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Letters to the Editor (10/08/14) 

'New New North End'

How ironic that Scot Shumski persists in dismissing me as part of "a small minority of extreme radicals" in the New North End ["Young Republicans Challenge Incumbent Dems in Burlington's New North End," October 1]. Shortly after Scot first hurled this off-the-wall charge at me, I attended a meeting of an ad hoc group of parents concerned about the severe dysfunction that continues to plague the Burlington School Board. At that meeting, a pair of longtime Democratic activists — surely charter members of Scot's alleged cabal of "radicals" in the New North End — passive-aggressively suggested that another Democratic city councilor and I were little more than DINOs: Democrats In Name Only. Our transgressions? Daring to challenge the competency of the former superintendent of schools and the previous iteration of the school board. And, perhaps even worse, we had the audacity to continue calling for much more rigorous collaboration between the school department and the city administration on fiscal and budgetary matters moving forward.

To be labeled an extreme radical by one faction and a phony Democrat by the other suggests the perils of trying to carve a middle path in a New North End, which has seen a marked demographic change in recent years. We live in a new New North End — a diverse community that is ill served by the same kind of rigid, ideological polarization and dogged partisanship that has characterized Washington, D.C., for the past eight years.

Tom Ayres


Ayres is a Burlington city councilor from Ward 7 and campaign treasurer for state Rep. Jean O'Sullivan (D-Burlington).*

Not-So-Fun Facts

In last week's Facing Facts, you reported that "Speeding cars hit several bicyclists and a jogger, and a pedestrian was killed in front of the Sheraton." I know these "facts" are written in a way that grabs the reader's attention, but it feels like yellow journalism. The statement implies that the cause of all the accidents were "speeding cars," as if suddenly our roads are filled with speeding cars intent on hurting unsuspecting citizens. I have several problems with this: No. 1, it just feels wrong to list this tragic death, the loss of someone's loved one, so blithely. No. 2, a wide variety of factors were involved in each accident — were the cars actually speeding? Or was dusk approaching? This oversimplification only serves to instill fear. Isn't there enough fear? No. 3, this doesn't educate riders on how to ride safely, it just provides more people with an excuse not to get on their bike and ride instead of drive. Riding is a wonderful, environmentally friendly, therapeutic activity that too many people make out to be some death-defying activity. Please don't add to the fear pile out there — it's getting so big people can't move from under it.

Annie O'Shaughnessy

Underhill Center

Pipeline Preferable

Supporters of Bill McKibben's attacks on the Vermont natural-gas pipeline ["Climate Gathering in Middlebury Preps Activists for March," September 17] should take heed of the law of unintended consequences. The U.S. surplus of natural gas, due in part to fracking, has reduced a source of support for Islamic militants in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. According to a report in the September 30 New York Times, due to the U.S. surplus, a major gas import terminal in Texas no longer imports gas from Qatar, an absolute monarchy governed by strict Sharia law. Qatar uses some of its unearned oil and gas wealth to support Islamic militias, according to the Times.I wonder if the highly vocal opponents of fracking and of the Vermont pipeline have considered that their actions may be helping those who would kill and behead Americans, and many others, if given the chance.

Andy Leader


A Diabetic's View

Despite years of Vermont residents canvassing door-to-door, testifying and turning out for historic rallies by the thousands to pass Act 48, it's frustrating that Paul Heintz chose instead to focus on one man's fears in his October 1 Fair Game column, "Plan B."

I am an early educator living in Burlington's Old North End. I was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago, but the past few months with Vermont Health Connect have been a nightmare. My only option is a high-deductible, high co-pay plan. After paying a $1,900 deductible, three months of pump supplies cost me $642. Those figures don't include the cost for strips for my meter or the insulin to fill my pump. Diabetes isn't just about the short term, but the long term. The measures my doctor recommends will allow me to grow old in good health — if I could afford them.

I have had enough of complaining to my coworkers about expensive bills and asking my insurance company how often I have the right to take care of myself. I am in charge of my body, and I am ready to stand up to meet my medical needs — and that means the exchange has got to go. Like so many others, I'm calling on Governor Shumlin, and all candidates this election season, to come out strong for a universal health care system paid for equitably that covers everyone's health needs. I'll be there at 6 p.m. on October 9 at H.O. Wheeler Elementary School for the People's Forum on Human Rights and the Economy to raise my voice. Will you join me?

Alissa Carberry


DCF's Problem

[Re Off Message: "Yacovone Out at Department for Children and Families," September 3]: As long as DCF and Vermont taxpayers continue to give money and benefits to irresponsible people unfit to raise their families, there will always be deaths, crimes and disadvantaged children. Obesity, crime and neglect run rampant in this sector of society. DCF needs new laws. Drug testing and unannounced welfare checks would be a good start. UVM used to sterilize Abenaki Indians so they wouldn't have children. Maybe they have some ideas. Intelligent parents save money, coordinate and plan for children. Deadbeat parents will have children while they have no jobs and live in a tent. Education is key. Just like the Romanian girl who died after being hit by a car: Look both ways before crossing, and you won't be dead.

Mark Szymanski

North Ferrisburg

*Clarification 10/09/14: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Tom Ayres is campaign treasurer for Rep. O'Sullivan.

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