Ballot Items for Burlington on Town Meeting Day

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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.  

6 thoughts on “Ballot Items for Burlington on Town Meeting Day

  1. your positions are thoughtful & reasonable. I would not vote to raise taxes b/c they invariably target the ones who can least afford it the vanishing middle class – upper & lower plus drive up prices for the same class as well as the poor through increase of goods & services. Unlike the wealthy & union employees the rest of us do not have the incremental wage increases to afford continual cost increases.

    Your gun position although I respect your right to an opinion disagree with it in the strongest of terms. There is no “gun problem” anywhere except when a troubled individual assaults a mass population. The remedy is tight security in all public buildings including businesses. Or in the gang infested inner cities. The ones causing it are primarily the victims of it. They have made a sad & unfortunate choice however it is their choice to live & die with. RIP dummies.

    As to laws or ordininces for guns in homes or increasing existing laws this is a problem looking for a solution. Where’s the problem this fixes? I’d like an answer. It would involve others knowing location of firearm(s) & intusion of our homes by LE to “check”. Also defeats the purpose of self defense of self & family. Weapon would not be easily accessible or readily available. Protecting oneself, family, loved ones, neighbors if need be as well as fellow citizens is a fundamental right as a well as the law of the land.

    Although killings with firearms are quick & can be made with snap judgements personally I believe those killings would be made using other means. Been said before but bears repeating in this context — if I am going to be murdered I pray it is with a gun rather than stabbed multiple times, beaten to a bloody pulp with god knows what, buried alive, suffocated in the trunk of a vehicle then dumped into the nearest waterway etc. my second choice is strangulation but make it quick pls.

    If one thinks guns are not necessary they have lived a limited & sheltered life & obviously do not believe we have a right to defend self, loved ones, fellow citizens or family with anything other than a slingshot. Sorry I aint David.  

  2. What I like most about the blog is the sincere, honest and blunt opinions that one can get. When I wrote this post on my reflections about Burlington ballot items, I knew there was likely to be some feedback, especially on the topic of guns. While I’m not pro-gun and never will be, as it has been pointed out, using them, especially for hunting, which makes absolute sense and actually brings in the dough for the state in the form of hunting licenses, etc. I should have made that clear in the blog posting as my statements can be taken as abrasive.

    Actually it was Kestrel9000’s blog post that put into doubt voting favorably on the gun items on the Burlington ballot in the first place. What was a solid yes is now doubtful quetioning as to why they are necessary. Ultimately I would like to see this get buried because they don’t add anything fruitful to the conversation. As indicated in the post, I am not likely to vote on these items and I am actually leaning towards abstention. I actually might vote No on one of them, but if I cannot sincerely make up my mind on the subject, then I prefer to leave it blank.

    I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m insulting people’s livelihoods or their opinions. I’ll state here again that I wasn’t born here and the gun debate is something that I will never quite comprehend why it raises such passionate feelings. Guns have never had a significant influence in my life and have never been much of an issue. Ultimately I do think that the issue has to be resolved at the state level because I do believe that the same standards should apply to everybody. I welcome any more feedback on the issue.  

  3. no on the school budget.  just to send the message that costs need to be more under control.  most of the budget is personnel cost and for the board to continue to give 3.5% per year salary increases in these times where most folks are getting half that at BEST-borders on irresponsible.

    2 TIF seems OK.  I don’t think any plan for the Moran area is going to fly unless a four season SOMETHING is put up down there.. Hotel and conference sorta thing probably the best…  no one will go to anything down there in the dead of winter unless something beside a restaurant is there.  for my money putting the sailing center in a new building for any money is shameful.  I have lived here for 30 years and never darkened their door.  Turn that space into a TAX DEFERRAL property.  location location location…

    3.  Maybe yes.  city has some real obligations on the table like retirement that need attention.  sending city empolyees out into retirement with 80,000 a year retirements is killing our taxes.   probably yes.   still up in the air.

    4.  YES  hydro is good.  Governments should OWN utilities and frankly a plan to get rid of Burlington Telecom-considering that everything is soon going to be web enabled… is asinine.   City Council take note.

    5.  This is a crazy solution to a simple problem.  Problem is that folks don’t want to take on the problem of the new north end being another “town” in some ways.  Add a couple of seats and be done with it.

    6.  confiscation of private property without due process?  No way in Hell.  BUT, it is a good idea to offer some alternative for folks who are willing to offer things up with non governmental intervention.  Maybe some social service agency could offer up a private storage center to keep things until the court resolves..??  not a role of government.

    7.  I thought the first version of this exempted law enforcement and military….Does it make sense for a cop  or PFC someone to be armed while drinking any more than joe citizen???  knowing you can get shot or tazed for having a snow shovel or just making a beeline to your basement???    I will vote NO and say this is also not a role of city government.  This idea makes some sort of a problem with out west behavior exists in Vermont bars…   I don’t think that is an issue in Harwick…  when they do it, Burlington should think about following.

    8.  Makes perfect sense but hell no.  once again not a valid incursion into the Home is Castle mandate.  Making accidents harder to have happen is a good idea, but inside your home CPSC doesn’t stop in, why should the Mayor?  I know  this is being pushed by a bunch of folks from outside the city-which is also a puzzle.   I do not think any of the firearm issues will or SHOULD stand to the examination of Montpelier.    Again-all three are good ideas worthy of consideration, but AS WRITTEN, have no foundation for government to implement….    law suit city….   may even join one myself for amusement.  

    abstention is not an option.  democracy takes hard work… get busy.

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