Friday January 4, 2013

We should encourage,
not discourage wind power

Editor of the Reformer:

In your Dec. 29 edition, the Reformer printed "Wind opponents ‘disappointed’" with state decision. In it, Windham Selectboard Chairwoman Mary Boyer pats herself and her town on the back for being a David who stood up to the state Goliath in protesting possible wind power in her community. In my opinion, this is not the right attitude.

Many fellow Vermonters oppose Vermont Yankee being allowed to stay in operation. It should go without saying that when the power station does shut down, a new source of electricity will have to be found to replace what is no longer available to the power grid. Coal doesn’t seem to be an option, people don’t want a new atomic plant, and we don’t have any ocean from which to set up wave/tidal power generating equipment.

What then will replace the power currently being generated by Yankee? I continue to be surprised at the level of NIMBY where wind power is concerned. Some in Vermont say it will ruin the natural beauty, for which Vermont has long been famous. As I have written before, wind power has not turned tourists away from much of Europe, where wind power is seen as normal, even progressive.

Didn’t we use to be a progressive state? Driving on I-91 past Northampton, Mass., and seeing all those signboards is not very pleasant, but I fail to see how some people equate that same mental image when thinking of wind power. Rather than think it ugly, I’d be thinking about how in keeping that was with Vermont’s reputation for finding environmentally friendly solutions to our problems. What do you think people would talk about when returning home from a vacation in Vermont -- toxic Vermont Yankee, or those cool wind power turbines that they saw?

I’m not saying that there are no issues to be dealt with, nor am I saying that wind power would replace all energy lost from Yankee, but for some parts of the state it would sure help. If Chairwoman Boyer truly wants towns like Windham to stand proud, it should be to encourage wind power, not to discourage it. It’s not like the state wants to build a toxic waste dump in her community. Windpower -- it’s clean, it’s local and it’s free (the wind part, at least).

David Bozetarnik,

Brattleboro, Dec. 30

The cruiser must be bought

Editor of the Reformer:

Other towns can learn from Vernon’s ongoing controversy about replacing police cruisers, because the Vernon Selectboard is testing the limits of its legal power ("Chief speaks out on Vernon cruisers," Letter Box, Dec. 21).

At 2012 Town Meeting, Vernon voters amended the proposed Vernon Capital Plan to include the current three police cruisers (instead of just two) with the intent of replacing the oldest as soon as possible.

Vernon voters were unaware of this legal requirement: "If the amendment that was approved specifically required or directed the selectboard to purchase a new police cruiser then the selectboard would be bound to comply" (Secy. of State Jim Condos, via e-mail to the writer).

The Vernon Selectboard nevertheless did vote (4-0) "to approve the bid for the new police cruiser from Gateway Motors in the amount of $33,189.85 pending approval from the Finance Committee" (Vernon Selectboard minutes, May 7, 2012).

The Supreme Court of Vermont has stated: "We recognize that the legislative power delegated to a municipality must be exercised by the legislators to whom it is granted" (Lawton v. Town of Brattleboro et al.).

The elected Vernon Selectboard asked their appointees, unelected private citizens not accountable to voters, who met privately during a decade despite the Vermont Open Meeting Law (Vernon Town Clerk Sandra Harris, memo to the writer), to decide whether to spend public funds for public safety.

The Vernon Selectboard has voted to buy the new police cruiser, which therefore should be purchased without further delay, because the Vernon Finance Committee have no legal power, nor can the board delegate any to them.

Howard Fairman,

Vernon, Jan. 2

After Newtown ...

Editor of the Reformer:

America’s obsession with guns has become pathological.

We’ve heard the word evil bandied about after the Newtown massacre. After decades of gun violence and mass shootings, it has taken the deaths of 20 children and 6 women to finally galvanize a majority of Americans to take a hard look at their beliefs around guns.

Just as Al Queda was funded secretly by Saudi princes, so the gun lobby is funded by the gun manufacturers, many of whom sit on the board of ALEC. An Al Queda website once referred to easy access to weapons at gun shows because of a lack of background checks. As the result of ALEC/NRA lawmaking, the ATF can no longer keep documented statistics around gun violence and have been burdened with weakened regulations around gun sales in the U.S. ALEC is the corporate funded (Koch brothers) American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC writes bills and pushes them through states with Republican governors and legislatures, and include repressive anti-worker, anti-labor, anti-regulation bills, as well as the shoot first "stand your ground" laws in Florida and elsewhere.

We have a certain percentage of the population manipulated and shaped by propaganda. This is nothing new, but what we’ve been seeing is intense saturation. The NRA and related groups beholden to their corporate masters in the gun industry have worked to weaken laws to keep guns from those with a history of domestic violence for example. They’ve worked to weaken laws to limit explosive "cop killer" bullets. When you hear them talk about enforcing the laws we already have on the books, it would be wise to consider their comments to be facetious at best. Larry Pratt’s comments about the need for semi-automatic weapons to counteract a tyrannical government is absurd and crazy. Their’s is quite different from what most Americans would define as tyranny.

The gun lobby embraces and validates the anti-government rhetoric being offered to their followers and to the extremist right wing at large. The sense that society has abandoned the powerless results in a sense of desperation and resentment, and guns give one the perceived sense of power. You can see this in the profiles of mass shooters. For those conditioned by anti-government rhetoric, throw in mental illness or a personality disorder and then open and easy access to semi-automatic weapons and you have a toxic brew. The culture of degradation, humiliation and incitement communicated through television, hate radio and the Internet give these marginalized people someone to blame. These folks will never have a chance to advance in a society undermined by encroaching austerity and inequality pushed by the right wing politicians who created the majority of indebtedness in the first place, and who just happen to receive NRA endorsements. Folks voting against their self interest have become a commonplace election theme.

The post-Newtown political zeitgeist at this time may indicate that America has reached a turning point reacting to the insanity. Let the good people in America help make this happen.

Steve Belczak,

Westminster West, Dec. 19