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My photo of Burlington city councilors checking the Red Sox game in the middle of F-35 testimony inspired an Off Message blog post entitled “In Burlington City Hall, Eyes on the Ball” [October 29] and also a short write-up in last week’s Last 7. In both, Norm Blais told Seven Days reporter Charles Eichacker he just quickly checked the score. In fact, he was on his computer checking scores and email for most of the latter part of the meeting. Karen Paul was doing likewise. I made several rounds of the mezzanine, and, every time I came back, there they were, diligently surfing the web. ESPN, MLB, Facebook, Gmail, texting on the phone, checking stock markets, back to the game. 

It wasn’t just them. The mayor and city attorney were both online, and one over-the-edge shot caught while I was futzing with the flash shows Scott Schaffer’s computer displaying hockey. Was that why he was having so many “technical difficulties” with the timekeeping?

While Councilor Sharon Bushor was introducing her amendment, was Norm paying attention or busy with Gmail? When Councilor Rachel Siegel introduced her amendment, was the reason that Councilor Paul voted no that she was distracted checking Facebook? When I asked Councilor Tom Ayres what the score was after the game, he laughed and asked if I could really see what they were doing. Maybe if he had been paying as much attention to the debate he would have at least voted for the nonbinding request.

The whole thing had the foul stink of a dog-and-pony show, there to give the illusion of democracy while the council does whatever it intended from the start. President Joan Shannon made it clear that she didn’t want the testimony to affect anyone’s decision, threatening to censor opponents if people didn’t conform to her narrow definition of free speech and chastising Councilor Bushor for not telling her before the meeting that she was going to add an amendment. How can our government represent us when the people are systematically ignored?  Don’t we deserve better?

Ben Eastwood

Montpelier

Translation Needed

I live in Essex Junction and love shopping at Namaste [“Bringing Home the Bok Choy,” October 23]. It frustrates me, however, that I have no idea what most of the stuff is and how to use it. I wish they labeled the produce in English and, better yet, offered recipes. Finally, I would love it if they offered cooking classes. I bet their sales would soar!

Dawn McGinnis

Essex Junction

Whose Porch?

I read with great interest [“Is Vermont’s Front Porch Forum Moderating Civil Discussion — or Censoring Free Speech?” October 23]. The simple answer is: yes, they censor. A private citizen may unilaterally decide what to publish as well as to decide who can speak to whom. Key points to consider:

• If you are not a customer, then you are the product. FPF makes money via advertising and sells based on numbers.

• When I subscribed, I was not able to connect with neighbors I could see out my window — artificial boundaries.

• The system is not open, nor transparent, yet taxpayers are footing the bill. If bidding on government projects, they need to be more transparent on pay and policies.

• The FPF privacy policy contains the words: “A message from a member that is accepted for publication...”

• Also: “FPF does not sell its members’ email addresses to others for use in spam or bulk-email solicitations.” OK, so what exactly do they do with the email addresses? What if there’s a change of control of the company?

I consider Vermont to be my community, not just Williston, CVU district or Chittenden County. The current structure is actually creating micro-communities as well as the censorship issue. Don’t even get me started on the fact that it is using email as the delivery mechanism.

Mitch Lieberman

Williston

Geospace Age

First, I would like to thank Kathryn Flagg for writing [“Broken Records? Vermont Takes Its First Steps in the Direction of ‘Open Data,’” October 16]! I do want to point out a few things that were not included in the article. The event referred to was the Vermont Open Data Summit held on October 8 and hosted by the Vermont Center for Geographic Information. All of the people quoted were presenters or attendees at that event.

Also, Vermont was actually an early adopter of the “open data” concept, at least in relation to geospatial data. VCGI was created 20 years ago by the state to ensure that digital public mapping data would be easily accessible by public and private entities. As a result, the state has reduced duplication of effort and stimulated economic development. We hope that a wider variety of state (public) data is made accessible in coming years!

Leslie Pelch

Bolton

Developer’s Mantra

[Re “Demand for Urban Housing Brings Building Projects to Burlington’s Old North End,” October 16]: The mantras of housing developers that “city regulations make it hard for builders to make even a modest profit in Burlington”; that they are “not going to make money on the inclusionary zoning units” or on “retail space”; and that they are “making just enough on the rest of the project to justify doing it” are not just boring, they are neither credible nor useful. They should be put to rest.?If developers want to be believed, and if they want — as they should — to be accepted as legitimate partners in the equitable growth of our city, they will have to move the housing costs discussion to a factual basis and work toward fair and rational solutions. If they continue to insist that costs are the problem, they should give us their data and show us their books.

Louis Mannie Lionni

Burlington

Clarification

A blog post about last Monday’s Burlington City Council meeting that was excerpted in the paper’s Last 7 feature [October 30] gave the impression that F-35 opponent Doug Dunbebin used his two-minute speaking opportunity to play a recording of the noise generated by the next-generation fighter plane. In fact, he spoke for two minutes and then started the recording, in defiance of time limits announced in advance by Council President Joan Shannon.

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