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Letters to the Editor 

Confidential Correspondence?

Thank you to Andy Bromage for his excellent article raising questions and concerns that need to be addressed before moving women inmates from Northwest Correctional Facility to the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington [“Will VT’s Female Inmates Be Better Off in South Burlington?” February 23].

Although he is correct in stating that the Vermont Commission on Women has received correspondence from inmates on this issue, we never share any information from inmates without their explicit consent. I did not name any correspondent in my discussions with Andy.

He did, however, correctly state that the Commission on Women has not yet taken a position on the issue. We met with members of the administration at our February 9 commission meeting and will be meeting with some community providers at our next meeting March 9 before we take a position.

Wendy Love


Love is executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women.

Editor’s note: Seven Days also received the inmate letter that we referenced. The Vermont Commission on Women was cc’d on our copy.

Bring on the Meters

[Re: “Burlington Cabbies Up in Arms About Proposed Meters,” February 2]: It’s about time. There are some great people driving cabs in Burlington, but for the companies to charge $15 to go halfway across this little dorf, less than a 5-minute ride, is ridiculous. I hope the city also addresses cab companies charging per stop: If you and a friend start out together, and one is to get out en route, with no deviation necessary, it’s an extra charge; but if you take a cab somewhere and the company tells the driver to go out of the way to pick someone up, it does not matter if, say, you are in a hurry to get to the airport: The cabbie goes out of the way, and you do not get a discount. Bring on the meters.

John Alexander


Good Story

You’ve presented so much information in [“Up in Arms,” February 9], and you’ve shown so much respect for the reader. Thank you so much for this article!

Juliet Buck

South Burlington

Porch Problem

I read with dismay the recent article “The ‘Porch’ Expands,” [February 9]. While the value of community building is a separate debate, what isn’t in dispute is the fact the federal government didn’t really have the $100,000 that is granted to Front Porch Forum. If I were not quoting from the article, readers would think I was making this up. The benefits of the forum are described thusly: helping arrange a last-minute Zumba class and “frequent e-newsletters full of postings from neighbors looking for lost cats, wanting to borrow a lawn mower or organizing potluck suppers.”

The federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, mostly from China. There is a misconception everyone has that somehow we in (insert your state name) are getting more back from Washington than we send. As a nation, we continue to bury our heads in the sand about the budget deficit and spend money on silly things like this.

When government tries to cut programs, the forum followers will be the first ones screaming bloody murder. Is it possible for a nation to get off the fix of federal funds or, like an addict, will we continue to use them long after we realize they are harming us? The $40,000 we borrowed from the Chinese government to fund this grant will be paid off by our grandchildren, with interest, someday.

Alan Lampson


Poor Taste

At a time when food shelves are hurting and people are going hungry, an article on a $175-per-person meal that requires the use of a tracked vehicle that probably gets abysmal mileage is in very poor taste indeed [“Cat Tracks,” February 9]. I hope Lauren Ober realizes that her extravagance only points out how shallow some people can be. It was telling as well to read just how many of the “guests” were from outside of Vermont and to see that private jets, even as time-shares, are alive and well, flying above the reality that tens of thousands of Vermonters face daily.

Christopher Hill


Economics 101

This is so funny [“Fair Game,” February 16]. Business people who create jobs and generate revenue are crucified for the money they earn, but it’s OK to increase the pay of persons who are stifling growth and subsequently tax revenue. This is way too funny.

Dan Feliciano


What Transparency?

Shay Totten’s January 26 discussion of public-records requests [“Fair Game”] may have overlooked an important point about the statistics contained in Jeb Spaulding’s report. Agencies’ self-reporting of the quantity of information withheld from requesters omit notable instances in 2010 when the state refused to produce records. These include:

the Department of Public Safety’s refusal to provide a copy of Tom Salmon’s DUI stop. (Spaulding’s report marks this request as having withheld no information.)

the attorney general’s refusal to produce for the ACLU eight pages showing that it tracks cellphones without warrants. (Spaulding’s report marks the request as resulting in a single page withheld.)

the attorney general’s refusal to produce records relating to the police training academy child-porn investigation, when it separately denied both the Rutland Herald and ACLU’s requests for the records, and

the Department of Human Resources’ refusal to produce records for the VSEA unless it agreed to pay an exorbitant fee for HR to “search” for the documents. This request is marked on the report as having resulted in no pages withheld.

While we are pleased that the administration and the legislature are taking government accountability seriously, the Spaulding report paints an inaccurate picture of open government in Vermont and should not form the basis of policy decisions.

Dan Barrett


Barrett is a staff attorney at ACLU of Vermont.

Black History Lesson

[Re: “Poli Psy,” January 19]: If, until, and when Judith Levine has read:

Civilization or Barbarism by Cheikh Anta Diop

Angela Davis: An Autobiography

Black Athena by Martin Bernal

Black Man With A Gun by Rev. Kenneth V.F. Blanchard

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett Jr.

…why does she think she can say anything about black people?

Miss Levine might think, because there are more whites than blacks in Vermont, that she will not offend, or be challenged by, a black, midwestern Yankee like myself. Having gone to high school in Vermont and New Hampshire, I am a self-taught Afro-centrist. Was she raised by a woman or man of African descent? The words “Black Panther Party” have nothing to do with an essay about white-on-white violence.

Lisette Elise Paris


Public-School Discourse

Thank you for Judith Levine’s column about Vermonters’ attitudes toward farmers vs. public servants [“Poli Psy,” February 2]. I’m a certified English teacher who has been working as a one-on-one intensive-need paraeducator for the past five years, and I love working with the kids who need the most support. I’m happy when I’m in the classroom.

Unfortunately, this happiness costs me. I don’t make a livable wage — it’s less than $19,000 a year — and I can’t afford health insurance for my husband. I love my job, but I hate the way the public talks about it.

I’m fed up with people complaining that the pittance I make, as well as the wages of my fellow educators, is a burden on them, especially when those same people are willing to drop a few thousand a year on iPhones and cable TV. You know what would be a burden? No public schools, no qualified teachers, no safe public spaces for Vermont children. We’ve already seen supplies dwindle and specialized courses disappear because of public penny-pinching. Any further, and it won’t be Latin programs or reams of paper getting cut — it will be teachers in every subject until class sizes are on par with those in inner cities.

Thank goodness for folks like Levine who understand that teachers and other state employees deserve fair pay and treatment. The for-profit sector is not going to save our schools. If we want to thrive and do what’s best for Vermont, then we have to support our faithful public servants.

Madeleine Dougherty


Kinder Cuts?

I’m with Judith Levine and Shay Totten [“Poli Psy” and “Fair Game,” February 2] in being confused and angered over Shumlin’s decision to cut millions to mental health and developmental disability services. Living in Burlington’s Old North End, I know of many struggling neighbors who need all the access to efficient care they can get. Here are some ideas for less painful state cutbacks:

(1) Reduce state reimbursement for state facilities’ utility expenditures by 20 percent or more. In other words, incentivize state agencies to significantly adjust thermostats and turn off more lights and computers when not in use. Not too long ago, congressional offices on Capitol Hill had no AC, even in sweltering D.C. summers. How much would Vermont save if its facilities were even 5 degrees warmer in summer?

(2) Significantly reduce mileage-reimbursement rates and per diem rates for state employees. When I worked for the state of Illinois in 2008, reimbursement rates for mileage and meals were more than generous. I’m sure Vermont’s mileage and per diem rates could handle some trimming.

(3) Cut back on pavement projects. Like Floyd Nease’s quote in Totten’s column, let’s choose people over pavement!

As Vermonters sacrifice at home during tough economic times, I’m waiting to hear bolder, more creative self-sacrifice proposals from state government on painless budget areas such as air conditioning, state facilities and travel reimbursements before we make social-service workers’ caseloads unbearable and leave those struggling with mental health and developmental disabilities in the cold.  

Jon Zirkle


Lake View

The good and thorough piece by Margot Harrison about the St. Albans showing of the excellent documentary Bloom: The Plight of Lake Champlain [“Local Doc Takes on Lake Pollution — and Gets Some Flack,” February 2] brought to mind a couple of points.

One is that, as an audience member pointed out after the screening at the Welden Theater, farmers and others who are living within the law and doing a good job of reducing phosphorous pollution are often put at a disadvantage to those who are not. That is exactly the opposite of what our policies should do.

The second was that the answer to the question of who will have to do more if we are to restore and protect Lake Champlain is simple, if not easy to achieve. All Vermonters whose lives and work contribute to the problem, or benefit from the solution, will have to pitch in. It will require effort and money from taxpayers, businesses, land developers and farmers across most, if not all, of the state. The only other choice, one we are perilously close to making by default, is to lose the use and beauty of our great lake, which is not only central to the state and its identity but is also at the heart of a large segment of our economy.

Louis Porter


Porter is a Lake Champlain lakekeeper for the Conservation Law Foundation.

Don’t Trash Taxis

The article by Andy Bromage [“Burlington Cabbies Up in Arms About Proposed Meters,” February 2] about the proposed taxi regulations is sadly slanted and inaccurate. Bromage says that city officials have charged that many taxi drivers watch porn, dress poorly, sleep in cabs and charge unfair rates. The city councilor who complained that she was charged $14 for a round trip from Nectar’s to the Marriott was actually charged a fair rate.

At Yellow Cab, each way would have been $7.50, or $15 for the round trip, which is more than reasonable. Was the councilor hoping to pay $7 for a round trip? I hope not.  

Bromage never asked anybody for specifics about taxi drivers watching porn, and I’d love to know who is making such charges and why. Is it wrong for a driver to take a quick nap in the taxi? Should taxi drivers wear wedding gowns in cabs? Come on, let’s get real, folks.

Daniel G. Cohen


Global Worming

Mayor Kiss wants Burlington to work with the “Carbon War Room” to solve the problem of global warming [“Up in Arms,” February 9]. Richard Branson, the billionaire who thought it up, made his money with Virgin Airlines, but his most intriguing venture is space tourism. Branson is developing rockets that can fly tourists up into orbit, at an estimated cost of $200,000 per traveler. He hopes to have hundreds of thousand of customers.

A space shuttle flight uses about 11.5 million pounds of fuel. Maybe Branson’s space ships will use less, but even a couple of million pounds of fuel times a hundred thousand trips is a lot of energy. So this is what Branson is up to: millionaires in space who can look down on us as we unplug cellphone chargers and change light bulbs, vainly hoping to offset the energy being squandered as the “visionary” Branson gets even richer.

The Lockheed Martin product most familiar to those living near the Burlington airport is the F-16 fighter planes that we hear taking off with a deafening roar. These burn about 120,000 pounds of fuel per hour. The mayor uses the expression “beating swords into plowshares,” but nobody is going to beat fighter planes into hybrid cars and windmills. Branson and Lockheed Martin will continue making huge profits by contributing massively to the problem of global warming, and they want to toss a tiny portion of those profits to us so we will thank them as benefactors. Are we really that gullible?

Peter Lackowski


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