Letters to the Editor (8/3/22) | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Letters to the Editor (8/3/22) 

Published August 3, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

'You're Crushing It!'

It took me over an hour to read your latest issue [July 27]! Maybe I'm a slow reader, but damn, y'all are doing such in-depth work! Over and over and over.

Even better, I can read it on paper in the early morning fresh air on my back porch with a cup of coffee — my eyes appreciate the break from staring at a screen.

The endless effort your team puts into researching every story makes it stand out from the crowd of news sources these days that merely skim the surface of any event or issue. You're crushing it!

I realized it's truly time for me to pay for a Super Reader subscription — and hope others do the same to ensure this source of real news on paper doesn't end. Thank you!

Ginger Vieira

Essex Junction

Lawn Gone

[Re "Patriotism Reimagined," July 27]: While I enjoyed reading the article on Bill McKibben's new book, The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon, I felt compelled to add a snippet of American obsession that many fellow scientists fear is driving loss of biodiversity in our human-inhabited ecosystems. That factor is lawns!

Why we still have this obsession to clear-cut our properties, mostly by way of high-emissions, fossil fuel-consuming machines is beyond me. You can trace the roots of the lawn back to European royalty, where it was a status symbol signifying that if you were wealthy enough, you could create a space of monoculture grasses where one didn't need to grow fruit trees or have gardens to help sustain your local community.

This needs to go the way of the dodo. We are in an insect apocalypse, in a climate catastrophe and seeing pollution going into our waterways, causing cyanobacterial blooms. An easy first step would be to encourage native biodiversity on your property and do your best to, incrementally, create native habitat to support increased biodiversity.

Jon Richardson

Shelburne

Another Kind of Ice Cream

[Re "Field Guide to Fancy-Pants Ice Cream, Gelato and Creemees in Burlington," July 27]: Just want to give a shout-out to nearby Offbeat Creemee at 62 Pine Street in Winooski (at the Myers Memorial Pool). Talk about fancy-pants! As Offbeat's website asserts, it saw "changing communities and dietary needs" and "set out to create a more inclusive kind of ice cream." No dairy, eggs or refined sugar — just creamy coconut and oats for a rich flavor and smooth texture. Lots of funky flavors, toppings, sauces, "mylkshakes," kombucha floats, sundaes, cold-brews ... OMGoddess!

Suzie McCoy

Hinesburg

Not Just a Name

[Re Feedback: "'Public' Opinion," July 13]: I must agree with Thomas Weiss, who, in his letter about the formerly named Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS, decried the renaming of the combined broadcasting entity as, simply, Vermont Public. That new name does sound a bit jarring and certainly incomplete to my ear every time I hear it. However, as I am a "one S" Weis, and Thomas' last name sports two esses, who am I to complain about something being incomplete? And as far as the new name being a "theft of the concept of the Vermont public," well, all I can say is that I appreciate my fellow similarly named citizen's concern.

He does make a good point; nonetheless, I think it's an OK price to pay for such a great media outlet, whatever it might be called. The information and entertainment I receive from listening to our state's public radio station each week is priceless — and the very same can be said about my weekly reading of this excellent newspaper.

Russ Weis

Fletcher

What Government Could Be Doing

[Re Feedback: "Bernie Blew It," July 20]: I concur, Joe Chase. Sen. Bernie Sanders joined the blue team that pretends to fight the red; meanwhile, Americans suffer in austerity.

As F-35s roar overhead, they remind us that our federal government could be investing in health care for 335 million Americans, addressing our wealth inequity issues, and working on energy and climate solutions. Our congressmen choose instead to employ party tactics, distracting us from the fact that, right now, they could be opening wide the federal purse and releasing its power — the likes of what we saw with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Instead, they're handing out table scraps — just enough to set our social programs up for failure and future takeover by corporate interests.

Speaking of, Bernie and our medical leaders realize that our national health care system lacks capacity and underserves patient needs, the result of four-plus decades of strategic defunding and privatization. Yet they repeatedly tell Vermonters we receive "quality" care and ask us to believe they can cut costs and make patient flow more efficient without risking our safety, while continuing to deliver "quality" care.

Ask anyone, and you'll hear horrific patient experiences of medical harm and poor-quality care. Americans deserve far better. Health care staffers say if one of their own ever needs care, they'd advocate for them — knowing that their policies and practices prioritize ledger balances over patient safety and quality care.

Bernie's actions speak volumes. He's done fighting for us 99 percent.

Cheryl Van Epps

Essex

No Word on Uvalde

One day last week, as I came from swimming laps, I picked up a copy of Seven Days [Primary Voters' Guide, June 29]. Relaxed from the swim, I expected to enjoy the weekly, but, as it turned out, not that issue. No, it was awful.

Why? Because our country has now entered a grisly time when little children — and older ones, as well — are slaughtered in their school classrooms by sick men with guns. Did we — do we — think our classrooms are safe from sick men with guns? In the Texas and Connecticut school slaughters, the killers walked through unlocked doors. Not one candidate profiled in Seven Days spoke a syllable about safety and security for children inside Vermont schools.

I went to other papers and to political ads on TV. Ditto. Not a word about protecting children in Vermont schools from those with guns who might set out to kill children.

We know that, in Texas, law enforcement rushed to the school but then spent over an hour trying to decide what to do. Meanwhile, the assassin went about killing 19 children and two teachers. Is this response of Texas law enforcement what our candidates propose to mimic?

Dennis Delaney

Charlotte

Delaney is a former state senator.

Editor's note: Seven Days covered local responses to the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in two stories: "Vermont's Gun-Control Record Scrutinized After Massacres in Texas, New York," May 26, and "Prepared for the Worst? Recent Threats of Violence Renew Conversations About School Safety in Vermont," June 22.


Know Your Candidates

[Re Primary Voters' Guide, June 29]: Vermont rarely ousts a sitting federal member of Congress. Despite Sen. Patrick Leahy's pro-war career in an alleged lefty liberal state, he has remained in office for a lifetime.

The decision of who should succeed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch in the fall is a big decision for Vermont. Do you know where your choice stands on issues that matter to you? The economy, Ukraine, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, voting rights, transgender ideology, parental rights in school, free speech and bodily autonomy for all, including but not exclusive to reproductive rights?

Do you know enough about these issues, or just what the talking heads on CNN and Fox broadcast every day? Do you know that a mental health diagnosis of gender dysphoria can include a protocol that offers the sterilization of a child as treatment? Do you agree that the word "mother" should be scrubbed from our language? Have you read Gender Queer, a book that can be found in some school libraries? It is easily read for free on the Amazon Kindle. I was shocked. I see this book as an attack on women and girls.

We have candidates running for this lifelong position in Congress who believe many of these things are OK. Do you want to support them if you do not agree with their positions?

Peter Garritano

Charlotte

Kitty Toll Stands Out

So far, coverage of the lieutenant governor's primary has focused on the candidates' résumés and fundraising efforts ["Open-Seat Season," June 22; Primary Voters' Guide, June 29]. Given the unusual circumstances voters face this year, it is prudent to dig deeper.

These unusual circumstances are the exodus of 41 Vermont House of Representatives members (27 percent) and 10 Vermont Senate members (33 percent) ["Feeling the Burnout: A Wave of Retirements Washes Over the Pandemic-Weary Vermont Legislature," May 25].

Of greater significance is that the following nine House committees will have new chairs in 2023: Appropriations, Agriculture and Forestry, Education, Energy and Technology, Government Operations, Health Care, Human Services, Judiciary, and Ways and Means. Two Senate committee chairs are retiring. In combination with the other retirees, this is a colossal loss of knowledge and experience about how our government operates.

Within this context, Kitty Toll's 12 years in the House, including 10 on the Appropriations Committee and four as its chair, make her the best match for the job. As Appropriations Committee chair, she learned government programs inside and out — their revenue sources, services, and investments and expenditures. No other candidate brings this much-needed expertise to the table.

Another area in which Toll stands out is geography. She is a born, raised, educated and lifelong resident of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. She is only the second Democrat to represent Danville in Vermont's House. Chittenden County should not have a lock on most statewide offices in our diverse state.

Toll is also best prepared to step in as governor should the need arise. Toll is best suited for the job of lieutenant governor during these challenging times.

Sandy Dooley

South Burlington

Meet Mudge

As ["Senate Shuffle," July 20] suggests, our legislature is composed of people from many differing backgrounds and points of view. I urge readers to learn more about Lewis Mudge, who is a quality candidate from Charlotte running for the Senate in the Chittenden Southeast district.

Lewis is committed to public service and bettering our world, both as a selectboard member in Charlotte and in his professional life as a human rights activist in central Africa. (After many years in Africa, he is now doing this work from home.)  

Lewis is open, approachable and smart. He knows how to compromise and is adept at resolving conflict. He is an advocate for much-needed additional affordable housing in our state, climate action bills that help protect our forests and open space, finding ways to bolster more affordable childcare, and many more issues facing Vermont. He supports conservation and the fundamentals of Act 250 while acknowledging the need for more housing in planned areas. 

It is always a challenge to run a campaign against three seasoned members of our legislature, but Lewis has a lot to offer and would make a great senator. He has a young family and knows well the issues that face state residents in rural Vermont. I think he would offer a fresh perspective to the Senate, and I urge Chittenden Southeast residents to vote for him!

Frances Foster

Charlotte

Chittenden Helped

A recent letter to the editor was headlined "Who Is Tom Chittenden?" [Feedback, July 27]. I can answer that question.

Sen. Chittenden is a responsive, caring senator. I wrote to him last winter noting that the federal SECURE Act of 2019, effective January 1, 2020, made changes to federal tax law surrounding 529 educational accounts that would allow up to $10,000 per student to be a qualified withdrawal to pay for student loans. This federal change meant that citizens whose families weren't affluent enough to avoid student loans while they were in school could at least take advantage of changes in their post-schooling financial status to get a small tax break.

Statutes governing Vermont's 529 fund (VHEIP) were never updated to allow any loan payments to be qualified withdrawals. This seemed unfair, since the wealthiest among us might not generate many student loans, but most students from lesser means certainly will. The lack of Vermont statutes aligning with federal law seemed to disadvantage those students.

When I wrote to Sen. Chittenden about this discrepancy, he worked very quickly to see what the story was. He worked to develop the language to go into a bill and was able to put together a bill to amend the state laws for VHEIP and got it passed, fixing that issue in less than months.

So, who is Tom Chittenden? A responsive, hardworking senator who acts to help working families and students do something about the high cost of college education. He will have my vote on August 9, and I hope you consider supporting him, too.

David C. Jones

Jericho


PAC Man

[Re "Congressional Countdown," July 13]: As we know, former governor Howard Dean, longtime lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industries and legendary super PAC bundler for the national Democratic Party, has endorsed Molly Gray for Vermont's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dean was the king of bundling super PACs for the Hillary Clinton campaign and continues to work with Washington, D.C., lobbyists to raise money for the national Democratic Party. How Dean could criticize Becca Balint's campaign for the support it has received from a smaller PAC representing the LGBTQ community rings of pure, crass hypocrisy.

For Dean to talk about "dark money" when he has followed the same script is disingenuous. No wonder he stumbled and embarrassed himself when asked recently in a VTDigger.org interview to explain his comments.

Of equal significance has been Gray's enthusiasm to accept a campaign endorsement and money from the former governor. Instead of focusing on the key issues of our state and nation, Gray is now following the old, tiresome negative campaigning strategy about an issue that is really hers to explain, a sure sign of a desperate candidate.

Vermonters can see through this smoke screen. For someone who keeps telling us that she was born in Vermont, raised on a farm and has Vermont values, Gray's negative messaging is not a Vermont tradition.

Gray needs to be transparent and explain why she has accepted the endorsement from a legendary PAC bundler who also lobbies for the pharmaceutical industry.

John Bossange

South Burlington

'The Right Experience'

Heading into the upcoming Democratic primary for U.S. Congress, one thing is clear: Experience matters. And after reading Seven Days' overview of the race ["Congressional Countdown," July 13], I'm convinced that Molly Gray has the right range of experience to be the most effective legislator for Vermont in Washington, D.C.

We need to nominate the candidate who is best equipped to translate Vermont values into federal law. Molly has worked in the congressional offices of Peter Welch and Patrick Leahy, in foreign nations defending humanitarian principles, and in Montpelier as an assistant attorney general and lieutenant governor.

As Seven Days' piece noted, the candidates are not that different when it comes to policy. Therefore, it's most important that we nominate the candidate with the right experience to deliver on those policies.

On a personal note, as someone with multiple sclerosis, I am especially drawn to Molly's own struggles caring for a mother with MS — this experience is at the core of her passionate advocacy for paid leave.

I am confident that, utilizing the skills and experience she has gained at each step of her career, Molly will be ready on day one to transform an understanding of Vermont's challenges into tangible action benefiting all corners of our beloved state.

Darrell Laplant

St. Albans

Molly: The Moderate Choice

I want to thank Seven Days for its excellent articles concerning the candidates for U.S. Congress ["Congressional Countdown," July 13] and the candidates in the state legislative elections ["Open-Seat Season," June 22]. I found the articles very informative and helpful in confirming my choice of candidates.

I strongly believe any Vermonter who has been a voter for more than one or two elections does not want to have their decision fed by outside PAC money, regardless of whom the PAC supports. I, for one, do not want to send to Washington, D.C., another Progressive who will sit with the Progressive Caucus in Congress.

There is one candidate who most assuredly will sit with the Progressive Caucus: Becca Balint, for whom I will not vote. I believe Vermonters would be better represented by a more moderate representative, and I believe Gray is the person I will vote for.

Vincent Thibault

Burlington

Balint Is Authentic

As ["Congressional Countdown," July 13] showed, Becca Balint is authentic! Her creative and comfortable ads are reflective of her style — relaxed and confident. Becca's life experiences suggest she's embraced a host of challenges with candor and connectedness. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce and Mr. Charlie Frazier of Huntington have said it best: Becca's refreshing Vermont perspective and her ability to accomplish are needed now in Washington, D.C.

Ruth Furman

Jericho

A Vote Against Name-Calling

I read Seven Days' summary of the contest for the U.S. House with interest ["Congressional Countdown," July 13]. The piece was incredibly thorough but failed to mention a key moment from this campaign season that I found illustrative.

On May 21, while attending the Vermont Progressive Party's state committee meeting in an effort to secure its endorsement, Becca Balint stated, "It would be an absolute catastrophe if the candidate representing us on the left was Molly Gray. She is a corporatist Democrat."

First, this was quite an assertion to make, given that the two candidates, by their own admission, do not differ meaningfully on the policies they would support in Congress. Even worse, calling Molly a corporatist is a ridiculous mischaracterization of who she is. Molly has spent her entire career in service to others working for nonprofits, fighting for human rights and, most recently, serving Vermonters in state government. She grew up on a small farm in rural Vermont and brings Vermont values to everything she does.

What I can say, having known Molly, is that we would be so fortunate to have someone of her character, courage and integrity representing us in Congress. It is the divisive rhetoric and name-calling exhibited by Becca that in no small part drive the current dysfunction in federal government, where nothing moves forward. You won't get this from Molly; she will bring people together. I hope that Vermont voters will reject Becca's negative politics and name-calling rhetoric on August 9 and vote for Molly.

Gabe Arnold

Burlington

A Democrat's View

I am a lifelong Democrat. The $600,000 of special interest independent expenditure money that has come into Vermont from outside the state for the benefit of Molly Gray's opponent has no place in our primary elections ["PACs Pour More Than $600,000 Into U.S. House Race for Balint," July 25]. I accept that PACs will be a part of our general elections as long as Citizens United stands, but Vermonters want to determine which primary candidates in our Democratic Party go on to run in the general election.

I am supporting Molly because I believe she is the best candidate to represent Vermont in Washington, D.C. She has spent her life in public service. Molly is an attorney who graduated from Vermont Law School and has broad life experience that informs her worldview, including living and working in Europe and Africa for the International Committee of the Red Cross, working for Rep. Peter Welch and Sen. Patrick Leahy, and serving as an assistant attorney general in Vermont and now as lieutenant governor.

Molly understands how to navigate the legal issues that are fundamental to our democracy and will be able to be effective on day one as Vermont's first congresswoman. She has said she will work with anyone to get things done for Vermont. With Sen. Leahy's retirement, this is exactly what we need.

Get out and vote for Molly — it is no time to sit back and not engage in this very important election.

Arthur Berndt

Sharon


Safe With Kenney

[Re "Cross Examination: Will Public Safety Worries End Progressive Prosecutor Sarah George's Sweeping Reforms?" July 27]: As a woman of color raising my biracial child in Vermont — and as person with a decade of sobriety and with professional and familial experience with mental health issues who has lived experience as a victim of crime and domestic violence — I am supporting Ted Kenney on August 9.

Why? Because, as someone who believes in criminal justice reform and experiences the impacts of many of the issues that our incumbent state's attorney discusses, I've grown increasingly concerned with Sarah George's practices and prosecutorial trends that affect us all. Compassion without accountability or follow-through becomes enabling and permissive.

We all deserve to feel safe where we live, work and raise our children. But safety doesn't exist in a vacuum. It arises out of collaboration and conversation, both of which do not take place right now.

We are hearing it from our first responders, firefighters, even the nurses at the emergency department. They are saying they are being endangered at work, and our communities are being endangered by the lack of collaboration with the state's attorney's office.

Despite the incorrect claims of his opponent, Ted cares about reform, race, mental health, crime victims and substance abuse. As do I. I am tired and heartbroken from seeing crime victims be revictimized, I am frightened for my child's future here, and I am frustrated by policies and prosecutorial decisions being made in the name of certain demographics that do not represent what we actually want or need.

Rachel Lawler

Jericho

Stick With Sarah

[Re "Cross Examination: Will Public Safety Worries End Progressive Prosecutor Sarah George's Sweeping Reforms?" July 27]: Sarah George is a top-notch state's attorney, nationally recognized. If we reject and blame her for difficult times, the difficulties will only deepen.

Communities and democracy all over Vermont and the nation have in recent years been assailed and diminished by misinformation. It would be unfortunate and costly if misinformation were to prevail in this race. Seven Days' reporting on the Sarah George-Ted Kenney contest highlights how misinformation can spread infectiously and come to be seen as the truth.

If people are on edge about public safety at the moment, common sense tells us Yes, this is unsettling, but our state's attorney is hardly the source of the problem.

Kenney has been pursuing this job for some time, and it's understandable, though not especially admirable, that in a tumultuous period his campaign seeks to leverage public anxiety over public safety to suggest that George is somehow "soft on crime." His platform cleverly endorses and smears his opponent simultaneously by calling for "Criminal Justice Reform and Safe Streets." This is an opportunistic but empty pitch and a cheap shot. He has no case — and that's exactly what a state's attorney must have.

Incumbents typically have an advantage — not always deserved — but in this race, George has earned our continuing support.

George is skillfully doing the difficult work that needs to be done to make the administration of justice more equitable and effective. Her work should move forward. We should stay the course.

Michael Long

Burlington

'There is Something Wrong...'

[Re "Cross Examination: Will Public Safety Worries End Progressive Prosecutor Sarah George's Sweeping Reforms?" July 27]: There is something wrong when our state's attorney, Sarah George, has three of her murder dismissal cases refiled by former Vermont attorney general T.J. Donovan.

There is something wrong when our beautiful Queen City gets transformed into Graffiti City because George repeatedly fails to go after hard-core taggers.

There is something wrong when George publicly comments that if she does her job right, her position will one day become obsolete.

There is something wrong when one's personal political philosophy colors one's judgment about the true intent of repeat offenders.

Please join me in ending our five-year experiment in coddling criminals and denigrating cops by voting for Ted Kenney in the Democratic primary on August 9.

Jack Scully

Colchester

George 'Now More Than Ever'

I read the article ["Cross Examination: Will Public Safety Worries End Progressive Prosecutor Sarah George's Sweeping Reforms?" July 27], and I was disappointed to hear Sarah have to address the disinformation being spread in the community about her policies and practices — again.

I feel compelled to correct the record. Cases are being prosecuted. As a criminal defense attorney, I interact daily with George's office. Any narrative that implies that her office does not prosecute criminal activity in Chittenden County is simply false. I encourage anyone with concerns to come and sit in the public courtroom any weekday and witness it for themself.

I have worked with George for more than a decade. Her policies are well researched, and they aim to address real inequities in the justice system. They are working. Criminal defendants and victims are better able to amend, heal and move forward from judicial involvement now than they were before she was Chittenden County state's attorney.

George believes that changes in our criminal justice system are required. On that point, we strongly agree. Criminal justice in America is broken. We need funding that presently goes to excessive policing and incarceration to be reallocated to new programs to create better access to low-barrier housing, appropriate medical support for mental health and substance-use disorders, and better reintegration plans for those returning to the community from prison.

We need Sarah George as Chittenden County state's attorney now more than ever.

Jessica Burke

Winooski

A Case for Ted Kenney

The article ["Crime Seen," June 25], showing increased aggravated assaults, burglaries and shootings in Burlington, reinforced why this liberal Democrat is voting for Ted Kenney for Chittenden County state's attorney in the August 9 Democratic primary. Statistics demonstrate that the incumbent's policies are failing.

As a former civil rights investigator, prison educator, mental health organization administrator and restorative justice volunteer, I recognize the paramount importance of dismantling systemic racism. My lived experience, as a first-generation American who grew up working-class, required challenging systemic barriers.

Ted lost a beloved brother to substance-use disorder and mental illness; Ted does not check his compassion at the door. He's committed to criminal justice reform with compassion and sensitivity to the various isms, including racism. His work as a defense attorney, leadership role in the Vermont Attorney General's Office, and service on Dismas of Vermont and Joint Urban Ministry Project boards bring a weighed perspective in this transformative time.

As a downtown Burlington worker, walker and bus rider, I've witnessed a marked shift in civility and safety. I was 10 feet away in a store when a customer yelled at a shoplifter to put down the items he was attempting to steal. I witnessed a fellow bus rider proudly holding up items he said he'd just stolen from a store. This is not how civilized society operates; such behaviors weaken our social fabric.

Housing, substance-use treatment and mental health treatment are desperately needed, as is thoughtful accountability. Ted proposes a compassionate, measured approach to foster equitable safety and justice.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Burlington

'Law and Order' Is Not the Answer

It's no surprise that nearly 50 Vermont lawyers have endorsed incumbent Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George ["Cross Examination: Will Public Safety Worries End Progressive Prosecutor Sarah George's Sweeping Reforms?" July 27]. The U.S. has more people in prison than any other country in the world. It is not a place for rehabilitation. The health care system in this country has never been good. The mental health care system has been even more underfunded and challenged. Support to help people with addictions is also grossly underfunded. The answer is not more "law and order" and punishment.

George is a visionary on how to change the system for the better. Our society needs to evolve in a different way for things to change. Yes, we are at a difficult point. The pandemic has exacerbated all the problems. But mental health care and drug addiction support must be ramped up. I hope that Sarah George wins the primary on August 9.

Matthew Ennis

Winooski

Prosecutorial Inconsistency

I would like to add a free-speech element to the article ["Cross Examination: Will Public Safety Worries End Progressive Prosecutor Sarah George's Sweeping Reforms?" July 27]. Sarah George, Ted Kenney's competitor for Chittenden County state's attorney, is provably completely arbitrary and capricious on issues of free speech.

George did not prosecute the vandal, Eric Maier, who destroyed the faces of Ethan Allen and Samuel de Champlain on the downtown mural in 2018 ["American Vandal: Burlington Musician Eric Maier Reflects on His Public Crime — and the New Album It Inspired," October 23, 2019]. Rather, George coddled Maier in a secretive community justice center process.

George's coddling of Maier showed contempt for the First Amendment and free speech, especially when contrasted with her earlier attempted prosecution of Wesley Richter for speech, which was dismissed in 2018. 

That case involved the University of Vermont student's allegedly offensive statements in a phone conversation in the university's library. Judge David Fenster found the witness statements unreliable, so it was not clear what he said. George bemoaned that the student was not found guilty of a hate crime. But he could not have been, since there was no crime.

Contrast George's attempted prosecution of Richter with her failure to prosecute Maier.

Maier based his crime on hatred of free speech and escaped any real punishment, because George is a prosecutor who clearly believes that free speech should be prosecuted and destruction of free speech should be coddled.

Norman Arthur Fischer

Burlington

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