Letters to the Editor
Once a Subscriber
We were Burlington Free Press subscribers for many years, but a year or two ago, I noticed declining news coverage in the paper [“Not-So-Free Press, July 11]. By last winter, we were getting better local, state, national and international news coverage from many other local sources. I want a newspaper to cover the news; the feel-good stories became a turnoff, especially when they began to reappear over and over and without a single change.
I was ready to stop our subscription. Then came the “change,” and it was worse than I ever dreamed it could be. Vermont’s got one of the better-read populations in the country, to which the Free Press’ shallow coverage and small-minded articles are insulting.
We are not alone in this sentiment: Most of our friends have stopped subscribing and don’t even acknowledge the paper among the tabloids at the checkout counter. The only chance the Free Press has is to get local talent to manage the paper.
I found it somewhat humorous and alarming to read Howard Dean’s assessment of the office of Attorney General Bill Sorrell [Fair Game: “No-Show Time for Sorrell,” July 25]. Dean made a not-so-subtle jab at T.J. Donovan’s “ambition” and essentially depicted the job as a powerless, disengaged position. Really? Does this make sense? Ambition is now a bad thing for an elected official? Perhaps this is exactly why Sorrell needs to go, and the office needs to be revitalized in the first place.
Noise Is Nonissue
I also found a critical flaw in [“Real Estate Expert Finds Critical Flaw in F-35 Property Value Study,” July 25]. Why wasn’t any mention made of the 60 or so commercial flights and their impact on this so-called quality-of-life and real-estate-value issue? Why haven’t the thousands of people who have lived for decades in the shadow of the ever-expanding Burlington International Airport spoken up? Because it’s a nonissue. They live by the airport and they got over it. Air defense of the U.S.A. is far and away the lesser issue here, but it’s the one that local gasbags constantly beat on because it’s an easy target and you can get your name in the paper.
[Re “The Other Bed Down: Will New Campus Housing Fix Burlington’s Rental Problem?” July 25]: What if UVM bought existing housing and leased it to students during the school year? If UVM can’t “sell” living on campus, then it could buy and then rent existing housing. This will reduce the rental rates, and out-of-town landlords won’t scam the kids and their parents. UVM will make an honest investment in BTV. St. Mike’s has houses on campus, and that was a huge draw for juniors and seniors who were done with dorm life.
Nepveu graduated from St. Michael’s College and recently earned a master’s degree from UVM.
Market Demands More Housing
As a landlord, I was surprised to find that there was no serious discussion of the reasons why “apartment vacancies in Burlington typically last about as long as snowballs in summer” in the recent article about on-campus housing [“The Other Bed Down: Will New Campus Housing Fix Burlington’s Rental Problem?” July 25].
When supply fails to match demand in a market system, as it does in the Burlington rental market, it is due to some sort of interference in the workings of the market. In Burlington it is extremely difficult to build new rental property due to a combination of strict zoning laws, historic-preservation people and a strong NIMBY culture. A cursory look at the zoning map for Burlington shows that higher-density housing is impossible without a variance, which can be very difficult to obtain.
Rather than looking to the university or the city to fix the housing issues, we should be looking to private enterprise. Central planning hasn’t and isn’t going to solve it. In fact, the city acts schizophrenically, restricting supply and driving up costs with difficult permitting and zoning on one hand, and mandating low-income housing on the other.
The current system actually is a kind of crony capitalism that benefits a small plutocracy of Burlington landlords. If people really wanted to speak truth to power and stick it to the Man, these restrictions should be lessened and the free market allowed to do its thing.
Kevin J. Kelley’s story [“The Other Bed Down: Will New Campus Housing Fix Burlington’s Rental Problem?” July 25] wrongly asserted that “UVM has no intention of constructing any additional housing units.” This assumption was apparently made in light of my statement that the university does not plan to increase its goal of housing 60 percent of its undergrads by forcing upper-class students to live on campus. However, UVM has been and continues to be open to exploring economically feasible, good-quality options for additional student housing, either on our property or elsewhere. In fact, UVM has been in the process of creating a comprehensive Housing Master Plan that will guide future planning, renovation and new construction over the next two decades.
To be clear, the University does not support requiring upper-class students to live on campus, many of whom are over 21 and interested in other living alternatives. UVM already faces serious enrollment challenges as the college-age population declines in Vermont and the Northeast, and college enrollment shrinks nationally. Years ago, UVM took the unusual step of requiring both first- and second-year students to live on campus, which is above the norm among most institutions we compete with for students.
Looking ahead, the university will be considering more projects like the Redstone Lofts — a high-quality, privately owned, market-based facility where students choose to live — and other initiatives, as well. We look forward to working cooperatively and constructively with the City of Burlington on issues of mutual concern, including where students will live.
Gustafson is the vice president for student and campus life at UVM.
We appreciate your article about the new venue at the Unadilla Theatre in Calais [“With a New Theater, the Shows Go On at Unadilla Theatre,” July 25]. We are very excited about the potential of this new space. One might infer from the article, though, that the opening weekend was “shut down” by state officials. Nothing could be further from the truth. Several inspectors from the fire marshal’s office stopped by early last week and recommended some changes to our existing exits — reasonable changes that were quickly and easily accomplished. They also approved for us a temporary method of providing lighting for the opening weekend, pending the completion of electrical work on the building. We would like to thank Wayne Dunlap and Paul Cerutti of the State Fire Marshal’s office for their support in helping us open the new venue. That the theater did not, in fact, open last weekend was our own decision, based on the difficulties of providing bathroom facilities pending the construction of a new septic system. In short, the delayed opening is a result of our construction schedule falling behind our theatrical production schedule.
One other correction: I am identified in the article as the general contractor for the new theater, which I am not. I am a performer and theatrical director at Unadilla and help whenever I can with Bill Blachly’s many interesting projects.
Let’s Make a Deal, Parks and Rec
While I applaud your endless hype of Dealer.com and its frenzy of “wellness” programs [“Beach Slap,” July 25], the real issue at hand is the lack of such activities in the Burlington community. Akin to Mr. Bonfigli keeping his staff happy and fit, Burlington — and the state — needs to boost investment in similar initiatives.
Until the 2011 floods, North Beach was the only beach-volleyball destination in Burlington — sorry, but Oakledge courts are more reminiscent of cement than sand. It is a sport that requires skill but also thrives on relaxed, West Coast culture. Better yet, it takes just a fraction of the maintenance efforts relative to the city’s dozens of tennis and basketball courts.
My few discussions with Burlington Parks and Rec about restoring the court were met with confusion — and apathy. With such an attitude, how is Burlington supposed to maintain its “most livable city” image?
Conveniently enough, the same issue of Seven Days featured a job opening for a Burlington Parks and Rec director. Perhaps Mr. Bonfigli should put his public-sector cap on and bring back Burlington’s wellness.
We ran a letter [Feedback: “Seeing Is Believing”] on July 18 responding to a Seven Days article about downtown surveillance equipment in Winooski [“Eyes in the Sky,” July 11]. The letter writer, Jodi Harrington, alleged that Police Chief Steve McQueen was posing for his Seven Days photo while “the DEA was busy busting up a huge drug and gambling operation just up the street.” In fact, the incident to which she referred — at O’Brien’s Irish Pub — was a Department of Liquor Control inspection that resulted in a license revocation. We apologize for failing to fact-check Harrington’s claim more thoroughly.
Hell hath no fury like a confused crossword-puzzle fan. Our new production director, John James, made the mistake of running the wrong puzzle box last week, and quickly learned how deeply Seven Days readers care about their crosswords. One of many letters to the editor came from Nancy Patterson: “Coffee and toast at the ready, pencil poised, my Saturday morning was suddenly sad when I discovered that something was very wrong with the crossword!” Sorry. You can click here find last week’s puzzle, and print it out.
Finally, in our review of Epic Knights [Game Review, July 25], the reviewer stated that a “recognizable band” would be providing a soundtrack to the game. This was a mistake. In addition, there is not yet an iPad version of the game. Our apologies for the errors.