Former airport community liaison official Brad Worthen was off the mark in suggesting that Gene Richards lacks leadership capability or that his appointment was tied to political support for Mayor Miro Weinberger [“BTV Aviation Director Gene Richards Seeks Smoother Air for Burlington’s Airport,” June 5]. As an owner of the Skinny Pancake, I have worked firsthand with Gene moving into BTV. Gene is the most capable and hardworking public leader we have ever encountered. Emails and cellphone calls from Gene routinely come in at 6:30 a.m. or 11 p.m. On Super Bowl Sunday, when he realized there were no TVs in the airport, he bought two on his own dime.
Gene has pounded the pavement to add flights like Delta’s Atlanta one, reversing the losing trend of recent years. He ramped up marketing, particularly in Québec, to a better place than it’s ever been. He was instrumental in restructuring the airport’s finances.
Everyone agrees that Miro inherited a financial mess at BTV. Gene Richards is a successful businessman who really gets no personal benefit from his work at the airport. If anything, it was Gene who did Miro the favor by taking on the job. Those of us actually involved in the airport celebrated the news of his permanent appointment as soon as we heard it. No “higher caliber” bureaucrat from outside Burlington has the love or knowledge of our city that he does. I’d put Gene in any shark tank, anywhere. In fact, there’s nobody I would rather be swimming in there with.
[“Local Food Producers Trek to the Capitol for Annual Taste of Vermont,” May 22]: You gave credit for the pizzas to American Flatbread — whose frozen pizzas are now made by Rustic Crust in New Hampshire! — instead of giving it to Goodman’s American Pie. We have been doing this event for three years now. I would have figured that by now someone would be able to give credit where it’s due. What a bummer.
Goodman is owner of Goodman’s American Pie wood-fired pizza.
[“Back to the Drawing Board: Why Burlington’s Redistricting Process Is Breaking Down,” May 22]: The public process is sort of like sausage making: You do not want to watch it — just look at the result. Yes, there is a lot of Sturm und Drang while the committee is talking about goals, strategies, options, etc. But what I see is a coming together of the committee. Some plans have been sidelined and attention is being focused, as time is short. My hope is at the next meeting, the committee will be able to decide overwhelmingly in favor of one plan and present that to the council.
More Responsible Reporting
I am so happy to see that Seven Days is giving more attention to the issue of human trafficking [“Unhappy Endings,” June 5]. So often media sources will label the problem incorrectly as “prostitution.” I appreciate your paper’s willingness to name it for what it almost always is: human trafficking. However, as an anti-sexual-violence advocate and a person very active in the anti-human-trafficking field, I am appalled that this article includes the addresses and names of the establishments where sex trafficking is taking place. There are many readers who will abuse this information and seek sexual services at these establishments. I encourage you in the future not to pave the way for johns to purchase commercial sex, especially from victims of trafficking.
I would like to thank Seven Days editors and Ken Picard for “Unhappy Endings” [June 5]. I have worked as a massage therapist all over the world in hospitals, for sports teams and for the general public. Ethical massage therapy is not the sex trade. Unfortunately, as Seven Days has so clearly exposed, the sex trade is alive and flourishing in Vermont, hiding behind the sign “massage.”
For a state that is so committed to social justice, I was appalled to read that none of these sex shops is under active investigation, and they continue to allow modern-day slavery. It is unconscionable that these victims, now residing in Vermont, be left in this situation. How can we help?
One option is to license massage-therapy shops in Vermont. In 2010, Christopher Winters, director of the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation, reviewed an application to regulate massage therapy and stated, “The criteria for regulation have not been met.” Perhaps another review is warranted.
Regulation would mean that every therapist in Vermont would be at least 18, have a high school diploma or equivalent and be a graduate of an approved program. Regulation would also require a massage-shop license. The owner and manager of the shop must be listed with valid identification, and a designated licensee who is responsible to ensure all the sanitation rules are followed and all of the staff follows the rules of ethical massage therapy.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing crime in the world. Regulation could deter human traffickers. Criminals want to make huge profits. The expense of going through this process could leave them no safe harbor and supply more tools for the public, law enforcement, state regulators and victims to end trafficking in Vermont.
Cynthea Wight Hausman
Three Red Flags
Huge thanks to Ken Picard (and his wife) for taking one for the team in “Unhappy Endings” [June 5] and essentially confirming what I’ve long suspected about the spas in question. I mean, really, a spa that’s open until 11 p.m. every day of the week? The seedy appearance? And the neon “Open” sign? Neon just doesn’t jibe with my concept of a peaceful, soothing massage provided in a Zenlike setting. Three red flags right there.
The only real mystery to me all these years has been why these places haven’t been shut down. Surely the police department could send an officer undercover, where he’d likely have the same experience as Mr. Picard. Even after reading the entire article — which induced much pity for the masseuses and a lot of sympathy for the writer’s discomfort — I’m still baffled. Is it really more complicated than that?
Am I understanding correctly that the existence of Rubmaps.com is news to the police officers Mr. Picard spoke with? And that this issue is not a priority for county law enforcement? If so, that is definitely neither happy nor an ending.