Brilliantly, no real estate developer had to put any of their own money in: Taxpayers, like you and me, paid the full price to purchase and demolish the 200 homes that were standing on 44 acres of commercially valuable land facing the airport entrance. The pretext was all too real F-16 noise. But the real reason those homes were selected for purchase and demolition was so land speculators could earn profits by commercially developing that now empty land. The genius of the scheme is that they did not have to risk a dime of their own money to purchase or demolish the homes.
F-16s were scheduled to retire. Without extreme military jet noise continuing after retirement of the F-16s there was no reason to demolish the 200 homes in the first place. There would be no reason for South Burlington to change the zoning of the 44 acres from residential to commercial. The scheme to turn F-16 noise into money would collapse unless an extremely noisy military jet would replace the F-16.
The scheme was facilitated by political pressure on the Air Force to do something it did not want to do: bring dangerous F-35A fighters to a densely populated city. All so developers could maintain the high noise needed to turn the 44 acres into money for developers.
Oops. The taxpayer funded profit scheme got a bit tangled by 3000 problems: 3000 families, whose affordable homes will not be purchased and demolished, will remain stuck for life in the F-35 noise danger zone that the Burlington Board of Health says causes learning problems for children and heart problems for adults. Too bad for them that these 3000 families will go forward with decades of suffering while the developers enjoy this dangerous plan.
Fortunately, Burlington can put a stop to the whole unpleasant scheme at Town Meeting. Vote “yes” on Ballot Item 6 to cancel the F-35. Do not allow 3000 families to be sacrificed to further enrich the already safe and secure.
Voting for Ballot Item 6 is a way to implement a fundamental right included article 7 of Vermont’s constitution: Article 7: “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single person, family, or set of persons, who are a part only of that community.” In this case, health and safety for 3000 families and loss of decent affordable housing v. taxpayer funded profit for a handful of developers.
February is the shortest month, and usually the hardest here up north. We have a disease called “the Februaries”. Its symptoms are malaise, dismay, a general sense of why bother. Those of us who enjoy silky stockings and gossamer fabrics, delicate shoes and such, are tired of being swathed in layers of coarse, thick wools and downs, heavy boots and thick socks. Our hands are rough and raw, from shoveling and maybe carrying wood in and out of the house, and we are lucky if our pipes haven’t frozen, our car batteries gone out, or (if we are more intrepid) if our ears have not been frost-bit while bicycle riding. We have had the cold or the flu for weeks, and it doesn’t seem to go away, no matter what.
But we can be consoled to know that we have only a few more months of winter to go! And then, when we see that it will be slipping away, we remember to enjoy its particular magical beauties: the sparkly starry nights, with soft snowy fairy-dust in the air; the silvery moon gleaming in the silence; the wild slabs of ice thrust up against each other in the river; the manifold animal tracks in the snow; the red cardinal against the white.
It is already getting lighter at night; we can see our way through. Keep on, my friends, keep on.
Is it the white snowy fields, like blank pages spreading out into the distance?
The long, dark nights, the plentiful dream-filled sleep, the emptiness, that suggests some new kind of way of filling up space, a life, the ticking time?
Without a space to breathe and reconsider, it is hard to imagine newness to grow at all. But, on the other hand, without stimulation, discourse, interchange, nothing much will get generated.
In any case, I ordered seeds for the garden: corn and beans and carrots and three kinds of melon and flowers and herbs and beets and squash and pumkins. Way early, I know, but a girl can dream of spring whenever she wants, right?
I think, ultimately, that newness is possible, even unstoppable. Oldness recurs, to be sure. And we can, in many cases, be glad of the comforting, familiar, archetypal patterns. But newness is inevitable, is a feature of what it means to be human, is happening right now. Listen and you will hear it cracking.
Have you read that great Russian novel, Oblomov, about the man who basically never gets out of bed? He is slothful and slovenly, has crumbs in his beard and in between his sheets?
Well, that is how we have been about this website. We have been embodying the most self-indulgent traits of what some critics called the “Superfluous man”. We have not updated the masthead for months. There are no new issues posted since lord knows how long. The blog entries are few and far between. But, really, what is a website if not superfluous?
We have excuses, like all good Oblomovs, but we won’t bother you with them. Perhaps we just did not have the will to begin, or the belief in the improvability of mankind or the aesthetic or utilitarian redemption of mankind. Perhaps we were trying and failing, repeatedly, to get interns to help us with the task?
In any case, the luxurious days of neglect are now coming to an end. We begin, now, a new regime of contemporary American industriousness, to counteract the lovely, lilting delights of 19th century Russian nihilism. Watch out for vigorous reporting and ground-breaking news, insightful commentary and deeply moving suggestions.
As I write, the September issue should be on its way (late) to you, and the October issue is almost ready for printing. Thus, we look ahead to November, the month of our beloved publisher’s birth (and that of many other dear Scorpions). Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness? Season of death and darkness? The title of my favorite Flaubert novel, the month before December?
In honor of such auspicious richness of flavor and chiaroscuro, please send us your most complexly variegated texts and images.
Essays, letters, poems, pictures, visions, stories.
We are, as usual, interested in the crux where utility and beauty meet, in questions of how to be most alively human amid so much that is deadening, in the tension between wildness and civilization, democratic participation and imagination, art and politics, and any ideas about how to make all people’s (and animals’) lives more meaningful in the Lake Champlain Bio-Region and Beyond.
Prose texts should be 750 words or less to fit on one page, or 1500 words or less to fit on two.
Images are subject to cropping or the superimposition of words.
Let us know if you have any questions, comments, complaints.
For November, I need submissions by around October 10th, emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And no, we don’t pay. Apologies.
Mud, rain, sleet, sun. We are churning up the muck and it is not always pretty. But it is always beautiful. I went to the Intervale yesterday and there were mushrooms and new buds appearing right before my eyes. A sign told me not to pick the ramps and the fiddleheads. I did not, but I wondered how many others had disregarded the rules. I certainly have picked them at other times, along other paths, innocently enough. People ride by on bicycles. We shed the sweaters, the raincoats, the hats we needed in the morning, and wrap them around our waists or stash them in our bike baskets. People are feeling more feelings than they can stand and in the evenings the music wafts out of the opening and closing doors along North Winooski Avenue, just north of Pearl Street. Who is it who feels alive enough to live up to the Spring? Which of us can meet her without feeling the thorny lacerations of old regrets and new longings? Which of us is stoical enough not to feel disturbed by the stirring of ancient sap underfoot?
Today, November 10th, we are trying to orient ourselves to the new world order, but trying also to not orient ourselves. What seems most important, in the wake of local and national elections, is that we do not succumb to fatalism or nihilistic acceptance of those parts of the status quo that seem to be winning. They are no more real than the other aspects of our world, they are no more entitled to assert their values than the rest of us who envision something different, more beautiful, more brave. And, in these next weeks, as we regroup, we will be celebrating all there is that is fine and wild and courageous in our complex world, remembering that there is at least as much good as there is bad, at least as much wisdom as foolishness, at least as much miraculous delight as wretched violent vulgarity. We must, indeed, expand the outpourings of our visions, must strengthen our voices, must widen our circles, and carry on.
If a political system were a genre of art, it would constantly invite new practices and perspectives to remain alive. Not necessarily revolutionary, but vitally evolving, linking past traditions with new realities. And yet governments have a staggering tendency to get stuck in ruts that have little to do with creative processes. Stymied systems continue on, with their accumulated corruptions, calluses and carbuncles. Many point them out, with varying degrees of outrage, but the people most complicit, the politicians and those who influence them, soon lose any perspective they might once have had. The improprieties, the fatal compromises seem less and less egregious from up-close, among ethically lazy colleagues. And yes, governments have always resorted to illegalities.
Locally, artists are allowed two minutes during public forum, and we may hang signs in City Hall or bring in a cardboard coffin to symbolize the death of the Burlington College land. Last week Council President Knodell gave Ibnar Avilix more than two minutes because he was in the middle of a poem. Our shenanigans will be tolerated, in their place. But recently I spoke out of turn, when Planning Director, David White, misrepresented the positions of the Planning Commissioners yet again. I was chastised: “We don’t speak out” during the deliberations of the council, said the Council President using the royal “we”; because of course they do speak out, all they want. It is We, the People, who normally do not. We behave ourselves during meetings and don’t resort to what they call “personal attacks”. I myself have been known to counsel a less adversarial approach in hopes of winning over people who don’t yet know how corrupt the system is. Some say vitriolic or even humorous satire “alienates” potential supporters. But does politeness do the trick? When the city held a hearing on the Champlain Parkway last year, they successfully stifled opposition by limiting public comment to notes on index cards! The harder questions were shuffled to the bottom of the pile and ignored. We sat there like cows. Outraged. But cows. When the opponents of the F-35 dared to play a recording of the “sound of freedom” another time, the then Council president, Joan Shannon, hammered the table with a gavel. They have their business to conduct.
And yet, it is not theirs, it is OUR business. We elected them to serve us. But there is something broken in this representative system. Is it that people don’t vote? In Burlington, under 25% of the citizens voted in the last few elections, for varying reasons ranging from despair to apathy. How work within a system that is not working? Can we work within it and outside of it? Does any amount of work within it signal an acceptance of its treachery? Does refusal to work within it at all signal a fatalism that has given up on changing it? Ah! And on the national level things are even more troubling: Should one vote one’s conscience? Dare one not vote? Must one (probably) vote so that the lesser evil wins?
Thoreau, in “Civil Disobedience,” notes that disruption is not always worth the upheaval. But sometimes, he thought, it is. Working within the system is not only desperately slow, but often doesn’t work at all. But sometimes it does. The Coalition for a Livable City has induced the City Council put a public disapproval question on the ballot to vote down the zoning change that could not be stopped by a charade of public input sessions. The results of this vote will be binding and it represents a laudable example of the checks and balances put in place to defend against the railroading of public process that occurs in democracies. Burlingtonians: look for it on the November ballot along with a chance to vote down the use of 22 million dollars of TIF money as a gift for developer Don Sinex (and visit http://www.CLCburlington.org for more information).
But we also continue to work outside of the system. Rather than being outright disruptive, we will tend toward the creative. Yet every good artist knows that things need to be taken apart, destroyed, before they are put back together in new ways. We work to break down the one-dimensionality of the status-quo by speaking in languages that cannot easily be co-opted by the simulated democracy. Languages of art, of irony, of humor, direct action, of beauty and of outrage; languages that cannot be contained by time or space. May these counter-narratives make people think, feel, and live more boldly, more complexly, more courageously, more beautifully. There are ways in which the political system should remain traditional (abiding by the Constitution, for example; keeping consistent). Though art too engages with tradition at best, it has more leeway to innovate. Art cannot replace politics, because it would lose much of its freedom and autonomy by doing so. Although art may seem harmless enough, it is, I venture, one of the most powerful tools we have to reshape the way we imagine and continue to co-create our world. Politics is not an artistic genre and that is why many of us choose to not run for public office. Instead, we work in conflict and in compromise with the political system, in a sort of dance which hopefully we both appreciate. Art can very meaningfully provide us with alternative ways of seeing that would make the conversations taking place inside City Council rooms and U.N. chambers seem laughable, if only their outcomes were not so dangerous.
From the Editor
I request that you remove me.