Letters to the Editor (12/27/23) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (12/27/23) 

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

Out of Energy?

[Re Last 7: "McNeil Steams Ahead," November 22]: Since my name appeared in the recap about Burlington's District Energy System and the McNeil Generating Station, I feel compelled to expand on the topic. In the same issue, the "Wind Resistance" story reports the difficulty of obtaining permits in Vermont for wind power. My comments supporting BDES included the fact that Vermont's wood biomass electricity provides the New England grid with a price-stabilizing power source that mitigates rate shock when gas and oil prices spike. From an energy justice standpoint, this is a critical point.

Wind power does the same, but T.J. Poor, the director of the Department of Public Service's Regulated Utility Planning Division, is banking on wind power imports from unpermitted and unbuilt projects in the Atlantic Ocean. Wind, solar and wood biomass each deliver 2 to 3 percent of New England's power sources. We have a long way to go to replace the fracked natural gas, oil and nuclear power that delivers 80 percent of our electricity. Annually, wood biomass emits 100,000 fewer tons of carbon than natural gas.

Ironically, advocates opposing wood biomass and director Poor share in common the rejection of deriving our electricity from Vermont's working landscape. Both promote the narrative that wood chips and windmills harm Vermont's forests and ridges. Let's compare that to the harm that the climate crisis is causing: windstorms, floods, erosion, droughts, invasive plants, insects and diseases killing whole tree stands.

Land and forest management that preserves natural resource jobs while integrating energy self-sufficiency while furthering energy justice is the sweet spot.

Liz Curry


Wake Boats in Minnesota

[Re "New Proposed Wake Boat Rules Edge Toward a Compromise," June 20, online]: Regarding the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' wake boat petition, I wish to share my Minnesota experiences. I live on Christmas Lake, a 264-acre lake outside of Minneapolis. Twelve surf boats are permanently on the lake, and others are occasionally put in for the day.

Wake surfing became a polarizing issue on Christmas Lake, as it has on many small lakes, because you can't really avoid the safety issues for others who want to use the lake at the same time. I've had waves crash over the bow of our pontoon boat and been tossed around when trying to paddleboard; I know that it's useless to try to water ski when one or more surf boats are operating. Of greatest concern, we had a near-fatal accident when a boat — nose up in the air with a surfer behind — crashed into a two-person kayak.

Some lakes are just too small for this kind of activity, and I am extremely pleased that Vermont is recognizing the need for a minimum surf-zone size in the proposed regulation. That said, I need to express my concern that wake surfing 500 feet from shore, as proposed by the ANR, still leaves one heck of a wave hitting the shore and doing damage. Consequently, I encourage ANR Secretary Julie Moore to give serious consideration to implementing the 1,000-foot distance proposed in the original March 2022 ANR petition. The boats and their waves are only getting larger and more powerful.

Joe Shneider

Christmas Lake, Shorewood, MN

The Real Housing Problem

[Re "Housing Crisis Is Slowing Vermont's Population Growth, Treasurer Says," November 6, online]: While I agree that adding more housing and updating permitting requirements are needed to tackle Vermont's housing crisis, I'm continually frustrated that the local and statewide conversations focus solely on our limited housing supply and not that of the growing demand for housing from wealthy investors.

According to Burlington's 2022-23 Tax Book, roughly 21 percent of the city's single-family, duplex and triplex housing stock is investor-owned. In a conversation with Ward 4 city councilors, they indicated that, of the 1,000 units Burlington has planned for construction, none of these is intended to be owner-occupied. If true, that confirms my concern that our elected leaders are so focused on a quick increase in housing supply that they are not putting in the frameworks to ensure we increase the percentage of our community's owner-occupied homes. For context, the city's data hub BTVstat lists Burlington's homeownership rate at 33 percent, compared to a rate of 60 percent in South Burlington.

The solution is simple yet, perhaps, politically untenable. Burlington could choose to disincentivize investor-owned properties through changes in local regulations. Unfortunately, each city leader I've talked with has declared this option a nonstarter as we are a Dillon's Rule state. That means individual municipalities are prevented from changing housing regulation without support from the state legislature.

Elected leaders: While the homes currently owned by investors may be lost to our available housing supply, please do your part to prevent future housing stock from falling into the hands of the wealthiest among us.

James Sherrard Jr.


A Postal Proposal

I think the federal General Services Administration should set up enough connected prefabricated buildings to create a temporary post office in the parking lot behind the flooded building ["Frustration Grows Over Delays in Replacing Montpelier's Flood-Damaged Post Office," November 29].

It should have a service counter, 800 customer mailboxes and a sorting machine, if necessary. This could be operational in just a few weeks.

The current lot and building should be sold and offered for complete redevelopment for a better use, such as apartments above retail, restaurants and coffee shops on the ground floor — certainly not parking lots and mostly vacant federal office space. Tax increment financing and other tax credits should be made available to attract developers to do this.

The temporary post office setup in the parking lot out back could remain in place for a year or more to allow time for the entire property to be developed into much better uses that would continue to help revitalize downtown Montpelier.

A new, permanent post office could be developed as a part of the same redevelopment project or on another property that would also be downtown.

The existing building itself is out of date, not of a good architectural design that is compatible with the best character of Montpelier, and not worth renovating or fixing. Too bad the original historic post office was demolished to build the current building.

Montpelier's post office should not be out of the downtown area, now or in the future. Post offices bring a community together. Montpelier needs that — just not in the post office building that is there now.

Jay White


Melissa Gets It Right

I want to acknowledge Seven Days food editor Melissa Pasanen and how important her journalism is in my life and to our community. The young women in her Kismayo Kitchen article ["Burlington's Kismayo Kitchen Reopens After Chef-Owner's Untimely Death," November 20] have been dear friends from the time they lived across Decatur Street from my house. I have worked with the older members of Ahmed Omar's extended family — including those related to his brother-in-law, Madey Shegow — learning Somali songs, which I use in my K-2 singing program at Burlington's Integrated Arts Academy, as well as in other community ensembles.

The Somali and new American communities are completely woven into Old North End life in so many ways, and yet it is incredibly easy for people such as myself to avoid interaction and to ignore our neighbors. To build the connections is hard work. This can be for linguistic and cultural reasons, but in the case of the Shegow family, it is literally because the four Shegow kids would travel in a group, and until this day, I can't keep their names straight! We smile and talk, and they say my name, and I am left feeling like a fraud!

That is where Melissa's journalism comes in. Like former Seven Days reporter Kymelya Sari, she does the hard work of getting the names — and spellings! — and then she generously shares her efforts with those of us with bad memories or social anxiety.

I seriously got a big smile when I saw her article, not only because I wish the best for this wonderful family but also because I now have a great, big smiling photo with names that I can post on my refrigerator.

Thanks, and I look forward to future articles.

Brian Perkins


Great 'Loss'

It took me a while before I could read this story ["The Loss of Grace," October 25]. First, let me commend lawyer Kerrie Johnson, the only hero in this saga. For everyone else, I say shame on you. There needs to be a rigorous investigation to hold all involved fully accountable — and a hard look into utilizing evidence-based programs for vulnerable children.

When children are removed from their homes, they experience sadness, rejection, abandonment, feelings of worthlessness, guilt and confusion. Most families are imperfect. I feel Grace Welch's family was judged by society because they didn't fit our preconceived mold of what is normative.

If you take a child away, you better do it with a plan that is a better option.

Grace loved horses. There are therapeutic programs for vulnerable children with animals and many modalities for assistance in healing. I met many courageous children who were taken away from their families and endured far worse abuse in their new placements. At least in their homes of origin, they were attuned to the family culture and could comport themselves accordingly.

In my first job in the field of psychology, I worked as a psychiatric clinician. Many times, the situations were dangerous, but people responded to my empathy. Love is the most powerful force in the world. Grace received none of this healing balm in her confinement.

To her family, I offer my condolences; there are no words that can heal your great loss. Through this tragedy, I pray we can evolve to do better.

Donna Constantineau

Newport City

Salt Solution

Thank you for your excellent article ["Low-Sodium Diet: Road Salt Pollutes Vermont Waterways. So Why Aren't More Municipalities Curbing Its Use?" November 8] and for your mention of the Lake George Association's Road Salt Reduction Initiative as "one of the nation's most aggressive" efforts.

We are proud of our aggressive approach and prouder still to share the rest of our story: Waters can rebound as a result of road salt reduction. We know this through the work of the Jefferson Project at Lake George, a collaboration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM Research and the LGA to study, understand and protect Lake George, serving as a model for fresh water everywhere.

The Jefferson Project has discovered areas around Lake George where chloride levels in the water are dropping — most notably at Hague Brook, a primary tributary to the lake where monthly chloride concentrations are 38 percent lower than six years ago.

This impressive result required the belief and persistence of the Town of Hague Highway Department to brine before storms, use live-edge plows, track salt application rates as well as temperature and weather, and regularly review the effectiveness of its work.

This result also required time. It can take decades for the salt put on the road to find its way into our water. While we can't undo past salting, we can, with patience and persistence, restore the resilience of our lakes, rivers and streams — and keep our roads safe.

Nancy Hawley

Lake George, N.Y.

Many Happy Returns

[Re "Feet Feat: Darn Tough's Unusual Lifetime Guarantee on Socks Is Darn Popular," November 8]: Best socks and return policy on the planet. Thanks for the article.

Carol Ray


Darn Good Job

I appreciated your story on Darn Tough socks and their lifetime guarantee ["Feet Feat: Darn Tough's Unusual Lifetime Guarantee on Socks Is Darn Popular," November 8]. I have many pairs that have lasted for years. My dog story: My puppy at the time grabbed my very first pair of Darn Tough socks off the table before I even got to wear them! She chewed a hole in one of them, but it was near the top and they are still OK to wear.

I want to mention two other Vermont companies that have great policies regarding guarantees of their products: Orvis and the Vermont Country Store. They have quality products and stand behind them. It's too bad that many people took advantage of the L.L.Bean guarantee by sending back worn-out goods that they may have picked up at a roadside flea market, for example.

Thanks for your in-depth reporting on the treatment of our troubled youths, the housing crisis, the blighted areas of Burlington and other important topics — and the food columns. Happy to be a Super Reader. (The check is in the mail.)

Alan Quackenbush


Can You Read This?

[Re "Reading Reckoning: Too Many Vermont Kids Struggle to Read. What Went Wrong — and Can Educators Reverse a Yearslong Slide in Literacy?" October 4]: The recent fall in student reading scores is not the fault of teachers. It is not the fault of any particular teaching method.

Literacy in this country has been declining for a good 100 years, caused by social dynamics far beyond the ability of schools to address.

First, radio, television and movies provided nonliterate ways to communicate. Then internet videos and podcasts accelerated the trend.

Students live in a world where so few can read or write well that reading seems beside the point.

Texts and emails are dashed off conversationally.

Product instructions are written so poorly one must turn to internet videos to put an appliance together or set up one's new software.

Modern novelists write in short, direct sentences. Now even fully literate adults struggle to follow the elaborate sentences of 19th-century novels.

Many different teaching methods can be successful, including the "whole word" method. But life spent in a society where writing well and reading well are not valued has more influence on children than anything that takes place in a classroom.

Cynthia Norman


Bye-Bye, Beaupre

[Re "Burlington High School Principal Who Pulled Fire Alarm Resigns," November 21, online]: When principal Debra Beaupre resigned from her job, she, by that action, whether forced or not, admitted that she was not qualified for it. To activate a fire alarm because of a lunchtime fight between students is proof enough that she was not right for the job. Burlington school officials should follow her out the door.

Beaupre claimed her action was "to ensure safety and provide emotional space to students amid a heightened atypical situation." That statement shows that she believes the inmates are running the asylum.

Some questions should be asked and answered. Is there a code of conduct that must be followed and enforced? Are the teachers really qualified? Are the teachers dressed in business attire to set an example and exude an air of authority in the classrooms? Why can fewer than half the students pass the proficiency tests for their grade level? Pouring more tax money into the black hole of education funding has never proven to be the answer to fixing this obviously broken system.

Because parents have left it up to the unionized hustlers, public education has morphed into state- and government-run child abuse. Students need structure and discipline when in school — not coddling and pampering, which produce dysfunctional adults.

Any alternative to public education is a better choice.

Gordon Spencer


Newport 'Held for Ransom'

Interesting article ["Same Old Hole: A Large Vacant Lot Remains in Downtown Newport, Frustrating City Boosters," December 6]. Question: Why is Michael Goldberg being allowed to hold the City of Newport hostage with his inflated estimate of the valuation of the vacant lot? Does he get a cut of the sale if it ever happens? Seems unfortunate for the city that it first got swindled and then held for ransom.

Mike Kemsley

Grand Isle

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