Is voting important? You bet; published in “Our Citizen Duty to Vote” Anthology

Is voting important? You bet; published in “Our Citizen Duty to Vote” Anthology

Get It While the Gettin’s Good 

by Annalisa Parent
Author and Writing Coach 
www.DateWithTheMuse.com

If you’ve ever followed the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems on twitter, which pokes tongue­-in­-cheek fun at how good first-world folks have it, you’ll understand what I’m about to say. In a country where we face such inconveniences as waiting a full five minutes for someone else to make our hamburger or having to drive all the way across town to buy the cell phone we want, it can be easy to see voting as an inconvenience­­: the long lines, the standing, the research it takes to know who’s who…

And yet, as the old saying goes, when you take things for granted, the things you are granted get taken. The rights we have were not given freely; they were hard­-won. Perhaps because many of us did not fight those battles personally, because time or distance separate us from those who did or do, we overlook the privilege and rights we have, thinking them irrevocable.

Well, think again. Democracy disappears when the people who are its foundation cease to invest. A government of the people need, by definition, people to maintain it and support it.

According to Al Jazeera­ America, only 42 percent of Americans voted in the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest level of voter turnout since 1978. 58% of Americans thought voting was unimportant, took their rights for granted, and let someone else make their decisions for them.

Power is a delicate thing. It is easily seized and hard to hold onto. Every time a person decides not to vote, he or she relinquishes power to someone else. Is that person trustworthy? Does that person have interests in maintaining democracy, or in seizing power for him or herself­­–because every time you don’t vote, that becomes a real possibility.
Democracy requires participation and investment. It’s not an inconvenience or a chore; it’s an honor and a privilege. Just ask anyone living under a totalitarian regime­­ what would they give for the burden of having to choose amongst a pool of candidates who best represents their values?
Ask those who fight for our nation every day, or think back to the Civil War, when President Lincoln so famously honored those who had fought with the express purpose:

That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Do not let this cause be in vain. Do your simple part of getting out of your chair, and dragging yourself to the polls. We cease to be a democracy when we cease to participate in the decisions that shape our lives.
______
This article was originally published in the anthology “Our Citizen Duty to Vote.”  See the rest of the anthology here. 
Feature Writer: Singles Warehouse London

Feature Writer: Singles Warehouse London

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How to Get Over a Breakup: It’s Cliché Because it Works

By 
how to get over a breakup
I love clichés. Can’t get enough enough of ‘em. Not because I am unoriginal and can’t come up with my own words to say– well, at least I hope that’s not the case– but for the truth that lies within them.how to get over a breakup  As a writer, I find the truth in worn-out phrases coming up time and time again as a theme in my fiction. There’s a reason, my subconscious seems to be telling me, that in times of crisis– the time when we wish we could reach for some meaningful expression to convey our deepest angst or sympathy or heartbreak– the only thing we can come up with to say is the likes of “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Ouch. Smack to the forehead. Why, cruel world, why?

Well, I’m a go with the flow kind of gal, so if all these clichés flood my mind, for better or or worse, I’m just going to take it and run. (Surely, there must be a prize for fitting the most clichés into one sentence?)

What does all of this have to do with breakups?

Well, for one: laughter is good for healing the heart and while I may not have made you laugh out loud, I hope I’ve tickled your funny bone ever-so-slightly. Secondly, I believe it is for the very truth contained in these tired platitudes that they become, well, worn out, like a child’s favorite blankie: raggedy and cherished at the same time. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite clichés on breakups and the advice they hold for healing your heart.

How to Get Over a Breakup; It’s Cliché Because it Works

1) A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Reconnect with a sibling, a long-lost cousin, or an old friend. A broken heart can be warmed by thelove of those dearest to us. Just having lunch together or sitting quietly on a park bench can bring companionship that leads to healing.

2) Work on yourself.

While going through my most recent breakup, the last thing I had emotional energy for was a new class– meeting new people, trying new skills.
However, in retrospect, the hours I spent learning to swing dance were invaluable to my healing. They got me out of my pity party, even though sometimes only outwardly. Years later, I am still in contact with some of my fellow students whose kindness in a dark time meant so much. Plus, I danced out of that studio with a new set of skills that, when I was ready, helped to bring the right kind of people into my life.

3) Everything happens for a reason.

Trust that life comes together the way it’s supposed to. It’s easy to become bitter or wish you could turn back time to change the breakup. Believe me, I’ve been there too. But for every wish that things had turned out differently, once time passed and my heart healed a bit, I could see that ultimately that broken relationship wasn’t the right match for me.

4) When it’s the right time, it’ll happen.

I hated hearing this one while healing. Nevertheless, like 99.9% of clichés, it’s also true. It is possible, when the time is right, to meet a partner who is well-suited to you. So don’t fret about finding love again or that you’ll never meet someone as (sexy/ intelligent/ funny/fill-in-the-blank) as your ex. It will happen. Just give yourself time– which may just be the most cliché, and apt, of them all.

Annalisa Parent

About Annalisa Parent

Annalisa Parent is a writer who has been through online dating hell, and has lived to write about it– again and again. Her dating blog was recently featured on Huffington Post Live.

 This article originally appeared in London’s Singles Warehouse.

South Burlington, Vermont: City Hall Improvements Benefit from $15,000 Grant

South Burlington, Vermont: City Hall Improvements Benefit from $15,000 Grant

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South Burlington, Vermont: City Hall Improvements Benefit from $15,000 Grant

South Burlington Vermont City Hall Improvements The Other Paper Journalist Writer

The City of South Burlington recently received a $15,000 grant from the Secretary of State’s office to improve voting access at City Hall for individuals with disabilities.

City Clerk Donna Kinville was instrumental in “identifying the funding source and preparing and submitting the grant application, with City Council approval,” according to City Council Chair Sandra Dooley.

The money will go toward installing a new front door for City Hall that meets the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements, including a fully-actuated button to open the doors automatically.  Installation cost of such a door is $31,000.

However, as Director of Public Works, Justin Rabidoux, pointed out in a memo to the City Council, “During the project’s conceptual design, two additional improvements were identified that would increase the functionality of City Hall.”  Rabidoux named sigange and the removal of the black mold growth on the outside of City Hall as priorities.  These additional items bring the total project bill to $48,300, however the grant money defrays approximately one-third of the cost, leaving a remainder of $33,300 for the City to cover.

According to Councilor Dooley, the City Council authorized $35,000 to cover the anticipated cost of the work. This money comes from a “$36,000 savings from lower-than-anticipated debt-service payments,” Dooley said.

Construction on the project does not yet have a “firm schedule in terms of a contractor signed to begin work,” Rabidoux told The Other Paper, “however our goal remains to get the work completed this calendar year.”

Councilor Dooley stresses, though, that the approval of additional funds is not an official endorsement on the City Council’s part for continued use of the building located at 575 Dorset Street.  “This decision,” said Dooley, “should not be seen as a decision on the Council’s part regarding long range plans for the location of City Hall.  That is a subject requiring community-wide participation and input before any decision is made.”

Nevertheless, Dooley is pleased with the grant and the resulting projects which she says “will play a large part in making City Hall more accessible to all City residents and taxpayers.” Indicating the sandbags that currently line the foundation level of the building along the walls, she said that she “expects that folks visiting City Hall have not been pleased to see them,” but points out that they are “regrettably” necessary.

“We want City Hall to be a pleasant place for visitors as well as everyone who works there.  I see these improvements as essential to achieving this standard,” Dooley said.

SOURCE: Annalisa C. Parent, Correspondent

South Burlington, VT: Mme. Sorrell Says “Au Revoir” After 40 years in South Burlington

South Burlington, VT: Mme. Sorrell Says “Au Revoir” After 40 years in South Burlington

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South Burlington, VT: Mme. Sorrell Says “Au Revoir” After 40 years in South Burlington

Sorrell Retirement South Burlington High School SBHS Vermont writer journalist

Curriculum Area Supervisory and Language Teacher Ann Sorrell will retire at the end of this school year after forty years of teaching in South Burlington.  Sorrell, a Quebec native, began teaching in 1971 and has taught French, as well as serving as a curriculum area supervisor.

Notable to many South Burlington students, past and present, is the work Sorrell has done to provide meaningful cultural experiences for her students. She has coordinated trips abroad since 1972 when she took her first class trip to Colon, France.  In fact, Pat Phillips, the current Assistant Principal, was one of the first to go, Sorrell said.

Over the years this exchange program grew, as Sorrell created a relationship with a high school in Perigeux, France.  This rural regional school has a feel closer to SBHS, Sorrell explained.  “From there, we just developed our own program, allowing students to grow linguistically and open their eyes to what’s available to them.”

The program did expand significantly under Sorrell’s guidance, and now includes exchanges to France, Germany, Spain, and Japan.  SB Students spend three weeks in their host country, living with a family and experiencing native culture.  Students in France and Spain also speak the language as part of the exchange, however experiences in Japan and Germany are open to the student body as a whole.

“I love my classes, but the exchanges are enriching,” Sorrell told The Other Paper in a recent interview. “Getting them to see other cultures, and be sensitized: this occurs when the exchanges are happening.”

Sorrell says that not only do students benefit from a cultural and linguistic awareness, but that close relationships are formed through these experiences.  “People are in tears when they leave.” Sorrell said.  “They form very close relationships; they’ve affected one another.”

Students also benefit from new relationships within the school community. “American students form friendships with people they may not have known before,” Sorrel said.

Language learning and cultural exchanges are important to Sorrell, but she says her ultimate purpose has been “to help students to realize how important it is to think about things.  They really need to look at all sides of questions.  There may be more than one way of looking at things.”  She pointed to language as a good way to hone these skills, as “in learning a language you clarify your own thoughts.  You have to clarify your own thoughts in order to communicate them.”
Though Sorrell had difficulty making the decision to leave her position, she says she feels now it was the best one. She is moving across country to spend time with her husband and children, and hopes to possibly lead cultural classes and excursions for adults.

In reflecting on her long meaningful career, Sorrell said “I could not have done it without my family,” she said.  “We all grew together,” she laughs recounting many a time when up to eight people were staying in her home as part of an exchange.

She also points to a supportive administration as key to the success of the exchange program.

Theresa Mazza-Anthony, who currently teaches at the middle school, will fill Sorrell’s position on the fall.  “She is totally convinced of the importance of exchanges,” Sorrell said.

SOURCE: Annalisa Parent, Correspondent

The Other Paper, South Burlington, VT: SBIRP City Retirement and ICMA Retirement Program

The Other Paper, South Burlington, VT: SBIRP City Retirement and ICMA Retirement Program

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The Other Paper, South Burlington, VT: SBIRP City Retirement and ICMA Retirement Program

South Burlington Vermont Retirement Plan Hafter Journalism Writer

SBRIP City Retirement Plan and ICMA Retirement Program

What is it?  
Hafter was enrolled in two benefit plans: one through the City (SBRIP—South Burlington Retirement Income Plan) and one through the International City/County Management Association-Retirement Corporation (ICMA).  A city employee can be enrolled in more than one plan. Hafter’s pension plans were fully funded by the City.

What was decided?
Councilor Roseanne Greco put a motion on the table to affirm participation in both plans and to waive and relinquish all rights to any money contributed to the plans. The motion was unanimously approved for both plans.

Long Term Care Plan

What is it?
A long-term care policy was purchased for Hafter and his spouse in 2004, for which the City has paid all premiums to date.  Hafter is the owner of the policy to which the city’s contribution has been approximately $60,000 thus far. No official city minutes show that this policy was approved, according to the Council’s Findings.

What was decided?
City Councilor Meaghan Emery put forward a motion to request that premium payments be returned to the City within a reasonable time period, or the City is authorized to take legal action. The motion was approved with affirmative votes from all councilors, except for Rosanne Greco.

Sharing of Increase in Home Value

What is it?
Hafter’s “promissory note involved a $40,000 interest free loan to purchase a home. That loan represented 32.65%  of the Hafters’ home’s original value.  The Promissory note stipulates that Hafter would repay the loan under terms that would be defined by the City Council, and that he would be responsible to the City for 32.65% of the increase in value on the home. Hafter has repaid the loan, a portion of which had been forgiven by the City.  The payment to the city for the home’s increase in value is currently unpaid.

What was decided?
The City Council unanimously approved a motion put forward by Councilor Greco which would ask Hafter to “share in the growth of the homestead in accordance with the promissory note.”

———————
At a special session Monday, September 26, the City Council made decisions regarding former City Manager Chuck Hafter’s retirement benefits.    The Council had delayed making a decision at its September 6th and September 12th meetings as it continued its fact finding mission.  At Monday’s meeting, there was still much missing information.

The meeting commenced with Chair Sandy Dooley and Vice Chair Meaghan Emery reading aloud from a document entitled Matter of Charles E. Hafter Claim for Benefits / Proposed Findings and Discussion by City Council, which detailed facts, assertions and discussions. References to missing information were made throughout the document. “We are being asked to decide a claim for benefits that is based upon undocumented actions asserted to have occurred up to 20 years ago,” Dooley read.  (Go to www.otherpapervt.com to read the entire document.)

The City Council has spent a great deal of time on this issue.  According to the Findings, time was spent undertaking “action to try to verify information that was not in the public record.” In lieu of official documents to record decisions made by previous Councils, the current City Council interviewed former Councilors as well as former city employees to try to piece together missing information.

Lack of information seems to be the one thing anyone can agree on in this debacle.  According to a statement regarding Chuck Hafter’s benefits issued by Betty Moore-Hafter on August 24, 2011, “Mr. Hafter and his attorney have asked the City for the documents that would substantiate the date of the City’s first contributions to Mr. Hafter’s Plan account, but that information has not been provided despite repeated requests.”

At Monday’s meeting, Councilors invited public comment on Hafter’s eligibility for retirement and long term care benefits, as well as his obligation to share in the increase of his home’s value.  South Burlington citizens expressed their concerns to the Council about the missing information, referencing the proposed findings and discussion documents.  “It concerns me that this matter is relying on information that is missing. It’s bothersome that you’re finding what you are, and making it look like it’s fact, when they’re aren’t too many facts,” resident Gary Farrell said.

So, what’s missing and what’s been found?  As the Council discussed each benefit separately, it referred to Council’s 12-page Proposed Findings and Discussion document, as well as Hafter’s 2003 and 2007 contracts that had been made available to attendees.  The contracts were brief—a total of three pages—and contained no mention of the pension plan arrangement, long-term care plan, or waiver of the Home Equity Sharing, under contention. The Council’s findings also make reference to the Promissory Note that indicates Hafter’s obligation to pay back to the City a portion of the home’s increased value. No meeting notes regarding decisions or changes in Hafter’s otherwise-documented plan have been located.

Former City Councilor Chris Smith had addressed the Council regarding the missing notes. “I understand your dilemma, but you have three councilors who’ve come to say they remember what happened.  You’ve already spent $20,000-$30,000 on lawyer’s fees. Aren’t you opening yourself up to a lawsuit?”  Knapp addressed these concerns citing the Vermont Open Meeting Law.  “Unless evidence was taken in an open meeting , and we did not find evidence sufficient to convince us that this decision was taken in an open meeting, it does not meet the requirement of the Open Meeting Law.” The Law requires that binding action be taken in open session and recorded in the minutes.

Despite lack of documentation in prior meeting minutes, the Council moved forward unanimously approving the SB Retirement Income Plan (SBRIP) as well as the International City/County Management Association–Retirement Corporation program (ICMA) and waiving and relinquishing all rights to any money contributed to the plans.

Regarding the long-term care plan, City Councilor Meaghan Emery put forward a motion to request that City-paid premiums (approximately $60k) be returned to the City within a reasonable time period. The motion passed with four affirmative votes and Councilor Greco voting ‘no.’

The final decision was regarding the increase in value of Hafter’s house and the city’s portion of that value.  The City Council unanimously approved a motion put forward by Councilor Greco asking Hafter to “share in the growth of the homestead in accordance with the promissory note,” at 32.65% appreciation.

Once the Council had made its decisions, Smith addressed the Council. “I understand your position.  Looking back at this, if we hadn’t treated this as a litigious matter from the beginning—if we’d started this with conversations with Chuck and the former City Councils—we might not have been as divisive as this. I don’t think we needed to go down this path.”

“We will do things differently,” Councilor Roseanne Greco replied. “We will do things in public and by Vermont Law, and we’re going to record everything we do.”

All of the city documents are available online at www.sburl.com, City Manager Sandy Miller said. Additionally, they can be read at the clerk’s office or copied for a nominal fee.

SOURCE: Annalisa Parent

South Burlington, Vermont: Fire Fighters to Become Certified Paramedics

South Burlington, Vermont: Fire Fighters to Become Certified Paramedics

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South Burlington, Vermont: Fire Fighters to Become Certified Paramedics

South Burlington Vermont Fire Department Fighters EMT Writer

Seven South Burlington fire fighters have nearly completed a year-long paramedic training.  Fire fighters Will Moran, Nick Perkov, Brad Dattilio, John Christman, John Goodrich, Will Boyea, and Justin Bliss are scheduled to graduate in early December from a program that Fire Chief Douglas Brent described as “never available in Chittenden County before.”

Previously, fire fighters would travel as far as Conway, NH; Albany, NY; and South Portland, ME for training.  “We risk losing people to out-of-state when we send them away for training like that,” Brent said.  So, instead, the seasoned fire chief took action and wrote the $635,000 FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant for the program, which he received in 2009, “the largest fire grant in Vermont that year,” he said.  The grant covers wages, tuition and equipment, and because Chief Brent organizes the administration of the grant, it comes at no cost to the City of South Burlington.

All seven of the EMTs participating in the training program are level 2 EMTs who have served South Burlington for several years. Fire Fighters from Essex and Colchester are also participating in the program.  “Making it a regional grant put us higher on the priority list,” Brent said.

Fire fighters are training to attain the EMT level 3-paramedic  certification. To achieve paramedic certification, candidates must pass a three-part test: a practical, a written and an oral.  “I don’t want to sound like a proud father,” Brent said. “But I was told that the current class average is 89 percent,” he beamed, “the South Burlington average is 99 percent.”

“We’re healthily competitive,” South Burlington fire fighter Nick Perkov admitted with a smile.  “The seven of us work really hard at training and studying together.”

The seven students have trained with medical staff at UVM, including Dr. Wibberling whom Perkov described as “extraordinary to work with; he has a tremendous amount of knowledge.”
According to Perkov, the service improvement to South Burlington includes the fact that “a paramedic is able to administer more procedures and medications, and has more advanced knowledge of what a patient may have.”  For example, unlike EMT level 2’s who can only administer 8 standard medications, paramedics can assess symptoms and appropriately administer a total of 28 cardiac, respiratory, and pain medications.

Additionally, paramedics are able to administer initial care that otherwise might have to wait until a patient’s arrival at the hospital.  “We’re trying to bring definitive treatment to the patient,” Perkov said.  He pointed out an expression in the medical field “Time is Tissue” saying that a paramedic can get to work on many issues right away, avoiding many serious conditions. “Once there’s tissue death, it doesn’t come back,” he said.

The mean time in South Burlington for response to a 911 call is 4 minutes.    “Providing definitive care in less than 4 minutes—that’s huge,” Perkov said.

For example, as Perkov points out, “A seizure patient can’t protect their own seizure. Before [as level 2 EMTs] there was nothing we could do.  Now we can give them meds to break the seizure. This also alleviates some of the burden on the hospital.”

The response to emergencies will remain the same.  A fire truck and ambulance will be dispatched to every medical emergency with 2 paramedics on the ambulance and 3 additional EMTs on the fire engine.  “It’s a team approach,” Perkov said.  “It’s not just one paramedic treating the patient. We show up with all three [EMT] levels.  It’s not anything different; it’s just more for the patient.”

“It’s always helpful to have extra hands to lift and help with the patient,” Chief Brent said.  “And if a patient is very sick, we might need more than one person to help the patient.”

Another benefit of having a paramedic on board the ambulance is that the patient receives similar care to what he or she would receive upon arrival in the emergency room, “we don’t have to drive as fast anymore,” Brent said.

“We can take our time [getting to the hospital],” Perkov added, “we don’t need lights and siren.  There’s so much we can do right there in the ambulance.”

Chief Brent anticipates that the new paramedic program will be “fully on line by January first.” This is the Chief’s fourth grant since he began his service for South Burlington. He has written and received other grants for the department for gear, the “jaws of life,” and several rescue vehicles, among other items, totaling $3.4 million.

SOURCE: Annalisa Parent, Correspondent

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