Tag Archives: vermont

Study: Racial disparities found in police traffic stops

A study of statewide police traffic stops in Vermont, the second-whitest state in the country, has found racial disparities in how police treat drivers.

Black drivers were four times more likely than whites to be searched after traffic stops, and Hispanic drivers were nearly three times more likely, according to the University of Vermont study, Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont. At the same time, black and Hispanic drivers were less likely than white and Asian drivers to be found with contraband that leads to an arrest or citation, according to the report, which was based on 2015 data.

Black and Hispanic drivers also were more likely than white drivers to get traffic tickets versus warnings, and black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested after stops, the study said.

“Almost all of the agencies in our study exhibit disparities in traffic policing to one degree or another,” said study co-author Stephanie Seguino, a professor in the university’s Department of Economics. “In other words, the results are not uniquely attributable to one or two agencies, but it’s really a widespread problem in terms of policing.”

One of the reasons some police officers use to explain the higher rate of searches of black drivers versus white drivers is concerns about the opioid crisis and drugs coming in from out of state, and there’s a racial component to those perceptions, Seguino said. But the study found white and Asian drivers were more likely than black or Hispanic drivers stopped to be found with contraband.

Vermont, which has a population of about 625,000, was 94.8 percent white the year the policing study was done, according to U.S. Census figures. Only Maine, at 94.9 percent, was whiter. Blacks made up 1.3 percent of the Vermont population, Hispanics 1.8 percent and Asians 1.6 percent.

The study looked at traffic stop data from 29 departments across Vermont, following a 2014 state law that required police to collect such race information. But many agencies had missing data in key categories, said co-author Nancy Brooks, of Cornell University, who said more work is needed to improve the data quality.

Police treatment of drivers varied among departments, the study found.

In Rutland, for example, police searched black drivers at a rate of more than six times that of white drivers while white drivers searched were found with contraband at a higher rate than black drivers.

Rutland police Chief Brian Kilcullen, who has been on the job since November 2015, said he was somewhat surprised by the findings.

“You start with awareness, and that’s what this does,” he said of the report, adding that the police department has done training sessions.

Burlington police Chief Brandon del Pozo said his department is seeing an improvement in the rate at which searches lead to contraband, called the hit rate, meaning police are doing fewer unnecessary searches.

To reduce the racial disparities, the report’s authors recommend creating a standardized system for collecting data, giving officers feedback on their performance during stops, supporting police departments in giving frequent training sessions on bias and monitoring disparities annually.

Write an essay, win a newspaper in Vermont

The owner and publisher of a Vermont weekly newspaper is extending an essay contest to find a new owner for it after failing to get enough entries.

Ross Connelly had hoped to get at least 700 essays from which to pick a winner to own the Hardwick Gazette but said that he had received fewer than 100 since the contest started June 11.

The entry fee is $175. Contestants are expected to write up to 400 words about their skills and vision for owning a rural weekly newspaper in Vermont.

Connelly announced in the newspaper that he was extending the contest by 40 days.

“Besides garnering a number of excellent essays, the contest to this point makes a strong case there are people in this country and elsewhere who recognize the importance of a community newspaper, and have the skills and drive to be successful running one,” he wrote.

The deadline to enter is Sept. 20.

The winner would assume ownership of the newspaper and its historic building, equipment, website and proprietary materials needed to operate the business. The newspaper is printed offsite at a press not owned by it.

Connelly and his late wife, Susan Jarzyn, bought the newspaper in 1986 after moving to Vermont from Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. She died in 2011, and he has said he would like to retire.

He had been unsuccessful selling the newspaper so he came up with the essay contest.

If he doesn’t receive at least 700 entries, he’ll refund the entry fees. He also has the option to extend the contest another 20 days.

Bernie’s book: Sanders has publishing deal

Sen. Bernie Sanders is preparing to take his message to the printed page. Thomas Dunne Books said it will publish Sanders’ “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.”

The book is scheduled to come out Nov. 15, a week after election day. It will include both his policy ideas for the future and reflections on his surprisingly strong run in the primaries.

The 74-year-old Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, attracted millions of voters with his blunt rhetoric and progressive agenda of raising taxes on the rich, overhauling campaign financing and providing universal health care and free college education.

“Bernie Sanders quickly became the leader of the progressive movement within the Democratic Party,” Dunne said in a statement. “Garnering over 13 million votes, winning 23 primaries and caucuses, and receiving more than 7 million individual donations to his cause, he energized the party as he fought for the average American with unrelenting energy and passion. (The book) will be an inside account of this extraordinary campaign, and will also provide a blueprint for future political action. Its message: the fight has just begun.”

Financial details were not disclosed.

Books on presidential campaigns are an established publishing genre, but it’s unusual for a candidate to reach a deal so soon after the race and to have the book come out soon after the election.

In a statement to the AP, Thomas Dunne said a Sanders book was first suggested to him earlier this year by the Washington-based agent Ronald Goldfarb, with whom the senator has mutual friends.

Sanders was initially too busy to consider the project, but decided “a book about his philosophy and ideas coming out after the election was a good idea.”

The publisher said he and Sanders reached an agreement a few weeks ago.

“Throughout the year, both Bernie and his wife, Jane, kept records and notes. Sanders is using these as the basis for much of the text,” Dunne said, adding that Sanders will write the book himself.

“He will write about his early life as well as the campaign and the issues he cares so passionately about. Moreover, the final section, presently called ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ will outline a program of progressive activism for the coming years, a cause he is passionately committed to. “

The book could well offer a critical take on Clinton, as Sanders often challenged her on her ties to Wall Street and questioned her willingness to take on wealthy special interests.

It’s not uncommon for copies of a book to leak a week or more before the release date, raising the possibility that any negative comments on Clinton could be seen before Election Day.

Sanders is co-author of a previous book, “Outsider in the White House.”

State GMO label law effective July 1, tougher than U.S. plan

Vermonters reacted with mixed emotions to the prospects that a U.S. Senate compromise on labeling GMO foods could impact a state law due to take effect this week.

The law, effective July 1, would make Vermont the first state to require the majority of U.S. food products containing genetically engineered ingredients to bear labels that say “produced with genetic engineering.”

Industry groups have sued to block Vermont’s law, but have been unsuccessful so far. And some food companies have announced plans to begin shipping products with labels compliant with the law.

But in Congress, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, and Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the panel’s top Democrat, announced a deal that would require similar labeling nationwide but allow food companies to use text, a symbol or an electronic label accessed by smartphone. No significant action is expected on the proposal before the Vermont law goes into effect.

In the state, residents had opposing reactions.

A bar code-style label not readable by the naked eye drew the ire of some.

At the Tulsi Tea Room, a vegetarian restaurant specializing in locally produced, organic food, manager Fiona Sullivan said needing a smartphone to read food labels “sounds very classist. You’d have to own a smartphone, for one thing, and you’d need to be educated to a certain degree.”

“It’s another example of big money blocking change that needs to take place,” she said.

But Brenda Steady, who stopped in at the Middle Road Market in Minton for a turkey grinder for lunch, said she was not worried about whether any of its ingredients was made with genetic engineering.

“I think it’s horrible,” Steady, a Democrat, said of the law passed by a Legislature and signed by a governor of her party in 2014. “It’s another way to micromanage small business. If people want to know what is in their products, they can go on Google and check them out.”

Meanwhile, Campbell’s Soup and General Mills announced months ago they would begin shipping products with labels compliant with Vermont’s law. Spokesmen for both companies said Friday they support the federal labeling proposal.

“We need consistency across the country. And without this national solution, we risked having a system of 50 different regulations impacting our packages,” General Mills’ Mike Siemienas said.

Tom Hushen of Campbell’s said the company has “already printed and shipped to comply with Vermont’s law”

“We will continue to comply with Vermont’s law until Congress and the president enact legislation that preempts and replaces it,” Hushen said. “With or without new federal legislation, the Vermont label will continue to appear on shelves across most of the country and well into the future.”

Vermont to target ‘willful violations’ of GMO law

Vermont’s attorney general says his office will enforce the state GMO labeling law by targeting “willful violations” by manufacturers.

“What we’re really going to go after is folks who are willfully noncompliant, who are just not putting labels on their products at all or otherwise trying to skirt the labeling law,” said Todd Daloz, an assistant attorney general.

Because some shelf-stable food will be produced and distributed before July 1, the state is allowing for a six-month period for those products to move through the system. The attorney general’s office says it won’t take enforcement action for those products during that time, unless there’s evidence that a manufacturer distributed a mislabeled product after July 1.

“Those long shelf stable products are not our concern. Our concern is going to be manufacturers who are choosing not to label or are not labeling for whatever reason,” Daloz said.

The law requires manufacturers to label packaged foods produced with genetic engineering and stores must post a label on or near unpackaged genetically engineered foods such as produce and bulk food.

The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, which can include food made from seeds that were engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, are safe, but labeling advocates say not enough research has been done and people have a right to know what’s in their food. Advocates also say the use of GMOs has led to big increases in herbicide use.

Maine and Connecticut also have passed laws that require such labeling if other nearby states put one into effect.

Some foods are exempt from Vermont’s labeling law like meat, honey, plain milk or eggs _ foods entirely derived from an animal that don’t have added ingredients and regardless of whether the animal has been fed or injected with food or drugs produced with genetic engineering. Also exempt are foods that require USDA approval of their labels such as those containing meat or poultry like a frozen dinner or can of SpaghettiOs. Alcohol is also exempt.

Violators face civil fines of up to $1,000 per day, per product, and not based on the number of individual packages of the product. Retailers who are out of compliance would get a 30-day warning to correct the problem before facing fines.

The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, which has called for a national solution rather than what it says is a patchwork of confusing and costly state labeling laws, says Vermont’s law is arbitrary and confusing. It says it’s concerned about lawsuits from private citizens and organizations against food companies and says a recent memo from Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell does not make clear how he will know a “willful” violation without bringing an action.

In recent weeks, food companies Kellogg, Mars, ConAgra, and General Mills have joined Campbell Soup Co. in saying they will print new national labels in preparation for Vermont’s law but oppose state-by-state labeling requirements.

The Vermont attorney general’s office has received a lot of inquiries from manufacturers about compliance issues, said Daloz.

“And it’s heartening to see major manufacturers … choosing to put what from our view is a very simple factual disclosure on the label and with what appears to be not a tremendous amount of burden on them to put those four words on the label,” he said.

Feel the Bern: Dozens get free Bernie Sanders tattoo

Fans of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are wearing their support for him on their sleeves — and on their rib cages, calves, necks and backs.

Several dozen people have flocked to Aartistic Tattoo in Montpelier, Vermont, to get a free tattoo of the senator, complete with his unkempt hair and thick-rimmed glasses.

The Burlington Free Press reports that the promotion began a week ago. Tattoo artist Chad Fay says it will run as long as Sanders does.

Tattoo artist Jessica Andrew tells the newspaper she inked Sanders’ image on eight people in two days. Fay says he’s done at least 15 tattoos of Sanders in the past week.

Bernie Sanders takes aim at ‘greedy’ Koch brothers

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is making the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch the face of a “corrupted” political and economic system that the Vermont senator wants to upend.

Sanders delighted a South Carolina rally of more than 3,000 people Saturday with his assertions that the Kochs and other “greedy” billionaires are destroying American democracy by infusing huge sums of cash into campaigns and election.

The Vermont senator, who is pushing former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from the left, called for publicly financed elections that would allow “anyone” to seek public office without “begging from billionaires.”

And he pledged that his nominees to the Supreme Court would have to promise themselves that they would try to overturn the Citizens United decision that allows corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited sums in campaigns.

“We live in a nation in which a handful of very, very wealthy people have extraordinary power over our economy and our political life and the media,” Sanders told the boisterous crowd at a convention center near Charleston.

“They are very, very powerful and many of them are extremely greedy,” he continued. “For the life of me, I will never understand how a family like the Koch brothers, worth $85 billion, apparently think that’s not enough money.”

Sanders’ remarks came on the same day that Americans for Prosperity, a conservative activists organization backed heavily by the Kochs, heard from several Republican White House hopefuls.

Sanders typically does not mention Clinton or any Republican candidates by name, but relishes telling his audiences that he stands out for refusing any support from Super PACs, the political committees that can accept the unlimited sums as long as they don’t coordinate directly with candidates’ principal campaign committees.

He says he has more than 400,000 individual contributors who have chipped in an average of $31.20. “This is a people’s campaign,” he said in North Charleston.

The rally Saturday night concluded a two-day swing in South Carolina, which hosts the South’s first primary, weeks after Iowa and New Hampshire start the nominating contest.

South Carolina is the first of the early voting states to feature a large number of African-American voters. Sanders and his aides have acknowledged that he must increase his support among African-Americans, here and nationally, if he hopes to turn his surprising momentum into a serious challenge against Clinton.

In each of his South Carolina stops, Sanders attempted to link his progressive agenda to concerns and challenges prevalent in the black community. He called for restoring sections of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court overturned and pledged to fight “institutional racism,” with a particular focus on the criminal justice system.

He called special attention to the June massacre during which a white gunman killed nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, and he mentioned the killing of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man who was shot and killed this spring by a white police officer in North Charleston. That officer has since been fired and charged with murder.

Sanders officially launches his presidential bid in Vermont, and to Clinton’s left

Challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton from the left, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders kicked off his presidential bid on May 26 with a pitch to liberals to join him in a “political revolution” to transform the nation’s economy and politics.

Sanders, who entered the Democratic race in late April, formally opened his White House campaign in Burlington, Vermont, where he was first elected mayor by defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent by 10 votes. Three decades later, Sanders is the underdog again, vowing to campaign on an agenda to elevate issues like income inequality, campaign finance and climate change.

“With your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally,” Sanders declared to about 5,000 supporters along the shore of Lake Champlain.

“Now is not the time for thinking small,” he said. “Now is not the time for the same old-same old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas.”

A self-described “democratic socialist,” the 73-year-old Sanders has a following among liberals that could push Clinton to the left. In a lengthy address, the white-haired senator said there is “something profoundly wrong” when so much of the nation’s income goes to the top 1 percent of all earners.

“This grotesque level of inequality is immoral,” he said. “It is bad economics. It is unsustainable.”

His campaign kickoff in Waterfront Park, built on industrial land reclaimed during Sanders’ stint as mayor, offered a quintessential Vermont backdrop: a sun-splashed Lake Champlain, where boaters took in the scene from sailboats and motorboats.

The senator was praised by a lineup of supporters, including the founders of Vermont’s popular ice cream company, Ben & Jerry’s, and environmental activist Bill McKibben, who predicted the campaign might someday lead to a mountaintop named “Mount Sanders.”

Liberals, some who are wary of Clinton, have unsuccessfully sought to draw Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the race. But in Warren’s absence, Sanders hopes to fill the void as he proposes ways to rein in Wall Street banks, tackle mounting college debt and create a government-financed jobs program.

Clinton is in a commanding position by any measure, far in front of both Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is expected to get into the race this weekend. The Democratic field could also grow to include former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

But it remains to be seen if liberals will coalesce around a challenger to the former secretary of state or if that slice of the anti-Clinton electorate will splinter among several candidates.

Sanders, an independent in the Senate who often votes with the Democrats, has raised more than $4 million since announcing his campaign in late April and suggested in an interview with The Associated Press last week that raising $50 million for the primaries was a possibility.

In his address, Sanders made clear he would seek to be on the forefront of liberal causes. He described the economic system as “rigged” against middle-class families and vowed to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations and to oppose trade deals that would ship jobs overseas. To counter big money in politics, he said he would push for the public financing of elections.

To build upon President Barack Obama’s health care law, Sanders supports a single-payer health care system. Instead of cutting Social Security, he said, the nation should expand Social Security benefits. To address climate change, he said, Congress should pass a carbon tax to help transition off fossil fuels.

Sanders has introduced legislation to make tuition free at public colleges and universities, a major piece of Warren’s agenda. Clinton’s campaign has signaled that she intends to make debt-free college a major piece of her campaign, too.

Richard Robinson, a Burlington retiree who attended the rally, said it was important for Sanders to be in the race, “just to get the power in the party to listen to him — particularly Hillary.”

Sanders proposing tuition-free 4-year colleges

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on May 19 will introduce legislation to provide tuition-free higher education for students at four-year colleges and universities.

Sanders, who is an independent but is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, said in a news release, “We live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world. That will not happen if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and if millions more leave school deeply in debt.”

Sanders’ legislation would eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities and would expand work-study programs.

The bill also would lower student debt and bring down interest rates on college loans.

The senator and 2016 presidential candidate planned to hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in the “Senate Swamp” at about 11:30 a.m. EST.

Sanders said, “Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people.  They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth.  We should be doing the same.”

He continued, “We used to lead the world in the percentage of our people who graduated college. Today we are in 12th place. We used to have great universities tuition free. Today they are unaffordable. I want a more educated work force. I want everybody to be able to get a higher education regardless of their income.”

Race is on, as Sanders raises $1.5 million during the 24 hours after announcing his campaign

The presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is off to a strong start, raising $1.5 million in the 24 hours after he announced his plan on April 30 to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

That’s a hefty haul for the self-described democratic socialist. It exceeds donations received by Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio during the first 24 hours after they announced runs for the Republican nomination.

Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that 35,000 people contributed an average of $43 via his website — BernieSanders.com. In addition, more than 100,000 people offered to volunteer for his campaign.

In characteristic Sanders fashion, the opening page on his website states, “Paid for by Bernie 2016. (Not the Billionaires).”

Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democratic. He’s by far the most liberal candidate to announce a 2016 campaign for the White House. Although largely dismissed as a fringe-left leader, Sanders’ first-day take suggests that it’s possible for him to raise the $50 million he’d need to stage a credible presidential campaign.

But that’s small potatoes compared to the $1 billion that Clinton plans to raise.

Sanders’ candidacy was long expected, with political insiders accurately predicting he’d wait for to announce, which she did earlier in April.

While others have shown an interest in seeking the Democratic nomination, Sanders’ announcement creates a contest. And his candidacy was cheered by leaders of many national and grassroots progressive organizations.

“With Sen. Sanders entering the Democratic primary, Americans can be sure that this election will include a robust and healthy discussion of fundamentally important challenges like tackling the climate crisis, getting big corporate money out of politics and investing to grow our clean energy economy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “On behalf of the Sierra Club’s 2.4 million members and supporters, we welcome Senator Sanders to the 2016 race and look forward to the debate on these issues in the months to come.”

Ryan Greenwood of the National People’s Action Campaign, a network of 30 grassroots groups in 17 states, said Sanders’ “candidacy will shift the presidential debate toward meaningful measures to address growing economic and racial inequality, a democracy under attack, and a planet in peril. By running on a bold populist agenda, Sen. Sanders will not only help force candidates like Hillary Clinton to take sides, he will also create space for candidates running for office at every level to put people and the planet before corporate profits.”

The 73-year-old Sanders, a native of Brooklyn, New York, served four terms as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and has lived in the state since the mid-1960s. In college, he had been involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and joined the March on Washington. He then joined the influx of counterculture, back-to-the-land migrants to Vermont and held various jobs, including carpenter and filmmaker. He was elected mayor in 1981 and to Congress in 1990. Throughout his career, has focused on the shrinking middle class and growing wealth gaps in the United States.

Party leaders welcomed Sanders’ announcement.

Clinton tweeted, “I agree with Bernie. Focus must be on helping America’s middle class. GOP would hold them back. I welcome him to the race.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee chair, tweeted, “Sanders has clearly demonstrated his commitment to the values we all share as members of the Democratic Party.”


U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor in December 2010 and thundered for more than eight hours about a tax-cut package and Congress’ failure to provide enough money, in his view, for education and social programs.

With his trademark sarcasm, he mocked the rich, yelling: “How can I get by on one house? I need five houses, 10 houses! I need three jet planes to take me all over the world!”

The speech was so popular it crashed the Senate video server. It was later printed in a small book.