Tuesday June 25, 2013

It’s all in
the approach

Editor of the Reformer:

We read today that Iberdrola now says the company won’t be able to decide what to do in Windham until sometime in 2014 ("No Windham wind decision this year," June 20). It might seem odd to the land owners that this information is of no comfort to many of us in Windham who dread the unilateral decisions of them and their powerful wind developers.

In April, when Windham leaders and residents met with the developers, we found they were unaware of why Windham’s Town Plan, its leadership, and a majority of its property owners oppose industrial wind in Windham. Our Town Plan represents the culmination of intensive study of both wind power in general and siting in our town in particular. Windham is likely the most inappropriate site for utility-scale wind in the state: 69 percent of Windham homes are located within a mile of the proposed site, which is home to the headwaters of the Saxtons River and riddled with wetlands and steams. The site is shadowed by Glebe Mountain, with a gusty and variable wind resource. It includes many slopes that exceed 25 percent grade; denuding and covering these slopes with impermeable surfaces would contribute to storm water run-off that could not be contained in banks or by culverts. Erosion and downstream flooding would cause suffering to our town and other downstream communities, including Grafton.


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The developers began the project in secrecy, triggering deep distrust in the community. They continue to hide their ideas about the project behind a veil of mystification. Like any targeted community, we can use mapping technology to determine where the developer would have to place roads and turbines, and what probable effects would ensue for surrounding properties and roads. What is truly mystifying is that the land owners and the developer insist that this information doesn’t exist.

Although the land owners claim that they are in command of this project, Iberdrola has served as your mouthpiece and has demonstrated a cavalier attitude toward the community. Jenny Briot, Iberdrola’s most consistent presence among us, stated in the Reformer a year ago (months before MET towers were permitted or installed on the SBT) that Iberdrola would know whether the project could proceed by Spring of 2013. Her statement appeared to confirm our fears: MET towers are just window dressing and the decision to proceed had already been made, given that wind measurements must be conducted for at least two years to provide meaningful data. Interestingly, Iberdrola has now backtracked on Briot’s earlier statement.

The secrecy, stonewalling and stubborn disregard for the town’s residents have created conditions that make it difficult for individuals to plan, sell property, or imagine our futures; many of us have come to think of the land owners as a cruel and unjust neighbor. It is likely that the Windham community, which supports renewable energy and has a history of reasonable behavior, would have responded differently to a respectful approach, one that made our concerns part of the discussion from the beginning.

Nancy Tips,

Windham, June 20

Kudos to NewBrook School

Editor of the Reformer:

You can talk all you want about No Child Left Behind. You can test for proficiency in the three Rs. You can judge schools for their standings in this tests. But I tell you, last week in the fifth-grade class in NewBrook School I saw some real teaching. It was about hands on learning. It was about creative responses to problems. It was about learning what works and what doesn’t. It was about engaging kids in their own education. And it was fun.

Here’s how it happened.

I always look forward to the mail. So I was happy to get a letter from my granddaughter Cassidy. Cassidy is 10 years old. I was invited to a bridge competition in her school. "It is when you make a bridge out of popsicle sticks and test their strength with weights."

I have been invited to many contests, but bridges made from popsicle sticks? Still I am a dutiful grandmother (and it was grandparents who were invited) so off I went. And experienced one of the most delightful educational projects I’ve seen in a long time. (And I was an elementary school teacher for many years.)

The class had learned about bridges, how they were built, what made them capable of carrying weight, and the many designs used in the world. The class was divided into teams of three. Each team built a bridge from their own design. On this day, before an audience of many grands, it was time to test their design and see how much each bridge would hold, and which would hold the most. Four-pound bricks were used along with 1- 2- and 3-pound steel weights.

The suspense and the excitement was created as each team had to come to a consensus on how much weight to add and when to stop. It was thrilling. The students seemed totally oblivious to an audience, totally concentrated on choosing the weights. One would say, "Go for it" and want to add another brick. Another would agonize and say, "NO. NO." They jumped up and down. They winced. They cheered. A chant from the class might erupt, "Brick. Brick. Brick." And they all cheered for each other.

The winning entry held 45 pounds.

Congratulations to teachers David Parker and Marcia Wells. And to NewBrook School. But especially to the students in the fifth grade. You definitely have my A+ in Education.

Lynn Martin,

Brattleboro, June 21

Vote for a public bank

Editor of the Reformer:

I will be on the ballot next gubernatorial cycle; will the reader support my participation in gubernatorial debates and forums to speak to the issue below and more? For the record, it is not widely known that I have shown up at every debate and forum to participate as a gubernatorial candidate for the last two cycles, 2010 and 2012, and Gov. Peter Shumlin has walked by me at each one.

TD Bank is the major shareholder in TransCanada, Keystone XL pipeline and tar sands, a business decision on its part that toxifies our planet in an accelerated fashion. Divest from TD Bank, Vermont. A Public Bank of Vermont would remove the $4 billion of state assets from TD Bank, where Shumlin and Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pierce are currently keeping them because "They handle our money for cheap." Shumlin and Peirce are opposed to creating a public bank of Vermont, which would allow Vermonters the benefit (rather than private uberwealthy Canadians) of the interest from loans made against the value of their financial holdings. Our current administration, "green" Democrat Peter Shumlin gives that value away for free to TD Bank, a company actively engaged in killing the planet.

TD Bank leverages the Vermonters’ pension and tax moneys that Shumlin and Pierce deposit in this Canadian bank to buy more than 13 million shares in the Keystone XL pipeline. Shumlin is opposed to engaging Act 250 to protect the Northeast Kingdom from spills and hazards from carrying highly erosive bitsmuth as Trans-Canada expects to reverse pipeline flow across that area to send this environmental disaster from Canada to Portland, ME.

Emily Peyton,

Putney, June 24