Letters to the Editor (5/19/21) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (5/19/21) 

Published May 19, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.


Not for the first time, or even the second, you cut off clues for the crossword puzzle in the May 12 issue. One line, if not two, is totally missing. Please, please double check this before the paper goes to print. Thank you very much.

Nan Moses

St. Johnsbury

Missing 'Income Sensitivity'

Thanks for the very detailed article about Burlington's new assessments and ever-increasing property values ["Gilded Age," May 5]. Speaking to actual homeowners while also doing real analysis made it both personal and precise.

Surprisingly, there are several key aspects that were not covered: First and foremost, Vermont has income sensitivity for the education portion of the property tax for those with incomes of up to $138,000. For folks with incomes of less than $50,000, the income sensitivity provision even covers municipal taxes. Thus, for folks with limited incomes, the assessed value is often moot since people pay based on their income.

Second, the article kept referring to the reappraisal as "revenue neutral." This is true for the municipal portion only — there's a statewide property tax that gets adjusted based on a town's common level of appraisal.

Keep up the great reporting, Seven Days!

Dan Gottlieb


Not Profitable

As an affordable housing advocate and past board president of a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Ohio, I want to present more numbers behind [Off Message: "Demand, Prices Drive Construction of Multifamily Homes in Chittenden County," April 19].

As a member of the South Burlington Affordable Housing Committee, I supported Patrick O'Brien, project manager of the South Village development, through the review process for submissions for 34 affordable units. In public meetings, neighbors expressed displeasure with proposed designs. Finally, S.D. Ireland submitted a design for 22 units that was accepted.

To maintain a selling price of around $275,000, Ireland is subsidizing each of those units at a cost of $30,000 to $50,000, which will pay fees covering things like parks and recreation and roads.

No developer makes a profit on affordable units. At best, they break even — the only profit lies in raising prices on the other units. When the same house sells for $450,000 in South Burlington and $200,000 in Fairfax, the difference rests with local fees.

Are municipalities willing to forgive their fees on all affordable units — and accept higher taxes to support them?

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies has announced the newest wrinkle in developers' attempts to provide housing — new medium-size, single-family houses as rental units, now only 4 percent of the market but growing. The mean income needed for a new rental house is $114,000. New houses as rentals, replacing home ownership, may well become the next option for Vermont builders.

Paula DeMichele

South Burlington

Power Play

[Re "Power Decouple," April 28]: It appears that private interests, not government, dictate Vermont's energy policy. The state's largest employer approached its largest utility to decide the fate of 10 percent of Vermont's energy consumption. Notifying the legislature was an afterthought.

Now, all the stakeholders — the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Public Utility Commission and Department of Public Service — are reacting to their plan. The approach is based on shareholder value instead of long-term public interest. This is exactly backward. Shareholder value of the largest employer in Vermont — as well as the largest power producer — is important to the state's well-being, but not at the expense of the public good.

The legislature should seize this opportunity to reestablish itself as the authority on power regulation. Government agencies should table the proposal until there is a thorough rethink through the lens of public policy via the legislature.

The critical questions are: How does this proposed separation affect the Northeast Kingdom's electric grid bottleneck, the statewide creation of mini-grids via battery storage, the goal of 90 percent renewables by 2050, and other issues? This is not a ratepayer question. It is the basis of statewide energy policy.

GlobalFoundries and Green Mountain Power strategically excluded state government from discussions for two years, as these larger issues are not their concern. This was a grievous oversight on their part. Energy policy belongs in the Statehouse, not the boardroom.

Bram Towbin


'True Safety'

[Re "'Punished for Being Trans,'" April 28]: I believe in abolishing prisons and police because we should not spend money locking people up. Our trans siblings deserve better. Our Black and Indigenous neighbors deserve better. Every dollar that goes into funding correctional staff, police weapons and vehicles, lawsuits against police and prison personnel when they inevitably inflict harm upon vulnerable people — all of these resources would be better spent providing our communities with what they need to thrive.

Why do our trans community members experience joblessness and homelessness and violence at a higher rate than their cisgender neighbors? Let's get to the root of it and build a world where everyone has what they need to learn, grow and thrive. I would like to see our lawmakers at the town and state level commit to decreasing police and prison budgets and redirecting that taxpayer money into community care. We need to house people, provide health care for people, feed people and educate people. We need to prevent trauma before it occurs, not punish traumatized people with cops and jails.

To my fellow white people who react to the idea of police defunding with fear: Please try not to be afraid of a world without police and prisons. Police and prisons do not keep us safe. True safety comes from preventing harm and centering the needs of the most vulnerable. Resources abound to learn about abolition. Please join us on this journey to a more just society.

Joanna Colwell


Top Down

[Re "'Punished for Being Trans,'" April 28]: The headline accurately describes Vermont's culture regarding "justice" that produces many of the problems we want to avoid. Why is there a punishment culture to begin with? Someone doesn't ever need to be "dealt with." Someone is who they say they are and what they do. Both.

There is too much religious nonsense, mixed in with outdated and inhumane process, in the Department of Corrections' management principles and politics. Someone getting to choose who they are in any way not harmful to others doesn't require "sophistication" to understand. At the same time, dignity is not something DOC management often gives its staff (especially at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility), so how then is the majority of staff expected to give it to inmates?

How does a continually undignified and filthy environment enable dignity? People are part of their environments because they depend on them. They are products of environments far before some evolved sense of self can defy the realities of them. Incarceration does harm that is not limited to minorities within inmate populations — or even limited to inmates, for that matter. That correctional officers are subject to a work culture of inconsistent, predatory and reactionary management, which then expects better of them, is a huge contradiction.

Vermont wanting to deem itself a leader needs leaders who know what that means, before expecting their staff to.

Joy Yonan-Renold


Yonan-Renold is a former correctional officer.

No Sympathy

Seven Days' recent article on the failings of the Vermont Department of Corrections to address the needs of trans inmates ["'Punished for Being Trans,'" April 28] points to complex issues, problematic staffing and inadequate training. The article acknowledges that the department is trying to take positive steps forward.

I am wondering, though, why the reporter chose to highlight the prisoner she profiled. It is clear that this person has had a terrible time in prison. But she was convicted of child sexual assault, which the reporter dismisses as "she got drunk." I'm sorry, but I find it impossible to have sympathy for a child sexual predator. Is your reporter so open-minded that her brains have fallen out?

Jo Schneiderman


Life's Work

[Re Off Message: "Art Broken: A Mural Defaced, Then Cleaned Up, in the Old North End," March 30; Lifelines: "Tony Shull, 1945-2021," April 23; "Of Eggs, Aliens and Men," April 28]: Tony Shull was our friend when he and my family and I lived in Huntington, late 1960s. Tony gave me his painting of sunflowers with lots green in background. Does anyone else have a similar kind of work by him? It's lovely and tame compared to what we see by him today.

Looking forward to visiting his exhibit.

Nancy Tracy

South Burlington

Kake Mistake

[Re Fair Game: "In the Black," April 28]: Curtiss Reed Jr. says no state building should be named for late governor Philip Hoff because Hoff attended the University of Vermont's Kake Walk. But in the early 1960s, criticism of its racist nature was still emerging.

Hoff's commitment to racial justice is undeniable.

• In 1961, he introduced legislation to prohibit race discrimination in employment.

• In 1962, as governor, he pursued the bill and signed it into law.

• In 1964, he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against George Wallace on "Meet the Press."

• In 1965, he proposed fair housing legislation that led to the creation of the Vermont Human Rights Commission.

• He urged the abolition of Kake Walk.

• After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., he helped bring hundreds of Black, Hispanic and white high school students together in Vermont.

• He insisted on a fair investigation when an African American minister's home in Irasburg was raked by gunfire and the minister was charged with adultery in 1968.

• He helped revitalize the Vermont Human Rights Commission in 1988.

• He was a long-term member of the Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Hoff paid a price for his outspokenness in his 1970 Senate bid.

Perhaps governor Hoff failed to see the injustice of Kake Walk as quickly as he should have.

Hoff deserves to be remembered as a champion for racial justice, not derided for failure to achieve perfection.

Rich Cassidy

South Burlington

Who Pays?

[Re Off Message: "Commissioner: Unemployment Fraud Has Cost Vermont Millions," May 4]: Does the tone of this statement by the labor commissioner imply that the state will cover the deficit in the unemployment trust fund? Or will the shortfall be covered by raising rates on businesses in the coming years? Let us remember that the unemployment trust fund is "solely funded by employers."

Roger Brown


Brock's Hypocrisy

[Re Fair Game: "Disparities Debate," May 5]: I fail to understand State Sen. Randy Brock's sudden concern with Vermont's "Freedom and Unity" motto and his opposition to dividing Vermonters by race, disability and sexual orientation.

After all, Brock divided Vermonters with his shameful and discriminatory vote against marriage equality in 2009.

Paul Olson


BHS Passes

[Re "Chemical Reaction," May 12]: Vermont should follow the federal guidelines like all the other states. It's a waste of money to tear down the high school and rebuild it somewhere else. If the problem started at the tech center, then focus on that. I went to Burlington High School in the late '60s and had no problems! I know the city and the state are watching out for the kids and the staff, but has there been any sickness due to this issue?

Ken Atwood


Get the Lead Out

Thank you for sharing the University of Vermont study about phytoremediators' ability to pull lead from the soil ["Plant Magic," May 5]. Who doesn't love sunflowers? My first response was excitement.

My second was concern. With mandated composting, wouldn't lead be reintroduced into the soil? That risk is especially high for those who trust compost to grow healthy food.

For this composter, throwing away plants is anathema. I appreciate that your article mentioned Chittenden Solid Waste District's Environmental Depot as the solution. That is good to know.

Should Burlington or Chittenden County implement a program after this study, what would it cost? How does one get the used phytoremediators to the Environmental Depot? Will there be tax credits for doing this?

As with every intriguing idea, more questions arise. Even so, kudos to Laura Hill and Mariah Cronin. I wish them continued success in their studies.

Mariam Berry


Berry is a registered nurse.

'Forever Vigilant'

I want to recognize the dedication, hard work and persistence of our Vermont Department of Health staff, from Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine to every employee of the department. They as a group have been tireless in keeping us informed about vaccine availability, the science behind the safety of the vaccines and the health measures that protect our safety during this tough time.

Also, what you don't see as readily is their steady leadership in continuing the fight against the opioid, alcohol and other drug addiction epidemics that continue to rage throughout our state and nation. Forever vigilant, forever dedicated to making sure all the necessary resources reach those who have struggled during this past year. Thank you, all!

Gary De Carolis


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