Letters to the Editor (12/11/19) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (12/11/19) 

Published December 11, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated December 13, 2019 at 11:49 a.m.

Great Care at EastView

I am an avid reader of Seven Days and generally appreciate the journalism. In reading the article on eldercare homes [Worse for Care: "Little Help," December 4], you mentioned EastView at Middlebury, where I worked for four years until retiring in August. I was in the residential care and memory care neighborhoods three to five days a week. I knew the residential care associates and the nurses, program staff, residents and their families. I want to lift up the dedication and care, day after day and year after year, that the staff gives to residents until the end of their lives. Families are grateful for the devotion and level of care that their members receive.

The goal of the board of directors and the executive director is to provide equitable wages and benefits for the staff. This is a challenge for all health care facilities. The EastView health services management takes best practices seriously, provides training and encourages further certification of staff. No matter how vigilant residential staff are, residents sometimes do things that are not safe that can result in falls. Were they still living, I would be grateful for my parents to live at EastView because I would be confident that they were receiving the very best care in this special residential community.

Johann Nichols


A Closer Look

The article "Worse for Care" [November 27] reminded me that in 2015, the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living proposed and the legislature agreed to eliminate external case management for clients of Choices for Care in enhanced residential care homes. At that time, area agencies on aging, home health agencies and many ERC homes objected. We cited that, for many of these residents, no one else was in the home looking out for them and that it was not realistic, practical or appropriate for the ERC homes to provide objective case management for residents in their own homes.

It is time to reinstate external, objective case management for the Choices for Care residents in ERC homes. This would put in place another set of eyes and ears for the roughly 500 Choices for Care participants in these homes, perhaps staving off future adverse consequences for these residents.

I realize that there are many success stories in homes where some older Vermonters live out their final years; at the same time, there are relatively inexpensive ways to add additional monitoring, which would benefit everyone.

Beth Stern


Stern is executive director of the Central Vermont Council on Aging.

Better Prisons

Surprisingly coincident with your article "Guarded Secrets" [December 4], I learned last week that my cousin in England — recently retired from a long career in social work — has been accepted as a volunteer with the Independent Monitoring Board there.

In Britain, unpaid volunteers with the Independent Monitoring Board, once vetted and trained, have unlimited access to their assigned prison. They monitor to ensure that people in custody are treated fairly and with humanity, listen to prisoners' complaints in confidence, monitor the range and adequacy of programs preparing prisoners for release, ensure that rules are properly applied, challenge things that they are not satisfied with, and take concerns to officials at the Ministry of Justice when necessary.

Just imagine how prison culture might change if independent citizens were present inside our prisons.

Cynthia Norman


Open-Minded Explorer

[Re "Big Colonizer on Campus," November 6]: Following my father's death, I plowed through books he left, and David Hackett Fischer's Champlain's Dream is one of many biographies that he enjoyed.

The author provides a clear, full and fair picture. The advocates for erasing history at Champlain College fail that standard. Born and raised on Shelburne Bay, I appreciate the complex history from before and after European colonial contact, because I read and assess from that historical record.

Here are a few facts that both students and reporter could have been bothered to consider. Samuel de Champlain, while born of the turmoil and European wars following the Protestant Reformation, was noted for his early and strenuous promotion of religious tolerance and cultural tolerance. He befriended and established the first diplomatic relations with Native American tribes, even encouraging "interracial" marriages with tribes that accepted the practice. He adopted three Montagnais children and raised them as his own. As leader, he adopted rationing to save human life both Native and European. And yes, he was a Christian and some bit of an evangelist.

Diplomatic envoys are a sign of respect and humility. Champlain had that in spades for a 17th-century French explorer. His maps and journals were filled with details such as sites rich with wild hemp for supplying ships' stores. He was first a dreamer of the epoch, showing unusual vision and compassion at times. Imperfect and human.

William R. Moore


Truth to Powerwall

[Re "Charging Forward," November 27] by Kevin McCallum buzzed with marketing narrative, but the last line — a quote stating, "That's a no-brainer" — came off as a static shock. In progressive speak, "no-brainer" is the lead-in for sketchy schemes that don't pan out. The line can only mean two things: The person saying it has no brain, or that person doesn't want you to use yours.

Large lithium-ion batteries of the type discussed, the Tesla Powerwall marketed by Green Mountain Power, and the monster no-name megawatt battery storage system installed in Hinesburg are liked caged animals: safe until something happens. The "vibrant renewable energy economy" remained silent about the catastrophic battery storage facility fire in Surprise, Ariz., this past April 19, while similar projects in the article were on Vermont utility drawing boards.

I don't get this. It used to be one Powerwall served a household; now it's two? The writer walked us from past to present scenarios. Initially, a Powerwall rented for $15 a month. For new customers the two Powerwalls will cost $30 to $50 a month.

Vermont Electric Co-op's Rebecca Towne claims the new battery system in Hinesburg will enable VEC to give members money back. In the meantime, VEC is filing for a 3.29 percent rate increase. VEC rents its new battery system, as well — yet the article informs us the rental rate is proprietary. The tried-and-true conventional power grid holds these "pricey" renewable energy bells and whistles together at substantial costs for all ratepayers.

Roger Donegan


Find a Freyne

I have watched with increasing admiration as Seven Days has evolved from essentially a local "advertiser" to a truly alternative voice — ubiquitous throughout Vermont. Well-written, insightful articles about our community have, most often, provided me with important information.

I therefore deeply regret the elimination of your political pages, which originated with Peter Freyne's Inside Track column. Freyne's irreverent views, taking down politicians a peg or two, elevated Seven Days above the usual insipid bubblegum in the print medium. The variations that followed Freyne's sad death didn't quite fill his shoes — although Shay Totten came close.

I argue to reinstate such a feature with someone who has the courage and critical thinking to surgically cut through the usual pabulum that passes for news in the Trumpian garbage heap. I am well aware that since Seven Days is a freebie and you rely on the business community for advertising revenue, toes will necessarily be heavily trod upon by truthful reporting, and those offended will perhaps withdraw their business — but that is the price of being a truth-teller.

Al Salzman


Whose HOWL?

[Re "HOWLing at the Moon," November 20]: Chelsea Edgar's article about HOWL, the women's collective in Huntington, is called a story, but whose story is it — the reporter's or HOWL's? Was it intended to be a report about a Vermont community? Or is it an opinion piece? Or a personal essay?

I contend that the article is more of an opinion piece. In this time when we (hopefully) are all working toward speaking and writing in an inclusive and nonjudgmental way about other people and communities, we don't need a talented newspaper reporter using judgmental language ("two squeaky-cute young queers"; "its own woo-woo reward"; "such are the complexities of hanging out with radical queers") nor an attitude of knowing better than someone else ("I'm both deeply skeptical and stupidly hopeful that a perfect, or even just good, place can exist"; "my friends and I prefer..."). A number of Edgar's statements include the word "seem," which I read as "seems to me" — i.e., an opinion.

I appreciate Edgar's willingness to immerse herself in situations in order to report on them. But please, if reporting on a story, keep to the facts. Keep your personal opinions and biases out of it. If it's meant to be an opinion piece, please make that clear. Don't mix personal opinion and experience with reporting. We, the public, need our news media reporters to hold themselves to a high standard always, and especially at times like these when others do not.

Cynthia Liepmann


Hippie on HOWL

I'm writing to offer congratulations on Chelsea Edgar's excellent cover story, "HOWLing at the Moon" [November 20]. Having lived in Vermont since the '50s and participated in the hippie and back-to-the-land movements of the '60s and '70s, I appreciate her nuanced account, which, thankfully, wasn't burdened with a particular agenda but instead offered keen observation and reflection, allowing the reader to ponder unanswered questions brought to light.

Nick McDougal


More on New Americans

I have just proudly read the feature you have done on Malinga Mukunda ["A New American Finds Purpose, and 'Family,' in Caregiving," December 4]. Mukunda has been one of the best students I have had at Community College of Vermont in Winooski. She was not only a great student, but a wonderful person ready to assist her classmates, and it was obvious that she helps a lot of people in the community.

It would be great if you would continue to publish on New Americans in our state — I remember reading other past articles on people who have relocated here from different parts of the world. There are many with a wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences to contribute to their new home country and communities. Their past stories and current commitment say a lot about people who have had to leave many things behind and start a new life in the United States.

Gilberto Diaz Santos


Plan B?

[Re Off Message: "Tax-Free Shop for Military Members to Close December 13," December 3]: This place would make a great camp store, if the Vermont Army National Guard leadership supported taking vacant land — like many other bases do — and providing camping spaces. A simple business plan with the guard could take land across from the exchange, add water lines and power, and turn vacant buildings into bath and shower areas. With a low fee, as at bases around New England, you've got a great resource for active and retired veterans. Basic rules apply, and seasonal availability would make this a very popular site.

I would gladly volunteer to set up a business plan, review the site, provide policy and identify resources to help make this a success. Contact me if you want to be a part of this! I own my own Class C RV and travel to bases all over the country. It doesn't take much to do, and the rewards are many. The training by active members installing equipment wouldn't be far from the same type of services provided to third-world countries we support. I'd like to see a pilot program started, with the support of local leadership.

Thomas Fraga


Fraga is a retired member of the Vermont guard.

Rail On!

The "Burlington City Councilors Concerned by Waterfront Rail Proposals" article [Off Message, November 5] is hilarious!

NIMBYs of every stripe, including high income, are up in arms over the railroad's proposal to actually use the land that they own! Oh, my sides! 

Apparently, when the railroad grants conditional access to their taxed rights of way, they're the bestest friends ever, but when they want to use it, well, that's different!

Whines one condo owner in the Wing building (which, by the way, is decorated with, among other things, a railroad motif): Use of the right of way will make his home "uninhabitable." Sez the guy whose home is in an industrial section of town. Next to a train station. And train tracks.

Meanwhile, back at Burlington City Hall, those holding the reins of power grapple with possible relocation of a part of the bike path that's built on railroad bed. Well, all of it is built on rail bed, but that's beside the point. And, once again, no money to service the change. One would have thought they learned a lesson after Tropical Storm Irene.

Keep those funny stories coming!

Christopher Maloney


Some Science

The irony of ["Anomaly Detected," October 30] is that the investigators themselves overflow with unexamined assumptions — starting with their belief that these phenomena are caused by the spirits of dead people. Paranormal Investigators of New England director Betty Miller's clients think her team is scientific. Are they using falsifiable hypotheses? Controls? Statistical analysis?

I've always been intrigued by the scientific investigation of the so-called paranormal. In college, I studied the Society for Psychical Research, started in 1882 by scientists determined to study paranormal phenomena empirically. Marie Curie, William James, Carl Jung and Sir Oliver Lodge were members. They wouldn't approve of Miller's baseless statements, like "something's going to answer your knock," "when we die, we'll all know the answer" or, when her equipment didn't pick up anything, "whatever's here is pretty benign." The total absence of evidence indicates the emotional state of a spirit she hasn't detected? That's enough to set off alarm bells for any scientist.

I don't assume every single thing Miller investigates is a hoax or a hallucination, and I wish the scientific community didn't automatically dismiss all unexplained occurrences as such; we're too inclined to believe we have all natural phenomena basically figured out. The ghost-hunter TV shows that Miller cites as a boon to her profession are exactly what give a bad name to any serious scientist interested in this field. But there are still those who try: For actual scientific attempts to study the paranormal, check out the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia.

Sonia DeYoung


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