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Letters to the Editor (1/8/20) 

Published January 8, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.


Vermont or California?

Your article about the family that moved to Vermont from Santa Rosa brings back memories ["The Backstory: Burned Out," December 25]. In 2017, my wife and I went from Vermont to California to volunteer with the American Red Cross, assisting people in shelters after the Napa Valley fires. I, too, lived near Santa Rosa, 50 years ago, and decided California wasn't for me. I never regretted moving to Vermont — except in April, when it is still snowing.

George and Angie Robinson

Grand Isle

Doubt That Doctor

[Re Off Message: "UVM Doc: Sanders Has 'Mental and Physical Stamina' for Presidency," December 30]: How about a little skepticism, Seven Days, rather than playing right into Bernie Sanders' hands?

Did you ever consider seeking out some independent docs to opine on his medical claims? It is no coincidence that Sanders suddenly releases letters from doctors as he nears the first primary.

Sanders realizes there is a question in the public's mind as to whether he is too old to be president. He has figured out that voters are focusing on his recent heart attack — which you will remember he called a "heart event" until a University of Vermont physician said it was a heart attack.

Again, look at the timing of these late-breaking medical endorsements. Get some other heart docs to weigh in to provide some actual journalistic balance to your story.

Ted Cohen


Forest Options

[Re "Carbon Cents," December 18]: Vermont's forest-based economy generates roughly $3.8 billion annually. A little less than half of that revenue is associated with the timber industry. The rest is generated by forest-based recreation. 

Vermont currently incentivizes the timber side of the equation while doing very little for the forest-based recreation side.

Vermont depends upon her forests to produce clean water, sequester carbon and provide habitat for a rich array of wildlife species. The values of these commonly held elements are more than enough to justify programs such as Current Use that help keep forests as forests.

To suggest, as Kevin McCallum's recent article does, that Vermont forestry is the best on the planet is a bit of a stretch. 

Also, to suggest that we need to manage forests for timber while receiving carbon credits might be possible. However, making the case in a credible and moderately bureaucratic way will present major challenges. As Vermont Sen. Ruth Hardy correctly said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Vermont needs to be open to the full range of ecologically sustainable relationships and opportunities beyond the "timber as default" scenario that is now in place. 

More emphasis should be placed on conserving clean water, maintaining native wildlife species richness and reducing atmospheric carbon. Wild forests and worked forests can each help in their own ways.

Manifesting new and improved relationships with Vermont's forests is essential as we head into the grips of a deepening climate crisis and a rapidly heating planet.

David Brynn


Burnt Mountain Lessons

As climate change pressures mount on our natural and human communities, it's increasingly important to identify solutions — from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keeping forests as forests — to help us mitigate and adapt to these unprecedented changes. 

Kevin McCallum's article ["Carbon Cents," December 18] strives to distill the complexities of the carbon market through the story of the Nature Conservancy's Burnt Mountain project and our effort to enroll it in the California compliance market. While the project, or the trees, fell short of being able to qualify, the process has been valuable.  

The Nature Conservancy's efforts were the first of their kind in our state and were meant to be innovative — a risk that private landowners and state agencies cannot take on but that NGOs like ours can and should. We knew that the lessons we'd learn would be important for Vermont. 

What did we learn?

1. While Burnt Mountain could not enroll in the compliance market, it did qualify for the voluntary market and will generate revenue for forest protection.

2. Given the important role forests have in removing and storing carbon from our atmosphere, forest carbon is undervalued. Increasing prices would help create more projects.

3. Vermont needs a way for landowners to aggregate parcels or be paid for best carbon management practices to open the market to family owned forests. 

The Nature Conservancy is committed to building a future in which both nature and people thrive. Carbon market solutions can be one of the tools to help us realize this vision. 

Jim Shallow


Shallow is director of strategic conservation initiatives for the Nature Conservancy.

Offset Logic?

I was surprised to see the Nature Conservancy, the State of Vermont and others so encouraged at participating in the sale of carbon offsets ["Carbon Cents," December 18].

I would have thought that the existing forests' mitigating effects on the rate of climate change would have been factored into the present estimates. If true, then selling off any carbon offsets would seem to make a bad situation worse for the world, not better. The U.S. is way behind on meeting targets for reducing greenhouse gases. I suspect we in Vermont are probably behind also.

So, should we be selling off our state's carbon offsets? 

Are they going to be sold to a business that is just lazy or does not believe in climate change?

Who would oversee and protect our resources and interests? What might that cost, and how would it be paid for — a tax on the sale of carbon offsets?

Is this really a good idea?

Russell Frank


Sister Sense

As I was reading the 2019 "Backstory" article [December 25], I came across Courtney Lamdin's "The Shyest Sources," and I was appalled at the tone of the piece, which contains phrases like "shouldn't speak ill of little old nuns" and "I tried several times ... to phone the mothership."

First, it's called a motherhouse — this isn't "Star Trek" — and you were getting to what truth? Some scandal? A skeleton or two in the attic?

Maybe a heartfelt article on how hard it is for the nuns to leave behind a home they have had for more than 100 years, with a cemetery behind it where many of their fellow sisters lay in rest, and the sisterhood itself, which is sadly facing a decline of extinction proportions. This home — the Mount — was a part of many of our lives. Now, maybe Sister Laura had the good sense, as many of the sisters did, and do, to smell the scent of someone looking for something not there.

Sean Moran


Editor's note: Like all of the stories in the end-of-year "Backstory" feature, Lamdin's was referring to a longer, more comprehensive and straightforward article — in this case, a July 9 piece entitled "The Sisters' Stuff: Items in Burlington Convent Auctioned Off." Her follow-up "story behind the story" was meant to be personal, and therefore potentially more playful than the original report.

The Real Cost of 'Affordable'

[Re Feedback: "80 Percent 'Unaffordable,'" November 20]: Jerry Trudell's math in regard to "affordable" housing is in error: "Affordable" really means subsidized out of the federal treasury, and the federal treasury is in a very hazardous condition, since the money is dollars gotten from Saudi Arabia (more than 1 trillion dollars) and mainland China (more than 1 trillion dollars) by selling them debt instruments on which we pay interest, which is a terrific drag on the economy and which will collapse our economy by the early 2030s, since our revenues will be exceeded by the interest we pay. 

Saudi Arabia (and OPEC) gives us horribly overpriced oil, and mainland China sells us manufactures of extremely dubious quality on the whole. Very soon, the "affordable" housing Trudell so desires to be built will bankrupt us. 

Ron Ruloff


Not All Bad

Although resident abuse in community care homes does happen, such as you cited in your "Worse for Care" series [November 27; December 4, 11 and 18], for every abusive caregiver there are 5,000 good ones. You don't see articles about the unsung "heroes on the home front."

I am a trained certified nursing assistant, and thanks to a four-week course offered by the American Red Cross back in the late 1990s, I have worked in care homes and private duty homes in Massachusetts, Florida, and locally in Bristol and at the Pillars in Shelburne for more than 20 years. 

I do have some solid suggestions for owners of community care homes. One is that every caregiver should be required to take a CNA training course and get certified in CPR, lifting, safety, and how to communicate with the elderly and other residents in care facilities. Second, a police background check and references are a must. Third, a job description to an employee is very helpful.

All too often I have seen owners of care homes advertise for help, making the job sound real easy with limited duties. Meaning, they don't want to pay a fair wage. They want a cleaning woman as well as a caregiver for $8 to $10 an hour. The American Red Cross recommends a starting wage of $12.50 for a CNA.

The citations issued by the state that you mentioned are most often for minor violations of the home, such as the size of a window or for other minor violations that have nothing to do with the care of the residents.  

The caregiver's first concern should be resident safety. However, there is no 100 percent way to prevent a resident from falling. It can happen even when the most care is taken. The fragile bones of the elderly break easily. Even in level-one nursing homes, the residents fall.

So, give us good caregivers a break! There are more of us out there than the criminal ones you wrote about. Those should be prosecuted.

Brigitta Lawrence


Editor's note: The "Worse for Care" series did include a positive profile of Malinga Mukunda in a December 4 story entitled "A New American Finds Purpose, and 'Family,' in Caregiving."

Fix Runoff Voting

As a supporter of ranked-choice voting, I would like to offer Solveig Overby some advice [Feedback: "Shannon-igans?," December 25]: In order to win in a political debate in an informed and politically sophisticated town like Burlington, Vt., you need to get your facts correct and straight.

1. Ward 8 Councilor Adam Roof is not a "fellow Democrat." He is independent. I was there when he first ran against a Democrat and won.

2. There is no attempt by Democrats to kill off ranked-choice voting. Have you considered its chances to get on the ballot in March when Progressive Jack Hanson introduced it to the city council at the very last minute? What was the intention to introduce this charter change referendum at such a late hour? To get it passed with little scrutiny?

3. Some of us remember RCV back in 2009, when it was called "instant runoff voting." Some of us understand that it reelected Bob Kiss when 587 more voters had marked their ballots preferring Andy Montroll over Kiss than the number of ballots marked to the contrary. Montroll also was preferred over Kurt Wright by 930 more voters. How was it that the IRV final round was between Wright and Kiss when the data on the ballots indicated that Montroll would have beaten either?

4. If RCV is returned to Burlington unfixed, and it undemocratically elects the less-preferred candidate again, it will damage the prospects for RCV for another generation. Some of us want to avoid that.

Robert Bristow-Johnson


New Year's Wish

click to enlarge feedback1-1-7d60b91436fee671.jpg

Santa forgot some presents under the tree [Tim Newcomb, December 18]. He forgot to include: lowest unemployment in 50 years; 266,000 new jobs in November; upgraded veteran medical opportunities; increasing wages, especially for the lower-income jobs; three-month paid childcare policy for government workers; United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement treaty for reciprocal trade with our neighbors; opportunity zones for disadvantaged cities to create small businesses; lower drug costs; a thriving economy with predicted continued positive growth for the future; updated Project Safe Neighborhoods to help reduce crime in our cities; and, very importantly, the emerging trend of lowering opioid prescription use.

These real "presents" go on and on.

What would happen if we were aware of them all? Could we be happy again and talk to each other?

That is my wish for the New Year. Can we possibly focus on positive things rather than negative? Can the good news of living in America be resurrected?

Thea Knight


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