Scale back the police/fire project

Editor of the Reformer:

An open letter to the Brattleboro Selectboard.

I just want you to know that, as a former Town Representative and as a voter, this is the first time that I have voted to turn down a budget as presented by the Selectboard. It is clear that all the departments’ expenditures were kept as minimal as possible. However, the addition of such a large bonding expense is too much at this time. I believe that the fire/police project needs to be cut back significantly, by millions of dollars. I think it needs to be broken down into stages, with the most needed being acted on first. Also, that project plans only include those aspects absolutely necessary. I question the need to expand the fire station in West Brattleboro, especially at this time.

We already have significant bond expenses for the projects previously acted on and no more should be considered at this time. Many people felt that the only way to proceed with the project as presented was on the condition that the increase in 1 percent sales tax be passed. This has clearly not taken place. Therefore, it is my opinion that we need to curtail the police/fire project significantly.

Thank you all for your continued work on the town’s best interests.

Steve Carlton,

District 2 Town Meeting Representative, Brattleboro, April 21

Standardized testing is a step backward

Editor of the Reformer:

Thank you for your March 28 editorial ("Negative Consequences of Standardized Tests"). The ramifications of these tests are being felt both nationally and locally. I hope the Reformer staff is aware that standardized tests have had a significant effect on our Brattleboro Town Schools. It is clearly good to quote a retiring educator from Cambridge Mass., however a thoroughly researched piece by the Reformer about standardized tests in our own community would also be worthwhile and much appreciated.

Standardized testing has been pushing our schools back toward the nineteenth century factory model that has long been criticized in the development of American public education. Trying to quantify learning and create systems to assure educational and behavioral outcomes is undercutting some essential aspects of the teaching profession. It is transforming teaching from an art to a rogue "science."

A forum sponsored by our town school board on Jan. 22 revealed that many parents and community members are looking for fewer standardized tests, less pre-packaged curricula, and more learning based upon what we know about child development. Some families who have a high regard for education are unfortunately opting out of our public schools because of this emphasis on data driven instruction and behavior management systems. The atmosphere of collaboration and support -- that has long been a hallmark of our local schools -- is being undermined by this so-called "outcomes" based educational system.

Thank you again for presenting this editorial. I encourage you to do a follow-up story on how these issues are playing out in our own town. A community wide discussion can only move us forward.

Andy Davis,

Brattleboro, April 7

Enough room for lots of pandas?

Editor of the Reformer:

I live in West Brattleboro and I’ve been hanging out at Panda West with my friend Wong, the owner, whom I’ve known already for several years from one of his other restaurants, King’s Garden on Main Street in Keene, N.H. His vegetable mei fun is really tasty, and even though the sushi is a little more expensive than Panasian, the serving sizes are more generous.

I understand that some Brattleboro residents are disturbed that Wong’s new business name, Panda West, seems to infringe on the tradename of Panda North, the well-known Chinese restaurant on Putney Road (even though the Vermont Secretary of State gave Wong approval for it). While I can understand the desire to protect longtime friends, I also wonder if folks are keeping in mind the vastness of association between Chinese culture and the Panda. The Panda is a universal symbol for all things Chinese, and there are at least five restaurants named Panda in the Northeast. Wong himself has owned two of them in addition to Panda West, including Panda IV in Keene (closed now) and another Panda, in Fairfield, Conn. (which has changed its name). In addition to this, there is a Panda Express restaurant chain that has 1,600 stores, and a large energy company called Panda Energy Int’l.

I think it is also interesting to note that the Chinese intellectual property traditions are much different than what we have here. In fact, there is very little IP law in China, particularly copyright, and Chinese culture has been assiduously resistant to attempts to introduce Western legal traditions. In one hilarious instance, Microsoft, well known as a vicious intellectual property vigilante around the world, tried to punish Chinese pirates of their Windows software with a black screen that would incapacitate pirated installations. The Chinese simply hacked the black screen, and then cloned it and sold it to each other with impunity.

I don’t know about anyone else, but a story like that only makes me like the Chinese more, and perhaps after all is said and done the Panda symbol could encompass a big enough space in the global mind so that we can enjoy having two Panda restaurants under discrete ownerships in the same town.

Wat Stearns,

Brattleboro, April 21

Let’s talk about drugs

Editor of the Reformer:

It’s time for community conversation about prescription drug misuse. The newspaper headlines, radio reports and television stories about the opiate and heroin problem in Vermont are hard to ignore. I have received emails and telephone calls from prevention colleagues and friends and family expressing their concern for Vermont. As the director of a substance abuse prevention coalition, I see all this attention as an opportunity to engage the community in open dialogue, to share information about preventing misuse and abuse of all substances, and to possibly implement prevention strategies and solutions for our community.

Did you know that according to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in five Windham Southeast high-school students have misused a prescription stimulant or opiate not prescribed to them at least once; and that one in 10 have done so in the past 30 days? Now is the time to address teen prescription drug misuse in our community.

How can we address the issue beyond the headlines, so that young people do not see opiate, heroin, and other prescription drug misuse as the norm in our community. The Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition invites you to participate in a Community Conversation on Preventing Teen Prescription Drug Misuse on Tuesday, April 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Brattleboro Union High School. In this World Café styled conversation, facilitated by BUHS’s Above the Influence Club (a.k.a. ATI 802), social norms and perception of harm of prescription drug misuse among teens will be explored and discussed. Come share your thoughts and perspectives and take part in determining real, achievable strategies and solutions as the goal.

Who should participate in the community conversation? Youth and those who care about them should be at the table on April 29. This includes teachers, coaches, mentors, parents, grandparents, and those who work with teens. Health and wellness professionals and local decision makers are also needed at the table, as they can influence the access to prescription drugs.

Youth report that parents, and other caring adults in their lives, are one of the most influential factors in preventing substance use. Let’s all work together as a community to influence prescription drug misuse among youth in the community. Join the Conversation on April 29. A light dinner will be served and your RSVP is requested. Visit windhamrx.org, email Cassandra.bapc@gmail.com or call BAPC at 802-257-2175.

Beth Shrader,

Director, Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, April 21