Vermont Research News: Police budgets, nature areas, grocery trips down, and more

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Vermont Research News: Police budgets, nature areas, grocery trips down, and more

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 9:01am -- tim

Local Police budgets
While much recent attention has focused on urban police forces, such as the move to cut the Burlington police budget, town spending on police services has also grown. Student researchers with the Legislative Intern Policy Center collected data from 140 towns on how much they spend on police services. Some towns spend a lot and some spend very little. Per capita town-level spending ranges from almost zero to above $400. Read the report here. 

 Largest Police Budgets Per Capita (click table to see all)

Appreciation for natural areas increases
Some Vermonters may have a greater appreciation for natural areas as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, according to a recent study. In a sample of interviewed participants around Burlington, 25.8% had either never, or very rarely accessed their local natural areas before the pandemic. However, as a result of the restrictions, 69.0%  of the respondents reported that they had increased or greatly increased their visitation rate to these areas, and 80.6% of respondents considered that the importance of these natural areas and access to them either increased or greatly increased as a result of travel restrictions. 
Grocery food trips decline
According to a survey of Vermonters aiming to identify the early impacts of COVID-19 on food retail and restaurants, 87% of respondents usually or always reduced grocery trips in the early weeks of the pandemic in order to avoid exposure. The online survey was distributed between March 29th - April 12th. Another survey on food access through school meals and food pantries during the early part of the pandemic found that rural food pantry use (5.5%) was significantly higher than urban pantry use (3.7%) after COVID-19, albeit with low participation overall.
Vermonters Want More Telecommuting Options
A recent survey of 662 Vermonters revealed strong preferences for more opportunities to work from home. More than half of those who responded plan to telecommute more in the future and two-thirds say their employer needs to do more to make that possible. Many said they are sick of driving, tired of the commute, and feel they are more productive at home. If you're interested in supporting more telecommuting and work from home options for Vermonters, add your name here.
Speaking of telework surveys…
During the pandemic, we have heard of many people who have come (or returned) to Vermont to “shelter in place” – sometimes bringing their remote job with them. In collaboration with the Vermont Futures Project, a new survey asks people if they think they might stay in Vermont when things return to more normal. Why or why not? What could Vermont do to make it more likely that you would stay?

Take the survey here. More information is here.

Radio Vermont
Local media is under assault, with ad revenues sucked up by Google and Facebook, and national chains buying up radio stations and local papers. Perhaps one of the biggest untold stories of the 90s is the rapid change of the media landscape. More than 1300 counties are now media deserts – with no local news. Vermont has not been immune and under some accounts, there are 100 fewer news reporters in the state than there were twenty years ago. In a series of podcasts, we tell Vermont’s evolving media story with one foot in the past and an eye to the future. Veteran radio journalist Bob Kinzel joins us for the first episode; Media Landscape Story 1: "What are these people doing?!"
Beech bark disease
An eighty-five-acre plot in southwestern Vermont was the subject of a recent study monitoring the presence and severity of beech bark disease (BBD) on Fagus grandifolia (American beech). The study measured infection rate against a number of variables including slope, aspect, and distance from infected trees, and found correlations that may help to increase the efficacy of replanting efforts.
Opioid prescriptions drop
Between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017, Vermont experienced the largest decrease in opioid prescribing among oncologists, at -43.2%, according to a recent report by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The national opioid prescribing rate declined by 19.3% among oncologists and 20.4% among non-oncologists. The study raises concerns about whether opioid prescribing legislation and guidelines intended for the non-cancer population are being applied inappropriately to patients with cancer and survivors.
Socioeconomic factors and smoking cessation
How do socioeconomic factors affect smoking cessation? A recent study in Burlington aimed to understand the relationships between alcohol and drug use and smoking among socioeconomically-disadvantaged young adult (SDYA) smokers. The study found that the focus groups frequently used tobacco with other substances, experienced changes in the frequency of smoking when using other substances (including chain-smoking when drinking and substituting cigarettes with marijuana), that cigarettes were often a last remaining addiction for those in recovery from other substance use and participants feared that quitting smoking would cause relapse to other substances.
Pre-pregnancy obesity declines
Pre-pregnancy obesity among WIC-participating mothers declined between 2012 to 2016 from 36.5% to 33.4%, according to a recent report. Vermont had a significant increase in pre-pregnancy obesity from 2000–2012 (29% to 36.5%).
Scudder Parker's new book of poems
Vermont writer Scudder Parker has a new book of poems. Tom Slayton writes in VT Digger: “Parker is a careful and accomplished connoisseur of nature, and his poems often skillfully weave what he sees with what he knows and what he feels as he watches a blue-headed vireo or is lost in treetop-filtered sunlight.”
Emily Bernard's "The Purpose of a House"
University of Vermont professor of English, Dr. Emily Bernard writes about her daughters' relief from race-related stress at school in The Purpose of a House, published in the most recent edition of The New Yorker. Bernard writes, "I was glad to be able to keep my children safe from more demoralizing experiences at school. Still, memories crept in. It was as if, not having to deal with it in the day to day, my daughters were suddenly free to experience their wounds in a deep way for the first time."

Order Bernard's newest book, Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine here. 
Read her essay in the Yale Review, I Can’t Sleep: After days of witnessing racial violence, respite is no longer a given.

Commission on women report
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in Vermont, according to a recent report by the Vermont Commission on Women. Women make up 81% of Vermont's tipped wage earners, the highest rate in the country, are more likely to be in roles deemed as "essential". Additionally, women make up a disproportionate share of those earning less than $11 an hour and those in part-time positions. This makes them less likely to qualify for benefits like paid leave or health insurance.
Speaking of Women
Student researchers at UVM collected 197 news stories related to the Vermont legislature from VT Digger and Seven Days from Jan & Feb 2018, 2019 and 2020. The researchers coded all those quoted or cited by gender, and type of source.  And yes, men are quoted more than women.
Census Count Lagging
Vermont is one of the worst-performing states so far in the 2020 Census count. Counts are used for Federal and local voting district reapportionment, distribution of Federal funds,  Fill out the form at or call 844-330-2020.
Good things in a dark world
Meg Little Reilly as part of our “Writers Series” on her new book, “The Misfortunes of Family.”
Copyright © 2019 Center for Research on Vermont, All rights reserved.
The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research -- focused on research in the Vermont "laboratory" -- research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to an understanding of the state's social, economic, cultural and physical environment.

Send your news items to Newsletter Editors Eliza Giles or Richard Watts.