Forum, Aug. 1: Vermont Officials Must Answer for EB-5 Debacle

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Officials Must Answer For EB-5 Debacle

Your editorial of July 21 (“Vermont’s Role in EB-5: Full Inquiry Needed to Restore Trust”) raises important points of responsibility, culpability and perhaps wider fraud and political corruption than just Ariel Quiros and William Stenger. You call for a full inquiry into state government’s role in the debacle and note the heavy promotion by powerful elected officials.

I believe Vermont’s former Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders must answer for their role as EB-5 drumbeaters. Witness the April 15, 2016 Wall Street Journal piece “SEC Alleges ‘Ponzi-Like’ Fraud at Ski Resort Praised by Sanders, Other Politicians.” The accompanying photograph shows Stenger speaking, with Shumlin by his side, and Leahy, Quiros and Sanders as part of the panel at a September 2012 news conference. The day before, President Barack Obama signed a three-year extension of the visa program that Leahy helped usher through. In his remarks at the news conference, Leahy said, “Perhaps the most important reasons I support this program are standing right here in this room,” as he identified by name three executive of the Jay Peak Resort.

Sanders gave his imprimatur with “What you are seeing here is a marriage and partnership between private business and federal, state and local government.”

Picture what may have been going through the minds of the potential investors: “Wow, this program has all the big guns backing it. What could possibly go wrong?” Where do I sign? Oh, and Quiros is on record as having donated $30,000 to the Vermont Democratic Committee since 2012.

State Auditor Doug Hoffer has a lot on his plate, including an estimated 1 million pages of documents related to EB-5. We hope he doesn’t get stonewalled in his investigation.

David Barrell


Local Retail Scene Is Strong in Woodstock

Dan Mackie’s recent Close-Up section column (“When All Shopping Was Local,” July 14) was subtitled “Our Bygone Retail Stores Seem Like Another World.” Well, that other world still exists in the Upper Valley, in Woodstock.

Every shop in Woodstock is locally owned and operated. Most have been in business here a very long time, many with the same owners, and all are going strong. Gillingham’s, the Woodstock Pharmacy, The Yankee Bookshop, Whippletree, N.T. Ferro, Footprints, Woodstock Sports, Woodstock Home and Hardware, Fox Gallery and Clover Gift Shop have all been in business for 40 years or longer. Additionally, there are many other retail businesses that have been thriving in Woodstock for 10 years and more. We at Unicorn are celebrating our 40th birthday this year.

In an age of online buying there remains a need, as well as room for, well-run, creative and locally owned businesses. The experience of shopping locally holds far more satisfaction — and fun — than pressing computer buttons, and it supports our communities in many ways at the same time. For a “nostalgic ” shopping experience that is alive and well today, visit beautiful Woodstock and shop locally.

Jeffrey Kahn


The writer is the owner of the Unicorn gift shop in Woodstock.

Candidate Stern Loses This Voter’s Support

Is it illegal for this person to be on the ballot, or is it just immoral? Republican gubernatorial candidate Keith Stern, proprietor of Stern’s Quality Produce in White River Junction, stated in the Valley News that he will refuse to release his federal income tax return, “despite a requirement that state candidates in Vermont do so,” and he would “tell state police not to enforce the background check requirements and other new rules” in a trio of gun control laws signed by Gov. Phil Scott in April.

As an independent voter, I find myself running away from the Republican Party and its candidates because of their refusal to respect the law and to honor humanity.

As Stern will not support our laws, I will not (after 18 years) support the Stern produce store. My support goes to those who respect the law, support the police in their responsibilities and protect the citizens.

Honey Donegan


Grants Can Help Stop School Violence

The Valley News editorial “Preventing Tragedies: Schools Should Form ‘Threat Teams’” (July 21) promotes a team approach by teachers, coaches, guidance counselors and mental health and law enforcement professionals to receive warnings and respond effectively with students who show signs of using violence. A threat team would be ready to help students with issues that trouble them, before they turn to violence.

Grants have recently become available to states, school districts and schools through the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act (or STOP School Violence Act). Please encourage your school superintendent and Govs. Phil Scott and Chris Sununu to apply for a Stop School Violence Act grant. Time is short.

Research by the Sandy Hook Promise organization indicates that 4 of 5 school shooters tell someone about their plans. Their programs have already successfully interrupted many cases of school violence. Everyone needs to listen and help prevent loss of life to gun violence in our schools.

Kathleen K. Shepherd


The Threat Is Serious

Not only can it happen here, it is happening here.

The political challenge we face as citizens of the United States is unprecedented in the history of this country. We must take seriously the threat of fascism that is now flagrant in the White House.

We urge everybody who shares our concern to vote for change.

Willa Nohl


The writer is a founding member of Women for a Change.