Tuesday February 12, 2013

Support for Dummerston Chairman White

Editor of the Reformer:

It was an unfortunate turn of events that occurred at the Dummerston Selectboard meeting at the Dummerston Community Center on Wednesday night, Feb. 6.

The question of "appearance of a conflict of interest" surfaced in an on-going matter with Dummerston’s Development Review Board. That led to a resident’s suggestion that the Dummerston Selectboard chairman, Lewis White, might have a perceived conflict of interest, as a relative of his is the highway foreman in Dummerston.

White is a man of great integrity. His stated position has been that if there is a hint of conflict, it exists. He immediately recognized this at the recent meeting. He announced that the Wednesday meeting would be his last as a Selectboard member.

We have witnessed White’s work with the Selectboard and consider his effort above reproach. He is fair, dedicated, and industrious for the benefit of everyone in Dummerston. He is honest and a "call it like he sees it" type of leader, something we have found refreshing in the modern era of political posturing. We feel that White has "bent over backward" to remain neutral. And even if this were not the case, many Vermont towns have their Highway Foremen serving as Selectboard members themselves, including our neighbor town of Newfane.


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Surely, being a relative of a town employee -- and not even an immediate relative -- is less a "perceived" conflict of interest than it is a hallucinated one.

Many Dummerston residents have contacted White in the hope that he will reconsider his Wednesday decision. Complicating the situation is the fact that White is an unopposed candidate for another term on the Selectboard in the March 5 election.

We are encouraging White to do two things: Remain on the Selectboard through the one remaining Selectboard meeting (on Feb. 20) and go forward as a candidate and allow the people of Dummerston to be the final arbiter in this situation. A tepid response at the ballot box would tell everyone that they agree with the suggestion that White has a conflict and a strong show of support would say the opposite.

We live in a democracy and its purest form may still be the Vermont Town Meeting. If "the people" want to increase or cut a budget, this is the place to do it. If they are dissatisfied with White’s effort on their behalf, this is the place to express it. But, if they believe as we do, this is the place to show support for the experience and integrity that Lewis White can offer to the residents of Dummerston.

Bill Holiday, Tom Bodett

Steve Glabach, Zeke Goodband,

Dummerston Selectboard members,

Feb. 9

Bleeding the U.S. Postal Service

Editor of the Reformer:

Thanks for pointing out that the real reason for the "Postal Service Fiscal Cliff Crisis" is The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) which forced the Post Office to pay ahead 75 years of expected pensions. In other words, pay ahead for pensions for people not even hired yet. No other corporation or government agency has to work under such an unfair burden. As consumer advocate Ralph Nader noted, if PAEA was never enacted, USPS would actually be facing a $1.5 billion surplus today:

The solution to this strictly political, manmade crisis?

Undo the 75 years’ advance payment requirement and relax the numerous constraints on the type of products and services USPS can provide -- such as notarizing papers, having coin machines available for making copies or selling maps.

Also, as more and more Americans order products online, there is tremendous potential for boosting USPS revenues from parcel deliveries. Give the Postal Service more flexibility in pricing its products. Such pricing would more accurately reflect the actual cost of providing a service and would allow it to better compete with private carriers.

The Postal Service helps the elderly get their medicines, helps small businesses send products and payments inexpensively, helps retirees cash their Social Security checks, and lets us cast absentee ballots so that we can participate in our democracy.

No company can grow or maintain its business by weakening service to customers. It is clear that USPS must adapt to our nation’s changing needs and that adaptation might mean shared pain for all stakeholders involved. Instead of adapting, too many in Congress, and in Postal Service management, see cuts in service as the only solution. But making the Postal Service less valuable will drive customers away, leaving it to face a new financial crisis in just a few short years.

Our postal service and its workers have been a national necessity and treasure since Colonial days, especially in rural areas. Hang them out to dry for political points, and we all lose. It’s up to Congress to act to allow the Post Office to save itself, lest it become a victim of a crisis that Congress itself manufactured.

Martin Cohn,

Brattleboro, Feb. 9

The diet of Lent

Editor of the Reformer:

This Wednesday (Feb. 13) marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, when Christians would abstain from meat and dairy products in remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting before launching his ministry.

Devout Christians who observe meatless Lent help reduce their risk of chronic disease, as well as environmental degradation and animal abuse.

Dozens of medical reports have linked consumption of animal products with elevated risk of heart failure, stroke, cancer, and other killer diseases. A 2007 U.N. report named meat production as the largest source of greenhouse gases and water pollution. Undercover investigations have documented farm animals being beaten, caged, crowded, deprived, mutilated, and shocked.

Lent offers a superb opportunity to honor Jesus’ powerful message of compassion and love by adopting a meat-free diet for Lent and beyond. It’s the diet mandated in Genesis I-29 and observed in the Garden of Eden. Every supermarket offers a rich array of meat and dairy alternatives, as well as the more traditional vegetables, fruits, and grains. Entering "vegetarian" in your favorite search engine provides lots of meat replacement products, recipes, and transition tips.

Kyle Roberts,

Brattleboro, Feb. 9