System Is Broken
Gov. Shumlin’s prolific fundraising is definitely “Fair Game” for Paul Heintz’s persistent, probing coverage [December 4]. Sadly, seasoned political observers are not likely to be shocked by revelations that Shumlin is dialing for dollars with the election still so far away. No big surprise, either, that his campaign cash calls went out to numerous real estate and energy executives who have profited personally from his administration’s decisions.
Heintz does not allege a formal quid pro quo, but he effectively highlights the potential for unseemliness and unfairness in a system obsessed with raising money from wealthy donors and corporations. Supper with Shummy reportedly cost upward of $1000 per plate — more than many Vermont families can spend on food in a month. Even the most virtuous politicians would have a hard time avoiding undue influence (conscious or subconscious) by those who pay big money for private audiences (full disclosure, I donated $100 to Shumlin’s last campaign).
We have to fix this broken system. Shumlin has no credible opponent on the horizon, plenty of campaign cash already in the bank and a large personal fortune. He can afford to spend less time calling campaign donors and more time joining the Vermonters who, on Town Meeting Day 2012, called for constitutional amendments to achieve meaningful, lasting campaign-finance reform.
Rich Tarrant and Jack McMullen have helped Vermonters prove that their votes cannot be bought by the biggest spenders. Shumlin should take greater care in proving to Vermonters that his decisions cannot be bought, either.
Peyton in Place
Two weeks ago you published that “no opponents have emerged to challenge” Gov. Peter Shumlin [Fair Game, December 4]. Allow me to emerge. I have requested that Seven Days allow my platform to emerge for the last two elections. I even filed an emergency injunction in court to be free to defend it in debates.
Last cycle I came repeatedly to Seven Days. Why? My candidacy challenges corporate political practice and leads us to a balanced economy and healthier communities with greater personal freedom from debt. My perma-farm policy is especially important to vet. But Seven Days has a gag order on my platform and candidacy. In fact, you published not a single word during the 2012 election season, with the ridiculous exception of suggesting I won a fashion poll.
I consider our political, economic and environmental issues more critically important than fashion, and I believe that you have readers who do as well. Your readers want to hear alternative policy, and they want to know all their political choices. You can do greater service to the truth, Seven Days, for I do challenge Peter Shumlin. What I lack in cash, I make up for with equality. Seven Days perpetuates Vermont’s corporate domination of politics and covers up a choice that all Vermonters, not just Seven Days, should have: Emily Peyton, De Udder Candidate for Governor 2014.
[Re “In the Wake of Arson, the Congregational Church Reaches Back for Its Future,” November 27]: I’m not religious, but I feel the power of ritual and know the profound art and architecture it can engender. Ritual provokes works that cross cultures and exceed the boundaries of time. So I was shocked and sick at heart when the noble 150-year-old steeple of the College Street Congregational Church was destroyed by arson in October. Even when charred, black and skeletal, it retained its beauty; you could see the fine proportions even more clearly than when it had been whole: steeple, spire, pointer, priapus, seeking the sky.
Work began almost immediately after the fire: streets cordoned off, chain-link fences erected, genie lifts and equipment brought to what had quickly become a construction site. Workers carefully dismantled the steeple, section by section. One day, I saw a man sIt in his pickup snapping pictures as a particularly beautiful piece was gently lowered to the ground, chronicling this sad event.
Because of the care and attention of the demolition, I was lulled into believing that the spire would immediately be reconstructed — built anew. Last week, the repairs had been completed, and in record time. They’d put a hat on top of the tower. Where the spire had been was a practical, low, chubby rooftop, effectively crushing the entire thrust of the church, rendering it ordinary, mute, its valiant attempt to reach toward God derailed.
But the story isn’t over. It’s a temporary fix. Ann Vivian, the architect responsible for the church’s renovation several years ago, tells me that plans are to recreate the steeple to look just as it did. But first construction must be brought up to 21st-century code. The insurance needs to be worked out, and the water damage must be addressed — the main body of the church is not usable.
Even the arsonist knew it was beautiful: As he was being led away by the police, he asked if he could just turn around and watch the fire.
From Roasting to Wrestling
That was a nice article on Paul “The Butcher” Vachon [“Strongman Santa,” December 11]. His is a life lived long and well. Alice Levitt’s journalistic skills transcend the food writing she does with such enthusiasm.
Editor’s note: Food writer Alice Levitt got her start in journalism writing for WWE Magazine.
Lea Is Canadian!
Idly scanning the full-page American Apparel advert on the back of a recent Seven Days [December 4] really messed up my aging head. Reading the “Meet Lea” (the model) paragraph, I thought I’d accidentally stumbled onto a dating page! Given that I am Canadian, attended Ryerson, am a Brit, lived 15 years in Toronto (often perusing stalls along Spadina Avenue), I also thought I was reading the Onion, Lea’s (and my) alma mater’s student rag. WTF … is there some kind of time warp here, or another “senior moment?”
Then I recalled that, after all, this is the company that likes to stretch our credulity with its mind games and titillating, suggestive exposures. But no, this time, Lanky Lea is only revealing her boring midriff and outdated, bland jockey club wear, hardly demanding of the wannabe starlet that she claims to have once been. My eyes drop from this lithe Canadian to the store’s Burlington address, and I am snapped out of my stupor when it reminds me that, Yes, I really am in Vermont. Maybe they switched ads accidentally? If not, then what the hell is this “Made in USA — Sweatshop Free” clothing corp sporting a Canadian babe modeling their clothes? Isn’t this a breach of U.S. immigration law, employing someone from another country to “work” when AA could easily find many local, truly American beauties who probably would gladly strut their stuff?
James Dylan Rivis
Your article on the lakeshore-protection bill highlights our ongoing search for a solution to our water-quality problems [“Too Close to the Edge: Lawmakers to Focus on Lakeshore Protection,” December 11]. A passing mention is made of the waiting list at ANR’s new LakeWise program, while no mention is made of the important efforts of the BLUE Program.
BLUE has been implemented in the Lake Champlain watershed for several years by Lake Champlain International. BLUE is a landowner certification program, where property owners can comply with simple but scientifically proven techniques that improve water quality. In certain communities, including Burlington, the program is free, and homeowners who meet program requirements will have their property certified as “BLUE.”
This private program improves water quality not just in lakes but everywhere, and the BLUE® certification may also improve property values, which is a win-win result. The program received the EPA merit award, was noted as a top-five innovative program for the country, and is a model that other communities are starting to implement, such as in Texas, Cape Cod and elsewhere. Plus, there is no waiting list. Contact LCI at mychamplain.net for more information.
“Cruelty on a Plate”
I don’t envy the server depicted in Harry Bliss’s thought-provoking cartoon [“Bliss”] from November 27. How could he respond truthfully to the question “What’s foie gras?” yet not disgust customers? Unless Leunig’s waitstaff condones force-feeding ducks and geese by shoving pipes down their throats to intentionally give them liver disease, their honest answer to this question should be, “Cruelty on a plate.”
Force-feeding may occur three times a day for weeks, causing the birds’ livers to swell up to 10 times the normal size, resulting in fatty livers, or “foie gras.” Foie gras has been banned in California and more than a dozen countries, and it is not produced in Vermont. The closest producers, including the one Leunig’s reportedly buys from, are in New York.
Green Mountain Animal Defenders politely asked Leunig’s to show compassion and remove foie gras from their menu, as other Vermont restaurants have done. Sadly, we were advised that, as long as customers order it, they will serve it. Now I am asking you, the public, to refuse to support the handful of restaurants that offer foie gras in our area. For more information, please visit gmad.info and stopforcefeeding.com.
Another Argument Against the F-35
[Re “Afterburned? Residents in the F-35 Flight Path Share Their Views on the Plane,” December 11]: First of all, I admit I am an opponent of the F-35. I find myself disappointed, however, with the one-dimensional coverage regarding opposition to its basing here.
My fellow dissenters have talked to death about the environmental and health concerns, but what’s really missing is a discussion on the ethical implications of supporting these fighter jets. Are the potential jobs being promised by politicians and the military the kind of jobs that we want in our community? Is it morally justifiable to support these weapons of destruction simply for the possibility of economic benefit? If we support the F-35, what aren’t we willing to support for financial gain?
And who will benefit the most from the F-35 being here? Low-income families struggling to make ends meet? Not likely. If I could give any advice to the leaders of the F-35 opposition movement, it would be this: Change your argument. The moral issue, not the noise, is the issue that will resonate most with fellow Vermonters.
Population Affects Water Quality
On December 11, Seven Days featured a two-page article describing deterioration of the quality of Vermont’s lakes and ponds due to an increasing number of shoreside camps and homes [“Too Close to the Edge: Lawmakers to Focus on Lakeshore Protection”]. Although we can make regulations that might alleviate all these problems, we should recognize that they will get worse if we allow Vermont’s population to increase. Infinite growth is impossible, and the sooner we stop it, the better.
A new report written by many expert environmentalists comes to the conclusion that Vermont’s optimal population for water quality is about 600,000, and even lower for some environmental factors. You can read the report, titled “What is an Optimal/Sustainable Population for Vermont?” at vspop.org.
We can’t limit immigration into Vermont, but we can help stabilize Vermont’s population by promoting the better education and freedom of women, and easier access to family-planning services in Vermont, the U.S. and the world.
A Matter of Ethics
It’s too bad that the true believers who are flogging Obamacare and Shummycare as the greatest inventions since the lightbulb have totally ignored the ethical precepts addressed in Dr. Emmons’ letter [Feedback: “Ethical Treatment,” December 11]. Interposing state and federal government in the relationship between doctor and patient is a very bad idea. Inevitably, the quality and nature of physician service will erode in direct proportion to the size and scope of third-party reimbursement funded by taxpayers. Sure, the current system has deficiencies, but it isn’t the systemic failure the health care “reform” zealots would have us believe.
Single payer and its kindred can survive only if the relationship between physician and patient is fundamentally altered. When medical care decisions are predicated on the bottom line instead of anticipated medical outcomes, we will be in ethical free fall.