The Mountain Times

°F Sat, April 19, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Opinion

A livable wage will stimulate economy while providing dignity for workers
Dear Editor,
I am writing this letter because I believe a livable wage bill should be put on the front burner. I support H.522, which would put the minimum wage up to $10.10/hour. This is a good start towards reaching a livable wage. It would give thousands of Vermonters a chance to access things like mental health services or much needed dental care, both of which are out of my reach and many of your neighbors. Shuffling money from program to program hasn't worked in the past.
This will likely help to stimulate the economy while giving Vermonters a chance to live a more dignified life, and take better  care of our families. Please join me and call your Reps to support H.522.
Sincerely,
Stauch Blaise, Randolph, Vt.

Equity, income sensitivity and Vt. property taxes
Dear Editor,
The reform in education has gained momentum this year as property owners question their rising taxes and the results of quality education in our schools. A recent approval of a 4-cent increase in residential tax rates and a 7.5 cent tax increase on non-resident taxes for 2014 and more to come next year, certainly has caused 23 towns to reject their school budgets. This should be of concern to our state representatives.
The State legislature and governor blame these increases on our local school boards and voters. Not so fast. The Brigham decision was meant to equalize education throughout the state so that each school would benefit from equal spending per student. Unfortunately, Vermont has lost 15 percent of its students under Act 60/68 while the spending continues to rise.
Currently, Vermont has 85,000 students and the costs have risen from $600 million to $1.4 billion per year over the past 12 years. To pay for this increase, property taxes continue to rise. One reason is that the State has not funded its share of these increases by large amounts. It has found surplus funds to help cover the gap, but this will go away after this year.
Another big issue is income-sensitivity. Approximately 70 percent of Vermonters are voting on school spending while at the very same time they are not being affected by the rising cost. This is because these 70 percent pay their property taxes based upon income which is "capped" at 1.9% of their income. As such, if these income-sensitized voters are capped they really do not care because if they get a $5,000 property tax bill they only pay 1.9 percent of, let us say, a $50,000 income, which would be only $950. The rest of the taxes due come from those who have higher incomes above $90,000, which includes (nearly) every out-of-state property owner. And these non-residents cannot vote.
Another negative to this whole Act 60/68 dilemma is the equity value of our homes. Property owners, including non-residents and higher income residents, are paying larger taxes and this is contributing to lower values of homes and, in turn, the selling value. In fact, the assessed values in many towns based upon the Coefficient of Dispersion (COD) are over-appraised. The "equity" value of a home is decreased by the taxes paid on property. As such, the market value is going down while the taxes are going up even when there are fewer students.
This inequality is causing Vermonters to leave our state with their kids. Furthermore, even though Vermont is spending $1.4 billion on our students, we are seeing a "brain drain." This is not good for Vermont's future.
One must ask just one or two questions to our legislators. If plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, lumber sales, carpeting and realtors are not making a solid living, why would they continue to live in Vermont? The second question is: Why would anyone want to build a new house or remodel an old house, if their property taxes are going up?
Edwin J. Fowler, Killington, Vt.

GMOs ought to be labeled; here's why
Dear Editor,
Say you go to a computer store and you decide on buying a fancy new computer. While you're checking it out, you notice that the label showing its abilities and functions are not listed. The normal thing to do next would be to ask for the information you are looking for. So you do just that, and the worker says, "Sorry, I don't really know, because we are not allowed to provide that information." Now, this would annoy just about anyone. Imagine if all the stores were like this, you would never know what you were getting!
This is what it's like when buying food in the grocery store today. There is no way to know what you are buying. There is no way to know whether the food you are about to eat contains GMO ingredients or not. Please make it available for humans to know this basic information because we all need to eat, and to eat food that is mysterious all the time is not right.
Everyone, please help pass the GMO labeling bill; it's to your benefit.
Manolo Zelkin, Shrewsbury, Vt. (age 15)

Hobby Lobby may have it right afterall
Dear Editor,
I very much enjoyed reading Kip Dalury of Killington's commentary which appeared in The Mountain Times, March 27, 2014.  He made many good points.  How dare Hobby Lobby object to funding SPECIFIC contraception that it is morally opposed to? After all, Hobby Lobby is an artificial entity without human substance or feelings; a lot like DATA from Star Trek the Next Generation.  And perhaps you are correct in loosely suggesting that a generational acceptance of Plan B can somehow be responsible for the revival of downtown Rutland.  Really?
And your cost benefits analysis:  spot-on!  Maybe the ACA should include a program where condoms are dispensed … everywhere, especially bars.  Then there would be no need for Plan B.  Oh but what of Churches, schools, Christian Bars and Hobby Lobby? Nevermind.
To continue, how dare Hobby Lobby pay more than the minimum wage to its seemingly more than happy employees?  You were quite observant to point out that a single mother in Rutland may require a greater wage than a co-worker to sustain herself.  To quote a famous person, "From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need."
No society in history has ever been homogeneous, or shall ever be so; despite despotic mandates from the powers that be. So please cease to insist that we, either as individuals or groups, business, social, religious, political or otherwise, conform to the ill winds of the day.  Lastly, I suspect that Hobby Lobby has done more to enrich the lives of others than Sandra Flake will ever be able to do.  Go Hobby Lobby!
Elena Minnes, West Hartford, Conn.

Flossing has changed lives
Dear Editor,
After reading Brett Yates column in your March 20-26 edition titled "Does anyone ever floss?" I thought of a story that your readers should also consider, as flossing can literally changed someone's life.
Here's a story to illustrate: About 16 or 17 years ago a young lady came to my home, on a Saturday afternoon. She was an acquaintance; I had met her a few years previously, at an exhibition.
She was distraught. She talked of suicide. She said she had no friends, she could not get a boyfriend. She was very miserable.
As she talked, she doodled on a newspaper on the table; sketches of a very sad lady, tears, and ominous words about ending it all. I still have that paper - somewhere. She went on for about 20 minutes about this.
Eventually, I said "Sit down, there is something I want to tell you." She sat down; I then said "You have extremely bad breath. Your breath is so bad that I would not want to get in the same car as you."
"I can tell you this, because I can fix it." I then gave her some dental floss and showed her how to use it. After she had flossed, I found a new toothbrush and gave that to her and some toothpaste, too. Perhaps for the first time? Possibly, I did not ask.
After this, about 80% of her bad breath had gone. I then told her to make an appointment with a dentist, to have her teeth professionally cleaned, and to have any cavities filled and anything else fixed. That also may have been a first time. As she left, I gave her a packet of floss and told her to use it after each meal.
I did not see her for a long time after this, but a couple of years later she came to work for me. I noticed no breath problem. I last saw her again about 11 years ago, she was fine, still a very headstrong lady.
I guess it may not be exactly true to say I saved her life; however, she was talking of suicide; she did not do it.
The reason I knew I could fix her bad breath is I had done it for a number of others; sometimes talking at a party, you notice someone has a problem - give them a floss & mention all the things it is good for, 'also fixes bad breath if used after each meal', without mentioning that they have a problem - their partner gives you a knowing smile. Next time you meet, no hint of a problem.  More recently, I was talking to a government HR director; he said he had interviewed a very good candidate for an official position - head & shoulders over all other candidates - but he could not give him the position due to his exremely bad breath.
If you are not cleaning, you may have halitosis - most who have it are completely unaware.
Disclaimer; I manufacture dental floss. FlossFirst Credit Card Dental Floss; 50 M of floss, Nylon or PTFE, in 1/6th inch thick pack. Our floss has a money back guarantee against halitosis. I had done a lot of travelling marketing other inventions, usually with Oral B or J & J floss in my pocket; uncomfortable. I designed FlossFirst to make a 'comfortable' floss for travellers, as travelling is a time of significantly increased risk to teeth, and I manufacture FlossFirst because I know how good flossing is for you.
There is much more to good oral hygiene than just fresh breath; perhaps for another day.
Stuart Saunders, www.FlossFirst.com © S.Saunders 2014.

Community Commentary: Plan B for Hobby Lobby and Rutland
By Kip Dalury, Killington
Timing is everything. Just as Hobby Lobby readies its Rutland store the Supreme Court of the United States hears arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. this week. The US Secretary of Health and Human Services is appealing a Circuit Court of Appeals decision favoring the owners of the 500-plus chain store. They were able to get an exemption from the Affordable Care Act based on their religion even though Hobby Lobby is a corporation not a church.  
It's a RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) case based on the first amendment, which guarantees separation of church and state and freedom of religion, speech, etc. - which is why we have Rush Limbaugh. Remember Rush's 2012 rant about wanting to watch a certain female Georgetown Law School student (who shall remain nameless) having sex because she complained about the Jesuit schools' lack of contraception insurance coverage? Well Hobby Lobby, et. al. (there are other large for-profits owned by religious diehards) heard the angels singing. Later that year they sued the feds claiming that the ACA, which includes a contraception mandate, violates their right to exercise religion.
The good shepherds are OK with birth control such as the rhythm method but draw a line in the bed at emergency contraception such as Plan B - the latest version of the morning after pill. A single Plan B pill can cost $50 which is 50 times the cost of a condom. If condoms cost 50 times Plan B that would be $2,500 per equalized one night stand. I don't know who goes to craft stores but those aren't very gender-friendly numbers.
Hobby Lobby plans to pay more than the minimum wage, which may be a living wage for one adult but not enough for a single mother in Rutland County - $18/hour, according to the county-specific living wage calculator (http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/50021).
Besides the erosion of privacy/abortion rights, the case takes us deeper into the lost world of corporate personhood revealed by the 2010 Citizens United case. Since then, corporate super pacs can spend as much as they want on political ads because they are people and have protected free speech rights. Hobby Lobby wants the same rights as a big church or a small mom and pop store or, maybe, they believe NSA sex (no strings attached) is cutting into their craft sales. But women aren't gonna take that lying down.
There was no Plan B in the 90s when Rutland got in bed with a certain developer and the Diamond Run Mall was created. This January it sold for pennies on the dollar ($4,000,000 after selling for $50,000,000 in 2007). That misfire anchored a two-mile sprawl corridor that hollowed out downtown. No amount of impact fees could undo the damage, but thanks to a new generation downtown is coming back and we are all the better for it! Go Plan B.

Aquatic club thanks Killington voters for their support
Dear Editor,
The Killington Aquatic Club sincerely appreciates all the support that it has received from the community and the town. We thank you all for our appropriation of $500 to the Killington Aquatic Club and will use it to purchase equipment and/or to support our scholarship fund.
We hope that in the near future that the community comes to the Pico Sports Center to visit and see what the program has to offer. Killington Aquatic Club hopes that with its growth, that the Club will be providing a program of excellence in coaching our children and adults in the very important sport of swimming!
Sincerely,  Kristin Schiessl-Alf, Killington Aquatic

Chemicals cripple: Gulping fumes on Wheelerville Road
Dear Editor,
Imagine getting ready to take a healthy hike or bike ride with your dogs in the country. The whole idea being: to get away from technology, chemicals and stress and to breathe in fresh Vermont air. Our lives are very complicated and we need to get into nature to heal our bodies, minds and souls in stillness.
Those of us (sometimes called "sensitive's") who react strongly to chemicals, have it rougher than most. The positive side of that is that we are the "canaries in the coal mine" of life. We tend to get sick and then recover when we get zapped with toxins; while others don't even know while it's happening but end up with diseases like cancer.
In my many years hiking and biking in Vermont, all I can remember is panicking and diving off the trail into the deep snow, when the noisy ear shattering pack of smelly snowmobiles went by. The petrochemical vapors linger in the air long after they pass you. Many of us cannot breathe after this onslaught and get sick.
The point of this letter is to suggest amending the present Snowmobiling State Laws and Regulations in Vermont to make positive changes for the safety and health of all. I see that the exhaust systems must be correctly inspected on the machines; so why can't we make rules that limit the use on some of the main thoroughfares shared by many non-snowmobilers, like Wheelerville Road, giving riders only access to the back woods trails. It is a simple thing to ask for those of us who get severely ill when we breathe in petrochemicals. Each person has personal freedoms and I believe one of them is to be able to enjoy breathing oxygen, not toxic chemicals, when venturing out in nature.
Susan Meadows Wind, Mendon, Vt.

Paid sick days bill stalled due to business' influence, action needed
Dear Editor,
There is something going on at the Vermont State House in Montpelier that Vermonters need to pay attention to. The House bill to grant Paid Sick Days (H.208) to Vermont workers has stalled because our representatives are apparently more interested in representing the retailers, the grocers and the Chamber of Commerce than in acting in the interest of the workers of this state, who voted them into office.
Up to 106,000 workers in Vermont are employed in situations where paid sick leave is not granted. Most of these workers are in minimum or low wage jobs, and most of them are women, many of whom are single mothers. If they get sick, or if their child gets sick, they cannot take a day from work without losing that day's pay, or perhaps even losing the job.
In Vermont, we believe in human dignity and respect, and 72% of Vermonters believe all workers, especially those in minimum wage jobs, should have Paid Sick Days. We need to demand that our legislators step up and have the courage and the compassion to make the right choice. They need to be responsible to their constituents and to the workers of Vermont.
Call your representative. You can leave a message by calling 800-322-5616 or 802-828-2228, the office of the Sergeant-at-Arms in the State House, and your message will be taken down and presented to your representative. Ask your representative to support Paid Sick Days and pass the bill this year.
Sincerely,
Millard Cox, Ripton, VT,

When it comes to jobs, progress and prosperity: Vt.'s glass is more than half full
By Annie Noonan and Lisa Gosselin
As our nation recovers from one of the worst recessions in recent history, there is a tendency to keep thinking of our economy as a glass that is half empty. When we hear about job losses or see international companies consolidating operations elsewhere, it is easy to fall into that mindset.
But in Vermont, there's another story.
We are fortunate to have avoided the crippling mortgage crisis and high unemployment that afflicted so many states. We have worked tirelessly to strengthen Vermont's economy by diversifying and insulating ourselves from downturns that might hit any single sector.
We have made significant progress.
Since January 2011, when Governor Shumlin took office, we have added more than 11,000 new jobs statewide, including 3,000 in manufacturing, professional services, science and technology. Our farm economy, tourism, and value-added agricultural products sectors have also experienced impressive growth. Our renewable energy firms created more than 1,000 new jobs last year alone, and Vermont now ranks number one in the nation for solar jobs per capita.  
It has been a long, slow recovery from the recession, and companies around the world continue to feel the impacts. But many of Vermont's homegrown businesses are flourishing. In the past 18 months, we have seen multi-million dollar deals struck by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Dealer.com and Vermont Hard Cider Company. Thanks to them and many others, our jobs are growing.
Our glass is more than half full. Vermont has nearly returned to its pre-recession employment numbers. We currently have the fifth lowest unemployment in the nation and lowest east of the Mississippi River.
Adjusted gross income for Vermonters also increased by more than five percent between 2011 and 2012. While all of us would like to see even greater progress, it is an encouraging rate of growth and among the best in the nation. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has found that the "Massachusetts and Vermont economies led the region along most indicators in 2013," and that Vermont in the third quarter of last year had the strongest increase in the region in wage and salary income compared to the same quarter in the previous year.
Our training and employment programs have helped thousands of Vermonters find new jobs and learn skills that prepare them for new careers. For the third year in row, Vermont is ranked first in the nation in the bipartisan Opportunity Index, which rates states and communities using 16 key economic, educational and civic indicators.
There is increased growth and opportunity in every corner of our state. Burlington has been named one of the top 10 most promising tech hubs nationwide. Ski areas in Stowe, Wilmington, Warren, Burke, Jay and Ludlow are building new infrastructure and growing into year-round resort destinations that can bring millions of new visitors to our state.
Towns like St. Albans, Barre, Newport, Morrisville, Middlebury, Bennington, and Brattleboro are investing in their downtowns, creating jobs, housing and business opportunities. Companies such as Kaman Composites in Bennington, Middlebury Interactive Languages, WCW of Manchester, Mylan in St. Albans, Freedom Foods in Randolph, Logic Supply in South Burlington, Biotek in Winooski, Ivek in North Springfield, and others are adding jobs and bringing new prosperity to their regions.
All of this is happening in Vermont, which is consistently ranked one of the healthier, happier, and better educated in the nation. As we meet with employers and job seekers, we hear often about the powerful draw of Vermont's great educational system, beautiful outdoors and tremendous quality of life.
We have more to do to strengthen and diversify our recovery, to keep the cost of living affordable, and to create greater economic opportunity for all Vermonters. But we have already made tremendous progress and we will keep moving forward.
Annie Noonan is the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor and Lisa Gosselin is the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development for the state of Vermont.

Vermont needs a better plan for job creation
By Rob Roper
The past year has been a hard one on Vermont employees. For example, IBM, Vermont's long-time top private employer, laid off 419 workers from its Essex facility last summer and just announced another 140 jobs will go. Up north, Energizer closed its St. Albans factory in September, costing us 165 jobs. Down south, just this past month Plasan Carbon Composites of Bennington announced it is moving to Michigan along with 143 more jobs. Vermont Yankee and its 600 plus jobs, which average over $100,000 per year salaries, will close its doors at the end of 2014.
People can argue over why these companies left or downsized. Is it state policy, or other factors beyond the state's control, or a combination of both? Each case is different, and in each case myriad factors certainly influenced the final decisions. Companies operating in free markets will always be opening, closing, and moving. But, one thing is for certain: Vermont needs an effective strategy to attract new good-paying, tax-revenue-generating jobs to replace the one's we've lost, at least as fast as we're losing them.
Other states are being very aggressive in this regard. One neighbor, New York, is advertising Governor Cuomo's plan to revitalize its economy by offering companies ten years of tax-free existence for starting, relocating or expanding businesses in specific enterprise zones. "Business will be able to locate in these zones and operate 100% tax-free for 10 years. No income tax. No business or corporate state or local taxes. No sales tax. No property tax. No franchise fees," boasts the program website.
Michigan, which poached Plasan out of Bennington, succeeded in doing so by offering the company nearly $5 million in tax credits.
When Huber + Suhner left Vermont in October 2013, taking 63 jobs to North Carolina and New Jersey, the company's president explained, "Obviously, the cost of doing business [in Vermont] and the tax perspective is a significant reason why we're moving." North Carolina had just instituted a series of tax reforms, including cuts to income tax rates, corporate tax rates, property taxes, capping the gasoline tax, and fully repealing the estate tax.
The common theme here is that employers are looking for favorable tax environments of one kind or another, and are rewarding the states that provide them. Given that fact, how should we expect employers to react to what's being discussed in the Vermont State House today?
Here, a prospective employer is looking at the potential for a 13% to 16% plus payroll tax to pay for single-payer healthcare (S.252). An increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 or as much as $15/hour (H.433, H.552, H770, S.301). Government mandated paid sick leave for employees (H.208, S.255). A 0.25% increase in the Rooms & Meals tax (H.586). A 7¢ per $100 of assessed value property tax increase to $1.01 for residential properties and $1.51 for commercial. And, all this would be on top of an existing reputation as a high-tax, business-unfriendly state.
We are surrounded by Boston, New York, Montreal - 80 million people in the surrounding metropolitan markets - with a plethora of high paying, fairly mobile jobs in finance, communications, arts and entertainment, high tech, software, law, etc. What would it take to entice folks in these kinds of high-wage, low-environmental-impact industries to move to Vermont and hang out their shingles?
I suspect the answer would have a lot to do with lower taxes; a message of "Come to Vermont, bring your business, keep more of what you earn, and spend it living in the greatest lifestyle experience New England has to offer." But, such a pitch would require serious policies to back it up. This is what Vermont should be doing to grow the economic pie. Unfortunately, we're doing quite the opposite.
A friend who is an entrepreneur and software engineer recently crunched the numbers on what a total tax burden for a family of five living in Burlington and earning $90,000 a year would look like if the single payer payroll tax took effect. Of that $90,000 salary, $53,982.80 would go to pay one form of tax or another - $16,222.80 for state and federal income tax, $11,160 FICA tax, $12,600 payroll tax, $1,000 for state and federal unemployment tax and workers comp, plus $11,500 in property taxes and an estimated $1,500 for sales taxes.
Most people are going to look at that and say, you know, Vermont's a pretty state, but that's way more than my fair share, and head off Michigan or North Carolina, or across the boarder to New Hampshire.
Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He live in Stowe.

May you always walk in sunshine (unless you are dying of thirst in the parade)
Dear Editor,
No Guinness at Boston's St Patrick's Day parade! What next? No wine at church? The dust has just settled on Vermont town meeting and now this!
No real surprise here. Guinness, owned by Diageo (world's largest producer of spirits), simply followed microbrew behemoth Sam Adams who was challenged by a Boston bar owner: either pull out or come pick up your beer - we're not selling it because gays can't march. Then, of course, a bunch of other bars shut off Sam Adams for pulling out. Billionaire Boston Beer owner Jim Koch can't win.
Last month a bunch of Fortune 500 corps stomped Arizona conservatives who were proposing anti-gay legislation disguised as freedom of religion. Seems like folks have realized that gays have jobs, money and like parades. Richard Florida, who wrote 'The Rise of the Creative Class' strongly recommended embracing diversity in 2002. A decade later it's pretty obvious who took that advice and built a creative economy (an economy).
Which brings us back to Vermont. This past town meeting day municipalities voted down three dozen school budgets - the most in a decade. One other thing about the diversity and equality crow: they have children by choice (planned parenthood) and don't overrun the schoolhouse with kids while parents work low paying jobs.
Too bad the Act 60 lawsuit (Brigham v State) beat the Civil Union case (Baker v State) to the Vermont Supreme Court back in the 90s. Sure Act 60 etc. is inequitable but it's kind of a flat tax. That's good isn't it? Maybe the only way to upend state wide education funding is by lawsuit which gets a ripened constitutional issue to a sympathetic Supreme Court.    
Get me a Vermont beer and a copy of the Vermont Constitution.
Kip Dalury, Killington

Proposing tax breaks for lower income earners is short-sighted
Dear Editor,
With all the discussion about increased education funding and reduced student population it appears that the best our Legislature can do is a plan to increase property tax breaks for those earning up to $120,000 a year. Unfortunately, this philosophy was somewhat addressed by our elected representative, Anne Gallivan during the Killington town meeting when she claimed that there is no problem with education spending, only how we pay for it.
I have commented before that just as we all must learn to live within our means, the state must also figure out how to do things smarter and more economical. One of the issues commented on by many others is the income sensitivity provision of the state education property tax. Although well intentioned, it has grown to benefit 70% of Vermonters and with the proposed increase it is likely to grow to 80%. Although many towns like Killington have made significant sacrifices to control education costs, many have not.
The complexity of the tax, and the perceived benefits to so many, have led to Vermont spending more per student than almost any other state. This trend cannot continue unabated without serious financial consequences for all Vermonters.
Some may argue that those earning more than $120,000 a year should pay for those earning less. The concept sounds good until you realize that high paying jobs are leaving Vermont much faster than they are arriving. Right or wrong, based on your perspective, Vermont is branded as one of the most unfriendly business states in the country. As an example IBM has lost over 4,000 high paying jobs since the state did not adequately support their expansion efforts years ago. Instead IBM moved their newest chip technology to New York, and now there are even some undertones of IBM selling its Vermont facilities. Vermont Yankee is another case in point. In fact hardly a week goes by that there is not another company leaving, or examining the financial wisdom of leaving Vermont. I mention all this because when there are no $120,000 plus jobs left in Vermont, who will be left to pay for rising education costs?
Marty Post, Killington

Follow the money, find the root cause of drug addiction
Dear Editor,
The reason we have a heroin problem in this state, and this country, is because the US military is guarding the poppy fields in Afghanistan and has helped to increase the production of opium since US occupation. If Governor Shumlin really wants to solve the heroin/addiction problem he should be addressing this issue instead of advocating for treatment that transfers addiction to legal, opiate-based drugs that add billions to the already overflowing coffers of the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies while We the People continue to suffer. Anything else is just treating the symptom with obfuscation as a tool of rhetoric. Pay close attention to the men behind the curtains, they usually do not have your best interests at heart. Follow the money, find the truth. Just don't expect to like it.
Nancy Scarcello, Florence, Vt.

The Willis family gives thanks for a caring community and its support
Dear Editor,
We would like to thank our friends within this caring community and beyond who have supported our family with cards, foods, visits and phone calls through a most trying loss of our beloved wife and mother, Ellen (E.J.) Willis.
We will always be appreciative and never forget these gestures of kindness in her honor.
Please be informed that there will be a celebration of her life here in the community this summer.
A date will be announced in the near future.
Our love to all,
The Willis family: Ron, Charmaine and Whitney
Killington, Vt.

If farmworkers earned more, could we afford what they pick?
By Michael G. Harpold
Income inequality and the minimum wage have become national buzzwords, but noticeably absent from the conversation is the economic plight of American farmworkers.
"Almost half the people laboring in our fields are U.S. citizens and legally authorized immigrants, but Americans tend to think they're all illegals, so they accept the situation," says Michael Harpold, a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and author of the new book "Jumping the Line," a realistic and dramatic portrayal of an illegal immigrant and a Mexican-American farmworker family.
"We're terrified food prices would skyrocket - a fear perpetuated by some in the agriculture industry - if we don't keep the lid on labor prices."
Ask the farmers and they'll say, "I'm paying far more than the minimum wage," and that's often true, Harpold says. "What's not said is that the work is seasonal, so the laborer works only 100 days a year. His annual income falls far below the poverty line."
Non-supervisory farmworkers earned an average hourly wage of $10.80 in 2012, well over the federal minimum wage of $7.25, according to the Farm Labor Survey conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The same survey found nearly half did not have year-long jobs.
The impact of extreme poverty on farmworkers - more than 2 million, including undocumented immigrants - affects all of us.
"Imagine how well local businesses would do if these workers had enough money to dine in their restaurants, visit their shops and pay for their services," Harpold says. "Imagine the benefits to us all if their children could stay in one school for a full year, and if they could aspire to careers beyond the fields."
If we could stem the flow of cheap labor crossing illegally into our country, and if we relied only on legal immigrants and citizen workers, wages would rise, he says.
What would that look like for the rest of us? Harpold says it's not the frightening picture some stakeholders paint.
•    We'd pay less than $1 more a month for produce. According to University of California at Davis agriculture economist Phillip Martin, a 40 percent increase in farmworker wages would translate to a 2 to 3 percent increase in retail prices for fruits and vegetables. The trade-off is less economic cost borne by government to support impoverished farmworker families.
•    We would curtail the creation of more substandard jobs in agriculture. Guest worker programs - where foreign workers are invited to work on U.S. farms - perpetuate pockets of rural poverty by keeping labor costs low, encouraging the creation of more low-skilled, low-income jobs in the area. Pending House and Senate legislation proposes to allow in hundreds of thousands of new guest workers. If enacted, this will continue the vicious circle of poverty and inadequate education trapping immigrant farmworker families striving to assimilate in our society. Children of immigrants living in two-parent families are twice as likely to be poor (44 percent versus 22 percent) as the children of natives. Two-thirds of farmworker children who live with both parents remain poor, according to "The New Rural Poverty" by Philip Martin, Michael Fix & J. Edward Taylor.
•    Growers will (as they have in the past) innovate to make up for fewer workers. When forced to compete for labor such as occurred when the United States stopped the importation of Mexican farmworkers in 1964, growers innovate, mechanizing harvests, planning crop cycles to coincide with worker availability, and providing housing or transportation. Then, growers signed contracts with farm workers union president Cesar Chavez containing hire back clauses for migratory workers, raising wages and providing healthcare. The brief golden age for American farmworkers ended after a decade and a half because the U.S. failed to stop illegal immigration.
As a nation, Harpold says, we cannot talk about income inequality and minimum wages without including immigration in the conversation.
"It's all tied together," he says. "When we address immigration, we will also address persistent poverty for a large segment of the population."

A common sense way to improve community dental health
By Senator Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland)
There is clear medical evidence linking good oral health - healthy teeth and gums and quality preventive and restorative care - to overall health and lower healthcare costs. That's why I've offered legislation to establish a network of Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) to provide more Vermonters with the dental care they need and deserve.
My bill, S.235, asks that the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with Vermont's dentists and dental care advocates, create a CDHC pilot program. Including CDHCs as members of regional dental teams can significantly improve access to high quality and affordable dental care.
CHDCs improve oral health in underserved communities through dental health education, disease prevention, and helping patients navigate an often-daunting public health system to receive the care they need from dentists. Most CDHCs come from the same communities where they work, helping eliminate cultural, educational and language barriers that can be roadblocks to dental care.
By focusing on oral health education and disease prevention, CDHCs empower people to manage their own oral health. When disease requires treatment, the CDHC links patients with dentists who can provide that treatment, and can help obtain other services-such as child care or transportation-that patients may need in order to receive care.
The strength of this program is in its ability to provide a near immediate solution to our state's oral health problems. The CDHC training program is short and they connect people who need dental care with dentists in need of patients.
We are approaching the CDHC as a pilot program because we should not be experimenting with healthcare delivery models before they can be proven to work in Vermont. This approach will allow us to confirm this model will lower costs and improve access in a meaningful and measureable way, while giving us the flexibility to make adjustments. 
Thankfully, we are not starting from scratch. In 2006, the American Dental Association (ADA) developed and implemented an effective CDHC model for several states. Last year, the Vermont State Dental Society piloted a six-week program in which a CDHC worked in Winooski to expand oral health education by visiting community centers, nursing homes, daycare centers and schools. The dental education provided by the CDHC connected more Vermonters directly with tools to maintain their oral health and receive quality care.
The CDHC delivered results by increasing the number of patients receiving care in Winooski, especially by members of the community that had been underserved. Now, we're poised to take the next statewide step.
In the future, with carefully crafted policies and regulation, CDHCs could also provide basic clinical care. The ultimate goal of this proposal is to provide every Vermonter access to care from a dentist, so they can maintain their dental and overall health. This is particularly important when you consider that many dental procedures are surgical and medically significant.
In my view, Vermonters have as much a right to see a dentist for their dental care as they do to see a primary care provider. Our public policy shouldn't shortchange us by creating unnecessary layers between patients and our doctors.
My bill contains specific guidance for the Department of Health to develop a program that will, in fact, expand access to high quality and affordable dental health care in our communities. It also ensures that our dentists have a seat at the table because no one knows more about ensuring the dental health than the dentists who are trained to provide this highly specialized medical care.
This legislation establishes a common sense path for addressing the oral health challenges Vermont faces in a collaborative manner that puts patients first and will get real results. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature, and fellow Vermonters, to support it.

Washington state 5th grader seeks Vermont artifacts
Dear Editor,
My name is Tovae I go to Conway School in Mount Vernon, WA. I have gone from Kindergarten to 4th grade and now I found myself in 5th grade. I have done many projects over the years, but I have never done a project quite like this. I have thought a while and decided that I should do the state that is not so popular, but is unique and beautiful. I haven't heard much about your state, Vermont, but the little facts I do know have amazed me and make me want to know more about your state and it's historical events. Even if I do study hard and get facts about your state I still won't know everything.
I was hoping that your readers would send me artifacts, maybe your state gem and food and postcards and pictures and fossils and especially your state quarter to help with my report. I need these items by April so I can use them to display on my table area. I would not get an A+ or even a B or C without your help. Please help me get a good grade on this project. Remember, only YOU can help me get a good grade.
I already know that Vermont looks a lot like my state, Washington, in the fall. The items that you give me can not be returned especially the food. Please send the items to my school address.
Tovae D, Mrs. Talbert's Class
Conway School
19710 State Route 534
Mount Vernon, WA 98274
Sincerely,
Tovae D

Paid sick days allow workers to care for their families
Dear Editor,
After several years of working at a minimum wage job I mustered up the courage to apply for something better. The "something better" I got was in a workforce with a union, and I was more than happy to join it, even though I didn't pay attention to all the benefits it had won for the workers.
About a year later, I was working, and my supervisor told me the school nurse had called to say my son was sick and in the nurse's office. Since my high school sicknesses had resulted in staying in the nurse's office until the end of the school day, I thanked my supervisor and continued to work. That was not the end of it however. My supervisor said, "You know, you can take the rest of the day off and take care of him; it's in the union contract."
I was extremely surprised and quite grateful to be able to tend to him. It gave both him and me peace of mind to know that I had a job where people and families were just as important as the job. I was making 75 cents an hour over minimum wage at the time; to have had to take a half-day without pay would have been quite a dent in the weekly budget. The workplace's paid sick days policy was a very welcome help to my single-parent budget.
Sincerely,
Chuck  Gregory, Springfield, Vt.

Speaking out against child abuse
Dear Editor,
The latest apparent/alleged murder of a 2-year old girl in Poultney by her stepfather has incensed me. The fact that she had been subjected to previous abuse leads me to wonder why she had been returned to her mother's custody, especially after warnings from her mother's family members. In my humble opinion, DCF is understaffed and undertrained. I realize that state budgeting is a large part of this problem. One answer to these atrocities happening is for everyone to be made aware of the signs of abuse. Neighbors, family members, caregivers, grocery clerks - in other words anyone who might come into contact with these abused and/or neglected children should know what to look for. In order to do this Prevent Child Abuse Vermont needs funding to train people to go out into our schools, public forums, hospitals, etc. One half of PCAVT's income comes from individuals like you and me, organizations and businesses.
Educating our young adults in the schools on how to cope with the pressures of parenting or babysitting for someone else's children is another of the ways PCAVT strives to reduce the incidences of abuse. This organization has done a tremendous job in lowering the incidences of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Visit their website for more facts and figures.
As 2012-2014 President of the General Federation of Women's Clubs of Vermont I have taken on Prevent Child Abuse Vermont as my administration's signature project. As concerned women we need to get the word out to unprepared caregivers who become violent under stress that their behavior will not be ignored or tolerated. We cannot allow innocent little people to continue to be abused, ignored, and/or neglected.
I implore you!
If this latest unnecessary death has touched you in any way, please reach out and get involved or make a donation to PCAVT. Share this letter with your family, friends and neighbors. Who knows, the next victim may be someone you love.
Send your donations to:
Margaret (Midge)Tucker, GFWC VT President 2012-2014

Legislating prejudice: What I won't be doing on my vacation
By Lee J. Kahrs
My wife Sarah and I will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary this October, and we decided to mark the occasion with an epic road trip through the Southwest. Sarah, a great lover of hiking and the outdoors, has never been to the Grand Canyon, and I wanted to take her there. We would fly into Las Vegas, pick up a campervan and drive first to Zion National Park in Utah, then to the Grand Canyon, then on to Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico before heading back across Arizona to Las Vegas.
On Feb. 20, I made camping reservations at the Grand Canyon. It was the first step in concrete plans the trip, and the way it worked out, we would be celebrating our actual anniversary, October 10, at the Grand Canyon.
It was exciting. For weeks, I have been poring over websites, weighing options on campervan rentals, planning the route, researching the state parks and campgrounds, planning a budget and estimating how long we would be in each place.
But the same day I made those reservations, the Arizona Legislature passed S.B. 1062, which re-defines and expands the state's definition of "exercise of religion" and "state action" to protect businesses, corporations and people from lawsuits after denying services based on a sincere religious belief.
They have legislated prejudice.
In the bill, a person is described as "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization."
So, if the governor signs the bill into law this week, any Arizona business owner could legally refuse to do business with a gay person if they claim that homosexuality goes against their religious beliefs.
Brewer has until Saturday, March 1 to either sign the bill into law or veto it. Based on her recent statements, it could go either way.
"I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don't work with," Brewer said the day after the bill was approved by the legislature. "But I don't know that it needs to be statutory. In my life and in my businesses, if I don't want to do business or if I don't want to deal with a particular company or person or whatever, I'm not interested. That's America. That's freedom."
But the irony is that this bill restricts my freedom and my wife's freedom if we chose to travel to Arizona because we are gay.
When we finally get to the Grand Canyon, the RV park where I made the reservations could refuse to let us in based on their religious beliefs, because we're gay.
When we stop at an Arizona truck stop, the owners could refuse to sell us gas and snacks, because we're gay.
If we decide to get a motel room for a night to take a break from the campervan, the motel owner could refuse to rent us a room, because we're gay.
What's next, separate drinking fountains and lunch counters? This smacks of the post- civil rights era in America, where blacks were and still are subjected to prejudice. It's not right, not for any American.
Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy, an organization that supported the passing of the bill, says the bill "protects the religious freedom of every Arizonan."
In a statement released Saturday, Feb. 22, Herrod said, "It's a shame that we even need a bill like this in America. But growing hostility against freedom in our nation, and the increasing use of government to threaten and punish its own citizens, has made it necessary. I urge Governor Brewer to send a clear message to the country that in Arizona, everyone, regardless of their faith, will be protected in Arizona by signing SB1062."
Herrod and other supporters cite recent lawsuits where business owners have been sued for refusing to cater a gay wedding, or bake a gay cake.
What is this, tit for tat? Granted, in the Bill of Rights there is a provision for freedom of religion, but there is also a right to freedom of expression. They are not mutually exclusive. I say they are equally important, by the State of Arizona seems to differ.
Frankly, despite what Gov. Brewer does, we will likely cancel our trip through the Southwest and spend 10 days traveling the Pacific Coast Highway in California. We will not spend a dime in Arizona, and if hundred of thousands of gay people do the same, the Arizona Department of Tourism will feel the pain.
But there is another layer to all of this. I think that federal recognition of gay marriage has lulled people, gay and straight alike, into complacency about gay rights. What the situation in Arizona is doing is highlighting how far we still have to go.
Don't get me wrong. The fact that my own government recognizes my marriage and my family is huge. We cried that day in June last year. It was an enormous affirmation. Plus, I am now saving thousands on health insurance.
But there is still a long list of places around the U.S., and around the world, where gays and lesbians are not welcome. Marriage means less if it's not fully recognized; if we can't in good conscience honeymoon in Arizona, or Alabama, or Belize, or Barbados? When I was looking at alternatives to Arizona, I realized it was also a good idea to avoid Africa, Jamaica, Antigua, Malaysia, Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and the Solomon Islands.
That's O.K., I don't expect the whole world to change, yet. However, I would like to travel freely within the confines of my own country, without fear of prejudice, rejection and even physical violence for who I am. We have a long row to hoe before that becomes a reality, and Arizona just took us back 20 years.

 

Support Article 7, preserving our towns history at a historic site
Dear Editor,
The purpose of Article 7 on the Killington ballot this Town Meeting is to preserve the original Sherburne Library as a historical town building.
The goal is to repurposes the building (most recently used as the teen center) as a town historical museum. The uses could be manifold including: A) Creating a permanent home to consolidate all the historical artifacts, public and private, in a singular location. B) Safeguarding and preserving all artifacts and make them available for the public viewing. C) Creating a public space for residents, students, tourist and for historical meetings and lectures. D) Realigning the use of the building closer to its originally intended use, but now as a library of Sherburne/Killington history.
Some background information on the original Sherburne Library, will perhaps help voters better understand its historical place in our town.
Built in 1924 as the Sherburne-West Bridgewater School (a one-room schoolhouse) volunteers moved the building to its present location in 1961 where served as The Sherburne Library until 1999. Gail Weymouth began her career as the Sherburne Librarian in this building before the new library was build further down on River Road.
Margaret Mowle, president of Sherburne Historians

Education finance reform needed, current funding system inhibits economic growth
Editor's note: On Feb. 4, the Killington Selectboard sent the following letter describing the adverse economic impact that Act 60 and 68 have had on the town since the "The Equal Educational Opportunity Act" was passed in 1997. The Selectboard's letter refers a report from Vermont Realtors that describes negative consequences to their collective economic growth (The Mountain Times, Feb. 6-12 "Realtor's report: Vt.'s school spending increases unsustainable"). The Governor's response is below.
Dear Governor Shumlin,
On behalf of the citizens of the Town of Killington, we are writing to address the recent report from the Vermont Realtors describing Vermont's school spending policies as unsustainable. This report echoes our stance and our experience in Killington, and we agree with the finding that our current education finance system is hurting our economy. We would like to take this opportunity to urge you and our legislative leaders to begin the much-needed process of reform.
Here in Killington we have established our own Strategic Plan for economic development, created with years of input from our residents, which focuses on making it Vermont's premier resort community. One of the major goals in our Plan - and key to our economic growth - is to increase tourism and year-round employment. The current state of education funding in our state is serving as a major challenge in the pursuit of this goal.
We believe Vermont's current education funding system is inhibiting the growth of tourism communities like ours, which are primary drivers in our state's economy.
By placing huge tax burdens on tourism towns like ours, Act 60 and 68 have dramatically limited businesses' ability to reinvest in capital improvements and marketing and keep pace with their competitors in other states.
For example, as a result of Act 60 and 68, Killington Resort saw a 345% increase in their property taxes from 1996 to 2012. As a result the Resort had to defer improvements and marketing campaigns they otherwise would have implemented to keep pace with competitive resorts in other states like New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado, California and Utah that don't have similar limitations. Increased taxes have hindered the Resort's ability to maintain its competitive edge in an already challenging industry.
We support equitable funding for schools, but our town's contributions to fund education are currently inhibiting our ability to grow economically. We need effective state systems in place that offer residents a high quality of life while not limiting essential growth. We advocate that the state seriously reconsider its education funding policy.
Thank you for considering our perspective. We appreciate the opportunity to voice our concerns and support for legislative action. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Seth Webb, Town Manager at 802-422-3241 or via email at sethwebb@town.killington.vt.us anytime.
Sincerely,
The Killington Selectboard
J. Christopher Bianchi, Bernard Rome, Patty McGrath

To the members of the Killington Selectboard,
Thank you for contacting me and sharing your concerns about education financing in Vermont. When it comes to ensuring that our students have the best possible educational opportunities, we are all in this together. Vermont has the best public schools in the country, but it is impossible to ignore that we have among the highest per pupil spending. It is a problem that deserves our focus, which is why it is time for us to work together to find solutions. Toward that end, I have worked with legislative leadership to host an education finance symposium with tax experts to examine possible changes to our frustratingly complex funding mechanism and am committed to working with legislators, school boards and superintendents to examine the spending side as well. Taking action now will enable us to deliver an economically sustainable 21st century education for all Vermont students.
I understand that we have a complex funding system and school spending is not the only factor in property tax rates. While we are proud to have what is arguably the most equitable system in the country, it may be of such complexity that we have lost the connection between what we get for what we spend. It is also very hard to compare outcomes across districts. I will continue to work with the legislature to consider the recommendations from the education finance symposium and act if adjustments can be made to simplify the system and help us in our mission to balance school spending with the ability of Vermonters to pay.
Thank you again for your advocacy on this issue. I will keep your thoughts in mind as we move forward.
Sincerely,
Peter Shumlin, Governor

Vermont: A greenhouse for entrepreneurs
By Lisa Gosselin, Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development
"I'd love to move to Vermont and start a company here," the snowboarder said with a sigh as we shared a chairlift at Stowe. I sighed too: if I had a dollar for every time I heard that, my mortgage would be paid.
That was nine years ago. Chris Kaiser, the snowboarder went on to found Vermont Peanut Butter and this February 6, he will join a panel discussion at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier to celebrate Vermont Entrepreneurship Week.
Kaiser moved to Stowe in 2005, started making peanut butter in his kitchen. He moved operations into a plant in Waterbury in the summer of 2011.  Weeks later, the facility was wiped out by Tropical Storm Irene.  He rebuilt and is now selling his all-natural nut butters internationally. Kaiser has joined the ranks of hundreds who came here to ski and went on to build a business here. He's become a Vermontrepreneur.
What makes a Vermontrepreneur? It's hard work, creativity, resiliency, and a dedication to quality. It's also an ethic about life and work and giving back. Vermontrepreneurs measure profits in ways accountants could never calculate. Yet, the funny thing about Vermont startups? According to the Census Bureau they are less likely to fail than those in neighboring states.
 "Vermont is very good at growing companies, we're like a greenhouse," said Joe Fusco at an economic development workshop held in late January. Fusco is vice-president at Casella Waste Systems and an advisor at University of Vermont's new Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA program (SEMBA).
As a greenhouse state, what is Vermont doing to help grow its entrepreneurs?
Prizes for business plans:  Recently LaunchVT announced it was upping its 2014 business plan prize money to $25,000 (as well as a suite of more than $45,000 in pro-bono services ranging from legal to design work). And Strolling of the Heifers is looking to offer nearly  $90,000 across multiple categories for business plans in the farm/food sector.
Innovative business-focused education:  Such as Champlain College offering gaming curricula and UVM's new Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA). State colleges such as Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont are also incredible resources for entrepreneurs and offer a suite of programs -ranging from cheesemaking to sustainable design, SEO to manufacturing.
Technical and business assistance.  Vermont's Small Business Development Center and 12 Regional Development Corporations reach out across the state advising start-ups and growing businesses alike. The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund provides early stage grants, loans and technical assistance to businesses that focus on sustainably-produced goods and services and has been the driving force behind Vermont's Farm-to-Plate strategic plan.
 Venture funding for start-ups:  Fresh Tracks Capital (proud venture parent to Vermont Teddy Bear, Mophie, EatingWell) has a new fund now and is once again interviewing its next potential entrepreneurs in a truly Vermont manner: the annual Peak Pitch event, to be held at Sugarbush on March 6, involves "chairlift" pitches.  And consider Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) in Middlebury and Burlington, which has been named one of the top 11 university-based incubators in the world.
Access to big capital: For those entrepreneurs (such as Jay Peak's Bill Stenger) who have had a big idea, Vermont's EB-5 program has provided access to more than $300 million in capital for projects around the state and generated thousands of jobs. In January, a Mount Snow EB-5 project worth $52 million was approved.
 Incentive programs with a proven track record: The self-funded Vermont Employment Growth Incentive rewards companies for growing businesses and jobs here and was named one of the nation's top incentive programs by Good Jobs First. Since its inception in 2007 this performance-based incentive has promised to return more than $34 million to companies if they create jobs and payroll and make capital investments. By 2016, this will have generated more than 6,145 jobs with an average compensation of $57,641, over $546 million in new capital investments in Vermont, and a net return of $24 million to state coffers .
Workforce Training: Another program housed in the Department of Economic Development, the Vermont Training Program, helps pay up to 50 percent of training costs for employees in qualified businesses. In 2013, VTP helped train more than 3,850  Vermonters, who then went on to improved their wages by 13 percent.
Help with government contracting: Vermont's Procurement Technical Center (PTAC), has helped companies such as Simon Pearce (which recently received a $5 million order for its fine stemware from US embassies around the world) and Darn Tough socks and Revision Eyewear provide products to our government. In fiscal year 2013, Vermont companies working through PTAC received 519 contracts, worth $73,22,954-that's nearly double last year's figure.
Export Assistance: The Department of Economic Development's Vermont Global Trade Partnership (VGTP) allocated over $400,000 in federal grant funds to small businesses to help offset the costs of trade shows, export compliance training, and other international market support. VGTP also provides international market data and research to companies already exporting or those who seek to enter the export market.
Mentoring: And lastly, we have businesses that reach out to help their younger siblings. Recently Dinse Knapp McAndrews announced that over the next month it is offering free lunchtime legal advice to start-ups as part of its support of StartUpVT. IBM, which was a key partner in launching StartUpVT, this hosting a suite of online programs, events and classes for entrepreneurs this week, Feb. 3-7. 
We've already seen many of Vermont's seedling companies grow into Ben & Jerry's, Burton, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Dealer.com, Commonwealth Dairy, Biotek, Logic Supply, and others. But if Vermont's greenhouse economy is to continue to be successful, we need to find new ways to nurture the state's businesses: start-ups, emerging and even established larger corporations.
As the Department of Economic Development works with partners around the state to develop a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, we are taking a hard look at what helps companies at all stages of growth.   
We welcome your suggestions and comments. As we know full well, Vermontrepreneurs have no shortage of good ideas.
To learn more about how to start or grow a business in Vermont or to submit ideas or comments, visit the Department of Economic Development's website, ThinkVermont.com.

 

What is happening in Vermont
Dear Editor,
We have lots of things to think about here in Vermont. The Vermont legislature is beginning to cause a crushing tax burden on Vermont taxpayers. It seems, almost everyday, our elected officials manage to disconnect on what is happening here in little old Vermont. As our former governor, James Douglas, said in January of 2010, we need to cut the drivers that push property taxes higher every year. In his address he stated that in 1998 the Vermont education fund was spending $400 million and at the time of his speech it was running at a rate of $900 million.  Currently the 2013 spend rate was $1.4 billion. This is a giant increase as about 80% of these increases are coming from wages and benefits that are promoted by the NEA.
The student population is dwindling but the spending continues to go up. It is agreed that a lot of this increase is coming from "income sensitivity" where voters with lower incomes (under $77,000) are protected against rising taxes.
Lately, reports on town budgets for education are getting louder and louder - Springfield (loosing 23 teachers and aids), Montpelier, Barre, Rutland Town are all concerned. Health care and wages are bumping up this concern. People are moving away because of fewer jobs with good pay. For example, why would anyone want to buy or build a house just to pay more in property taxes where the legislators are telling us to expect a 5% per year increase in our property taxes in 2014 and 2015. With no new construction to speak of, the builders, roofers, plumbers, electricians, furniture salesmen, real estate brokers are moving away and taking their kids with them. This helps to explain the drop in student population and lower enrollment in our Vermont schools. These increases are not responsible in light of negative job growth, tepid economic growth, and low inflation.
Jim Douglas was right, it is no wonder that our k-12 system is among the most expensive in the nation at more than $14,000 per student per year.
Killington is proposing to raise the spending per student to $16,300 up from $13,300 and this is to be voted on March 2, 2014. It might even get us into a penalty by the State.
How do you justify more spending with fewer students? Who wants to build a new home just to pay more taxes when the taxes on the current house or condominium is going up? It must be said aloud most clearly that the Democrats are in control and Vermonters need to change things. The legislators blame this on the taxpayers who continue to vote larger budgets to schools( Shap Smith and Cambell).
Why do we have to continue shouldering the school tax burden for other towns that want to spend more?
Reality is a tough situation and Vermonters are in deeply trouble.
Edwin J.Fowler, Killington

Resort's uphill policy puts them ahead of the pack
Dear Editor,
The Uphill Snow Traveler's Organization (USTO) would like to send a huge thank you to Killington resort management for their roll-out of the new up hill skiing policy, and for their incredible efforts to provide consistent first class skiing time and time again. USTO has over 300 members from all over New England and we can tell you that Killington's policy is the best around.
For USTO this is a great start and we are thankful to be able to officially utilize the resorts snowmaking and grooming. We hope everyone who enjoys uphill travel will take the time to get his or her Killington uphill ski pass and read the policy. (The article in last week's edition, Jan. 9-15, "Killington and Pico open mountains to uphill travelers" provides a detailed overview; the policy can be read at www.killington.com/winter/mountain/mountain_info/uphill_travel.)
Lets do the right thing, go in the right places and support our mountain.  
Mike Miller, Killington resident and founding member of USTO

Animal abuse at Mountain Meadows Lodge
Dear Editor,
An abusive behavior is being perpetrated against Alex, the Shetland Pony, at Mountain Meadows Lodge on Thundering Brook Rd in Killington. Someone clandestinely trespasses onto the property and trims the resident pony's bangs and mane without permission of the owners or of the staff. The pony's bangs and mane in their long natural state are essential to his warmth and comfort in these cold winter months and it is appalling that someone would do such harm to this sweet gentle trusting creature.
Anne and Bill Mercier ask that anyone with knowledge of this illicit activity please come forward at once by calling 775-1010. Anonymous tips are welcome.
A motion-sensing camera has captured images of visitors to the barn and pasture at Mountain Meadows Lodge. These images will be turned over to the police for a full investigation into this matter. Please note: If you are the person responsible for this, please call at once to make restitution before you are identified and charged.
Bill & Anne Mercier, Innkeepers Mountain Meadows Lodge, Killington

Blood drive reflects the best of Rutland County
By Steve Costello
This note of appreciation is a little overdue, as I wanted to await the final, official count from the Red Cross for the Gift-of-Life Marathon, but I am writing to thank everyone involved with the blood drive's record-breaking success. To say it was a collaborative effort of the community would be to say Mount Everest is a big hill.
Today (Jan. 2) we received the final, official, count from the Red Cross, and as expected, the number increased a little bit from the original, unofficial count of 2,337 pints.  
The new national record is 2,350 pints!
Rutland and Rutland County - the whole state, really - should be proud of the accomplishment, which almost seems inconceivable given our size, knowing that thousands of families across the region have benefited. We talk a lot about records and numbers to try to motivate people to participate in the GOLM, and the psychological value of success for the community is a big part of my motivation, but in the end, the GOLM is all about saving lives.
This year's success could never have been achieved without an incredible partnership between the Red Cross, WJJR, Castleton College and Green Mountain Power, and hundreds of people within these organizations. It has been a thrill to work with these teams and key leaders, including Mike Kempesty, Terry Jaye, Dave Wolk and Mary Powell, who each put their hearts and souls into the effort.
I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of people over the past 30 years, and this small group encompasses some of the best people I've had the pleasure to work with. Each modeled a tremendous amount of commitment, enthusiasm and hard work, much of it behind the scenes, to make the GOLM a success.
But the entire community of Rutland, Rutland County and beyond, made this happen:
·      More than 600 students and adults donated blood for the first time - almost twice as many as donated in total at the first GOLM 11 years ago.
·      More than 320 people donated their time at the drive, and about 100 other volunteers helped with preparation.
·      More than 2,800 presenting donors turned out. (Some were deferred for various reasons.)
·      More than 50 businesses and organizations donated gift bag items or made other in-kind donations.
·      Staff from five organizations - the Paramount Theatre, Elks Club, American Legion, Holiday Inn and College of St. Joseph - committed themselves to the event and turned their facilities over to the Red Cross for the day.
·      Media outlets throughout the region supported the drive through news coverage, public service announcements and advertising discounts.
·      Hundreds of businesses and about a dozen schools gave staff and students time off from work or classes to attend, and they often turned out in droves to donate together.
·      Mayor Louras, Dave Allaire and members of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, other state and local political leaders and local organizations too numerous to mention, but ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to Rutland Young Professionals, helped spread the word in a geometric progression that ensured everyone was aware of the GOLM.
Every one of these people and organizations served like a thread in a beautiful tapestry.
As in past years, when Rutland set New England records repeatedly and came within a whisker of the national record, I've been asked dozens of times how this community can do what it has done. I think the answer, taken from the title of Art Jones' documentary film about Rutland, is simple: There is something special in the blood in this town.
Steve Costello works at Green Mountain Power and lives in Rutland Town.

Franco family extends gratitude
Dear Editor,
I write this letter with the deepest gratitude to Chris and the Killington Community from the entire Franco family. As I sit here on this day, exactly eight weeks to the minute when my sister Stephanie called me to tell me that Chris didn't make it, I am still in disbelief. As devastated as we all were, our hearts were warmed by the love and support that we all received from Chris's Killington family, and although all of you were also in deep pain, you reached out to us. It is difficult to put into words the impact that your selfless generosity, of both money and spirit, had on our family. The healing started when Steph, Buddy, Trish, Paul, Loi and our daughter Elise took the trip to Vermont to gather Chris's belongings. You were all so gracious, warm, and generous. It continued when several of Chris's friends: Kell Heather, Kevin, KoKo, and others made the trip for the wake and funeral. It meant so much to have them with us. Little did we know that there was so much more to come from the Killington community.
The healing we received from the Tribute will remain in our hearts forever. Nothing prepared us for that amazing day! Our Mom was determined to make the trip to meet all of you and to take part in Chris's farewell celebration, and she not only made it but also showed us her wealth of inner strength. The amazing love, generosity, music, food, drink and friendship at The Foundry that day helped all of us begin the process of letting Chris continue on his eternal journey. And we are forever grateful to all of you for your love and support.
So, in closing, we want to extend our loving gratitude to you, Christopher Karr, for hosting the tribute; Sean and chefs, Killington chefs, servers, bartenders; Mike, the musicians, Duane for organizing the amazing talent; the sound engineer, DJ; the PR staff and production staff; Jess Gabeler, for her beautiful tribute slide show and photography; the media who helped spread the word, Chris's friends who spoke at the tribute, Dave Hoffenberg for posting tribute video on YouTube; Bobby, for everything he did, especially for helping make it possible for us to spread Chris's ashes on his beloved mountain, and the entire Killington community for being a part of     Chris's life and for being part of this special day.
With love and gratitude,
The Franco Family

Vt. Adaptive Ski and Sports reflects on a successful year and looks forward, thanks to community support
Dear Editor,
Many in our extended community have supported Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports this year because they know how sports and recreation can change the lives of people with disabilities, they've inspired by those around them who give their time and talent to be outstanding instructors and volunteers, and they believe sports offers a place where there truly are no boundaries.
It's been a great year for Vermont Adaptive: the 6th Annual United States Association of Blind Athletes National Winter Festival; the 3rd Annual Long Trail Century Ride; the 25th Annual Vermont 100; the 20th Annual Vermont 50; and the completion of the $1.3 million Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge, our new state headquarters located at Pico Mountain.
As we take stock in what we've accomplished, we're ever so thankful for all the support we've received. 
We have exciting plans for the upcoming year as we continue to focus on the preservation of our strong foundation of excellent programs, develop future facilities in Vermont as well as opportunities for veterans, outdoor and environmental education, outreach and advocacy. These are all important priorities for us; for our participants; for our future.
We've already raised $22,000 of our $120,000 annual fundraising goal. Between now and Oct. 31, 2014 help us to raise the rest and help guarantee that Vermont Adaptive will continue to provide the best year-round programming regardless of one's ability to pay, equipment and trained volunteers for all of our athletes with disabilities.
Thank you for being a part of the Vermont Adaptive family. What we do would not be possible without you.
Erin Fernandez, executive director for Vermont Adaptive

Farmers on the front lines of climate change
Stand against fracked gas pipeline
RANDOLPH - On Tuesday, Dec. 17, as people from all over the state came together at the Vermont Working Landscape Summit, famers at the center of Vermont's future took a strong stand against the proposed fracked gas pipeline in Addison County.
"If Governor Shumlin wants to know how to strengthen our state and our land-based economy, he should listen to the people who are devoted to our land. We farmers are on the front lines, and this pipeline is the wrong choice for our land and our economy," said Jim Ellefson of Stoney Lonesome Farm in Leicester.
Ellefson and almost 50 farmers from across the state signed an open letter calling on Governor Shumlin to protect Vermont and on the Public Service Board to deny a Certificate of Public Good for the 70-mile pipeline extension from Colchester to Middlebury and under Lake Champlain to International Paper in Ticonderoga, NY.
As the Farmers' letter reads, "We are farmers, land owners and stewards of the earth. We are the people that help keep Vermont open and green. We support energy savings through renewable, alternative sources, winterization and conservation. We do not support taking Vermonters' land to build an infrastructure for another fossil fuel."
Farmers are concerned that continuing to rely on fossil fuels is an irresponsible choice. Massive new fracked gas infrastructure is unnecessary because of the clean, local and efficient technologies already available today.
Even as Vermont Gas Systems officials downplay the dangers of fracking, the facts continue to mount. 82,000 fracking wells have been drilled in the U.S. since 2005. Those wells have required the use of 280 billion gallons of water and at least 2 billion gallons of chemicals. They have resulted in the release of at least 100 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas pollution.
These farmers stand with many others across the state opposed to the fracked gas pipeline, from the over 500 people in attendance at the September public hearing to the almost 1,000 opposing comments into the PSB, statewide opposition to this project continues to mount.
As Cornwall farmer Mary Martin says, "This toxic trespass makes no sense.  We should be making decisions that are ecologically sensible for all, not financially feasible for a few. Shumlin knows better, and we deserve better."


Open letter to the Public Service Board and Governor Shumlin:
We are farmers, land owners and stewards of the earth.  We are the people that help keep Vermont open and green.  We support energy savings through renewable, alternative sources, winterization and conservation.
We do not support taking land by eminent domain to build an infrastructure for another fossil fuel. A fuel that VT Gas extracts by fracking. The fracking process, of one gas well, typically uses 4 million gallons of water laced with 80 to 330 tons of chemicals, many known to be toxic and carcinogenic.
In Governor Shumlin's own words:
"Very soon there is going to be a shortage of clean water on this planet. Drinking water will be more valuable than oil or natural gas. Human beings have survived for thousands of years without oil or gas. We have never known humanity or life on this planet to survive without clean water."
We cannot stand by and allow a Canadian company that has poisoned their own people and water supplies in Alberta destroy our state for their profit.
The environmental benefits are questionable. When examined from "cradle to grave", fracked gas has been proven to be as polluting as burning coal.* 70% of the gas is ear-marked for International Paper. They have never been a good neighbor to us and they are one of the worst polluters in the world.
We are fiercely and adamantly opposed to the use of eminent domain. We also will not remain silent and watch a foreign company take our or our neighbors' land by eminent domain to serve a NY State business.
For all Vermonters and future generations we ask the Public Service Board to deny Vermont Gas Systems a Certificate of Public Good.
We are the Representatives of the land that we work and love.
Daniel Rowe
RoweCrest Farm, Cornwall
Randy & Mary Martin
Candido's Farm, Cornwall
Jeremy & Caitlin Gildrien
Gildrien Farm, Middlebury
Nate & Jane Palmer
Laughing Tree Farm, Monkton
Rustan Swensen & Mazie Hescock
Hescock Farm, Shoreham
Ross Conrad & Alice Eckles
Dancing Bee, Middlebury
George Gross & Barbara Wilson
Solar Haven Farm, Shoreham
Alden Harwood
Harwood Farm, Addison
Paul & Doris Seiler
Old Wooster Farm, Shoreham
Lorenzo & Amy Quesnel
Perry Brook Farm, Shoreham
David & Eunice Van Vleck
Cornwall
Barney & Dee Hodges
Sunrise Orchard, Cornwall
Pete Johnson
Pete's Greens, Craftsbury
Thomas Case
Arethusa Collective Farm, Burlington
Jim & Brian & Florence Gill
Cornwall
Matt Davis
Little Hogback Farm, Monkton, Bristol
Wayne Stearns
Crazy Acres, Panton
Robert & Polly Maguire
Shoreham
Brian & Patti Wilson
Morningside Farm, Shoreham
Raphael Worrick
Cornwall
Jon Norinsberg
Cornwall
Karen & Jon Folger
Pinewoods Farm, West Pawlet
Spencer Blackwell
Elmer Farm, Middlebury
John P Falk
Neshobe Farm, Brandon
Amy & Dave Todisco
Hartshorn Farm, Waitsfield 
Stan & Mary Pratt
Happy Valley Orchard, Middlebury 
R.W. & Cy Tall
Cornwall
Doug & Tammy Atwood
Atwood Orchards, Shoreham
Eric & Mary Skovsted
Joe's Brook Farm, Barnet
Henry & Tata Harper
Julius Kingdom Farm, Shoreham
Suzy Hodgson
Your Farm Stand, Charlotte
Rebecca Foster
Ten Stones Chicken Cooperative, Charlotte
Matt Burke & Tanya Srolovitz
Bloomfield Farm, Charlotte
Deirdre Holmes MA,HHC
Plan it Healthier, Charlotte
Annie Claghorn & Caitlin Fox
Taconic End Farm, Leicester
Brian Titus & Fran Recchia
Woods Edge Farm, Greensboro
Doug Butler
CHD Farm, New Haven
Alyson Eastman
Home Farm, Orwell
Mary Rowe
Rowe Farm, Cornwall
Lissy and Bill Heminway
Heminway Farm, Shoreham
Elaine Ittleman
Green Mountain Hounds, Charlotte
Anne DeHaven
Oak Meadow Farm, Shoreham
Jim Ellefson & Leslie Wright
Stoney Lonesome Farm, Leicester
James Maroney & Suki Fredericks
Leicester
Erik Andrus
Boundbrook Farm, Vergennes
 

 

 

City, GOLM have grown together
By Steve Costello
In less than two weeks, the greater Rutland community has the opportunity to do something truly remarkable - help save thousands of lives while putting its best foot forward for all to see.
The Gift-of-Life Marathon, Rutland's annual celebration of community and goodwill, is expected to collect somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000 units of blood on Dec. 17. Maybe a little more. Maybe a little less. Maybe a national record. Maybe not.
While breaking the record would be great - and I sincerely believe it's possible - I know two things will happen regardless: The hundreds of donors who turn out will affect thousands of lives, and Rutland will make an enormous statement about itself.
The Rutland that will host the GOLM this year is not the one that hosted the first drive, and the people who will donate blood or volunteer time are not the same either. Some who attend this year were there for the first one, no doubt, but the community and the people who live here have changed considerably since the first GOLM.
Eleven years ago, the Paramount had reopened and hosted the GOLM, but the theater struggled to stay open, much of downtown was barren, empty storefronts casting a pall, and many accepted the image foisted on Rutland by others.  "Rut Vegas" wasn't just a derisive term, it epitomized how many here and elsewhere thought of the city.
In those days, there didn't seem like a lot of hope here; I even told an interviewer I thought Rutland needed the blood drive, which quickly started setting state and regional records, as an annual reminder that the community can do great things.
Fast forward to today.  The Paramount is flourishing, with world-class entertainment and community events virtually every week.  Phenomenal new restaurants dot the downtown, along with new stores and service businesses few would have imagined in Rutland a decade ago.  Empty storefronts have become the exception.  And the blood drive has expanded to five sites and a goal about six times larger than the first year's collection.
The blood drive certainly isn't the driver of all that is good in Rutland, but somehow its fortunes and those of the city have moved along on more or less parallel tracks, both growing, finding various levels of success, often surprisingly, and then reaching for greater heights.  The common denominator is the people, who have rallied around the city just as they have rallied around the blood drive, with passion and compassion.
Pride in Rutland - both here and across the state - is growing by the day.  You can feel it in the coffee shops, the restaurants, the barbershops and City Hall, and you can feel it in when you talk to folks in Burlington, Montpelier and communities statewide.
Rutland is making a new name for itself as a thriving, resilient and innovative community, and on Dec. 17, I'm growing increasingly confident it will make a name for itself among the most generous and kindhearted communities in America. I urge your readers to be a part of this extraordinary day by volunteering or making an appointment today.
Steve Costello is vice president of generation and innovation at Green Mountain Power, which along with Castleton College and WJJR sponsors the Gift-of-Life Marathon.

 

Killington Selectmen seek to clarify misinformation about new Winter Sand Policy
Dear Editor,
Due to the significant amount of misinformation about the town's new Winter Sand Policy, we are writing to clarify the policy and address the misinformation. Contrary to much discussion, the Killington town will continue to provide sand to residents. Additionally, commercial contractors may continue to use the sand to serve residents.
Since the 1970s the Town of Killington has provided residents sand ("winter sand") to use on their driveways in the winter. To do this, in the past, the town has allowed residents to take winter sand from the large sand pile used by the highway staff for winter road maintenance.  Increasing liability concerns and costs prompted the town to revise its distribution method. The policy below (posted on www.killingtontown.com) outlines a new distribution policy to comply with insurance regulations, ensure the safety of town residents and help control costs.
POLICY:
The town of Killington will provide residents sand in the wintertime ("winter sand") to use on their properties in Killington. The sand is to be used only in the town of Killington.
To distribute the sand, the town will create a pile for residents outside the town garage gate from approximately Nov. 15 to April 1.
The town will not load or supply any shovels for the loading of sand. Distribution will be limited to a reasonable amount of sand per trip.
The Highway and Facilities Department will work to replenish the pile as needed, however, the Department's first priority will be to maintain the roads.
The public is not permitted to enter the town garage yard without authorization.
We adopted this policy on Sept. 17, 2013.  
If you have further questions about this issue, please attend one of our next meetings or send an email to sethwebb@town.killington.vt.us. We meet next on Dec. 3 and Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the town offices.
Sincerely,
Killington Board of Selectmen: Chris Bianchi, Bernie Rome, Patty McGrath

Giving blood saves lives, and could earn Rutland a national record!
Dear Editor,
Please accept this letter of encouragement for all of the people of Rutland County to join in this year's Gift of Life Marathon blood drawing. If you didn't already know, this is not an "ordinary" event. Rutland has the distinction of having challenged - and in some cases defeated - the largest blood drives in the nation against the likes of Boston, MA, St. Louis, MO, Manchester, NH and others.
We garnered enough attention to have a documentary movie made about us by famous New York Movie Producer Art Jones. His production of "The Blood in this Town" ... our town, Rutland, Vt.... has been shown around the world as a testament to what a small community with a big heart can do.
This heart is yours and mine and we need to break the record. Last year we only missed the national, one-day blood drawing record by 14 pints! The record was 1,968 pints and we collected 1,955. We can beat this in 2013 and show the nation how big our hearts really are.
Already, in Rutland, 20% of us give blood annually, impressive seeing as the national average is just 5%. So 14 pints more than last year is well within reach considering the extra effort being expended this year.
Be a part of what can surely be the winning team... if you join us.
We may not be rich or famous. We may not have the glitter of a big city, but our blood is just a good as anybody's and we're willing to share it to save lives, like nobody else in the nation. What community could do anything more important than that?
This year the Gift of Life Marathon will take place Tuesday, Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 1-800 RED-CROSS to make an appointment.
Royal Barnard, Rutland

Op-Ed: Ship of state is on the right course
By Jeb Spaulding, Vermont Secretary of Administration
Recently, Paul Cillo, the founder of Vermont's Public Assets Institute, penned an Op-Ed claiming that the Shumlin Administration isn't spending enough to serve Vermonters and calling for taxes to be raised to match the increased level of services Cillo believes are warranted. Shortly afterwards, Tom Pelham, co-founder of the decidedly more conservative Campaign for Vermont, published an Op-Ed describing Vermont's spending as a "pending fiscal ship wreck," and calling for significant reductions in current state spending.
In the face of critics from opposite poles of the same budgetary debate, what is an Administration to do?
Exactly what we have been doing: maintaining our focus on creating jobs and meeting the critical needs of Vermonters, while carefully protecting the public purse.
The Shumlin Administration has made tough and responsible budget choices, even while it has met considerable challenges, such as the damage from Tropical Storm Irene, a slow economic recovery, the end of federal stimulus dollars from the Great Recession, and continued dysfunction in Washington, DC. Administration leaders are being asked by Governor Shumlin to work across agencies to make state government work better by increasing efficiency and reducing waste. All the while, Shumlin has fought off legislative efforts to raise taxes for General Fund spending.
Though the Shumlin Administration is meeting the challenges of today while planning for the future, some of our critics seem stuck in the past. As someone who has worked with both Paul Cillo and Tom Pelham over many years and across many roles, I respect their right to advocate for their own views of our state's budget. But as a state official who must actually deal with the practical art of governing, I am not as free as a clever advocate to paint the state's budget situation in stark monochrome.
Pelham's prescription for our claimed woes boils down to the familiar remedies he has promoted for years: cutting government services, shifting responsibilities to others, and coming up with gimmicks that sound promising but usually don't work. He claims our financial practices have put Vermont's bond rating at risk by citing a report from Standard & Poor's that actually improved the outlook on the state's rating.
Tellingly, in recent days, Moody's Investors Services reaffirmed Vermont's best in New England Triple A rating, explaining, "Moody's highest rating level reflects Vermont's strong history of financial management, which includes conservative fiscal policies and the maintenance of healthy reserve balances that continue to provide a cushion against any unexpended revenue declines; and manageable debt profile that reflects the State's focused efforts to reduce its debt ratios and maintain well-funded pension systems."
Nowhere is Vermont's solid progress clearer than in our path out of the Great Recession, where Vermont's economy "has recovered more quickly than the rest of New England, and much faster than many other parts of the country," according to Federal Reserve Bank of Boston CEO Eric Rosengren when he spoke in Burlington earlier this month. And our recovery shows in the numbers: Vermont remains one of the lowest unemployment rate states in the country, currently tied for fifth.
Pelham performs historical sleights of hand in his review of government spending in Vermont. He begins his analysis with 2008, when the economy began the most significant decline since the Great Depression. Only he could be surprised that spending by government, much of it in the form of federal stimulus money, would - and should - increase as unemployment rose, incomes stagnated, and home values faltered.
Pelham correctly expresses concern about the long-standing challenges of funding Vermont's pension systems, a problem stretching back over many administrations, but then fails to mention the name of the person who routinely made the trip from a former Administration's offices in the Pavilion building to the Statehouse to convince lawmakers that we should not fully fund the actuarial recommendation for the pension funds: Tom Pelham.
When he left his position as Commissioner of Finance, Vermont was not the Triple A rated state it is now, and it couldn't possibly have become one with that kind of budgetary practice. The truth is that Vermont was ahead of the curve in enacting changes, like increasing the normal retirement age, increasing employee contributions, and linking retiree health coverage to length of employment, to make our public pension plans sustainable. Further, we now routinely fully fund the annual pension actuarial recommendation.
Meanwhile, in stark contrast to Tom Pelham, Paul Cillo reaches back more than 20 years and cherry picks one quote to fault the Shumlin Administration for not emulating Governor Richard Snelling, characterized by Cillo as a leader who felt comfortable raising taxes in order to support increases in state services and programs. It is important to note that Governor Snelling inherited a budget gap several times larger than the funding gap currently anticipated for the next fiscal year. I doubt very much Governor Snelling would endorse Cillo's whitewash portrait of the extremely difficult choices his Administration made during that crisis. A more accurate view of Snelling's budgetary philosophy, one shared by Governor Shumlin, is reflected in his January 1991 budget speech to the Legislature, when he said "our citizens expect their government to balance the need for services and the burden of taxes. They will not tolerate excessive taxes any more than they will accept neglect of social interests." The former Governor continued, "Consequently, Vermont does not and never has had the option of simply deciding which government programs or services it wants and then levying taxes at whatever levels might be required."
Cillo believes that the Shumlin Administration has failed to focus support on Vermont's most needy, ignoring the facts in the process: increased state spending for low income housing and homelessness; the first base-budgeted contribution to low income heating assistance in state history; becoming the first state in the country to extend free school lunch to all low income public school children; an increase in the coverage limits for Medicaid; and increased subsidies for childcare. No one could take a clear-eyed look at the facts and claim that Governor Shumlin does not value and support the state's anti-poverty programs.
Finally, claims from both Cillo and Pelham that we are spending state dollars on public assistance programs without concern for results ring false.
Following the Governor's lead on a statewide strategic plan, Secretary Doug Racine and his team at the Agency of Human Services have aggressively rebuilt its capacity to measure and report results, something that was done for years but abandoned during the last decade. The Agency has identified 21 outcomes for the wellbeing of Vermonters. Contracts with our community partners now require these measures of performance, so that we can see whether we are getting desired results for the money we are spending.
Soon, an e-scorecard will allow Vermonters to see how the Agency is doing on its performance measures. In addition, Governor Shumlin has launched both an e-dashboard (http://governor.vermont.gov/govdash) to track a host of social, economic, and environmental indicators and a financial transparency website (http://spotlight.vermont.gov/) which allows citizens to see "Where the Money Comes From" that is used to operate state government and "Where the Money Goes" when it is spent. Greater accountability, more effective programs and better results for Vermonters will result.
While our critics continue to replay the last 20 years of tired legislative fights, the Shumlin Administration will stay focused on the future by aiming to create good paying jobs and prudent management of the state's finances. This budget year and those beyond will undoubtedly bring new challenges. Vermonters expect state government to act responsibly and to meet critical needs within the means we have, and they deserve nothing less.

Franco farewell as true community success
Dear Editor,
On Sunday, Oct. 27 the Killington community came together to say "farewell" to our friend Chris Franco.
On behalf of Franco's family, and everyone who helped to organize the celebration of his life, we just wanted to take a moment to say "thank you" to everyone for being part of a wonderful day.
It was an afternoon filled with delicious food, beautiful music, friends and family... All things that Franco loved most. A fitting tribute to a man that left us much too soon.
Due to the generosity of our community, the talents of the many chefs and musicians that participated, and everyone who attended, we were able to raise enough money to take care of all of Franco's final arrangements and remove that burden from his family.
We would also like to thank Polly Lynn, Jason Mikula and the entire staff of The Mountain Times for their help in getting the word out about the event and their support through a difficult time for many in our community.
A very sincere and grateful "thank you" to you all,
The Family and Friends of Chris Franco

 

Restricted fund allocation in question
Dear Editor,
I am dismayed at the cursory reporting done in the Killington Selectboard Briefs of Oct. 10-16. Specifically, on the Citizen's Input. It was simply reported that I and Jim Haff "disputed advice received from Jim Barlow, recommending the Town hold a vote (essentially a revote of the budget item voted on in this year's election) to formally establish a restricted fund for the $217,500 appropriated in the 2013 budget for Golf Debt Balloon Payment". What is not being reported here is that the same Jim Barlow recommended to the board before last March's election that there was no need to have a vote to formally establish a restricted fund for this purpose, that the budget vote was adequate authority to establish a restricted fund.
Here is the rationale Jim Barlow wrote to Seth Webb in changing his recommendation, "If such a vote is not taken, the passage of time will only make the voters' intent in 2012 less clear." Huh? As Jim Haff pointed out, if one reads the 2012 Town Report, which I imagine most people get their town budget information from, on page 3, in the Town Manager's Report, it clearly states: "Setting aside an additional $217,500 of undesignated funds to be used against a future Golf debt liability of $1.1 million, which is due for payment in 2022." If that is not enough on page 18 there is a budget line item "Golf Debt Balloon Payment, $217,500. I think it would be really hard, however far into the future, to misconstrue the intent of the voters in this case. You have to remember what Jim Barlow's perspective is. He is an advocate for the municipal governments not the taxpayers.
Why the sudden turnabout? Why is this current opinion better than what was acted upon in March? Why is all this this time being spent by board members and the town manager on an issue which was pretty much settled in March. While a couple of members of the Select Board tried to mollify me, and I suppose the public, by stating that this was just an exercise in dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's so that the restricted fund is ironclad legally. What about the law of unintended consequences? What if the vote is against establishing the restricted fund? That will bring the eventuality of raiding the fund to a reality.
While I have to publicly give the Chris Bianci, Patty McGrath and Seth Webb the benefit of doubt in this case, I wonder if this isn't just parliamentary maneuvering to reverse the intent of last March's vote.
Vito Rasenas, Killington

Too loud, too late
Dear Editor,
A very vocal minority in our country seems to believe that our problems are mostly government and social programs. They scream for "cutting taxes," "shrinking government" and "cutting spending." It seems to me that they are far too loud and much too late in their concern.
These people see the number of Americans who receive benefits from one or more social programs and ask, "How can we continue to support these millions of people?"  Shouldn't the first question be "why is our economy in such shambles that millions of Americans need help to survive?"
When I try to answer the latter question, I always end up staring at globalization and the real effects of giving corporations and Wall Street special treatment.  Why does Apple rake in billions in profit from sales to Americans, but employ so few Americans? Same for Nike and all the major footwear giants. How often do you call a major corporation's Customer Service line and speak to someone in America?
Why do GE, Exxon-Mobil, and many other corporations often pay zero-ZERO- in income taxes despite billions in profits? Why do investment managers get to treat most of their income as capital gains and pay a lower rate than policemen or firefighters?
With ever fewer jobs, lower wages for any new jobs, and tax dodging by those who benefit from "offshoring," exactly what does this vocal minority think the people injured by these phenomena are supposed to do?
I hear no loud complaints about these things. Nor did I hear them back when financial institutions issued trillions of dollars in "credit default swaps" (CDS) before the great 2008 meltdown. After all, in 2007 the 25 largest US Banks held $14 trillion in CDS-the nation's GDP was only $13.84 trillion.
But it's safer to criticize ordinary people scrambling to get by in our corporatized global world.  And easier to memorize (and shout) a few slogans.
Lee Russ, Bennington, Vt.

It's time for an intervention
By Lee H. Hamilton
The American public has lost patience with Washington. The question is, now what?
Congress is unable to do its job. It displays neither competence nor responsibility, lurching from crisis to crisis. Too many of its members reject the notion that accommodation and time-honored procedures allow them to fulfill their responsibilities to the American people. They use their legislative skill to engage in brinksmanship rather than address the country's fundamental problems. Economic growth? Creating jobs? Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path? Don't look to Congress.
We do not have to continue down this road, but we do have to tackle a core problem: the political center in Congress has weakened to the point of ineffectiveness, if not near-irrelevance.
Part of the answer lies with the electorate: more people have to turn out to vote. The more people who vote, the better the chances to strengthen the political center - that is, moderates and pragmatists. A healthier Congress rests on expanding efforts to convince people to vote, and beating back the barriers to voting.
The second solution lies with Congress. Contemplating a government shutdown, one congressman recently explained his stance by saying, "All that really matters is what my district wants." This is not an uncommon view, but it's distressingly limited. Our system depends on members who believe it's also their responsibility to lead and inform voters, who are willing to weigh the national interest as well as parochial concerns and who have confidence in our system to resolve political differences. In other words, we need members of Congress devoted to making the system work, legislators who realize that those who line up on the other side of them feel just as passionately about their positions, respect those differences, and are committed to finding common ground.
We change laws and solve our most difficult issues in this country not by bringing government to a halt, but by fighting out the issues before the voters in an election. At the end of the day, we have to move the country forward - and we need to elect members of Congress who are willing and able to do that.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Editorial: Solving the health care puzzle
By Angelo S. Lynn
As Vermonters begin to decipher the new world of health care through Vermont Health Connect and the health care exchange, and Republicans in Congress try to dismantle the nation's health care law by shutting down government, it's worth stepping back to view the big picture: that is, how this nation's health care compares to the rest of the world.
One place to start is with cost. In the U.S., we spent $8,233 per person in 2010 (the latest available statistics). That's two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world (or roughly $3,300), including European countries like France, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The next highest spenders were Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland, but they still spent $3,000 less per year.
In the U.S., health care spending amounts to a whopping 17.6 percent of GDP, or to put it another way, we spend 17 cents of every U.S. dollar we generate on health care. The Netherlands is the next highest at 12 percent of GDP, while the average among the 34 developed countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is almost half the U.S. at 9.5 percent. Canada spends $4,445 per person or 11.4 percent of GDP.
In a report produced by the OECD that studied the comparative health care of member nations, the report also found:
• In 2010, the U.S. had 2.4 practicing physicians per 1,000 people, which is well below the average of 3.1 in other OECD countries.
• The number of hospital beds in the U.S. was 2.6 per 1,000 population, again lower than the OECD avg. of 3.4.
• The life expectancy at birth increased by almost nine years in the U.S. between 1960 and 2010, but that's below the average increase of 15 years in Japan and over 11 years on average in the OECD. The average American, the report found, lives to be 78.7 years, compared to 79.8 in OECD countries.
The positive side is that the U.S. leads the world in health care research and cancer treatment, as well as in other specific types of care. That's not only better for those patients, but the research and development creates a lot of jobs. The U.S. also has shorter waiting times for patients to see doctors. Yet, the U.S. has fallen behind on public policy issues such as reducing obesity and the harmful effects of smoking or alcohol abuse. For example, in the U.S., 35.9 percent of children aged 5-17 are overweight or obese, compared to an OECD average of 21.4 percent.
Then there is this comment from Canadian multi-millionaire businessman, David Beatty, 70, who ran food-processing giant Weston Foods of Toronto, and has been described as a "tough-minded, suffer-no-fools wealth-creator that conservatives typically cheer." In an interview with a Washington Post reporter, Beatty lauded the Canadian system for its outcomes and simplicity and specifically wondered why U.S. companies "want to be in the business of providing health care anyway… that's a government function."
Or consider this comparison of the U.S. and Canadian systems by Roger Martin, another Toronto native who spent years as a senior partner at the consulting firm Monitor before becoming dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Martin advises U.S. corporate icons like Proctor & Gamble and Steelcase and lived in the United States for years, according to the same Washington Post report. In comparing systems, the Post wrote of Martin's analysis, "Canada's lower spending, better outcomes and universal coverage make it superior by definition. Plus, it's 'incredibly hassle-free.' In the United States every time he took his kids in for an earache his wife spent hours fighting with the health plan or filling out reams of paperwork. In Canada, he says, 'the entire administrative cost is pulling your card out of your pocket, giving it to them and putting it back.'"
Which brings us to political circus going on in Washington, D.C. and this question: As many columnists have speculated recently, is the real fear for Republicans not that Obamacare will ruin this country, but that it will be successful - as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have been, and as single-payer systems have been in the rest of the world?

Water works professionals applaud firefighters during Fire Prevention Week, call attention to value of water
Dear Editor,
During Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12), I join local water utilities throughout Vermont in reminding residents about the critical but often overlooked role that local water supplies - and the systems that deliver them - play in fighting fires and protecting public safety.
A properly functioning, well-maintained water system delivers reliable supplies at a high pressure and volume that can mean the difference between a small, manageable fire and a destructive, raging inferno.
But water infrastructure - the pipes, distribution mains, wells, pumping equipment, and other components invisible to the public eye - is aging and rapidly disintegrating.
This condition is especially prevalent in New England where a number of public water systems are more than 100 years old.
To safeguard communities from the ever-present threat of fire, local communities must invest in rehabilitating, improving, and replacing their water infrastructure so that life-saving water can flow uninterrupted from a source of supply, through a network of underground pipes, to the corner hydrant.
I also encourage local communities to support the National Fire Protection Association's campaign to prevent fires in the kitchen, the leading area of origin for home fires, by urging their residents to be more cautious and vigilant, especially when using the stove (visit www.nfpa.org for more information).
During Fire Prevention Week, water works professionals throughout New England applaud our region's firefighters for their courageous, dedicated, and selfless public service.
For more info, visit www.thevalueofwater.org.
Sincerely,
Raymond J. Raposa, Executive Director, New England Water Works Association

Remembering Mike Gallagher
Dear Editor,
I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my long time friend Mike Gallagher. I first met Mike about 1970 while working at the former Southworth's Ski Shop in Killington. Mike helped us put together a Cross Country Ski department; taught us to ski; and even helped us build a small trail system behind the shop.
I knew Mike was a great skier, but was most impressed while visiting the home of my friend, Peter Berger in Oslo, Norway in 1973. Peter's Father, Benno, had made supper for us, after which he began communicating with me about myself and my home in Vermont. Soon, he said to me "You have a school teacher in your State who came here to ski in competition, and he beat us. No, Americans had ever beat us like this in our home sport." I immediately said, "Yes, you must be talking about Mike Gallagher"... and he said "Yes, yes... Mr. Gallagher, you must be proud of him."
We certainly are proud of Mike for his many athletic achievements ... and equally appreciative  for the kind, encouraging, and wonderful man that he was.
Royal Barnard, Rutland

Op-Ed submission: It's time to celebrate Vermont's innovations

By Lisa Gosselin, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Economic Development
When we think of what is "Made in Vermont" we often think of sharp cheddar, craft IPAs, and fancy-grade maple syrup. What may not come to mind as quickly? A new wave of Vermont-manufactured products that use technology so innovative it is changing the world.
That transdermal patch your doctor prescribed? There's a good chance it was made in St. Albans by global health care company Mylan Technologies, which recently announced a major facility expansion.  The Ever-Led light tube you just installed to save energy? Built by LED Dynamics in Randolph. That smart phone you are carrying? Most likely powered by micro electronics created in Essex Junction by IBM.
While people around the globe are familiar with Burton's snowboards, Green Mountain Coffee's K-Cups and Concept2's rowing machines, many Vermonters are unaware of the thousands of other innovative products created in our state.
In Bennington, Kaman Composites makes the outer case for a 'cooler' of sorts that can  transport a human heart or other organs destined for a transplant. In Arlington, Mack Molding makes everything from solar-powered street lights to automated milk shake machines.  White River Junction's Sound Innovation helps military air crews preserve their hearing with noise-reduction earplugs. In Brattleboro, ROV Technology engineers the underwater robots that service nuclear reactors.
Governor Shumlin has proclaimed this Friday, October 4, "National Manufacturing Day" in Vermont, noting our state is "home to many great manufacturing businesses, many of which are world leaders in their fields."
That's not surprising considering that the modern machine shop came to life here in the 1820s, in the town of Windsor. "Precision Valley," as the Springfield/Windsor section of the Connecticut River valley became known, pioneered what the British called the "American system of manufacturing," using division of labor, mechanized production and a new business system of networks that paired engineers and entrepreneurs, craftsmen and mechanics.
Today, Vermont's manufacturing landscape is totally different but equally innovative. Small, technologically sophisticated companies rely on skilled workers, extensive supply chains and global markets. Facilities are state of the art and environments are clean, modern and often eco-friendly. Vermont now has more than 1,000 manufacturing firms with 60 percent employing fewer than 10.  About 31,000 Vermonters work in manufacturing, or about 10 percent of the total workforce - earning wages 36 percent above the statewide average. Manufacturing alone contributes 11.1 percent of Vermont's Gross Domestic Product.
As more and more people discover the value (and values) associated with a product that is "made in Vermont," that number will grow. Already, we are seeing some shifts that buck the national trend toward moving manufacturing offshore. Consider Cabot Hosiery, which has made a name by kitting Darn Tough socks so durable they come with a lifetime guarantee. Or Vermont Castings, which announced last Friday it would be consolidating its grill manufacturing (some of which is done outside of the U.S.) back  here in Randolph. "We believe in Vermont," said Vermont Casting's new CFO Jacob Reuben, a former New York financial advisor who helped transition the company to employee ownership this past summer. "There's a brand here that you just can't duplicate. 'Made in Vermont,' that means something.  It means quality."
50 Innovations Made In Vermont
To highlight some of the great things made in our state, the Vermont Department of Economic Development has created a list of 50 Innovations Made in Vermont, available at ThinkVermont.com. It is a list of just a few of the innovative products, designs and technology we produce. It's a list we hope to add to each year and we invite you to share your thoughts and nominations on our Vermont Economic Development Facebook page.
Meet the Manufacturers
You can also celebrate this Friday, as many Vermont manufacturers ranging from Burlington's Burton to the North Hartland Tool Company to Middlebury's Danforth Pewter will open their doors to the public. For more information on these and other events, visit www.mfgday.com or contact the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center, vmec.org).  In the Bennington area, teachers in math, science and other STEM programs have already made it part of their curriculum to visit the area's industries. Take some time to show yourself or your children what "Made in Vermont" can mean. Show them the possibilities. Show them the future.

Congress and Syria
By Lee H. Hamilton
As Washington swirls with proposals, counter-proposals, and political brinksmanship in response to diplomatic efforts on Syria, the situation has a lot of people scratching their heads. Couldn't President Obama and Congress have handled this differently?
I prefer to take a step back and ask a different question. Given that we are stronger as a country and our foreign policy more effective when the President and Congress forge a unified response to an international crisis, how can the two branches of government work together less chaotically to confront a dilemma like this one?
Let's put a possible congressional vote on Syria in context. Washington has long been divided over the power to use American military force, thanks to ambiguity in the Constitution itself: it gives Congress the power to declare war, but makes the President commander-in-chief. The last time Congress formally used its war powers was during World War II. It has ceded authority to the President ever since.
So I'm encouraged to see the possibility of real congressional debate on Syria, on what to do when another country uses chemical weapons, and on the projection of U.S. power. Presidents should not get a free pass on foreign affairs, but neither should Congress get to avoid declaring itself. On such difficult issues in the past, Congress has preferred to sidestep its constitutional responsibility, defer to the President, and then snipe from the sidelines when things go wrong.
This time, for better or worse, is different. What I hope we don't see is a chaotic process that leaves the U.S. appearing divided and indecisive, with the President forced to wonder how to "consult" with a disorganized Congress in which power is diffused. There is a better way, but it requires a regular mechanism for consultation.
A few years ago, a bipartisan National War Powers Commission, of which I was a member, came up with a pragmatic framework that would create a routine process for the President and Congress to follow.
Had this structure been in place already, a high-stakes vote on Syria wouldn't seem so unusual and the consultative process would have been far less messy. My hope, once this is over, is that the idea will gain greater currency. When international crises arrive, a routine process that has allowed our political leaders to build credibility with each other would save them a lot of heartburn.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Thank you Killington community for a successful Centennial Celebration
Dear Editor,
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Sherburne Memorial Library, I would like to thank the Killington community for making our weekend Centennial Celebration such a success. The celebration brought the community together at Saturday's Open house and Sunday's Gala. All had a good time.
We extend our special thanks to the many the businesses that contributed to our Tea Cup Raffle and Silent Auction, as well as individual and organization whose financial generosity made the event possible. This "thank you" would not be complete without mentioning the efforts of two individuals: Peter Gould who donated his artistic talent and created the stunning Centennial Logo, and Ned Dyer for his special help with our Gala.
We are truly grateful to the entire community for their support,  which was intrinsic to our accomplishments the past 100 years. We forward to writing the next chapter of our history with you!
Diane Rosenblum, Chairman, Board of Trustees Sherburne Memorial Library

Songs that bring back memories
Dear Editor,
I enjoyed reading the article by Cindy Phillips in The Mountain Times last month (Aug. 22-28) on "Memory," and the association of certain songs and a particular vivid memory. I am not a Baby Boomer, I am one of the so-called "Greatest Generation," but the song that takes me back to a certain time is "Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey." It takes me back to World War II Marberg Germany as the war was winding down. We had just captured the city of Marburg. Things quieted down for a bit and we got mail.
My wife sent me the recording of "Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey." I had to find a record player to hear it, which I did. It was a very touching song having been over seas over two years at this point. It must have been very touching for my wife to send me the record, too. That was the first time I heard it.
The Baby Boomer turned out to be my daughter who I saw for the first time when I got home, September 1945. Hearing that song today takes me back 68 years as though it were yesterday.
Jack Derevensky, Quechee, Vt.

Rutland to attempt world's longest contra dance line
Dear Editor,
A group of people in the Rutland area are planning a large event for June 7, 2014. We have applied for and been granted permission by the Guinness Book of World Records to attempt the World's Longest Contra Dance Line; the current record is 2208 set in Riga, Latvia.
We have secured nationally recognized caller Will Mentor and two equally known contra dance bands: Perpetual E-Motion and Giant Robot Dance to perform. Venues are currently being ironed out at his time. More information and updates will be available soon. Follow our Facebook page: "Attempting the World's Longest Contra Dance Line".
We are very excited about this opportunity for our community and hope everyone will be eager to participate as the date gets closer. Stay tuned!
Sincerely,
Eric Smith, Rutland

Fair followup on Floraculture
Dear Editor,
Every year, I am asked how does one enter the flower competition at the Vermont State Fair. The procedure is very simple. A person just has to pick up a Fair booklet at the Fair main office, or go online at: VTStateFair.net and follow the instructions.
The flowers are brought to the Bergstrom Building on the first Friday of the Fair, between noon and 7 p.m. Entries are placed in several specific categories,  and there is even the opportunity for children under 12 to display their flowers.
Flowers can also be entered daily, in specific categories, which in addition to awards, provide fresh flowers each day to enjoy. Daily entries provides the opportunity for everyone to use their creativity, and lets their neighbors and friends see, not only their flowers and herbs from their home gardens, but also the artistic talents of the competitors.
Thursday of Fair week, is Agriculture Eduction day. Many elementary and middle school kids participate, and are given a seed packet when they come to the Bergstrom Building. The hope is that they will plant the seeds either at their home, or somewhere on their school grounds.
Extension Master Gardeners from all over Rutland County, are on hand to answer any questions or to make suggestions. Master Gardener, Jan Sherman and her loyal crew have been working all summer long, in order to beautify all the gardens seen around the Fair grounds. These gardens are on display throughout the Fair grounds, and especially just outside the Bergstrom Building, which includes the hillside garden, the raised beds, and especially the lovely waterfall garden built by Master Gardener, Gary Clifford.
Next door is the compost area. Ron Hebert, Master Composter, explains how the compost begins with the soil, and how it develops into beautiful, rich compost, fit for any type of garden. He is very proud of this excellent display.
Ron and other Master Composters are on hand to explain how one can begin and develop their own compost, and how it is not only terrific for any garden, but that it is also helping the carbon footprint for Planet Earth.
So, besides the exciting rides, animals, and food, there are many excellent activities which help to make up the Vermont State Fair.
The Master Gardeners and Composters are looking forward to seeing you at the Vermont State Fair next year.
Elaine Nordmeyer, Floraculture Superintendent

On Syria
By Brett Yates
As the U.S. prepares to launch a military strike against Syria, it's worth thinking about why we might be doing what we're doing. For example, one reason why it might make sense for us to attack Syria is that the country's president, Bashar al-Assad, is killing lots of innocent people, and therefore something must be done to stop him.
Bashar al-Assad had already killed lots of innocent people, however, before he crossed the famous "red line" by using chemical weapons to murder nearly 1,500 Syrians in suburban Damascus. 100,000 had died by then; from a moral perspective, Assad is perhaps no worse for having used chemical weapons than he would be if he hadn't.
Of course, Barack Obama did say - perhaps unwisely, but I'm sure at the time it seemed important that he say something - that if Syria should employ chemical warfare, there would be consequences, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has emphasized that "the word of the United States must mean something." Obama himself has more recently backed off from the position that his own no-chemicals mandate is what matters here; the idea now is that he was merely echoing a universal sentiment, and it's because Assad overstepped the world's "red line," not Obama's, that action must be taken.
Indeed, chemical weapons are banned by international law.
Yet it would perhaps be disingenuous of Obama to suggest that he's only adhering to international law by going after Syria, for it is in fact the responsibility not of the United States - which actually supported Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran War - but of the UN Security Council to administer justice when somebody breaks a treaty.
Furthermore, it is not Obama's stated objective to "stop Assad." What we're aiming for is something between a warning shot and a war: a limited strike by bomb and/or missile that will neither kill Assad nor cripple him to such an extent that he'd no longer have the capacity to slaughter civilians by the thousand, but will show him that we're not happy about what he's doing and are ready to "give him hell" if he continues doing it.
There may be a vague contradiction here, since Obama assures us that this will not become for the United States a protracted, messy conflict like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if he's telling us the truth, then the threat promised by our circumscribed assault upon Syria is basically an empty one - yet he's counting on Assad not to regard it that way.
There's perhaps an essential illogic in the actions of a nation that, despite not wanting to go to war, attacks another nation, and that may be why limited, punitive military campaigns apparently don't work at all, as a recent Los Angeles Times article pointed out. In 1986, when we bombed Tripoli but left Gaddafi standing, the Libyans retaliated by blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 and its 270 passengers over Lockerbie, Scotland; Bill Clinton fired 75 missiles at Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in 1998, and we all know how they responded three years later. In Syria, we want Assad out, and Assad knows we want him out, but we don't want to pay the horrible cost of another "real war"; still, we must do "something." Meanwhile, Syria's ally Iran has already ordered an attack upon the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which, according to the plan recently intercepted by U.S. intelligence, would be carried out by Iraqi militants in the event of a U.S. strike upon Syria.
Still, what else can we do? If we lent our support to the Syrian rebels, Assad would presumably only gas more of them, along with the women and children who happen to live nearby. What we're going to do, apparently, is blaze a medium-sized path of destruction (we'll likely kill a few innocents of our own) that will, however, leave our enemy mostly intact, and then we're just going to wait and see what happens.
These days, I get the impression that many Americans sort of accept that the U.S. military is basically incapable of helping matters at all anywhere in the Middle East - that whatever we do just makes things worse, that we inevitably end up killing more people than we save. This may or may not be true, but in any case we're all so very tired of the fighting, and a sense of futility has crept in. Obama is in a tough position here: the hegemonic dream of Bush and Cheney - the notion that America the Superpower can and should impose its will upon the rest of the world - has perished, yet America remains a superpower, and what kind of superpower are we if we sit back and do nothing while another hundred thousand Syrians die?
To be fair, sitting back and doing nothing sometimes seems to be our standard policy when state-sponsored massacres occur anywhere except in the Middle East. Moreover, I read that six out of ten Americans oppose the strike in Syria. That we're going to strike them anyway may be a reflection more of America's identity problem than of any genuine need to drop a few bombs near Assad. Obama has scaled back the visible presence of American imperialism - he tries to avoid putting "boots on the ground" - without disowning it.
After all, we still have a certain reputation to uphold. It's not just that "the word of the United States must mean something" when it actually doesn't. The question is: what does a superpower even look like if it's not doing anything big on the international stage?
Can the world's greatest nation just be the place that makes the best blockbuster movies and pop songs and wins the most Olympic gold medals? Can it just be a place whose citizens are happy and protected, while their leaders encourage other nations to do right without attempting by military intervention to force them to? Do you want to live in a place like that?

Food shelf suffers shortages in West Rutland
Dear Editor,
When I opened the West Rutland Food Shelf in 2008, I committed to feeding anyone who came down our stairs regardless of where they lived. Over the last year, however, we have seen an increasing number of families from outside of West Rutland who are coming to us struggling with hunger and have exhausted their benefit at their local Rutland Food Shelf.
For five years we have been able to keep up with the demand but our food shelf is now in danger of not being able to meet the needs of residents of West Rutland. We are a small but generous town but our donor base just cannot keep up with outside demand at his time. Consequently, we have informed our customers that, until further notice, we will only be able to serve residents of West Rutland.
I don't make that decision lightly, and if our conditions change we may be able to serve our friends in surrounding communities once again.
Because of the demand we have experience over the Summer months, in particular, we are operating from a very small and fragile cash position. If you would like to help us restore our finances to a more healthy balance, please send contributions of any amount to the West Rutland Food Shelf, 472 Dewey Avenue West Rutland, Vt. 05777. Donations of food can be made at the Price Chopper in West Rutland where there is a donation bin or at the Town Hall.
With generous donations of money and food, you have the power to make it possible for us to feed all of our neighbors that come through our doors.
On behalf of all those who are struggling with hunger and are counting on us, thank you.
Tony Morgan, Founder/Director, West Rutland Food Shelf

In Washington, ideology need not reign supreme
By Lee H. Hamilton
As I speak to people about the Congress, one question arises more than any other: Why is Congress gridlocked? People are perplexed and disappointed with its performance, and are searching hard for an answer.
The roots of Congress's dysfunction are complex. But the fundamental reason is that real differences in beliefs about government exist among the voters.
Conservatives place a heavy emphasis on liberty, individual freedom, and self-reliance. They have little confidence in the government's ability to play a role in improving society or the economy, and many of them look upon government as destructive, a force that undermines our basic freedoms
Moreover, a belief has taken hold among conservatives in recent years that compromise and accommodation are betrayals of their cause. This has put great pressure on GOP leaders not to budge in their negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats.
Meanwhile, on the "progressive" side there is much greater emphasis on using government to narrow economic disparities and help those at the bottom of the income scale. They emphasize equality of opportunity for all and individuals' responsibility to the community around them. While they do not favor a radical centralization of power in the federal government, as some conservatives charge, they are more willing to accept government action - and the legislative compromises that make it possible.
The gap between these views appears unbridgeable. It is not.
That is because most Americans find themselves somewhere between the extremes, able to see merit in both conservative and progressive ideas. When I was in office, I often found myself thinking that many of my constituents were conservative, moderate, and liberal all at the same time. That hasn't changed. They may be wary of excessive government, but again and again they turn to government at some level to help solve the problems they complain about, and they want it to work effectively and efficiently. More than anything else, Americans want to see moderation and cooperation from their political leaders.
In the end, Congress usually ends up about where most Americans want it to be. So I'm not surprised how, when dire problems confront them, both conservatives and progressives in Washington find their inner pragmatist.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

Paid sick days are crucial to community well-being
Dear Editor,
While working in the school system, I witnessed sick kids coming to school, staff (including food service workers) often becoming sick, and kids that needed to stay at school laying on cots because their parents had to make arrangements for their children to be cared for. After talking to some parents, I realized how much they agonize over the choice of losing a valuable days pay or staying home with their sick child. Parents always want to stay home to take care of sick kids, but losing even one day's pay is a sacrifice that will mean being behind on the bills. This is especially true for single parents, relying on one paycheck.
This scene played out over and over again for the 12 years I worked in a school. Fellow staff members were at risk for any and all ailments that came through the front door, and then bringing it home, where other family members took it somewhere else. Thus a never ending cycle - which could have been prevented by paid sick days. Paid sick days could be some of the best preventative medicine we could have in Vermont.
If paid sick days were in place, it would take care of many problems. Parents wouldn't have to worry, and all workers would have the right to a healthy workplace. Healthcare is more than just going to the doctor, it means taking a proactive approach to a problem that we can solve together.
The Vermont Paid Sick Days Campaign will be officially launched Thursday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. at Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex, Vt. Coming to this event is a great way to find out more and get involved in this issue that's crucial to all Vermonters, and eat some great bread!
Sincerely,
Stauch Blaise, Randolph, Vt.

On Labor Day, too many workers labor in the shadows
By Ben Johnson and Richard Trumka
For many Americans, Labor Day barbecues and picnics mark a nostalgic end to summer. It's also a time to celebrate work and the people who do the work (and of course, the people who want to work but can't find jobs). This year, we remember especially that too many people labor in the shadows of our economy without access to the rights and protections that everyone deserves.
Over 11 million aspiring Americans attend school, work on our farms and in our neighborhoods, raise families, own homes and dream of a better life. But their dreams will never be realized with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads and a path to citizenship so far out of reach.
While these immigrant workers struggle to become part of a country that benefits from their labor but doesn't protect their rights, unscrupulous employers abuse the system by exploiting workers with little to no protections-and pay them less. This vicious cycle, in turn, lowers wages and working conditions for all American workers and makes it harder for businesses that play by the rules.
No one can deny that our current immigration system is broken, or that it depresses living standards for all workers. Across the country this Labor Day, people are calling for immigration reform that truly protects the rights of all workers.
At the beginning of August, 41 national leaders representing a broad coalition of advocates who support worker protections that include a road map to citizenship were arrested in a civil disobedience action just outside the offices of members of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
In California, hundreds of cars caravanned to Bakersfield for a rally in the heart of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's district.
Right here in Vermont migrant workers and their supporters are rallying against the ongoing deportations.
The message is loud and clear: if Members of Congress continue to obstruct a vote on immigration reform, they will have to answer to a growing majority of Americans who support a path to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
We saw this majority reflected in the diversity of faces that spoke up to ensure that a vote on comprehensive immigration reform was successful in the Senate: faith leaders, conservatives and business owners took action together with immigrant rights groups, community organizations, working families and labor and civil rights leaders.
The immigration legislation that passed with a solid, bipartisan majority in the Senate-while far from perfect-lays out a reasonable roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans, lifts up workplace standards and rights for all Americans, and strengthens border protections. This would boost the U.S. economy.
According to the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), modernizing our immigration system so that it is safer, more orderly, and more humane would grow our economy and reduce the deficit by almost a trillion dollars over two decades. 
The CBO also reports that a set of reforms that include an earned path to citizenship would create 732 new jobs in Vermont and increase our economic output by $51 million in just one year.
Passing comprehensive immigration reform with strong worker protections, including a path to citizenship, is the economically and morally right thing to do.
Unfortunately, some Republicans, like Iowa Congressman Steve King, have been very vocal about why they don't want a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. According to Rep. King, the millions of young women and men who call the U.S. their home and are American in every way except on paper are actually drug mules with "calves the size of cantaloupes." Will the Republican majority in Congress really allow bigots who alienate the significant Latino electorate to speak for their party on the pivotal issue of immigration?
Rep. Peter Welch was elected to do what's best for our state and our country. That includes taking a stance in favor of fixing our broken immigration system and ensuring that we no longer have millions of people working in the shadows-and that Labor Day celebrates all people who work. We are confident that Peter will fight hard for the right thing.
Our country is watching and the millions who have mobilized will continue to ramp up action until a path to citizenship is fully realized.
Ben Johnson is the President of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Richard Trumka is the President of the National AFL-CIO.

News from the ledge: Shoreland conservation Bill makes progress
By Rep. Anne Gallivan
One of the things I enjoy most in summer is an opportunity to be on or by the water. Lakes, rivers, and oceans lure visitors, and the healthier the water, the more appealing the experience. Sensible building and natural shoreline habitats help promote healthy water while delaying potential eutrophication from intrusive run-off. 
Last winter, the legislature passed Shoreland Bill H526 in the House of Representatives. Now the creators of the legislation are holding public meetings around the state to hear important feedback.
When the bill passes in the Senate, and meets concurrence by committee, it will move to rule making to establish the details of the permitting standards.
Under new regulation, building projects involving 500 square feet or more of impervious surface must go through a permitting process to assure a mitigation of new storm-water run-off that could carry nitrogen and phosphorus into the lakes. The process might include suggested building design features, water bar diversions for paths and driveways or additional shore plantings to improve water absorption.
The current bill affects all new development, rebuilding, and remodeling expansions (of a certain size) on lakefront properties. Homes along the shore that do not undergo change can expect to continue under current property maintenance. Small lot homes wanting future expansion may need to plan to add on the inland side of the home.
Though many older homes are closer than 100 feet from the shore, the new permits would require a 100 foot setback, preservation of certain amount of vegetation at the shore and interest in land management for a full 250  feet from the shoreline. Specifics of these regulations will be established in the rule making process. Local size and scope conditions will likely be recognized in variables to these rules.
Vermont is years behind its neighbors in New York, New Hampshire, and Maine. Fewer than 20% of Vermont's towns with shoreline have zoning ordinances that protect shorelines, and since the encouragement of voluntary standards has failed to do more, a statewide statute is, in my mind, the best response. Judging from the data in other states, protective measures will boost property values that thrive on good water quality and more natural shorelines.
A meeting Aug. 22 at the Kehoe Conservation Center at Lake Bomoseen drew several hundred attendees. Many expressed concern for a perceived loss of owner's rights, while the Shoreland Commission expressed a sense of urgency in updating Vermont's policy to preserve at-risk bodies of water. Now is the time to chime in with concerns as the legislation is tweaked. Contact your county senators, ANR or me at 483-2854.

 

OP:ED What you need to know about congress right now
By Lee H. Hamilton
Deeply unpopular and flagrantly unproductive, Congress is on its August recess right now. It won't return until Sept. 9, after a five-week recess, leaving itself just a few days to settle issues like raising the debt ceiling and passing a federal budget.
Here are some things you should know about where it stands at this stage of the game:
- Few, if any, Congresses can match this one for futility. It managed to help out some communities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and to reach a deal on presidential nominations, but mostly it can't get things done - whatever your politics. The repeal of Obamacare, action on climate change, a "grand bargain" on our fiscal problems, education and tax reform, creating jobs, strengthening gun laws... the list of dropped balls is long, although there is still hope for immigration reform, if just barely. A few weeks ago Speaker John Boehner told Americans not to judge Congress by how many laws it passes, but by how many it repeals. It hasn't succeeded on either count.
- The budget process is a mess. It's been years since Congress put together a budget according to its regular order, but even by its recent low standards this year has been chaotic. None of the appropriations bills needed for the government to continue running after Sept. 30 has been enacted. "It is common for Congress to leave big budget fights until the last minute," the Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook wrote as Congress left town, "but the budgeting process now seems so adrift that even congressional veterans find it hard to see a resolution." Passing a budget is the most basic function of government, and Congress can't manage it.
- Members of Congress do not like to compromise. The parties are more divided ideologically than they've been for many decades, with one side fiercely hostile to government and the other convinced that government can accomplish good things. Neither side can get things done on its own. That's pretty much the definition of when responsible lawmakers step forward to build a consensus. Yet in this Congress, either they don't know how or they're not interested.
A glimmer of hope does exist, as more members respond to polls showing Americans believe it's more important for the parties to compromise than to stick to their positions. They may not be able to come to agreement, but some of them are talking about how willing they are to reach across the aisle.
- Even so, it's worth noticing that one of the congressional parties is extraordinarily difficult to lead at the moment. The Republicans are fractured and squabbling over their future direction. This makes me sympathize with the formidable task the Republican leadership confronts.
- Hardly anyone out there thinks Congress is doing a good job - it's consistently below 20 percent approval ratings - and most people think it's too partisan. Yet members aren't very concerned. They've become quite skilled at running against Washington, even though they are Washington. And they count on the fact that few voters hold their own member of Congress responsible for its shortcomings, however unpopular Congress as a whole has become.
- As lobbyists descend in swarms on Capitol Hill, they hold more power than ever. They rain cash, twist arms, and even draft bills - all the things that powerful congressional leaders used to do.
The NRA's defeat of legislation strengthening background checks for gun purchases, in the face of overwhelming public sentiment after Newtown, was nothing less than an impressive display of political clout and an example of how influential lobbyists and special interests have become. Perhaps this is why a good number of my former colleagues have made a tidy living for themselves by becoming lobbyists.
- Finally, all of this contributes to the emerging themes for the 2014 congressional campaign. Candidates will clearly run against the mess in Washington, and a good number of them, though not all, will talk regularly about the need to be bipartisan. The big question for 2015 will be whether the successful ones can translate their talk into legislation to help move the country forward.


Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

 

OP:ED Remembering Irene, preparing for future floods
By Deb Markowitz
Like many Vermonters this summer, by July I was sick of the constant rain. My garden beds flooded. The house smelled vaguely of mildew. I was worried about the swollen rivers and flooded lakes. And, I watched the damage mount - storm after storm - to homes, to roads, to farms, and to weather-dependent businesses.
There is little doubt that Vermont is in for wetter springs as climate change unfolds. Indeed, this year, May and June were the wettest consecutive 30-day periods on record for Vermont!
The floods we experienced this past summer, like Irene, remind us that rivers flowing through Vermont communities have tremendous power to wreak havoc. They also remind us that we must prepare for our changing climate, and there are many things we can do.
We learned some important lessons from Irene. Healthy forests that absorb rainfall, and floodplains that give rivers room to spill out and dissipate energy, will temper the immense power of floodwaters before they inflict costly damage to our town centers. Vermont's prized land use pattern - beautiful walkable villages surrounded by working farms, wetlands, and forests - is the single most cost-effective strategy we can pursue to buffer communities from the impacts of fast-moving water. And, we can inadvertently increase the risks of erosion and flood damage when we remove debris and fix damage after heavy rains.
As a result of these lessons, the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) has been busy. We are developing rules in response to new legislation, to guide emergency stream projects after storms that will assure public safety and the quick repair of critical infrastructure without inadvertently making rivers more prone to flooding. We formed a new partnership between Vermont's land conservation organizations and ANR that will target conservation efforts to protect critical natural places that make us resilient to flooding. Finally, state agencies are working together to ensure that new or repaired infrastructure is built to withstand future floods, and we are exploring policies to promote compact growth in historic town centers while preserving undeveloped floodplain areas such as working farms, wetlands, and river valley forests.
We can also learn from the many communities battered by Irene that have taken positive steps to reduce their vulnerability to future flood damage. These communities have invested in conserving undeveloped floodplains, have rebuilt infrastructure to withstand future floods, have adopted local zoning bylaws to limit growth in vulnerable areas, and have used new techniques to better manage stormwater.
Here are some things that we can do in every community:    
1.     Ensure that flood water has somewhere to go. Our farms, wetlands and fields provide a place where flooding rivers can spill out and slow down. Healthy forests also protect us by absorbing as much as 70% of the rain that falls on them before it flows overland to streams. Protecting these areas means less flood damage in our valley villages and homes.
2. Grow wisely in our river valley towns. When we invest in development in our historic town centers, we create places where Vermonters want to live, and we also keep the fields and forests nearby intact so they can dampen serious floods. But living near rivers calls for smart, flood-savvy investments.
3. Recover stronger: Build bridges and culverts to withstand flooding. Many of our culverts are too small and our bridges too low for the storm flows of today. And many  roads are too close to our most unpredictable river channels. We need to better understand where our infrastructure faces serious risks so that we can plan to rebuild with resilience.
4. Slow stormwater before it rushes into streams. Our steep mountain hillsides send water rushing downhill not only during storms like Irene, but also during the smaller storms we've seen this summer. We must slow this runoff down if we want to prevent flooding disasters in the valley bottoms. By managing storm water so it absorbs into the ground we prevent damaging floods. This also provides water quality benefits (keeping nutrient high sediment and contaminants out of our water bodies) and helps to recharge our groundwater aquifers.
Irene was one of the costliest disasters in the state's history, both in terms of the human costs as well as costs to our communities, families and businesses. Using the lessons we learned from Irene we can ensure that Vermont is stronger and better prepared for the future.

 

Reflecting on the second anniversary of Irene
Dear Editor,
Earlier this week, I was interviewed by a PHD candidate from U of Massachusetts Amherst for insight into how Pittsfield responded to the flood in the immediate aftermath and now currently.
I tried to give her my best overview and gave her copies of correspondence to and from government officials, from my desk, a copy of the book: The Wrath of Irene, and the DVD Flood Bound.
One question brought back some very warm memories/feelings dealing with neighbors overcoming longstanding differences and barriers. Being a minister, this area really has great meaning for me. Pittsfield came together as a tight knit community putting all differences and quarrels aside which, in and of itself, served our recovery as much as any other factor.
Then she asked how enduring is this sense of closeness.
Honestly, in too many instances it waned from that initial high to more of a lukewarm climate. As we approach the second anniversary of "Irene's Wrath" with a Community Gathering and Celebration, my prayer is that we might somehow recapture that spirit that served us so well in the recovery.
Time has this way of slipping through our fingers. Two years since the storm that seems like just yesterday. Edna and I are now in our sixth year here in Pittsfield. We have made so many good friends, some very close and special. As the years slip by, I am finding that REAL friends are more important than anything else beyond the church and our calling.
I am thankful for this town and ALL who are a part of it.
Howard Gunter, Pastor Pittsfield Federated Church

 

Castleton concerts enjoyed great success
Dear Editor,
After completing the 18th year of presenting concerts, the annual Castleton Summer Concert series has once again enjoyed a most successful season. Partnering with Castleton State College the past two years, and with the move into the beautiful, brand new, state of the art, pavilion, this indoor/outdoor venue has been "the" place to go in Castleton, on Tuesday evenings.
There were 11 wonderful and exciting performances with great crowds that enjoyed the musical talents of all the bands that played in Castleton this summer.
Many of the musicians who have played Castleton, have said that the program is the premier concert series in the State of Vermont.
A "thank you" for the success for this excellent program is owed to many people including: the sponsors, the college and it's support staff, boy scout troop #13 for all of their contributions and help, the local media, and certainly the many hundreds of concertgoers who, each week, support live music with their attendance at the Castleton College Summer Concert series.
The Castleton College Summer Concert series is a joint community effort, and a great feeling of pride should be shared by all the community of Castleton, it's Rutland County neighbors, and New York friends.
With the 18th season complete, the 19th season must be just around the corner! Until next year,
Dick Nordmeyer, director, and Lori Phillips, conference and events, Castleton State College

 

Yankee fan corrects the record
Dear Editor,
In the last edition of The Mountain Times (Aug. 15) columnist Brett Yates in his article on Performance Enhancing Drugs, mis-identifies Alex Rodriguez as the New York Yankees shortstop. Every baseball fan knows that, since late in the 1995 season, the Yankees have had (essentially) one short stop - Derek Jeter.
Alex Rodriguez plays 3rd base!
Also, The 12 others suspended with A-Rod, included several All Stars and one post-season MVP; and they were all Hispanic, possibly a reason they were not maligned by other sports writers.
Hank Rogers, Killington, Vt.

 

 

Dear Editor,

On Sunday, October 2, 2011 a group of friends and neighbors from all around Vermont, and many points beyond, came together to help those who needed help and to lend a hand to those who needed a hand.

It was a day of music, laughter, great food and community spirit and despite the rain, over 500 people came to participate and enjoy the Concert for Killington Area.

When we first started to plan the concert we had a very ambitious goal of raising $20,000 to help those in need in the towns around the Killington area. We are happy to announce that we have raised almost $40,000, as of today, and the total keeps growing.

It would be impossible to thank all of the musicians, business owners, artists and professionals who made this event possible and we are humbled by the generosity of those who came to enjoy the event.

We are truly blessed to live in a place where people care so deeply about each other and are always willing to help their neighbors "weather the storm."

The Concert for the Killington Area will not reverse the devastation that was caused on that dark Sunday in August by Tropical Storm Irene but the monies raised will go toward helping families and friends start to rebuild and get their lives on the road to recovery. We have chosen two charities to help distribute this money and get it to those who need it most.

It is with a full heart and wide smile that we all say "Thank You!" to everyone involved with the Concert for the Killington Area. We could not have done it without your love and support.

Wishing everyone health, happiness and good friends to get you through the hard times.

Peace to you all,

Joey Leone & the Committee of the Concert for Killington Area

 

To the Editor:

My parents and I are extremely grateful to the Castleton State College Men's Hockey Team and C.S.C President Mr. David Wolk for making C.S.C students available to Rutland City residents in our time of need.

On Friday September 9, 2011, as I leaned on my shovel and wiped the mud and sweat from my face, I looked up to see a Castleton State College van stop and approximately 15 to 20 members of the Castleton Men's Hockey Team approach me and offer to help remove mud and debris from my basement.

Like many of my fellow Meadow Street residents, I was forced out of my home on August 28, 2011 by flooding brought on by Irene. Many of us struggled individually to reclaim our homes from the wrath of water, mud and damage brought on by storm. The storm brought out the best in all the individuals I encountered as I worked to clean my home of mud, water and debris.

The Hockey Team members descended into my basement and almost in unison began to shovel up mud and then carry the heavy buckets up the stairs to the side of the street, where they dumped the buckets and then returned to the basement to repeat their task over and over.

In addition to being tireless workers, the members of the Men's Hockey Team are a great group of young men who clearly understand the meaning of "giving to the community." I cannot express in words my appreciation for their hard work. I would still be in my basement, shoveling up mud, had I not received such assistance.

After the C.S.C students piled back into their white van and drove to their next location, an individual asked me "who they were." I responded, "they are the C.S.C. Men's Hockey Team but as far as I am concerned they are superheroes."

Go Spartans.

From: Joseph Zingale Jr.
10 Meadow Street, Rutland, VT

 

Reflections On Irene

by E. J. Willis

-How many times can you reach for the light switch when there is no electricity?

-How many times will you try to flush the toilet when there's no water in the tank?

-Now I know why a caged animal paces - can't get out this way, can't get out that way - back and forth.

-Patience only lasts so long.

-There IS a morning after. Doesn't mean things are going to be better.

-Send every soldier you know of a packet of salt and pepper. It helps the MRE's go down. Maybe a spoonful of sugar would help, too.

-I wonder how many candles equal one lumen. Is it too late to thank all those people who gifted candles to me over the years? Thankfully, I kept them all in one box. They are gone now, but were VERY useful.

-How do you get candle wax off the table, dishes, upholstery, your clothes, the floor and the cat?

-Not to sound unappreciative, but how many times can you say thank you to the same people for the same action and mean it?

-The sound of softly flowing water is beautiful, but loud, fast water sets my nerves on edge.

-Prayers help.

-No matter how hungry I am, lima beans are not meant to be eaten by human beings.

-Rain pattering on our steel roof is soothing; rain pounding on the roof is not.

-If road closed signs are ignored, would bridge gone signs stop drivers?

-I now realize how dependent I am on electricity and I do not like my addiction.

-I found that 3 days without water maxes my tolerance for hauling buckets of water from the brook.

-We seniors have discovered we can live without internet and cable, but the younger generation was very disturbed over that loss.

-Phones are a necessity in an emergency and EVERYONE should have cell service no matter where they live. This is more important than a health care system that few desire!!

-Never ever get rid of your battery dependent radio! It may be your only contact with the outside world, your only source of news, your only comfort during the dark hours.

-Closeness during an emergency is not always comforting - especially by the 3rd day without H2O.

-More people will walk outside the day after a storm than you knew lived in your neighborhood.

-Newspapers are the local archivists. Their articles tell our history.

-The rest of the world is unimportant when you're living in a disaster area.

-I can now fathom the resolve of the people of Louisiana who continually face damages from hurricanes. Hurray for them!

-"It won't happen here" doesn't apply anywhere.

-Vermont is Vermont. Only those who live in Vermont would understand how special, independent, friendly and unique the state and its people are.

 

Dear Editor and Friends,

First, I need to say how incredible all the small towns in the Green Mountain State have pulled together as a team in the devastating aftermath of Irene. I also need to thank all the people in the Killington area and the Killington Town Garage for there support and help with the Kokopelli Inn clean up.

As I work through this rebuilding journey there are a couple of quotes from two long time proven Killington business owners that have helped me through this process. Casey Crompton said "be patient, there is always a Silver Lining" and Steve Durkee wrote me a note "It will get better." At this point these are difficult to believe but we are doing our best.

Secondly, our new Vermont slogan is "I am Vermont Strong." If you would have asked us 3 weeks ago we would have said, "Of course we are, 'Vermont Strong.'" We would have included our home and business, the Kokopelli Inn, as Vermont Strong, too. All of this proved to be weaker than Mother Nature. She challenged us in ways that no one expected. We are among those who have lost everything in a blink of Mother Nature's eye.

Our loss includes our business, our home, and our jobs. We are also hearing the effects of the loss on the hundreds of our extended family, the Kokopelli tribe members. Families that have planned annual holidays to be in Killington at our Inn are worrying about the loss of their reunion location; and wedding guests are scrambling to make other arrangements. From our seasonal shares who visit every weekend to all our other guests, and our signature Pot Luck Dinner Friday crew, are who make up the Kokopelli Inn family.

It breaks our heart to see that the Kokopelli Inn's wounds from Irene run so deep. We pride ourselves on providing an Inn that brings families together. The Inn has the space to accommodate large families and guests. On August 28th, Tropical Storm Irene came to us with the force of a Hurricane and took so much away.

In a matter of hours our home and business was destroyed. The landslide that came from the swollen river up the hill, the huge metal culvert could not handle. The house across the street collapsed into the river then blocked the culvert completely and the river turned toward us. The river that was filled with boulders, mud, trees and the remains of the house ended up piling up around the Inn. Boulders rolled through the front widows and crashed through the walls like they were made of paper. The boulders were followed by a flood of river water that came through the windows and filled our basement.

Irene did leave her mark on the Kokopelli; it includes a mountain of debris 8-10 feet deep that has locked into place like cement. Our storage basement filled with water and our basement home completely destroyed. The entire infrastructure is damaged, tons of debris in our yard, and septic system. Our electric and heating system is destroyed, the well is not working, the debris has settled, and our parking lot is a rocky river bed.

Over the past 8 years we have used all of our resources trying to build a successful B & B business in Killington. We have sacrificed our time, money and energy. We have developed a strong partnership with the town of Killington. We have worked closely with the Killington Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development and Tourism Commission, and the Killington Ski Resort organization. The results of our partnership with the region have helped our B & B business flourish with a strong extended family of loyal guests.

As many of the other Vermonters affected by this disaster understand, we are getting NO support from the insurance companies. FEMA has given us some immediate assistance, which we are grateful for, but it's a small fraction of what we will need to bring the Kokopelli back to life.

Our story is not unique. We could substitute many businesses and homes into our story. We are used to being the shelter from the storm, being able to offer rooms to families who need a place to call home. This is an incredibly challenging time for many people throughout Vermont. The water has receded, roads are beginning to open, and lives are moving on at a more normal pace.

However, there are many of us whose road is long and filled with debris. Vermont pride and strength will continue to move us forward. In the meantime, please know that if you have ever considered a rock wall as part of your backyard that now is the time to build it. We have plenty of rock at the Kokopelli, please feel free to come by and take as much as you want!

We need help to fix the damage from Irene. We have submitted applications for all the assistance that has been made available. The cost in damages far exceeds the available funding. Cleaning the building to make it safe for us to enter has reduced what we have received drastically and we do not have money available to pay to rebuild the infrastructure. We are looking for donations in return for future weekend stays at a drastically discounted rate. We need tradesmen willing to offer their time in trade as well. Please contact us at Castrolmartin@aol.com for more info.

Hurricane Irene has been the worst, most destructive guest we have had at the Kokopelli Inn. We welcome all at the Kokopelli, however I hope if another Irene comes through Killington she chooses a different place to stay.

Thank you,

Chuck and Barbara.

 

The Last Stand At "Fort Command"

by Ned Dyer

422-FIRE..now there's a number that would get your attention.  If you dialed that number from the time Irene left town up until Sunday September 11th, you would have been connected to the Killington Command Center (aka Emergency Response Center) which was set-up on the second floor of the Killington Volunteer Fire House on  the Killington Road, but for this little tale we have exercised a little poetic license and are calling the center "Fort Command."

For the first week after the "Big Water" and like most people in Vermont, I was dealing with my own issues.  After I saw daylight I felt a need to try and help in some way.  At  10:00 a.m. on Monday, or it could have been Sunday or maybe even Tuesday, I climbed the fire house stairs, turned right into "Fort Command" and stopped dead in my tracks.  There were eight or ten tables with 4 to 6 chairs around them with Killington volunteers using their personal cell phones, their own laptops, telephones, maps, lists,  water bottles, containers of cold coffee and half eaten sweet rolls. 

In the midst of all this there was Barry L., the "maker of badges." ( I know, I saw "Blazing Saddles" too, so don't even say it!   Badges are necessary in emergency situations like this.)  What seemed like an eternity, I stared open-mouthed trying to get a handle on what was happening.  At that point Steve D. welcomed me and handed me an instruction sheet, which I never did get to read because Jill D. showed me a list of volunteers and asked if I wouldn't call them to get there availability and contact information-game on!

I bounced from table to table using my cell and whatever phone was free, all the while watching Jeanne K. and Pat L. uploading data into the data base, Hannah A. and Hal and Cindy B. compiling volunteer and contractors lists, Betsy B. and Steve D. in a huddle, Denise C., Kate,  Kathy J. oand Pat F. fielding medical issues, Patti McG. opening up the walking path to access Rutland, Judy F. and Dottie D (who are the fastest phone picker-uppers east of the Pecos), Steve Finer was at his desk as the gate keeper, Seth and Suzie D. were everywhere, and the veterans told me it was like that 24-7 the week before.

At one point Fort Command got pretty chaotic what with official business and  concerned citizens dropping by hoping to get some information or any one of a number of valid reasons, so Steve D. asked if I wouldn't watch the door and maybe redirect some of  the foot traffic.  In my zeal I actually asked Kathleen Ramsey the Town Manager, the nature of her business.  It's been nearly a week and I still blush at the thought of it.

For me it's been a week of awe and admiration watching a platoon of locals step up and help  direct food and water deliveries where they are most needed, to get prescriptions to patients in need, home inspections, setting up comfort stations, advising on transportation routes, setting up a clinic for pets and generally giving aid and comfort to an ailing community.  But yet, thru all of this, we couldn't get the needed mayonnaise airlifted to the Comfort Station for the tuna fish.

So now it's Sunday, our last stand at  " Fort Command".  Judy Findeisen is off doing inspections,  Denise Corriell  has delivered the last of the prescriptions that were delivered on Friday from the Pharmacies in Rutland, Steve Duchan is heading off to Quebec to guide a bicycle tour, a new hot line has been set up at the Town Office, Judy Evans, Marilyn and their team are still manning the Comfort Station at the Butternut and so here we are, Dottie and Pete DaCota and myself, the Llast of the "Fort Command" Volunteers staring at the silenced phones experiencing the first  symptoms  of withdrawal from telephonitis, and they tell us we can't have a  kegger…..bummer dudes!!!

 

Hi Mountain Times,

I just got back from CT where I DJ'd a wedding that had to be moved from Mountain Meadows. The people couldn't thank me enough for coming down. Besides that everyone that knew I was from VT came up to me offering their support.

This is such a great community that people here and afar love. That is why I'm so proud to live here and help out. Instantly I was helping to deliver water, gas and supplies to stranded friends in Pittsfield. The Pittsfield community really banded together in that time of need. That is a special town.

I was hiking to Journeys End as that is the only way I can get to K-town. Tonight I'm volunteering at the trail from 7pm-12am to help people at the trail. Mendon is doing a tremendous job in helping people. From the police to the construction workers to the volunteers, it's all amazing. People can go to Mendon Town Hall to sign up. So many people want to volunteer but all don't know how.

Your last few editions were classy and amazing.

Thanks,

DJ Dave

 

Dear Royal,

I wanted to let you know that The Mountain Times's coverage and online updates in the wake of Irene have been outstanding.  Really excellent work keeping everyone locally and beyond informed.  I read the online Times each Thursday and never miss the hard-copy when I'm in the area.

Best wishes to you and your team.
Jeff Carlson
Boston, MA

 

Hurricane Irene: Seven Days Later
by a proud Vermonter
 
In the past seven days I've haven't missed a meal or been without clean water to drink, I have had a warm bed to sleep in. I've been able to communicate with the people I care about most.
 
In the past seven days people I know have lost friends, family, their homes, their valued and cherished possessions and the pets they loved. These same people have stood up, helped their neighbors where they could and started to move forward.
 
In the past seven days I've been disappointed by no one.
 
In the past seven days I have watched strangers become neighbors; neighbors become friends and friends grow closer as they stood side by side and faced adversity and destruction. I've been reassured by the reaction of people I've grown to depend on and pleasantly surprised by people who I've had little regard for in the past.
 
In the past seven days I've heard our communities called "Islands" but felt closer to the surrounding towns and their residents than ever before.
 
In the past seven days I've done the best I could with what I had but am still humbled by those who did so much more with so much less. I've not worried about what I needed, or what I was missing, but instead focused on what I had and using the tools I had to help.
 
In the past seven days I haven't argued about religion, politics or the 1% local option tax.
 
In the past seven days the things I've heard people say the most is "What can I do?" or "How can I help?"
 
In the past seven days the best thing I've heard someone say is "Mother Nature didn't send Irene to Vermont to teach us a lesson; she picked Vermont to teach everyone else a lesson…on how to bounce back!"

 

 

Dear Mountain Times

Thanks for you most resent issue September 1st. I can't believe you were able to pull this off considering everything.
 
I wish you well and again thank you for keeping us informed. It is the unknown that is the worst.
 
Thanks,
 
Ken

 

 

Dear Editor,

For those of you finding it tough to get specific information about your property: The Curtis Insurance Agency offers to drive over to your Killington Property and report what they find there.  Send them an email at jon@curtisinsuranceagency.net or call 802-775-0521.

Jon D. Curtis, P.E.

Killington

 

Royal,

I am a Killington homeowner (second home) and have been a devoted reader of your paper for years - I was moved by your piece on the situation in town. My wife and I almost put our family in the car in New Haven CT on Saturday morning and drove up thinking we would be safer up there. We are still without power but nothing like what you are exeriencing.

I can't imagine what you are all going thru now but I admire your spirit and the role your article will play in keeping people's hopes up. If you have any information on the condition of houses on Tanglewood Drive off of West Hill Road I would be grateful - my home is 117.

I spoke to my friend Boris Pullsmaker yesterday who owns Hinterland Organic and he has been stranded in Woodstock and unable to get back to Killington due to the washouts on US-4. Our friends at Setab were similarly unable as they are at Rutland. Our thoughts are with you all thru this and I look forward to all of your updates.
 
Sincerely,
Rob Oliver

 

Dear Royal,

Thank you for working to get your publication back up amidst the devastation. I live in Killington and feel pretty far removed from what is going on in our corner of the world.

Again, an amazing amount of gratitude to you and yours for posting photos and news to your website. From my perspective, you offer the most comprehensive coverage for our town.

Luckily I am safely at home caring for my 3 1/2 year old son while my husband reports to work for Killington Resort, doing what ever he can to help the resort and the community. Thus far my big contribution is giving away the diapers we no longer need to a resort guest in need. I hope their baby wears size 5.

Other than taking care of my family and donating some diapers, I feel isolated and unsure of how I might help others. I am not a reporter, a journalist or anything close (I am the Human Resources Manager for Farm & Wilderness), but if there is anything I can do to help in these efforts from the "Island of Killington" do please let me know.

Be well,
Courtney Porter

 

Dear Mountain Times

I am a second home owner in Vermont and share both your sentiments in this morning's online post as well as your attachment to the local area.I am heartbroken to see what has happened to the Central and Southern VT region and to think of the long road to recovery ahead. 

We love Killington.  We have had a home in Sunrise Village for the last 7 years and enjoyed the area for many years before then.  Sunrise, as you mention, remains cut off, and we have no idea what the situation is up there on the mountain. 

Looking at the destruction along Rte 4 it's easy to imagine a similarly dire situation farther up the hill.  We heard one of our full time neighbors did walk to safety on Route 100 and is with friends who do have power - very good news. 

Being so far away and powerless to help is extraordinarily frustrating, but your reports and photos are extremely comforting.  While we cannot be with you in person, we are with you in spirit.  Stay safe and thanks again for getting information out.

Jennifer Gabrielli

 

Dear Mountain Times,


Just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you for the reporting on Killington. As second home owners at Mountain Green we are obviously very concerned about our property. The damage to the roadways is incredible. 


Each time we arrive in Killington one of my first priorities is to pick up a copy of your paper.  I enjoy reading it to find out what is going on and relax with the great articles.  So of course I searched for you yesterday to find out what is going on and your reporting and photographs have been very helpful.


Keep up the great work.


Caroline Redmond
Irvington New York.