Letters to the Editor
Leave Lowell Alone
[Re “Mine Your Own Business? Two Towns Weigh the Pros and Cons of Superfund Listing,” February 22]: The plain facts are that this site doesn’t rise to the level of toxicity required for superfund designation, and will always be at the bottom of the remediation list given the amount of federal money available. For decades.
The biomass facility is a red herring to get residents to vote yes on superfund. In fact, any flat piece of land would be better. Developers see Lowell as already corrupted so badly that any project can be sited here without opposition. How wrong they are.
Same Old vs. Fresh New?
Kurt Wright is a Republican, but he doesn’t like to mention it in Burlington [“Wright’s Record: How Burlington’s Favorite Republican Votes in Montpelier,” February 22]. Here in Burlington, Kurt is a Republican undercover. And he’s a politician through and through, perhaps even a career politician.
As Paul Heintz’s informative article reveals, Wright votes the Republican party line with occasional exceptions that can generally be explained in a single word: politics. Though the Wright campaign attempts to brand their candidate as one who represents “citizenship not partisanship,” that claim deflates under the weight of his votes in Montpelier and on the Burlington City Council. Those who say he understands the process or knows how to get things done describe merely his long-practiced political expediency, his aptitude as a politician for playing ball and trading horses.
A few endorsements that might seem to support a nonpartisan approach — endorsements from a couple of Democrats, a Progressive, an independent-Progressive — show instead that some are worried about a departure from business as usual.
Miro Weinberger’s fresh start is not only a campaign slogan but an accurate description of what city government under truly new leadership would be. If you’re happy with business as usual, happy with the same old, then Kurt is your man. If you think it’s time for a change, time for city government to serve the people of Burlington first, go with Miro.
Unfair and Unbalanced
By Ken Picard’s own account [“Did Race Play a Role in the Recent Departure of a Burlington Principal?” February 22], he interviewed only six people for an article attempting to represent the experiences of over 3800 students and 800-plus employees in over 14 Burlington schools, with programs ranging from early education to technical education. In the journalism class at Burlington High School, we teach students that balanced stories are a keystone of good writing. Multiple points of view need to be listened to and accounted for in reporting community stories. I regret that Mr. Picard missed the opportunity to speak to current students and employees of Burlington schools and report on the opportunities and challenges we embrace in teaching and supporting students from many language, socioeconomic, racial, gender, ability and ethnic backgrounds.
While we certainly do not get every action or situation right, we are committed to working as sensitively and constructively as possible to serve all students well. Situations recounted from over five years ago do not accurately reflect the ways we handled the concerns at the time or how we are continually trying to learn and grow in ensuring all students and employees are respected and positively encouraged. BHS staff members do come from diverse backgrounds and contribute significantly to the fulfillment of our mission that all students meet high standards in our global society.
For every story of concern, there are many stories of success and satisfaction. We welcome you to visit Burlington High School and experience firsthand the work we do.
Mellencamp is the principal of Burlington High School.
Mean Vaccine Cartoon
I just caught wind of a cartoon submitted and published by one of the cartoonists that contributes to your paper [Newcomb, February 22]. Apparently the content is a picture of a coffin, saying on it that it belongs to an unvaccinated child? I don’t really see the humor, or even understand why this message is being portrayed in Seven Days. The first thought that came to my mind was the family who lost their 7-year-old girl from a fatal flu shot reaction just this past December. They were one of three families that lost their child to vaccination reactions in 2011 in Vermont, with countless others dealing with injuries of many kinds. Messages like this are inconsiderate and mock the deep pain these families are going through. They don’t need it rubbed in. I ask that there be more consciousness of the messages being expressed in Seven Days.
Thanks for publishing this cartoon [Newcomb, February 22]. Nice to have 200-plus years of research proving the benefits of vaccination supported. Benjamin Franklin’s greatest regret was not getting his beloved only son vaccinated against smallpox.
PSB Isn’t Perfect
My question is directed toward Ken Picard [who wrote “Monopoly Board,” February 15]. Why did you not include any reference or information about the sale of Verizon to FairPoint, in which millions of dollars in sales taxes were not paid to the state, yet the deal was approved by the Public Service Board? Please comment on how that was in the best interest of the public.
The sale, in my opinion, should have been averted until the tax loopholes were closed or the sales contract should have been structured to preclude the use of any tax loopholes. Who can be held accountable for such a gross oversight? Collecting tax dollars from corporations should be a priority of the PSB.
No “Further Study”
[Re “Frack, No: Vermont Looks North to Québec as It Considers a Ban on Natural-Gas Drilling,” February 8]: I vote “No Fracking in Vermont!” Ditto for our close neighbor to the north, Québec. The reason for this position is simply because further “studying” will never be conclusive. This is due to what is known as the Halliburton Loophole in the Clean Water Act of 1973 because it was widely perceived to have come about as a result of the efforts of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton. Essentially, Congress amended the Clean Water Act to exempt those using Halliburton technology to fracture the earth to extract gas. Effectively, gas companies can inject chemicals and substances into the ground where our drinking water is without telling the EPA or anyone else what those substances are and how they will affect us and for how long.
So, “further study” will never be able to predict the impact — maybe only the possible results of past practices. Even those results are easily deniable by the gas companies. “Further study” will, however, give gas company lobbyists further opportunity to work on our governmental leadership while waiting for a more opportune time to seek approval for “testing” and outright fracking.
Kathryn Flagg responds: The letter writer brings up an important point about hydraulic fracturing: The practice is extremely unregulated. The so-called Halliburton Loophole was tucked into the 2005 Bush/Cheney version of the Energy Policy Act, exempting fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Specifically, the loophole exempts companies from disclosing what’s in the fluids they use to frack. Different states have gone on to regulate the issue in various ways, and now some require companies to disclose what’s in their fluids, with wiggle room for preserving trade secrets. While efforts have been made at closing the Halliburton Loophole — most recently when the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, or FRAC — none have been successful so far.
We’re Making Progress
Ken Picard’s article last week certainly disclosed views and past experiences of some former school district employees [“Did Race Play a Role in the Recent Departure of a Burlington Principal?” February 22]. But it did not shed light on our successful current work on diversity issues. While we may not always get things right, and it may take a while to change paradigms in both the school and larger community, Burlington teachers and staff care deeply about issues of race and equity and are committed to improving the education of our students.
Specifically, we have revised our hiring and recruitment procedures to ensure all staff hired are culturally competent and to increase racial/ethnic diversity among our faculty. Professional development focuses on cultural competence. A board-appointed task force researched best practices in diversity and equity with recommendations for a strategic plan to be in place by October, 2012. A new board committee is specifically charged to focus on diversity and equity issues in the district. Our diversity office is developing an annual report card highlighting data. We are revising our harassment policy.
The issues of race, diversity and equity are part of our everyday lives. In my time in Burlington schools, the awareness and focus on these issues has been constant; now we are turning up the heat. Progress requires a steady focus while consistently and unabashedly putting one foot in front of the other. I appreciate the commitment of the Burlington faculty, administration and community in working on these issues. Our vision is clear: to ensure our school community is welcoming, just and safe for all students and families.
Collins is superintendent of the Burlington School District.
[“Can a Tax Hike Save Montpelier from a Capital Crisis?” February 15] stated that Montpelier has approximately 8000 residents with 20,000 daily visitors. That would suggest that the visitors make up 71 percent of the public daily. That would also suggest that 71 percent of the tax revenue would be generated by the visitors. That’s a very good return for the full-time residents.
However, the real problem is the inability to deal with the economic realities of liberal policies that can never say no. Government either has to make realistic cuts in spending or the taxpayer has to agree to allow the government to make direct withdrawals from their accounts that will enable local government to continue to spend ad nauseam. If you had an unbiased auditor’s professional report, they would almost certainly find between 7 and 10 percent waste and abuse in every government program.
There was an error in last week’s story, “Mine Your Own Business? Two Towns Weigh the Pros and Cons of Superfund Listing.” The abandoned mine on Lowell’s Belvidere Mountain contains 30 million tons of asbestos tailings, according to estimates from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation — not 30 tons, as stated in the original article. The online version has been corrected.