Will last night’s incident serve as the tipping point? And will the disruptions to city government finally elicit a clear public response?
by Kolby LaMarche
Yesterday evening, at a meeting of the Burlington City Council, the consequences of what happened at their August 14th meeting became tangible.
Following an hour-long executive session, Jadah Bearden, a Burlington resident, former Champlain College student and anti-racism and Pride activist, took the floor during the public forum.
As you may recall if you watched the August meeting, Bearden knocked a pitcher of water onto a mess of electronic cords, as she clapped and danced, singing towards Mayor Miro Weinberger, “You’re about to lose your job.”
Bearden began her public comment by forcing the council to wait as she enjoyed a freshly poured cup of water from the same pitcher she had previously knocked over.
Bearden continued, hashing out her grievances with councilors, with a particular focus on council President Karen Paul.
Then, Bearden came to the topic of Todd Lacroix, the Burlington man who had his speech quite literally taken from him. She defended former Progressive city councilor Rachel Siegel’s assault on Lecroix’s rights, stating “Rachel only got up because [Todd] was going over time and berating black people who were sitting to the right of us.” [Editor’s note: video shows that Siegel seized the microphone at about one, minute thirty seconds into Lacroix’s allotted two minutes. Lacroix had been decrying what he termed hypocrisy among both whites and blacks re: BLM.]
Moments after Bearden accused former city councilor Perri Freeman (P-Central District) of physical assault, the two-minute timer sounded off.
Councilor Ben Traverse (D-Ward 5) launched in, repeatedly calling for points of order. But Bearden kept on.
President Paul began interjecting, “You have spoken your two minutes.” Bearden didn’t care and a shouting match ensued.
Bearden, growing increasingly frustrated, rose from her seat and briskly advanced toward Paul, dismissing her as laughable.
Councilor Joan Shannon (D-South District) implored Paul to adjourn the council to recess, to which Bearden retorted, shouting, “Let me finish my f—–g sentence, man!”
The spectacle persisted for a while before Town Meeting T.V. cut their live camera feed.
I first want to plainly acknowledge that what occurred to councilors, including Paul, was disgusting. And I am sincerely apologetic that they had to endure that treatment.
However, what occurred last night unmistakably demonstrated the repercussions of what was allowed to happen on August 14th.
The standard of order and decorum, which President Paul committed to restoring when she assumed leadership, was dealt a fatal blow. And yesterday sealed the verdict.
When Burlington voters handed Democrats control of the council, I believe they wanted to enact change in how meetings were previously conducted under the Progressives. However, regardless of the earnest intentions of certain councilors, we persistently witness a succession of embarrassments.
The current state of democracy in Burlington finds itself being defined by the events of last night, akin to the numerous preceding instances of disruptions. These are the symptoms of a city whose diseased uncivil society has been left to rot for far too long without any effective remedy.
Unless it is openly and decisively addressed, these occurrences are likely to exacerbate in frequency and severity. With each new incident, the credibility of and confidence in city government suffers further tarnishing.
In a city engulfed by the crises of crime, overdose, affordable housing, and so much more, Burlingtonitans require a city government capable of effectively maintaining its own affairs with meticulous order.
Nonetheless, the questions persist: Will this serve as the tipping point? And will the disruptions to city government finally elicit a clear public response?
The coming weeks shall hold the answers.
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