News Roundup: Data Show Growing Racial Disparities In Burlington Police Use-Of-Force Incidents
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about Burlington use-of-force data showing racial disparities, loon conservation and more for Monday, June 28.
As Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended and coronavirus restrictions lifted statewide, we will no longer be reporting daily case numbers at the top of this newsletter. Click here for the latest on new cases, and findthe latest vaccination data online any time.
1. Data shows racial disparities have grown in Burlington Police's use-of-force incidents
Racial disparities in police use-of-force incidents grew wider in Burlington last year, according to recently released city data.
The gap increased despite overall use-of-force incidents decreasing by 55% since 2012.
Police in Vermont's largest city used force against 160 people in 2020: 31% were Black, a rate much higher than that racial group’s share of the city population.
Only 5.7% of people in Burlington are Black.
Data from the police department also showed racial disparities in other areas. Black individuals were arrested at a rate of 90 per 1,000 residents, compared to white people, whose rate was 24 per 1,000.
Black drivers were also stopped at a rate higher than their share of the driving population, and were more likely than white drivers to get a ticket during a traffic stop.
- Liam Elder-Connors
State police investigate anti-BLM vandalism in Jericho
The Vermont State Police says it is investigating an incident of anti-Black Lives Matter vandalism.
Police are looking for a suspect who painted a strike through the letters BLM on a home and car in Jericho.
The incident was reported to the state attorney general's office for consideration as a hate crime.
Police say the incident occurred in a high-traffic area and there are no known witnesses or suspects.
Anyone with information is encouraged to reach out to the Vermont State Police barracks in Williston.
- Brittany Patterson
2. Montreal decreases pandemic restrictions to lowest level
Montreal switched to its lowest level of pandemic restrictions Monday as COVID-19 cases continue to fall throughout Quebec.
The city is increasing the size of gatherings, including backyard parties, weddings and festivals.
- Mark Davis
State officials report four new COVID cases
State health officials reported four new COVID-19 infections Monday, after just seven cases reported over the weekend.
Six people are currently hospitalized due to the virus, including two in intensive care.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, to date, 81.4% of eligible Vermonters have gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
- Matthew Smith
3. Drought conditions continue to worsen in Northeast
Despite some rainfall over the last week in northern Maine, Vermont and New York, drought conditions continue to worsen across the Northeast.
The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows a pocket of severe drought has developed in central Maine.
Moderate drought conditions expanded in other areas of Maine, and in neighboring New Hampshire, where moderate drought covers the northern half of the state, and some utilities are enacting mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering.
Moderate drought conditions are persisting in Vermont, stretching from the Northeast Kingdom south through much of Orange and Windsor counties.
The rest of Vermont, save for a small corner of the southwest, continues to face abnormally dry conditions.
- Matthew Smith
4. Settlement over oil spill's fatal impact on loons to help fund conservation in Vermont
Eighteen years ago, an oil spill off Massachusetts killed hundreds of loons. Now, the birds are getting their due.
A settlement will provide millions of dollars to loon conservation efforts across New England.
Some of that funding will go to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies to improve nesting habitat, community outreach, and rescued birds in distress.
Loon biologist Eric Hanson says conservation efforts rely on a network of volunteers.
“That network really is what’s allowing us to keep tabs and understand what the issues are, whether it’s predation, whether it’s flooding, whether it’s human activity,” Hanson said.
Vermont has well over 100 pairs of nesting loons today. That’s up from under a dozen a few decades ago.
- Lexi Krupp
Fish & Wildlife Department asks boaters, anglers to enjoy loons from safe distance
The Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife is asking boaters and anglers to enjoy loons from a safe distance this summer.
Most areas where loons are nesting on Vermont’s lakes are surrounded by signs reminding people to give loons the space they need, but not all are marked.
State wildlife biologist Doug Morin asks those looking for loons to use binoculars rather than approach the birds in a boat, canoe or kayak.
Motorboaters can help by also obeying "no wake" laws within 200 feet of shorelines, because boat wakes can flood and destroy shoreline loon nests.
Loons were removed from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005, but human disturbance during the breeding season and ingestion of fishing gear still threaten the species.
- Associated Press
5. Green Mountain Club launches fundraising effort to make upgrades to Long Trail
The Green Mountain Club is launching a $4 million capital campaign to fund upgrades to the Long Trail.
The campaign comes as Vermont has seen an increase in usage of the Long Trail and other outdoor recreational spaces.
The nonprofit club hopes to build a headquarters for year-round use and help to permanently protect a portion of the 272-mile Long Trail in Johnson and Waterville.
The club says use of overnight shelters on the Long Trail has recently increased by 80%.
- Mark Davis
6. VTrans receives $1 million to purchase four more electric buses
The Vermont Agency of Transportation has received a $1 million grant to purchase four electric buses.
The buses will be used in the Tri-Valley Transit region, which serves Addison, Orange and northern Windsor counties. The grant also includes charging equipment and facilities upgrades.
That will bring the number of electric buses in Vermont's public transportation fleet to 18.
- Mark Davis
VTrans warns people to stay away from train tracks with service resuming
The Vermont Agency of Transportation is warning about an increase in the number of people trespassing on railroad tracks since Amtrak passenger rail service was suspended last year.
Amtrak services are due to resume in Vermont July 19, now that the pandemic has eased. And agency officials are warning people to be careful around railroad tracks.
Every year many people are killed or injured at highway-rail crossings and at other locations along railroad tracks across the country.
It can take a train up to a mile to stop.
Transportation officials want to remind the public trains on Vermont's tracks don't run on set schedules and they can appear on tracks at any time.
- Associated Press
7. Leahy says filibuster allows elected officials to escape accountability
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's disappointed that Senate Republicans used the filibuster last week to block consideration of a voting rights bill.
While most budgetary issues require a simple majority to pass in the Senate, other bills must receive the support of 60 senators to be taken up for a vote.
All 50 GOP members voted against the motion to bring the bill — which proposed sweeping changes to elections and voting law — up for immediate consideration.
Leahy says the use of filibuster allows senators to avoid being accountable on critical issues.
"The point being vote up or down,the filibuster and the way they're using it, it allows people to avoid tough issues,” Leahy said. “That's wrong. You've got a six-year-term here: Vote up or down."
Leahy says the Democrats should strongly consider doing away with the filibuster on certain types of legislation.
- Bob Kinzel
8. Rising material costs pose challenge for Vt. homebuilding industry
Vermont's home construction and remodeling industry is facing some serious challenges this summer because of the skyrocketing cost of many materials.
Pent-up demand for projects has led to many contractors being booked for months in advance.
Jim Bradley is a past president of the Vermont Homebuilders & Remodelers Association.
He says the problems have also been exacerbated by an increase in the cost of many building supplies.
In some cases, he says prices have jumped as much as 400%, and there's no telling when the products will be delivered.
"Instead of just getting the materials on an as-needed basis, we had to look and forecast way into the future,” Bradley said. “Where kitchens used to be 3-4 weeks out, some of them are 17 weeks out now."
Bradley says he expects the cost of many building materials will remain high for the rest of the construction season.
- Bob Kinzel
This post was compiled and edited by Elodie Reed.
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