I was going to comment on your article "Two Against a Town" [March 19], but as I read on, I realized that just about everyone associated with this issue gets sued so ... never mind.
Paul Heintz's piece about Gov. Shumlin [Fair Game: "Traveling Salesman," March 19] raises a serious and generally ignored campaign finance issue: constituency. These donors from Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Florida and elsewhere can't vote in Vermont. Why should they be allowed to influence the outcome of a Vermont election? The answer is that they shouldn't, as I shouldn't be allowed (if I had that kind of money) to influence an election in Massachusetts, D.C. or Florida.
To take it a step further, consider the cool million in Shumlin's war chest. In theory someone could run against him with $10,000 or even $100,000. In reality, he has a lock on reelection. That guarantee was provided, at least in part, by people who have no voting rights in Vermont. It reminds me of the "five little democratic questions" of Tony Benn, the late British parliamentarian, the last of which was, "And how can we get rid of you? If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system." We need a law restricting campaign donations to the constituents of a candidate.
Hilton Dier III
I find it interesting that in ["NECI Confidential," March 12] there is no mention that the NECI location on Main Street in Montpelier is one of the most expensive restaurants in town — and regularly serves the worst food. I have only been four times myself. Every now and then I get talked into going. I (and my wallet) always regret it.
The cost is ridiculous for what you get, the service ranges from merely acceptable to downright embarrassing, and the management doesn't seem to care. After one visit, a manager came over and asked how everything was. I said, "Got a minute?" and ran through the list: warm app cold, cold app warm, fish cooked 'til sawdust, chicken 'til cardboard, service atrocious, including waitstaff texting within view of the table being ignored. Really?
When I finished, he said, "Well, come back at the end of the semester. They do better."As he walked away I said, "Oh, and one more thing. The management sucks, too."What are they teaching there? Our bill was $78 with no booze. This is not an isolated incident. Everyone I have spoken to has similar stories. I guess the town would miss all the revenue NECI brings, and I would miss all the jaywalking checkerpants around town, but there's not a foodie in the world that would miss this crapshoot. Let it continue going down the tubes.
In "Making Connections" [March 19], writer Alicia Freese ultimately chose FairPoint over Burlington Telecom for her internet service partially because of BT's $5-per-month charge "for a modem," which would add up to "$300 ... for five years." I believe that there was a technical misunderstanding. No modem is needed if one's computer is plugged into the BT wired ethernet port that comes with installation. I think that Alicia is referring to the $5-per-month "wireless router" on BT's pricing page. This lets you surf anywhere in your apartment on a mobile device, and can be purchased for less than $25 at NewEgg.com, for example.
Does FairPoint supply routers for free? I don't know why anyone would decide to rent this item. Perhaps Alicia made the correct choice for her current situation, but when she wants and can afford symmetrical high-speed service, BT's got the technological advantage.
[Re "Truancy Enforcement is Difficult and Uneven Across Vermont"]: To lower chronic truancy rates, Vermont's schools, judicial system and agencies must move away from punishment and toward community support. In my work protecting education rights, I have seen kids who won't go to school because of bullies, mental or physical illnesses, young parenthood, or homelessness. Instead of offering community-based services, schools often refer these kids to family court for a CHINS proceeding, which can lead to a child being taken from the home and placed in foster care. It's no wonder these families do not trust the system.
Court, jail and state custody are clearly not answers. Our courts are overburdened and lack the capacity to act quickly. Placing kids in jail makes them more likely to commit crimes, have mental health issues and be alienated from school. Kids in foster care have higher rates of homelessness, dropping out of school and delinquency.
To lower our chronic truancy rates, we need (1) better data collection; (2) immediate diversion; (3) tailored community-based responses; and (4) accessible local services that start in our schools. A community-based programmatic response, when done right, is less expensive and more effective.
Vermont has led the nation in using court diversion for low-level criminal offenses. Why are we lagging behind when it comes to truancy? It's time for a change in Vermont. To lower truancy rates statewide and repair the family-school relationship, we must move away from punishment and toward personalized community support for kids and families struggling with truancy.
Diaz is a Vermont Poverty Law fellow and a staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid.
[Re "School Daze: Burlington Education Leaders Mull Another Budget Vote," March 19]: Now that the dust has begun to settle in the long-overdue budget-defeat process, it's time to seriously, finally address the elephant in the room! That would be the yearly, exorbitant increases in pay and benefits to school employees. Simply put, we are never going to have a serious budget discussion, and therefore any real local budget reform, without addressing this. The board cries about staff cuts and program cuts, and "what about the kids?" when, actually, somebody has to finally stand up and say "enough is enough" with the automatic increases. I'm also sick of hearing that the teachers' union is "too powerful" to stand up to: This is our money, and it's time they treated it as such. These employees work about 160 days a year! They have summers off, weeklong "vacations" all year, and yet they constantly cry about their already-generous pay and benefits packages. It's time for them to join the real world.
I sincerely hope that the newly elected board members, several of whom have professed "enough already," will try to accomplish what we have voted them in there to do.
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