Wife On Board
[Re “Unhappy Endings,” June 5]: Ken Picard, your wife is a saint!
Why have local officials and Vermont tax authorities allowed forced prostitution at these locations [“Vermont Police Take Hands-Off Approach to Investigating Massage-Parlor Prostitution,” June 12; “Unhappy Endings,” June 5]? With bars on the windows and prostitutes who won’t answer whether they’re working there of their own free will, there has been plenty of “probable cause” to suspect at least tax evasion — if not slavery — at these 24-hours-a-day operations. But “police in Williston and Essex confirmed that they had not visited either establishment.” Don’t they care about tax cheating? Don’t they care about enslavement? Should they keep their jobs? No.
Editor’s note: Last Thursday, Williston police did charge Tom Booska, owner of the building that houses Harmony Health Spa, with knowingly permitting prostitution on the premises. He was due in court on Tuesday, June 18, just before this paper went to press. UPDATE: Booska pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. Court papers revealed that the spa had been under investigation since at least 2011.
Pro Parks & Rec
Andy Bromage’s [“Parks and Wreck,” June 12] focuses on leadership problems in the department but fails to disclose that an excellent and committed staff has continued to provide quality services to the public: well-managed parks, excellent events and a customer-oriented approach. Any citizen or visitor can appreciate this work if they have attended or been involved in the many waterfront events, including the July 3 celebration, or the many recreational opportunities for all ages. There’s also a successful marina, gardening and conservation of natural areas, Kids Day, programs at the Miller Center and Leddy Park arena, an award-winning arborist — the list goes on and on. Yes, there have been leadership problems over the years, but, despite this, the staff has been able to provide quality parks and recreation. The article fails to recognize that success.
Ewing is a member of the Burlington Parks and Recreation Commission.
In response to the recent article unfortunately titled “Parks and Wreck” [June 12], I feel the need to correct the notion that this department is “dysfunctional.” As I said in the story, the so-called dysfunction of Burlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation is mostly perception, both the fault of politics and misguided leadership at the highest level. Staff in the department care deeply and have poured countless hours into building our community, whether it is through access to physical amenities or taking advantage of the plethora of recreational programs. Wonderful things are happening, but they have not had the resources, focused vision and leadership to tell that story to the public. My message is that we need to let people do their jobs, and the failure of the past to protect the employees should not be held against them. True leadership is there to help open the door to success — not slam it shut.
Bridges is director of the Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation.
Thanks to Andy Bromage for the Seven Days “Property Protector” article [Work, June 5]. Peter Kunin did an excellent job answering questions for which a lot of readers needed answers. One in particular: Chick-fil-A’s bullying of Montpelier’s “Eat More Kale” artist, Bo Muller-Moore. All readers aware of this Goliath vs. Bo Muller-Moore situation can see clearly how unfair this case is, as Peter Kunin does. What is even more concerning is that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agrees with the bully — which makes one wonder how far corporate influence can go.
Church Street Belongs to All of Us
Mayor Weinberger runs a tough ship of state [Off Message: “Burlington Council Upholds Secrecy of Legal Memo on No-Trespass Ordinance,” June 11]. Like President Obama, who routinely omits the legal reasoning for questionable policies, the mayor denies the public the right to see, read and know the constitutional rationale for the no-trespass ordinance on Church Street.
After numerous requests for the memo prepared by the city attorney’s office, which provided a constitutional analysis of an arguably unconstitutional ordinance, the mayor and his allies on the council said no. When Councilor Jane Knodell pressed City Attorney Eileen Blackwood to admit the privilege was not sacrosanct and could be waived in the best interest of the city, the majority of the council still voted not to waive; the memo remains hidden.
Yet serious questions are still being asked about the no-trespass ordinance. Does the ordinance reverse the constitutionally guaranteed presumption of innocence in allowing the police to observe bad behavior, to convict for that behavior and to mete out the punishment of banishment for that behavior in one fell swoop, without the due process of a judicial hearing to prove a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt? Is it legal to allow the police to boot people off a public street when that street belongs to the people?
Church Street is ours; it’s not owned by the police, the mayor or city council. It is our civic space to assemble, to speak, to travel, to create art, to engage in politics and, most importantly, to build tolerance of each other. Church Street is the village common without which democracy cannot survive. We deserve to know why our elected officials turned that common over to the authority of the police.
Poetry Is “Call to Action”
I was disappointed by Keenan Walsh’s review [“In a New Book, Anthropologist-Poet Adrie Kusserow Searches for Refuge,” June 5]. I have always found Adrie’s poetry to be accessible vivid and to invoke a wide range of emotions. Keenan writes that “poetry simply isn’t the best container for ethnography.” While I am not a poet myself, I disagree that anyone should have the authority to decide what can and cannot be used in poetry. Adrie is an established poet, and she authentically shares images and experiences that she has gathered over her years. I am heartened that Adrie’s poems are a “call to action”; I would say it is about time.
Finally, “Short Takes on Film” [State of the Arts, June 5] gets its own full page!
Editor’s note: Glad you liked it, but that was a coincidence of layout and quantity of news. Don’t expect a full page every week!
In our story last week about a Northeast Kingdom reading series [State of the Arts: “A Summer Series in the Kingdom Entices Readers to Hit the Back Roads,” June 12], there were two errors: Lisa von Kann is the former library director of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, and she started a reading series there 20 (not 25) years ago. Our apologies for the goofs.