Businesses Do Good
As a business owner, I found Judith Levine’s column deeply offensive [Poli Psy: “Job Creation Science,” August 31]. She argues that “surplus value” gained by businesses “translates into houses and yachts. Wealth.” Currently, hundreds of businesses are using “surplus value” to direct cash, resources and organizational capacity toward flood relief. If every scrap of profit we earned was immediately redistributed to employees, we wouldn’t be able to redeploy it. Furthermore, reinvesting that surplus value creates jobs and can build a better society.
The Skinny Pancake took all profits from our first two years in Burlington to open our Montpelier location. We could have bought a modest home with that money, but instead we created 15 jobs and now spend over $100,000 annually on local farmers and food producers in Montpelier alone. I don’t claim to be a hero for that, but I shouldn’t be attacked as a heretic, either. We’re a for-profit business that does good in the process. And we’re not alone.
Many corporations don’t act with altruism. But in Vermont, we have more members of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility than all other “BSRs” in New England combined. Judith completely disregards us, and, in the process, her opinion proves to be antiquated, uninformed and as polarizing as the Tea Party’s. Capitalism isn’t going to go away, Judith. Rather than equating us all to the lowliest of actors, why not celebrate the successes of socially responsible capitalism in Vermont and encourage more for-profit companies to act for the common good?
Adler is the owner of the Skinny Pancake.
Programmers in Demand
I agree with Judith Levine’s premise in [Poli Psy: “Job Creation Science,” August 31]. Labor is the primary creator of wealth. However, I take issue with one aspect of the article: “Programmers could once write their own tickets. Now most are mere ‘content providers,’ the globalized proletariat of the computerized world.”
I can only speculate as to what Judith is referring to here. This does not square with my experience as a software developer. At a recent technology conference on the West Coast, at least a third of the companies presenting were hiring. I’m often contacted by recruiters looking to hire software developers. As the organizer of a local technology user group, I have been contacted by representatives from several companies asking me to try and find qualified candidates. Here in Vermont, many companies are actively trying to recruit software developers. When it comes to programmers, there is no “reserve army” of labor.
This leads to another major problem when it comes to creating jobs today: the so-called “skills gap.” Many companies are having a difficult time finding qualified employees. These companies are ready to hire and grow, if only they could find the right people. This problem won’t be fixed until we get serious about investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. However, we have a long road ahead of us before this investment will have an impact on job creation. Labor is the primary creator of wealth, but it takes a highly educated workforce to generate wealth in the 21st century.
Holt is cofounder and technical director of Found Line.
Shumlin for Lunch
Gov. Shumlin needs a fact-checker for his comment in [“Lunch Box Diaries,” August 31]: “There was no school lunch in Vermont in the 1960s.” He couldn’t be more wrong. I recall a hot lunch every day at Jericho Elementary in 1960. Some of the best lunches a kid could ask for. I remember “salmon pea wiggle,” which was tuna and peas in a cream sauce on saltines, bread-and-butter sandwiches, homemade cakes, cookies and casseroles, fruits, hot vegetables, white and chocolate milk. And we all remember Mr. St. Denis coming around with big trays of seconds if anyone wanted them. The cooks were special people who made hot lunch something the kids really looked forward to every day — during the 1960s and after.
Advice for John Odum
When I read in Seven Days that Green Mountain Daily blogger John Odum just became the news director at Montpelier’s Bridge newspaper, [“Earlier Deadlines and a Wrecked Press Imperil the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus,” August 31] I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. While I find value in GMD, Mr. Odum has consistently demonstrated a decided lack of integrity and shoddy journalistic ethics during his tenure there. For years, he and his blogo-cronies have engaged in nasty attacks on Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence and ad hominem slander of its publisher — me — accusing us of “racism” (for talking with other independence-minded groups of different political stripes), “anti-Semitism,” (for criticizing the Israeli government’s harsh treatment of Palestinians and D.C.’s powerful pro-Israel lobby) and “neo-Confederate-ism” (for pointing out that Abraham Lincoln used the Civil War to radically reinvent the U.S. Constitution by centralizing federal power at the expense of individual states — Vermont included).
Here’s some advice for Mr. Odum, now that he’s become a real journalist. Check your sources. Seek a story’s differing points of view. Don’t publish anonymous bloggers’ hateful slander. Instead of ascribing ill intent to individuals, ask individuals what their motivations are. And listen. Take responsibility for the stuff you write. Accept invitations to discuss differing political points of view in public dialogue. And, Mr. Odum, please, above all else — don’t make up nasty s#@& about your neighbors.
As a dues-paying subscriber to the Bridge, your new newspaper, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Williams is editor and publisher of Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence.
Thrifty in Richmond
Great article on the local thrift store scene [“Thrifty Business,” August 24]. We thought you’d also like to be aware of the best-kept secret in Chittenden County: the Richmond Thrift Store, at the Richmond Food Shelf — right in downtown Richmond, across from TD Bank. All Richmond Thrift Store proceeds benefit our food shelf, Check out our website at richmondfoodshelfvt.org.
Levison is manager of the Richmond Food Shelf and Thrift Store.
Last week’s “Facing Fact” [September 7] characterizing the breakup of the city of Burlington and Lockheed Martin enraged activists from the “No Lockheed” campaign. The “Facing Facts” feature is a news-summary device that — given the 30-word limit — cannot provide much depth. And the emoticon was neither a sad nor angry face, but a wry one. Seven Days wrote the first big story about the Lockheed controversy, “Up in Arms,” on February 9. We printed all the letters to the editor we received about that story — except one from Jonathan Leavitt, who was featured prominently, and quoted extensively, in the cover article; his “letter” simply restated his position. Any other letters on the subject — that we didn’t publish in the paper — were rejected because they came in too long after the original story and were simply attacking other letter writers with opposing views.
For eight and a half months, the activists at “No Lockheed” worked tirelessly to sever the ties between Burlington and the world’s largest arms profiteer, Lockheed Martin. We petitioned, knocked on doors, wrote articles, made posters, spoke at meetings, spoke on TV and radio, blogged, Facebooked, and crafted legislation. Even the New York Times covered our story. In August, the city council passed our resolution on community standards for partnering with corporations. In September, Lockheed Martin announced it would not work with Burlington. This is huge. Huge for Burlington, huge for climate justice and huge for democracy. Yet your only coverage of this is a frowny face and a snarky comment [“Facing Facts,” September 7]? Not even a smiley face? Seriously? Journalism and democracy are that unimportant to you?
[Re: “Facing Facts,” September 7]: With everything the “No Lockheed” community did — all the door-to-door pamphleting, all the meetings, all the testimony, all the letters, articles, signature gathering and ultimately all the blissfully successful grassroots citizen advocacy—all Seven Days can come up with on the story is a snarky, frowny face ironic fail? Fuck you guys.
[Re: “Facing Facts,” August 31]: “No Lockheed” worked for months opposing a partnership between the city of Burlington, proposed by Mayor Kiss, and one of the greatest contributors to climate change — to supposedly address climate change. Now Lockheed has backed out. Given that greenwashing was their main motive for coming here, it is reasonable to believe the sustained opposition of “No Lockheed” and all the supporters who came to city council meetings were why then ended this bad deal.
This is a big story and a victory for those who understand that having the military industrial complex address climate change may be the only thing worse than climate change itself. Climate change is not a technical problem so much as a problem of lack of democracy. The money we spend on endless war could build renewable energy, but those who profit from oil, coal and fracking have bought our politicians and don’t seem to care about life on Earth if it cuts profits. So we go headlong hurtling into oblivion dragging the more responsible parts of the planet with us.
“No Lockheed” exposed the lack of democracy in city hall and showed that even those who call themselves progressive will defer to the big money and military might over the needs of the Earth and democracy. Now we see Seven Days exposing itself as a partisan organization that joins those forces and refuses to cover this story as it has refused to print “No Lockheed” letters in the preceding months. Shame on Seven Days!
After eight and a half months of community organizing, concerned Burlingtonians received notice they had successfully stopped the world’s largest war profiteer from coming to town. This social-justice victory was the culmination of the “No Lockheed” coalition’s hard work: packing city council meetings, gathering petition signatures, capturing headlines from WCAX to the New York Times, helping city councilors draft thoughtful legislation and long days of door-to-door organizing. Vermont has led the nation on so many things: ending slavery, civil unions, health care for all, and now a step toward rejecting false climate solutions, corporate greenwashing and war profiteering. This is an incredible victory for grassroots community organizers, which showcases a Vermont social movement’s ability to end unsustainable, undemocratic and unjust policies.
Therefore it’s very disheartening to see Seven Days, our “alternative weekly,” frame this social-justice victory instead as a broken romantic relationship between Lockheed Martin and Burlington [“Facing Facts,” August 31]. Resplendent with its sad cartoon face, your coverage implies Vermonters shouldn’t celebrate social justice, but mourn their lost war profiteer lover. Never mind that Lockheed’s corporate lawyers belong to a law firm that helped stop Congress’ 2009 Waxman-Markey climate legislation and sued the entire state of Vermont (and five other states) to stop us from regulating climate change.
This slanted coverage begs larger questions about the direction of formerly progressive-minded Seven Days, which hopefully won’t devolve into one more tool to ensure that corporations have more voice than concerned Vermonters.
Last December I learned from Shay Totten about the partnership between Burlington and Lockheed Martin. Apart from an article by Ken Picard [“Up in Arms,” February 9] and a few letters to the editor from concerned readers, there has been little follow-up reporting. Have Seven Days’ editors and reporters been asleep, or do you not care about citizen activism anymore?
On a night last February, over 100 Burlingtonians came to city hall asking for passage of a resolution that called for transparency, public comment and creation of community standards in dealing with corporations wanting to partner with the city. The Burlington City Council passed it 10-4. Between February and the summer, a large number of engaged citizens from “No Lockheed” attended every single City Council Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee meeting to suggest standards for the city’s partnerships dealing with climate change and helped craft the resolution. Another packed house concluded this seven-month legislative process, culminating in an 8-6 vote on August 8 to adopt advisory standards. On September 1, Lockheed Martin removed itself from the partnership, realizing that citizens of Burlington rejected its false climate solutions, corporate greenwashing, and war profiteering, and were serious about ethical standards.
There was no extensive coverage in Seven Days about this major news story. After citizens’ working together for eight and a half months, resulting in a clear grassroots victory, how disheartening it is for readers to get only two lines of snark in your “Facing Facts” [August 31] announcing the end of the partnership. You call this journalism?
James “Jay” Vos
Your August 31 cover and related articles helped to capture the spirit of Vermonters’ response to Hurricane Irene. The army of public servants and volunteers who sprang into action to minimize deaths and injuries, including policemen, rescue units and city-town officials, come readily to mind. One group that should not be overlooked, however, is the dedicated staff and management of the Radio Vermont Group, WDEV-WCVT in Waterbury.
The radio personalities of Radio Vermont provided around-the-clock updates on weather, road conditions, and the location of hazardous areas throughout the weekend. More importantly, they provided a sense of calm during those trying times. I can imagine the hundreds of listeners, including senior citizens as well as parents of young children, who took comfort in listening to the reassurances of their familiar announcers reminding them that they were not alone. The sense of community permeated through the phone calls emanating from dozens of cities and towns.
The emergency response of Radio Vermont stands in sharp contrast to that of our local stations that chose to conduct “business as usual,” feeding out-of-state programming through their automated systems. Adding insult to injury, some of those broadcasts were repeats of earlier shows.
Some of us are old enough to remember when our local radio stations put a priority on building and maintaining a sense of community. Perhaps someday these station owners will come to realize that local programming and making a profit are not mutually exclusive.