Read to Secede
Fear not, Mr. McClaughry [Feedback, “Pro-‘Union,’” April 10]: Should our fair state ever secede from the union, we have a most excellent Constitution already in place. Our Vermont Constitution is so excellent that there is no need for a Bill of Rights, as those rights are already enumerated in the Constitution. In the event of secession, the protection of your rights under the U.S. Constitution would no longer be needed because our own Constitution offers you even more protection than that of the U.S. Constitution. Give it a read some time.
Craig A. Bingham
No Grain, No Gain
In the editor’s note following a recent letter to the editor from my brother, Joe Gleason, I was identified as the president of Gleason Grains [“Gluten-Free Defenders,” April 10]. This is incorrect information. Gleason Grains is not a corporation; it is a farm. I have farmed five to 60 acres of organic wheat in Bridport since 1980, purchasing a small mill in 1982. In 2010-2011, with the help of grants from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Vermont Farm Viability Enhancement Program, I remodeled my small mill house to make it more efficient.
I have no employees. With the help of my wife and teenage son, I plant the wheat, combine it, store it in my mill house, mill it and deliver it to my customers. There is no president of Gleason Grains. My operation is not a corporate farm; it is a small, organic family farm, well suited to the landscape of Vermont.
Handy and Heady
I just wanted to mention a few things concerning the article about the Handy family in which I took part [“Handyland,” April 17]. Though author Ken Picard took a fun and nice look at the family, I feel that as a contributor I may have failed many of my closest cousins. We are a family that came from little or no education, just two short generations ago, to one that is now filled with doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, business professionals, a four-star general, West Point cadets and grads. We’re involved in our towns, our churches, our schools, charities and athletics. We are far more than just a common name on a sign hanging on the side of a building. Yes, the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in the Handys, but it is much, much more than that, which has allowed us to live the American Dream and to love this land that we call home.
As for “my” family tree, it was a collaborative effort by many of us but would never have gotten off the ground without the hundreds of hours of labor put in by my cousin, Andi Handy. Sorry for the omission.
John J. Handy
What Vermonters Believe…
[“Are You There, God? It’s Me, Vermont,” March 27] did not answer the titled question. Rather, it went off on a tangent by explaining the philosophies and credos of some nine religions.
I do agree with your brief statement that “Vermont’s just not that into Him.” To further paraphase, Vermont is the 49th most godless state of the 50. Why is this? I find many Vermonters to be “doubting Thomases.” Without the facts, they won’t believe you. Many do not believe in God because they cannot see him — or her — with their own eyes. They have no faith!
Vermonters do believe in government, because they can see getting help from it when in need.
Vermonters believe a 12-pack of beer will calm their nerves after a day’s work.
Vermonters believe that someone will remove their discarded sofa marked “free” from in front of their house.
Lastly, Vermonters believe, in the end, they will finally win the lottery — just once!
[Re “Tastes of Little Jerusalem,” March 27]: My late father, Saul, was born in 1919 in his Little Jerusalem home on North Winooski Ave., at the height of the Spanish influenza epidemic. He and his family moved to Montréal around 1921 where he — and later, I — grew up. I returned to Montpelier in 1990, where my wife and I raised our son, who now lives on North Winooski Ave., directly across the street from where his grandfather was born: the site of the renovated old bus terminal. Thank you for acknowledging this community and its contribution to Burlington’s diversity, which unfortunately was not always welcomed with open arms.
Use Your Heads
Re “Is Vermont Doing Enough to Protect Student Athletes from Head Injuries?” April 10]: It’s “athletic trainer” — not “trainer.” Why bother writing a nice article and ruining it with ignorant terminology? It’s the equivalent of calling the editor a paperboy.
Fix Current Use
[Re “Lawmakers Look to Crack Down on ‘Current Use’ Abuse,” April 3]: Supporters of the current-use program say there is a lot of pressure on landowners to develop their land. With real-estate prices so high, wouldn’t it be a good thing for average Vermonters if the land were developed? On one hand, we want Vermont to grow and attract young people to move and live here, then we artificially create a shortage of land development that drives up costs. Seems like the program is working against the average Vermonter. Then, to add insult to injury, the land is posted. There ought to be a law against that. Maybe towns should vote on whether or not they want to support the program, then let the town absorb the costs. It isn’t hard to imagine how those votes would go.
I have read a number of articles these past few months in Seven Days on taxes, and maybe we need more fresh air in the “covert caucus” meetings [Fair Game, April 10]. The air seems stale and bereft of new ideas. Generally we have heard of various ways to raise taxes by taking from here to put there, and the horse trading that accompanies it.
The basic problem is that our elected leaders’ best ideas seem to be how to squeeze more money from taxpayers who work hard and from entrepreneurs who take risks. Instead, how about thinking about creating something new that generates revenue? If you take more money from Vermonters, there is more money for government and less for Vermonters. I am sure we can do better.
Here are some examples: Create a state network of bike trails both on and off road that brings visitors to Vermont, and then link these with existing trails; create a sports complex with turf fields that will attract lacrosse, soccer, football or other regional sports events; create a network of equestrian trails that provide a way to travel by horseback around the state; create a chess tournament with a purse that brings in out-of-state enthusiasts.
There are many more examples of investments that have a return in tourist dollars, hotel and meals taxes, gasoline, and other revenue generators. The point is that taxes that raise money for one year are lost after that year is over. Taxes that are used to create new wealth provide income to the state for a long time. Instead of spending the afternoon in a secret caucus talking about ways to raise revenue by rejiggering the same old regressive ideas that pull money out of Vermonters’ pockets, create something new that generates revenue on an ongoing basis. That takes courage, leadership and foresight. Ah, now I see the problem. My bad. Forget it; let’s raise the gas tax.
Kids in the Cross fire
Ken Picard’s April 3 article about custody, “Winner Takes All,” generated a flurry of letters — mostly from dads.
I’m one of many dads out there who woke up one day next to a stranger in a house full of kids. Our divorces were filled with high conflict over petty BS, false allegations of abuse, actions of parental alienation and outright fear of the bias against fathers that is firmly entrenched in the divorce [and] social-services systems in the family court and among social-service providers in the state of Vermont. I was fortunate in that we settled with joint physical and legal custody, but the cost to get to that point — more than $70 grand — has had a direct impact on the quality of life of our kids.
Is it any surprise the Vermont Legal Aid lawyers oppose this? Having a winner-take-all system provides a clear path for a vindictive spouse to wreak havoc for his or her own personal interests.
The presumption of shared custody is just one piece of the puzzle toward lessening the pain of divorce upon our kids. Our judges need additional training to help them identify personality disorders in parents that lead to actions of parental alienation. Social quality metrics of judicial decisions need to be put in place to monitor and identify those that exhibit daddy bias. The legal community needs to take a serious look at their ethics code when it comes to handling divorce cases. Even in high-conflict, divorced relationships, parallel parenting methods go a long way to reducing the stress and anxiety divorced couples experience. These need to be developed, encouraged and promoted.
While one size certainly doesn’t fit all, and there are cases where joint custody is inappropriate, all of the opponents focus on parents rather than children. Our statutes are supposed to protect the best interests of children, but our courts lack a key tool in being able to do this by granting shared custody when they see that it is in the best interest of a child.
Many people offer opinions about what is in the best interest of children, but few have looked at the data that exist. A study of young-adult-age children of divorce showed that 70 percent of them felt that their parents should have had joint custody and equal time with their children, even when there was disagreement between the parents and even with the logistical challenges of living in two homes.
My ex-wife and I are living proof that people can get through what some attorneys have said was as ugly a divorce as they have seen, and still co-parent effectively. Had Vermont’s laws presumed that we would share parental rights and responsibilities, absent some clear and compelling reason that we could not, we would likely have arrived at this place much sooner.
Divorces tend to bring out the worst in people, but if Vermont parents knew that courts would not grant them sole custody based on petty differences and personal animosity alone, they would have much more incentive to put a child’s need to have both parents in their lives equally first.
The recent article around shared custody in Vermont failed to focus on the main subject of the article: the children themselves. Forty-four states have recognized that it’s unfair and unjust to children to allow one parent to pettily keep the children from the other loving parent. Denying a child the right to equal access to their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles is essentially emotional abuse. As long as this law stands, Vermont cannot be called progressive. People like Sarah Kenney, who are blocking H.412, are destroying children’s lives and should be held accountable for their actions. I urge people to support H.412 to bring fairness and rightness to Vermont custody. It’s best for children, and it’s best for Vermont.
Vermont laws that force a child to lose all custodial guidance from one of their parents simply because one parent does not want to share parenting with the other are wrong. A parent not willing to share parenting with the other good parent should be the one whose custodial rights should be questioned. The discussion should be focused on the children — not on court costs, lawyers or even the parents and their petty feelings toward each other. Research and common sense show that children are best served having a loving father and a loving mother — and their extended families — to raise them. Forcing good parents to compete in court to win Vermont’s coveted “primary care provider” award only serves to force parents into competition and conflict, and this is most damaging to children. Being cared for and protected by both good parents is a basic human right for all children, and nothing should be allowed to stop this. It is time for Vermont to protect a child’s right to both parents by enabling judges to allow shared custody.