Senator is Sincere
[Fair Game: “No Laughing Matter,”  April 3] seemed to imply insincerity on my part for voting “no” on a floor amendment to the Senate campaign-finance reform bill. Far from it, my decision to vote no was based on concerns about the amendment’s implications.
The proposed floor amendment erroneously invoked Citizens United as a reason to ban direct corporate contributions to candidates. But Citizens United established independent expenditures as free speech.
Direct corporate contributions are regulated. Candidates list corporate contributions by donor. Direct corporate contributions are transparent. Citizens can see which corporation donated to which candidate within amounts allowed by Vermont law.
Independent expenditures can be of any amount by anonymously funded organizations or groups. Advertisements and other communications can overwhelm an election. Individual contributors are not reported. Transparency is lost. These independent expenditures in elections are the result of Citizens United.
The proposed floor amendment for the campaign-finance bill would not change the ill-conceived Citizens United decision. That decision might be overturned by changes at the U.S. Supreme Court or to the U.S. Constitution. My interest in overturning Citizens Unitedto preserve democracy and transparency in electoral processes has not wavered. I will work to overturn the Citizens United decision through Constitutional means.
We should pass accurate legislation that solves problems. Saying we could change the Citizens United decision by passing a ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates is inaccurate. The proposed amendment to ban direct corporate donations was again debated last week, and I voted for it.
Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)
Building a Reputation
[Re “In Vermont Architecture, Does Nostalgia Trump New Ideas?”  April 10]: Architects really shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves; too many of them have collaborated with bankers, brokers and builders to pander to the lowest common denominator, like TV. But Kevin J. Kelley’s reporting of the Middlebury discussion suggests neither causes nor cures. Perhaps none were offered. In fact, there continues to be a vital, expressive modernist trend in the Burlington area.
In the 1940s and ’50s, an expanding economy, a more cosmopolitan consciousness and employment at UVM and IBM created a new, more sophisticated, optimistic, diverse community of clients for the new, more sophisticated, optimistic, diverse community of local architects. In the ’80s and ’90s, the work was less interesting and the clients more cautious, but young architects persevered. Bernie’s election as mayor brought them out en masse; the Burlington Urban Design Study, directed by David Sellers, was just one example of the expansion of the profession — not just in Burlington — toward new ideas, new techniques and new forms of participation in what continues to be a quintessentially collective art form. Now in Burlington, young architects — and not-so-young ones — seem ready and able to push the envelope of convention even further.
With all due respect to Donald Kreis for the important work he is doing, reporter Kelley should know that 05401 has been publishing criticism of the local architectural scene for almost 20 years.
Louis Mannie Lionni
Lionni is editor of the Burlington-based architectural journal, 05401.
[Re “Vermont’s Gun-Control Dodge Leaves Burlington in the Crosshairs,”  April 10]: There’s no “dodge” here. It’s just that you have yet to grasp the perspective on your proposals. Well over 99 percent of the more than 250 million privately owned guns in America will never be involved in a criminal act, and this is where you are focusing your efforts and resources. Very few of the less than 1 percent of guns that are actually involved in a crime are legally purchased or possessed. To avoid rampages, add armed security. Would you place a “gun-free zone” sign in your front yard? If someone is willing to die in the process of killing you, what are your choices?
It’s ironic that the photo printed with your [Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: “Why are barns allowed to fall into disrepair yet are rarely torn down?”  March 27], and again in [Feedback: “Barn Again,”  April 10] is of a barn that has since collapsed and no longer exists. All that remains of it is a nearby road called Round Barn Road.
I see blame all around [“Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi to Headline Sanders Barn Burner on Reining in Wall Street,”  April 10]. Yes, the big banks are to blame for most of this mess, but where has government oversight been? Bernie is part of this. What has government actually done? Create legislation that benefits large banks over small ones, and Attorney General Eric Holder seems very reluctant to go after anyone who was responsible for this mess. And what is Bernie really going to do after he holds this taxpayer-funded dog-and-pony show?
[Re “Gluten-Free Defenders,”  April 10]: Since I gave up gluten 10 years ago, I have more energy than I had in my twenties — nearly 40 years ago. That’s all I know. That’s what my body tells me. To confirm celiac disease, I would have to eat a bunch of gluten before a blood test. Don’t want to. Don’t need to.
Dietary fads and recommendations come and go, but what is most powerful in determining my health is listening to my body. Once I was able to buck the sugar addiction, I could hear it tell me what it wanted/needed to eat: Sometimes I crave olives; sometimes red meat; sometimes a huge salad. In the store I will often hold a food item for a moment and listen. Often I will put it back on the shelf. I used to struggle with my health; now I can commute 17 miles to work on my bike.
First I placed too much power in the hands of the folks selling the yummy fatty/sugary foods. Then I placed too much power into the hands of experts. Finally, I placed the power in the wisdom of my own body.
[“Will Burlington Ever Say No to Its Burgeoning School Budget,”  April 3] included some considerations about our fair city’s property and school taxes — with particular focus on the voters’ continued approval of school tax increases over the past decade. The writer noted an increasing burden on an increasingly smaller population.
It is heartening to see the elephant in the room given some recognition. Behind these increases in taxes is an underlying and troubling reality: the extent to which other people’s money is being spent carelessly. This is a pattern around the nation and results in the bankruptcy of cities.
The millions of dollars of debt incurred by public officials’ spending — and the millions more racked up through employee benefits and pensions — need to be made transparent. Seven Days is certainly on the right track.
Yes, Yes, Yes
I wonder if Kevin J. Kelley missed the real story in his “Will Burlington Ever Say No to Its Burgeoning School Budget?” article [April 3]. Rather than try to figure out what it would take to get us to say no, another article might try to catalog all the good reasons we’ve said yes lately.
Burlingtonians have said yes to school budgets not because we’re dumb but because we know the value we’re getting for our money. Our elected school board members, our paid school administrators and teachers, our children, and countless community volunteers spread the word about the many amazing things that happen in our schools day in and day out. We know our schools are doing an admirable job working with students who come from many backgrounds and who show up at school with a wide range of skills and knowledge.
We know that our federal government is simultaneously increasing requirements while decreasing financial contributions. We know that education is a labor-intensive proposition; and just as we rightly value other public servants like those who police our streets and fight our fires, we know that we must pay our teachers and ensure that they have adequate health care if we want to keep them here in our community educating our children. Burlington is full of smart citizens and remarkable young people — and we know how that happens.
Saturday or Sunday
The article [“Are You There, God? It’s Me, Vermont,”  March 27] contained a statement regarding Islamic and Catholic services: “The faithful are mandated to attend the prayer service on the Islamic holy day in the same way that Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sunday.” Many Catholic churches hold Mass on Saturday — it is permitted to attend Mass on Saturday rather than on Sunday.
Religion Article Fell Short
It is odd that your story [“Are You There, God? It’s Me, Vermont,” March 27] didn’t give readers a better sense of the history of faith communities in Vermont. For example, there are two synagogues in Burlington — Temple Sinai and Ohavi Zedek — but Jewish families were in Vermont before the Civil War. The oldest synagogue opened in 1885. In all, there are 12 synagogues/meeting places for Jewish families in Vermont.
In discussing Ohavi Zedek, there is a trivial mention about the dynamic new minister, Rev. Peter Cook, of the First Congregational Church in Burlington. How about discussing this yearly ecumenical event designed to bring understanding of each other to faith communities? First Congregational Church opened its doors in 1805, and it had as an early member Civil War Gen. Oliver Howard, who began Howard University and worked tirelessly for the rights of slaves.
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul opened its doors in 1805, when the population of Burlington was 3500. First Congregational Church of Bennington opened in 1762. The Thetford Meeting House opened in 1787.
Religion/worship/spirituality exists in Vermont whether people attend church, synagogue or other types of meeting places. Counting heads in organized religious facilities doesn’t tell the whole story; many choose not to join or attend an established place of worship. The story should be not the lack of faith, but how faith communities keep going for 255 years or more.
Editor’s note: All of the above sound like great story ideas, but the approach we took was to sample a handful of lesser-known organized religions in Vermont. The assignment was to attend and describe their worship services in 600 words or less.
Wheels Keep on Turning
Interesting story by Sarah Tuff about elite bike racing in Vermont [“Wheels of Fortune,”  March 27], but there’s a long history of top-level bike racers based in Vermont. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the Stowe-Shimano road team — sponsored by Onion River Sports, the Stowe Bike Club and Shimano — competed up and down the eastern United States and Canada and at national championships. Led by Jack Nash of Stowe, the road team included riders such as David Ware, Tony Chastain, Chris Carmichael, Steve Clayton, Louis Garneau and a very young Andrew Brewer, who now owns Onion River Sports. In 1984, Carmichael and Garneau participated in the Olympic road race for their respective countries. Stowe-Shimano also sponsored teams for women and veteran riders.
Enforce Green-Space Regs
Rain barrels are, as your headline suggests, a drop in the bucket [“Vermont’s Rain-Barrel Project: A Lake Saver or Drop in the Bucket?”  March 27]. As consciousness raisers, they may have an impact, but as to solving the real pollution and flooding problems from runoff, they are not significant.
In Burlington, what would be significant would be simply to adhere to the green-space requirements established long ago. Large swaths of the city are required to preserve 60 to 65 percent of every lot as permeable green space. This is the legal standard on the books, but the practice on many properties has been to annex green space for pavement or parking at will.
The city officials responsible for upholding these green-space requirements have been lax, oblivious or even complicit, routinely looking the other way or refusing to see what’s plain to see. They hold new development accountable for managing storm water sensibly and abiding by lot coverage limits but in contradictory fashion send millions of excess gallons running off down the sluiceways that Main, College, Maple and other downslope streets become every time it rains — all because the green-space rule is so widely and blithely ignored in the day-to-day mismanagement of properties.
The solution to the pollution and flooding from excess runoff is simple and far more than a drop in the bucket. Require every property to maintain or restore its green space.