Fixing Burlington

Seven Days publisher asks how to fix Queen City’s problems of drug abuse and homelessness. VDC responds

By Guy Page

In Burlington, “Local social media is abuzz with photos and videos documenting the detritus of drug use and homelessness,” Seven Days weekly newspaper publisher Paula Routly wrote recently (“Burlington Blues,” Sept. 28).

“People are talking, but on the internet and in the privacy of their own homes. What I don’t hear are citizens and city leaders speaking up in an organized, forceful way to say the policies we have in place are not working. The emperor is not only naked, he just took a dump in front of the old YMCA,” Routly said. 

“Our problems may be the same as those in cities — especially progressive-minded ones — across the country, but the number of lost souls per capita in Burlington is staggering. There are times of day on Church Street when it seems like more people are in the throes of substance abuse, mental illness or both than those going about the business of working, shopping and eating.”

Routly appears to get it. Then she follows up a reference to the growing number of protective barriers with a provocative question: “Fences might help, but they won’t fix these problems. Does anyone know what will?”

I’ll take a stab at that, Paula. If you’re reading this, feel free to publish the following as a ‘letter to the editor’ from this fourth-generation Burlington-born Son of the Queen City who graduated from Burlington High School and UVM, worked for the Free Press on College Street, founded a community newspaper in the New North End (“The North Avenue News,” still in publication but not by me), attended church on North Avenue for almost 30 years, and bought my first home on Spruce Street, a condo, for $40,000, less than 40 years ago. 

To: Burlington voters, government, media, and the next mayor

Subject: 10 suggestions to reduce drug abuse and homelessness in Burlington

1. Do a 180-degree turn and show zero tolerance for retail theft. If you don’t, prepare to see drug overdoses continue to skyrocket while your tax base moves to Essex Junction.

2. Stop afflicting landlords with deadbeat protection, climate fees, and threats of rent control.

Stop scapegoating the Handy family, the 184 Church Street owners who merely offer the lowest rent in town, for the housing and crime disaster caused by decades of ignorant, negligent state and local legislation. Do keep building housing, though. The City’s getting that right. 

3. In exchange for shelter, require remedial effort from homeless residents. For their sake and ours, they must face the root cause(s) of their predicament. If substance abuse, require sobriety or rehab. If mentally ill, require outpatient, non-chemical therapy. Etc.. Just offering services is faux compassion when what’s really needed is intervention. Quid pro quo.

4. Enforce the law, which exists to protect victims. Street social workers are great, but hire more cops, too. Elect a prosecutor who prosecutes. Elect legislators who will fire ‘easy’ judges when they come before the Judicial Retention Board. If necessary, build more prison cells. Set high bail. 

5. Make vagrancy and prostitution illegal again. You’re surprised that in a city that decrimmed prostitution, oral sex is happening out in the open in broad daylight? Hmmm….same thing happened a few weeks ago in prostitution decrim Montpelier.

6. Insist our Congressional delegation act to intercept fentanyl at the border – with a wall if necessary. For some reason a porous border appeals to them. If they won’t change, elect someone who will. Because whether at the Chittenden County Courthouse parking lot or the Mexican border, fences do help.

7. Stop apologizing for crooks. If they did the crime, they gotta pay the fine or do the time. Regardless of skin color, gender, or perceived victim status. 

8. Determine if the perception is true that a fraction of the city’s New American young men commit a disproportionate amount of Burlington’s violent crime. If they do, say so and find out why and develop effective, realistic short term and longterm solutions. 

9. Spend less taxpayer money on ideologically precious programs (DEI, net zero) that don’t fix these problems and more on programs that do (cops, accountability for services, transitional housing). 

10. It’s a longterm fix, but change the prevailing version of  Destructive Educational Instruction (DEI) in public schools and at UVM. Affirm racial tolerance and civility without silencing, shaming, and suspending skeptics. 

Sea-changes are disorienting. Painful. Expensive. Sure to elicit outrage and accusation from the city’s rulers and their sometimes unwitting followers. But you know what they say about the definition of insanity. If you want Burlington to look like Philly and San Francisco, then stay the course. But if not, be honest, humble and brave enough to create real change. The rest of Vermont is watching. 

About Vermont Daily Chronicle: every weekday, we publish 10 Vermont-related news and commentary articles. Subscriptions to Vermont Daily Chronicle are free. Subscribing takes less than one minute: click here to subscribe and receive the daily edition in your email. The Vermont Daily Chronicle is supported almost exclusively by Contributing Readers who appreciate our unique place in the Vermont news media and generously give $108/year (some give more, some less) via PayPal or by writing a check to Vermont Daily Chronicle, P.O. Box 1547, Montpelier Vermont, 05641.

Categories: Burlington, Commentary

20 replies »

  1. Well said, ten good points towards ending the downward spiral Burlington finds itself encountering. Sad that Burlington is ” blessed ” with too many progressives who think like Bernie Sanders, they will wring their hands, ask for more money and wonder why people are leaving Burlington and Vermont.

  2. Good stuff. One thing I hear repeatedly is that in order for someone to fix themselves they need to hit rock bottom. That never happens here because there are too many services and handouts for the homeless. They never hit rock bottom and therefore will never change. Until we cut back on all the free offerings, they’ll never leave and the homeless population will grow. We don’t need “more housing”, we need more workers and contributors. Then they can get their own housing. If they don’t like it, they can move on out.

  3. Well said, Guy Page! The citizens are plagued by Marxist radicals who are determined to destroy Vermont. Marxists are Godless. Put God first and His ways, you will see the remarkable difference of a 180 Turn! Turn from your way to God’s Way today. Today is the Day of Salvation! Jesus changes hearts and minds! John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

  4. As far as mental illness, psychosis cannot be fixed by chemical means. Medication is required to restore chemical balance to the brain. Bringing back long-term residential facilities is the only answer to those that are a danger to themselves or others. The mental health system is completely ignoring this fact. There is no facility in the state that serves that need. Waterbury was closed down with no plan to house the chronically mentally ill. These people can thrive in a structured, supportive environment, but may never be able to live on their own. When the mentally ill become older, many nursing homes won’t take them as they don’t have the resources or staff to deal with a person whose primary diagnosis is chronic mental illness.
    This is not institutionalization, it is providing a supportive environment with staff trained to address those issues, and medication if deem necessary. I worked in a long term housing facility, and residents were treated to weekly outdoor activities off site. There were requirements to be able to attend these outings, but they were great morale boosters for both the staff and residents.
    VCFA is mostly empty at this time. With proper planning, those buildings can be converted to use by the mentally ill and/or homeless in a separate section.

  5. It was a rough week for decent people who care about Burlington, with the Mayor announcing his retirement and the best “anchor store” left in Burlington, the Outdoor Gear Exchange announcing a change in their Church St. “footprint” and a new location move. The mayor represents the relative extreme right wing of Burlington politics and if progressives take over the mayor’s office, that will be the last straw for Burlington. There will be a lot of pressure on Joan Shannon and Karen Paul to maintain some small level of sanity at City Hall. No more Boves, and if no more Outdoor Gear Exchange happens, no more reason to visit Burlington for me. Mr. Mayor, all due respect for your rescuing the city’s finances and some other fine work you have done, but your efforts to solve the homelessness problem in Burlington have only attracted more vagrants and junkies to the area, contributing to Vermont’s status as #2 in the nation for overdose deaths and homelessness per capita. If you want to solve Burlington’s homeless problem, then stop trying to solve Burlington’s homeless problem.

  6. The problem with Burlington is the liberal so-called leaders, the gaggle of fools
    AKA ” The City Council ” they have turned the Queen City into a hole with all
    homelessness, drugs, and crime…………………. kind of sounds like California !!

    Until level-headed people take control, Burlington, will slide into a dismal place
    with homeowners being overtaxed to support liberal nonsense !!

    Burlington will wake up when hard-working citizens are sick and tired and take
    control…………. Wake up Burlington, before it’s too late.

    Mayor Miro should step down, he’s a disgrace

  7. Miro’s solution….get more aid….give away more free stuff to those who don’t deserve it….make his buddies richer….bring more homeless to VT. Rinse and repeast.

    Remember folks….the homeless ‘problem’ is very big business for some people

  8. Excellent article, Guy, with real and practical solutions for change and reformation. Thank you for the ideas. We could stand to implement these in Morrisville.

  9. A very good start. I’d add a 9 pm curfew for under 16 year olds especially during the school year. As far as the litter, (just a suggestion) make them pick up trash as a sentence or like Singapore does cane them.

  10. I can only laugh as these same folks complaining now are they same ones who voted for this madness. As I drive around I read their little signs saying one human is illegal or abortion is a civil right and think how far we have fallen. Burlington once was a wonderful city, then came boornie mittens sanders. Keep voting progressive and become regressive.

  11. Burlington is basically the little San Francisco of the East Coast. There’s no fixing it until the left stops being naive little communists. It will certainly get worse.

  12. I don’t think she totally gets it because she is suggesting that the drugs issues and the mental illness are 2 separate issues. They are not. Wake up people maybe, just maybe it is starting to get bad enough. We shall see. But I doubt it. Simply because Miro will be replaced by some other useful idiot and claim like all the other communists that they just didn’t do it right.

  13. Who is responsible? Who creates and implements the policies that lead to the photos seen above? Who controls the money for the programs? Where does all the money go? How many elected officials, bureacrats and non-profiteer executives does it take to manifest the degredation of our society? We have seen this go on for decades! It is now accelerating after “they” implemented more economic disparity to cover their collosal criminal corruption and steal even more assets and wealth – but this time, targeting the middle class who are now part of the drug addicted, mentally ill, unemployed, and dangerously close to homelessness.

    The degredation and societal collapse starts at the very top, not the bottom. More mental health facilities? Nay. The answer is arrest and prosecute the criminals at the very top for fraud, RICO, and countless other criminal violations all ready on the books. Those who sit in the “official” seats are responsible. They should be the ones living on the streets and locked up in a mental facility or better yet, prison. The longer the despots sit in power, the worse the scenes on the streets will get and it is in every neighborhood, in every town, in every city. The people must wake up, rise up, and take back every nickel stolen and stop pretending the despots will or can fix anything other than cover up their own criminal, dispicible conduct.

  14. Just noticed Bezos ex gave Champlain Housing Trust 20 million. Guess they are now concrete in their mission to never aid another native born Vermonter gain housing again.

  15. Hey Paula!
    Maybe if your publication allowed comments and didn’t only “hand select” letters-to-the-editor to respond to, you would have a better idea of how the overall public and your readers feel about, you know, the issues!

    And as an aside, if anyone is curious about Paula’s level of awareness (or her management style), I worked for 7 DAYS for about SEVEN YEARS in circulation and she never once bothered to stop and introduce herself in the warehouse while passing from her parking space to the office upstairs. I even said hello on the street once (while employed there) and she had no idea who I was.