The Burlington City Council met on Tuesday this week, its regular session delayed one day due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. City councilors had a full agenda that included a review of items that will appear on the Town Meeting Day ballot in March.
City Councilors held an initial work and executive session to discuss the Vermont Supreme Court’s decision upholding the city’s sale of Burlington Telecom, which had been challenged by a group of residents. The first item on the regular agenda was a presentation by Burlington School District officials regarding the budget that will go before voters. Superintendent Yaw Obeng said it was a challenging budget year and they worked to decrease a potential 11 percent tax increase. “You'll see in the presentation some strategies around adding surpluses to reduce it and also reductions that we've had to make in order to bring the tax impact from 11 right down to close to 7%. It's not where everyone would like it to be, but we're feeling pretty proud of being able to do that at the same time maintaining the programs.”
The meeting included a public hearing on the proposed charter changes to be placed on the March 3rd Town Meeting Day ballot. One restores a levy supporting the Housing Trust Fund. Another changes the dates for petitions, warnings for ballot availability to match city and state timelines. The third would allow individuals with green cards to vote in city elections. After double checking with the city attorney, two councilors left their regular seats to speak as members of the public. “Brian Pine, Ward Three. The question regarding the changing of dates is very important to our school district because the tax department does not provide the data on common level of appraisal that allows us to set our tax rate until well into the late fall. And so if we change the March date for submission, we would probably run up against a point where they couldn't do their job of coming forward with the tax rate proposal. So that's really a significant issue.”
City Council President Kurt Wright: Councilor Dieng?
Dieng: “I wanted to talk about the noncitizen voting. In order for people to get residency you have to live here 12 months. What we have in front of us, it means that anybody who has a green card from all over the United States can come here to Burlington and vote. That's a big problem. I went through the immigration process. I gave up all my nationalities to become American citizen. We looking for a reward and that reward should not be taken away. Let's really talk meaningfully to people that this affects.”
The city council will vote on final versions of the charter changes at its next meeting.
Last week Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger responded to a Trump Administration executive order requiring states and local governments consent in writing to the resettlement of refugees. A resolution sponsored by Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul to uphold and reinforce the mayor’s support of refugee resettlement passed unanimously. "What this resolution before us does is resolve that the City Council also consents and confirms the mayor's consent to refugee resettlement in Burlington. It also reaffirms Burlington’s commitment to our longstanding practice and policy with regard to welcoming immigrants and refugees to our community.”