Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, in partnership with Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and Champlain Housing Trust, has received a $350,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The two-year grant will be used to demonstrate how deep energy efficiency retrofits in single- and multi-family residences can make housing permanently and comprehensively affordable by reducing energy usage and costs.In addition to establishing energy usage as a significant component of housing affordability, the project will also show how various sources of government funding might be harnessed to finance energy efficiency retrofits.‘This exciting partnership will help us to demonstrate how deep investment in energy efficiency can support housing affordability,’ said Scott Johnstone, Executive Director of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. ‘This is a win-win project that will provide a roadmap for achieving the twin goals of reducing energy usage and addressing the need for affordable housing in our community.’The project will target at least five single-family residences for deep energy efficiency improvements. The goal of these improvements is to achieve energy savings of at least 50%, and potentially much higher. The homes, recently acquired following foreclosure, will then be sold to low-income households and be made permanently affordable through the Champlain Housing Trust’s programs.Three multi-family buildings in West Rutland, Enosburg, and Windsor, financed in part by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, will receive substantial energy efficiency improvements, again targeting energy savings of at least 50%.‘This is an exciting time in building energy science and this funding will help us determine what level of energy retrofit measures makes financial sense for permanently affordable rental housing. We are grateful for the opportunity presented by this generous award and will apply the findings to increase energy efficiency in Vermont’s portfolio of multi-family housing,’ said Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.A comprehensive set of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures will enable the expected very high level of projected energy savings. These will include building shell improvements such as air sealing and insulation; heating system improvements such as advanced control biomass heating systems; electrical efficiency improvements such as super-efficient LED lighting; and renewable energy systems such as solar domestic hot water heating systems.‘We are thrilled to collaborate with these two partners to demonstrate how effective, targeted use of resources can create lasting assets for low-income households and our communities,’ said Brenda Torpy, Chief Executive Officer of the Champlain Housing Trust.This project was one of nine projects selected to receive funding through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s national competition soliciting ideas for scalable approaches to spurring energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings in the United States. Launched in April 2010, the selection process was highly competitive, with 372 pre-proposals submitted by organizations in 44 states. The process included review by a panel of experts in real estate, finance, construction, efficiency technologies and government policies. More information on the competition can be found at www.ddcf.org/retrofits(link is external).About VEICThe Vermont Energy Investment Corporation is a mission-driven nonprofit organization, founded in 1986, dedicated to reducing the economic, social, and environmental costs of energy consumption through cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. VEIC has consulted in 25 states, 6 Canadian Provinces and 7 countries outside North America to design programs that reduce energy use through energy efficiency and renewable energy. In addition, VEIC operates Efficiency Vermont ‘ the nation’s first statewide energy efficiency utility ‘ as well as other implementation services across the country. For more information: www.veic.org(link is external)About VHCBThe Vermont Housing and Conservation Board is an independent, state funding agency providing grants, loans and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, municipalities and state agencies for the development of permanently affordable housing and for the conservation of important agricultural land, recreational land, natural areas and historic properties in Vermont. www.vhcb.org(link is external)About Champlain Housing TrustThe Champlain Housing Trust, founded in 1984, is the largest community land trust in the country. Throughout Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties, CHT owns or manages over 1,500 apartments, stewards 485 owner-occupied homes in its signature shared-equity program, provides services to five housing cooperatives, and offers affordable energy efficiency and rehab loans. In 2008, CHT won the prestigious United Nations World Habitat Award, recognizing its innovative, sustainable programs.About the Doris Duke Charitable FoundationEstablished in 1996, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation seeks to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s Environment Program focuses on enabling communities to protect and manage wildlife habitat and create efficient built environments.
Motorbikes remain criminals’ vehicle of choice Acero said Medellín’s pilot law doesn’t represent the first time that authorities have tried to restrict passengers on motorcycles. Bans on having any passengers have been used occasionally in Medellín and other Colombian cities during threats to public order, including riots or incursions by armed groups. “What is new in Medellín,” he said, “is to solely prohibit male passengers and leave female passengers. That is unique.” Motorcycle killings are now ubiquitous throughout Latin America. In Honduras, which has the world’s highest murder rate, Congress in 2011 banned all motorcycle passengers. “As the crime of narcotrafficking has moved to other countries,” Acero said, “of course the governments also adopt methods of control that have served in other countries.” In the last decade, homicides in Medellín have plummeted, but motorcycles still figure heavily in them, and other crimes. Bands of criminals known as combos vie for small territories where they can sell drugs, extort businesses and rob citizens. Their main method of transport, León said, is the motorcycle. “The motorcycle has become the tool of their trade, León said. “In a way, this stigmatizes everyone with a motorcycle.” To limit the impact on citizens, the pilot law was put in effect only during December and January, two months when schools and universities are closed for vacations. León said a decision on whether to make the restriction permanent won’t be made until after January. Quijano said that if the law does become permanent, lower-income people — many of whom use motorbikes as their only mode of transportation — will either reject or ignore it. “The only ones this will affect are the poor here, those who use motorcycles to transport their families.” Sicarios popularized by Medellín cocaine cartel Before 1970, motorcycles were actually a rare sight in Medellín, with only a single company, Auteco, manufacturing an Italian-style scooter called the Lambretta. In 1972, the first Kawasaki motorcycles appeared, and three years later Yamaha sold its first bikes in the city. In his recent book, Colombian journalist José Guarnizo writes that Griselda Blanco — known as the “godmother of cocaine” for her blood-soaked style of street justice — instituted motorcycle killings back in the early 1970s. Before that, Medellín’s hitmen had killed from cars, but Blanco mandated that all hits be carried out on motorcycles after two of her men were caught in traffic while doing a job and were captured by police. “In the mid-1970s, there were these type of killings using motorcycles but not so much,” said Fernando Quijano, an organized crime investigator and director of the Medellín-based human rights group Corpades. The practice exploded during the 1980s and was popularized by the Medellín cocaine cartel led by Pablo Escobar. It first captured the attention of Colombians at large when Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, the nation’s minister of justice, was killed by motorcycle on Escobar’s orders. Trend worsened after Escobar’s death On the night of April 30, 1984, Bonilla had left his office in Bogotá and was driving his white Mercedes when two men on a new Yamaha motorcycle pulled up behind his car’s right rear fender and shattered the rear window with bullets. In an ensuing firefight with authorities, the gunman was killed, but police arrested the driver: Byron Velasquez Arenas, a 16-year-old from Medellín who had never finished high school. “Byron was very young,” Quijano said, “and that had a strong impact.” In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, during Escobar’s simultaneous battles against the state and rival cartels, motorcycle killings became ubiquitous. Medellín’s poor youth received $2,000 from Escobar for every policeman or soldier they killed, causing the ranks of sicarios to swell. After Escobar’s death in 1993, the homicides continued apace as the armed and experienced young sicarios looked for work, charging as little as $200 per murder. The sicarios always used the fastest and nimblest motorcycles, Quijano said, and the drivers often were hitmen themselves, who taught the younger riders how to kill. “The motorbike became symbol of power,” said Quijano. The sicarios rode “with a pistol in one hand and a woman wrapped around the other.” Hugo Acero, a security consultant who has worked for the mayor of Bogotá, said the freelance hitmen came to be hired not just by narcotraffickers looking to resolve their problems, but also by ordinary citizens. “People used them to recover debts, to avenge an unfaithful lover,” he said. “In the case of Colombia, the sicarios were used to punish.” In 1999, when Acero was working as Bogotá’s security secretary, journalist and activist Jaime Garzón was killed by a motorcycle hitman. Garzón was sitting at a stoplight on a Bogotá street when the two men on a motorcycle pulled alongside him. During the investigation, Acero said, several witnesses reported the same facts: the faces of the motorcyclists had been obscured by helmets with dark face shields, and seconds before pulling out his gun, the rider had covered the license plate with a cloth. The lengths to which the assassins went to conceal their identities led Bogotá’s mayor to institute a law requiring all motorcyclists to wear vests printed with reflective material, displaying their license plates in large numbers and letters. The same number was also printed on the back of their helmets. That law reduced homicides in Bogotá, and had other unforeseen benefits: the number of people killed or injured in motorcycle crashes decreased because the bikers were more visible at night. The law was soon copied by other Colombian cities, including Medellín. Medellín authorities see huge drop in bank robberies By Dialogo January 21, 2013 MEDELLÍN, Colombia — For decades, motorbikes have been the cheapest and most convenient mode of transport on Medellín’s sinuous streets, where they dart and weave nimbly among traffic. But motorcycles are also a deadly tool here, used by sicarios, or hitmen, to get close to their victims. The sicarios ride in pairs, with the driver and gunman sidling up alongside their targets, disposing of them with a few shots, then racing away. In recent years, authorities have tried to stem motorcycle hits by requiring all motorcyclists to wear reflective vests and helmets that display their license plate numbers. However, such measures have been slow to work. During the first 10 months of 2012, Medellín recorded 176 murders on motorcycles — or 15 percent of all homicides, according to Eduardo Rojas León, Medellin’s secretary of security. And motorcycles were used in more than a quarter of carjackings and half of motorcycle thefts. To curb the number of crimes in which motorcycles are used, Medellín Mayor Anibal Gaviria Correa has signed a pilot law preventing men — and even male children — from riding as passengers on motorbikes in Medellín and nine surrounding municipalities from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The law, also adopted in nine surrounding municipalities, is effective through the end of January, and if it reduces motorcycle crimes, may become permanent. “Here always we have in mind,” León said, “that a motorcycle with a male passenger is synonymous with sicarios and danger.” Acero said that he believes the new measure will reduce homicides in Medellín, though not drastically. The law could have other benefits, he said, such as cutting thefts and robberies by motorcycle passengers. Since the law went into effect, holdups of bank tellers diminished from 36 cases in November to four in December, according to Medellín police. There were drastically fewer robberies at cash machines, he said. Nearly 600 motorcycles have been seized by police, and more than 1,400 citizens cited for flouting the law, León said. “What I hope for is a reduction of these offenses,” León said, “and also to have an effect on the perception of security for citizens.” Quijano, the organized crime investigator, was less optimistic that the law would reduce crime in a lasting way. “The criminal organizations here are structured as paramilitaries and mafias,” he said. “Each day they have more experience, and each day they adapt better to the responses offered by the city. They will use whatever means necessary, whether that be motorcycle, bus, car or approaching by foot.” And gangs will use women, which they rarely did two decades ago, Quijano said, noting that in Medellín, the number of women involved in sicario-related crimes is increasing. León, the city’s security secretary, said he thought it was unlikely the law would have the unintended consequence of more women being dragged into crime. “It is men who are involved in these activities,” he said. Mr. Robbins: since you are gringo, allow me to explain that Colombia is a democratic country where LAWS aren’t made by mayors but in the CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC as it should be in a democracy. An ordinary law requires the processing before both Congress chambers (Senate and the Chamber of Representatives) and this takes about a year. Other special laws take about two years (two legislative terms). Changing a word in a law takes about the same time as the issuance of a new law that amends the previous one. Meaning, just as in your country. We are not a rain-forest, Mr. Robbins. Those rules on motorcycles that you mention as changing overnight as if changing underpants, are DECREES (NOT LAWS), which are legal norms of the lowest hierarchy within the legal norms and are as such to allow mayors to handle situations with the agility that such situations require. I know you didn’t have ill intentions but it bothers me that people always speak about my country with getting the right information. Notice how you treat the murder victim RODRIGO LARA BONILLA as BONILLA, meaning as the son of a single mother!!! Here, my friend, our last name is our father’s name and that’s why he was LARA, because his parents were married and he was a legitimate child. A journalist that steps into the Spanish culture should know that we use both last names if we are legitimate children and only the mother’s name if we are natural children. Our Spanish culture is the only one that respects the last names of women since they don’t loose it when they marry (as in the rest of the world) and their last name is added to their children. It is a homage to women. I hope to have contributed to your education.