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Posts from — March 2011

Tabula Rasa

I’ve decided to clean up the blog a little for spring.  For a while at least, I’m going to have fewer items on my sidebars and only display one post at a time on the front page.  Also, the header image will not change each time the page refreshes.  I’m embracing my minimalistic tendencies.

March 29, 2011   8 Comments

In Case You Missed It…

Below the row of stars to follow is Ed Adrian’s Burlington Free Press “My Turn” post from Sunday.  In it he again calls for the council to be smaller and to be paid more. I presume Ed is going to follow up on his pay-the-council campaign by offering a charter change or resolution of some kind, but I don’t know.

I hope so.

*****
From The Burlington Free Press:
My Turn: Burlington City Council limited by lack of resources
Written by Ed Adrian
6:42 AM, Mar. 27, 2011

My The Free Press re­cently opined that somehow the Bur­lington City Council shared responsibility for the disrespect demon­­strated to Burlington voters and the Vermont General Assembly by the Kiss ad­ministration’s failure to meet the statutorily-man­dated legislative deadline for filing the documents to change the City Charter (“City’s missed deadline shows disrespect for vot­ers,” March 20).

This charter change, recently approved by 68 percent of the voters, would remove the chief administrative officer from the council’s Board of Finance and replace the CAO with another city councilor. The Free Press claimed that the City Council “should have been on top of the situation, making sure things are getting done properly and on time.” This claim demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how power and resources are allocated in Burlington’s government.

Burlington city government in its current construction is a strong mayor/weak council form of municipal government. What this means is that essentially all of the resources (money and staff) in Burlington’s government are under the control of the mayor’s office. The Free Press correctly points out that 600 people work for the city. The vast majority of these employees are hard working people who report to the mayor and not the council.

Even at the top tier of administrators, the mayor has over a dozen full-time professionals at his disposal to carry out the will of the administration. The council has approximately “zero” full-time and part-time employees. Not only does the mayor have an arsenal of public servants, but he ultimately has total control of how his will is executed. In other words the buck stops with the mayor. The mayor also gets paid a full-time annual salary (approximately $140,000 including benefits) and has a daily physical presence in City Hall.

The council, on the other hand, has almost no control over how its will is executed, if its will gets executed at all. And then there is the question of what exactly constitutes the “will” of the council. Administration officials have told councilors on repeated occasions the only way the council can act as a body is by a majority vote. For example sometime an individual councilor makes a request and it is “granted” by the administration and sometimes the request “denied” under the pretext of it being too cumbersome or expensive to carry out. Usually these requests involve the production of information or request a task by administration staff. If the request is rebuffed, then the maker of the request can have the entire council vote to make the request. Even when the council votes, the mayor still has the option to ignore the will of the council.

The make up of the council is simply too big. Most similarly sized cities in this country have councils comprised of 7-9 (or fewer) people. This makes it more difficult for the Ccuncil to act cohesively and allows the administration to divide and conquer the council. We are comprised of volunteers with varying commitments and obligations — some more extensive than others. We are given a “stipend” of $3,000.

Many, many qualified candidates are discouraged from running because of the pugilistic nature of Burlington politics; a concern that council service may have ramifications on a councilor’s occupation; and the inability to adequately justify to a spouse or partner the many hundreds of hours spent annually on council work without remuneration.

Despite these numerous hurdles, several councilors have been able to adequately fulfill the council’s watchdog obligations. In fact Council President Bill Keogh both before and after the article on the charter change issue appeared in the Free Press, raised the issue with City Attorney Ken Schatz and remained in constant contact with Vermont House of Representatives Government Operations Vice Chairman Ken Atkins, to help ensure that the charter change would be acted on by the 2011 General Assembly and that it would take effect upon legislative passage.

The City Council does an adequate job fulfilling its responsibilities with essentially no resources at its disposal. City Councilors want to make sure that the residents of Burlington get the respect they deserve. We just need the resources to do it.
Ed Adrian is a Burlington City Councilor from Ward 1 and chairman of the Council Democratic Caucus.

March 28, 2011   Comments Off

Smart Grid

What is a “smart grid?”  On Front Porch Forum Mary Sullivan posted a link to a page the Electric Department created to help explain:

https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/page.php?pid=154&name=Smart%20Grid

I went there, and found this answer under “frequently asked questions”:

“What is “Smart Grid”?
“Smart grid” is an upgraded electric system that uses fiber optic cable and digital technology to relay information back and forth between the customer and the utility, and between the utility and various components of the electric grid. When fully operational, smart grid will provide a more reliable electric system, with the ability to incorporate renewable energy sources and to offer customers tools to manage their electric use.”

I think this means it’s the technology that would allow me to put a windmill in my back yard and a solar panel on my roof and use my own power to offset what I buy from the city. Actually, I could probably do that now if I had a windmill or solar panel and knew how to run electric devices with them. So is it just that it measures electricity use more accurately?

Wait, what is a smart grid again?

March 26, 2011   1 Comment

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation remembers the triangle shirtwaist factory fire, 100 years ago today. The fire which killed 146 people was a watershed in the American labor movement and led to better workplace safety standards.

March 25, 2011   Comments Off

Ten Thousand Dollar Task Force

Breaking News

In an email with little precedent, Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) director Larry Kupferman told city councilors on Friday his office cannot afford to staff a task force which the council will vote on creating Monday night.  With little explaination he estimates the council would need to give CEDO an additional $10,000 to staff a proposed new task force on urban agriculture.

Does this mean CEDO is now working at its maximum capacity and cannot take on any more work?  If so, then shouldn’t the council have been alerted to that a while ago?

Below the row of stars to follow is Kupferman’s email and below the row of stars after that is the resolution to be discussed at the 03.21.11 city council meeting. 

*****
From: Larry Kupferman
To: Bram Kranichfeld, Ed Adrian, Joan Shannon, Nancy Kaplan, Vincent Dober, Bill Keogh, David Berenziak, Karen Paul
Cc: Ken Schatz, Richard Haesler, Bob Kiss, Jonathan Leopold, Richard Goodwin
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2011 3:30:03 PM
Subject: Urban Ag Task Force?

Councilors:

I notice that a council resolution entitled “Creation of Urban Agriculture Task Force” is scheduled to be discussed at Monday’s meeting.

I have not been involved in the discussions that have led to this resolution nor consulted about the staff time required to staff a task force of this nature.

Based on my experience with past task forces staffed by CEDO, I will state now that the department does not have funds designated now or in the next budget year for such staff assignment. If Council does not appropriate a sum (I estimate $10,000) for this purpose, I am afraid it will be an unfunded mandate until a way to pay for staffing requirements is determined.

I’ll be glad to discuss the intent of this resolution further before Monday night. Thank you.

Larry

Larry Kupferman
Director
Community and Economic Development Office
City Hall, 149 Church St.
Burlington, VT 05401
direct 802-865-7174
fax: 802-865-7024
www.cedoburlington.org

*****

RESOLUTION RELATING TO CREATION OF
URBAN AGRICULTURE TASK FORCE

WHEREAS, a strong community-based food policy can provide benefits to the citizens of the City of Burlington including access to a healthier diet, a stronger local economy, a more robust food supply, and environmental benefits;

WHEREAS, Burlington is home to innovative, community-based food projects including the Burlington School Food Project, the Burlington Area Community Gardens, the Food Systems Spire at the University of Vermont, and the Intervale Center, a nationally recognized leader in food system innovation;

WHEREAS,Burlington residents are engaging in urban agriculture, defined broadly as “the growing of food and related activities within city boundaries,” including urban homesteading, permaculture, gardening, and community farming;WHEREAS, the City of Burlington currently lacks sufficiently clear regulations or a cohesive policy addressing urban agriculture;WHEREAS, this lack of sufficiently clear regulations or policy can cause confusion and creates an obstacle to engaging in these activities;WHEREAS, there currently is no single governing board devoted to review issues related to urban agricultural activities;

WHEREAS, the City of Burlington currently supports the continued development of a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food policy through the Burlington Food Council;

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Burlington City Council hereby creates the Urban Agriculture Task Force (“Task Force”) which is charged with recommending to the City Council a cohesive urban agriculture policy, improved rules and regulations addressing urban agriculture, and steps to better promote and govern urban agriculture in Burlington;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Community and Economic Development Office is designated as the lead department for providing staff support for the Task Force with additional staff support to be provided as appropriate and as necessary by the Planning & Zoning Department, the Code Enforcement Office, the Parks & Recreation Department, the City Attorney’s Office, and the Public Works Department; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall consist of one (1) member of the Burlington Food Council appointed by the Burlington Food Council, one (1) member of the Board of Health appointed by the Board of Health, one (1) member of the Planning Commission appointed by the Planning Commission, and up to 4 additional community members appointed by the Burlington Food Council;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in particular, the Task Force is to

(1) Generate a cohesive urban agriculture policy informed in part by current research, best practices, and the needs of City residents,

(2) Review the current rules and regulations that govern urban agriculture in Burlington, including but not limited to city ordinances and zoning regulations,

(3) Seek input from residents, stakeholders, and experts as appropriate, such as the Intervale Center and the UVM Food System Spire;

(4) Identify potential inconsistencies or gaps in the current regulations and make recommendations on clarifying and improving them,

(5) Identify barriers to urban agriculture and make recommendations on how the city can better promote and govern urban agriculture,

(6) Make recommendations on how to integrate the needs of city residents with statewide and regional food system development efforts, and

(7) Create a written action plan including actionable next steps for the City Council and city departments, a timeline and outline of necessary work, and potential funding sources for further policy development and implementation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Task Force shall provide a final, written action plan as outlined above to the City Council within 1 year after adoption of this Resolution by the City Council, with interim reports to the City Council at three-month intervals describing activities to date.

March 20, 2011   8 Comments

Shiny Shiny Day

Wow.  If you’re in Burlington today, you can see how beautifully sunny it is.  The beaming sunlight makes me so happy.  It also is helping my body produce vitamin D which is good for my bones.  Good for my dad’s bones too.

March 19, 2011   2 Comments

The Lockheed Issue

Some public officials talk about the Lockheed-inspired city council resolution in the comments of this post at the blog  “No Lockheed.”

March 16, 2011   Comments Off

Changing Education Paradigms

Thanks to student school board rep Deniz for sharing this…

March 16, 2011   6 Comments

Lauren Ober’s Workday

Lauren Ober invites Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott to work at Seven Days for a day, and outlines what a typical day at work looks like for her. From Blurt:

“…Wake up around 7 a.m.

Diddle around for two hours reading the New Yorker and the backs of cereal boxes.

Maybe get into the office by 9 a.m. Maybe not. 

Check email. Realize that none of the emails are personal correspondence from friends or admirers. Pout. 

Delete emails. Unsubscribe from nine PR distribution lists.

Check phone messages (don’t worry — no one will have called you back for a story). 

Look at schedule. Figure out who might be available go to lunch with you. 

Make lunch plans. 

Think about lunch. 

Make tea. 

Check Facebook. 

Check Twitter. 

Talk to coworkers about a story idea. Realize story idea is lame as it’s tumbling out of your mouth. Pout. 

Roll around on swivel chair. Tap pencil on desk…”

First of all, Cathy Resmer- I do like Lauren Ober. I like her very much. Of course I also hate her in a way, because I identify with her so strongly, and am so deeply envious of her ability to profit from her sardonic, sarcastic, meta-humor while I pay so dearly for mine.

Secondly, Pamela Polston and Paula Routly- you’ve probably known this for years, but you could hire me to write for you at any time.  From Lauren’s description, it sounds like I could hit the ground running.

March 16, 2011   1 Comment

Kill Your Facebook

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March 13, 2011   2 Comments