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Letters to the Editor 

Published August 3, 2011 at 4:01 a.m.

snowflake: A Poem for Bentley Davis Seifer

My 6:15 bus to Middlebury

became inconsequential

the corner of Locust & Hayward

told me so

a tree giving hope amidst pain

cornered me

a paper flake of cuts

made me float and reflect

upon one I did not know

I know him now

Shimmer young boy


We will see you next winter

James Gribbin


(Editor’s note: This poem was submitted following the death of Bentley Davis Seifer, age 12; Week in Review, July 20)

Not a CSA

Kudos to Lauren Ober for her research and reporting on Wellspring and Samara farms [“Sharing the Bounty,” July 20]. These hardworking CSA farmers deserve credit for the endless toiling that they do. I have taken the time out of my busy, 15-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week farming life, however, to point out that the Intervale’s Food Hub is not a CSA.

In a CSA, consumers receive food directly from the farmers. Growers and consumers share the risks and rewards. Members pay in advance to help farmers’ spring cash flow. The Food Hub is an aggregator of wholesale markets. There is nothing “direct” about it. Members do not share in risk or bounty. Farmers do not receive money up front to help them offset costs. Customers are asked to pay in advance, but the farmers don’t get that money; the center does.

We have been in mediation with the Food Hub. We asked them not to set up drop-offs directly across the street from already convenient pick-ups. They refused. We asked them to put a list of CSAs on their website. They refused.?Two hundred and fifty words [word limit for letters to the editor] cannot counter the Food Hub’s preposterous claims.

Competition from another farmer is fair game. Competition from a nonprofit using the feel-good name of the Intervale, the feel-good idea of supporting local farmers and about $300,000 in grant funding to compete against real farmers is a shame.

If you want the truth, ask other CSAs in Chittenden County. Their responses would not be so glowing.

Rachel Nevitt


Nevitt co-owns Full Moon Farm.

Pro Plattsburgh

[Re: “Things to Do in Plattsburgh When You’re Drunk,” July 27]: I would like to suggest that the next time Dan Bolles decides to venture across the lake to Plattsburgh, he does so with more of an open mind. As a former resident of the city and graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh, I feel that trying to compare Plattsburgh to Burlington is absolutely asinine. It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges — yes, sometimes the use of an overused cliché is appropriate.

Oh, and the reason the locals could tell that you were from Vermont was the way you so wonderfully fit the pretentious Burlington stereotype that many Plattburghers have about our neighbors to the east. There is a vibrancy found only in northern New York that encompasses the Plattsburgh community; a person isn’t going to experience that by (1) not making friends with the locals and (2) only visiting a handful of drinking establishments on a hot summer night.

Kassie Fenn

Coxsackie, N.Y.

“Rumors” Has It...

Even though I grew up in Vermont and have lived here off and on my entire adult life, I’ve never been to Plattsburgh. As such, I can’t provide any firsthand insights as Dan Bolles did in his recent I-can’t-believe-they-pay-me-to-do-this drunken diary [“Things to Do in Plattsburgh When You’re Drunk,” July 27].

That being said, I do have a couple of observations. First, after a tremendous amount of buildup and suspense, Dan and the gang never make it to the legendary Rumors nightclub. That’s like the Griswold family never making it to Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Is he holding back for a sequel?

Secondly, I really think Dan owes the people of Plattsburgh an apology for using an annoying mix of smugness and sarcasm to describe our neighbors across the lake. The whole “we should go back to hip ’n’ cool Burlington and get away from these trashy people” attitude grew tiresome, quickly, as did Dan’s repeated reminders that he’s on local TV once a week.

Mike Bertrand


P-Burgh Has History

I was surprised to read that Dan Bolles based his visit to Plattsburgh on the “bars” [“Things to Do in Plattsburgh When You’re Drunk,” July 27]. We are mostly known for our appreciation and deep respect for our historical sites and contributions.

I’m afraid by seeking “bars” he lost sight of the bigger picture over here, for example: The Battle of Plattsburgh, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, ended the final invasion of the northern states during the War of 1812, to name just one.

Surely, had your expedition been intellectual in scope, you may have found more gratifying treasures and had a more satisfying experience, minus the headache.

We have historic museums, monuments, treasured architectural buildings, gardens and so much more.

What we lack on the “bar” scene I’m sure you can find in Burlington; we do.

Maybe when you crossed the lake you missed the boat.

It’s easy to tear a town down and more challenging to seek its attributes. Perhaps another day.

Bonnie Browndorf

Chazy, N.Y.

(Editor’s note: Dan was assigned to write a diary-esque piece about a night on the town — aka barhopping — in Plattsburgh, and that is what he did. Next time we’ll send him to historic sites.)

Funny Figures

[Re: “Is a Conflict of Interest Behind South Burlington’s Development Slowdown?” July 13]: Regarding South Burlington’s population, and just to pick a nit: Sandy Dooley, chair of the city council, correctly figures the population increase between 2000 and 2010 at 20 percent [Feedback, “Dooley Responds,” July 20]. She calculates from a 2000 census count of 17,894. UVM’s Center for Rural Studies reports that the original count of 18,814 was officially reduced.

Andy Bromage, on the other hand, took his 13.2 percent increase from at least one of the census’ reports that either overlooks or predates the “correction.” Ya gotta keep checkin’.

Fred G Hill


On Second Thought...

I would like to amend my comment on Shay Totten’s July 13 “Fair Game” column [Feedback: “Lay Off Hospitals,” July 20]. Mr. Totten had requested budget submission specifics from the hospitals directly. In my haste to meet the deadline for the next Seven Days issue, I had assumed that Mr. Totten had gotten the numbers right. My mistake. Upon further review and discussion, it is clear that both the logic behind his calculations and the conclusions that Mr. Totten draws in his story were way off the mark. Vermont hospitals have a good story to tell and the public hearing on August 4 should prove to be very educational.

Bea Grause

East Montpelier

Grause is president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Next Time, Try Fact-Checking

Regarding David Ellenbogen’s ad hominem attack on me in your July 27 Feedback section [“Health Care Hack?”], where do I begin? First, had Ellenbogen — and Seven Days — bothered to check the secretary of state’s website, he’d find I have never been a “(paid) advocate (some might say hack) for health insurance companies in Vermont.” Never. Ever. (Unlike Shumlin’s BISHCA Commissioner Steve Kimball, who was for a long time paid to lobby for health insurers and hospitals.)

Second, if Ellenbogen had more carefully read my blog (vtreform.wordpress.com), he’d recognize I’m not “an opponent of single-payer health care.” I do explain federal impediments making it impossible to do this in one state. I argue our focus should be cost containment. I’ve tried (and failed) to get the legislature and governors to prove to taxpayers that state government can successfully manage a government-run health plan (e.g., Medicaid, Catamount). I’ve quoted Physicians for a National Health Program saying federal impediments preclude a state implementing single payer. I reported that Commissioner Kimball said Vermont will never get a waiver to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act; single payer is impossible without it.

Third, I don’t have an “organization;” I have a consulting business and a blog. And, yes, it has been sponsored by a company that pools small businesses to provide people like Mr. Ellenbogen with access to more affordable health insurance so he doesn’t have to be uninsured. That is the key to understanding me. I work for purchasers of insurance, not insurance companies. I worked for passage of the mental health parity law. I have fought against Medicaid cost shifting. I’ve been hired by the League of Cities and Towns to challenge rate increases from CIGNA and Blue Cross. I’ve done the same for the State Employee Health Plan and for numerous employers in Vermont. Ask CIGNA, Blue Cross and MVP if they consider me their advocate. Not likely. The only insurer I ever worked for was Kaiser, which hired me to do its first compliance review for the state’s managed-care requirements — in 1998!

My message to Shay Totten was that the trumpeting about hospital budgets being contained, given the exceptions that will be granted, is going to mislead the public into thinking their insurance rates won’t be going up more than a few percentage points. After the allowed exceptions, the “net revenue” increase being reported is an artifact, a made-up number. The hospitals still need to be paid the full increase. And because of the cost shift, government payers won’t be helping to pay any increase.

So, hospitals will increase the rates they charge to your insurance by much more than 4 percent. (Their filings ask for 5 to 11 percent rate increases.) And the insurance company will pass that increase on to Mr. Ellenbogen, whose premiums will go up. But Mr. Ellenbogen heard the Shumlin folks brag that costs were contained at under 4 percent. Boy, will he be mad! (You can see a chart of the requested hospital rate increases on my blog.)

And who will be blamed, Shay asked: Shumlin? The hospitals? No, I replied, the insurers will be blamed. The messengers will be killed. Does that make me a “hack” for the insurers? Or was I actually trying to help Mr. Ellenbogen? You be the judge.

I do wish the name calling could stop. And fact-checking would begin. This is far too serious a public policy issue to be handled this way.

Jeanne Keller


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