- Burlington VT - Ward 4 and Ward 7

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Open Government

City Council President Not Welcome at Mayoral Department Head Meetings.

For some reason, every New North End City Councilor opposed the resolution to include the City Council President in department head meetings. It seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. To me, it seems the only downside would be that the meetings might last a little longer. The Mayor would still be in charge, so the idea that the President's participation would interfere with the Mayor's authority seems misguided. Any disagreements between the Mayor and the President in front of a department head might be seen as under cutting the Mayor's authority, but in reality the Mayor would still have the final say in the meeting and therefore reinforce that authority. Having more elected representatives involved in these meetings would help, not hinder the process of running the various city departments in a more open and transparent way. If we had more eyes on Burlington Telecom early in the process, we very well might have avoided many of the problems that still exist today. I was encouraged to see all of the New North End City Councilors support the resolution regarding an update on the Moran Plant put forth by Paul Decelles, but this makes the opposition from all of them even more perplexing. If the City Council President or another councilor had been in attendance to these kinds of meetings, the update could be asked for and answered without the need for a special resolution.

I invite comments on this from the City Counselors and anyone else.

To skip to the discission, select Broadband Video from the pull down menu and choose "Monthly & Special Meetings of Department Heads and Appointed Officials" from the scrolling list.

The Resolution (submitted 2011-05-02)

Sponsored by: Councilors Adrian, Berezniak, Blais


In the year Two Thousand Eleven Resolved by the City Council of the City of Burlington, as follows:

That WHEREAS, the Burlington City Council has powers that extend to each and every department and special projects of the City of Burlington pursuant to Burlington City Charter Section 48; and

WHEREAS, the City Council must confirm the initial appointment and reappointment of nearly every department head and appointed official in the City of Burlington pursuant to City Charter Sections 116 and 122; and

WHEREAS, the City of Burlington is chartered as a municipal corporation pursuant to Section 1 of the City Charter with powers that allow "under the name of the City of Burlington; and by that name may sue and be sued, prosecute and defend in any court; may have a common seal and alter it at pleasure; may take, hold, purchase and convey such property as the purposes of the corporation may require; may borrow money on the credit of the city, in the mode and under the restrictions hereinafter provided;" and

WHEREAS, the department heads and appointed officials of the City of Burlington work for the City Council as well as the Mayor in their capacities as elected representatives of the municipal corporation of the City of Burlington and are thus a shared resource;

WHEREAS, the Mayor of the City of Burlington attends meetings with all department heads and appointed officials at least once a month to discuss the affairs of the City; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to City Charter Section 117, the City Council President is next in-line in the succession to the Mayor, should the Mayor become unable to serve for any reason; and

WHEREAS, in order to keep the Council informed and in order to insure efficient and continuous operations for all City departments and special projects, it is appropriate to have the City Council President, as the leader of the City Council, participate in every monthly or special meeting of the department heads and appointed officials;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that commencing with the next monthly or special department heads and appointed officials meeting following the passage of this resolution, the City Council President respectfully requests to be notified of such meeting and respectfully requests to attend and participate in said meeting as well as all subsequent monthly or special department heads meetings; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if the City Council President is not able to make a monthly or special department heads and appointed officials meeting, the President may designate another City Councilor to attend said meeting.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 March 2013 19:48

Open Government - Plus One Year

So it's been a year

Damon Lane, one of the Open Government Committee (OGC) members from the public, has started the email chain that will hopefully result in getting a report card on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations of the OGC last year.

Stay tuned...

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 December 2009 04:03

NPA Meeting on Open Government

Well, that was interesting...

This was my second time facilitating a NPA meeting. By faciliate, I mean being the MC (Master of Ceremonies). We had a lot on our plate for the meeting, and my biggest goal going into it was to make sure we kept on schedule. For the first half of the meeting we were right on time. When we got to the first real topical exchange, it was the Disc Golf Course project in Leddy Park. This was a relative last-minute addition to the schedule, but obvuiosly important enough one to warrant an immediate discussion.


The Disc Golf Course in Leddy Park was initiated by the Parks and Rec Dept. along with the Parks and Rec Commission. The fact that there was No Public Notice of the meetings that led to the approval of the initiation of the project, was a glaring example of the need for open governemnt. To their credit, Representitives from Parks and Rec, as well as City Council, admitted a big mistake was made, and that they regretted it.


Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2010 04:11

OGC Final Recommendations

Burlington Committee on Open Government  

Tim Ashe, Margaret Bozik, Geoffrey Crawford, Richard Haesler, Damon Lane, Steve McIntyre, David Mindich, Jeff Royer, Chip Sawyer, Joan Shannon. Ben Pacy, Minutes.


The Vermont Constitution (chapter 1, article 6) reads, "That all power being originally inherent in and consequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them."

The Burlington Committee on Open Government, constituted by the Burlington City Council and the mayor’s office, embraces the spirit of the above passage.  Although "all people... have a right to privacy in their personal and economic pursuits" (Vermont State Statute, Title 1 sec. 315), "it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize [the] decisions [of public officials] even though the examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment" (ibid).   Whenever possible, government actions should be held up to scrutiny.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2010 04:20

OGC Monster List

I created The Monster List almost entirely from questions emailed to the committee or asked during the public forums of the meetings. I combined some of them and discarded duplicates, then organized them by topic and category. In my opinion, this is by far the most complete representation of concerns voiced by the public on the topic of Open Government in Burlington Vermont.

Download the printer friendly PDF version here



#1 - Slow down moving targets – Whenever changes or additions are submitted to DRB/DAB/P&Z, interested parties, volunteer board members and staff need additional time to review the material, consult with experts, and think about it awhile.  The plan is like a engine – tweak it in one place and there is movement and change throughout the system. This should also have a 15 day consideration period. (Terhune)

#2 - All development projects, especially in residential areas, from the first point of inception, will be posted on the “development” website which will have both an email list and an RSS feed residents will be allowed to sign up for and it will go to NPA Steering Committee Members citywide.  Each project will also have its own email list and RSS feed residents can sign up for to receive updates on the project as it progresses.  (Rooney)

#3 - Notice of local NPA's when any application requiring design review comes in the door. (Stuono)

#4 - Notice of abutting property owners when any application requiring design review comes in the door (not just 10 days before the DRB hearing -- often times people are on vacation or don't have enough time to prepare info). "Abutting property owners" should be expanded to a much wider area besides just adjacent owners.  Something at least three or four properties in all directions at bare minimum should be required.  Many neighbors get no notice, yet projects still affect them substantially.   (Stuono)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 January 2010 01:56
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