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Letters to the Editor 

Published April 13, 2011 at 4:19 a.m.

A Geographical Point

Great article [“Avian Maven,” March 23]. I want to get my binoculars and go walk in Red Rocks Park looking for and listening to the spring birds. The only thing wrong is, Red Rocks Park is in South Burlington, not Burlington. Burlington’s park is Oakledge — close by, but on different points.

Sabrinajoy Milbury

South Burlington

Setting the Record Straight

Thanks for the Gas and Oil review in Seven Days [Album Review: Live in Jonesville, March 30]. Here’s a quick update: Gas and Oil are out of Swanton, not Milton. The drummer’s name is Rick Lincoln, and Bear Mallette is on bass. The piece said Bob Parker was “sitting in a Subaru listening to the Cancer Bats,” when actually he was in his Jeep Patriot. Thanks again from the crew at Gas and Oil.

Paul Allison


Motel Sends Wrong Message

[Re: “WTF: What’s the Deal With Burlington’s Midtown Motel?” March 16]: I, too, stayed at the downtown “Motel Yuck” on my second-ever visit to Burlington in the mid-’90s. Both my first visit in 1989 as well as this second visit were short business trips, and both occurred in either the mud or stick seasons — can’t remember which. The days were cloudy and dark, the city looking dirty and bleak with loads of rickety-looking wooden houses. Amazingly, I didn’t even know you could see the lake, nor did anyone tell me to look for it!

The Midtown Motel served not only as a cheap and convenient place to stay, but also as a chamber-of-commerce nightmare that locked in my feeling that Burlington was no place I’d ever want to visit unless I had to. The city certainly didn’t make it to the top of the list when my wife and I were looking for a nice place to relocate, back in 1999.

So, here’s my point: For the past several years, I believe that that giant “Motel” sign has been doing a disservice to Burlington. It’s closed, probably uninhabitable, so how about some city office asking owners Jeff Nick and Dan Morrissey to do the right thing and at least remove the signage from the building? It’s both an eyesore as well as awfully confusing, I’m sure, to plenty of folks who see the sign, believe it’s still in business, and perhaps try to look it up to book a room or recommend it to friends.

Oh, and by the way, my wife and I moved to Burlington in 2000, and since then have spent the happiest years of our lives in this wonderful town!

Gregory Epler Wood


Midtown Bus Station?

I think the motel and adjacent parking lot would be the perfect place for the new bus station [“WTF: What’s the Deal With Burlington’s Midtown Motel?” March 16]. It’s centrally located and flat — perfect for wheelchairs, older residents, strollers, etc. They could put the busses down below and the terminal and visitor info center above.

Diane Wester


Tax the Trust Funders

Kevin Kelley’s piece on health care financing [“Who Pays for Health Care?” April 6] neglected two disturbing outcomes from the choice of a payroll tax. First, those lucky few who don’t work and live on unearned income (interest, dividends and capital gains) would pay nothing for their health care. According to the tax department, there were 308 filers under 65 who reported income of more than $1 million in 2007 (before the recession). Some may have a combination of wages and unearned income, but for others, it is only the latter. The only way for these folks to participate in the financing of the system is with an income tax.

Second, by excluding unearned income, the rates would be higher than necessary. Using a payroll tax means we would be exempting almost $3 billion from taxation for the health care system. This makes no sense at all.

Doug Hoffer


Pet Project

Kudos on your annual “Animal” issue [March 23]. As one of your longtime staff members quipped to me this past week, it surely is your “cutest” issue of the year. But it also calls attention annually to matters of vital concern to Vermonters and the two-legged, four-legged and winged creatures for which we are all companions and stewards. I particularly appreciated Ken Picard’s efforts to focus attention on proposed legislation governing puppy-mill-type operations in the Green Mountain State [“Allegations of Animal Abuse Breed Proposed Legislation in Vermont,” March 23]. And H.229, which would make it illegal for anyone who is not a licensed veterinarian to debark, tail dock or perform a surgical birth on a dog without anesthesia, also merits serious consideration.

As the newly named president and CEO of the Humane Society of Chittenden County, I look forward to working with community collaborators like Seven Days and its readers to foster responsible pet ownership and the humane treatment of companion animals in our community.

Tom Ayres


Adirondack Eats

Thanks for the review of Barkeaters [“New York State of Mind,” March 23]. We’ll check it out. I love the term “barkeaters,” and always tell people that “Adirondack” was a term of derision from one tribe to another. And I always appreciate good food and good service.

Jim Tompkins


The Meek Shall Inherit … Nothing

For some of us who were true believers in Burlington College’s ostensibly progressive mission, the suggestion that 17 of society’s most vulnerable people would have to be evicted so students could have their home was troubling from the start [“Can the Catholic Diocese Boot a Group Home From Its North Avenue Property? A Judge Will Decide,” March 9].

The idea put forward in your article that somehow what’s going on is a terribly unfortunate and wholly coincidental consequence of uncontrollable forces (an act of God?) is a very convenient one, but it amounts to the same thing in the end — the displacement of people who have no other place to go in service to the earthly interests of two institutions: one founded in the name of a man who repeatedly admonished his followers that caring for the powerless is a holy imperative; the other, formerly called the Vermont Institute for Community Involvement, founded around progressive ideals of civic responsibility and ethical education.

How sweet the smell of moral relativism when it’s not Rudy Giuliani or some anonymous Evil Corporation involved in the ugly business of making life harder for people for whom life’s circumstances have made life hard enough. To consider the practical differences between “progressive” and “reactionary” in the operations of power, put yourself in the shoes of one of those 17 people, looking out at a society that on all sides seems to regard you as little more than a burden and an obstacle.

Barry Snyder


Kisonak Clarifies

Sincere thanks to Seven Days and Ken Picard for shedding light on some problems involving special education in South Burlington and for presenting a fair and balanced story [“Classroom Divide,” March 30]. I’m writing to provide several small corrections and clarifications.

Mrs. Godek was not only Ashley’s case manager at the time of the abuse. She participated in and directed the restraints, which were not in response to a tantrum but to my 5-year-old child’s leaving her desk. It was not one restraint Nancy saw on the videotape but several, some of which lasted 40 minutes. We later learned our child had endured these restraints for at least three months. It’s saddening to learn through Erica Williams’ letter that children with special needs continue to be harmed in the SBSD.

Special educator Donarae Cook implied in her letter that the SBHS is justified in restricting our access. In fact, restrictions were imposed shortly after Nancy visited school and found our daughter hysterical and hurt, with no one helping her. District officials were angered that Nancy insisted Ashley leave her workspace to see the nurse to treat a laceration she accidentally sustained. At no point did Nancy behave inappropriately. The SBSD has a long, well- documented history of falsely accusing her of doing so in efforts to restrict her access. The restrictions to which we are subjected are discriminatory, based on gross misrepresentation and first began after we learned of the abuse in 1998. 

In her letter, Debbie Safran suggested enrollment at a different school. “School choice” wouldn’t change who controls the program and is therefore not a fix. She wouldn’t know what other options we’ve explored.

The article stated that South Burlington’s special-ed students “neither overachieve nor under-perform compared to statewide averages.” Actually, the SBSD failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress in both math and reading for students with disabilities only — for five consecutive years recently — and was identified by the U.S. Department of Education as a “district in need of corrective action.”

My wife and I have two kids, now 18 and 20: One has special needs; one doesn’t. Both bring us great pride and joy. My daughter is not the source of “mental anguish” to us. Neither do our mental states account for “woes” with school. Rather, the district’s chronic failure to provide Ashley with an appropriate education, its insistence on excessive segregation and its incredibly hostile response to our advocacy causes any mental anguish we experience. 

As Ken wrote, raising a child with special needs is hard. Having to fight the SBSD on her behalf makes life infinitely harder. As difficult as some days with my daughter might be, I feel lucky to be her dad and it’s my privilege, as it is my wife’s, to raise her.

Rick Kisonak

South Burlington

Try Caring About Kids

Jon Adler says “traveling a few more minutes to an equivalent school is not too much to ask” of “special-ed students” [“Feedback,” April 6]. You know, as if the children would be going to get a can of soda instead of an education.

The social aspects of learning are tremendously important to all children, but for some children with special needs, it is paramount. Rather than acknowledge this, Mr. Adler would prefer that these children make friends from K-5 and then be shuttled off to make all new friends (for some, the most difficult task they will struggle with their entire lives) once they hit grade 6. Why not? According to Mr. Adler, they’re just dollar signs with backpacks and lunch boxes.

Regardless, I suggest Mr. Adler educate himself about an issue before he rattles off another “simple” solution to a very complex issue.

Chris Middings


Sorry, Wrong Number

“Classroom Divide” [March 30] and the letters to the editor published the following week [“Feedback,” April 6] highlight many of the difficult issues surrounding special-education services in our public schools. Special-education services are both costly and vital. I think it’s important to debate this issue in public, but this debate can only be constructive if all the facts are presented correctly. Jon Adler in his letter to the editor [“Greatest Good,” April 6] stated that the Burlington School District spent $10 million on an elevator for Edmunds Middle School. This is an incorrect number.

The full cost of all construction at EMS this past summer was $1.3 million. That amount included pulling new electrical service to the entire Edmunds complex, upgrading the fire-alarm system, upgrading restrooms and adding the elevator. The direct cost of the elevator, which has many uses beyond special-education regulatory compliance, was approximately $500,000 — with $300,000 of that cost funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money. To make the entire Edmunds Complex ADA compliant would cost the $10 million Mr. Adler referenced.

If anyone has further concerns or questions regarding our capital spending, the Burlington School District is open to providing information regarding our projects and the decision making that went into their approval.

Alan Matson


Matson is chair of the finance committee for the Burlington School Board.


In last week’s “Side Dishes,” Alice Levitt announced that Ignacio Ruiz — former owner of the now-shuttered River Run restaurant in Plainfield— was opening a tapas place in Montpelier where the Black Door Bar and Bistro once was. Levitt reported what Ruiz told her: that the Black Door’s former owner, Phil Gentile, would serve as manager of the new place. However, Gentile says he never made a commitment to manage the restaurant.

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