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Letters to the Editor (5/1/24) 

Published May 1, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.


Two Art Stores

[Re "Sparrow Art Supply in Middlebury Finds a New Nest," April 17]: The article about the lovely Sparrow Art Supply shop in Middlebury noted that it's the only art supply shop in Addison County, and it isn't. Recycled Reading in Bristol also has a fabulous selection of art supplies, as well as musical instruments, books and toys.

Mary Pratt

New Haven

Milk Man

click to enlarge Moo Cow Milk sticker - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Moo Cow Milk sticker

Thank you for your excellent piece on Monument Farms' chocolate milk ["How Now, Brown Cow: Monument Farms Dairy's Chocolate Milk Inspires Devotion," April 17]. I'm near the top of the list of fans of Monument Farms milk products, especially its chocolate milk. Pleasantly surprised to see Melissa Pasanen covering such a Vermonty story. As a former food editor of the Tampa Times back in the late '60s and early '70s, I always enjoy and appreciate her articles.

For the past 60 years, I have been a musician and bandleader, writing songs about Vermont and the living of it. Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts asked me to write a song about "fake milk." I hope it brings a smile. We are getting radio airplay nationally all over the Western swing community.

Rick Norcross


Bad for Ag

["Vermont Communities Tackle Budgets, Bridges and Bonds on Town Meeting Day," February 21] referred to H.706, a bill seeking to ban neonicotinoid insecticides. Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, the bill's sponsor, said: "It really reflects what I've been hearing from everyday Vermonters regarding this bill."

As a farmer and former legislator, I am incredibly concerned about that statement. I learned he did not consult with farmers when H.706 was drafted, completely surprising them. House legislators also ignored state experts. Vermont's Agricultural Innovation Board, established by legislators to inform ag policy, determined that more research is needed before banning neonics. The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets supported the board's findings. It analyzed hives, finding practically no traces of neonics among them, rightly questioning how a neonic ban could support bee health. Despite expert testimony and evidence, the House's ag committee passed H.706 to the Senate.

Neonicotinoids are essential for Vermont ag, which supports 50,818 jobs and $8.45 billion in economic impact statewide. Neonics are especially important to dairy farmers, whose silage corn and soybeans can be destroyed by seed-corn maggots without neonics. There's no effective alternative. Seed-coated neonics, planted underground, also help reduce insecticide spraying, which would hurt our record number of honeybee colonies.

If Vermont legislators keep restricting ag without acting on experts' input, agriculture here would likely further decline and fracture. If we value local farms, we must protect them, not take away their tools. Our Senate should listen to our experts rather than push ahead with this bill, which most farmers oppose.

Harvey Smith

New Haven

Rich Tapestry

I really appreciated the acknowledgment of the phenomenal fiber artists at Studio Place Arts in Barre ["Darned Tough," April 10] and, of course, I especially appreciated Eva Sollberger's "Stuck in Vermont" segment on the quilters ["Grateful Thread," April 10]. She always has her finger on the pulse of what's happening. I am hoping these articles signal a course correction on seeing and reviewing the multitude of wonderful fiber artists in Vermont. It is about time they have their hard work acknowledged and praised.

Susi Ryan

Essex Junction

What's Wrong With Education

In March, Alison Novak reported that residents rejected school budgets in 29 of about 95 Vermont school districts ["Vermont Voters Reject School Budgets in 29 Districts," March 6]. Vermont-NEA president Don Tinney attributed the rejection to events over which "local school boards have no control." Others have also publicly absolved school boards of responsibility.

Voters have seen the man behind the curtain, ignoring the denials of the teachers' union and management.

Staff salaries, accounting for three-quarters of education costs, are determined at various local levels through closed-door union negotiations, which probably explains the difference in salaries and quality among the various districts. And school budgets have been substantially hijacked over the years by the strong influence of special interest advocates. Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) has suggested that school spending decisions, made at the local level, got the state into this predicament.

Class sizes and student-teacher ratios are also determined by negotiations at the local level. School districts have used years of featherbedding to bloat staff positions with job titles unheard of 30 years ago, all undoubtedly "essential," all under local control.

School districts and supervisory unions also blame health care costs for driving spending increases. Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer has proposed "reference-based pricing," which establishes a fair price for a particular medical service. It is estimated that reference-based pricing would eliminate approximately 40 percent of services of higher-priced providers.

The Agency of Education states that costs for special education and mental and behavioral health have also increased substantially in recent years. In New York State, these needs are funded separately from property taxes.

Robert Wood


'Door on Fire'

[Re "Police Search for Man Who Set Fire at Sen. Bernie Sanders' Burlington Office," April 5, online]: I am appalled and probably naïve to think that someone who would set fire to Sanders' office would think about the folks working there. They were not injured, but it must have been terrifying to see the door on fire. People need to rein in their craziness, cut back on rhetoric and treat others civilly. We are a nation that used to respect differences, but now we take violent action when we perceive the slightest differences. That firebug needs to take off his wool cap, cool his head and thank his lucky stars that no one was injured.

Virginia Small

Clarendon Springs

Editor's note: Two days after the fire, police arrested 35-year-old Shant Michael Soghomonian. Seven Days reported it in an online story on April 7 headlined "Man Charged With Arson at Bernie Sanders' Burlington Office."

'Democratize Wildlife Management'

Some in the Vermont hunting/trapping/angling community are upset that S.258 is potentially poised to become law ["Wild Bill: Long at Odds With Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Board, Activists Would Like to Strip Its Powers," February 28]. If folks simply took the time to read the content of the bill, rather than feeding off their paranoia, they'd quickly see that the bill is something everyone should be able to get behind. It's hard to understand their outrage at the possibility of actually working with "bunny huggers" — a term recently lobbed at wildlife advocates by a Fish and Wildlife Board member.

Hunting, trapping and fishing are managed by the Fish and Wildlife Board. Composed entirely of hunters, anglers and trappers, appointed through an utterly opaque process, it makes regs to satisfy the desires of its members — the regulated regulating themselves. Commissioner Chris Herrick claims they take public input. They do — for two minutes exactly, in a room bristling with hostility and disdain. As for taking suggestions or complaints seriously, Herrick likens it to raising his children, to whom he listened but didn't always accede.

The bottom line is that those opposing S.258 have had all the power for decades. Now that they're confronted with a bill that seeks to better democratize wildlife management, they don't like it. Perhaps if the board, and also Gov. Phil Scott, had operated more equitably and inclusively in the past, there wouldn't be such support for this change. But here we are, and we're not going away.

Lisa Jablow


'Politics at Its Worst'

[Re "Wild Bill: Long at Odds With Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Board, Activists Would Like to Strip Its Powers," February 28]: S.258 would change the Fish and Wildlife Board's authority from rulemaking to advisory, put authority in the F&W commissioner, add nonconsumptive users to the board and outlaw hunting coyotes with hounds.

The bill, as passed from the Senate, looks nothing like the bill introduced in January. Following hearings, and calls against this bill, the original bill did not have enough votes to pass. So, like in the days of smoke-filled rooms, arms were twisted, the bill was changed just the day before crossover, and it passed with no chance for the public to react before the vote. Politics at its worst!

Problems with this bill:

F&W staff are scientists, not policy geeks. The current board listens to the public and gathers scientific information from staff before implementing new rules.

What happens when the governor appoints a bad commissioner?

How would adding anti-hunters, -trappers and -fishers — aka nonconsumptive users — to the board improve wildlife management? This legislature wouldn't mandate adding a misogynist to the Commission on Women.

This bill would also eliminate hunting coyotes over bait. Farmers hunt over animal carcasses, particularly those killed by predators. The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee cited relying on science when developing this bill, yet this committee did not listen to any science or F&W staff supporting this change.

The Senate forgot the bad decisions of the 1960s by the legislature that allowed them to manage wildlife.

Jerry D'Amico


Better Way to Beat Big Oil

Given the crushing financial losses caused by flooding in Vermont, it is only right to get the fossil fuel companies to help pay recovery costs ["Vermont Senate Advances Bill to Make Big Oil Pay for Climate Crisis," April 2]. But even if they take a one-time hit to the bottom line, the fossil fuel companies will keep right on selling and profiting from their polluting products.

What these companies really would feel would be legislation placing a carbon fee on every pound of CO2 their products emit and distributing all the fees directly to individual consumers — known as a "carbon fee and dividend" program. Fossil fuel sales would drop as businesses responded by becoming more energy-efficient and developing new sources of clean, renewable energy. These innovations not only would lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions but also would provide abundant, affordable and reliable clean energy, driving us faster toward less carbon pollution.

This carbon fee would be affordable for ordinary Americans, as the money collected from fossil fuel companies would be given as a dividend, or "carbon cash back" payment, to every American to spend with no restrictions. This protects low- and middle-income Americans who might otherwise bear a disproportionate burden during the transition to clean energy.

We need U.S. Rep. Becca Balint, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Peter Welch to work in Congress to establish a carbon fee and dividend program now.

Bob Warrington


H.289's Hidden Costs

[Re "A Debate About the Cost Is Dogging a Renewable Energy Bill," March 22, online]: You know when politicians like Rep. Mark Mihaly (D-East Calais) and his eco-conspirators such as private equity-powered Renewable Energy Vermont draft a bill, benefits will be way overstated and costs way underestimated. For Vermonters, H.289 is like buying a used car on Craigslist: You never know what is really under the hood.

What we do know is that this bill would cost each of us a lot more than the quoted sales price, at a time when we all are getting hit with increased real estate and other taxes and costs, without any letup on the horizon. This headlong rush into new green energy, especially with in-state production, doesn't look at total costs, which are absent from the discussion. The ecological costs of significant land disruption, and its effects, with all the construction chaos involved, seem lost in the sales spiel. This whole process looks like a replay of the electric vehicle mantra, in which green cars are always wonderful. The EV rollout has had loads of issues, ranging from manufacturing to imported materials costs to infrastructure problems.

H.289 would also likely have significant and unforeseen costs in its rapid implementation. However, the cost overrun would be paid by you, both in your monthly bill and visually when you drive around the state and see pastures turned into massive solar farms and hilltops covered in windmills.

Richard Silc


Zoning Staff Says 'No'

[Re "Burlington City Council Approves Rezoning Plan to Boost Housing Supply," March 26, online]: S.100, which the legislature passed in 2023, made Burlington pass this new ordinance, BTV Neighborhood Code. I don't think the Burlington City Council should get any victory-lap credit here. The city is not for housing, and the personnel in the departments of planning and permitting and inspections have created an environment of "no" for 25 years. If you want change, start with an ordinance overhaul and reduction and replace the zoning staff.

Jon Maguire


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