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Letters to the Editor 

August 27, 2008

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

WIC [Women, Infants and Children] isn't the only program or organization with low standards or levels of understanding of whom they serve ["Will WIC For Food," August 13] .

I lost my job last October and tried to apply for assistance to help take care of my family while looking for a new job. It's nothing I wanted to do, but something I felt I had to do.

My interactions with family services were less than encouraging and supportive. At my first meeting, I waited 20 minutes before being seen by a case manager. When I asked if the worker was there, I was told she'd get to me when she could.

I was sent to a workshop for Reach-Up applicants. One of the ladies presenting made a comment about how they didn't know why we couldn't keep a job. I was completely offended! As a college graduate, a person with strong work ethic who just happened to be without a job, I didn't want to be talked to like that and almost walked out! However, I sat through the rest of the day so I had a chance for assistance, which I was then denied.

There was also the time I called a caseworker for more information and didn't hear from her for over a week because she was on vacation. Maybe caseworkers are hardened against those who are trying to abuse the system, but it's time they step back, raise the standards and level of respect. Being unemployed or underemployed and having to ask for help is difficult enough. We don't need those in the system to talk down to us and treat us like second-rate citizens!

Janice Santiago

ST. ALBANS

GETTING THE LEAD OUT

It is often said that any publicity is good publicity when you are seeking to attract new customers/supporters. In that spirit, we appreciate the recent Seven Days article regarding the Burlington Lead Program ["Burlington Lead Program Struggles to Spend HUD Grant," August 13].

However, the article left readers with the misconception that low program enrollment is due to inadequate marketing efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are just some of the efforts we have undertaken since January to recruit Lead Program customers:

  • Direct mailing to every Burlington landlord;
  • Brochure distribution to rental property owners and managers via Burlington Housing Authority inspectors and Code Enforcement officers;
  • Six 4-hour lead safety training sessions for apartment owners/managers;
  • Weekly orientation sessions for new Section 8 tenants;
  • Ads on CCTA buses and City recycling trucks;
  • Paper placemat ads at area restaurants;
  • Ads in the North Avenue News, Seven Days and Green Living Journal;
  • Presentations at every Neighborhood Planning Assembly;
  • Program information in city water bills, Burlington Telecom customer orientation packets and the Parks and Recreation summer program guide;
  • Presence on these websites: CEDO, VT Dept. of Health, VT Housing & Conservation Board, VT Apartment Owners Association, VT Tenants, Inc., Fletcher Allen and others;
  • Dozens of outreach events at Kids Day, tabling on Church Street Marketplace and the ONE Farmers' Market;
  • Program info on CEDO's "Buzz" and Front Porch Forums and monthly Champlain Housing Trust homeownership seminars.

In spite of these efforts, we are getting fewer applications than expected. People face many pressing issues beyond concern for lead safety. Homeowners face economic insecurity and many struggle to keep their homes. Borrowing money to reduce lead hazards is not appealing, even if half of the cost is granted and the zero-percent loan is only repaid when the house is sold.

Landlords may be reluctant to enroll for fear of increased burdens of compliance and potential enforcement action. Since the state has only recently begun enforcing the Vermont Lead Law, landlords may not feel the pressure to deal with the issue.

To increase enrollment, we are changing the financial assistance to become 100 percent grants to all eligible property owners. Owners of pre-1978 housing in Burlington should contact 865-LEAD to determine if they are eligible for our assistance. Protecting our children from harm is among our most basic duties as a community, and we're here to help.

Brian Pine

BURLINGTON

Pine is Burlington's assistant housing director.

NUTBALL-LESS

Judith Levine's civil-rights-of-the-perp view of sexual abuse grossly neglects the damage done - to children and women - by guys who can't reasonably manage their sexuality [Poli Psy, August 13].

Sexual trauma, especially in young children, leaves lasting physical, psychological and familial injuries that are not always repairable. The civil liberties of women and children are at least as important as those of the aberrant nutballs who prey on them.

So, yes, I think it would be better to lock up, and, preferably, castrate (for that's the only proven remedy) all the sex perps we're so tired of - from flashers and frotteurs to serial rapist-killers - even if we get a few innocent men (they'll get over it, and lead productive lives afterward), as we design a climate of zero tolerance.

Katharine Hikel, MD

HINESBURG

PROBATIVE CAUSE

I have a mixed response to Judith Levine's article [Poli Psy, August 13]. I am no fan of reactive legislation, but I cannot support the myth of a victimized sex-crime defendant.

I challenge anyone to find a single person who has ever served significant jail time in Vermont for a first offense sex crime. In 2006, the median sentence for sexual assault upon a minor was eight years. Serious reform is needed in Vermont's handling of sex offenders.

With regard to priors: Only relevant priors are admissible. A hearing is held where they are reviewed for probative value versus prejudicial value. Are prior sex offenses probative? My answer to that is yes. We do this all the time with DUIs. Why any less for raping a child or adult? No one screams, "Oh, that drunk driver had to go to jail after they admitted her two former DUI convictions." But bring in a sex offense and suddenly admission of priors is a Sixth Amendment violation. Why?

Was it relevant that a recent defendant was in court for sexually assaulting multiple victims and later was arraigned on the murder of a University of Vermont Student?

So, I agree: Let's get away from trying to legislate the boogie man off our playground. I challenge the reader to look at who really sexually offends: the nice Vermont guy. It is our father, our husband, our son and our clergy. Let us become the aware citizens and juries that convict this behavior. Let's start by insisting we enforce the law and sentences we already have.

Jennifer McGinnis

BURLINGTON

ODE TO DIVERSITY

For years, I have been frustrated that VPR goes to only one source for political commentary, Eric Davis ["Media Favorite," August 20]. So I was excited to see the cover story. Expecting an expose (Hey, it was by Shay), I was sorely disappointed to read an ode to Eric. I don't disagree about his expertise or value, but I would like to hear some fresh perspectives now and then.

Vermont is a rare thing today: a politically diverse state that elects Progressives and Independents, not just the standard two parties, to state and national office. With all the academics, former politicos and policy wonks who live here, why isn't there more diversity in our political commentators?

Leslie Staudinger

SOUTH ROYALTON

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