[Re "South Burlington Residents Raise Conflict-of-Interest Concern — Again," November 18]: There is a growing concern in South Burlington that we, and our children, will be losing our beloved neighborhood schools in order to benefit corporate development. There is clearly a conflict of interest in the city's appointment of Art Klugo, who is director of business development at PC Construction, to the South Burlington Planning Commission and as chair of a city task force that recommended closing neighborhood schools in order to build a new, consolidated school and make way for a city center development project.
It is OK for a construction professional to serve on a committee that influences city planning, but it is not OK for that individual to stand to gain "personal or financial advantage" from their work for the city. In the article, it was clearly acknowledged that PC Construction would be a potential bidder for both the proposed new elementary school and city center projects; it is unreasonable for the city to expect objective input and leadership in the planning process from a person in Klugo's position.
This is a clear conflict of interest, in my view, and the city council should recognize and correct this mistake so that we can move forward with a planning process that has transparency and community support. Otherwise, the city is supporting a merger of political and corporate power, at the expense of our children's education and the community's trust.
Thank you, Gov. Peter Shumlin, for supporting Syrian refugees coming to Vermont [Off Message: "Shumlin: Vermont Will Continue to Welcome Syrian Refugees," November 16]. As a resident of the Old North End of Burlington, where many New Americans coming to Vermont are settled, I would welcome people from Syria seeking to escape violence and build better lives for themselves. I am not the only Vermonter raised in the U.S. whose grandparents or great-grandparents came to here to escape persecution. Syrians deserve the same as our ancestors received when they came to this country!
A week ago Republican candidate for governor Phil Scott called for a "pause" in accepting Syrian refugees [Off Message: "Matt Dunne Castigates Phil Scott over Syrian Refugee Comments," November 19]. Now he says he's satisfied with the process of vetting refugees [Off Message: "In Reversal, Phil Scott Backs Syrian Refugee Resettlement," November 25]: "I think it is safe and well run and we should continue."
What changed? He says he's learned more about the process. Oh, I see — essentially saying he didn't know what he was talking about. So this is how he makes decisions? Is this how he would govern Vermont? Declares policy, makes pronouncements, condemns thousands of families. And then takes the time to get the facts. Cart before the horse? Perhaps he also noticed that Vermonters have reacted differently to the refugee crisis, that they have a different opinion. We welcome strangers, offer help and aid to people desperate for a home. Vermonters always have. Scott reminds me of that old "Saturday Night Live" character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, who, after a tirade caused by misunderstanding a word, says "Never mind."
Thanks for Terri Hallenbeck's article on Vermont Gas' proposed pipeline to transport fracked gas ["Persistent Pipeline Protesters Are Pushing the Limits," November 18]. Although fracking is banned in Vermont, the Shumlin administration appears to have no qualms about importing fracked gas.
The science is still evolving, but we know we need to keep about four-fifths, or 80 percent of all fossil fuels where they are, in the ground, if we hope to slow down global warming. Building an expensive fossil-fuel infrastructure is a waste of precious resources, especially if we hope to meet our goal to acquire 90 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2050.
One way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is to tax carbon emissions. World leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, have called on all countries to impose a price on carbon as the only way to effectively reduce global emissions.
By levying a fee on carbon pollution, we can turn the climate crisis into economic opportunity, providing an engine for new jobs in the sustainable energy market and supporting Vermonters with a rebate to lower their energy bills.
British Columbia has achieved amazing success since enacting a carbon fee and rebate policy. Since 2008, the return on this investment has given B.C. the lowest personal income-tax rate in all of Canada, and its fossil-fuel use has dropped by 16 percent.
In Vermont, a carbon-pollution tax can help protect our environment and support a strong local economy.
In "Persistent Pipeline Protesters Are Pushing the Limits" [November 18], Terri Hallenbeck missed the mark in painting a full picture of the ongoing climate justice struggle in Vermont. Why are protesters pushing the limits? Are they just a "ragged band" of young, bristling, squirming, fidgety, cherubic-faced radicals who have lofty goals and want to annoy people? What is really at stake when it comes to climate, fracking and capitalism?
The climate justice struggle is a struggle for survival. It is not just about pollution, fracking or carbon-caused global warming. Climate justice is about reestablishing ways of surviving with the Earth's systems that aren't dependent on exploitation and oppression. The rule of capitalism is to make profit through unfettered consumption of resources; the rule of survival is that humanity must cut back on gobbling up the planet and screwing each other over. As Naomi Kiein writes in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate: "Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it's not the laws of nature."
Rising Tide Vermont's work to change the system is part of a long lineage of grassroots struggles whose strategies are responsible for today's hard-won civil rights, workers' rights, reproductive rights, etc. Martin Luther King Jr. described that strategy of civil disobedience as one that "seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored." The climate crisis can no longer be ignored, not by the state nor by the corporations the state enables. Hallenbeck could've scratched a little deeper.