For three decades, Burlington was at the forefront of municipally-led activism that put people and the planet before short-term profits. City officials – led by progressive Mayors Bernie Sanders and Peter Clavelle – partnered with nonprofit organizations, citizens, and employee-owned companies and cooperatives to build a resilient local economy that has become a model for other communities around the country. In the wake of several political and economic shakeups in the mid-2000s, neoliberal politicians began gaining ground on the city council and pushing a pro-privatization, pro-development agenda. This culminated with the election of Democratic mayor Miro Weinberger in 2012.
Despite promises to live up to the legacy of his predecessors, the current mayor has undermined citizen input and collaboration, and has used the failures of his immediate predecessor to walk back Burlington’s commitments to lower- and middle-income families, and has abandoned our city’s core value of placing people at the center of policy decisions.
With this historical lens in place, we believe that the city of Burlington is at a moment in time where a movement is building to return to our shared vision and values that center interconnected issues of racial bias, structural inequality, gentrification, privatization of public assets, demolition of 200 affordable homes and severely degraded health and safety in thousands more affordable homes near the Burlington-owned airport, and the devaluing our public schools and public spaces.
Below are common ideas that Rights & Democracy is seeking to pursue as part of community campaign to champion issues that benefit everyone in Burlington, not just the wealthy. We will ask candidates running for election in March to support these values, and to join with us in shaping a more inclusive, just and equitable city.
It will only be possible for us to win the changes that we seek if we can act as a unified coalition.
Just & Fairly Funded Public Education
Education should be at the center of community’s future success, but in recent years school budgets and teachers, have come under increasing attack by state and federal budget cuts and politicians. We need to reverse this harmful trend.
Just & Affordable Housing
We are calling for a Housing as a Human Right Campaign to support a variety of policy and neighborhood solutions that: supports livable and accessible housing for everyone; recognizes homelessness as a housing status; increases funding for federally affordable and supported housing in the city, and more, including the use of Tax Increment Financing dollars to fund truly affordable housing.
Human Rights Budgeting
Budgets can be complex, but they have real-life consequences on how we invest in our neighborhoods. Residents should have a greater say in how its tax dollars are spent to ensure human needs are being met throughout the city. Citizen budget councils should be created with intent and involve ALL of the city’s constituencies and diverse population (provide translation services).
Burlington is ahead of much of the country, but we are behind our own renewable energy targets and we are behind where climate scientists say we must be to avoid climate disaster. We need a broad-based plan that ensures equity and access to new technologies that improve our quality of life, and ensures long-term democratic principles to where were source our energy.
Green and Net Positive Infrastructure (Water, Air, and Soil)
As humans living in an era of rapid climate change and when pollution from large-scale development and agriculture threatens our air, water, and soils, we need to put in place new ways in we can ensure drinkable, swimmable water, growable soils, and breathable air.
Participatory Governance –
Burlington has had a long-standing practice of citizen-led initiatives. Citizen Boards have been reduced in number, size and influence over time, and reversing this trend will both strengthen the community voice and bring back the enthusiasm for civic engagement.
Fair & Just Development
Burlington needs to embody a development focus that is human-centered and gives preferential development and tax incentives for infill growth that fosters an economy based on democratic ownership principles – as in cooperatives, ESOP companies, etc to expand and fill existing office space.
Opiate Treatment Expansion
Burlington should be at forefront of a statewide transformation of the mental health and substance abuse treatment system by encouraging a comprehensive accessible continuum of care.
Citizen Civil Rights Commission
With data showing racial bias in police interactions, as well as shooting deaths involving people in mental health crisis, the city is long overdue for the creation of an independent citizen commission dedicated to enforcing bias free policing and oversight of the city police in how it interacts with marginalized populations, as well as new Americans and people of color.
Open and Fair Elections
Much has changed and/or been exposed as a result of the 2016 election cycle. Driving changes in Federal and State election policy and practices.
Burlington’s public transit system needs additional investment in bike lanes, other transit options to improve access for all residents, including updated routes throughout the city.
Expand Burlington’s Livable Wage Law
We need to lift up more of the city’s workers in the sector. Burlington should be leading the discussion on a true livable wage for all workers—from retail to homecare and beyond. We need to ensure that people who work in Burlington can afford to live here. $15 an hour now.
Moratorium on Private Redevelopment of Public Spaces
Projects that need public funding, or redevelop public spaces, should not be approved without full, citywide vote. In addition, city ordinances require that new development must include NPA engagement. The same could be required for major change in usability status on public-owned assets.
Accessibility for All
Burlington should re-commit to maintaining an accessibility committee to ensure that Americans with Disabilities Act — an important Civil Rights law – is upheld in city policies and practices, as well as throughout the city by businesses that provide the public accommodation. Strategic redevelopment and repurposing of public and private spaces to make them more accessible to the public.
Open and Fair Elections
Much has changed and/or been exposed as a result of the 2016 election cycle. We need to be driving changes in Federal and State election policy and practices.