GunSenseVT Candlelight Vigil Nov 2 Pliny Park Brattleboro

GunSense VT is holding a candlelight vigil in Brattleboro this Thursday, November 2nd at Pliny Park, 5 p.m. in support of the people of Lewiston, Maine, banning assault weapons, and passing common sense legislation to save innocent lives. It is one of several that are planned for the same day around the State.
As GunSense VT board member Laura Subin, whose daughter was in lockdown at Bates College in Lewiston last week, said, “The chilling proximity of the tragedy in Maine shatters any illusion of safety we might have previously felt here in Vermont. It is a harrowing reminder that no community is immune to this sort of heartache.”

The Windham County Heat Fund – The Need Continues After 19 Years

If you live in the Northeast chances are pretty good you have been using oil, propane or wood to heat your home for a few weeks. There are some people that set a date for turning on their furnace and they suffer through until then, partly as a matter of principle and partly because of the cost of fuel.

Then there are those among us, a growing number, who struggle to heat their homes. They rely on federal and state fuel assistance programs which do not start until late November. The politics of that have always troubled me and politicians say they understand the timing is not realistic, but the allocation doesn’t happen until well after the need for heat starts.

This is where the Windham County Heat Fund comes in. We try to have a reserve of funds at the start of the heating season so we can fill that gap for people who rely on government fuel assistance to keep warm. Our busiest times are now until late November and near the end of the heating season when people have used up their fuel assistance allocations.

Crime Research Group Study

Are you one of the 902?

We are working with Crime Research Group (CRG) on a study funded by the National Institute of Justice to help find people willing to participate in a study about the experiences of defendants of color in Southern Vermont criminal courts. Researchers are looking to speak with people over the age of 18 who have at least one closed criminal case since 2019 that was handled in Bennington, Rutland, Windham, and/or Windsor County. Participants will be interviewed about their experience before, during, and after court.

How Old is Too Old?

Our society needs to have a broad-ranging and serious discussion about the issue of when a person might be too old to take on specific responsibilities. We have been tinkering around the edges and the topic comes up more frequently now that the media has started to recognize the fact that the average age of U.S. senators is 65 and that of representatives 58.

Perhaps the most talked about age issue is that relating to President Biden who is 80 and would be 86 at the end of his next term in office. Leading candidate Trump is 77. Most of the leadership in the Senate is well over the 65 average and the infirmity of some members has been noted recently.

Some people might be inclined to rush to judgment when it comes to age and say that there should be absolute age limits for certain public offices. Other people argue that term limits would solve the problem without having to discriminate against people because of their age.

Medicare Drug Negotiation Is A Sham

If you want a good example of meaningless political activity and wishful thinking look to the current announcement that there will be negotiations for price cuts for 10 drugs in the Medicare drug program. People need to be reminded that Medicare D, the drug program created many years ago, was a gift to the pharmaceutical industry and did little to help seniors struggling to pay for medication. It has increased the profits of drug companies and that is no accident.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 mandated that the federal government negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry and now the Biden administration is trying to get PR mileage because they are going to “try” to negotiate to lower prices for 10 drugs commonly prescribed for seniors. I say try because big pharma is already lining up all of their legal teams to fight the negotiation process. It will be hard for the drug company CEO’s to buy another vacation home if profits are not maximized.

Supreme Court Poised To Make The Sackler Family Accountable

The Sackler family (primarily the Machiavellian Richard Sackler) the people who owned Purdue Pharma the company that promoted and pushed Oxycontin, have evaded criminal prosecution so far. They became big time drug dealers and pimps with a stable of sales whores as they created the opioid epidemic that persists.

A 2020 New York Times article cites a study by the Economic Research Bureau noting that, “And 65 percent of the growth in overdose death rates between 1996 and 2017 could be attributed to the introduction and marketing of OxyContin.” Oxycontin was put on the market in 1996 and it was aggressively marketed by people who showered doctors and other prescribers with gifts and a lot of misinformation to persuade them to give the drug to their patients.

The Sacklers were directly involved in all of the unethical and immoral tactics that surrounded the marketing of Oxycontin. All accounts make it clear that all they cared about was making a lot of money and they cared little for the lives they were ruining in the process.

Vermont Progressives Take On Climate Change

This is the summer that climate change got real for me, and after reading Richard Davis’ piece a few days ago, I realize I’m not the only one.  It may not be possible for us to solve all the problems of climate change (and environmental damage) that are underway now, but it’s been occurring to that even if the chances seem to be nil, I still owe it to the planet to care and to try to do my best to help out, or at least, not be part of the problem.  And yet, even setting the bar this low, it’s still hard to believe our efforts matter.  

But there’s impetus in numbers, and I was happy to see that the Vermont Progressive Party has decided to start organizing people to work together on the issue of climate change.  Their current project is focused on the state agency of transportation, VTRANS, in an effort to influence their thinking on climate change and how they spend $7 million in federal funds.

The Body Is Dying

When a body is close to death organs start to fail. The kidneys lose their ability to filter out poisons, the gastrointestinal tract slows and stops moving and processing food, muscles waste away and the brain slips into a stage of fog until the big sleep takes over.

I can’t help but think that there are a lot of comparisons to the way we die and the way in which our planet is decaying and looking more and more like a body nearing death. We look to global warming and blame it for many of the disasters that are unfolding. The warming of the planet is much like a deadly disease that has taken over the body.

When a disease takes hold that has little hope for slowing or stopping the body knows that death is at hand and systems move into a different mode.

Is it possible that our planet knows that it is on a death spiral and that the catastrophes we are experiencing a part of the process of the death of a planet?

Fireworks – The Wrong Message

I have always felt uneasy watching fireworks displays to celebrate a holiday or a special event. The only reason I have gone to these events is because people close to me enjoyed them. Standing at a spot to view the aerial artistry has made me feel like I am in the middle of a war zone and that is not the way I want to feel participating in a celebration.

I can understand why people love the display of pyrotechnics. The people who put these show on are highly accomplished artisans and it is a tradition that has been with us for thousands of years.

According to the web site 75APA, “Many historians believe that fireworks originally were developed in the second century B.C. in ancient Liuyang, China. It is believed that the first natural “firecrackers” were bamboo stalks that when thrown in a fire, would explode with a bang because of the overheating of the hollow air pockets in the bamboo. The Chinese believed these natural “firecrackers” would ward off evil spirits.

Heat Fund Update – The Need Continues

The Windham County Heat Fund, an IRS non-profit, was started in 2005 by me and Daryl Pillsbury. We never intended to create a fund that would keep going for so long but the need never decreases. So we raise money every year and rely on a generous community to do the heavy lifting for us. They always come through and we, and the people we help, are grateful for the support.

This past heating season 81 individuals and a number of local businesses and churches donated a total of $55,542. Daryl and I continue to work for the fund without compensation and we have almost no administrative expenses. The money we raise goes directly to fuel companies.

Housing in Brattleboro: Let’s Get It Done

Though the selectboard knew the motel funding would end, they did no planning. Instead now they are talking about thinking about proposing something.  

BCS has promoted emergency homeless shelters in RVs and campers since last summer. We’ve been saying to the selectboard basically, “We have started a decentralized homeless shelter.  It’s a simple solution to the homeless crisis, but it doesn’t fit any current permitting process. Can you help? ”. They said nothing. In February they began prosecuting us. Now the news says they are proposing the same thing and calling it “dispersed camping”.

Suggestion for Solution for Homeless Folks

Apparently, from what I am reading about Brattleboro and other areas there are restrictions on land use and local zoning ordinances and state laws, etc., etc., but what about “unrestricted land” for sale in Vermont?

If a few non-profits got together, and did some of those online fundraisers, maybe you all together could come up with enough money to buy “unrestricted” land in Vermont and a bunch of tents from a big box store like Home Depot or Walmart.

If you can find a property with a stream on in, people can take a dip to get clean.

Surviving in the Rough Handbook (a work-in-progress)

Surviving in the Rough Handbook:

For those living unhoused in Vermont who either have been or are due to evicted from the motel/hotel program or have otherwise have already been abandoned to the streets, woods or elsewhere with nowhere else to call home.

A living, work-in-progress, document anonymously co-written by various peers (those with lived experience, knowledge and insights, because we have been there and have done that).

In solidarity. Don’t give up!!!

What’s Next

Americans with guns are becoming more creative in their pursuit of killing and maiming people. It is an inevitable progression that will only get worse because lawmakers will never enact legislation to put limits on gun ownership. In fact, we may see this country go in the opposite direction as long as minority rule by right wing Republicans rules the day in the courts and in congress.

This year, to date, there have been 160 incidents where four or more people were killed or injured. Last year that number was 647. These numbers have no effect on the people who have the power to change this horrific situation because of the way that our political system works. If you give politicians a lot of money they will do what you want. That is why the gun lobby is so powerful.

Tragedy and Opportunity

When horrific tragedies happen we try to make sense of things. There are never easy answers and the pain of loss lingers for a long time. The recent murder of Leah Rosin-Pritchard, a social worker at Morningside homeless shelter in Brattleboro, creates a sense of loss for an entire community, even for people who did not know her.

She was a caring individual who was trying to make the world a better place. There will never be enough people like her because there are so many problems in our society that need attention. Homelessness is a societal problem that has been around for almost as long as there have been humans on the planet. The faces and the circumstances change but the basic problems remain.

So one thing we can do with the tragedy in our community is to honor Leah Rosin-Pritchard by shining a light on homelessness in our community and in the larger society with the hope that by speaking out we can make little changes that will make a difference in the lives of people who struggle to simply make a home for themselves.

Two Short Selectboard Comments from BCS – April 4, 2023

We thank Mr. Potter for the update on the litigation over our emergency homeless shelter.

We had two comments tonight: first on the EHRV emergency shelter, and second, on the Fair Evictions and Rents amendment . One issue comes from the other.

In a selectboard meeting January 2021 we offered free housing for a police officer or substation at BCS corporate headquarters on Washington Street. It was part of our SAFE Policing project to start community policing. One of the vehicles in our emergency shelter is actually a mobile office, and quite suited as a substation or as a dental lab.

Please Sign This Anti-War Petition for a Conversation With Bernie

Dear Vermont Friends and Neighbors (and Bernie Sanders constituents),

The Vermont Peace/Anti-War Coalition launched in January 2023. This Petition Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders is our first effort at gathering widespread Vermonters’ support for ending U.S. war making.  Many of us in Vermont believe it is time to unite on this issue–and not be divided. No matter what your views or affiliation, please join us in signing the letter to Senator Sanders asking him to review his foreign policy of writing blank checks to Ukraine and the weapons manufacturers. We are also asking for an in-person meeting to discuss Sanders bringing our views to Washington.

The Culture Wars Escalate

When the composition of the Supreme Court moved to the right religious fundamentalists and all kinds of right wing zealots felt empowered to reshape the world into their image of correctness. Abortion is now more difficult to obtain and all kinds of personal assaults on freedom, mostly on women, are taking place.

It would seem reasonable to think that humans would evolve in a more enlightened direction as time passes. But there is a significant segment of the population that has gained control of the political agenda and figured out how to give an inordinate amount of power to the minority.

One of the more deadly attacks by the right has been on the LGBTQ community. According to an NBC news report, “More than 100 bills targeting LGBTQ rights and queer life — from transgender health care to drag shows — have been filed in 22 states for 2023 so far, leading advocates to expect this year will set a new record for anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Forum for District 3 Residents on Town Issues Prior to Representative Town Meeting

In an effort to help Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting members better represent their constituents in District 3, there will be a public forum for District 3 residents at 3 pm on Sunday March 19 in the Parlor of the Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main Street. This citizens’ forum is intended to allow people who live in District 3 to express their concerns and to ask questions about Town issues in advance of the RTM meeting on March 25. RTM members from District 3 are being encouraged to attend to hear from their neighbors.

The warning for RTM which lists the articles on which RTM members will vote starts are page 8 of the Town Report which is located on the right side of the website. Just below that is a link to the Finance Committee’s report on the FY 2024 budget (and in the third paragraph of that report there is a link to the Committee’s guide for understanding how the Town budgets).