Burlington Councilors Review A Numerous Topics Including A Language Access Plan | WAMC

Burlington Councilors Review A Numerous Topics Including A Language Access Plan

Nov 12, 2020

The Burlington City Council reviewed a number of items during their regular session and committee meetings this week.

Among the items on the council’s deliberative agenda was a presentation from the Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee on a Language Access Plan.  Federal law requires that resources be set aside when a linguistic group reaches a 5% population threshold within a community.  While that point has not yet been reached in Burlington, the city is developing a policy.  Chief Innovation Officer Brian Lowe told councilors the plan offers a clear path for people with language differences to access city services.  “If you were to approve this policy you’d set in motion a series of steps. It would result in a series of resource allocation and prioritization questions being resolved for the city to make sure that there is meaningful access across all city departments for language access.”  

Lowe said implementation would be based on four criteria set by federal law.   “The criteria I believe are the proportion of people who have what the federal government terms limited English proficiency who are served by a program; the frequency with which those people come into contact with the program; the nature and importance that the program or initiative or service has in peoples’ lives and the resources available to the grantee, which in this case would be the city, and the cost. In our policy we distill it basically down to emergency and essential services. We really want people to be able to access services in the city.”

The council president paused the regular session to turn to several committee items.  The Board of Tax Abatement, comprised of council members, had received a request from the owner of the Church Street Marketplace restaurant Sweetwaters asking that the Board reverse penalties and interest charged to his business due to late payment of taxes. David Melincoff said he and his bookkeeper had been confused over the pandemic deferral application.   “I was just pretty taken aback that considering there’s a pandemic. We’ve never been late on our taxes ever. But it just feels pretty harsh to have to pay $1,600 because you’re a couple days late in taxes when it weren’t for all the pandemic it would have never happened.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger supported waiving the penalty.  “We know that our downtown merchants are facing enormous pressures and threats right now. We set up a program to make it possible to waive exactly this type of interest payment. And but for a mistake with the application we would have granted this. I’m inclined given these unusual times to grant this request in this situation.”

Councilors deliberated whether the penalty was manifestly unjust. Central District Progressive Perri Freeman made the final motion.  "I move to grant the abatement request of penalties and interest of $1,583.87.”
City Council President Max Tracy: “And are you able to include in your motion just the condition under which you’re…”
Freeman: “Manifestly unjust.”
Tracy: “Thank you for specifying that. Seconded by Councilor Pine. All those in favor of the motion please say aye.”
Multiple councilors: “Aye.”
Tracy: “Any opposed?  That passes unanimously.”

The full city council meeting can be viewed here: