The three major items last council meeting were two climate change resolutions and a resolution in support of the officers of the Burlington Police Department (BPD). The climate change resolutions both passed 11-1, with Council President Kurt Wright voting against both. The BPD resolution passed 7-5.
The climate resolutions did several things:
1. Joined the over 1,000 cities and jurisdictions that have so far declared that a climate emergency threatens the ability of human beings and millions of other species to survive on this planet, and that we must enter an society-wide emergency mobilization to get to net zero emissions by 2030. We also recognized that in that transition we must prioritize those who are most vulnerable to the negative impacts of the climate crisis and who have the least ability to adapt to changes in our climate and changes in our energy systems.
2. Committed to Burlington Electric Department’s (BED) Net Zero Energy Roadmap (NZE). This roadmap offers a outline of technological and behavioral changes that would get Burlington off of fossil fuels by 2030. It also offers a number of potential policy mechanisms that would help us achieve those changes.
3. Institutionalized climate action into City government. The Mayor’s administration will work with all department heads to develop an action plan in the coming month for getting the City government itself on the path to NetZero. The administration will give progress updates every 6 months to the Council. All City commissions now must include a progress report on NZE in their annual reports to the Council as well.
4. Called all Burlington residents to action on climate. BED is offering a suite of incentives, including new incentives on heat pumps and used electric vehicles. These are opportunities for you to cut carbon, save money, and keep your spending circulating in the local economy. In addition to making personal changes to break free from fossil fuels, we also call on everyone to engage with local policy that will help our community move more rapidly to net zero.
The police resolution stated that calls for reforming the police department have harmed officer morale and therefore the Council reiterates support for police officers. While I appreciate the hard work of the officers, I find this resolution as it is written to be highly political (it is not policy, it is just statements) and also antagonistic towards those of us who are pushing for reform and improvement from BPD. Councilor Tracy proposed amendments to the resolution which would still thank and appreciate the officers’ work, while also supporting the work of the special committee to review policing practices and acknowledging that working to make our policing practices better does not equate to not supporting BPD. Those amendments were rejected.
We had three community members who were severely injured in the past year due to use of force by BPD officers. One of these people died. The families are still working through these traumatic events and seeking justice. Our focus as a community should be on healing from these wounds and attempting to move forward as a community, to do better, and to ensure that we avoid unnecessary harm moving forward. To say this, in my opinion, is not to say that we don’t appreciate the hard work of BPD — it is to say we need them to do better. I voted against the resolution for those reasons.
As always, please reach out to discuss these issues or others further.