Rick Cowan

A dirty truth

By discouraging the use of fuel oil and propane, the Affordable Heat Act might drive more Vermonters toward heating with wood — a consequence that could well accomplish the exact opposite of the proposed legislation’s intended effect

As a lifelong environmentalist who applauds the intent of the Affordable Heat Act (S.5), it pains me to point out a very big problem with the bill that is now cruising toward legislative approval: wood heat is far dirtier than coal, oil, and gas. And if you make fuel oil and propane more expensive, we Vermonters will burn more firewood.

Since 38% of Vermont homes are heated in part or full with wood, S.5 may well accomplish the exact opposite of its intended effect.

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A cruel and disruptive practice

GPS hounding is something that no humane person wants to see on Putney Mountain. Releasing unsupervised hounds on the lands of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge presents a risk to the thousands of visitors who are not hunters.

The term “wildlife refuge” is a bit misleading when describing the 288 acres on Putney Mountain that form part of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge. Currently, no areas of the Vermont portion of the Refuge are closed to hunting. Though many of us understand the value of...

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Rockingham Selectboard a capable, thoughtful, and hard-working team

Thanks to all who voted in the recent election. Having no idea what my chances were, I was happily surprised when Justice of the Peace Paul Obuchowski announced the results at the Masonic Temple. My fellow new Selectboard members - Bonnie North and Elijah Zimmer - and I learned...

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Decadence and drama in the shadow of Nazism

David Stern's production of the classic musical Cabaret, from Main Street Arts, has all the ingredients of a hit: great book and lyrics, gifted actors in fabulous costumes, striking dance numbers, and a brilliant set. The shadow of Nazism falling over Berlin in the early 1930s injects dark poignance and contemporary relevance into a plot that centers on the brassy, talented, and scandalous Sally Bowles. Aidan Flower Des Jardins, an up-and-coming alumna of New England Youth Theatre known to local...

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A question of compensation

The Brattleboro Retreat is in a bad way. News articles about a possible closure and highly critical letters published by patients' relatives and employees depict a troubled organization. Threats to turn away patients or limit services, coupled with a demand for $2 million more from taxpayers to keep the doors open, reveal fundamental problems at an institution we entrust to care for some of Vermont's most vulnerable citizens. If an organization perennially outspends its budget, delivers subpar services, and alienates...

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A propulsive plot of international intrigue

An engaging confection of romance, danger, and paranoia, The 39 Steps, a play by Patrick Barlow now in production by the Vermont Theatre Company, is based on the 1935 film that catapulted Alfred Hitchcock to international fame - and which, in turn, was based on The Thirty-Nine Steps, a 1915 novel by Scottish author John Buchan. Though it flirts with parody, this hilarious play still manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. While visiting London, Canadian...

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Local option sales tax would be unsustainable for customers, merchants

Interesting that the option of Brattleboro reducing spending never comes into the conversation. And that the real estate and sales taxes just keep on increasing - 7 percent until we burn through that additional revenue and then 8, 9, and 10 percent in future years. At some point, shoppers will begin to notice. Some will take the cue at 7 percent. And some shop owners of my acquaintance are considering letting their leases expire as the town makes it harder...

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How much is enough?

Here's an extraordinary fact: Vermont's public school students benefit from a lower ratio of full-time faculty and staff to students than that of the median independent (private) school. The National Association of Independent Schools' 2015-16 annual survey of 1,438 day school members reveals a median student to full time faculty and staff ratio of 5.1 to 1. In Vermont's public schools, that number is 4 to 1. As a product of public schools, I'm proud of the substantial investment that...

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