Environmental Justice Advisory Council, school masking controversy, Global Foundries signals economic troubles

Vermont has begun filling open seats on its new Environmental Justice Advisory Council, an 11-member panel created by Act 154 that will make “justice” recommendations to state agencies and the General Assembly. Also a masking controversy continues in Newark.

Gayle Pezzo, a resident of Colchester, has been selected to be the representative for mobile home park residents. According to a news release, Mezzo is a board member and president of her resident-owned mobile home park community of about 600 people. She also worked in Long Island, New York, as a clinical director in an intensive care outpatient substance abuse treatment facility.

Another new appointment to the council is Britaney Watson, of North Springfield. Watson has has an extensive background with activism in Vermont, including environmental justice chairperson for the Rutland NAACP branch, as well as serving on the Renews BIPOC Council and the BIPOC Advisory Council for Let’s Grow Kids.

“Britaney has spent the last year as an Environmental Justice Community Engagement and Network Coordinator for the Center for Whole Communities and Rights and Democracy where she engaged communities across Vermont and lead the establishment of the first Vermont State Environmental Justice Network.”

Mask mandate opponent confronts Kingdom East Supervisory District

While the vast majority of Vermont schools have dropped their mask mandates, not every school has.

Mask mandate opponent Amy Hornblas, the founder of VermontMaskSurvey.com — a website with masking research and Vermont survey data on mask use —  has urged the Kingdom East Supervisory District to drop its mandate, so that masking can end at the Newark School.

Dr. Jennifer Botzojorns, the district superintendent, responded to Hornblas’ inquiries by saying she has no standing to protest the masking of school kids because she is not a local resident and has no children in the schools.

“I make the Kingdom East operational decisions regarding the topics you discuss. You do not live in our District, nor do your children attend our schools,” Botzojorns wrote in an email to Hornblas.

She continued: “I have asked our Board to not hear any more public comment (written or spoken) from you; you are not included in their governance oversight.”

Since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, mask-wearing has largely fallen out of use as governmental entities have dropped mandates. Also, studies have shown that wearing masks may cause health problems by inhibiting breathing of clean air.

A variety of data and statements from health experts and even the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control reveals that masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID. VermontMaskSurvey.com lists extensive research on the benefits and drawbacks of masking.

The Kingdom East Supervisory District encompasses the communities of Burke, Concord, Lyndon, Lunenburg, Newark, Sheffield, Sutton, and Wheelock.

Global Foundries gives bad news for workers and the electronics industry

News that Global Foundries has laid off 148 workers is discouraging both for those local families involved as well as trends for the overall economy.

“GlobalFoundries cut 148 jobs last week, mostly in non-manufacturing positions, in response to a slowing economy and reduced global demand for semiconductor chips, according to a spokesperson,” reports MSM.com.

Global Foundries CEO Tom Caulfiel said last year that changes in lifestyles — namely being at home more — abruptly changed market demands for high-power microchips.

“The semi industry going into Covid was projecting a 5% annual growth rate for five years. We’re projecting that to almost double now,” Caulfield said. “It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a structural shift, that the pervasive need for semiconductors is accelerating.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR