Informational Material: Cannabis Regulated Market

As a coalition of local organizations and businesses working to increase racial and economic equity, criminal justice reform and repair, and agricultural access in the coming regulated cannabis market in Vermont – we’ve developed these informational materials to help you understand the timeline for this process, the entities involved and their responsibilities and accountability, as well as how you can get involved to ensure that this is a fair, equitable, and accessible regulatory system and market.

ACT 164 INFO SHEET

The rollout of Act 164 leading up to the 2021 legislative session and eventual rulemaking.

  • ON OR BEFORE NOV. 1:  Appointments to the Cannabis Control Board Nominating Committee shall be made.
  • ON OR BEFORE NOV. 4:  The Governor shall send the names of candidates for the Cannabis Control Board to the Nominating Committee.
  • ON OR BEFORE DEC. 18:  The Committee shall send the names of well-qualified candidates to the Governor. 
  • ON OR BEFORE JAN. 8:  The Governor shall appoint members to the Cannabis Control Board.
  • ON OR BEFORE JAN. 15:  The Senate shall take up the issue of the confirmation of the Governor’s appointments to the Board. 
  • ON OR BEFORE JAN. 19:  Board members shall begin their terms.
  • ON OR BEFORE APRIL 1:  The Cannabis Control Board shall propose sweeping recommendations to the General Assembly
  • ON OR BEFORE MAY 1:  Members of the CCB Advisory Committee shall be appointed.
  • ON OR BEFORE JUNE 1:  The Cannabis Control Board shall initiate rulemaking.

What do these Committees and Boards do?

  • The Cannabis Control Board Nominating Committee is created for the purpose of “assessing the qualifications of applicants for appointment to the Cannabis Control Board.”  The Committee consists of 7 members: 3 appointed by the Executive Branch, 2 appointed by the House, and 2 appointed by the Senate, with members serving 2-year terms. The members elect their own chair, have full access to legislative services, and hold public meetings with a quorum of 4 members.  The Committee will submit their final 3 candidates back to the Governor on or before December 18 for his selection. 
  • The Cannabis Control Board is created within the Executive Branch for the purpose of “safely, equitably, and effectively implementing and administering the laws enabling access to adult-use cannabis in Vermont.” Duties include rulemaking, administration of licenses, administration of the Medical Cannabis Registry, administration of Medical Cannabis dispensaries, and submission of an annual budget to the Governor. The Board consists of 3 members – 1 chair and 2 members – appointed by the Governor to serve 3-year terms. It will also include 1 Executive Director, and 1 Administrative Assistant. None of its members – or their family members – may have a conflict of interest in the industry being regulated.
  • The Advisory Committee is created within the Cannabis Control Board, has no stated purpose, duties, or authority, and the members have no defined terms.  It consists of 12 members:
  • one member with expertise in public health appointed by the Governor, 
  • the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets or designee, 
  • one member with expertise in laboratory science or toxicology appointed by the Governor, 
  • one member with expertise in systemic social justice and equity issues appointed by the Speaker of the House, 
  • one member with an expertise in women and minority-owned business ownership appointed by the Speaker of the House, 
  • one member with an expertise in substance misuse prevention appointed by the Senate Committee on Committees, 
  • one member with an expertise in the cannabis industry appointed by the Senate Committee on Committees, 
  • one member with an expertise in business management or regulatory compliance appointed by the Treasurer, 
  • one member with an expertise in municipal issues appointed by the Treasurer, 
  • one member with an expertise in public safety appointed by the Attorney General, 
  • one member with an expertise in criminal justice reform appointed by the Attorney General, and 
  • the Secretary of Natural Resources or designee. 

What can you do to affect racial, economic, and agricultural equity and justice in Act 164?

  • Do you want to serve on the CCB Nominating Committee?
  • Do you want to serve on the CCB?
  • Do you want to testify to the legislature about amending the legislation or the CCB as part of the rule-making process?

If so – let us know!

Sign up to participate here.

Letter to Gov and Policy Makers: Cannabis Control Board

Dear Governor’s Office and members of the House and Senate,

Please extend the appointment process for the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Nominating Committee for two to three additional weeks.  The following concerns are provided to support this request:

  1. Policy implementation timelines are unrealistic, given the significant, long-term implications for Vermont’s regulated cannabis marketplace;
  2. Insufficient public engagement and notification of the CCB Nominating Committee appointment process;
  3. Stakeholder organizations have not had sufficient time to interpret, translate and communicate policy to constituents;
  4. Constituents are largely unaware of policy framework and have had little opportunity to participate in the process; and 
  5. Constituents and stakeholder organizations’ focus and attention are consumed in an unprecedented election cycle.

We believe that this extension will increase transparency and expand opportunities for citizens to meaningfully engage with the implementation of Act 164 (2020), the Act Relating to the Regulation of Cannabis.   We are also confident that this extension, along with the input of impacted communities, will help to ensure that the outcome of the nominating and appointment processes will be more reflective of racial and economic equity, and agricultural access and inclusion

Throughout the last number of months – and for some of us, over the past few years – we have worked to influence Act 164 to ensure just, inclusive, equitable policy. Throughout this process, many policymakers and lobbyists insisted that they were in support of the improvements our different organizations proposed – however, they preferred to support the current legislation without our amendments, and suggested that once the bill was passed, they would work with us in support of our proposals.  This summer, our coalition of racial justice and agricultural organizations decided to openly oppose this bill based on our experiences of lack of inclusion in the process, and our desire for a greater degree of economic and racial equity, criminal justice reform and repair,  the successful transition of current legacy market businesses, and agricultural access in the foundation of this legislation.  In Governor Scott’s signing statement allowing the legislation to become law, he also emphasized the importance of returning to this legislation in order to achieve the outcomes for which we are  advocating..  He specifically cited process and representation concerns, racial equity and repair deficiencies (including citing the Illinois legislation which our coalition partner, the Racial Justice Alliance, proposed), as well as the “inequitable playing field both for our smaller minority and women-owned business applicants, and other small Vermont growers and entrepreneurs.”  He concluded his statement by saying, “the Legislature has much more work to do to ensure equity in this new policy”.  

As we move forward into the coming legislative session, and the nominating processes prior to the session, we hope to find our organizations, the communities we represent, and our advocacy welcomed at the Statehouse.  We hope to find willing partners in the lobbyists and policymakers who spoke of their support for our efforts and willingness to partner with us once the original legislation passed; as well as the Office of the Governor.  This partnership starts now with the appointment process for the CCB Nominating Committee.  Please extend the deadline for appointments to the CCB Nominating Committee to ensure that this process is both transparent and inclusive. 

Our coalition is currently working on proposed legislative language and our platform to amend this legislation and affect the CCB rulemaking process.  We look forward to working with you in the interest of making this legislation more representative of, and equitable for, the people living in Vermont who have been harmed by cannabis criminalization and who hope to participate in this industry going forward.

Thank you for the significant time and energy you have committed to your work representing the people of Vermont in such unprecedented times. Though we are not always in agreement on particular issues we certainly share respect and solidarity in our genuine commitment to our work, and to the people we represent. We are available immediately to discuss these matters to increase transparency and expand opportunities for citizens to meaningfully engage with the implementation of Act 164 (2020).

Sincerely, 

Justice For All
Vermont Racial Justice Alliance
NOFA-VT
Rural Vermont
Trace
Vermont Growers Association

###
About the Coalition: We are a coalition of Vermont organizations and businesses representing the diverse communities across the state – from the local BIPOC, agriculture, and environmental communities, law, and criminal justice, to the hemp and cannabis communities – that have come together to forge an inclusive, just, and equitable cannabis platform for Vermont.

No Reparative and Equitable Approach to Taxation and Regulation of CannabisBill, S.54; Stop It!

Sent to ALL legislators, September 17, 2020

Policy Makers,

Please say NO to the taxation and regulation bill, S.54.  This bill  has been flawed from start to finish and not only ignores the legislature’s responsibility to repair harm and ensure equity but actually is harmful to African Americans of Vermont.  With little or no access to land or capital, black Vermonters are most severely impacted by this policy.  S.54 also harms small growers by giving medical dispensaries sole access to integrated licenses and a jumpstart on market access. The bill does not consider cannabis cultivation agriculture, excluding most land and infrastructure in agricultural easements and current use, and most farmers from having equitable access to this crop and a market that could support their farm income.

  • No research was conducted by the Marijuana Commission on the historical adverse impact of marijuana on African Americans or the impact of systemic racism on the cannabis industry (they did provide reports on Taxation and Regulation, Road Safety and Education).
  • Despite proposals from the racial justice and emerging grower advocates there has been no significant language to address the historical impact, industry systemic racism or disadvantage that small farmers suffer in this market.
  • The Conference Committee has ignored numerous requests to provide adequate reparative and equity language.
  • Symbolic gestures including the passage of a separate expungement bill, mild licensing concessions  and Cannabis Control Board appointments do little to address the true harm or provide equitable opportunity.
  • The fact that the bill calls for the Cannabis Control Board (yet to be created) to provide recommendations to the legislature to address reparative and equity language indicates that they have not done their homework.
  • The final discussions that concluded the Conference Committee were not made available to the public resulting in our discovery of the final agreement by way of out-of-state pro-policy lobbyists.  

S.54 fails to address in any significant way the devastating historical social and economic impact of marijuana on African Americans, the current impact of systemic racism on the cannabis industry or the disadvantages of emerging growers!  In short, black people and small farmers are not made whole and fail to economically benefit from this bill.  Again.  Even now, in what is a national racial reckoning, we’re still doing this?  The passage of this bill exacerbates the economic oppression of black folks who already have a median wealth of 1/13th that of white people.  This is wrong and we all know that it is wrong. 

It is reprehensible that despite a double pandemic that is exacerbating the impact of systemic racism on black and brown bodies that this policy is still being moved forward. It makes no sense that small farmers would also be disadvantaged by big industry.  Please stop placing profit over black and otherwise economically disadvantaged Vermonters and ensure that this policy addresses harm and provides everyone an opportunity to thrive.

Do NOT advance S.54 this year. Engage with disproportionately impacted communities and charge the Marijuana Commission to provide the analysis to enable a data-driven approach in shaping just and equitable tax and regulate legislation. When you know better, do better. Now is the time to do better.

Respectfully,

Mark Hughes, ED
Justice For All

Cannabis Taxation and Regulation – Wrong Policy; Wrong Time

The following is a letter sent on August 20, 2020 to the Vermont Senate Committee on Judiciary from Mark Hughes, Executive Director, Justice for All regarding S.54, an act that would establish a legalized cannabis market in Vermont.

Committee,

Taxation and regulation of cannabis must be founded upon the principles of addressing the harm caused by the war on drugs and offering an equitable opportunity for Black and Brown folks to engage in the market.  This policy misses the first point and does very little for the second. The reason for this is that neither of these principles was considered in the foundation of the policy and very little of what those of us centered in the BIPOC community have offered has been adopted. 

From the onset, this process has been plagued with a blatant disregard for addressing these principles.  The Marijuana Commission, appointed by the Governor, conducted a statewide tour and produced reports on substance abuse prevention, education and public safety to inform this legislative work. Nowhere in this body of work was there ever mentioned a word of the work required to repair the harm or provide real racial equity in the market.

This global pandemic is exacerbating all of the racial disparities acknowledged by the Attorney General and Human Rights Commissions, across all systems of State government. The murder of George Floyd has created a national racial reckoning.  Why is it that the Conference Committee is poised to pass a policy that fails to address the wrongs of the past and does little to provide racial equity for the future for Black and Brown people of Vermont?  By definition, systemic racism is the ill-gotten political and economic gains of white people! 

We ask that you not pass this bill at this time.  We ask that the Marijuana Commission be reconvened and asked to review the role systemic racism has historically played with this “drug” and provide a thorough report in the same manner that reports were provided on substance abuse prevention, education and public safety.  We ask that this policy also be informed by the body of work emerging around the racial equity in the cannabis industry, such as the recommendations we previously provided

Rushing to pass this policy with laser focus on merely its economic benefit to those who hold political and economic power represents an unwillingness to reconcile with prior exploitations and makes you complicit with the continued perpetuation of economic oppression of Black and Brown folks in Vermont.  It’s just wrong.  We join the voices of the many folks represented by Vermont Growers Association, Trace, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Rural Vermont and the ACLU of Vermont, imploring you not to continue the mistakes that we as a State have made in the past, putting profit before people; particularly at a time such as this.

Finally, please follow the lead of Burlington (recently adopting a Reparations Task Force Resolution) and do the work to pass (H.478), which has been in the House since the beginning of the Biennium.  I am including a petition asking you to do the racial equity work on S.54, signed by over 400 people.

#BlackLivesMatter

Sincerely,

Mark Hughes
Executive Director, Justice for All

Justice For All Endorses Debbie Ingram for Vermont Lieutenant Governor

We are excited to announce that Justice for All has endorsed Debbie Ingram for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. During her time in the State Senate, Debbie has distinguished herself as the clear leader on issues of social justice. We are excited about the opportunities that an Ingram Lieutenant Governorship would offer in fighting for racial justice.

Debbie was the lead sponsor on legislation that clarified the prohibition of slavery in the Vermont constitution and permanently changed Columbus Day to Indigenous peoples’ day. Debbie has also led the charge on beginning to collect data to help us continue fighting systemic racism.

Debbie is a compassionate leader and listener who will be able to use the office of Lieutenant Governor to enact real change in Vermont. We are excited about the conversations that Debbie will be able to initiate around the state as Lieutenant Governor and the visionary leadership that she will be able to continue to offer in the State House.

It is a crowded race for Lieutenant Governor this year so getting out to vote is more important than ever! We need to have leaders who will prioritize racial justice. Help make sure we achieve that by voting for Debbie in the Democratic primary on August 11th or by voting early starting on June 27th. For more information on voting early visit the Secretary of State’s website (https://sos.vermont.gov/elections/voters/early-absentee-voting/).

With a crowded field for an election with historically low turnout, you have an opportunity to make a real impact on the outcome! If you’d like to volunteer for Debbie (in a social distancing manner!) please email her campaign manager Bas Phair (basphair@gmail.com).

You can follow along with Debbie by joining her email list on her website (https://ingramvt.com/) and liking her Facebook page for updates (https://www.facebook.com/ingramforvt/).

Thank you,
Mark Hughes

Executive Director, Justice For All
Coordinator, Racial Justice Alliance

We Are in The Middle Of Two Pandemics

We Are in The Middle Of Two Pandemics

The first is the Corona Virus and the second is the 400 year old pandemic of RACISM!

We’re all in!
 
Justice For All was started in direct response to the murder of Michael Brown in 2014.  Hard stop.
 
The senseless murders of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and George Floyd in Minnesota are a continuation of violence directed against black bodies dating back to pre-United States. 
Everything that Justice For All has been doing to date has evolved to our tireless work that we do now in eradicating systemic racism.  What we know about systemic racism is that if it exists anywhere, it exists everywhere.
 
As much as we understand that serious reforms in policing must be immediately undertaken, our concerns and directed work on it has and continues to expand across the entirety of the so-called criminal Justice System.  Our work also addresses systemic racism in employment, housing, education, health services and economic development.  Justice For All, with our policy and outreach arm the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance has been standing on the front line of this struggle for the last five years and we commit to intensify our efforts to bring about transformation of this State at this time where we are needed most.
 
Join by signing our Oversight of Law EnforcementRacial Justice Reform (and Constitutional Amendment) and No Taxation or Regulation Without Reparations cannabis racial equity petitions. Support us on our demands to the Vermont State Legislature and Governor to address the impact of COVID-19 on black and brown Vermonters and our outstanding legislative agenda, all communicated through the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance. Attend our Webinar Educational Series (see Facebook) that equips the community by shining a light on systemic racism and framing our legislative agenda. There are a couple of events below and just announced this morning is the Speak-out on #GeorgeFloyd And The State of The Nation, happening Wednesday evening.  Register Here!

Note:  We’ve pulled in the “Action Corner” from our Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and placed it below to provide some immediate actions that you can take. 
 
Another immediate action that you can take is to financially support the work that we are doing to help us do what we all know must be done – ensure that we recreate this nation to a nation that provides safety, prosperity and Justice For All.
 
#GeorgeFloyd

Mark

 Action Corner

We have submitted a letter to the Governor and legislators calling for a Task Force and directed actions to ensure that people of color in Vermont be provided targeted and immediate support and that increased and specific actions be taken in efforts to dismantle systemic racism. Please contact the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the President Pro Temp, the Speaker of the house and other legislators and ask them to take the actions that we have outlined in the letter.  We can’t go back to the old normal

Call Governor Scott at: 828.3333 or send an email to:  https://governor.vermont.gov/email

Call Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman at: 828.2226 or send an email to: https://ltgov.vermont.gov/ 

Call President Pro Temp Ashe at: 828.3806 or send an email to: tashe@leg.state.vt.us

Call Speaker Johnson at: 828.2245 or send an email to: https://speaker.vermont.gov/content/contact     

Reach out to any of the Legislators.  Find them here:   https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/

H.464, Use of Force Bill  – Civilian oversight of law enforcement and consistency are critical, particularly in the practice of use of force. We have a petition with over 380 signatures calling for civilian oversight of law enforcement. Please send a note to House Government Operations, asking for an up/down vote on H.464.  Here is a group email address for the Committee:  vermont-house-government-operations@googlegroups.com or leave a message for Chairwoman Copeland-Hanzas at 802.828.2228.  

H.284, the Justice System Data – We’ve already proven the effectiveness of proper data collection through our recently released Race Traffic Stop Dashboard. We must have accurate, complete and consistent data if we are to have any reasonable expectation of a government that is fair for all.  Ask the Committee to take additional testimony  Send and email to vermont-house-judiciary@googlegroups.com or leave a message for Chairwoman Grad at 802.828.2228. 

H.478, the Reparations Task Force Bill. The United Nations Human Rights Council, NAACP, ACLU, National Educational Education Association and the Episcopal Dioceses  as well as political figures like Bernie have expressed support for a the Reparations Task Force bill (H.R.40).  H.478 is nearly identical to H.R.40 .  Please ask the Speaker to make this bill a priority.  Send the speaker an email here:  mjohnson@leg.state.vt.us or leave here a message at 802.828.2228.

S.54, the Cannabis taxation and Regulation Bill. The reparative and social equity components of this bill fall incredibly short, compared to the amazing work done by the policy makers of Illinois. Please contact the Conference Committee and urge them to adopt language similar to Illinois’ approach in addressing racial equity in cannabis regulation.  We have a petition with over 260 signatures that says “No Taxation or Regulation without Reparations”. Here is the Conference Committee. COVID-19 has shined a light on racial inequities like never before.  We have proposed language that we’d like to ask them to reconsider.

Rep. John Gannon
Rep. Robert LaClair
Rep. Janet Ancel
Sen. Richard Sears
Sen. Jeanette White
Sen. Joseph Benning

H.926, the bill related to ACT 250 (land use) This is the first time in 50 years that there has been a major review of Vermont’s landmark land use bill.  There was no mention of land access and equity or environmental justice in what was almost a full year study and report.  Fortunately, we intercepted the bill in the house but it was like jumping on a moving train. This will impact people of color in Vermont for years to come.  We need to slow this bill down and ask that careful consideration be given to placing racial equity and environmental justice at the center of any Statewide land use laws.  You can reach out to the Committee Members of Natural Resources and Energy here

Educational Series 

Eradicating Systemic Racism: How’s That Working Out?
As we now see the accentuated impact of Corona Virus on communities of color, we have learned that eradicating systemic racism must ALWAYS be at the top of our agenda. In 2017 the State of Vermont passed a law that required the Attorney General, the Human Rights Commission and interested stakeholders to “develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development.” How’s that working out for us? It’s time to examine our original premise, look at our progress, consider new realities and forge ahead with this vitally important work. Panelists include Bor Yang, Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission, David Scherr, Assistant Attorney General.

“People of Color have waited far too long for the equality we promise in word but not deed. It is time to remedy that wrong” ATTORNEY GENERAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TASK FORCE ON ACT 54- RACIAL DISPARITIES IN STATE SYSTEMS REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_uUF3CmduRVyhwsrhLYXheQ
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Hidden In Plain Sight:  The Truth About Systemic Racism

The Vermont Attorney General And Human Rights Commission Task Force on Act 54 Racial Disparities in State Systems Report in 2017 indicated that “In addition, and likely related to the income disparities, racial disparities have been documented in each of the areas identified in Act 54 (education, labor and employment, housing, healthcare and economic development).” Until we can gain a common understanding of how and why this is happening, there is limited potential for true transformation. Through personal stories and aided with the research of national experts on the matter, Racial Justice Alliance Coordinator, Mark Hughes unpacks systemic racism from several perspectives and discusses solutions.

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_A1l_DSAlSHuPjoViJtbujg
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 
About Justice For All

Our mission is dismantle systemic racism, eliminate poverty and ensure racial equity through advocacy, education, and relationship-building. 

Click Here to Financially Support our Work

Mark Hughes,
Executive Director, Justice For All
Coordinator, Racial Justice Alliance
mark@justiceforallvt.org
t @Mark_A_Hughes
I Mark.A.Hughes
802.532.3030
https://justiceforallvt.org

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African Americans Disproportionately Dying From COVID-19; Race Data Not Completely Public

The numbers are not all in (because once again, nobody thought to collect the data) but it is increasingly clear that African Americans are dying at highly disproportionate rates from COVID-19. These types of reports are coming in from Milwaukee, Michigan, Chicago, and North Carolina. In New Orleans a good number of the deaths are being reported out of Orleans Parish (40% black).

Have we forgotten that before the pandemic that we were already operating in a health system that delivers disparate outcomes to black folks? African Americans are much more likely to suffer from underlying conditions of heart disease, hypertension, asthma high blood pressure and HIV?  With median wealth disparities already at 13:1 (white/black), it shouldn’t be hard to understand why blacks are underinsured, underemployed, more likely to work in service industries (essential workers) and less likely to be able to work form home.

The CDC, which usually reports detailed data on outbreaks is silent on reporting racially, disaggregated data on COVID-19.  Last week four United States Senators and Representatives called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to release race disaggregated data on the COVID-19.  No numbers have been released to date. Yesterday we asked the Vermont Health Department to release racially disaggregated data on COVID-19 No response.

Our elected and appointed officials know the devastating adverse economic impact that centuries of systemic racism has dealt black people in the United States.  Justice For All has never missed an opportunity to educate them and remind them.  We have been doing outreach and education on systemic racism in Vermont for the last five years.  In Vermont, the Attorney General and Human Rights Commission authored a report acknowledging the impacts of systemic racism across all State systems of government in 2017.  The CDC and our Health Departments have made it abundantly clear that the aforementioned underlying conditions likely will lead to fatal outcomes.  Science tells us that the data should be collected.  Wisdom tells us that our national and statewide emergency response to COVID-19 must include a plan to provide increased protection and relief for African Americans.  Common senses should tell us that to do nothing is tantamount an acceleration of modern day genocide.

We must avoid our natural desire to embrace the anecdotal assertion that this is merely a class issue – it is that and more!  We have known that systemic racism has and continues to adversely impact African Americans across all sectors and we now see them dying of COVID-19 at highly disproportionate rates. We call on the Health Commissioner to collect and make public disaggregated COVID-19 data.  We call on the Governor to create an Emergency Task Force to address COVID-19 impact on African Americans in Vermont.  Legislators, look at the data that is emerging nationally in light of the underlying impact of systemic racism in the United States and Vermont.  You must develop policies that include medical, community outreach and education and economic relief approaches that provide immediate enhanced protection to Vermont African Americans and ensure that this work is sustainable in moving forward.

Updates, COVID-19 and More

Our Work Continues
The work that Justice For All has always involved and continues to be dismantling the root causes of systemic racism, the elimination of poverty and addressing the impacts presented to black and brown and poor people on a daily basis.  Systemic racism and poverty are at the heart of the source of COVID-19 and unfortunately these vulnerable demographics are among the chief benefactors of the the most severe impact of the pandemic. Today all of the disparities associated with systemic racism and poverty are being simultaneously exacerbated.

The additional time and attention required for black and brown and poor people to ensure safety, security and basic needs leave little time to acquire vital information or engage community, organizations and far less government.  It stands to reason that from this position of preexisting disadvantage, impacted communities are struggling with employment, housing, education, health services access and the challenges with the justice system at much higher rates with exponentially more severe impact.   It is for this reason that the work that we do is more important than ever.  We are incredibly busy monitoring national, state and local developments on and responses to the pandemic, as well as the impact on constituent communities. 

Access to Government, Civic Duties and Public Meetings

One of the challenges that have been identified is the absence of information on ongoing government emergency operations, information on access to public meetings, and the political process. Being connected to, monitoring and participating in the democratic process are now more important than ever.  Emerging are facilities and protocols that are increasingly enabling community members visibility and in some cases the ability to provide input.  Here are some sources that you can use to stay informed and get engaged.

Vermont Governor’s Executive Orders and Press Releases
https://governor.vermont.gov/document-types/executive-orders
https://governor.vermont.gov/press_releases

Vermont Legislature
https://legislature.vermont.gov/
House – https://www.vpr.org/#stream/5
Senate – https://www.vpr.org/#stream/6

Vermont Judiciary
https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/news/information-regarding-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-and-court-operations

Burlington City Council
https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/CityCouncil

Updates on the Statutes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
 
Here are some resources to provide the latest information, guidance and updates on the COVD-19 pandemic.
 
Latest CDC Guidance
https://bit.ly/39cXsWV
 
Latest Vermont Department of Health Guidance
https://bit.ly/3bhO9Gv
 
Burlington COVID-19 Update Page
https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/covid-19
 
Worldometer – A team of developers, researchers, and volunteers with the goal of making world statistics available around the world.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
 
NY Times Updates
https://nyti.ms/2ww1Kv7
 
Vermont Digger Updates
https://bit.ly/2U9R0LV

What is the Government Doing?

The Vermont State legislature has been working on a series of actions that will address updating unemployment insurance, establishing emergency medical protocols, authorizing remote open meetings, providing temporary elections procedures and extending vehicle registration deadlines.  All of these and the Senate Committees remote voting authorization were passed by the Senate this morning. The House will convene tomorrow to take up this emergency package. You can find more on the ongoing work of the legislature at the site above.  The United States legislature has passed legislation that covers unemployment insurance, paid family leave, the SNAP program and Coronavirus testing.  Pending in the United Stets legislature is a 2T bill that would provide direct payments, loan deferrals and business tax relief and bailouts. All of this work is continues to unfold.

Action Corner

  1. Calls for the Release of the of Selected Individuals Incarcerated and Detained Pretrial 
    This week we signed off on a letter From the ACLU, regarding the release of selected individuals incarcerated and detained pre-trial, to ensure public health and safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  The letter states “Vermont has days, not weeks, to take meaningful preventive action.” Prisons across the country are releasing pretrial and vulnerable nonviolent folks to reduce the risk of mass outbreaks in our nation’s corrections system.  Our state could do the same with a simple Executive Order.  It is hugely important that we take immediate action here.  We have a problem that we see will indeed turn into a major issue and there are literally hundreds of both those who are incarcerated and those who work in the corrections system who’s health and safety are on the line.  Please call the the Governor now (828-3333) and ask him to sign the order and let them go.  Email the Governor here.
     
  2. Calls for Eviction Moratorium
    On Wednesday, March 18, the Trump administration announced a moratorium on evictions of single-family homeowners with federally backed mortgages. The moratorium does not apply to the vast majority of renters.  Though Vermont courts say that the “consensus” is that judges will not be taking up eviction cases as a priority, judges still retain discretion to take up evictions under “emergency” circumstances and there is no mechanism that otherwise stops any ongoing (or future) eviction.  Vermont Digger cited that for now, “the Scott administration is not calling for a statewide eviction moratorium, saying housing subsidies are more urgently needed as a measure to prevent homelessness during the outbreak.”  This is not good enough.  No one should ever have to worry about losing his or her home, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.  Now more than ever is a time to care for the most vulnerable.    Please call the the Governor now (828-3333) and ask him to sign an Executive Order placing a moratorium on all evictions. Email the Governor here
     
  3. Elections and Open Meetings Laws
    The Vermont Senate today passed Temporary Elections and Open Meeting Law emergency provisions.  The elections provisions waive signature collection process for placement onto the ballot, require mail-in ballots and provide for various extensions amongst other changes.  The open meetings provisions state that local  governments should meet electronically and provide public access, allow a quorum or more to attend electronically and states that information on how to access the meeting shall be made public.  It is incredibly important that all Vermonters are notified of these changes and of future on-line meetings.  This must be done accommodating technology and language accessibility disparities in communities of color and those who are underserved.  Please request that House amend the COVID-19 Emergency bill with language that states that Voters shall be notified of elections law changes and municipality on-line meetings through United States Postal Service (USPS) or other means and language translations shall be made available. Send the House Government Operations Committee (and leadership) a message at this address:  vermont-house-government-operations@googlegroups.com

Contact your legislator to express your thoughts on any of these issues.  Find your legislator here.

From the Director
Our analysis is complete and our demands are the same – dismantle systemic racism and eliminate poverty.  In everything that we do in moving forward we must create a permanent paradigm shift in beliefs and policy. We do not want a return to the malignant, violent system that through greed has oppressed so many for so long.   Nor do we care to replace it with a broken system that uses the remnants of white English colonialism to prop up an oppressive government. Now is an opportunity for us to change the heart and soul of this nation. This is a time when our civil liberties are art risk more than ever.  We must continue the work and challenge the system at all levels.  Stay busy, encouraged, healthy and connected.  This is not a time for retreat.  It is a time to stand!

Stand with Justice For All 
CLICK here!

Become a member? 

Mark Hughes,
Executive Director, Justice For All
mark@justiceforallvt.org
t @Mark_A_Hughes
I Mark.A.Hughes
802.532.3030
https://justiceforallvt.org/

Environmental Justice For the Champlain Parkway

Mr. Kenneth Sikora, Jr. Environmental Program Manager , Mr. Wayne Davis Project Supervisor Vermont Agency of Transportation and all concerned,

This memo is in directed to you out of serious concern surrounding the community engagement process and and the fatally flawed environmental justice review of Champlain Parkway Project. We find it difficult to believe that this $47M highway construction project is moving towards implementation, given this new plan to route traffic across Pine Street, directly through the Maple/King Street neighborhood, the most racially diverse community in Burlington, save the Old North End! We feel that communities of color should have been afforded sufficient opportunity to be a part of discussions on this matter. 

Further, it is unacceptable that draconian environmental justice processes are being used as a part of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on a project with such far-reaching implications.  It is our hope that this project is brought to an immediate and indefinite halt that serious consideration may be given to the vast racial demographic and socioeconomic changes happening in Burlington since these plans began and the adverse and disproportionate impact that this project has on one of the most diverse and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in Burlington. 

Most disturbing is that this project blatantly protects white affluent communities at the expense of the health and prosperity of black and brown and poor communities (traffic, pollution and property values).  It ignores the fact that the superfund site exists because of the white capitalist greed and is complicit at best in the unwillingness to do what so clearly best for all in addressing the mitigation of the superfund site in conjunction with (or as a condition for) this project. Instead of cleaning the site, the decision has been made instead to run a highway through the middle of the second most diverse community in Burlington? This is wrong. 

As the racial demographics of our State continue to change, we owe it to ourselves both morally and economically to create and maintain an environment where black, brown and poor people are safe and made to be able to prosper. We can do better and we must do it now. Stop the project and include the impacted community in planning.

Respectfully,

Mark Hughes
ED, Justice For All
Coordinator, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance 
e: mark@justiceforallvt.org
t: @Mark_A_Hughesm: 802.532.3030

Game on!

GAME ON! Oct 27th!

The season is changing but we’re not.

Bring your games, some snacks (or drinks) and the kids. We’ll bring the fun. Comment below if you have any game ideas or other fun proposals.

We’re doing this EVERY 4th Sunday of the month.

First Congregational Church
38 S. Winooski Ave., Burlington
3:00 PM till 6:00 PM