March 1, 2013; Martha Abbott; Burlington Free Press
What makes Burlington a special place? In the 1960’s, Burlington was divided into the working class and poor or the upper middle class and wealthy. College students all lived on campus. There were a couple of non-profit organizations like the Sara Holbrook Center and the Lund home and the Salvation Army. There was no Land Trust, no homeless shelters.
In the 70s and 80s things changed. Students starting living off campus. Many graduated and made Burlington their home. People with alternative lifestyles moved to Burlington and integrated themselves into downtown and the Old North End of Burlington.
We started the Burlington Land Trust (now the Champlain Housing Trust), the People’s Free Clinic (now the Community Health Center), People Acting for Change Together which started homeless shelters and eventually morphed into COTS, Women Against Rape, the Women’s House of Transition (now Women Helping Battered Women), Peace and Justice Center and many other initiatives.
In 1981 a young alternative politician by the name of Bernie Sanders was elected mayor. Affordable housing and livable wages, women and minority owned businesses, inclusionary zoning, the idea of merging public policy and non profit missions to create community and economic development was born and flourished.
This is a quick history of how Burlington became the unique and special place that it is today. Now we see a new group of people moving into Burlington, running for office and putting forth ideas to develop the public waterfront for private gain, to develop expensive housing, to make exceptions to our livable wage ordinance for selective private business interests located in our public projects.
What makes Burlington special is its economic diversity. Families of modest means living next to students on their way up the economic ladder next to a family with substantial resources side by side with retirees living in the same neighborhood. In order to preserve this fragile balance which makes Burlington such a special place, our leaders must understand and appreciate it.
Jane Knodell is an economist who has chosen to live in the Old North End for 24 years because she wants to participate in an economically diverse community. Tough decisions are being made about Burlington’s future. As a former City Councilor myself, and Burlington business owner and someone who has lived in the Old North End in two different decades, I urge Ward Two residents to elect Jane Knodell on March 5.
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