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Burlington City Council Discuss Numerous Issues At First In Person Post-Pandemic Meeting

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

The full Burlington, Vermont City Council met in person for the first time in over a year at City Hall Monday evening for Board of Finance and regular meetings.

Monday was the first time city councilors, the mayor, staff and citizens had gathered in Contois Auditorium for a council meeting since March 2020.

A work session on short-term rentals was among the first items on the agenda. A committee had considered the type of short-terms rentals that should be allowed in the city. During public comment following their report resident Amy Magyar called herself the face of short-term renters. 

“A heavy handed approach based on guessing what is happening and not listening to the hosts in the area who use short term rentals to be able to stay in their homes between guests would alienate a number of folks of all ages, stages and wages of their life," Magyar said. 

The council considered a resolution sponsored by Central District Progressive Perri Freeman that would have the city’s Charter Change Committee study the potential repeal and decriminalization of sex work and report back with recommendations September 27.  

“I think at a bare minimum for me I want sex workers to be safe," Freeman said. "I also think sex workers are amazing people and they deserve to be celebrated and destigmatizing it and really supporting folks who are doing work in our community.”

Ward 8 Progressive Jane Stromberg addressed potential controversy over the idea. 

“We’re talking about the safety of human beings who are at work," Stromberg said. "And I think that sex workers deserve the same legal protections as any other human beings.”  

“The administration supports this modernization of the city charter and hope that the Ordinance Committee will work to repeal or amend any language that is discriminatory towards women, to sex workers and to victims of sex crimes," added Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger.

The resolution passed unanimously.

Councilors also considered a resolution opposing city investments in military weapons and weapons systems manufacturers. It requires that a report be issued on the current extent of such investments and that the Employee Retirement System divest from any.  South District Democrat Joan Shannon asked sponsor Stromberg about current investments. 

“What are we invested in that we would be divesting?” Shannon asked. 

“I know that we have like $2.5 million which doesn’t sound like a lot," Stromberg answered. "But the point of this resolution is to explore further if we are invested in more than what I found and do a deeper dive in terms of like the report that we would be getting back in January of next year.”

Councilors approved the resolution with one no vote.

The city council ended the public portion of the meeting with Mayor Weinberger providing a brief update on the City Place downtown development project before entering an executive session to discuss financial issues regarding the project. He said substantial progress has been made obtaining the real estate rights necessary to reconnect streets but mediation is occurring over the last parcel. 

“The only missing property right is currently controlled by 100 Bank Street LLC," the mayor said. "That is one of the topics that has been discussed in the mediation that seeks to resolve all of the disputes or at least a sufficient number of the disputes between the three parties such that the project can move forward. The three parties being the city, 100 Bank Street LLC and BTC Mall Associates.”

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