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The Latest Letters to The Bridge


The Bridge welcomes your letters. Address them to editorial@montpelierbridge.com. Please keep them under 300 words and include your town or city of residence. We reserve the right to edit letters prior to publication.


A Thank You and a Plea

To the editor:

I’d like to thank the Montpelier Park Commission, the Montpelier Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Montpelier Area Mountain Biking Association (MAMBA) for organizing four opportunities for children to ride their mountain bikes on the trails in Hubbard Park. A huge thank you goes to Dan Voisin and Kip Roberts, who dedicated a large amount of their time to make these four days successful. The children were all given bells and taught the etiquette of riding on multi-use trails, where the children met hikers, dog walkers, and runners—without any issues.

I spent time with the children during the rides and witnessed the smiles and pure joy on their faces while riding. Hubbard Park is a beautiful setting and the course was designed in such a way that even the youngest riders could ride most of it and enjoy the fun.

My plea is for the Park Commission to open the trails in Hubbard Park immediately for mountain-biking. There is no reason to deny these children this resource, or to force parents to load up bikes on the backs of their cars and drive to a distant trail system when we have a trail system right in the heart of our city that is accessible without using fossil fuels.

I understand that the Park Commission plans to review many facets of Hubbard Park in the coming year and I know that mountain-biking will be part of the review. My plea now is to open the park up to biking immediately while the review is under way. Montpelier’s goals of having healthy and fun activities for our children and keeping our community green support this fully. It is possible and necessary to find common ground to keep the smiles on our children’s faces.

Tim Flynn, Montpelier


The September 25th Cover Story

To the editor:
As I am quoted in the front-page article by Ed Sutherland in your September 25 issue, titled “Hunger in Vermont,” I would like to elaborate on the sentence credited to me.
There are several misconceptions about the 3SquaresVT benefit. Many seniors I encounter through my work at the Central Vermont Council on Aging are reluctant to accept charity, because it would compromise their pride after a long life of self-sufficiency, or if it means somebody else might go hungry. I tell folks that the federal nutrition program is an entitlement, not a charity. They have paid federal income taxes over many years. Now that many seniors are on a fixed income—and I can verify that social security alone is not enough to live on for the majority of retirees—it’s payback time. If you can’t afford fuel to heat your home for a full-out Vermont winter, let’s see if you qualify for fuel assistance. If money is short for food by the end of the month, let’s look at various options to make sure you can put healthy meals on the table.
Another common barrier for seniors is the lengthy application for benefits and the requirement to provide documents verifying income and expenses. There is support available! Your article does not mention that there are a number of community partners ready to help folks apply.  Vermonters 60 years of age and older can call the senior helpline at Central Vermont Council on Aging (800-642-5119). We can assist you throughout the application process. Help is also available through Capstone Community Action (802-479-1053), Hunger Free Vermont (hungerfreevt.org), the state’s Economic Services Division (800-479-6151) or the Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families’ local office (802-479-8535).
Ellie Hayes, Information and Assistance/Options Counseling, Central Vermont Council on Aging, Barre

Tea, Anyone?

To the editor:
Have you discovered Tulsi Tea Room?  I only ask because it seems that you have not. Go to any of the several breakfast, tea and coffee joints in downtown Montpelier on a weekday morning, and you’ll find quite a bustle of activity. At Tulsi, it always seems pretty quiet—which I like. Whether I’m relaxing, reading, or surfing, it is nice to have the place to myself.
But if you’re not going to Tulsi, you’re missing a real treat. The tea and coffee offerings are both delicious and diverse, and there are plenty of tasty non-coffee alternatives if you want those—not to mention a personal favorite of mine, cold-brewed hot coffee.  It is a healthier way to drink coffee, and I  know of no other place in town that offers it. (It is not the same as the usual hot-brewed iced coffee.)
And need I mention the food, which is spicy, delicious and healthy?  Tulsi is a little off the beaten path at 34 Elm Street (entrance on the side), which is also a bonus, because it is closer to the free parking which is further down Elm Street (assuming you don’t mind a couple of minutes’ walk).
If you don’t mind a slightly sloping floor and an odd collection of seating furniture, Tulsi is a sublime place to be.
Personal agenda disclosure: Tulsi only opens at 9:30 in the morning. I’m hoping that, when there are customers waiting on the steps when they open in the morning, they’ll begin opening earlier.
Steven Farnham, Plainfield
Editor’s note: Mr. Farnham confirmed to The Bridge that he has no personal or business relationship with Tulsi Tea Room.

Thank You, Nona Estrin

To the editor:
I just wanted to thank The Bridge and Nona Estrin for the continued publication of the “Nature Watch” column. It is, for me, the highlight of every issue. I don’t possess Ms. Estrin’s knowledge of ecology or keen powers of observation; in a sense I enjoy the outdoors vicariously through her writings. Plus, it is always a welcome break from the foibles and navel-gazing of Montpelier’s elite that generally characterizes the rest of the paper.
James Surwilo, Montpelier

Thanks to Mayor Hollar

To the editor:

On behalf of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition (http://www.vtbikeped.org), I’d like to extend a big thank-you to Mayor John Hollar for his support for new bike lanes on both sides of State Street. Without Mayor Hollar’s support, this golden opportunity to encourage more cycling and safer cycling in and around our capital would have slipped through the cracks. Thanks, Mayor Hollar!

David Ellenbogen, Vice President
Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition

Support for Public Schools

To the editor:

Thanks to Mayor John Hollar and school board chair Sue Aldrich for attending a recent community forum to discuss budget priorities for the next year. Mayor Hollar talked about making necessary investments in public infrastructure. Sue Aldrich talked about accolades that our public schools have received because of the strong support for our public school system. Many residents supported making investments in infrastructure, especially in our public schools. Several people mentioned having moved their families to Montpelier for the quality of its public education system.

Some residents expressed concern about the state’s education funding formula. However, that has little to do with the responsible, most recent budget offered by the school board and passed by residents last April. The bulk of increases seen last year are almost entirely due to the funding formula, not the local school budget (a tiny 2.7 percent increase). Concerns about state education funding should not serve as an excuse to vote down the local school budget simply to “send a message,” or with the expectation that it will even have a significant impact on our property taxes. Our public schools are a magnet for families and ensure that our children are well prepared to become informed citizens and contributors to our community, and we must continue to support them.

The school board should start with a vision for quality education for all our children, and work to meet that need. Starting with an assumption that budget slashing leads to a more “vibrant” and “affordable” Montpelier is misguided and erodes the foundation of our community. Montpelier is a special place to live, work, and raise a family. Public investment in our public schools is essential to maintaining Montpelier’s quality of life. I was pleased to see so many residents turn out to send that message.

Christopher J. Curtis

Praise for Barre Farmers

To the editor:

It was great to read Emily Kaminsky’s cover article, “New Farm, Old Roots: Bringing Organic Produce to Barre and Beyond.” Last year, I was thrilled to discover this organic farm down the road a ways from the house I purchased, and I bought my community-supported agriculture (CSA) share right away.  It was a sound investment that has paid off well in terms of months of delicious produce. Jon and Karin have just done amazing things with the farm in one short year, and have ambitious plans for the future. Not only are they fine farmers; they are savvy at business, too, offering flexible and customer-friendly CSA options and a website.  And I don’t know how they do it, but they even find time to answer email. It is really inspiring to meet young people who are willing to work the long hours, invest a good portion of capital, and risk the vagaries of weather and wildlife to help our community develop local, sustainable food systems. 

Now I have to get back to making my Bear Roots sauerkraut.

Kathleen Kesson
Barre Town

Is FairPoint  Fair?

To the editor:

Over the last few months you may have heard about our labor issues between FairPoint Communications and its unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America.  This is another in a long list of losses being forced on the middle class.  I am not going to ramble on over “unions vs. the company.”  This is about what is right, and what should be protected.  I am a union leader who is responsible for protecting the wages and benefits for hundreds of Vermonters who work for FairPoint.  This fight is about honesty and integrity in corporate America.

Twenty-seven years ago, I was discharged from the U.S. Navy and searched, like most Americans, for a career.  I followed in my father’s footsteps, after his constant encouragement to find a “career” that would provide security and benefits for my future–like the phone company had for him.  I applied, passed the tests and was offered a job.  The starting pay was not great, there was little vacation time, and weekend work was required.  But I invested 27 years of my life in the phone company.  I’ve worked outside in all kinds of Vermont weather, endured slips and falls, a broken ankle, poison ivy, bug and dog bites.  Phone company workers are called out to repair service outages at all times of the day, resulting in interruptions in family events and holidays.  We do this because we love the work, and the salary and benefits it provides us and our families. 

Fast forward to today. FairPoint was allowed by the state to take over from Verizon. FairPoint promised the state, the public and employees that our contracts and benefits would remain unchanged.  Now, after years of working to restore our customers’ faith in us after FairPoint’s disastrous takeover in 2008, after years of hard physical, mental and emotional effort, our company wants to freeze our pension and deny retiree health care. I and the rest of my co-workers get far less than FairPoint promised.  If we were still Verizon employees, this would not be my future.  Across the lake in the state of New York, the promised future still exists, but not for Vermonters, thanks to the Public Service Board and FairPoint. How can this company have the word “fair” in its name?

We all will feel the pain of this mess—promised jobs that never materialize, tax dollars lost, improvements to our communications network left undone. I could go on, but you get the idea.  Dollars that could have been spent here in Vermont are going to Wall Street investors. Yes, my loss is your loss as well. Please contact C.E.O. Paul Sunu at psunu@fairpoint.com and tell him to respect the Vermont workers and restore the promises made.  Mr. Sunu resides and works in North Carolina and does not even have an office here in Vermont.

Mike Spillane, Business Manager
IBEW Local 2326