( – promoted by kestrel9000)
There has been some controversy lately over some issues on the Burlington ballot and as a Burlington resident I’m offering my perspective on all the ballot issues this upcoming Town Meeting day.
1. School Budget for FY 2015. The budget is increasing about 9% to $66,870,000 approximately. As a renter in the Old North End I used to approve the increases without much question as I’m sympathetic to a proper education for young people, which is increasingly under assault across the country. Much of the drive in the increase is a change in the formula to raise property taxes which has been mandated by the state legislature, so the school board really isn’t at fault for all of the increase, but after a year in which it had already increased 10%, it is hard to swallow another one, especially as landlords are using that as a reason to jack up rent. I’m going to vote it down. Even if it fails, another similar one will be brought up later with a lower turnout and relatively unchanged, except for a slightly smaller increase, and will eventually pass.
2. TIF District. The Moran plant demolition scenario. This is a complex item (refer to link above) with many pieces to it. The main portion deals with the Moran plant redevelopment. Most of the money will come from private funding, but the city will leverage a maximum of $9,600,000 issued in bonds and where TIF district tax increments will be used to pay for the repayment of said bonds. There will be Waterfront Park upgrades, a new home for the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, construction of a new marina on the northern portion of the Waterfront, construction of outdoor amenities around the Leahy Echo Center and improvement for northern parts of the Waterfront access. Most of the funds for the project should come from private funding, as this bond is only for the city’s part. If private funding fails to materialize, the Mayor and the City Council could use TIF funding to demolish the Moran Plant. After seeing the eyesore that the Moran plant has been for so many years and the inability to get something done about it, I think demolition is the best thing to happen to the Waterfront. My take is that the private funding (in the hands of 2 UVM seniors and a private business sector partner) will be insufficient and the Mayor will eventually get the Moran demolished. My vote is Yes, if nothing but for the hope that they demolish the Moran Plant.
3. Increase in tax rate for the general fund. Increase in property taxes for the general fund of nearly 3%. I have mixed feelings about this, but I could stomach it. This hasn’t been raised for a while (as far as I have been aware). I think it probably won’t pass, but I could tentatively vote for it (but then why am I voting for one increase and not for another?). Namely the increase isn’t as overblown as the other one. Tentative yes.
4. Referendum on Issuance of Bonds to purchase Winooski River dam under bridge connecting Burlington and Winooksi. This is a no-brainer. Yes, after paying off the bond and assurance from Burlington Electric that it won’t increase rates and it still has decades of service left, as well as being sustainable, baseload power right next door, it is in the best interests of the city and its ratepayers. Yes.
5. Redefining Ward Boundaries. Basically this is a two-tier process. There are four electoral districts electing one counselor each, and eight wards electing one counselor each, for a total of 12 city counselors. This is the best the City Council and the Reapportionment Board could come up with and bring to the city voters. If its makeup is confusing, well, it is. In my opinion, while they tried their best to do a fair job and get input from everyone, the need to have two tiers of districts just makes things more complicated than they should be. I’m not sure if it will pass. My vote is No. It’s not a deal-breaker for me and I could live with it without a major fuss, but I seriously don’t get the need to overcomplicate things in these matters.
6. Confiscate weapons in domestic abuse incident. Oh dear, the City Council and Mayor, as well as many fellow citizens decided to open up this can of worms. There has been a serious and passionate debate on this blog recently over this issue. Personally, I find myself aghast and puzzled by the passion for weapons in this country, but then, I'm not a native, so it will always be a bit of a mystery. I personally think they should be completely banned for personal use because there is no need to have a gun. There are many responsible gun owners, but there are also many irresponsible ones. Guns are also used as a way to threaten people, and in this scenario, women who are the victims of domestic abuse often stay in relationships because they are intimidated with the use of firearms. This should be a simple Yes. There is one big problem though: the US Constitution and the Vermont Constitution. I have read the Vermont Statutes and only the state has the right to regulate firearms, not towns. This item would ask the Legislature to allow Burlington to have an exception. That is not going to happen. It also makes the town ripe for lawsuits. That costs money. Burlington has already lost a lot of money in lawsuits. There is no need for more needless lawsuits. I like the US Constitution and the Vermont Constitution, but there are aspects of it that I seriously disagree with. Will I vote Yes or No? To be honest, I just might abstain on this one.
7. Charter change to forbid firearms in any establishment with a liquor license. Do we really need this? I agree firearms don’t belong in said establishments except for law enforcement. Why not just engage the establishments directly and ask them to forbid it on their own. It is in their best interests not to have people with guns in them and I don’t think it would take much persuasion to do so. I’m leaning No, but I might abstain also on this one.
8. Safe storage of firearms. Third gun charter change proposal and last ballot item. Again I agree with the proposition. Common sense, which I know many gun owners already practice, but some don’t. I won’t rehash arguments here, except for lawsuits and approval from the state. Do we need the state to dictate what to do on this? This is a tentative Yes, but I’m leaning towards abstention.