No on Question #4

(Seven Days)

On town meeting day in Burlington the capitalist class and the Burlington City Council will be making one more attempt to fleece the people of Burlington with Question #4.

Question #4 is an attempt to make sweeping changes to the Downtown Improvement District (DID) and the Church Street Marketplace. In short, it would spread the purview of the DID to the small but domineering 4 blocks of the Church street marketplace to the 38 blocks from South Winooski and Pearl to Main and Lake.

The DID is a special tax district that allows business within it to pool their taxes into a “nonprofit” non-governmental organization. This takes away from public revenues and therefore public needs by allowing the DID to prioritize its own projects that are clearly oriented on commerce and development.

The responsibilities of this new “non-profit” remain sketchy but we know that it would allow for only 2 seats on its 11 member board to be held by ordinary residents. The other board members would be directly from the business community or appointees from the mayor and city council, thus further removing the DID from democratic rule.

One possible outcome of the passage of Question #4 could be that the DID would be able to hire their own security to work in this retail district. The Burlington Police Department have already shown themselves all too willing to harass, threaten, and assault people of color, immigrants, the homeless, and other oppressed groups. The thought of less government oversight over an area 9 times larger than it currently is should be another frightening prospect to Burlington voters.

There are deep problems with downtown Burlington; the cost of living is outrageous, the lack of livable wage jobs is stunning, and the CityPlace redevelopment is a debacle we’ll be dealing with for decades. These are not problems that a consolidated class of business owners and their lackeys in city government are willing or able to solve. Rent control, workers and union rights, environmental sustainability and infrastructure are all projects that Church Street and the current City Council have committed themselves to be against.

To make Burlington a livable city we have to begin to piece together a movement of workers, students, and oppressed groups to oppose privatization, expand public and democratic responses to the host of environmental, social, and economic problems created by the City’s development priority of tourism, marinas, hotels, and expensive real estate.  

On Town Meeting Day:

Vote NO on Question #4!