top of page
Screen Shot 2023-02-10 at 9.59.45 PM.png

Ballot Questions

Joan's Ballot Question

Recommendations & Commentary 

Joan supports ballot questions 1-6. Joan opposess and will vote NO on questions 7 and 8. To learn more about Joan's positions on the ballot questions, please explore the content below! 

Question 7 

Vote NO

Question 7  Police Control Board

As I wrote in the North Avenue News recently (view here), I am very concerned with ballot question #7 “Community Control of Police.”   This Charter Change seeks to establish a new department of the City for the purpose of disciplining police officers and the chief.  Here are some of the specifics:

  • This creates a new City department with a paid board who will hire a director, staff, consultants and legal expertise and will also include an “investigative office.”  When I asked, on the City Council floor,  if anyone could give me a cost estimate on this new department, no one had any guesses to offer.

  • This new “independent department” is completely independent of voter accountability and your elected officials.  While the City is required to “adequately” fund the department, there is no oversight of the department, or ability to remove someone from the board or staff.

  • The board won’t be appointed by the City Council, but rather the City Council will identify “community organizations” (not necessarily legally organized, but any group of people) who will choose representatives to serve on a board who will select the Community Control Board.  

  • The Board seeks “diversity” but the definition of diversity includes: " [The board} shall, to the extent possible include members who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color, members who have lived experience with houselessness, mental health conditions, sex work, domestic violence, substance use disorder and/or arrest or conviction records…”  

  • Anyone who has ever been employed by a law enforcement agency is banned from serving on this committee.

  • There is no requirement that anyone on the committee has any knowledge of police training, procedures, or policies.  There is no requirement for any background in professional or employment issues.

  • It eliminates our employees’ union rights to grievance and arbitration.

  • It allows the Chief to remove an officer without pay but allows the board to “vacate” any decision of the chief with regard to such discipline and the board could put the officer back out on patrol.  

We have come a long way in rebuilding our police department and I’d like to see the trend continue.  We need a NO vote on #7 to assure continued progress in public safety.  I’m asking you to join me in strongly advocating for that no vote on both #7 and #8 (which is a proposition to bring us more items like #7 through referendums…..see below).

Question 8

Vote NO

Question 8 - Proposition Zero

Currently, anyone can put Charter Change proposals (this is authority given to the City by the State of Vermont) on the ballot by getting a petition signed by 5% of voters. Questions 7 and 8 have been put on the ballot by citizen petition. If the proposals win the support of the voters they then move to the legislature and get reviewed by both the House and the Senate. The legislature can amend, approve, or deny the proposal. They might also choose not to take up the matter. If approved, in some form, by the legislature the proposal would need to be signed by the Governor.

In addition, citizens currently have the ability to put "Advisory Questions" on the ballot. Historically, the Council always put such questions on the ballot. Several years ago we were advised that if the Council had no intention of acting on an advisory question, no matter the vote, the Council could and should consider NOT putting it on the ballot. (See link at bottom related to South Burlington "Rebels" ballot question).

Question #8 Proposition Zero 
Proposition Zero does 3 things. 

  1. It gives the citizens the ability to put questions on the ballot by petition and the Council could not keep such questions off the ballot. 

  2. It gives anyone the ability to put binding questions on the ballot by petition that would become law. No approval or amendment by either the Council or the Legislature would be allowed. This is the aspect that is very different from what we have now. No legal review would be required beyond a determination that the policy would not be illegal or unconstitutional. Being legally enforceable or affordable is not a requirement of the new legislation. Only proposals that have been rejected by the City Council could come forward in this manner. 

  3. It gives citizens the authority to repeal existing ordinances.

What could go wrong? Imagine if the majority of dog friendly Burlingtonians decided that we didn't need a leash law or didn't need it in a certain park. The minority that lives around that particular park or that bring their young children to that park or who are afraid of dogs, might not prevail with such a proposal. These minority interests are given careful consideration in the legislative process, but not so much in a public vote.

A better example is probably the real life example in South Burlington. In 2018 there was much controversy over the school board decision to retire the "Rebel" mascot. There was a successful petition drive to put an advisory question on the ballot to retain the mascot. The popular vote might well have resulted in a recommendation to retain the mascot. But such a decision would have negatively impacted minority groups with legitimate concerns. Thankfully the Supreme Court determined South Burlington had no obligation to put this question on the ballot.  

bottom of page