Letters to the Editor
Three bills to watch
I’d like to provide a brief update on three important bills before the Vermont Senate.
First, the Senate will be debating an increase to the minimum wage this week. A Senate committee has recommended an increase of $4.50 over a six-year period. This is a more aggressive schedule than current law, which raises the wage by annual inflation. Contrary to popular myth, most low-wage workers are not part-timers or teenagers. In fact, 55 percent of all Vermont workers earning less than $12.50 per hour earn more than half of their family’s income, and 65 percent of these workers are older than 30. The problem of income inequality affects all other areas of public life, and this bill helps those who the national economy has left behind.
Second, the Senate will be debating a bill this week to lower prescription drug prices by importing them through Canada. It is outrageous that a commonly used medicine like Lipitor costs 46 times more per pill in the U.S. than in Canada. As expected, the pharmaceutical industry, which last year bested its own lobbying spending records, is raising its usual red herrings. We need to do something about the ripoff Vermont patients are experiencing, and this bill is one promising approach.
Third, the Senate passed a bill promoting net neutrality. President Trump’s FCC has reversed earlier policies that prohibited massive telecommunications companies from slowing down some content and generally restricting a free and fair internet. The Senate bill disallows the state from contracting with telecom firms that do not practice net neutrality for their Vermont customers. This is a critical issue for Vermonters and Vermont businesses and schools.
As always, feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any ideas or questions.
Sen. Tim Ashe
Overcoming the ‘kids’ meal’ challenge
Eating out can be a break from the usual routine, a chance to try new foods or a way to celebrate. But it can also be stressful for parents trying to encourage their kids to adopt a healthy diet. Items on children’s menu are typically high in calories and lacking in nutrition (think macaroni and cheese, cheeseburger sliders and hot dogs).
Drinks — Fountain drinks in particular offer up empty calories before the eating has even started. Water, milk and, to a lesser extent, 100 percent fruit juice are better choices.
Sides — “Would you like fries with that?” almost always elicits an answer of “yes,” as other options aren’t presented. We should ask children: “What side would you like with that — applesauce, coleslaw, fruit slices, etc.?” so that children make an active choice rather than adopt unhealthy defaults.
Dessert — Desserts are often bundled into kids’ meals, and who can resist? But, they send the sugar and calorie content over the top, especially if the child has consumed a sugary beverage.
Kids’ meals send a strong cultural message to children as they are establishing their dietary habits. While the meals may appeal to children, they create challenges for parents trying to instill good eating habits. When it comes to eating out, parents can end up feeling that their own dietary intentions for their kids have been hijacked.
Our children are the first generation that may, on average, live shorter lives than their parents due to obesity and associated chronic diseases like diabetes. Disproving these predictions requires support from everyone.
Through proposed legislation (S.70, “An act relating to the nutritional requirements for children’s meals”) Vermont restaurants can lead the way by replacing unhealthy defaults with healthy choices. This would support the intentions of most parents I know and help prime children for making a life’s worth of healthy choices as adults.
A chance to act locally on renewables
Do you think globally? Now is your chance to act locally.
Last month, along with a dedicated handful of people, I circulated a petition to get a renewable energy resolution on the agenda for Williston’s Town Meeting. In the process of going door to door, we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with some kind and thoughtful people. Even though we brought some mighty cold air in with us, we were welcomed by many, and most were happy to sign our petition.
Our efforts did result in getting this resolution in the warning and on the agenda (article 4) for Monday night’s (March 5) Town Meeting.
This resolution urges Montpelier to make a plan to achieve its stated goal of switching to 90 percent renewable energy and phase out fossil fuel infrastructure by 2050; and to do sustainable things locally, too; and that these proposed changes must be fair and equitable for all.
It makes common sense to turn away from a depleted, costly and greenhouse-gas-emitting energy source. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to remediate the resulting effects of climate change.
Showing up at Town Meeting and voting in favor of this advisory resolution is a small but powerful thing that we can do. I hope the fine people we met, and the many more we didn’t get to, will not underestimate the importance of showing up.
My daughters Leah and Phoebe went around canvassing with me when they were here visiting. I am looking forward to telling them that on Town Meeting Day, their hometown joined with 37 other Vermont towns to take a step into a more hopeful future.
Vote ‘yes’ on regionalized dispatch
The Williston fire and police departments wholeheartedly support Town Meeting Day Article 9, the proposal to create a regional dispatch entity known as the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority. This proposal has been discussed since 1967 and follows 18 months of recent work. Two prior studies, in 1995 and 2000, determined that regional dispatch was viable and worthwhile.
Our current dispatch systems allow for knowledge of what is happening within one community or dispatch center. Presently, if mutual aid is needed, many telephone calls must be made to the various mutual aid agencies requesting they provide vehicles/personnel. Precious time is wasted, resulting in delayed responses, and there is much room for human error since so many people are handling emergency information. In addition, in times of crisis, our small dispatch centers are often overworked and understaffed, there again, delaying response times and having a greater percentage of human error.
Telephone calls are one of the least efficient ways for a dispatcher to communicate during an emergency response. They are time-consuming, distracting and often require multiple calls, hold times, etc., all during a time that the person should be focusing on the emergency at hand.
In a regional dispatch system, all agencies and their emergencies can be viewed at the same time by dispatch center staff, and mutual aid tones can be generated simultaneously. This greatly reduces error percentages and increases response times.
As your public safety chiefs, we have been involved with, and briefed on, this process. While much work remains, the next step is for voters to approve the creation of the Chittenden County Public Safety Authority. The Williston fire and police departments strongly support regional dispatch.
Kenneth N. Morton, Jr.
Williston fire chief
Patrick T. Foley
Williston police chief