Letters to the Editor (2/14/24) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (2/14/24) 

Published February 14, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated February 25, 2024 at 2:27 p.m.

Good Debate

Last Wednesday's mayoral debate was well moderated, and rebuttals and candidates asking each other a question added depth and interest. The "changed your mind" question was new, and I liked that it was not expected and answers were not from their talking points.

Congrats! And thanks for making it happen, Seven Days!

Helen Rock


Burlington Needs More Than Love

In last week's "True 802," we learned that Burlington "is in need of some lovin'." This text adds to a growing and deeply concerning body of language that drastically understates Burlington's problems. There's such an unsettling discrepancy between lines like "in need of some lovin'" and the actual state of Burlington, and this discrepancy itself adds to the ominous portent of the whole situation. An old dog at a shelter might be in need of a little love; an old sweater with some holes is in need of a little love; a cold skier returning at the end of the day is in need of a little love. Burlington, however, is in desperate need of much more than a little love.

You have no problem reporting on individuals who overdose or take their own life, and you render those reports in poetic, moving language that's designed to make us all feel something. But when are you going to report on the trap houses in Burlington that openly sell fentanyl? You know, the ones the police say they can't do anything about, some of which have flat-out stopped paying rent and operate with total impunity? Problems do not go away when you ignore them or render them palatable for the weekly paper, and Burlington is sinking fast.

Al Teodosio

North Ferrisburgh

Off the Bottle Bill

[Re "Vermont Senate Fails to Override Veto of Bottle Bill Expansion," January 23]: The Vermont Senate recently supported Gov. Phil Scott's 2023 veto of H.158, an act related to expanding the beverage container redemption system. We appreciate the governor and the 13 senators who took the time to understand the economic consequences and nonexistent environmental benefits of expanding the bottle bill.

The most environmentally and economically sustainable recycling program is single-stream. It aligns with Vermont's Universal Recycling Law, the sorting technology is advancing regularly, and it is the best way to meet Vermont's recycling goals all while costing Vermonters substantially less than the bottle bill.

A 2018 study by DSM Environmental Services estimated the annual cost to operate an expanded bottle bill system: roughly $12 million. This represents a 50 percent increase over the current system and is nearly 10 times the per-ton cost of recycling this same material through existing single-stream infrastructure.

And it's not just Casella Waste Systems that relies on this material. The Chittenden Solid Waste District, the state's largest solid waste district and owner of a material recovery facility, estimated that the expansion would result in a revenue loss of up to $350,000 annually. Casella's material recovery facility in Rutland estimates a loss of revenue of roughly $326,000. If this material were removed from single-stream recycling, it could not be sold to end markets, that value could not be shared with customers, and the cost of recycling would increase for all Vermonters to offset the losses.

Vermonters can continue to improve recycling, and the two systems can continue to coexist without increasing costs to Vermonters.

John W. Casella


Casella is chair and CEO of Casella Waste Systems.

Support Community Nurses

[Re "Taking Care: Community Nurses Help Fill Vermont's Health Care Gaps," January 17]: When I graduated from medical school in 1980, modern medicine was exploding. Antibiotics and vaccines were eradicating infectious disease. New medications and techniques were preventing heart attacks. Cure of cancer was the challenge that lay before us. The operative word was "cure." We treated and cured diseases in our offices and the hospital. The home was an unknown sphere, seemingly irrelevant to our work.

Today chronic, rather than acute, disease is paramount among us, young and old. Chronic diseases and disorders cannot be cured; rather, they are managed. There is little time in brief office visits with doctors to discuss the means by which we accommodate these diseases and disorders in our home and personal environments. How can these issues be communicated to the medical caregivers and addressed?

In more than 12 towns in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire, community nurses are helping residents address those barriers and link with their medical practitioners. These nurses work to improve health care access for town residents through health education, chronic illness management, coordination of health care and linkage with resources to address social barriers to good health. Their services are provided free of charge.

In this year's Vermont legislative session, a House bill to provide funding for a community nurse, H.358, has been proposed. If having a community nurse in your community sounds like a good idea, please contact your local representative and tell her or him that you support this bill.

Margaret Gadon


Vekos Should 'Set an Example'

[Re "Addison Prosecutor Cited for DUI Last Week Is Back at Work," January 29; "Police Cite Addison County Prosecutor for Allegedly Driving Drunk to Crime Scene," January 26]: Addison County State's Attorney Eva Vekos shouldn't have shown up impaired for work, period. The fact that she drove under the influence is unacceptable. She needs to set an example and go to rehab rather than ask for preferential treatment.

Here is a relevant statistic: The average person who gets a DUI has driven an average of 80 times before being caught! I have seen people get multiple DUIs who still haven't hit their proverbial bottom yet. It's easy to name a designated driver, pay for a ride, walk or stay home. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Although I fully recognize that addiction is a pernicious illness, it doesn't excuse the careless disregard for others that driving impaired sets in motion. I find this behavior to be impulsive, selfish and bordering on sociopathic.

To addicts, I say: Take responsibility and get help. You have an illness that puts us all at risk. Besides the driving, you often also create chaos in your wake when drunk.

Donna Constantineau

Newport City

Need for Dialogue

[Re "Burlington City Council Rejects Pro-Palestine Ballot Item," January 23]: I just turned 75. This means I was born right after World War II, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. As a young American Jew, I admired Israeli strength and was filled with pride when I saw photos of strong Jewish men and women riding on Israeli tanks. I can't feel that way anymore. With so many thousands dead and maimed in Palestine and Israel — with violence and apartheid the evident outcome of Israel's iron-fist approach — how could I, as a justice-loving Jew, continue to believe in security through strength?

I supported the recently suppressed Burlington ballot item. It was provocative and, yes, "one-sided." But it offered us as a community a starting point for a citywide discussion. Where will that happen now? When we are talking about genocide, fear, safety and revenge, passions will flare. But we still need to keep talking to, not just at, each other. I regret that the Burlington City Council took this important topic off the table and ignored the voices of more than 1,700 Burlington voters. However, the need for dialogue remains just as vivid as it was before the misguided council action.

Andrew Simon


Define 'Pro-Israel'

It is unfortunate that those who spoke out against the proposed ballot measure to declare Burlington an apartheid-free city were referred to as a "pro-Israel contingent" in your coverage of the special city council meeting on the evening of January 22 ["Burlington City Council Rejects Pro-Palestine Ballot Item," January 23]. Feelings about Israel, Palestine and the war are very complex and nuanced and vary greatly, even among Jews. The speakers you referred to were voicing their fears and concerns about language at the end of a proposal that would have served to further stoke hatred and antisemitism. They were speaking specifically against the proposal, not about the war. Applying a blanket label such as "pro-Israel" is dismissive, oversimplified and only serves to increase "us against them" divisions in a very complex, painful situation.

Jeanne Montross


We Couldn't Agree

After ["Burlington City Council Rejects Pro-Palestine Ballot Item," January 23], hundreds met again to discuss the proposal to include a motion on the upcoming ballot: to approve a statement about the role of the State of Israel in the current crisis there. As I stated in my remarks, everyone has a piece of the truth. If only we could come together and piece together a statement that represents the role of all the parties involved: the governments of Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the role of the United States. These governments are causing harm, death and destruction. That would have been a ballot measure I could have supported.

Unfortunately, increasingly brittle and vitriolic divisions prevent this kind of collaborative process. This measure was defeated due to its lopsided view of the awfulness and the pain, on all sides, that it would cause. We now have reports of threats and internet shaming against council members and speakers, perpetrated by those who were advocating for the motion's success. This is not how a democracy should work. Rather, let us meet to find those places where we share positions, and let us leave behind the damaging and cruel treatment of those with whom you might disagree.

We can do this, folks. Turn down the volume and listen, respectfully, to each other. We all are in pain. We all have part of the truth. We all have more allies than you might expect.

Rabbi Jan Salzman


Salzman is the rabbi at Ruach haMaqom, a Burlington synagogue.

'Broaden Your Passion'

Pro-Palestinian activists, you poured out your hearts, urged us to pledge, to call for a cease-fire ["Burlington City Council Rejects Pro-Palestine Ballot Item," January 23]. I urge you to broaden your passion.

Instead of asking Burlington to stop the bombing, let's stop the U.S. from sending bombs.

The Israeli military gets 16 percent of its funding from U.S. taxpayers, and 80 percent of Israeli weapons are made in the U.S.

Separate from taxpayer gifts of weapons, Congress needs to prohibit weapon sales to violators of international humanitarian law.

The U.S. is the largest supplier of weapons worldwide. This is our superpower: Given that the U.S. government prohibits the sale of word-processing software to Iran, we can ban the sale of weapons to war criminals. U.S. voters have more power than anyone, outside the Middle East, to stop the destruction of Gaza.

Vermonters excel at sending human rights advocates to Washington, D.C.: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch are working to require that supplemental weapon funding only aids followers of international law. Bernie used the Foreign Assistance Act to request review of Israeli human rights violations. The "Leahy law" restricts the U.S. from assisting foreign militaries that commit "gross violations of human rights."

Current laws are not being implemented. But the problem is not in Vermont.

I urge you to focus your passion: Support anti-war candidates and organizations outside Vermont. I have traveled to volunteer and phone-banked from home. Look for candidates through Justice Democrats and Progressive Democrats of America who will go beyond symbolic support, who will vote to stop the funding and stop the bombs.

Clove Haviva


'Israel Practices Apartheid'

[Re "Burlington City Council Rejects Pro-Palestine Ballot Item," January 23]: I was disappointed by the coverage of the apartheid-free community ballot measure and the council meeting on January 22, and even more disappointed by the result of the meeting itself, which was that the measure would be excluded from the ballot.

Over the past six months, organizers in Burlington gathered a number of signatures far surpassing the legal minimum to get on the ballot and pledging opposition to apartheid, recognized under international law as a crime against humanity. Since 2021, human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel-based B'Tselem have published detailed reports claiming that Israel practices apartheid. Whether or not one agrees with their legal arguments, they are certainly not antisemitic.

Councilors who voted against allowing the measure on the ballot did not claim they were doing so because it was antisemitic — instead, it was because some people believe it was antisemitic. This is a ridiculous argument. To follow it to its conclusion, this would mean that a measure supporting Black Lives Matter should be excluded because some white people consider it antiwhite. Activists should not be able to block a measure because they feel threatened by people campaigning for a proposal and instead should make their case to voters.

The Jewish community is not united on this issue, and many of us strongly supported this resolution. It is shameful that the council used fear of antisemitism as an excuse to buck democracy and prevent the measure from appearing on the ballot.

Adam Franz


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