We are three senior citizens who’ve lived in Bennington a total of over 240 years combined. Looking back, we have enjoyed a full lifetime of experiences with a mix of love, pride and happiness for this community we call home. Unfortunately, we are upset and saddened by recent events in connection with the proposed Shires Project on Silver Street. It appears that many town and elected officials have stopped listening to the voices of tax-paying citizens who’ve raised a number of serious concerns about this housing development and the future direction of this town. As one of our neighbors on Grandview Street recently said at a Select Board meeting that we attended on July 14, bureaucratic expediency and opportunism seem to matter more than what’s in the best interests of the town and neighborhood.
Also we were deeply troubled by the remarks of Jim Carroll at the July 28 meeting of the Select Board. According to Mr. Carroll, Shires’ John Broderick said he’d abandon the proposed Silver Street project if those opposing would buy the property and pay Broderick’s unspecified expenses. We’re shocked and dismayed with this for several obvious reasons. First, as a Select Board member, Mr. Carroll would best serve the interests of Bennington by conducting himself in an objective and impartial manner at all times. Openly negotiating on behalf of Shires as an elected official is inappropriate and wrong. Second, the idea that the only way out of this problem is to buy out Shires is frankly alarming.
We oppose the proposed Shires project and hope our town leaders will listen to the many residents who share our concerns about Bennington’s future.
GERRY AMADON, DOROTHY ROY, HELEN HOGEL
Decisions are worrisome
As a 21-year-old college student, I am faced with a lot of choices about my life. What am I going to do after graduation? How am I going to go about writing a senior thesis? While the sheer number of unknowns and choices that fall upon my shoulders is overwhelming at times, I am very appreciative of my opportunity to make these choices for myself. Unfortunately, two recent decisions by the Supreme Court are making me worry for the future of my choices.
On June 26, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled the Massachusetts law which established a 35-foot buffer zone in front of reproductive care facilities unconstitutional. The Court said that the law unfairly limited freedom of speech of pro-life protestors, therefore violating the First Amendment. Just four days later, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the provision of the Affordable Care Act which requires private companies to provide health insurance which covers birth control to employees. In a split 5-4 decision, the justices said that closely held corporations are unfairly burdened in the practice of their religious liberty by being mandated to provide coverage of birth control against their beliefs.
As a woman, these decisions worry me. I believe that it is between me and my doctor to decide what type of birth control is best for me, not my employer. I believe I have the right to walk into a reproductive health care facility without fear of intimidation, harassment, or unwanted remarks about my legal right to access reproductive health care.
If the Supreme Court does not share my belief in freedom of choice, it is important to me that elected officials do. With the upcoming election in November, voters should consider where candidates stand on the issues that are important to them. I, personally, will be looking for candidates who recognize my right to health care and my right to choose what is best for me. The recent SCOTUS decisions make it all too clear that it is crucial to vote for elected officials at the local, state, and national levels. With the overwhelming number of decisions to make in my life, voting for officials that will work to protect every individual’s access to safe, affordable health care is an easy one to make.
Reply to Lawrence Harrington
Lawrence Harrington’s July 25 baseball bat story is pleasant and folksy. (Probably he prefers old-fashioned wooden bats to these newfangled aluminum ones; so do I.) But as an analogy to single-payer health care, his tale strikes out.
Mr. Harrington’s more expensive baseball-bat finish was a better product than the cheaper ones that replaced it; but that is not the case with our present "system" of health care, whether "Obamacare" or its immediate predecessor. Both leave thousands of Vermonters and millions of other Americans with little or no health care access. Even those fortunate enough to have employer-provided insurance or the money to purchase their own policies often face restrictions on physician and hospital choice and high deductibles or copays.
Single-payer will be cheaper not because it is an inferior product, like Mr. Harrington’s competitors’ wood finish, but, largely, because it will eliminate the enormous profits of the private insurance companies which guzzle subscriber dollars and provide as little as possible in exchange.
The most important aspect of single-payer is its universality. It will cover everyone because it is based on the principle that health care is a human right regardless of age, employment or income. The "young Turks" touting single-payer know that it works well for citizens of other modern democracies and allows them to live without fear that a serious illness will bankrupt them or a missed premium payment leave them without access to care.
Act 48, establishing a unified, universal health care system for Vermont, was passed with strong public support. The financing is complicated, but our governor and legislators can work it out. We should "dig in our cleats," as Mr. Harrington says, stop heckling and root for the success of single-payer, which will be a home run for all of us on our state "team."
Improving the circumstances of our youngest citizens
Thank you for highlighting the most recent Kids Count Data ("Education the driving force behind Vermont’s high child well-being rank" 7/29/14) which places Vermont as the second best state in which to be a child in 2013.
This is heartening news and we need to make sure it does not overshadow the fact that we need to continue improving the circumstances of our youngest citizens. The fact that 15 percent of children in Vermont are living in poverty is unacceptable even though it is good compared to the national average of 23 percent.
We must continue the positive momentum of investing in early childhood in this state. In the forward to the Kids Count Data Report, Patrick T. McCarthy writes that "In this year’s Data Book we highlight indicators on the well-being of our youngest children to help further the conversation about opportunities for and the benefits of early intervention (p.5), noting that 7 to 10 percent return on investment from James Heckman’s research. He goes on to explain why the early years matter and acknowledges that parents, as a child’s first and primary caregiver and teacher, need support and education to be the strong foundation children need to succeed. Working in early childhood means you have to be good at working with adults, too.
I am grateful that my children are growing up in Vermont, and I am reminded every day of the many children in our community who are living in poverty, are exposed to violence, and who do not have access to high quality early childhood services, including education. The fact that Vermont is such a great place to be a child would be news to them.
The Winston Prouty Center