"Thanks for the memories" to Big Joe Burrell --
doesn't even come close. Unknown Blues Band? A refreshing
melodic oxymoron if ever there was one.
thousands of Vermonters will remember Big Joe Burrell and the
Unknown Blues Band in over 100,000 different
Let's honor legendary "Big Joe" Burrell, his
family and his legacy by naming the Burlington Boathouse after
him and erect a life-size statue. Imagine the huge sign
reading: Big Joe Burrell's Boathouse -- just the thought of it
makes me smile!
For more years than I can recall, Big
Joe and innumerable "Friends" jammed at the Boathouse almost
every Fourth of July while tens of thousands listened and
watched the fireworks. Big Joe's fireworks!
fondly remember Big Joe at the 2003 Mardi Gras parade in
Burlington, proudly smiling from the center of his float and
tossing out inflated saxophones to the children. Big Joe was
happy to do it, eager to please and full of
Perhaps, too, either Barre's Rock of Ages Corp.
(how appropriate) and/or members of the Barre Granite
Association will deem it worthy to create and donate a full
sized statue of Big Joe for all Vermonters to reflect upon.
The enormous positive impact Big Joe has unselfishly and
lovingly provided Vermont and the world must not be
Heaven is all the more richer with Big Joe
Burrell in his eternal gig -- God's blues band.
As good as it gets
My wife, Barbara, and I were honored to have
experienced Big Joe Burrell and Friends at Halvorson's each
Thursday night for the past two years. We became regulars
because we knew we were seeing something special, something
that would not likely come our way again. I often commented to
whoever would listen to me that the very best Thursday night
music on the planet could be had on Church Street in
Burlington, Vermont. If it had been Manhattan, Amsterdam,
Paris, or Seattle it would have cost hundreds of dollars and
without the ambiance and soulful scene that was present at
Joe attracted all ages and welcomed
all-comers to sit in with the band. From early teens, to local
college musicians, to well-established professional artists
they all came for the experience of jamming with this
masterful old school artist. So impressive to me was not only
his world-class saxophone sound, but also his soulful
heartfelt singing. He could really belt out the blues or
melodiously sing a ballad with a voice that seemed to improve
with age. His rendering of "It's a Wonderful World" was as
good as it gets.
As much of a loss Big Joe's death is
for all of us it will certainly be felt by the musicians he
played with including the members of the Unknown Blues Band,
his Halvorson's Friends, and the countless other musicians he
touched. But, we will all cherish the time we were able to
spend with this great human being. And Big Joe seemed to
cherish the time he was able to spend with all of us, telling
his stories, sharing his music and passing on his knowledge to
the next generation. He surely must have felt fortunate to
spend his entire life doing what he loved best. And I will
always believe that "when the train pulls into Essex, Big Joe
comes jumpin' out."
KEN CONKLIN Essex
The Winooski Parks and
Recreation Department is proposing a foot path from the bridge
to nowhere at Ethan Allen Homestead over Route 127 heading
west around the embankment through a wetland and ending at
North Avenue, near the Alliance Church.
states there will be no erosion to the embankment, nor
interference with the wildlife. Their expert on environment
stated that humans and wildlife could co-exist. Sure, but that
doesn't mean that the wildlife will stay, nor did the ducks
say we can put up with the humans!
Recently it was
reported a house in Jericho will be demolished because it is
too close to a wetland. This proposed path goes right through
a wetland. I was told that any concerns or arguments
supporting wildlife preservation wouldn't make a difference in
Oh, I forgot to mention that the parks
department started all their testing for this project and the
residents who live on the top of the embankment knew nothing
about what they were proposing.
It's typical that we
people have no say in what might affect us. Enough said for
FERNAND CRETE Burlington
Last week was National Catholic Schools
Week and Catholic schools in our area celebrated with open
houses and other special events.
My daughter will be
graduating this year from St. Francis Xavier school in
Winooski. This school has been a terrific match for her. Her
experience there has enabled her to focus on scholastic
interests, and discover her personal attributes and faith
without overwhelming peer pressure.
The environment at
St. Francis Xavier is kind, positive, encouraging and
respectful toward every person in the school -- from preschool
students all the way to the administrative team. The school
promotes family and community in combination with their
The dedicated teachers at St. Francis
Xavier give value with praise and respect to each student as
an individual. Students clearly know that their presence in
the school is important and wanted, further building their
sense of belonging to a family that cares about them. All of
this creates an atmosphere where students can relax, be
comfortable with themselves and focus on learning.
students graduate from St. Francis Xavier school they have a
solid beginning to discovering their role as human
I recommend St. Francis Xavier school to any
parent who wishes for their child to have a wholesome
LAURIE ANNE HAMMOND
Colchester Options on death
with a painful terminal illness should have options about how
they will die. I support the Death with Dignity bill that was
recently introduced in the House of Representatives in
Montpelier. This bill would bring compassionate choices to
Vermonters who are suffering at the end of their lives. I
would like to have this choice for myself, my family and my
I have read about the successful experience in
Oregon, where a similar bill has been in place for seven
years. Our Vermont bill would include the same safeguards that
are in the Oregon law, and, as independent research has shown,
the law is working very well there. Death with Dignity choices
have not been abused or misused in Oregon and an added benefit
has been that hospice and comfort care actually improved after
the legislation was passed.
The Vermont bill would
allow a terminally ill, mentally competent adult to request
and receive medication to have a calm death at a time and in a
way they choose. It's such a shame that patients who are
suffering so much as they die are currently forced to make
these decisions in secret without help from their doctors. The
bill gives important oversight to the process and protects
both patients and doctors. It will make it legal for a doctor
to comply with a patient's plea for relief from terrible pain.
Just knowing this option is available canbring great peace of
mind to people facing the end of their lives.
I am one
of the large majority of Vermonters supporting this
legislation (78 percent in the poll done by Zogby
International). The Death with Dignity bill would give care
and support to patients in extreme pain and I hope the bill
LUCY GLUCK Burlington
Creating a diversion
Thanks to the
writer of "Adjust the system" (Free Press, Jan. 31) for his
well-thought-out letter on the Social Security privatization
issue. Indeed the system is not broken and our president is
lying to us to promote his radical agenda. The proposal to
increase the limit on taxable income will clearly work. Folks
making over $90,000 will be paying more, but they will have
the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing a good thing.
The Social Security System provides a bare subsistence income
to those of us who are too old or infirm to work. This was a
good idea when the system was started some 70 years ago and it
is still a good idea.
Why is the president spending so
much time on this issue right now? It could be that he would
like to divert our attention from the miserable war in Iraq
which he started by mistake. I'm sure a lot of folks would
gladly chip in a few extra bucks if he would like to retire
FRED SHELL Georgia
I'm a little sick and tired of Killington trying
to leave Vermont. Do these people realize the big picture? If
they become part of New Hampshire who will plow their roads?
If there is a major fire or crime are they comfortable waiting
until New Hampshire State Police arrive? And it will be a long
ride for their children to go to a secondary
Let's get real; if they don't like the state
education funding then move to New Hampshire, we aren't
holding them against their will. This is an insult to fellow
Vermonters that are proud of their heritage.
for a few employers stating that an increased minimum wage
will force them to trim workers, writers have been generally
supportive so that "the lowest paid Vermonters do not fall
further behind." ("Increase wage," Free Press, Feb. 1) I
suspect these supporters do not see the whole
If you are not low income, or otherwise know
firsthand how low-wage workers survive, I ask that you do
research before disturbing an economic ecology with unforeseen
and undesirable consequences. Adjustments in other areas may
need to be made as well, especially in state health care
programs. I am an example of being considerably less well off
after my cost of living adjustment (COLA).
anecdotes of people losing health care coverage due to
increased wages. During the last election season, the Free
Press reported a working mother in Randolph had her state
health insurance terminated due to getting a raise.
Personally, my Social Security COLA of $36 is actually netting
me less monthly income than last year because my state health
plan changed to one where I pay considerably more out of
pocket. Therefore, I ask those people who advocate for a
higher minimum wage to also research the potential negative
effects of increasing the minimum wage.
How many people
were recently terminated from a state health care program by
the extra $43 monthly made by a full-time worker? Were other
programs that supported the worker terminated or scaled back,
like food stamps, fuel assistance, Lifeline telephone credit,
and subsidized rent, so that there was little or no net
increase in income seen, and possibly even a loss?
CHRISTINA COLOMBE Winooski
Keep an open
As the Free Press recently reported, two
detailed alternatives to the proposed Williston segment of the
Circ Highway have been released. These alternatives were
prepared by two highly respected Vermont transportation
planners, one the former Transportation Planning Director for
the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, the other
Vice President of a Norwich-based transportation planning
firm. The two alternatives deal with traffic congestion on
Route 2A in Essex and Williston much more effectively than the
proposed Circ Highway, and a cost of between ten and thirty
million dollars less.
One of the alternatives -- called
the "Circ Street" -- would also convert the proposed Circ
Highway right-of-way into an attractive through street with
bicycle and pedestrian facilities; provide direct access from
the IBM and Chittenden County Solid Waste facilities to
Interstate 89; and set a framework for compact neighborhood
development in portions of Williston.
I urge all
Chittenden County residents and elected officials concerned
about traffic and transportation, including Circ supporters,
to take a look at these alternatives with an open mind. The
alternatives report, as well as a summary of the key findings
in the report, can be found on the Web at: http://www.vtsprawl.org/
WAYNE SENVILLE Burlington The writer is editor
of the Planning Commissioners Journal, a national publication
dealing with planning and land-use based in Burlington.
Waste of effort
We must keep listening
in order to determine if it was a waste of effort to elect all
those Democrats to the Vermont Legislature.
the minimum wage -- now less than $15,000 per year. The
prospect of adding a cost of living feature is encouraging.
That is even supported by our Republican governor. However,
Senate Democrats have already given up on any significant
increase in the minimum wage.
There is no evidence that
the Democrats are willing to struggle with the Republican
administration's bureaucracy. Agency of Human Services bosses
refuse to facilitate education and job skill training for many
single mothers. That will continue poverty into the next
generation. Such policy will contribute customers for AHS's
"Corrections" Dept. Per capita increase in imprisonment by
Vermont leads the nation.
Will the Legislature allow
the closing of several offices of the Department of Employment
and Training? Republican Sen. Vince Illuzzi has the budgetary
solution. Eliminate several of the bureaucrats at their big
One thing is encouraging. There is
more public pressure on the Legislature to enact universal
GEOFFREY G. COBDEN Weybridge
Keep waterfront open
Let us keep our
waterfront free so all the public can enjoy it for years to
come. I would suggest the Moran plant be removed and the land
remain open. I see no reason for the rush.
The YMCA I'm
sure can find alternative sites or perhaps build a satellite
facility. We cannot let that prime 2.7 acres be given away for
ANN HATHAWAY Burlington
of the Union
A picture is worth a thousand words,
and the image from the State of the Union address of the
fallen Marine's mother being embraced by the liberated Iraqi
woman is one that will stand the test of time. That one image
answers two years of questions asking why, and for what cause
are we fighting a war so far away? Is one man's life worth the
price of freedom for another? For Miss al-Souhail, the
gratitude for the sacrifices of our brave fighting men and
women was evident in her tears and the proud display of her
Amidst the sorrow of their losses,
the family of Byron Norwood and the families of all our fallen
must now, more than ever, understand the duty their sons and
daughters felt to spread liberty to the oppressed. That
feeling, woven deep in their moral fiber, that they must do
something to give others the freedoms we so much enjoy in
America. The pride of these families, I hope in time, will
help to ease the pain they now feel.
It is in the
swollen hearts of proud and courageous pa- triots like Byron
Norwood that the future of this country will stand. And I
believe, for every man and woman we have lost to the eternal
in this fight against evil, there are tenfold living out their
lives below, gracious beyond words, that someone believed in
liberty enough to sacrifice their own life, so that they could
live theirs in freedom.
JAROD BUSHEY Monkton
Encourage wind power
Our ski industry
in Vermont is responsible for $1.4 billion in annual spending.
Family recreation including cross-country skiing and
snowmobiling are also invaluable to the quality of life we
enjoy during Vermont's winter months.
enjoy all of the above activities and realize that they are
all in jeopardy. Global warming could in the next century
eliminate cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, which rely on
natural snow while crippling our commercial ski industry.
Vermont is a small state but we must do everything we can to
address this threat and hope that other states follow our
Locally generated, clean, and cheap energy is
part of the solution and we must invest in it now. Wind could
provide 15 percent of our state's energy needs through
responsible siting on a fraction of our ridgelines. For the
long-term health of our environment we should support and
encourage more wind energy in Vermont.
Montpelier The writer works for Vermont Public
Interest Research Group on renewable energy issues.