Burlington votes down police oversight board, approves carbon pollution impact fee
Burlington residents voted down the creation of an independent police oversight board during this Town Meeting Day.
The measure, which failed 3,864 to 6,653, would have created a new city department with seven to nine residents that would have handled complaints against the police and had the power to discipline officers.
Proponents said it would rebuild trust, but the police union and others argued the measure would have worsened the department's staffing problems and limited officers' abilities to respond to public safety concerns.
Resident Sam Powers didn't expect the police oversight board item to make it very far, even if Burlingtonians did approve. The measure would have had to go to the Statehouse next.
"In reality, it probably won't pass the state Legislature even if it does pass," Powers said. "I think it will still send a message that people are not satisfied with the current infrastructure of police oversight.”
The other item that did not pass was a charter change regarding proposition zero. It would have allowed a resident to petition for city-wide ballot referendum and pass policies during town meeting day via majority vote.
As for the measures that did pass, voters approved a $104 million school budget, which could raise property taxes about 4%.
Burlington voters also passed a new policy that city officials say will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by speeding up the Queen City’s move away from fossil fuels.
Called a “carbon pollution impact fee,” the ballot measure gives the city council the authority to put a new permitting fee in place starting in January of next year.
The fee will apply to any new buildings that install fossil fuel heating systems like oil, propane and natural gas furnaces.
Burlington’s city council will have to take the policy up by resolution before it goes into effect.
Other items Queen City voters approved on Tuesday:
- A charter change that would redraw some local wards.
- All resident voting. This means green card holders, participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, and people with eligible work permits will be able to vote in municipal elections. That's if the charter change is approved by the Legislature and governor. Winooski and Montpelier previously passed similar provisions. More here.
- Ranked-choice voting for mayoral, school board and ward officer elections.
- A charter change that would allow some flexibility in where polling places are located.
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