Town Meeting Reps got it wrong on 1% tax

Editor of the Reformer:

I am disgusted by the decision of Representative Town Meeting regarding the 1 percent local option sales tax.

As a Town Meeting member from District 1, I often have a difficult time knowing how best to represent the interests and opinions of my constituents. With the 1 percent tax, however, we had a mandate from those who elected us: They told us on election day that they preferred the sales tax to a greater property tax burden.

Yet a huge majority of my fellow representatives voted against the tax after one member asked the Town Clerk about voter turnout and then quipped, "I don’t think (the vote) is representative."

Instead of following the mandate of voters, we heard anecdotal evidence from people who had "talked to their neighbors." As a body, we allowed the evidence of "about 20 neighbors"-- and the relentless lobbying of downtown merchants -- to take precedent over a straight democratic vote.

If you don’t believe the referendum was representative, how do you justify your own presence in the legislative chamber? You don’t get to pick and choose which issues on the ballot are and are not representative of the voters’ will.

When I moved to New England from "Inside the Beltway," I expected better.

I was one of a handful of representatives who stood for the 1 percent local option sales tax. I would advise voters to remember this day the next time they take up their pens in the voting booth.

Paula Melton,

Town Meeting Representative,
Brattleboro District 1, March 24

More concerns to downtown besides 1% tax

Editor of the Reformer:

While I heard from many business people about how an additional 1 percent local options tax will send people to New Hampshire (as if those of us on the border towns don’t shop there already), I heard very little discussion in terms of how not approving this tax continues to hammer those of us who pay property taxes in Brattleboro.

Downtown merchants shifted their focus to out-of-state visitors long ago. We have very few stores that provide necessities anymore: a drug store, a hardware store, a convenience store on Elliot Street, the Co-op. The bike stores, the specialty-type stores, and even Sam’s non-clothing sections target specific hobbies.

Food purchased to make at home is exempt from sales tax and Brattleboro has a tax exemption for the first $100 of clothing purchased, so the argument that this tax makes our income inequality gap wider also holds little water. Brattleboro’s lower income earners are not the group keeping the downtown businesses alive; they’re already not shopping downtown.

I was not in favor of using $200,000 from the unassigned fund for tax relief because, as pointed out, this would have amounted to saving $40 annually in taxes on a property valued at $200,000. That’s less than $4 a month.

The local option sales tax would have been applied to all who shop, equally. Homeowners, renters, locals, visitors, people who live elsewhere but work/shop downtown. While also not providing much tax relief, it would have been an on-going mechanism to defray property taxes, not a one-time "let’s make ‘em feel good" deal. We’re talking a $1 increase per $100 in purchased goods.

What’s really going to hurt downtown?

When Vermont Yankee workers take their specialized skills and substantial salaries to another state, not just another town in Vermont; when visitors stop coming to Brattleboro because our sidewalks are crumbling under our feet and people no longer feel safe because of our growing drug culture; when an increasing number of homes are for sale because their owners can no longer afford to live here; and when the town doesn’t just have empty storefronts, but empty homes, which will mean not only fewer people shopping, but less property tax revenue for the town as home values eventually fall.

The downtown merchants think they have problems now? Unless we begin to address the causes rather than the symptoms, Brattleboro will become a place of limited appeal as a place to live or shop for more and more people.

Ann Wright,

Brattleboro, March 24

Citizens United ruling must be reversed

Editor of the Reformer:

I urge all Vermonters to support Senate Resolution 18 and House Resolution 21, calling for the negation of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Citizens United is among the most damaging and wrongheaded decision of the court, ranking right up there with Dred Scott. And like Dred Scott, it can be reversed.

Stare decisis notwithstanding, this evil and corrupting ruling must be reversed; what little is left of our increasingly diminished democracy depends on it.

Barbara Andic,

Vernon, March 21

What’s going on
in our skies?

Editor of the Reformer:

If you had glanced upward at the sky above Brattleboro around 2:30 p.m. on March 17, you would have seen what some observers refer to as "chemtrails." You would have seen the same thing, occurring at least twice a week, had you looked occasionally at the sky over Brattleboro for the past six to eight months.

Often, you will see three or four jets, flying in a grid pattern, spilling out the dense, greyish-white trails of smoke ... or whatever it is. It may be just me, but it’s not only odd to see the chemtrails themselves, but also to see three or four jets flying at perpendicular angles above Brattleboro.

The trails pouring out of the jets aren’t contrails. I’ve lived on this planet for a half-century and I know what contrails look like -- dual plumes of quickly evaporating moisture. The trails pouring out of the jets aren’t clouds. Once emitted, they hold in the sky as a widening straight line then spread out in striation, creating a lingering haze.

I’d like to know: What is being released into the sky? Why is it being released? Who has authorized the release of an unknown agent into the sky? What sorts of jets are releasing the trails? Commercial? Military? Private? Who’s paying for the jets to release an unknown agent into the sky? What is the unknown agent actually doing?

Tilt your head back -- you’ll see these trails. Perhaps a local meteorologist can say more based on satellite images? Maybe a member of some university faculty has noted and researched the trails and can give a report? I’m wondering if Vermont’s esteemed senators and U. S. representatives might have information they could share?

I’m definitely curious. I’ve been seeing these trails for quite a while now and I’d like to know what they are and why they’re used.

John J. Shannon,

Brattleboro, March 18

On GMOs ...

Editor of the Reformer:

Dear Vermont Senators,

I hope you support B.112, the GMO labeling bill. I would feel that me and my family can lead most optimum, healthy lives if given the knowledge which foods have been made with GMOs.

Anna Gouznova,

Halifax, March 20