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Letters to the Editor 

Published February 5, 2014 at 5:02 a.m.

Poor Word Choice?

Jim Lampman’s work didn’t need to be “vindicated,” as food writer Corin Hirsch indicated in [Side Dishes: “South End Kitchen to Open This Week,” January 21], because he hadn’t done anything wrong! The word you should have used is “validated!” Be sure you know the meaning of words before you use them!

Joanne Flynn

Essex Junction

Editor’s note: The story attributed “sweet vindication” to Eric Lampman — not his dad, Jim. Read in context, the word works just fine. It’s preceded by a sentence that states Eric Lampman used to describe his own food project as a mere “hobby.” Winning an award for it vindicated his efforts and removed the “hobby” stigma from them. (And “hobby” is a stigma, from the point of view of professionals in the field.)

Longtime Dem

A quick note to let your readers know that my race for Burlington City Council in Ward 4 is not my first as a Democrat [Off Message: “Candidates Declare for Seven Open Burlington City Council Seats,” January 27; Last 7: “Republican Sunset on Burlington City Council?” January 29]. When candidates for Burlington School Board ran with party affiliation in 1987 and 1991, I ran and was elected as a Democrat in contested races. All together, Ward 4 elected me to serve for 10 years. ?

In more than 25 years of public service, I have earned the respect of people of all parties, and I have a track record that demonstrates my respect for people of all parties: as a member (and chairperson) of the Burlington School Board, whether candidates ran with party affiliation or (for the past 20 years) without it; as governor Howard Dean’s appointee to the Vermont State Board of Education (and as chairperson); and as a member of the city council-appointed Burlington Waterfront Board.

In all of these roles, I have worked effectively and respectfully with fellow board members, both independent and party-affiliated.?If the voters of Ward 4 elect me as their city councilor, I will commit myself to serving every Ward 4 resident. I will bring my proven record of collaboration and cooperation to the council. I will work tirelessly with every councilor, regardless of affiliation or independent status, so that together we can accomplish great things for Ward 4 and for Burlington.

Carol Ode


Idle Less, Fact-Check More

You incorrectly said that the schoolchildren who lobbied successfully for the ban on bus idling on school grounds were from Richmond Middle School, which is actually Camels Hump Middle School [WTF: “Whatever Happened to Burlington’s Ban on Excessive Car Idling?” January 29]. They were actually seventh graders from Browns River Middle School in Underhill.

Patty Brushett


More Gender-Bending

This morning, I was so overcome with love for “this brave little state of Vermont” — as my St. Johnsbury Academy classmate Calvin Coolidge called it, when I bested him during a game of whist — that I expressed it with an iSpy.

I painted a series called “Personals Ad Portraits” based on print ads in Seven Days, so I’ve spent time studying your Personals section. I understand organizational imperatives for making it so maddeningly pink and blue. However, given the “progressive” bent of this place, I have to say: Get with the times, y’all!

Living in Cambodia, I witnessed how normal the “third gender” is within the traditional cultures of Southeast Asia. My students brought home drawings of pretty lady boys mixed in with all their Cinderellas and trucks. In Thailand and Cambodia, if Cinderella happens to have been born with a dick, it’s no big deal.

I giggle over iSpys because “YOU: MAN. ME: WOMAN.” reads like caveman seduction. Using “they” to describe trans individuals drives me nuts for grammatical reasons, but THEY might not want to check those boxes! What if I iSpied some babe without knowing how cutie pie self-identifies? If I say “Hey guys!” and get yelled at (for feminist reasons, not someone legitimately teasing me for sounding like a huge dork), I might roll my eyes over PC overzealousness. But this is serious! Not everyone can be pinned down in the reductive butterfly case of YOU: MAN. ME: WOMAN.

Darshana Bolt



[“They Didn’t Know His Name: New Details Emerge on Fatal Burlington Police Shooting,” January 22]: So Mr. Gilbert of Vermont’s American Civil Liberties Union thinks that he could have handled this situation better? B.S., Gilbert! You’d have soiled your linen and cried for your mama! The ACLU is the reason it’s nearly impossible to confine dangerous mental health cases for treatment — their lawsuits set the threshold to “after the tragedy.” In that respect, the ACLU has blood on its hands, and this is not the first time.

Paul Gross


Fan Mail

I recently moved to Vermont and was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Seven Days at my local store. Reading it cover to cover for the last few months, I’ve found it to be the most informative, entertaining and delightful periodical I have ever had the pleasure of reading. When it needs to make me laugh, it does so. When it needs to inform me, it does so. When it needs to tell me things I need to know, it does so. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot [WTF] is amazing. The alternating weekly Hackie is amazing. The comics are intelligent and hilarious. While I’m not into movies or the local theater, I enjoy reading the entertainment pages with their unbiased opinions.

Please change nothing in the format — ever. The staff at the paper has to be so proud of what they are doing for the locals here in the Burlington area, and I commend each and every one of you for your dedication and honesty in what you print each week.

Erik Plane


Genetically Modified Allergies?

Interesting how data from 1997-2011 show that food “allergies” have risen 50 percent [“Sensitivity Siege,” January 15]. 1996 is the year the USDA decided it was OK to genetically modify our food supply. Let’s not look at the root of the problem. Wake up, America.

KC Clark

Orlando, Fla.

Ready, Aim, Fired

Paul Heintz’s January 24 Off Message post, titled “Fired Planning Chief Considering Challenge to Montpelier Mayor,” generated some feedback. The first email came from Gwendolyn Hallsmith, the subject of the story, who said the account failed to reflect that she had publicly challenged Montpelier Mayor John Hollar before she was fired.

Heintz’s post was not intended as a comprehensive examination of the conflict between Hallsmith and Hollar. It touched on that history briefly, by way of explaining her decision to challenge him. Here is the relevant paragraph from the original post, which was also excerpted in last week’s paper.

“Hallsmith would face off against Mayor John Hollar, with whom she publicly tangled throughout the fall. After she was put on paid leave in November, Hallsmith accused the mayor of orchestrating her ouster because of her outspoken advocacy for public banking. Hollar is a contract lobbyist whose clients include Wells Fargo and Bank of America.”

Seven Days did not correct the post because Heintz had noted that history (if not its full details) while focusing on Hallsmith’s statements after her ouster.

Unhappy with Seven Days’ decision not to run a correction, Hallsmith went to social media — specifically, the Vermonters for a New Economy e-newsletter — with her own criticism of the coverage and encouraged readers to send us letters to the editor. All six are published below. Hallsmith did not submit a letter herself.


I am writing to object to the way your paper characterized the sequence of events that resulted in Gwendolyn Hallsmith being fired from her position as the director of planning and community development in Montpelier. You implied that she “accused the mayor of orchestrating her ouster” only after she was put on administrative leave. This is not true. She had raised a public objection to the way she was being treated long before the city took action against her. At first, the city said no discipline was likely. Then they fired her — after seven years of good service to the city, with no warning, no due process.

The mayor’s memos on the subject are a matter of public record and go back to early 2013. Paul Heintz was provided with these memos, and ignored them, preferring instead to insinuate that her accusations were only after disciplinary action was underway.?It’s either lazy journalism, shoddy journalism or biased journalism — take your pick. You were asked to issue a correction, and you refused, basing your refusal on a technicality: She hadn’t stopped saying that the mayor was acting inappropriately after she was placed on leave. So she had, also, said it afterward. ’Nuf said. Issue the correction. You made a mistake. Facts matter.?Own up to an inaccurate sequential inference.

Cara Thornley

St. Johnbury

Montpelier Mayor John Hollar is a Wall Street lobbyist with power over municipal bonds. Do you remember the L.A. Times in 1912? Paul Heintz and Seven Days have shown themselves to be bank whores, just like the rest of the pigs at the trough. Keep on sucking up to the den of thieves, scumbags.

Travis Record


?What a regrettable decision you made along with the reporter behind “Fired Planning Chief Considering Challenge to Montpelier Mayor.” By leaving out Hallsmith’s history of disagreement with the mayor, you make it appear that she is just sour on her termination. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hallsmith has been targeted as a leader of a movement for public banking and struck down by an ideological ally (if not paid lackey) of the banking industry. Considering the highly politicized nature of this issue, I would encourage you to make efforts in the future to provide an adequate context, a timeline, even, for readers to understand the [causal] relationship themselves instead of providing prebaked opinions about what led to what.

David Huck


Did Montpelier Mayor John Hollar orchestrate the firing of Gwen Hallsmith, the city’s longtime director of planning and community development??“I had nothing to do with it,” Seven Days’ Paul Heintz quotes Hollar as saying. But two memos Heintz did not quote, though Hallsmith provided both, lay Hollar’s claim open to question.??

In the first, last March, Hollar protests to Montpelier City Manager William Fraser, “To repeat myself ad nauseam, I still don’t see how our city’s economic development officer can hold and promote views that are fundamentally anticapitalist in nature.”??

Nine months before Hallsmith’s firing, Hollar was telling Fraser that her advocacy of public banking — which already exists in Vermont, but could be expanded — was unacceptable, although she did this on her own time. (Through public banking, Vermont could recoup the interest it pays Canada’s TD Bank.)?

In September, Hollar wrote Fraser again, saying, “This really can’t continue ... I’m not sure I see the point in meeting with her.” Why? Because, having raised his concerns “before” with Fraser, writes Hollar, “I assume they have been communicated to her, and nothing has changed.”??

The mayor “assume[s]” that the city manager has accepted responsibility for bringing to Hallsmith’s attention the mayor’s concerns, and implies that Fraser has failed to do his bidding. ?And Mayor Hollar, the lobbyist for Bank of America, had “nothing” to do with Fraser’s firing of Hallsmith.?Really?

Beth Champagne

St. Johnsbury

I’m a personal friend of Gwen Hallsmith. I have practiced employment law for 39 years and I’ve counseled over 1,000 employees. In discharge cases, I’ve seen employees offer a phony reason afterward to hide poor performance, and I’ve seen employers offer a phony reason afterward to hide an illegal decision. So when I look at a case, I’m quite curious about the reasons given before, not after, the firing.?Your post erred by stating that Hallsmith presented her reason afterward, when she actually made it before: “After she was put on paid leave in November, Hallsmith accused the mayor of orchestrating her ouster because of her outspoken advocacy for public banking.” Yet the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus had reported Hallsmith’s reason two weeks before, not after.?To encourage a correction, Hallsmith emailed you evidence that, earlier in 2013, Mayor Hollar had twice strongly criticized Hallsmith to the city manager for her off-hours speaking about public banking. Your reporter and editor simply refused to correct their error, creating the false impression she only charged the mayor afterward. Yet the opposite is the more likely truth — the city created a phony reason to hide its main one — Hallsmith’s conscientious speaking about public banking. I’m dismayed by your refusal to correct your error, and I’m sad that you misled your readers.

Peter van Schaick


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