Learn more about Native Americans

Editor of the Reformer:

I want to congratulate you on your amazingly courageous and substantively excellent editorial ("Our long walk to contrition," Feb. 5).

Here are some book suggestions for readers that want to delve further into the subject of Native Americans and what happened to them in the Americas after Columbus’ first landing in the "New World" in 1492. By Charles C. Mann there are the two books "1491" and "1493." By Brian Landers there is "Empires Apart: A History of American and Russian Imperialism." James W. Loewen, who taught at UVM, has written "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong." And Jack Weatherford authored "Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America." Any of these book will shed more light on the true history of what it meant for the native populations of the Americas after Columbus set foot on what is today the island of Hispaniola.

Reto Pieth,

Grafton, Feb. 6

Sports coverage could be better

Editor of the Reformer:

I recently moved back to the West River Valley from the Midwest. I have a niece and nephew playing high school sports at Leland & Gray Union High School. Unfortunately, I am not always able to make their games because of my work schedule. I look to the Reformer for local sports news, yet I’ve been very disappointed. Few of these games make the paper, and if they do, they’re at least a day overdue.

I’ll be honest with you, we don’t read the Reformer for international or national news. Most people I know have seen that news in the paper at least 12 hours earlier on TV or online. I know in my family that we purchase the print version of the Reformer for local news, and yet we’re increasingly disappointed in the high school sports coverage. Win or lose, these student-athletes deserve to be recognized for their efforts. I’ve been assured that the coaches are calling or e-mailing the game results, yet very little makes the paper. In fact, I would bet that less than half of Leland & Gray’s varsity basketball games have made it into print.

You have a half-page spread on NFL picks for games yet to happen, but you can’t get a piece on a close overtime varsity boys basketball game between the Bellows Falls Terriers and the Leland & Gray Rebels in the paper? Frankly, that’s unacceptable. I know I’m not alone in these sentiments, and while everyone will not agree with me, many residents of the West River Valley will. Please reconsider your priorities in reporting local news and covering the breadth of news throughout the valley, especially with high school sports.

Jennifer Chapin,

Jamaica, Jan. 31

The skatepark: more to think about

Editor of the Reformer:

The following is an open letter to the Skatepark Site Selection Committee.

I am concerned about two issues I have not heard or seen adequately considered in all the debate about where to put a skatepark in Brattleboro: the geology of the site selected and catastrophic weather events.

Heavy rains have often hit Vermont and have caused flooding. But monsoon storms like Irene that camp in one place and pour for days are, I believe, new to our experience.

I worry especially about sites like the Crowell Lot that are close to the edge of a steep drop-off with dwellings below. Many older homes in Brattleboro are sited in this way, either above or on banks below a steep drop-off. And it is what’s hidden underground -- the geologic structure of a site -- plus the roots of trees the site may possess that will in great part determine how well the site can hold its soil and its structure under a saturating deluge like Irene.

A concrete structure like a skatepark can, it seems to me, be turned into a sluice with destructive power unless every eventuality is carefully taken into account and planned for.

The last few years have taught us that old assumptions about weather can no longer be relied on in siting the works of man. I hope that these ideas will be part of your process. Thank you for your work.

Orion M. Barber II,

Brattleboro, Feb. 10

‘Follow the money’

Editor of the Reformer:

The same federal department that failed us before the BP Gulf oil spill in 2010 is still at it, but this time the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (or mismanagement) is only part of the government’s problem.

One third of the coal produced in this country comes from 100 or so leases on public lands. This production equals that of several hundred coal plants. Because recent EPA regulations attacking carbon pollution make it less profitable to sell coal in this country, American extractors are now shipping huge amounts abroad, primarily to China. According to a recent Mother Jones story, the fact that the BLM leases cost only two-thirds what they probably should ends up depriving the Treasury of as much as $1 billion a year. That’s bad enough, but on an even bigger scale this lack of effective national and international oversight is actually shortening the future of the world. If coal is losing its value here, how absurd can it be to sell coal to other countries, period.

Moving over to the State Department, inquiring progressive journalists are questioning the objectivity of the Keystone XL environmental review just published. A forthcoming IG report may make the issue a little more transparent, but for now it would appear that the review like the tar sands themselves is contaminated.

With regard to both fossil fuels, one might well say "Leave it in the ground."

Money is indeed the root of all evil. Remember President Nixon groveling before his financial backers in the 1995 Oliver Stone movie? David Remnick’s description in a recent New Yorker of President Obama’s fund-raising experiences during 1-percenter parties in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles conveys a similar graphic. Now the former governor of Virginia is indicted for bribery. (The governor’s wife reminds one of the present first lady of Syria and of Imelda Marcos, the shoe lady of the Philippines.) Senator Kelly Ayotte has been gallivanting in Park City, Utah (where the 1-percenters ski), while raising money and covering her personal expenses from invited lobbyists and other moneyed interests. (It’s somewhat illegal but technically isn’t until present law gets amended.)

In these circumstances, how on earth can one govern with equity? Congressional oversight of the CIA and NSA ebbs and flows. (The Guardian says the Congressional committees adore the generals.) Ike lies about Gary Powers, Nixon about Watergate, Reagan about Iran-Contra, and most recently James Tapper about current surveillance.

"Follow the money," said Deep Throat.

Our basic problem is campaign finance. It corrupts winners and discourages applicants. Next to climate ruination, campaign finance is problem number one. And, let’s face it, we’re certainly not getting any help from the current beholden.

Alan O. Dann,

Marlboro, Feb. 12

No jump in
sewer rates

Editor of the Reformer:

The headline about Brattleboro’s water and sewer rates ("Brattleboro sewer and water rates to jump," Feb. 11) was very misleading.

During 2010, Brattleboro experienced a very large jump, of over 25 percent, in water and sewer rates. Recognizing that the public interest is best served by orderly, predictable, moderate annual increases in utility rates, the Brattleboro Selectboard responded at that time by adopting a long term ordinance governing water and sewer rates.

During the last four years, under that ordinance, increases in water and sewer rates in Brattleboro have averaged about 5.1 percent annually. This year, however, based on current data and projections, we anticipate being able to maintain financial stability in Brattleboro’s utilities funds with a lower level of increases in water and sewer rates over the next five years, averaging about 4.3 percent annually.

Contrary to the headline in the Reformer, Brattleboro’s water and sewer rates are not going to "jump" next year. In fact, as a result of careful long term planning and sound fiscal management, the Selectboard actually was able to communicate good news at our Feb. 10 utilities meeting: Increases in water and sewer rates next year will be lower than previously expected.

David Gartenstein,

Brattleboro Selectboard Chairman, Feb. 12