Letter Box


The reclamation
of the Vilas Bridge

Editor of the Reformer:

Thanks for your coverage of the Vermonters who on April 1 utilized part of a New Hampshire state statute to reclaim Bellows Falls’ Vilas Bridge.

New Hampshire owns all of the bridges to Vermont across the Connecticut River. This dates to 1764, when King George III whimsically split Vermont with both New Hampshire and New York. In that deal, New Hampshire wound up with all of the Connecticut River to the low-water mark on the Vermont side, which makes it easy to understand why Vermont seceded from the colonies in the first place. (Who said life was fair -- then or now?)

So this generation’s "Green Mountain Boys 2.0" unearthed the N.H. statute’s Unclaimed Property Act, which calls for such property to be returned "to the rightful owners" if abandoned without recorded activity for five years. Because the Vilas Bridge was liberated after having been abandoned in 2009, it presumably qualified for reclamation under this tenet. Unfortunately, it still belongs to New Hampshire, if only because in 1934 the U.S. Supreme Court validated George III’s gift of eastern Vermont to New Hampshire -- which in the aggregate now makes it in many minds appropriate to dub New Hampshire the quintessential Do Nothing State.

Bothersome in your story however, is the use of scare quotes around the word "claim," both in the headline and the copy itself. Scare quotes around a word or phrase often express skepticism, disapproval, or derision. The "Green Mountain Boys 2.0" (quotes representing a nickname, as opposed to scare quotes) did indeed claim Vilas Bridge as part of our state, for real. They did not "claim" it, which adds an unjustified wink and nod, implying caprice, at best.

Bob Wilson,

Saxtons River, April 2

GMO labeling allows
for informed choices

Editor of the Reformer:

As a parent, I am responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of my family. From the time my first child was born, I have chosen locally grown food as much as possible. But as a busy working mom, I also take shortcuts and buy convenience foods such as tortillas, ice cream and frozen waffles from the grocery store.

I was amazed to learn recently that genetically engineered foods are now in approximately 70 to 80 percent of processed food in the United States. A number of independent studies show that GE foods pose threats to our health and the environment. Until the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have conducted more adequate safety testing, I want to know what I am putting in my growing child’s mouth. It’s a no-brainer to label foods that have been genetically modified.

The Vermont Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act (H.112) would give Vermonters the facts about whether the foods we buy contain GE ingredients. I urge our legislators to step up and pass this bill, and Gov. Peter Shumlin to sign it into law. I have aright to be informed -- without accurate information the food "choices" I make for my family are not really choices at all.

Sara Longsmith,

Brattleboro, March 28

Searching for logic

Editor of the Reformer:

Your front page, headline story on March 26 ("Should Brattleboro recognize MLK Day?") begins as follows: "It happens every year. As customers walk into Nancy Braus’ book store, Everyone’s Books, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and ask if they have to feed the parking meters, Braus bristles at the answer she has to give ..." It continues, "’I am mortified to tell my customers that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not recognized by the town of Brattleboro,’ Braus said. ‘People from out of town can’t believe it.’" The article the goes on to say that she is petitioning the Selectboard to have Brattleboro recognize the holiday.

Someone help me out here because something seems seriously wrong with this picture: she wants Brattleboro, which is already fiscally challenged to put it mildly, to give its 180 employees another paid holiday (at a cost, according to the town, of $14,373), plus forgoing all parking revenues for a day (nearly another $2,000) while her store stays open for business, presumably to make a profit. Where’s the logic in that? It appears she wants us as a town to take a big financial hit, while for her it’s business as usual, maybe even better because free parking will probably result in more customers. Maybe she should choose instead to close her store that day, give her employees a paid holiday, and urge her fellow merchants to to the same rather than pointing her finger at the town which is already deep in the hole and scrounging for every dollar it can raise or save?

Look, I’ve shopped at Everyone’s Books for years and plan to continue to chose it over Amazon. It’s a great, old-fashioned bookstore (like Brown & Roberts is a great, old-fashioned hardware store), and a vital part of our downtown. Leading by example instead of by accusation could be a win-win for Nancy. She would be paying (no pun intended) her respects to Dr. King’s memory as well as sparing herself any further mortification from disappointed shoppers who, for some strange reason, appear to conflate MLK’s magnificent, sacrificial achievement with getting a personal, little freebie. Instead of grousing about free parking, maybe they might look for another way to remember him, one that would stress the public good (like helping low and fixed-income Brattleboro home owners facing frightening property tax increases pay their bills and keep their homes). I would urge the Selectboard to think long and hard before ripping up another plank from an already leaky ship.

Richard Evers,

Brattleboro, March 28


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