Letters to the Editor (1/18/23) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (1/18/23) 

Published January 18, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated January 24, 2023 at 3:06 p.m.


Ed Leadership Crisis?

[Re "Mellencamp to Return to Role as Principal of Burlington High School," January 3, online]: The abrupt departure of Burlington High School principal Lauren McBride poses concerning questions about the district's support of building administrators. A principal sets the policies for the school they serve. In helping to support families, staff and students, these essential leaders are responsible for the success of the school. Since taking the helm on July 1, 2020, superintendent Tom Flanagan has lost four building administrators, each leaving during the school year to accept roles away from Burlington. No other district in our state seems to be experiencing such a crisis.

The loss of principals Noel Green, Kevin Robinson and Lashawn Whitmore-Sells means that Vermont's largest city, and one of its most diverse, lacks any principals of color. The district's web page states: "We seek to recruit, develop, and retain the most talented people from a diverse candidate pool." Why has the district not been able to achieve that objective?

Superintendent Flanagan stated in a community update: "I want to create an environment where leaders ... feel supported and valued." Principal McBride's exit seems to show that he is not able to achieve that goal. 

Burlington has voted to support its students and families by backing the building of a new high school. Great schools are more than just brick and mortar. They require dynamic leaders. The hemorrhaging of these individuals from Burlington should raise questions and concerns about the effectiveness of district leadership.

Gavin Wallace

Essex Junction

White Man's View

In [Feedback: "Term Is 'Insulting,'" December 28] Daniel Hecht says of the term BIPOC: "In attempting to merge the very diverse histories of 'people of color,' it best serves the white man's interest in rendering them generic, a blurry concept rather than real human beings."

As a white man who has no interest in rendering anyone a blurry concept, but rather to see others as real human beings, I respectfully ask that the same consideration be extended to me.

Scott Koeze

South Burlington

Comment Clarification

The online article ["Burlington Planning Commission Endorses Rezoning UVM's Trinity Campus," December 20] states: "Loomis Street resident Todd Schlossberg said he thinks the council should push for UVM to agree to only house juniors and seniors in the new dorms."

This is not correct. In my public comments during the December 20 planning commission meeting, I specifically suggested that, as a condition of the City of Burlington agreeing to the proposed zoning amendments, the city should push for a memorandum of agreement with UVM that the university would allocate 50 percent of the new proposed units for third- and fourth-year undergrad students.

I pointed to the fact that the two most recent incoming classes, of 2025 and 2026, have had record-size enrollments of about 3,000 first-year students, as opposed to the average incoming first-year class sizes of about 2,500 to 2,600 over the past decade. As a result, in three years, our neighborhoods will face an influx of close to an additional 1,000 third- and fourth-year students seeking off-campus rental housing, which will further stress our already overburdened rental housing stock and drive up rental prices, harming working people seeking affordable rental housing.

Given the university's strong desire to have the Trinity Campus rezoned to allow for increased lot density and building heights, as well as decreased setbacks, I suggested that the City of Burlington use its leverage and take advantage of this unique opportunity to give UVM an incentive to create and dedicate more campus-owned housing for third- and fourth-year undergrad students.

Todd Schlossberg


Time's Up for Cathedral?

I attended the meeting of the Development Review Board of Burlington to witness the proceedings in regard to the possible demolition of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception ["Burlington Allows Parish to Demolish Historic Cathedral," January 11, online]. I went with my partner and another friend, Demetri Sarantitis, the architect who at one time worked for the Barnes firm and who designed the bell tower on the property.

After hearing much comment largely in favor of repurposing the building, the board voted in favor of demolition. The building was designed by one of the best architecture firms in the world. It is a great pity that this wonderful structure is to be demolished and the undisclosed buyer of the land has, it seems to me, the right to do anything they please. I'm not at all clear as to why that firm's name was not disclosed.

Jordan Davies


What 'Parish'?

[Re "Burlington Allows Parish to Demolish Historic Cathedral," January 11, online]: In an email to Seven Days, consultant John Caulo is quoted as saying, "The Parish is pleased the DRB approved the Demolition Permit request and recognised [sic] the Freedom of Religion aspects of the application."

My problem is with the use of the word "parish." A parish is defined as a local church community composed of the members or constituents of a church. Since the cathedral has been closed since 2018, there are no parishioners. Who is Caulo referring to as being so pleased? Was there a vote of "parishioners"?

The reality is that the Catholic diocese, in order to avoid multimillion-dollar lawsuits, has distributed its finances among institutions named after the various existing churches in Vermont. The diocese reserves the right to decide how those funds are used at the local level. In fairness to it, however, no one has ever accused the church of being a democracy.

John Devino


'Nonsecular Sanctuary'

As a business- and homeowner in Burlington, I am writing to voice my disappointment in the decision of the Catholic diocese to demolish the former Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and in the decision by the Development Review Board to approve this application ["Burlington Allows Parish to Demolish Historic Cathedral," January 11, online.]

Although a church owns the building, it is not a church, and Burlington's Development Review Board has made a grave error in treating this project as an active church. Calling the empty building with no altar, no tabernacle lamp and no services a church just to demolish and pave the way for some undisclosed redevelopment is antithetical to the entire process of zoning and ordinances.

Regardless of the eminent loss of desperately needed green space in our downtown and the loss of an internationally recognized modernist landscape, the complete lack of transparency and/or planning for a future use of the land should shock and appall any of the citizens, who would never be allowed to make such a move.

The rules exempting religious organizations and educational institutions are in place specifically to protect those organizations from discrimination. The treatment of this parcel as any other parcel in no way discriminates against the owner, who just happens to be a church.

In light of the overwhelming public support for adaptive reuse and saving this remarkable building and landscape, I hope the owner and their consultant decide to reverse course and work with the community to provide a nonsecular sanctuary that benefits everyone and not some unnamed developer.

Ron Wanamaker


Wanamaker serves on the board of Preservation Burlington.

Rogue vote

I am a member of the Development Review Board of Burlington that last week approved the request by the Catholic church to demolish the beautiful, sacred, elegant Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was not a vote that I agreed with, but it may be that those who voted for approval had the more true interpretation of our zoning regulations.

There is something wrong with our regulations when a 45-year-old church has no protection of its beauty and community presence, but a 50-year-old building is subject to careful analysis to determine its worthiness of preservation.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has noted its obligation to prevent profane or offensive acts from being performed in this once-sacred space, should it find other uses. But is there anything more profane and offensive than its destruction? In its effort to respect the sacredness, it choose to resort to the obscene.

If this building were to be protected by our regulations, then who would bear this burden? Is it a responsibility that we all need to accept as an obligation of our city? Or is it strictly the responsibility of the property owner to protect what we see as a community value?

The sad result is a reminder that the city we experience on a daily basis is a result of our decisions and actions — decisions and actions guided by the vision we have for our city today and in the future.

Brad Rabinowitz


No Laughing Matter

click to enlarge TIM NEWCOMB
  • Tim Newcomb

Kudos to Tim Newcomb for his December 28 cartoon reminding us, as cartoonist Walt Kelly said in a "Pogo" cartoon over 50 years ago: "We have met the enemy and he is us." "Us" as in population numbers and consumption of nature's renewable and nonrenewable resources; "us" as in living under an economic religion that speaks of eternal growth on a finite planet.

Let us all wake up and speak truthfully about the reality of our predicament. Life takes energy to feed and shelter us. The sun is the only true forever source of energy. Photosynthesis is the only process of converting the sun's energy into plant life from mainly water and air. All animal life is plant life-based. Ruin the atmospheric composition of gases and the temperature range for successful photosynthesis, and you have extinguished life as we know it.

Neither technology nor green growth will save us; we need to reduce our numbers and energy and material-intensive lifestyles starting now.

Thank you, Tim, for your periodic reminders.

Wolfger Schneider


Tim Newcomb's cartoon in your December 28 edition raised my ire and compelled me to comment. I find it not only fatalistic and simplistic but also misanthropic.

Until we human beings value ourselves as an inseparable part of the living Earth, we will continue to destroy our only life-support system, upon which we are completely dependent, as an infant is for its mother.

The dominating ideologies of modern civilization create a hierarchy of value with the white male on top and the rest of us beneath, as stepping stones, slaves, servants and soldiers. Women, children, animals, forests and minerals are all fuel for this mad illusion of grandeur.

Until women can equally determine the fate of our bodies, sexuality, reproduction, life ways and fulfillment of our communities' basic human needs, our civilization will continue to flounder.

Until we see ourselves not as consumers but creators as mysterious and wondrous as creation, we will continue questioning the meaning and purpose of our lives.

Until each being on the planet alive today is seen as a gift, with a unique contribution to all of our survival, we will explode and implode in a messy war against one another and life itself.

Pointing to population growth as the problem does not present us with any workable solutions.

Pointing to the several hundred wealthiest and most influential people and corporations that perpetuate endless war and chemical solutions to our human problems would be "great marching orders."

Janice Walrafen


Apt "Newcomb" cartoon on page 7 in the December 28 issue. As Bertolt Brecht wrote: "To those who do not know the world is on fire, I have nothing to say."

Peter LaFlame


Tim Newcomb's cartoon in the December 28 edition of Seven Days represents an unfortunate misunderstanding of the causes of our current ecological crises. The notion that human overpopulation is the primary cause of these crises is indicative of a colonial mentality rooted in the racist neo-Malthusian imagination.

This colonial logic blames people who are the least responsible for our planetary problems, such as those in the Global South who live low-throughput lives of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness in the face of capitalism-induced scarcity. The overpopulation narrative is a well-worn trope used by European and Euro American colonial powers, including the U.S., to globalize the blame for our current social and ecological problems, spreading it across humanity in general, when, in fact, the blame should be placed on a much more specific cause: capitalism and the overconsumptive lifestyles of people in the Global North, especially in the U.S.

Until we recognize that capitalist-colonialism is the root cause of global ecological catastrophe, our policies will remain impotent as we keep recycling these ineffective and xenophobic narratives. The overpopulation narrative only serves to make capitalist-colonial powers feel innocent of their crimes and enables them to continue sidestepping meaningful action that will actually resolve the climate crisis and ecological catastrophe.

Mica McDonald

East Montpelier

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