Letters to the Editor
Food Without Fear
I applaud Sara Augeri’s support of on-farm slaughter [Feedback, “Truth or Consequences,” December 12], and I agree that Vermonters must do everything within their power to resist the erosion of our state’s neighbor-to-neighbor food relationships [“A Kinder Kill,” November 21]. However, there is a tragic irony inherent in her contention that drawing attention to local food-sourcing practices risks provoking regulatory oversight, and it is this: Until these practices are either made legal or reach a level of critical mass that zealous regulators are unable to confront, the “authentic” food relationships Augeri champions will continue to be the provenance of a lucky few with the necessary connections to source these products. There’s a word for such an arrangement: exclusivity.
I urge Augeri and any other Vermonter who believes strongly in full access to the foods of their choosing not to accept the notion that they must live in fear of a flawed food regulatory environment and enforcement agencies. To do so is to quietly acquiesce to the unjust arrangements that impact us all.
Homeless Story Hit Right Tone
This is a really interesting article on a timely topic relevant to a wide audience [“As Burlington’s Library Becomes a Haven for the Homeless, Librarians Adapt to a Changing Job,” December 12]. You answered my questions as they occurred to me and maintained a tone that was respectful to all involved. Thank you.
While I appreciate the focus and importance of the ideas presented in “Lines in the Sand” [Fair Game, December 5], I take great issue with the tone of its introduction. Paul Heintz’s reference to “blue-hairs” is arrogant, disrespectful, patronizing and dismissive. If he had taken even a few minutes to chat with the elders in attendance, he would have discovered hundreds of years of valuable and life-changing experiences that are an integral part of our community. Heintz would have learned a bit about empathy and the residents’ collective wisdom. I believe this would have lent a more credible and compassionate tone to his article.
Jacky De Forge
I loved Eva Sollberger’s piece on the Gamache dairy farm [“Stuck in Vermont,” December 5].
[Re “What We Want,” November 28]: Reading your suggestion that Burlington needs an awesome monument on the waterfront reminded me of my favorite Moran Plant idea: Encase the south-facing, L-shaped building in glass to create a sweeping, tall, crystalline greenhouse. Fill it with stair-stepped ledges of tomato plants, strawberries, green peppers and sunflowers. Grow tasty freshwater fish in huge ponds on the ground floor, which can provide food and moisture for the hydroponic fruits and vegetables.
An architecturally stunning, year-round, fish-and-vegetable farm on the Burlington waterfront could be the world-class symbol of the city that monument lovers are seeking. It would embody Vermont’s commitment to sustainability and Burlington’s reputation for outstanding food. What more symbolic a statement than turning an ugly 20th-century behemoth of consumption into a sleek 21st-century cynosure of sustainability?
The idea is not far-fetched. Sweet Water Organics of Milwaukee has done it. But Burlington has one up on them. The Milwaukee greenhouse is not located where a rooftop restaurant and hourly tours are likely to bring summertime throngs. As for winter, remember that even when it’s cold and snowy, greenhouses are warm, moist and green.
Look to Cleveland
So there are two languishing opportunities to have “What We Want” [November 28] as described in the recent Seven Days staff riff. First, a zoo: Why not turn the Moran Plant into a mini rain forest or other environment? It doesn’t need to be like the Bronx Zoo, or Montréal’s Biodôme. We certainly can do as well as Cleveland’s modest structure, which transformed the dreary zoo from my childhood into a small, world-class site. And it’s a natural to join ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on the waterfront.
Second, Winooski is the perfect location for a “food bazaar.” All of the vacant storefronts can be divided into themed stalls and mini-markets. The land at the west end of Champlain Mill is an ideal location for a two-story building: restaurants or offices on the second floor and a year-round farmers market on the ground floor. “Garage” doors that open up in warm weather would allow each vendor to have selling space facing both a central interior hall and the outside. European cities, Seattle and, yes, Cleveland, do it. Why not here? We have a wealth of entrepreneurs with both local and international market experience to make such a venture vibrant and attractive. City Market could take the lead, anchoring the area with its second store. There’s a parking garage and ideas to improve the pedestrian crossing problem. What are we waiting for? This one is a no-brainer.
Forget the F-35
Isn’t it curious that our illustrious governor decided to take one of the wealthiest businessmen in Burlington and two mayors to hear the F-35 [Fair Game, December 12]? There were no representatives from the opposition — not a very intelligent PR stunt. To make matters worse, the governor now claims the F-35 is no louder than the F-16. Unbelievable! It is well documented that the opposite is true. If one looks at the video news footage of the jet taking off, you can see that sound meter registering 110db — much louder than the F-16. This plane still has enormous safety issues as reported by a Pentagon study group and the past director of the F-35 program. That, I would think, should take precedence over the noise issue. Our governor and congressional delegates just don’t get it. They are not directly affected, so why not use the issue of jobs, which, incidentally and curiously, has recently risen from 600 to 1100? When IBM laid off more than a thousand people in past years, didn’t our communities survive? Of course they did. Our livelihood is not dependent on the Air Guard or its future projects.
[Re “Could Financial Hassles Snuff Out Vermont’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Before They Light Up?” November 28]: This law has so many issues. A limit of 1000 patients? Since when does the government control how sick people can become? This medicine needs to be over the counter, plain and simple. We don’t need the Department of Public Safety dictating how sick people should meet their medical needs; we need doctors being able to have honest conversations with their patients about how cannabis can reduce their dependence on other medicines with fewer side effects. When there are fewer “pharmacetikills” in the public’s medicine cabinet, there will be fewer bodies in the morgue. Cannabis never killed anyone. It’s safer than alcohol and tobacco, both of which are taxed and regulated.
Panama Red Tape
Thank you for clearing up the state’s medical marijuana situation [“Could Financial Hassles Snuff Out Vermont’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Before They Light Up?” November 28]. I admire the intrepid souls willing to climb that mountain of red, red tape in pursuit of their dreams. The amount of cash the state is asking for a “license” is almost as ridiculous as the stipulation that cultivation be done indoors, necessitating high-wattage equipment and infrastructure to simulate the natural environment the plants need to grow.
Evan Mills’ 2011 study, Energy Up in Smoke: The Carbon Footprint of Indoor Cannabis Production, was expounded upon in the New York Times last year, but his message bears repeating. He estimates that indoor marijuana cultivation in this country already uses enough electricity to power two million average U.S. homes — 2 percent of total household electricity consumption. The resulting 17 million metric tons of CO2 produced is comparable to the emissions of three million American cars. The energy required to cultivate one joint of this type of indoor weed is equivalent to driving a small car for 10 miles.
It’s exasperating that there are so many well-meaning folks pushing for legalization when success would translate into colossal increases in greenhouse-gas emission and other pollution. Outdoor cultivation isn’t even on the table. This, ostensibly, is because it would be too difficult to keep the teenagers away, but I suspect the real reason is money. Outdoor growing only yields one crop per season — indoors, upwards of five or six.
It’s not legalized if you still can’t grow a plant outside. As long as the state tries to make money by passing laws, will we ever be free?
Homes, Not Hotels
[Re “With Shelters Full, a Record Number of Vermont’s Homeless Are Living in Motels,” December 5]: In response to your article on homelessness in Vermont, and the amount of money spent putting people up in hotels, it really does not take a genius to figure out that the money could be so much better spent on building actual homes for the people that are currently in homeless situations. Just take a look around your town and neighborhood at the number of vacant buildings, homes for sale that just sit there and spaces that used to be in business that sit empty. These spaces could be purchased and redone to give low-income and at-risk families permanent places to live and raise their children. There are answers, and yet nobody with any power to make sensible solutions seems to care enough to make permanent housing a reality for our neighbors. Living in a motel for any length of time is not a solution; it is a Band-Aid that will not give anyone the safety and stability they need. Wake up! We need more affordable housing in Vermont so that families don’t have to ever become homeless in the first place. Places like COTS are not in every town in Vermont, and COTS cannot help all the people. Nobody deserves to be without a safe, warm, comfortable place to live. Nobody. It is a shameful thing when families in our own towns have to be without a place to call their own.
Stop Protecting Sex Offenders
Seven Days recently reported that the Times Argus hired a convicted sex offender to cover police, courts and high school sports [Fair Game, “Offender Bender,” November 28]. Inconceivable that neither would check criminal records of those selected to cover these particular issues, since a press pass gives almost unlimited access. Was the convicted sex offender allowed access to school locker rooms? According to the story, Eric Blaisdell didn’t request required permission from his probation officer for contact with minors.
The Times Argus subsequently ran an article defending its hiring of Blaisdell, stating, “This is an incredibly well-supervised and restricted situation by the judge, the probation officer and a therapist. I am not going to second-guess that process, am willing to participate in it and give it a chance.” Really? Allowing a convicted sex offender to report on sex crimes is outrageous on the part of the judge, probation officer and therapist.
A few years ago, a Vermont girl was raped and murdered by an accused person the government considered to be a rehabilitated sex offender. It is inconceivable, irresponsible and outrageous to send a convicted sex offender where victims must appear to get their justice. No wonder Vermont is becoming a sex-offender haven. Sen. Dick Sears and his Senate Judiciary Committee protect the judges that fail victims. Vermont judges are not answerable to those that pay them; they are answerable to a government that cares more about sex offenders than victims…
Seven Days is becoming the newspaper to read. We should thank it with our support.
Rev. Gary Kowalski is right in pointing to factory meat farms as a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions [Feedback, “Divest from Big Meat,” December 12]. However, to leap from there to saying that 350.org is “morally and ecologically amiss” is simply misguided. The two targets of activism — big oil and big meat — are in no way mutually exclusive. If we are to turn around the behemoth of the corporate world in its rush to destroy life on Earth, we need to work together.
Yes, speak out and encourage others to speak out. Change your life and encourage others to do the same. However, let’s recognize that we are in the same struggle. Big oil’s business plan involves extracting and burning enough fossil fuel to essentially destroy most life on the planet. Isn’t that reason enough to organize and mobilize against them?
Kowalski should aim his considerable intellect and passion at the meat industry, not at Bill McKibben or the movement for fossil-fuel divestment.
There were two errors in last week’s “Magical History Tour.” The bodies of 1812 soldiers discovered buried under Burlington’s Pitkin and Blodgett streets are now in Lakeview Cemetery; there’s no burial ground on Lakeview Terrace. And it was during the Revolutionary War that Lake Champlain’s Rock Dunder was subjected to shelling — not the War of 1812.
The December 5 story, “With Shelters Full, a Record Number of Vermont’s Homeless Are Living in Motels,” incorrectly reported that the State of Vermont gave the Committee on Temporary Shelter $800,000 for homeless-prevention initiatives in 2008. The correct amount is $80,000.