy and health by buying from local producers. There are many unsung heroes in this effort, such as Burlington’s Bonnie Acker, who introduced the idea of composting and buying fresh, local produce to Burlington schools when her daughter was in middle school 10 years ago.

Cafeteria staff such as Denise Foote at Lawrence Barnes Elementary keep the drumbeat to impress upon the Burlington School District how many kids like kidney beans at an ample salad bar, and that compartmentalizing lunch choices so that kids have to choose between bringing their own or hot lunch or eating at the salad bar does a disservice to all.

The erosion of the public sector through the right-wing antitax mantra affects our kids’ health when it comes to the school districts’ ability to provide fresh, local food. USDA grants have come and gone due to federal budget cuts. As federal tax revenue evaporates, we risk returning to the days of commodity handouts for school districts with high participation in free lunch. This leads directly to poor nutrition and forecloses the opportunity to teach nutrition in the real-time classroom called the cafeteria.

Liz Curry

Burlington

Le Tax?

Recently you had an article on increased visitors from Canada, especially Montréal and the province of Québec. You gave some reasons but missed the big one [“Canadian Tourists Are All Over Burlington, But No One Knows What It’s Worth,” August 3].

Montréal’s citizens have always flocked to the U.S. for a variety of reasons. Shopping may be number one, and with a very favorable exchange rate in the last two or three years, shopping is likely to increase even more. Canada lacks the great variety of shopping experiences that the USA offers. There are nowhere near the number of outlet and discount stores per capita in Canada. Prices here are also generally lower for the same item.

But that isn’t the reason Montréalers love to shop in the USA. The big reason — the reason you failed to mention — is taxes. Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax will seem very reasonable to our visitors up north. In most of Canada, sales taxes are collected by the federal government (GST) and by the province (PST). In most of Canada, this works out to a combined rate of 12 to 15 percent. Taxes matter. Ask anybody speaking French on Church Street or at the mall.

Carl Lobel

Warren

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