Protest Encampment At Burlington's Battery Park Packs Up
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about coronavirus, the debate for Vermont's sole U.S. House seat and more for Thursday, October 1.
Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 20 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.
The latest coronavirus data:
1. Encampment at Burlington's Battery Park comes to a close
Racial justice protesters in Burlington's Battery Park took down most of their tents on Wednesday night, after more than 30 days of camping out at the space.
The encampment had served as the base for daily marches and protests calling for three city police officers involved in use-of-force cases to be fired. One has since resigned.
The protesters made a statement on Instagram Thursday evening regarding their goals moving forward.
On Thursday morning, about 25 tents remained, along with scattered kitchen items, blankets and a microwave. Demonstrators came and went, taking tents throughout the morning.
Henry Trehub of Burlington joined the encampment for about 20 nights, and was packing up his tent - plus two he'd lent to others - on Thursday morning.
"If I'd been in any other large city, I would have joined up there. I mean, this is a cause that I've felt strongly about for basically my entire life, since I was able to understand what was going on with it, and it's the right thing to do, in my opinion,” he said.
Burlington has an ordinance against camping at parks, but did not ticket protesters during their stay.
When asked if their approach had changed, the Burlington Mayor's office told VPR Thursday that, "There's been no change in the city's enforcement of violations."
- Abagael Giles
2. Dept. of Corrections announces plan to bring inmates back to Vermont
Interim Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker says the state is developing a plan to return all of the Vermonters who are currently in an out of state prison.
Baker spoke to reporters Thursday about the state's one-year contract with CoreCivic which runs a private prison in Mississippi.
He says 211 Vermonters are now at the Mississippi facility, compared to 268 at the beginning of the year. Baker says he wants all of them brought home eventually, but he's not setting a deadline.
“I would hope that it's not going to be multiple years. I would hope that we can accomplish this within the next year and a half, two years,” Baker said.
The one year contract extension will pay CoreCivic almost $6 million dollars.
Baker said Vermont has 80 extra beds to house the prisoners in-state, but the space has to be kept open in case inmates need to be quarantined due to COVID-19.
- John Dillon
3. New federal program will pay farmers to reduce phosphorous pollution
A new $7 million federal grant program will pay farmers who can demonstrate they've cut phosphorus pollution from their fields.
Phosphorus from cow manure and agriculture run-off fuels the algae blooms that often foul parts of Lake Champlain.
The new program is based on a pay-for-performance model as opposed to a regulatory approach.
Brian Kemp is a beef farmer and president of the Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition.
“We all know that phosphorus is our biggest challenge from the ag sector right now, on this side of the state at least. If farmers can adopt more practices, or you know [with] the practices that they're doing now, if we can show these practices are reducing phosphorus run-off and get rewarded for it, it's a great concept,” Kemp said.
Kemp added that the program could be the first step to reimbursing farmers for the ecosystem services they provide, such as preserving open space or sequestering carbon.
- John Dillon
4. All 440,000 Vermont ballots will be in the mail by end of week
Vermont’s mail-in ballots are making their way to voters — but the process is taking longer for some towns.
The ballots are printed, bundled and mailed in batches.
The speed with which they arrive in the mail depends on the postal service.
Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters told Vermont Edition, as of Wednesday, three batches have gone out so far.
“That’s over two-thirds of the total numbers of ballots that we’ll be sending out and are mailing to all active and registered voters … so from Berlin to Bennington and beyond, the list goes on, as of yesterday, there’s about 141 voting districts… [for which ballots] have been placed in the mail stream,” Winters said.
Winters said all 440,000 Vermont ballots for the November election will be in the mail by the end of the week.
- Matthew Smith
5. Vermont Department of Health announces three new cases
The Vermont Department of Health on Thursday announced it had confirmed three new cases of COVID-19. One person is currently hospitalized with the virus in Vermont. So far, 1,755 people have tested positive.
The new cases are in Bennington and Windsor counties.
The state reports it has tested 163,844 people for the new coronavirus, and 41 people are currently being monitored as close contacts of confirmed cases.
- Abagael Giles
6. Vermont ranks high for census responses
For months Vermont was tagged for its low participation rate in the 2020 census.
But according to the most recent data, we are now near the top among states.
The earlier reports looked at how many households had voluntarily filled out their census forms.
Jason Broughton is chairman of the census Complete Count Committee. He said the high number of second homes here made it look like people were not taking part in the census. Broughton says by double-checking information, census officials were able to eliminate people whose primary residence is out of state.
“There is a step when you are participating in the census that really helps any state to clarify where the owner wants to have themselves represented. And this was done through a lot of town clerks and different types of people,” Broughton said.
A strong media campaign helped as well, Broughton said.
Vermont’s self-response rate now matches 2010, even with a pandemic-shortened counting period.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.