Burlington Councilors Debate Amendments To Nuclear Resolution

Aug 13, 2019

Earlier today, we reported that the Burlington City Council approved a resolution opposing the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery system at the Vermont Air National Guard Base. It comes a month before the first F-35 fighter jets are scheduled to arrive at the Burlington facility, which opponents fear will be nuclear capable. During the debate, one councilor’s attempt to remove an amendment led to an extended discussion on parliamentary procedure and considerable confusion.

Monday night, Progressive sponsors of a resolution to oppose the basing of any nuclear weapon delivery systems in Vermont said an amendment offered by Ward 4 Republican Kurt Wright changed its substance and intent. North District Democrat Franklin Paulino agreed and asked acting City Council President Joan Shannon to postpone consideration of the amendment.  “Can an amendment to an amendment be postponed to the following meeting?”
Shannon:  “Attorney Blackwood can we postpone an amendment while moving forward on a resolution?”
City Attorney Eileen Blackwood:  “I don’t see how you can do that.”

Paulino subsequently amended the amendment and once the changes were approved Central District Progressive Peri Freeman moved to remove it in order to make it a separate resolution.  “Can I move to pull this amendment as a separate resolution?”
Shannon:  “Councilor Freemen are you making a motion to make the amendment a separate resolution rather than part of this?”
Freeman:  “Yes.”

Ward 1 Independent Sharon Foley Bushor criticized that strategy.  “I  understand dividing a question. But just to pluck out of the air a resolution and have us vote separately on that does not make sense. When there was a resolution on the trees in City Hall Park I tried to divide that and was told I couldn’t do that. So this seems inconsistent. It opens the door for any one of us to introduce resolutions in this back door mechanism.”

Acting President Shannon eventually ruled Freeman’s motion out of order. Freeman appealed.  Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul took the junior councilor to task for that move.  “I think it does set a bad precedent to try to overrule the chair unless something is completely eggregious and I don’t believe that the decision of the chair is motivated by their particular feeling about the resolution.”

Freeman withdrew her appeal and the panel began to vote on the amendments and resolution. But several councilors remained confused including Ward 7 Democrat/Progressive Ali Dieng.  “We divided the question to have two different resolutions.”
Shannon:  “No we just divided the question so that we vote separately on the resolve clauses. There’s no separate resolution. That’s what dividing the question means.”
Kurt Wright: “Point of information.”
Shannon:   “President Wright.”
Wright:  “Councilor Freeman withdrew her appeal and we then voted for the resolution with the amendment incorporated into it.”
Max Tracy: “We’re on the second part which is the amendment correct?”
Shannon:  “Correct. Councilor Hansen what is your point of information?”
Hanson:  “So I’m unclear on then what we just voted on.”

Audio from the Burlington City Council meeting is courtesy of Channel 17 Town Meeting Television.