Letters to the Editor
The “Can’t Bear It” headline on Andrea Mowrer’s letter about the viciously cruel treatment of Asiatic black bears was juvenile, flip and insensitive [“Feedback,” September 18]. I can only hope that whoever wrote the caption did not carefully read the letter itself. If it was a deliberate sneer, there is a problem at Seven Days.
Editor’s note: The headline was a bad pun that was not intended to be sneering or funny.
Demeaning Cover Image
Who knew that Seven Days’ perception of nurses is based on a stereotype straight out of the 1950s — a frazzled young female in a thigh-high white dress and cap, staffing an antiquated switchboard that is dominated by a nondescript smiling male [“Patients and Understanding,” September 18]. This gender stereotype of nurses is false, demeaning and disrespectful to the 8000 RNs licensed in Vermont. This depiction warrants a reeducation of the Seven Days staff and an apology to the RNs who work 24/7 to serve Vermonters wherever they may be.
Besides, what does that image have to do with the forward thinking of the work being done to provide all Vermonters with health care insurance?
Kathleen Carrigan Keleher, RN
Editor’s note: We went the iconic route to illustrate a very complicated subject. The “smiling male” is meant to be a patient.
I was impressed with Ken Picard’s article on our new health care exchange [“Patients and Understanding,” September 18]. Solid, detailed information like this is so helpful to this process of change.
Forgot About Employees?
Ken Picard’s article about Vermont’s health exchange profiled a number of Vermonters and discussed how their health care needs will be met by Vermont Health Connect [“Patients and Understanding,” September 18]. Missing from the discussion were employees of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees — the backbone of Vermont’s economy. The fact is that many middle-class Vermonters who currently work for small employers will find themselves paying dramatically more for their health care next year.
Yes, there are federal premium subsidies available for individuals who enroll in the exchange. But those subsidies are not available to someone who is eligible for employer-sponsored insurance. And even for those without employer-sponsored insurance, the subsidies taper off dramatically after about $33,000 of income for a single, and go away entirely at $46,000. This will leave a middle-income person making, say, $35,000 a year, with hundreds of dollars in costs each month just for premiums, and thousands in out-of-pocket costs if they need care. The maximum out-of-pocket costs for a family are in excess of $10,000 for the majority of the plans available on the exchange.
The poor will be taken care of under the new system — as they were under the old. It is the middle class who will bear the burden by being forced into an exchange with much higher costs than many have been used to under employer-sponsored plans. This will lead to more uninsured and underinsured, as people find themselves with the choice of having no coverage at all, or having coverage that will financially ruin them should they actually need to use it.
Sena Friesen Meilleur
Editor’s note: It’s true Ken Picard did not profile any small-business employees. That’s because most are waiting to hear what their employers are going to contribute toward their health insurance coverage. Vermont small businesses must announce to their staffs by October 1 whether they will continue providing insurance or not. Until then, we can’t really do a before-after comparison.
[Re Taste Test: Ramen, September 18]: I’m sure that Chris Russo, the owner of the new Burlington restaurant Ramen, will be delighted that in one sentence — and a photo caption — you made sure that many customers won’t be ordering the mini-burgers highlighted in the picture. What patron could ever sink his or her teeth into a steamed bun after it’s been compared to “moist human skin?”
Bikes Should be Registered
[Re “Steal Wheels: Would a Police Registry Reduce Bike Thefts in Burlington?” September 4]: People who ride bikes — whether it is in Vermont or any place else in the U.S.A. — need to register them with the police, get a small license plate, lights, bell and reflectors, and carry an insurance policy on that bike for any misdeeds they may cause with the bike. They do cause accidents. They need to abide by the strict rules car drivers have to abide by — or get a ticket. It works in Switzerland.
Walk, Don’t Drive
Society is going to find it ever more difficult to move away from the polluting motor vehicle if we, as citizens, do not start making it a bit more difficult to drive to a public event like the Art Hop [“Burlington’s Cops and the Art Hop Clash Over Views of ‘Safety,’” September 4]. Even here, in the supposedly “green” state of Vermont, the hunk of steel, plastic and rubber known as the automobile rules the landscape. For proof, just look at the new ribbons of asphalt we replace the native, natural landscape with all the time.
It’s hard enough as it is to be a walker. I know this from my daily 6- to 8-mile fitness walks. I was pushed to the ground by a pickup truck last year in Essex Junction. And not a day goes by that I don’t encounter a vehicle parked on top of a sidewalk in my path.
Walking, for fitness or otherwise, also puts the walker in touch with the world. An automobile guru cannot make the same claim, no matter how many times the side window is lowered.
Alan C. Gregory
Art Hop Solution
[Re “Burlington’s Cops and the Art Hop Clash Over Views of ‘Safety,’” September 4]: Perhaps the best solution to the traffic problem on Pine Street during the Art Hop is to invest in some wide sidewalks and crosswalks with traffic lights, and reduce speeds for automobile traffic on Pine Street, particularly on Friday night and Saturday during the Art Hop. Signs could be placed at each end of Pine Street asking motorists to divert to St. Paul Street and Shelburne Road as well. That would allow emergency vehicles full access, but greatly reduce the danger to pedestrians during this event.
After a season conducting Segway tours on the bike path and city sidewalks, it is very evident to us that Burlington needs to do more than just profess its desire for a more livable, walkable, bikable city. It needs to invest in sidewalks and multiuse paths separated from automobile traffic. It also needs to redesign streets to devote more space to alternate forms of transportation such as bikes, skateboards and electrically assisted devises like scooters for the disabled and Segways. Automobiles should no longer blindly dominate as the transportation mode of choice downtown.
“Science Type” Wants Answers
I am one of those “science types” who would like to see the peer-reviewed articles that support this radical idea [“School’s Out for … Six Weeks? Champlain Valley Parents Ponder Calendar 2.0,” September 11]. FYI, there are zero. As it stands, it looks like the superintendents association is simply indulging the whims and wishes of Ms. Pinckney based on anecdotal evidence from a small school district in Vail, Colo. To make such dramatic changes that will inconvenience at the least and be a significant hardship on working parents at best without solid scientific underpinnings is an unconscionable abuse of trust in our educational leaders.
Your article on the proposed Calendar 2.0 should prompt parents, students and teachers to get involved in this issue before it is a fait accompli [“School’s Out for … Six Weeks? Champlain Valley Parents Ponder Calendar 2.0,” September 11]. It is no accident that this latest “best practice” comes from a group of administrators who remain in the comfort of their air-conditioned offices during the hot days of June and August.
With global warming a reality, the current school calendar has already seen more very hot days with higher humidity, creating very uncomfortable classroom conditions. Parents should be aware that their children will be in classrooms that are sweltering, unless residents want to pay for air conditioning.
Imagine 27 second graders or 30 ninth graders in an 86-degree classroom. How can this improve learning?
No Fines for Planned Parenthood
Kevin Kelley correctly notes, “Vermont candidates and PACs can blow off state election law with impunity” [“The South Burlington City Council Chair May Have Violated Campaign-Finance Law; Could She Get Busted for It?” September 11]. Case in point: In 2010, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Action Fund spent over $119,000 on last-minute television ads attacking gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie. PPNNE Action Fund did not register as a PAC, did not abide by contribution limits and did not file campaign-finance disclosure reports. ??
Kelley’s article also notes that the Secretary of State relies on the public to reveal violations of election law. A formal complaint about PPNNE Action Fund’s activities was filed with Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s office more than a year and a half ago, and in September 2012, Planned Parenthood filed the campaign finance reports that should have been filed in 2010. Those reports show many contributions in excess of the campaign-finance limits, including $25,000 from the Democratic Governors Association. The DGA was fined in 2010 for another campaign-finance violation. But was Planned Parenthood ever fined for its violations of the law??
Unlike the South Burlington City Council election, where the alleged campaign-finance violations had no affect on the outcome of the race, Brian Dubie lost in 2010 by the narrowest of margins — around 4000 votes. Was it because Peter Shumlin’s political allies at Planned Parenthood violated the law in running those last-minute attack ads that he was able to eke out a victory? ??
Vermont’s campaign finance laws are selectively enforced, if they are enforced at all.
Last week’s cover story, “Patients and Understanding: Untangling the complexities of Vermont’s new health care exchange,” contained several errors. It stated that “Large companies such as IBM, which lobbied hard to be exempt from Vermont’s health care experiment, will have to participate in Vermont Health Connect starting in January 2015.” That’s incorrect. Individuals and businesses with fewer than 100 employees will be required to participate in the exchange by January 1, 2016. However, Vermont’s largest employers, such as IBM and Green Mountain Power, will still be exempt. By January 2017, Vermont is expected to transition to a single-payer system, known as Green Mountain Care, in which employer-provided coverage would be eliminated and all Vermonters would be on a universal healthcare system.
Additionally, the profile of Jane Dwinell and Sky Yardley suggested that a platinum plan would cover many more of the couple’s medical costs “including some dental and vision.” That’s incorrect. Under Vermont Health Connect, all the plans offer the same benefits. Dental and vision plans are additional. Also, Dwinell’s recent ER visit was at Porter Hospital in Middlebury, not Fletcher Allen Health Care. Seven Days regrets the errors.