Tag Archives: South Burlington

The Rule of Privilege in South Burlington

When I picture South Burlington in my mind’s eye, I see the curb-to-curb traffic of Shelburne and Williston Roads, the shopping malls, the big parking lots, the land-gobbling subdivisions. I don’t usually think of the area pictured above — the southeastern part of SoBu, which is on the precipice of transformation from countryside to suburbia.

The area in that image is less than two miles wide, but a majority of South Burlington City Council lives comfortably within that frame. Three of the five councilors live within a mile of each other, and only one lives outside the city’s southeastern census tract.

Which explains why the letters section of VTDigger has recently been flooded by councilors and their allies slagging S.100, the bill that would ease regulatory restrictions on housing construction. The issue is literally at their front doors. The sprawl is oozing like The Blob around them, and they want to keep whatever power they have over the process.

It was little more than a year ago that South Burlington City Council voted to block development in large swaths of — you guessed it — the southeastern quadrant.

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I’m Sorry, But I’m Not Taking Smart Planning Advice From the People Who Enabled This

VTDigger has seen a sudden flurry of letters and essays from residents of South Burlington, concerned that S.100, the state Senate’s housing bill, is going to turn their green and pleasant land into some sort of overdeveloped hellscape.

News bulletin: That ship has not only sailed, it long ago vanished over the horizon. Your town’s been an overdeveloped hellscape for years.

When I think “South Burlington,” I think the worst suburban sprawl in Vermont. Shelburne Road comes to mind, as does Williston Road and Dorset Street. As do subdivisions that devote vast amounts of land to high-maintenance lawns. The whole thing is, of course, designed around motor vehicles.

Not well designed, but designed nonetheless.

I know it’s a bit unfair to blame the current crop of SoBurbanites for the planning sins of their forebears. But just because they’ve got religion after a decades-long development bender doesn’t mean they can lecture the rest of us on how to address our housing crisis.

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The South Burlington Whitewash

There once was a town called Nigella. It was a nondescript little Podunk, located near a larger and more notable community. Its residents were almost entirely white. Its high school sports teams were named, in a more benighted era, the Niggers. Many of the kids would attend games in blackface, and the mascot was a Stepin Fetchit character who danced and hooted when the team scored a touchdown. All innocent fun, and no one in this lily-white town conceived otherwise.

Then came the civil rights era, and the school had a problem on its hands. The nickname was a piece of the town’s history, and nobody wanted to change it. So they dropped the mascot and banned the blackface, claiming the nickname was never intended as a racial slur — merely a light-hearted callback to the town’s real name.

You know where I’m going with this. Last night, the South Burlington School Board voted to keep the “Rebel” nickname, claiming that it had a specific meaning in their community and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Confederacy or slavery.

“It’s what we make of it. It’s something artificial,” said [an SBHS alum]. “I don’t think the intention is to offend anyone or promote racism.”

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Words acquire connotations. “Rebel” has other meanings, but its primary connotation is with the wrong side in the Civil War. You know, the one that wanted to keep on owning slaves, and was willing to kill the United States of America in order to do so.

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Freeploid Follies: Sunday Funday edition

So, what’s up with Vermont’s Largest (But Rapidly Shrinking) Newspaper? Rather a lot, really. As we await the likely post-Election Night bloodletting at the Freeploid, there are several items worthy of note…

— Today’s front-page article on the race for Governor, which features a passel o’Jes Plain Folks articulating their views on the Milne/Shumlin contest. And I do mean “Milne/Shumlin,” because once again, just like the ‘Loid’s poorly-written endorsement editorial, there was no mention whatsoever of Dan Feliciano. Well, he was mentioned at the end of the article, in a list of all seven candidates for Governor. Yep, Dan the Libertarian Man was lumped in with the Emily Peytons and Cris Ericsons of the world.

Now, I don’t think Feliciano’s getting much more than 5% of the vote, maybe even less. But he’s a credible candidate, and he deserves more consideration than the Freeploid is offering him. The endorsement editorial, which had no room for poor Dan, managed to set aside an entire paragraph for Peter Diamondstone of all people. You’d almost think the Freeploid was trying to give a helping hand to the Republican Party by banishing Feliciano from its pages.

— An editorial in today’s paper touched on a subject near and dear to the Freeploid’s heart: transparency. It slammed South Burlington city government for refusing to release information about filling a vacancy on city council. In the process, editorial writer Aki Soga twice mentioned the name of the interim Councilor.

And spelled it two different ways. “John Simson” and “John Simon.”

In consecutive paragraphs.

From which I conclude that the Freeploid wants the process to be open… but couldn’t care less about who’s actually on the council.

— Today’s Freeploid (for those who get home delivery) came wrapped in a plastic bag, as usual. But it wasn’t the normal transparent bag; it was a shiny plastic advertisement for the new LL Bean store opening next weekend in Burlington. Funny thing: it was only a week or so ago that the Freeploid ran an article about the upcoming opening of the Beanery.

I fully anticipate that we’re going to get an article on Friday or Saturday about the grand opening, with comments from grateful shoppers about the legendary outfitter (whose clothing, like Orvis’, has slipped in quality of late) finally coming to the Queen City. And if such a story does appear, it’ll be the last piece of a nice little News/Sales/News sandwich. Right in line with the Newsroom of the Future’s intentionally blurred line between editorial and advertising.

— What do you do when you plan to cover a protest and nobody comes? Well, if you’re the Freeploid, you run a big fat story anyway. On Wednesday, the ‘Loid ran a piece on one woman’s fight to save a cottonwood tree that’s in the path of a new bikeway on Burlington’s waterfront. She’d chained herself to the tree, and was collaring passersby in a (mostly failed) effort to solicit their support for her cause. On Saturday afternoon there was supposed to be a rally on her behalf…

… and only two people showed up. But the Freeploid had sent a reporter — a rare thing on weekends — and they were bound and determined to get a story out of it. And they did: a two-page opus about the non-protest, containing pretty much the same information that was in the Wednesday story. One woman wants to save the tree, hardly anybody else cares, and it has to come down to make way for the bike path. Sorry; we can’t save every tree.

— Finally, we note with regret the disemployment of veteran Freeploid reporter Tim Johnson, the second to be given the ziggy in the Newsroom of the Future era. As we’ve said before, we fully expect a parade of departures — voluntary and otherwise — as soon as Election Day is safely in the books.