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Policy Platform

COMMUNITY SAFETY

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Everyone deserves to feel and be safe in Burlington. Right now, the city is not meeting this standard but together we can get there. Addressing community safety will be my first and top priority as mayor. Burlington, Vermont, and our entire country, face serious community safety challenges including substance use disorder, and a lack of adequate mental health care and affordable housing. These complex problems contribute to the sense that our community is unsafe. We can visibly see people suffering across our community.  


Improving community safety cannot be solved through one approach, or by one person. The tools and approach we have been using are not working. Solutions must include collaboration and must be community-centered to help people meet their basic needs. We must make better use of community enforcement measures that are proven to improve safety including community policing, strategic use of city resources to address “hot spots” experiencing increased crime, and right-sized staffing levels for police, social workers, and mental health first responders.

People deserve a timely and appropriate response when they call for help. We must get the right people to the table to solve the root causes of our community safety challenges. This includes police, public health experts, mental health and social service providers, state partners, businesses and nonprofit leaders, and impacted community members. We can learn from communities around the country about impactful approaches to housing-first and treatment-first programs. As mayor, I will engage city leaders and do the hard work to find long-term, sustainable solutions. I will listen, convene experts and community members, and take action.

Emma’s Strategies and Policy Solutions  

  1. Immediately appoint a special assistant to the mayor on community safety. The position would promptly advance and implement our community safety response and coordinate city and community partner efforts.
     

  2. Increase strategic police visibility and enforcement of criminal activity to deter crime and negative behavior. We must increase law enforcement visibility and prompt response to prevent crime. This will require police, landlords, neighbors, and businesses working together. Evidence shows that community enforcement strategies change behavior, more effectively than the threat of punishment by the criminal justice system. We must reestablish trust by responding when people and businesses call for help and we must send the right response to address the harm. 

    • Police have a role in community safety and we must ensure strategic use of police resources. This includes using information from independent experts (CNA Report, 2021) as a starting point to inform our staffing levels. We will prioritize police response to calls regarding violence, threats to safety, and visibility to deter crime. We will also strategically place police in “hot spots.” I will work with the police department to develop community policing practices to rebuild relationships and trust with our police department. 

    • Better coordinate first-responder efforts - Burlington CARES program - so skilled professionals respond to non-violent emergency calls related to mental health, wellness checks, and situations requiring de-escalation.

    • Address chronic safety “hotspots” by strengthening code and vacant building ordinances and enforcement and supporting landlords to effectively address illegal drug sales within their units.
       

  3. Implement a more responsive community safety system to prevent harm, meet residents' needs, and rebuild trust.

    • Resource the Burlington Fire Department’s overdose pilot program and increase staffing to alleviate overtime hours for an already overworked workforce.

    • Partner with treatment and recovery partners to provide evidence-based overdose prevention, treatment, and recovery tools to the community. 

    • Create overdose prevention centers as part of a comprehensive prevention, treatment and recovery response to substance use disorder.

    • Elevate the Community Justice Center and restorative practices and invest in programs to support victims of crimes through our Parallel Justice Program.

    • Improve training for police and first responders by focusing on de-escalation, trauma, anti-bias, and cultural responsiveness. 

    • Support businesses by offering de-escalation and Narcan training to increase the community’s wider capacity to respond to those in need.
       

  4. Advocate for statewide policy change to leverage resources and address the root causes of community safety. Burlington cannot be alone in solving these complex challenges. We deserve statewide collaboration to address these statewide challenges.

    • Advocate for stronger common sense gun laws that prohibit possession of guns in vulnerable locations, such as establishments that serve alcohol; encourage gun buy-back and safe storage programs; and expand education for youth and families about gun access and safety. 

    • Continue the current Mayor’s Taskforce on Youth Violence with local youth service agencies, schools, city departments, stakeholders, and the most impacted parts of our community, to create a proactive and strategic approach to gun prevention and intervention work with youth and families. Support and enhance programming that builds youth's sense of belonging, connection, and pathways to good jobs, especially marginalized youth.

    • Educate the community on recent changes to state law to expand Extreme Risk Protection Orders which allows family and household members to intervene when there is a risk for gun violence. 

    • Advocate for the state investments in workforce development for mental health and social workers, including vacant first responder positions.

    • Work with regional and state partners to find short-term solutions for people experiencing homelessness, including low barrier shelter options and safer encampment policies, and transitional housing as we wait for affordable units

    • Advocate and partner with the state to fund and coordinate statewide prevention, treatment, and recovery services that are accessible to all Vermonters.
       

  5. Improve daily quality of life for everyone in our city, including residents and businesses impacted by the effects of substance use, mental health, and homelessness. 

    • Develop and implement a smart and responsive strategy for needle recovery.

    • Recommence a robust graffiti removal strategy.
       

  6. Build a city government culture that centers community, collaboration, innovation, and trust. We need a city government that works for and with our community. Leaders can work together, without blaming each other and creating more division. We can look to other communities for successful models for our complex challenges while building a culture that celebrates Burlington’s strengths and people.

AFFORDABILITY

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Residents of all income levels should be able to live and thrive in our community. Burlington benefits when we prioritize policies that maintain economic diversity and keep city services, municipal taxes, and fees affordable. Vermont’s cost of living competes with some of the most expensive US urban areas while our median income is much lower.  We can build a safe, vibrant community by ensuring people can meet their basic needs, find affordable and stable housing, and dignified work. We all benefit from sustainable, fiscally sound infrastructure for our municipal government.

 

People deserve policies that support them accessing livable wages, affordable housing and transportation, high-quality child care, and health insurance. Labor unions are a critical part of a vibrant economy. They help lift wages and improve working conditions for all workers. Pro-worker policies can benefit employees who experience bias in the workplace including women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ workers. On a local level, the city can leverage its role as a major employer and its contracted work to establish professional wages, benefits, and strong labor practices. 


Burlington residents, businesses, and visitors deserve a city that delivers high quality services and maintains critical infrastructure. We must develop fiscal planning that coordinates and balances needs and assets between departments and with our school district. We must maintain a general fund that allows the city to adequately hire, retain, and compensate employees meet its many complex needs.

Emma’s Strategies and Policy Solutions  

  1. Create a more progressive and sustainable municipal property tax system. Transition the city’s municipal tax system to an income-based tax system similar to the state education property tax system. Create a more equitable balance between the residential and commercial tax systems. Create a predictable, transparent tax system that residents can understand and plan for within their own budgets.

  2. Create a capital improvement plan with resident participation. Engage residents to set funding and timing priorities for a portion of the capital budget. Create transparency about the investments needed in our public infrastructure.

  3. Increase transparency and access for the city budgeting process. Host information sessions and create accessible, multilingual videos to help everyone understand the budget. 

  4. Explore programs to assist home-owners and renters with affordable energy efficiency. Look to experts and other municipalities to create innovative and effective programs.

  5. Collaborate with housing developers committed to the public good to expand affordable housing that prioritizes access to public transportation and job opportunities. Use the rezoning process to incorporate inclusionary zoning rules to leverage more affordable housing units.

  6. Enforce the city’s existing short-term rental ordinance to leverage limited current housing stock for city residents.

  7. Explore rent stabilization policies and advocate for the just cause eviction charter change to pass the legislature so residents can have stable housing.

  8. Expand the grand list to promote greater affordability for all. Expand our tax base through community-minded zoning changes to promote housing density and the growth of our community. 

  9. Work with institutional partners like the University of Vermont, Champlain College and UVM Medical Center to creatively address housing and transportation needs. 

  10. Serve as a model Vermont employer to develop apprenticeships, removing economic barriers, and creating pathways to high quality jobs, especially for marginalized communities, including immigrants and refugees, and formerly incarcerated Vermonters.

  11. Deepen partnerships with employers to create a local workforce development strategy to support employee recruitment, retention, and advancement. This is particularly important for supporting recent high school and college graduates, and marginalized people to find pathways to entry level jobs that lead to high quality local jobs.

  12. Support small business economic development in all parts of the city, especially businesses owned by marginalized people. Investigate creative and innovative ways to adapt to changes in consumer patterns, workforce availability, and access to capital.

  13. Leverage public-private partnerships to benefit the community. Require responsible contractor provisions to support workers, improve equitable access to entities bidding on city contracts, and leverage public benefits for the city that align with our climate and economic goals.

LIVABILITY:
PEOPLE & CLIMATE

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We must create a livable, healthy city where everyone feels they belong.
 

A vibrant Burlington is a place where everyone thrives, no matter their identity.  Burlington residents, students, employees, business owners, and visitors deserve to enjoy our city. Our community is becoming more diverse: 37% of our high and middle school students identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) and 36% identify as LGBTQ+. We must ensure our young people, and all marginalized people, are affirmed and supported in our community. We also must ensure that our community addresses the needs of and ensures accessibility for members of our community who are aging as well as residents with disabilities. We create an inclusive community by prioritizing belonging, equity, and safety throughout the city’s functions as it serves residents and visitors, acts as an employer, and influences other public and private employers in our area. 

Emma’s Strategies and Policy Solutions  

  1. Utilize the city’s Racial Equity Inclusion and Belonging Office (REIB) in strategic ways to support policy development, employment practices, and support for the community to create a more inclusive city. 

  2. Seek counsel from marginalized communities to inform the city’s work and priorities beyond traditional engagement methods. 

  3. Partner with multilingual communities and organizations to improve and invest in language access of city resources, voting information, and public meetings. 

  4. Appoint department heads with proven experience creating a culture of inclusion and a commitment to addressing bias and harm in the workplace.

  5. Expand planning efforts to ensure that our community is healthy and accessible for all including people with disabilities. 

Burlington can be a climate policy leader. We must be more innovative and make decisions that prove a deep commitment to future generations. Our first climate mitigation policy is to help residents, businesses, and institutions move from fossil fuel-based heating sources to renewable sources. Second, we will increase investments in local transportation systems that prioritize options besides single occupant fossil fueled vehicles. Third, we will improve the health of our lake environment. Finally, our climate policy will strategically intersect with workforce, equity, and affordability policy.  

 

We are fortunate to live in a city and state with incredible natural resources and many tools, including two locally-controlled, municipally owned utilities: Burlington Electric Department and the Water Resources Division. We can leverage existing assets to create equitable access to affordable energy efficiency and mass transit, while continuing to serve as a leader on climate resiliency in Vermont. Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income and BIPOC people and our solutions must acknowledge and account for those inequities.

Emma’s Strategies and Policy Solutions  

  1. Advocate to make the current fare-free program permanent for Green Mountain Transit buses and look to expand “on demand transit” to support people who struggle to access bus lines. 

  2. Create measurable goals that not only eliminate the City’s reliance on fossil fuels but also reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. 

  3. Work with our large employers to help their workforce reduce emissions by coordinating a free/low-cost, efficient regional bus system that encourages commuters to utilize public transportation into the city.

  4. Create and prioritize safe and interconnected walking and biking networks.

  5. Enforce the recent ordinance to weatherize rental properties so landlords prioritize improvements to their rental properties. 

  6. Move Burlington residents off of fossil fuels for heating and transportation by helping households transition to electric-based sources. Increase the number of households on electric-based systems to provide potential additional revenue sources to fund affordability programs. 

  7. Develop a responsible transition plan to close the McNeil plant and find innovative solutions to move large institutions off of carbon-based energy sources. 

  8. Expand opportunities for home-owners and renters to finance energy efficiency improvements to their homes, including on-bill financing, a program that allows investments that don’t rely on debt financing.

  9. Develop affordable cooling solutions for hot weather, especially for low income residents.

  10. Leverage state and federal partners for infrastructure resilience to prepare for future climate change impacts on our lake and city infrastructure. This includes policies that mitigate pollution and enforce regulation upstream within the lake’s watershed communities. 

  11. Work with career and technical centers, trades unions, and private partners, to support a workforce that meets our climate policy needs in weatherization and infrastructure while supporting young Vermonters to find high quality jobs with purpose that increase their connection to Vermont.

  12. Leverage the city’s utilities, Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO), and state partners to educate homeowners and renters on available energy efficiency and transportation options and assist with navigating and accessing rebates and financing. 

  13. Convene stakeholders and experts, including those most impacted by climate change including people in low lying areas and Intervale farmers to advise the city on how to continually adapt policy to meet the changing realities of our climate. 

Burlington can be a leader as a livable community that implements forward-thinking climate initiatives. We must work as a city with businesses, non profit organizations, and large institutions to innovate together. We can engage with our community, especially marginalized people, to find solutions together. When we address the disproportional impact that climate change has on marginalized people, we build healthier communities for everyone. 

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