BURLINGTON — With Town Meeting Day just over one month away, a handful of community and labor leaders are joining Mayor Miro Weinberger’s public push against a proposed police control board.
A group of local leaders from the University of Vermont Medical Center, the Howard Center, labor unions, and business associations spoke out against the proposal at a press conference with Weinberger Thursday. Several current and former city councils also joined the coalition.
Among the speakers was City Councilor Ben Traverse, D-Ward 5, who said he plans to propose a resolution during Monday’s city council meeting urging Burlington residents to vote against the charter change. Traverse said the maneuver would allow the council to hear more public feedback and discuss how to address police oversight in a way that has “more broad support of the folks here and the rest of our community.”
Dr. Stephen Leffler, president of UVM Medical Center, argued that the hospital relies on the police department amid an increase in violence toward its staff and said the control board would “have the potential of further diminishing the Burlington police department's ability to respond to violence in our emergency department or hospital.”
The community control board ballot question arrived on the ballot by a petition campaign, circumventing the council and mayor. Weinberger previously vetoed a similar control board resolution from Progressive city councilors in 2020.
Those behind the petition campaign, as well as current Progressive city councilors, have said the control board would be a step toward rebuilding trust in the police department and denied that the board would completely exclude the police chief from discipline or remove due process and protections for police officers.
But presidents from the municipal employees’ and firefighters’ unions, who also joined the mayor’s press conference, raised their own concerns, including whether the proposed charter change could affect the city’s other unions. Leaders from the police union were not present.
Business leaders in attendance included Catherine Davis from the Lake Champlain Chamber and Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association. Both spoke similarly about public safety concerns.
Burlington residents will vote on the community control board on Town Meeting Day in March. As a charter change, it would require legislative approval in Montpelier to take effect.
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