Weinberger: Town meeting results a mandate for Burlington Dems
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s mayor and Democratic officials are calling Tuesday’s Town meeting results a mandate from voters to improve public safety, housing, and other priorities they have pushed. And with more Democrats now on the City Council, they say they expect that work to go faster.
Burlington voters Tuesday handily struck down a police oversight charter change that would have created an independent community oversight board that could investigate and dole out punishment to officers on the force. The Progressive-led policy failed, with more than 63% of voters saying “no.”
Now, Democrats on the City Council are vowing to pick up where the city left off by defining and expanding the power of the Burlington Police Commission. “I do think we have an obligation as a council to continue to consider proposals on police oversight and accountability,” said Burlington Councilor Ben Traverse/D-Ward 5. He says using the city attorney’s office and the ordinance and charter change committees, they hope to codify the police commission’s role and see where they can be expanded.
“I do think there’s room for us to look into expanding the police commission’s role in reviewing department policies and directives and expanding the role with respect to being able to investigate and issue recommendations with respect to discipline and corrective action when it’s warranted.”
Former City Council President Kurt Wright says voters spoke clearly Tuesday that they want to continue with the council and mayor’s plan to rebuild the department. Wright says part of that rebuilding should include confirming the mayor’s appointment of BPD Acting Police Chief Jon Murad. “There’s a clear message here and it’s that the actions of the council from June 2020 -- by the majority of Progressives with help from a couple of Democrats -- which destabilized the department and really created havoc for public safety in Burlington. Across the city, people are tired of that. They’ve seen what has happened and they don’t want to go any further with that failed experiment,” Wright said.
Mayor Weinberger Wednesday confirmed they would be scheduling another vote to confirm Murad, whose appointment was scuttled by Progressives last year. He also says he wants to move quickly on his housing, public safety, opioid prevention, and climate goals with the support of the council. Tuesday’s results mark the first time in 40 years that a Democratic mayor and council majority have aligned. “I see last night’s vote -- in many ways both the vote on number seven as well as the council votes -- as an indication that people like the direction this administration and our Democratic colleagues have been moving with the city and want even faster action in that direction,” Weinberger said.
Former Burlington Progressive Mayor Peter Clavelle agreed there is no question the Progressive position on law enforcement and downsizing the department was not well received by the voters.
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