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Progressive Jack Hanson discusses his decision to quit the Burlington City Council

East District Progressive Burlington Councilor Jack Hanson
Jack Hanson for East District City Council/Facebook
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East District Progressive Burlington Councilor Jack Hanson has resigned his seat

The city of Burlington has posted a new job listing. Officials in Vermont’s largest city are seeking to hire a Net Zero Project and Equity Analyst to help the municipality transition away from fossil fuels and assure that its Net Zero Energy programs are accessible and equitable. East District Progressive Jack Hanson has quit the city council to apply.

At the June 27th City Council meeting, the Burlington Electric Department submitted a formal request to create the job, which councilors unanimously approved.

East District Progressive Jack Hanson announced on his Facebook page on September 13th that he was stepping down to apply for the job at the city owned Burlington Electric Department. He said the city’s effort to become net zero by 2030 while ensuring equity is an exciting opportunity he can’t pass up.

“Ultimately I decided that it was really worth it for me to go for it and to try to get this job. I think it’s a really great opportunity for me to work full time directly on the climate crisis and still being involved in the city of Burlington but serving in a different way. My hope and dream is to get this job and if I don’t get it you know I’ll go from there and I’ll continue to work on climate issues. But in order to apply for it I have resigned from the council.”

Hanson said he considered recusing himself if any issues came up related to the position. He also sought advice from the city attorney as to what he should do if he wanted to apply for the position.

“City councilors are technically allowed to apply for city positions without resigning. However climate is really my top priority and not really being able to work on climate issues and having to recuse from anything related to Burlington Electric Department would really, really inhibit my work on the council. And also I think is somewhat problematic to have a councilor applying for a role where there’s just so much power that a councilor has over a department. So I felt like the cleanest thing to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest was to resign.”

Some in the community believe the position was tailor-made for Hanson. In the conservative Vermont Daily Chronicle, Guy Page writes Democratic “Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger promises the city councilor who helped create a climate-related city job doesn’t have the inside track now that he’s announced he wants the job himself.” In a Burlington Reddit community one person commented “Wouldn’t it be grand if we were all in positions where we can create a job we’d really like, and then sit in the catbird seat to apply?”

Hanson, who chaired the council’s Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee, is adamant the city council had no role in creating the position.

“The Burlington Electric Department came to the City Council with a fully fleshed out position including salary. It’s not like we crafted the position in any way. I didn’t have any hand in shaping what this position was. And when it came to council it was totally noncontroversial. It passed unanimously without any debate. So I don’t think there’s really any argument that somehow, you know, we crafted up this position for me. That to me is outlandish.”

Hanson, who served on the council since 2019, says he’s proud of a number of things he has worked on during his tenure.

“The city’s Net Zero by 2030 Roadmap and getting that in place, declaring a climate emergency, ensuring that landlords weatherize rental units, ranked choice voting, getting new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the city, improving requirements for new construction and ensuring that they’re heated renewably primarily. So I’m really proud of the work I’ve done. I think I’ve followed through on a lot of the things that I ran on, which feels good. And I want to continue to work on a lot of these issues. Regardless of whether or not I get this position I want to play a role in moving the city forward.”

Hanson’s term expires on March 31st.

On Wednesday, Mayor Weinberger called a special election to fill the East District seat for Tuesday, December 6th. The filing deadline for candidates is Tuesday, October 11th. Early voting will begin on Monday, October 24th.

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