Letters to the Editor (9/27/23) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (9/27/23) 

Published September 27, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

Everyone's Problem

Nancy Berger's letter [Feedback: "Welcome All Freeloaders," September 20] tries to place blame for Burlington's rise in drug and homelessness problems on the city council and administration. Ironically, at around the same time that Berger, of Shelburne, was penning her letter, the Vergennes police published the following log entry for September 5: "Encountered a man they described as homeless who was seen trying to enter Evergreen Preschool on South Water Street. Police took him to the bus stop to catch a ride to Burlington."

Perhaps if our neighbors along Route 7 to the south, in towns such as Shelburne and Vergennes, actually took care of their own problems instead of shipping them north like the governors of Texas and Florida, Berger and her neighbors would find downtown Burlington more pleasant and to their liking.

Alan Bjerke


Bernie, Are You Listening?

Hopefully the "Be Bold Bernie" advertisement in Seven Days [page 2, September 13 and 20] will get handwritten letters to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' office in Washington, D.C. It is time for Bernie to make a visit to Palestine, as well as to the kibbutz where he worked in the 1970s.

The U.S. news show "60 Minutes" and Israel's news services are concerned about Benjamin Netanyahu's new cabinet taking away the democratic rights of courts, women, LGBTQ+ people and Palestinians, which are also interconnected areas of concern here in the U.S. and Vermont.

Bernie should visit Gaza to experience not only the largest open-air prison in the world but also the cancer hospital, where children who need three medical treatments a day only get one.

Cliff Bennett

South Duxbury

Safe Settlements

[Re "Climate Retreat: After Summer Floods, State Planners Look to Higher Ground for New Housing," August 30]: Kevin McCallum's article illuminates the dilemma of the Vermont Climate Council's obsession with "compact settlements." Its December 2021 Climate Action Plan is all in on their merits:

"Compact settlement has been at the core of Vermont's land use goals ... When thoughtfully planned, compact settlement, including infill and redevelopment, can also support many of the State's climate goals and actions, including energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, community climate resilience and adaptation..." (page 218).

But: "Flooding is a key, known impact that is likely to increase as storms become more frequent and intense in Vermont" (page 169).

"Because many of Vermont's existing compact settlements grew up along waterways, promoting compact settlements also requires improved resilience.Managing flood and fluvial erosion hazards in Vermont's compact settlements will be a critical component of a successful climate response"(page 228).

Thus the solution of this conundrum is "Create a State-wide redevelopment authority to bank land, underwrite acceptable risk ... improve building flood resilience in settled areas, and plan for new neighborhood development and infrastructure" (page 231).

My condensation: We must persuade or force people to depart rural areas and cluster in "compact settlements" to defeat the menace of climate change (expounded on page 146). Many compact settlements along rivers are going to be flooded. So we must create a state authority to finance resilience in any new development in the favored flood-prone areas. All that is missing is financing the authority with a property tax "climate surcharge" on rural landowners.

John McClaughry

Kirby (altitude 1,750 feet)

'Many Moons Ago...'

The article written by Chelsea Edgar covering the Bread and Puppet Theater founder and backstory was writing at its best ["Circus of Life," August 30]. She captured the smallest details as if I were there, hanging out with Peter Schumann prior to a public circus show. And I was there many moons ago, when I devoted one summer to doing the grunt work and rehearsing with others to put on the spectacle that attracted thousands. I was a local yokel who loved the concept Peter gave birth to but hated the sweat required to help in various ways. You brought it all back to me, including the man I haven't seen since my stroke three years ago. Thank you.

Sandy Raynor


Dopp Effect

Chelsea Edgar's article on Bread and Puppet Theater ["Circus of Life," August 30] missed an opportunity to acknowledge one of the things I find most unique and inspiring about the history and continuing presence of Bread and Puppet in the Northeast Kingdom — the integration of a politically left-wing, anti-capitalist art experiment into a rural community with a reputation for conservatism.

Edgar writes that, in 1974, Bread and Puppet moved "to the Glover farm that had belonged to Elka's parents." My understanding from various local documented sources is that, while Elka's parents did own the property before Peter and Elka Schumann took it over, their presence there was brief. The story remembered locally is: Bread and Puppet moved onto the Dopp family farm. Daisy Dopp had lived there most of her life and moved into town only in 1970, after her husband, Jim, died.

Elka and Daisy were friends, and Bread and Puppet publishes Daisy Dopp's Vermont, "a collection of lively and enlightening articles on farm life," with a preface by Elka and drawings by Peter. Daisy's witty and entertaining articles that make up this collection were originally published in the Newport Daily Express and continue to be reprinted in the Orleans County Chronicle.

The relationship between Daisy Dopp and Bread and Puppet, I suspect, is just one example of ways Bread and Puppet and their neighbors in Glover have built bridges, not walls, between "old" and "new" Vermont. This aspect of Bread and Puppet's story never shows up in print and is invisible to the out-of-towners who show up to performances and visit the museum, but I wonder if it might be an important and enduring part of Bread and Puppet's legacy.

Kate Goetz

West Burke

Essence of B&P

I just finished listening to your report on Bread and Puppet Theater [Seven Days Aloud, "Circus of Life," August 30]. It was beautifully written. Although I have only been to Bread and Puppet in Glover a few times and worked with it for a performance on the Dartmouth Green years ago, I feel you perfectly captured the essence of B&P and, most importantly, the essence of Peter Schumann.

You brought tears to my eyes as you brought to my mind my own "theater days" at college in the early '70s. We were studying experiential theater. I chose Peter Schumann for my paper as an artist doing street theater at the time in New York City.

Not sure what that lump was all about, but no doubt it was something deep in my soul that Schumann, B&P and you touched. I will keep it close to my heart. And your honest feelings as you performed with Mother Earth clearly reflected what I would have felt if I had ever had the experience of holding the wrist of Mother Earth.

Thank you so much for your wonderful work.

Paulette Staats


The Toll of Addiction

[Re "From Room 37 to Cell 17: A Young Man's Path Through the Mental Health Care System Led to Prison — and a Fatal Encounter," September 6]: Mbyayenge "Robbie" Mafuta exhausted every system we have in place; he had football, friends, jobs, lodging, free food. Robbie evolved to be a single-person crime spree — theft, drugs, vandalism and murder. Thanks to Derek Brouwer and Colin Flanders' remarkable research, journalism has again exposed the black hole of addiction.

Ruth Furman


Who Is Responsible?

Your Robbie Mafuta story ["From Room 37 to Cell 17: A Young Man's Path Through the Mental Health Care System Led to Prison — and a Fatal Encounter," September 6] spotlights a stunning lack of accountability within our mental health and justice system. This dangerously ill young man was shuffled among our hospitals, mental health clinics and prisons. He was repeatedly put onto the street by our prosecutor, where he violently victimized his fellow citizens. None of them stepped up to appropriately care for him and protect the public. None of them has taken responsibility. Until someone is held accountable, these shit shows will just keep repeating.

Scott Anderson


'Where Do We Start?'

I thank Derek Brouwer and Colin Flanders for reporting the story "Room 37 to Cell 17" [September 6]. This should be a wake-up call to legislators and those involved in mental illness policies in Vermont. We are failing to provide appropriate care for people living with serious mental illness, and we urgently need policy changes that promote comprehensive solutions. The article demonstrates how our system repeatedly failed Mbyayenge Mafuta and Jeff Hall. Furthermore, it is highly disappointing to read that "Vermont is the only state without an intervention program known as coordinated specialty care" and that most Vermonters with mental illness do not receive this kind of treatment that the federal government says is proven to work. And there are studies that prove that maintaining our broken system is far more expensive in dollars and lives than taking action.

Where do we start? We need to increase access to psychiatric services and provide more timely treatment, especially for those whose neurological dysfunction results in limited awareness of their illness, and coordinated care, including housing for individuals who need help managing their illness. With highly potent psychoactive drugs such as cannabis readily available, studies suggest we are only going to see an increase in individuals suffering from psychosis and serious mental illness. We also need to educate our young people about the dangers of using cannabis in adolescence and the warning signs of psychosis.

Kris Hunt


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