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Burlington City Council Holds Public Hearing On Charter Change Proposals

The Black Lives Matter flag flies in front of Burlington City Hall
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington City Hall (file)

The Burlington City Council meeting Tuesday evening included a review of items that will be placed on the Town Meeting Day ballot in March.
The council voted unanimously to approve a $14.4 million grant plus $2.1 million in contingency funds for a project to improve the terminal at the Burlington International Airport.  Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul said the project has planned for years.   “This is a project that has been probably about a decade in the making in terms of modernizing the airport so that you no longer have the two TSA checkpoints. The cost of the project the funds are 90% a federal grant, 10% are coming from airline arrangements and the passenger facility charges that we get when people fly. You know there will be opportunities for not only modernizing but using green technology to the best of our ability in bringing this forward.”

In June 2020 the council passed a resolution requiring the Burlington Police department decrease uniformed police officers by 30% to a maximum of 74.   Ward 7 Independent Ali Dieng, also a mayoral candidate, is offering a resolution changing the maximum to 84.  Although consideration of the resolution by the council was postponed until its January 25th meeting it was the subject of a number of public comments. William Keaton was among those concerned about the potential adjustment.  “This sets a precedent for backpedaling on the racial justice resolution that was passed in June. The resolution’s very clear that just kind of throwing more cops at crime is not the solution. And I mean I think we have to ask ourselves do we really want 24/7 police surveillance in Burlington? I mean do we really want cops responding to crime at 24/7? What crimes are they really responding to like robberies or like mental health crises?”

The council also held required public hearings on ballot questions that will appear on the March 3rd Town Meeting Day ballot.   City Attorney Eileen Blackwood provided a brief overview of the four ballot questions.   “The first one is to adopt ranked choice voting for the election of city councilors. This is limited to election of city councilors.  The next charter change is to increase the size of the board of airport commissioners. The third question is known as just cause eviction and it is to provide by ordinance protections for residential tenants from evictions without just cause. The fourth and final charter change that’s being proposed is again adding to the powers of the city council the ability to regulate thermal energy systems in residential and commercial buildings.”

Another public hearing on the charter changes will be held during the council’s meeting on the 25th.  Input from the public hearings can be used to modify the charter changes before they are placed on the March 2nd ballot.


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