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Moran Plant, a Historical Landmark?

It was recently announced that the Moran Plant will be considered for historical landmark status.  It seems to me that the plan behind this is to make it harder for many of the ideas that the people want for the Moran Plant to happen.

It is very obvious that when asked the majority of people want a public park where the moran plant stands however, Mayor Clavelle and CEDO obviously still want their YMCA deal to go through or something similar. I still hear people pushing for it. This is a way to get it back on the ballot.

I remember when we were asked for suggestions, the comment card itself said that the most popular ideas would not necessarily be the ones put on the ballot. This sent an obvious signal that the board and the mayor will be choosing the choices we vote on. Hopefully, they do not intend to put the YMCA and then list a bunch of unpopular choices so that the YMCA becomes the most logical choice and pushing for the moran plant to be declared a historical landmark would make it that much easier for them.

Letter Regarding Fluoride

I recently received an email from Joanna Cole, a neighbor of mine here in Ward 7 of Burlington. We met her at our ward 4 and 7 NPA meeting. For those who don’t know this, Burlington has regular NPA meetings NPA stands for Neighborhood Planning Assembly. These are meetings where citizens and elected officials get together to discuss different issues usually related to their specific wards and sometimes larger city issues. They are great way to interact with your neighbors and talk to your officials in far more inviting environment than the city council meetings as you can often have direct contact with your elected officials rather than just speaking to them from the podium and not getting a response. I certainly recommend anyone interested in being more involved in city and neighborhood issues to come to a meeting. You can go to cedoburlington.org to find our where you local npa meets, the dates and times. We will post the link at our web site at ethanallenradio.com.

OK, back to Joanna’s letter. She told me her thoughts on the fluoridation of our drinking water. Joanna told me she believed that fluoride in the water helped keep her kids from having cavities and she went on to explain why she believes that Fluoride is safe for people to drink and she states that she considers water fluoridation a miracle public health measure.

I don’t know if she was clear on my position, so I responded with the following…

I understand what you are saying, but for me it’s not an issue of whether it’s good or not. It’s about the right to choose. I’m pro-choice. I think that the city should provide safe water to drink and let the individual decide what they want to put in it.

Personally, I’m not sure if fluoridating water does anything one way or the other. I grew up drinking fluoridated water all the time and I still have cavities… the problem with me is that I didn’t brush and floss. Therefore, it would seem that only way to prevent tooth decay is to brush and floss.

Forced Medication in Burlington

An increasing number of individuals are not happy with public water fluoridation. The opposition believes it is very unsafe and should be stopped. The American Dental Association believes it should be forced upon the entire population despite possible harm to people drinking large amounts of tap water or people who get large amounts of fluoride in many other products they consume in their daily lives such as cereals, juices, soda, tea, beer, processed chicken, seafood, etc. I believe it’s extremely difficult for the city to ensure a proper fluoride dosage, as each individual has a different diet. People ask “why does the ADA support it if it’s dangerous?” It’s Simple. They would be admitting they were wrong all these years, losing credibility, and facing possible lawsuits, similar to the FDA and Vioxx.

The “experts” from the pro fluoride side are disrespectful towards citizens when they make comments such as “the lay person doesn’t know better to make good decisions about proper health and sometimes personal liberties need to be given up for their own good… we do it all the time, as with the city’s recent smoking bans.” This is insulting and they don’t give the people enough credit. It’s wrong to take away “personal liberties” for “our own good”. The city often acts as our parents and they are not. They are employed by us to serve us, not to parent us. In conclusion, the city needs to stop the forced medication of fluoride and let the individual decide.

The Burlington Citizens Coalition is taking a stand on the issue and is educating the public on why the public should at least have the right to choose. Michael Connett of FluorideAlert.org has joined the effort of the Burlington Citizens Coalition and has offered to give presentations to NPA groups and public forums.

For more information on the fluoride debate:

Pro Fluoride: http://www.ada.org
Opposition: http://www.fluoridealert.org
Burlington Citizens Coalition: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BurlingtonCitizensCoalition/

Preservation and Conformity Triumph Over Affordable Housing.

If you ask anyone in Burlington what they believe are the biggest problems in Burlington, affordable housing will most likely be at the top of the list. Recently, through public input three major barriers have emerged as causing this problem.  These barriers to affordable housing are:

  • Allowable density does not reflect actual capacity to build.
  • Zoning and ordinances are intrusive and unpredictable.
  • Increasing property tax burdens.

A good start to correcting the problem would be enacting a local “anti-snob” ordinance similar to the Massachusetts law (Chapter 40B). In 1969, the Legislature adopted “anti-snob” legislation to make it easier to develop affordable housing throughout the state, especially in communities with little low- and moderate-income housing. This law allows the State to override local zoning restrictions in such communities if needed to allow for the development of low- and moderate-income housing. Burlington to enact similar zoning.  Actually, Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) is already considering it by investigating it further. CEDO understands that the city’s current housing policies need to change.

It’s quite obvious that excessive zoning and ordinances inflate the pricing of housing in the city.  I’ve lived in communities where zoning and ordinances were very minimal and I was able to get housing for $235/month (utilities included).  In the same building, rooms went for $190 month.  These were completely private units, no government subsidies.

The city’s current policy of increasing housing standards and code enforcement just makes the costs of housing go up and up.  While these policies are targeted at landlords, they only hurt our most vulnerable citizen’s with increasing rental costs associated with keeping up with city regulations.

At a recent planning commission meeting, it was stated that Vermont’s use of zoning is to “preserve our communities” and to ensure “conformity”.  This suggests that “truely” affordable housing is not a goal and they intend to use zoning to work against affordable housing. This allows the community to send poorer residents out of their neighborhoods and into one location, such as Northgate in Ward 4, where they can be subsidized by section 8. When a politician says they are for affordable housing but are for increasing “preservation” and “conformity” zoning in their neighborhoods, they are saying that “yes, I believe we should have affordable housing in the city… just not in my backyard… put “them” somewhere else.”

Legislators and the Drinking Age Bill

Yesterday, at the NYRA-Vermont executive board meeting we discussed some of the letters our organization has received from legislators regarding the drinking age bill we are lobbying for. 

Interestingly, a good portion, including Governor Jim Douglas, do actually support lowering the drinking age to 18 in theory, but are not willing to part with the $9.8 million bribe in federal highway funds. The only condition is that we must violate the rights of our youth by not allowing them to consume alcohol and punish adults that wish to introduce alcohol to their children in the safety of their homes or restaurant setting.

We have argued that this loss is only 1/4 of 1% of Vermont’s entire budget, which is a small cost to end age discrimination of citizens that have reached the age of majority, which means they can enter contracts, vote, drive, own businesses, but just can have a little beer. We also support removing penalties on parents, so they can teach their teens responsible and moderate drinking behavior in restaurants, pubs, and in their homes, like in Europe. The government has stated that 18 is the age majority… this means they are adults with every right an adult is supposed to have.  To say they cannot have a beer just seems hypocritical.  Besides, the money most likely would not be an issue as we could easily make up the funds by the increased revenue from alcohol taxes.

Another argument we’ve heard lately are studies show alcohol hurts brain development in youth. These studies being quoted are based on children binge drinking.  Not occasional drinking with a meal or social drinking.  The FDA has stated that people 12 and up can consume adult dosages of most drugs/medications. This would suggest that anyone 12 and older is capable of handling alcohol at correct dosages, whether you are 18 or 25 or 75 years old.  Just check the instructions of a bottle of aspirin or Pepsid and see for yourself.

Again, it appears that many reps are unsure on how to vote. Therefore, your comments would make a difference. If you support the drinking age bill, please contact your representatives right now. We at NYRA have put together a system to do just this, quickly and easily. Click here to email your reps right now.

Disclosure: Jeremy Ryan serves at Treasurer and Webmaster for NYRA-Vermont.

2006 City Budget

Mayor Peter Clavelle introduced the 2006 City Budget proposal at the last City Council meeting.  Having followed the finance committee meetings, I am aware of the problems and issues they faced and I understand that it was a difficult process for everyone involved.  However, I noticed a couple problems regarding the budgeting process that disturb me. 

1.  Board of Finance members are not willing to cut programs that they personally care about and members feel they must fight for more for themselves and constituents at any cost.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s something the city should be doing or not… or even if it something that the majority of citizens need or use.  Therefore, the budget will always increase and more programs will stay and increase whether they are needed or not.

For example, the city wanted to add an extra ambulance so that one could sit as a backup unit at a total cost of $150,000.  While it was discussed that we could use UVM’s ambulance service as a backup or even a nearby town should the situation come up, but in the end these ideas were dismissed.  It could have at least been explored more.

2.  The Board of Finance is too accepting of department recommendations.  The city asked for cuts from each department.  Some departments did exactly as they were asked and cut their budget by becoming more efficient without losing any services to the city.  Whereas, other departments claimed the only way was to cut out whole programs that they knew board members would object to. So, they got away without lesser cuts than other departments.  This seems highly unfair to me.  The city needs to have independent audits of each department performed to see where efficiencies could have been created to cut costs of every department.  Therefore, the better performing departments would have been able to keep their budget and the under-performing ones would have been cut and they would be forced to do better or bringing in private contractors to do the job should be considered, which is already the case in regards to managing the city employees payroll. This should be a common practice as any non-government entity of this size would be definitely required to have regular external audits.

Click here to view the entire City Council meeting minutes for the May 9th meeting.

Feb 17, 2005 – Letter to the Editor

Below is the text from a Letter to the Editor from Jeremy Ryan, Chair of Burlington Libertarian Town Committee

(Note: When the letter was written, the City council nearly passed the ban unanimously on Feb. 7th)

Regarding the smoking-ban extension to private clubs: Several of us
citizens at the last council meeting were shocked at the speedy
decision to ban smoking in private clubs. The smoking ban is an
offensive intrusion of property rights — it’s un-American, it’s
unconstitutional. A private club is just that, “private.” When
members are OK with smoking, can’t it be their choice? Can’t the
smokers have some bars? No. After the decision, we informed one of
the private clubs affected. They were disgusted to hear that the
council would decide their fate without inviting them to discuss it
and voice their opinion. Some members even didn’t believe the city
could do this to them.

Whether you’re a smoker or not, a member of a private club or not,
we as citizens of this great country must ensure that everyone’s
rights are protected to ensure that our own will be protected. Some
councilors and the mayor will argue it’s a matter of “public health.”
They are trying to create a “nanny state,” which protects us from
ourselves. We are increasingly prisoners of a hospital-like state.
There are a million things you can do to save more lives. We can
outlaw Big Macs if you want. Maybe that’s next. Lawyers have already
sued McDonald’s for “causing” obesity.

I urge the private clubs to fight it any way they can and I suggest
the City Council do the “honorable” thing and reverse this
unconstitutional ban that destroys the very essence of our freedoms.
Leave these choices to the property owners, business owners and
patrons.

JEREMY RYAN
Burlington
The writer is Burlington Libertarian Party chairman.

~*~ Vice Chair’s Side Note:
For more information about the ban, please visit:
http://www.burlingtonlp.org/news/events02.asp?ProdCode=3726211222005

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