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Letters to the Editor (2/28/24) 

Published February 28, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

Love From Decker Towers

Thank you for the excellent article ["The Fight for Decker Towers," February 14] by reporter Derek Brouwer about how unsafe and unsanitary it is here, and how much suffering and frustration everyone involved endures where I live, at the Decker Towers apartment building in Burlington.

I am immensely grateful to everyone at Seven Days — especially reporter Derek, photographer James Buck and the editors — who worked incredibly hard on this story. You shone a light on what was previously invisible and ignored: the complex, multifaceted darkness that we — and people in similar living situations in Burlington and other cities — live surrounded by every day and cannot afford to escape.

Thank you to readers.

I recognize that it is hard to witness this, even just through reading a newspaper article — much less to spend seven nights living it, as Derek did, often with James, by choice and through dedication, integrity, empathy and commitment to pursuing a thoroughly investigated and balanced story.

It is exhausting for us tenants to live this way every day without a way to flee. We are soul-tired, burned out and fed up.

It gives us renewed hope that at least we're no longer ignored or struggling in silence. As writer David Augsburger wrote: "Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable."

Abbie Wolff


No Need for 'Extra Credit'

I greatly appreciate Derek Brouwer's Decker Towers piece ["The Fight for Decker Towers," February 14]; it feels like important coverage that might engender change. However, I enjoyed the companion article touting Mr. Brouwer's reportage far less [From the Publisher: "The Power of Being There," February 14]. I believe a paper should only make its journalist part of the story under extraordinary circumstances, and going to the location you're covering to write about what you see and hear is the opposite of extraordinary journalism. It couldn't be more ordinary.

You write that Brouwer took a similar approach to an article last year about evictions by accompanying a sheriff on his rounds. Of course he did; that's how you report a story about evictions. Two things trouble me: One, if Seven Days feels that on-the-ground journalism is so extraordinary as to warrant a companion piece touting it, what are its ordinary reporting standards? Two, does a reporter spending time at the Statehouse and reporting on that warrant a companion piece about "being there"?

Of course not, which makes me think Seven Days is giving its reporter extra credit for spending time with marginalized people. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth after really enjoying the original piece. If the primary point of the companion article is to call out Mayor Miro Weinberger for not being there, that point is extremely well taken. But I think next time you should just allow the excellent original article to speak for itself.

Thomas Havas


Editor's note: We frequently use our From the Publisher column to highlight members of our staff; past iterations have focused on our circulation drivers, our calendar writer and other members of our news team. The other goal is to explain how journalism works. It's true that Derek's story is journalism as it should be, but unfortunately, in our experience, there is less understanding of and appreciation for it than there used to be. It's not a coincidence that there's also a lot less local journalism than there used to be, too.

Unfair 'Burden'

I was heartbroken and angry to read about the situation at Decker Towers ["The Fight for Decker Towers," February 14]. The Burlington residents who live in this building have been struggling for more than two years to enjoy their lives in their own homes — without nonresidents sleeping, swearing, shooting up and shitting in the hallways.

Although the city and Burlington Housing Authority claim there is nothing to be done, let's make note that when unhoused people set up camp on the porch of the First Congregational Church, they were moved. When unhoused people set up camp on Battery Street, they were moved. I feel quite sure that if unhoused people tailgated their way into the Hilton, they would not be allowed to sleep in the stairwells.

The problem of the unhoused and addicted is terrible. But the residents of Decker Towers should not be asked to bear that burden by allowing an illegal encampment in their stairwells.

There are solutions to this issue. The fact that the city and housing authority have not addressed this says how little we value folks who are older, poorer and/or ill. Decker Tower residents deserve to live in peace, without having to arm themselves just to hang out in the community room.

Joanne Heidkamp

South Burlington

Emma's 'Vision'

Thank you for your in-depth coverage of the mayoral race ["Key to the Queen City," February 21]! From the beginning, I have found Joan Shannon's campaign — and her support — to be worryingly shortsighted, reactionary and vindictive, with a troubling undercurrent of "Make Burlington Great Again." It certainly seems to me that many in Joan's camp hold significant amounts of anger toward Burlington's homeless and addict populations and are therefore determined to elect a mayor who will "get back" at those groups with police force (although just how the Burlington Police Department will address our housing shortage remains entirely unclear).

On the other hand, I have found Emma Mulvaney-Stanak and her campaign to be incredibly positive, compassionate and justice-oriented. Her supporters generally seem to share these values — walking the streets of Burlington, it is impossible not to notice that many homes displaying Black Lives Matter signs or pride flags often have an Emma for Mayor yard sign in their front lawn.

After attending a few campaign events and connecting with groups like Climate Voters for Emma, I feel assured that Emma is running for the right reasons and attracting the right supporters. I will be proudly voting for Emma on March 5 because I feel that her campaign represents and reflects the best of Burlington, and I'd invite anyone else who shares Emma's vision for a bright, vibrant and equitable future to join me!

Marty Gillies


A Question for Haessly

I listened to the debate facilitated by Seven Days deputy news editor Sasha Goldstein with the candidates for the mayor of Burlington [Live Debate: "Burlington 'Mayoral Matchup' This Wednesday," February 5]. I was disappointed that more questions about the increase in school property taxes did not come up because there was, understandably, so much focus on public safety.

I want to ask Chris Haessly, one of the independent candidates who identified himself as a former school board member, whether he has ever thought about or could see practical support for school budgets working with the state legislature to subsidize health care for teachers and other school employees.

Possibly the state, with help from the Green Mountain Care Board, might be effective in coming up with an optional plan that could cover these folks, which could be a great savings for both the schools and the employees.

Dianne Pierson


'Clear Choice'

With the coming mayoral race, we have a clear choice between two versions of political philosophy that are fighting it out across America but are particularly struggling against each other in Burlington ["Key to the Queen City," February 21].

On the one hand, Joan Shannon represents a version of left political philosophy that combines expanded social justice and compassion with attention to fundamental rights of due process.

In contrast, Progressives have endorsed a destructive left populism. On last year's Town Meeting Day, Burlingtonians rejected a Progressive-backed police control board that would have given partial control of disciplining police to community groups that are not defined and to the director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Local Progressives have also shown indifference to free speech. Pierre Hardy's mural, "Everybody Loves a Parade," was removed from a Church Street alley and put in a part of the airport where no one could see it, as a result of Progressives on the Burlington City Council clamoring to censor it.

Norman Arthur Fischer


Time to Move Forward

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" are words Burlingtonians should remember for the March 5 election. The good old days, pre-Progressive, to which the Miro Weinberger/Joan Shannon Corporate Neoliberal Administration would like to return, are quite frightening!

Last time the "key to the Queen City" was in the Democratic establishment, Burlington was a severely economically and socially segregated town, where working-class neighborhoods were either dismantled or turned into slums of poor housing and bars that wealthy people ran. The murder rate 60 years ago was much higher, and alcoholism and violence were rampant.

The 1970s and '80s brought Progressive change with the Burlington Community Land Trust, the Community Health Centers of Burlington, a food co-op, services for domestic and sexual violence, youth services, a public waterfront, revitalized police and fire departments, and a challenge to the extreme prejudices that then divided our city.

Presently coming out of the post-pandemic economy with unabated speculation on our housing costs and lagging social services, ignored in ["Key to the Queen City," February 21], let us deal with the causes, not mass criminalization and incarceration of thousands that the Shannon plan seems to fall back on. Her plan seems to leave many of us without a seat at the table and, ironically, would overwhelm our police and fire departments.

As a community, we either come together proactively in love or reactively in divisive fear.

Let's remember in these times who can help with public safety and move forward with Emma Mulvaney-Stanak. Then I believe the mayor's door will be open to all!

Mark Montalban


All for the 'Adult'

As a former resident of Burlington and father of a son who moved out of the city due to the current public safety crisis, I urge voters to support Joan Shannon ["Key to the Queen City," February 21].

She is the only one who recognizes that Burlington's first obligation is protecting its sheep, not coddling the wolves in our midst.

Long term, she is the only one willing to stand up for non-loitering and non-drug use in public places. She is the only one with the foresight to know that fentanyl and meth have changed the addictive personality. Those caught in this trap cannot be salvaged with free drug dispensaries, pods or homeless encampments. The only solution for these poor souls is reopening a statewide institution that offers long-term treatment and care in a safe, controlled environment.

Shannon is the only one who recognizes that rampant graffiti taggers are not expressing artistic talent but are callous vandals who need to be held accountable.

As more than one Burlingtonian has said, it is past time that voters put the adults back in charge of the Queen City.

Jack Scully


Documenting Democracy

Thanks to Paula Routly for calling out the importance of Town Meeting election forums in her "Open to Debate" publisher's note on February 21. The opportunities for structured civic debate are few and far between in our polarized political culture — nationally and locally.

Town Meeting TV is proud to stand with its 23 fellow community media centers across Vermont with coverage of town meetings and election forums in more than 150 Vermont communities during this election season. At Town Meeting TV, for example, we have produced almost 50 live election forums, including the mayor's debate with Seven Days. All forums can be watched live on Comcast 1087, Burlington Telecom 217 and youtube.com/townmeetingtv. Plus, we will air live election results for Burlington and surrounding communities on Tuesday, March 5, starting at 7 p.m. Learn more online at Town Meeting TV's website at cctv.org/2024.

Thank you, Seven Days, for bringing your spotlight to the workings of democracy. We all have work to do for voters to access the information they need to make informed decisions and keep the wheels of democracy turning.

Jordan Mitchell


Mitchell is a codirector of Town Meeting TV.

'Most Capable Candidate'

[Re "Key to the Queen City," February 21]: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak is the most capable mayoral candidate Burlington has seen in my adult lifetime. This includes mayors Gordon Paquette, Bernie Sanders, Peter Clavelle, Peter Brownell, Bob Kiss and Miro Weinberger — and all the very many able candidates from all parties who have run against these mayors and not won "the key to the Queen City."

Emma holds a commanding understanding of the issues; she presents concrete ideas; she consistently demonstrates her experience in and passion for bringing people together — lifting up the best that city staff, politicians and citizens have to give in any situation and leading them — us! — to work together in the spirit of a greater Burlington.

Emma identifies at least two key areas where people who can and should be working more closely together for the greater good are not. First, the fragmented response to our safety problems, with city staff spread across at least three departments: Emma's special assistant for community safety would bring these folks and others together for a "cohesive response." Second, the fact that our sizable number of state senators and representatives are not working sufficiently together around Burlington's needs, which transcend party and other divisions. Emma can and will lead our state delegation toward greater teamwork.

How about our graffiti problem?! Remember back when graffiti was cleaned within a day or two? Emma's plan would revive the old graffiti response teams at no city expense beyond cleaning materials — with volunteers! I'm in!

Kit Andrews


Nothing Funny About It

In every issue, you include "comics." They're fine. I read them, but there's nothing really funny. I find that "comic" is defined as "causing or meant to cause laughter." I have to tell you, I haven't laughed at a Seven Days "comic" for a long, long, long time. I now know every author's view on every social issue, from politics to environment to pollution to racism ... Get the point? This is really important stuff, but it is not funny! The news is bad enough! Publish comics that are funny!

Peter Goldsmith


Sleeping on It

I appreciate the article about the ZQuiet ["Snore No More: A Shelburne Couple's Anti-Snoring Device Is Designed to Save Relationships," February 7]. The writer focused on the effect of snoring on relationships, not surprising given the issue's theme. But snoring can also be a serious problem for singles — even if we don't have sleepovers.

When I tested negative for sleep apnea, I was told my own snoring woke me up on an average of every seven minutes. I didn't wake to full consciousness — or just forgot. But it meant I didn't get the REM sleep I need. I tried a prescription device but it kept ejecting from my mouth as soon as I fell asleep. Nasal strips help, but my skin can't tolerate the adhesive.

You can bet I'm going to check out the ZQuiet!

Ann Larson


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