Perhaps the council will now act proactively and appropriately. Or maybe it’s too late and this has all become terminal.
by Kolby LaMarche
As you may have heard this week, the Burlington City Council has, oh-so surprisingly, declared a public health and safety crisis.
The council, holding strong to tiresome politspeak, essentially said “We need to come together and find solutions.” The council also incorporated a permanent agenda item for monitoring the City’s progress regarding the promises it made on Tuesday.
If you recall, a few years ago, around 2018, the council introduced a different terminate standing agenda item: climate emergency reports.
A true exhibit on the performative nature of the council, climate emergency reports are included in almost every single agenda – sometimes they forget to even put it in. Based on my brief investigation, not one councilor at the past 13 council meetings – so, since March 27th – has utilized the time. I guess it isn’t an emergency anymore.
In actually reading the resolution, a few things stood out to me. Keep in mind that except for one councilor, Joe Magee, all councilors voted in favor of the resolution.
Certain language used in the resolution gives more significant emphasis on and appreciation to, rightly, the Burlington Police Department. To a greater extent than the council has ever done previously in recent memory. There is now an admission, most importantly by almost all Progressive councilors, that crime associated with substance abuse is rising and is directly impacting the safety of Burlingtonians.
During the summer of 2022, Ted Kenney took on Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George. I staffed Kenney’s campaign, and for weeks, we had to staunchly defend the undeniable fact of escalating crime. Some leftist activists and groups vehemently rejected the notion of rising crime, branding our message as ‘fear-mongering.’ Now, at least among Burlington Progressives, there’s a public acknowledgement.
The resolution calls on state leadership to “increase the availability of prosecutorial resources” and address “recruitment and retention challenges in our State’s Attorney Office.”
Furthermore, the council “respectfully requests that [Sarah George] provide the City with quarterly reports” on cases referred by law enforcement, illegal activity in Burlington including firearm violence, drug distribution, automobile theft, retail theft, the number of backlogged cases, and more.
On Tuesday, Councilor Joe Magee indicated that State’s Attorney George, who had previously in 2022 attributed her failure in controlling crime to the backlog, might now be unable to provide all of the requested data. As a result, Magee introduced an amendment that, among other changes, eliminated this request. However, Magee’s proposed amendments were ultimately defeated.
This is a shift. But has performative elements nonetheless.
As Burlington Republican Party Chair Christopher-Aaron Felker rightly pointed out during public comment, the State of Vermont has opened 0 additional in-patient treatment beds in the past decade. And the responsibility for that failure, among many more in the crisis, is shared between all facets of government.
Regardless of the council’s efforts to assign responsibility to the state legislature, the State’s Attorney’s Office, or the Governor, they too bear collective responsibility for their shortcomings in safeguarding public health and their delay in enacting concrete measures to address safety concerns.
Perhaps the council will now act proactively and appropriately. Or maybe it’s too late and this has all become terminal. However, one thing is for sure, yet another business is leaving: Walgreens is outta Burlington!
Burning Sky is dedicated to providing critique and commentary on the issues of the day from an unapologetic perspective, fueling change in the heart of Vermont. Authored by Kolby LaMarche every Saturday.