Burlington

Burlington

Why Passengers Cheered a Vermont Bus Strike

April 22, 2014; Ellen David Friedman; Labor Notes

An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6.

Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks?

This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009.

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Minutes - February 2014 State Committee Meeting

February 8, 2014; 1:00 pm, 
North End Studios, Burlington
In attendance: Approximately 60 people attended, with another several guest speakers.

Welcome: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak
Emma opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending. She offered up an instant poll for State Committee members to answer a survey question on paper or electronic meeting materials. Those State Committee members without smartphones participated by a raising of hands. Most people indicated a preference to receive materials only electronically. Party leaders will take this into consideration when planning future meetings. Emma also asked people to support the party by becoming a monthly or one-time donor.

Panel: Burlington City Council Update and City Committee Leaders
All four incumbent Progressive City Councilors shared highlights on issues they are working on ranging from climate change initiatives to public safety to transportation (bike/ped issues) to updates on Burlington Telecom. Councilors Max Tracy and Rachel Siegel are up for reelection this March. Max needs help with his council race – volunteer support and financial support – because he is running against a well organized Democrat. Rachel has an opponent, but does not expect a tough race. Councilors Vince Brennan and Jane Knodell are up for reelection in 2015. There is an open seat for City Council in Ward 1 and State Party Vice Chair Selene Colburn is running unopposed for that seat. We expect to have 5 city councilors out of 14 after Town Meeting Day. Democrats currently have 7 seats with a possibility of gaining one more seat. The other two seats are held by Independents. Burlington City Chair Kyle Sillman-Smith and Vice Chair Ali Zipparo shared ways they have reenergized their city committee including regular informal “breakfast club” gatherings, leader recruitment to get more people involved by creating a database of potential leaders to draw from when commissions and boards have openings in the city, and a regular city committee meeting schedule.

Paid Sick Days (PSD) Panel
We were joined by Rep. Cindy Weed, Lindsay DesLauriers from Voices for Vermont’s Children, Cary Brown from the VT Commission on Women, Cecile Reuge from the VT Workers’ Center, and Dan Barlow from VT Businesses for Social Responsibility. Rep. Weed gave an overview of the Paid Sick Days bill in the House and explained it is due for a vote in her committee (House General) next week and could be voted on by the full House as early as mid February. The fight will be whether or not carve outs get added to the bill before it leaves committee. Also the Senate is not as supportive of the bill and the Governor is not a guaranteed supporter either. Lindsay explained the PSD issue from the angle of families/children and gave an overview of PSD history in VT. Cary explained PSD as an issue that relates disproportionately to women because they tend to hold more low-wage, service/retail jobs in VT that tend to not include paid sick leave. She also raised the issue of victims of domestic violence and the challenge of taking leave to heal from acts of violence. Dan explained the business angle and impact on the economy and noted several businesses are supportive of this bill, but several are speaking out and starting to pressure Representatives not to support this bill because it is an added “burden” on businesses. Cecile explained the VWC’s organizing effort to get PSD passed this session and ways people could help.

Emma then asked SC members to take action at the meeting and contact their state representative, senator and the Governor’s office to ask them to support the PSD bill. Legislator contact information was shared and people took time to place calls. We reviewed a list of key legislators who would benefit from being contacted. VPP will send an email action alert to share that list and ask all VPP members to take action on this bill early next week.

Break/Raffle Drawing

Regional Breakouts
The SC membership broke into regional groups to discuss local issues and potential house and senate districts for the VPP to target in the 2014 election cycle. Based on limited numbers from certain parts of the state, we had groups meet together from the Northwest region (Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille Counties), Chittenden/A-R (Chittenden, Addison and Rutland Counties), NEK/Central Vermont, and Southern Vermont.  CoCo members from each region facilitated the conversation. SC members said this was a useful way to break up the meeting. Party leaders will try to find ways to keep conversations going on topics raised in between SC meetings.

Platform Review Committee Update
Ben Eastwood (Montpelier) reported as Chair of the new Platform Review Committee. There is no written procedure on how to set up the process for reviewing the platform beyond formal ways to adopt changes to the platform (state law and VPP bylaws). The CoCo endorsed a process for this round in January. The committee will be appointed by the State Party Chair and limited to 5 members to keep it workable. An attempt will be made to achieve geographic diversity and a mix of new and experienced voices. The committee will also be charged with offering a written recommendation on a procedure to adopt for future platform review work so the Party has a known process going forward. The Chair appointed: Ben Eastwood (Montpelier, Chair of Montpelier Town Committee and Washington County) as Chair, Leslie Matthews (Northfield, former Coco member, SC member), Tim Kipp (Bratteboro, SC member), Cindy Weed (Enosburg Falls, former chair of platform committee last time, State Rep), and Becky Raymond (Middlesex, new Party member). Becky recently resigned from committee, so the Chair will work to fill the vacancy. The committee also has a recent UVM grad working as an intern for the committee.

The process is still being created, but it will include several ways to engage SC members and other Party members in reviewing and offering feedback on the platform. It will also include a very clear set of procedures, including any amendments and the process for voting/debate ahead of the September SC meeting where the SC and town and county chairs will be asked to adopt/reject any changes. The May 31st SC meeting will include a large portion of time on the agenda for platform discussion and input. The committee hopes to have any proposed amendments ready for the CoCo to review in mid July. Questions and feedback can be sent to Ben.

Party Committee Reports
Corey Decker (Enosburg) reported as Chair of the elections committee. Emma reported for Chairs who were absent from the meeting, including Chris Brimmer (organizational development committee), Martha Abbott (fundraising committee), and the communications committee (who are in need of a new Chair). All committees are looking for volunteers. Here is a description of each committee’s charge:

Fundraising Committee
Committee will develop an annual fundraising plan for the Party, oversee fundraising appeals to Party members (initial ask, follow up ask, etc.), revamp fundraising strategies used by the Party in the past, assist staff with development of appeals (letters, online, etc.), assist staff with organizing fundraising events (small), train Coco members and other Party leaders on how to effectively fundraise, and plan an annual major fundraising event for the Party.

Elections Committee
Committee will develop and conduct campaign trainings for candidates, campaign managers, and campaign volunteers during the 2014 election cycle (build capacity of party to run strong campaigns). The committee will also assist Party leaders and staff in recruiting candidates to run in the 2014 election cycle and assist the CoCo and State Committee in any Party endorsement process for the 2014 election. The committee will also support Burlington City Council campaigns as necessary (Jan-March 2014).

Communications Committee
Committee will develop a communications strategy for the Party, assist staff with press releases for the Party, assist staff with social media and blog postings, review the website for relevant content, and help advance the 2014 special project - corporate campaign donations petition. The committee will also help staff and the CoCo work on branding and promoting the party on a statewide level (messaging).

Organizational Development Committee
Committee will assist CoCo in doing quarterly outreach (to increase attendance) to the state committee members for quarterly meetings, develop "on-ramp" events for new Party members to get involved in Party outside state committee meetings, and examine more ways for the Party to involve new members (on the ground engagement and promotion of Party). The committee will also work with Chair ahead of state committee meetings to develop state committee agenda items that will spark engagement by members (and ideally attendance!).

Legislative Update
Rep. Chris Pearson and Rep. Cindy Weed gave a brief update from the Legislature. The conversation focused mainly on the health care policy debate and the road to single payer (or not) based on the roll out of the state exchange and new rules facing Vermonters without health insurance and employers who do not currently offer insurance.

Submitted by Chris Brimmer, Secretary 2/20/14

Press Release: Progressive Party Statement on Burlington City Progressive Caucus

On Sunday evening, over fifty Burlington Progressives gathered at the East Avenue Co-housing to endorse candidates for the 2014 Town Meeting Day election.  In addition to endorsing candidates, those gathered heard about March ballot items, redistricting, Moran Plant redevelopment, and more from currently elected Burlington Progressive City Councilors Vince Brennan, Jane Knodell, Rachel Siegel, and Max Tracy.

Burlington Progressives then broke into Ward Caucuses to discuss and vote on endorsements.  The Ward 1 Caucus endorsed Selene Colburn for City Council and Emma Rosenzweig for Inspector of Elections.  The Ward 2 Caucus endorsed Max Tracy for City Council and Wendy Coe for Ward Clerk.  The Ward 3 Caucus endorsed Rachel Siegel for City Council.

Burlington City Progressive Party Chair Kyle Silliman-Smith had this to say:

“Progressives in Burlington are excited and ready to once again expand our numbers on the Burlington City Council this March. Councilors Max Tracy in Ward 2 and Rachel Siegel in Ward 3, along with Ward 1 Council candidate Selene Colburn, received the overwhelming support of their Ward Caucuses tonight because they truly represent the values of the Progressive Party and of the people of Burlington.  Clearly the future is bright for both the party and the city with such great candidates to represent us.”

Press Release: Selene Colburn to Seek Progressive Nomination for Ward 1 City Council

BURLINGTON – Selene Colburn will seek the Progressive nomination for the City Council seat being vacated by outgoing Ward 1 Councilor Kevin Worden.  Selene, a librarian at the University of Vermont and a Trustee on the Burlington Library Commission, brings a rich understanding of issues important to Ward 1 residents.

“I was born and raised in Ward 1,” Selene says.  “I come from a long line of Burlingtonians who have made unique contributions as educators and public servants and I’m inspired by their leadership.  My main priorities will be to work with my neighbors to increase the city’s focus on neighborhood issues and to encourage the hiring of more women to positions of power within city government.”

Progressive Party State Chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak praised Selene’s work ethic, saying, “I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Selene on a number of projects and can’t think of anyone who will work harder for Ward 1 residents.  All of Burlington will benefit from her insight and objectivity as a Councilor.”

Selene is an Assistant to the Dean of Libraries at UVM.  She is a cofounder and former Board Chair of Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom.  She has also served on the boards of Vermont Community Access Media, Cradle to Grave Arts, Grace Roots Art and Community Effort, and the Vermont Library Association (VLA).  She is currently chair of the VLA’s Government Relations committee and a parent volunteer at Edmunds Elementary School.

A long-time advocate for economic and social justice, Selene says, “I intend to speak up for neighborhood safety, a strong local response to climate change, and inclusive processes for the city’s development and budgeting initiatives.  I’m looking forward to representing the immense creativity and expertise we have to offer on these issues in Ward 1.

“I’m an evidence-based decision maker and I’ll bring an even-handed, objective approach to my work as a City Councilor.  I love Burlington with all my heart and I’ll hold myself and my fellow Councilors to high standards on its behalf.”

Selene spent much of her childhood in a family home on the corner of College and Willard.  She has lived on Latham Ct with her husband Chris Burns and their two daughters since 2008.  Her grandfather Francis was an artist and humorist who helped found the Art Department at UVM and her grandmother Gladys taught for decades at Burlington High School.  Her mother Lorrie worked at the Fletcher Free Library for over 20 years.

Press Release: Progressive Party Statement on Burlington City Committee Reorganization

On Sunday evening, as part of the biannual reorganization process required of all Vermont major parties, over fifty Burlington Progressives gathered at the Integrated Arts Academy to elect a new City Committee and Steering Committee to lead the Burlington Progressive Party for the next two years.  In addition to the necessary committee work, those gathered heard rousing speeches from State Auditor Doug Hoffer, activist Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Ben & Jerry’s Chris Miller, Progressive City Councilors, Legislators, and more.

Kyle Silliman-Smith was elected City Chair, Ali Zipparo was elected City Vice Chair, Adam Norton was elected City Secretary, Wendy Coe was elected City Treasurer, and Connie Krosney was elected City Asst. Treasurer.  The following people were elected to represent their wards on the Steering Committee: Ward 1: Barb Nolfi; Ward 2: John Kennedy; Ward 3: July Sanders; Ward 5: Richard Kemp; Ward 6: Kelly Pierpont; Ward 7: Anjou-Marie Whelan. The following At-Large Steering Committee members were also elected: Erhard Mahnke, Steve Marshall, Selene Colburn, Jeetan Khadka, Barb Prine, Phyllis Knight, and Jude Logan DeMers.

Progressive Party State Chair Martha Abbott had this to say:

“I’ve been very excited in recent years to see so many new, younger Progressives step up and take on leadership roles in the Party, especially young women.  It’s no small task; the work involved in leading the strongest, most successful third party in the country is great.  I want to thank outgoing Chair Tiki Archambeau for his years of spectacular service and I very much look forward to working with Kyle, Ali, and all the members of the Burlington Steering Committee as we continue to grow the Progressive Party in Burlington, and beyond.”

New Burlington City Progressive Party Chair Kyle Silliman-Smith had this to say:

“I am honored my fellow Burlington Progressive Party members elected me to lead the City Steering Committee.  I look forward to working together with Ali and the rest of the Committee in the coming years as we continue to expand our party’s presence in Burlington.

“Our numbers on the City Council are the greatest they’ve been in years, but we can, and must, do better.  As the people’s party, we will continue to stand up for a strong livable wage ordinance, for a public, accessible waterfront, for city government that is open and welcoming to all, and for appropriate development that meets the needs all people, across the economic spectrum.  Along with grassroots organizing, one of the best ways to continue to do this effectively is to expand our numbers on the City Council next March, and I fully intend to see that happen.”

Passions Flare on a Summer's Night as Locals Debate the F-35 — Again

August 13, 2013; Kevin J. Kelley; Seven Days

Opponents, who outnumbered supporters 32-5 on Monday night, offered arguments that were alternately analytical and emotional. Their objections focused on the F-35's impact on public health and safety, local real-estate values, environmental quality and "brown-skinned people" in other countries who would be on the receiving end of the plane's payloads. One proponent responded to the other side's expressed concerns about the plane's health effects on children by suggesting, "If we want to keep our children safe, keep them off the runways."

The roar of the planes will place hundreds of additional homes in a zone that federal authorities already deem unfit for human habitation, several speakers warned. Two of them drew comparisons between ravaged, bankrupt Detroit and the South Burlington neighborhood adjoining the airport, where scores of homes have been demolished or are sitting vacant as a result of a federal buy-out program keyed to noise pollution.

"Shame on Burlington and shame on the airport for what has been done to my home and to my neighbors' homes," declared Carmine "Gramma" Sargent, a leader of the Stop the F-35 movement who lives about 100 yards from BTV's parking garage.

State Sen. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat, said in a written statement that he feared the risk of the plane crashing in a densely populated area.

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