A Little F*#king Context
[Re "Capital Fireworks: Incumbent, Ousted Employee Spar in Montpelier Mayor's Race," February 26]: Seven Days is the third newspaper in the past week to print portions of an email I provided to Gwen Hallsmith in response to her Freedom of Information Act request after she was terminated from her position as planning director for the City of Montpelier. The email was sent between private accounts, never touched a city account or city server, and it is only bad fortune that it had not been deleted in the 17 months prior to her request. This quote, as selectively excerpted, includes curses and plain language not intended to be repeated. Standing alone, it sounds immature and vindictive, and I'd like to provide the context.
The email was my initial gut response to a notice from a planning commissioner that the new zoning draft includes a 10-acre zone — completely contrary to the Montpelier council's longstanding goal of promoting development within the remaining developable parcels of our city — and that this major change was being spearheaded by then-director Hallsmith without any notice to the council, as we had asked her to provide in the event of substantive policy changes.
Mayoral candidate Hallsmith and her supporters have suggested that this email reflects a lack of civility. I'd suggest, rather, that using partial disclosure to discredit political opponents is far less befitting our Vermont character than letting fly an expletive in private company.
I am writing in response to the Straight Dope published on February 12. Although I realize the article was not written by Seven Days staff, I believe Seven Days still holds accountability for the words that it publishes. The article begins with, "You know how in some cultures men can show their uncovered mugs in public but women have to wear a bag over their heads?" This sentence perpetuates negative stereotypes about Islam and disrespects religious and cultural traditions by referring to hijab as a "bag" and implying that Islam is backward. These stereotypes play out in very real ways in the lives of Muslim women who wear hijab — from harassment to violent hate crimes to racial profiling to systemic employment discrimination to denial of access to public spaces. The point — that there are double standards regarding female and male bodies — could have and should have been made by critiquing dominant culture, which has no lack of examples of this.
On Further Examination...
Thank you for the kind words ["Vermont's Medical Examiner Knows What's Killing Us," February 12]. However, I must point out that I am only a part of a system. The countless people who are part of every investigation are the true heroes who make it work. Our 50 or so investigators, who leave their families at all hours, in all weather conditions, are the backbone of death investigation in Vermont. I can't say enough about these selfless professionals who are on the front lines.
Our state-of-the-art facility and expanded storage was made possible through the support of Fletcher Allen Health Care. The funeral directors who do our transportation at all hours, the prosecutors and defense attorneys who make sure we are protecting everyone's rights, the support staff from public health and safety, the physicians who give their expertise freely, the students who keep asking questions, and the legislators who wrote our wonderful law are the real reason Vermont has one of the best systems in the country.
I don't consider our work "mundane." What I said was that in death investigation, the mundane trumps the spectacular. Most people only think of us only during the spectacular: the fiery crash, the homicides, the burning buildings. But what we do on a daily basis, investigating the sudden deaths of loved ones, is where the satisfaction lies. I feel very privileged to lead this system but understand that many others make me look good.
Steven Shapiro, MD
Shapiro is Vermont's chief medical examiner.
Little City, Big Problems
Congratulations on a well-written article ["All Hands on Deck," February 19]. It is a welcome sight to see something so honest and unbiased. Most cities would try to tone down the stats, e.g., Glens Falls, N.Y. All this does is hide the real issue. I now live in Fort Ann and often read about the infamous drug corridor along Route 149. The road leads to Vermont through Whitehall, where I grew up, and there is also a problem there. Keep up the info pipeline and perhaps the couriers will smarten up and go back to the "big" city.
Fort Ann, N.Y.
I very much enjoyed Alice Levitt's article, "Vintage Vermont Victuals," about the St. Paul's cookbook [February 19]. Fifteen years ago or more, I was at a Florida flea market and purchased a copy of the 1939 Trinity Mission of Trinity Church (Rutland) and the Women's Service League of St. Paul's Church (Burlington) cookbook. It looks much the same as the one pictured in the article, handwritten and graced with sweet drawings of the various offerings. I've displayed it in my kitchen ever since.The flavor of the cookbook, if you don't mind the wordplay, was certainly Depression-era, with many "mock" dishes. Some of my favorite recipe names are Baked Bean Rarebit, Blushing Bunny and Pork Cake. And then there is Vitamine Salad, with this note by the contributor: "Especially good for children and recommended for a hot day when one's appetite is jaded." Can't wait for a nice Vermont summer day to try it out!