Letters to the Editor
The credibility of this story [Off Message, “John McClaughry: Free-Market Conservative and … Champion of Frogs?” April 4] is completely impugned by its scandalous statement that I, John McClaughry, am “Vermont’s foremost advocate for seceding from the Union.” Far from being the foremost advocate for secession, I have continuously and unequivocally opposed Vermont’s secession from the Union, dating back to the Frank Bryan-John Dooley debates 20 years ago. My reason: Living in the United States of America affords me some protections under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Those would vanish along with our freedoms in an independent state run by people such as Madeleine Kunin, Bernie Sanders, John Dooley and Peter Shumlin.
As for the frog issue, I will leave it to my friend Nestle to comment, but historically he has steered clear of sensational media exposés authored by young journalists seeking to make a name for themselves.
[“The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Director Looks Past Controversy and Strives for a More Profitable Future,” March 20] is a poorly done piece of reporting on the issues and controversy surrounding the Athenaeum, which the author never really addresses. Who is the audience for this article and why was it written? Author Julia Shipley is focused on style rather than the content or story. Good writer for sure, but a poor job of reporting on an incident that has had a tremendous impact on the St. Johnsbury library community, the statewide library community and, of course, on the library staff, which it seems the author has completely ignored. I think it’s important to remember that a good writer does not a journalist make. Fluff at best.
Editor’s note: Seven Days has published three previous articles about the saga at the Athenaeum:
•“Supporters Rally for Laid-Off Athenaeum Librarians in St. Johnsbury,” January 16, 2013
Heritage Apples — and Oranges
The “current-use” program in Vermont, as pointed out in the article, has its fair and maybe not-so-fair points [“Lawmakers Look to Crack Down on ‘Current Use’ Abuse,” April 3]. Should large acreage properties be allowed current use for the portion of the property put in use or for the entire property? It would seem that historical preservation of Jeffersonian agricultural heritage is in itself a good thing.
However, Jefferson had 5000 acres growing cash crops of tobacco and, later on, wheat providing economic return and livelihood. Heritage apples on a few acres hardly compares to a commercial orchard, but it might be more suitable for a nonprofit venture based on historical preservation.
Having done some commercial development in other locales, I can assure the members of Vermont’s legislature who build decisions of millions of dollars are market driven and reflect an ability to create a considerable return on that investment. I find it hard to imagine that given the state’s questionable economic history with large developments in non-ski zones that current use is a prime deterrent to wholesale Levittown-style development but more an inducement to large-scale purchaser’s second-home buy decisions.
So stop promoting current use for hobby farms and redo the program to promote and sustain true agricultural endeavors and eliminate the inequalities in the program.
Lose the Bacon Bits
[Re Taste Test: The Lighthouse Restaurant and Lounge, March 6]: I went twice: First time, broiled scallops were excellent. Second time, fish and chips special was disappointing — soggy hand-cut fries. I agree about the salad bar — great greens — but they should utilize a mandoline slicer for red onions and nix awful pseudo bacon bits and boxed croutons. Wish they had San Pellegrino, Clausthauler or Kaliber. Never tried dessert. Nice people. The dining room needs one or two walls painted a deeply saturated color such as a warm blue or a forest green. It’s too beige in there.
Not All Bible-Thumpers
Your cover story of March 27 [“Are You There, God? It’s Me, Vermont?”] seems to be a useful look at some of the diversity of religious options in Vermont. Having noted that “Catholics got more than their fair share of attention over the past few weeks,” and that mainline Protestants are the second-largest group in Vermont, however, you said absolutely nothing about mainline Protestants. Of course, even that all-purpose title can be misleading, and in fact “the mainlines” include a fairly wide spectrum of belief and practice. It may surprise you to know that we are certainly not all haranguers and Bible-thumpers, nor an enclave of moribund traditionalists, nor a bunch of complacent middle-class folks who are more interested in upholding the status quo than anything else. One of the strands occurring in Protestantism, for example, is what is known as “progressive Christianity,” which shares some points in common with Unitarian Universalism, with conventional Christianity and with socially progressive segments of the evangelical churches. Progressive Christian congregations also share these values, among others: that the teachings of Jesus are but one way to experience the sacredness and oneness of life, that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom, that we seek community that is inclusive of all people, that the way we behave toward one another is the fullest expression of what we believe and that there is more value in questioning than in absolutes. Let those who have ears…
Brown is the pastor of Christ Church Presbyterian in Burlington. Where There’s a Smokestack…
It’s good news that IBM is helping Burlington lower its impact on the climate. [“IBM Wants to Help Burlington Reduce Its Carbon Footprint — No Strings Attached,” March 27]. Unfortunately, the city’s refusal to fix glaring errors in its Climate Action Plan prevents an honest look at Burlington’s actual contributions to runaway global climate change.
The Burlington Climate Action Plan reports the entire city’s carbon dioxide emissions for 2007 — from all sources — at 397,272.4 tons. Yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calculates the CO2 emissions of McNeil Generating Station alone — the 50-megawatt biomass incinerator supplying roughly one-third of the city’s electricity — at 444,646 tons per year. A closer look reveals that the city only counted 2 percent of McNeil’s emissions from the 30 cords of wood it burns per hour from New York and Vermont forests along with a varying percentage of natural gas — including fracked gas.
In a May 2012 email to the city, William Keeton, professor of forest ecology and forestry chair at UVM’s Rubenstein School, wrote that, “we cannot assume biomass energy to be emissions neutral,” recommending that Burlington acknowledge “the high likelihood of net positive emissions during the near term so critical for avoiding irreversible high magnitude climate change.”
In a September 2012 blog post, 350 Vermont urged Burlington to account for the “actual carbon dioxide smokestack emissions from the McNeil Station for the wood and gas burned, as calculated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
It’s very possible for Burlington to emerge as a leader in the fight against climate change. But how can we reduce our future carbon footprint if we won’t even acknowledge our current one?
Schlossberg is the coordinator of Energy Justice Network
[Re “Lit Update: New Journal The Cause and Books From Honeybee Press,” March 27]: It’s unfortunate I was unable to attend The Cause’s second-issue release party at Radio Bean. From Margot Harrison’s article, it’s clear there was a supportive audience and an abundance of poetry. Cause Arts Quarterly editors Eric Bieber, Vincent Marksohn and Taylor Morse are doing something unique. Their publications are city-street tough with qualities that could almost be characterized as underground Dada.
Even though I did not have the opportunity to attend this latest reading, I have in the past had the chance to read poetry alongside Vincent in Winooski, and I have to say his poetry is littered with dark humor and poetic narratives that are uniquely his own.
[Re “Tastes of Little Jerusalem,” March 27]: I came to UVM as a freshman in 1956. Then as now many of the kids were from New York and New Jersey. On Sundays, there was only one meal served at the cafeteria — sort of a brunch. If you needed to eat at suppertime, you were on your own. A whole bunch of us would walk down Main Street to Mintzer’s Deli. There were all kinds of sandwich meats, smoked fish and pickles available. The deli as I recall was in the same block as the Strong Theater and always very busy on Sundays.
I did not come from a background of eating deli, but my friends felt it was a taste of home, and very quickly I got used to eating pastrami on pumpernickel or rye. Of course eventually they introduced me to New York City delis, and that was a real treat when I went home with them. But Mintzer’s was the place to go on a Sunday afternoon.
Your WTF is well noted [Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: “Why are barns allowed to fall into disrepair yet are rarely torn down?” March 27]. Historic preservation and Act 250 are also a major cause of the decay. Restrictions are put on barns, making it unfeasible to preserve, and then Act 250 says you have to leave the barns for preservation but never says how, who, or identifies a money source to keep them. I have just finished my 54th barn restoration with a 40-by-100, mid-1800 barn moved from Johnson to Hinesburg to be used for weddings. In June, we are moving a barn from Waterville to Dorset. It is my goal to reach a hundred before I die. I do this as a passion.
I pondered this question myself when I was engaged and first married on our family farm. However, it didn’t take long to come to the same conclusion that you did: It costs too much, it isn’t fitting for what we do today (hay bales are much heavier than loose hay), and we have too many other things to do to survive as a business. People act when it makes economic sense. I have been trying to find easy information about somebody who would like to pay for old barn beams. If I had the time, I would organize some way to connect Vermonters with those who would love to have old beams in new houses, etc. Then would Vermonters start to clean up old barns?
I have been the owner of a historic three-story dairy barn in Tunbridge for 10 years. The main section of the barn probably dates to the mid-1850s. The barn is in daily use. It shelters a flock of 13 sheep and a horse, and is also used to store hay, equipment and tools. The barn is in need of a great deal of work to its foundation, sills, windows and roof. It is not a matter of whether a barn is in use or disuse that drives the decision to make required repairs; it is simply a matter of economics. The repairs for a barn are very costly, usually requiring heavy machinery and skilled tradesmen. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the average homeowner or small farmer to shoulder these costs. The preservation grants offered are matching grants. If, after a lengthy application process, a barn is chosen to receive grant funding, the homeowner must be prepared to match the grant funds awarded with their own personal funds. Further, the repairs must be made by approved contractors in accordance with preservation regulations.
When I first moved to this farm 10 years ago, it was my intention to make the repairs that the barn required. I highly value the preservation of historic barn structures and the beauty they add to the farm landscape. However, idealism faded and the economic reality of living in Vermont quickly set in for me. Gathering the necessary personal funds to match a barn preservation grant has proven nearly impossible in the face of the state’s high cost of living. I am now faced with the unhappy decision of maintaining the roof over my head or the roof over my animals’ heads.
For now, repairs to the barn must wait — maybe next year, maybe in five years, perhaps indefinitely.
Former state senator and Ethan Allen Institute founder John McClaughry was mischaracterized as a secessionist in an Off Message blog post last Thursday titled, “John McClaughry: Free-Market Conservative and … Champion of Frogs?” We apologize for the error.