February News and Updates

It’s been an amazing experience representing my constituents as a city councilor and state representative at a time when progressive policies and values are more needed than ever. I am so grateful for all the support, encouragement and challenges that keep me doing this work. Thank you!

Burlington City Council

  • Along with councilors, police commissioners and advocates, I continue to work for more community engagement in discussions about oversight of our police department. Last month, the mayoral administration and majority of councilors opposed a resolution I co-sponsored that would have created a task force for input from representatives of marginalized communities. Rather than give up, the council’s Public Safety committee (under the leadership of Sara Moore Giannoni) is working collaboratively to build common ground with the administration and ensure a community input process that works for all.
  • Don’t forget to vote on Town Meeting Day, March 7th! We’ll have an opportunity to weigh in on a school budget and capital improvement bond, a state $15 per hour minimum wage, councilor pay, district representation and a number of small charter changes. For more on the election, see https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/CT/Elections.
Selene meets with Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs) and her co-councilor, Max Tracy, at UVM Medical Center to learn about their efforts to organize for livable wages and safer working conditions.

Vermont Statehouse

Scenes from the Judiciary committee.

Events and Action

  • Opioid Town Hall Meeting, March 16th, Contois Auditorium @ Burlington City Hall, 6 p.m. Come learn about the principles guiding Burlington’s response to the opioid crisis and share your concerns and solutions.
  • Join me with the Vermont Sierra Club at a short film screening and discussion on how to protect bees from dangerous pesticides. March 15th, 6:30 p.m. Taplin Auditorium-Second Floor-CHRIST CHURCH | Episcopal, 64 State Street, Montpelier. Email robb.kidd@sierraclub.org for more information.
  • Celebrate International Women’s Day, Saturday March 18th from 1-3 p.m. at the King Street Youth Center (87 King St.) in Burlington.
  • Every Friday, Lt. Governor David Zuckerman holds a coffee with constituents from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the statehouse. All are welcome. Learn more about ways to get involved at http://ltgov.vermont.gov/.

 

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Take Action! Week of 2/4/2017

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Sunday, 2/5/2017

  • Take the Fair Housing survey to help the City of Burlington, the Burlington Housing Authority, and the Winooski Housing Authority understand more about housing and neighborhood issues.
  • Join the Ceremony of Solidarity and Protection at Geprags Park in Hinesburg from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the Week of Action VT to protest the final construction of the Vermont Gas Pipeline. No new fossil fuel infrastructure!

Monday, 2/6/2017

  • Come to Burlington City Council at 7 p.m. at Contois Auditorium. Share your feedback on continued negotiations for the Burlington Town Center development project.
  • You can also speak out in a support of a resolution I’ve co-sponsored with Progressive colleagues, thanks to the leadership of Councilor Giannoni. The resolution would form a task force on community oversight of police with representatives from the “ACLU, LGBTQ, communities of color, mental health community, Police Commission, Police Department,survivors of domestic and sexual violence, youth, homeless community, and refugee and immigrant communities.” I’m hearing the administration prefers to bring forward a set of recommendations without the engagement this resolution calls for and will likely oppose it, so please come speak up for COMMUNITY INPUT ON COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT OF POLICING if that’s important to you.

Tuesday, 2/7/2017

Wednesday, 2/8/2017

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Thursday, 2/9/2017

Friday, 2/10/2017

Saturday, 2/11/2017

  • Demand that TD Bank divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline, as part of the Week of Action VT.  The group’s Facebook page says that protestors will gather at the Burlington Waterfront at 8:30 a.m. for an action at 10:30am at TD Bank at 111 Main St, Burlington.
  • Many of us are concerned about Governor Scott’s proposals to level fund local school spending and interfere with collective bargaining.  Join legislators and the Burlington School District for a Community Discussion on Education Funding in VT, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., at the Edmunds Middle School cafeteria.

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January News

It’s hard to know where to start, given the outrageous and unforgivable acts served up by our new presidential administration over the last week. From cutting off access to reproductive healthcare worldwide to banning refugees from entering the country, they have shown no mercy or respect for basic human rights. The work that we are doing together in state and local government feels more important than ever. I am committed to working hard for progressive policy that benefits Vermonters, while raising my voice against hateful and hurtful national mandates.

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City Council

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Vermont Statehouse

Governor Scott’s budget address shocked Vermonters this past week, as he suggested level-funding local school budgets via a special election on May 23rd, while requiring teachers to pay more for healthcare benefits. This would result in an estimated 3 million dollars of staffing cuts to Burlington’s carefully planned FY 2018 budget and $10,000 worth of special election costs. More details of the proposal can be found here. If you’re concerned about Governor Scott’s proposal to eliminate local control of school budgets and what it means for Burlington, please speak up and contact him.

• Last week I introduced my first bill. It’s a bold proposal to combat opiate addiction by adding safer consumption sites to Vermont’s harm reduction toolkit. While the idea is understandably unsettling, it’s been proven to reduce deaths, get more people into treatment and cut down on discarded needles and public drug use, without increasing crime. We owe it to the many Vermonters and their loved ones affected by opiate addiction to strongly commit to results-based approaches that save lives.

• I’m proud to be a co-signer on paid family leave and $15 an hour minimum wage bills this session. In Burlington, city council approved a town meeting day question that will let voters weigh in via an advisory question to the legislature on a $15 an hour minimum wage. Let your voice be heard in support of working Vermonters!

• I was elected as Clerk of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of representatives, senators and advocates who meet every Tuesday at noon in Room 10 of the statehouse. Please join us if you’re interested in learning more, and follow VT Climate Caucus on Facebook for updates.

Take action!

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Continue speaking out against discriminatory immigration and refugee policies:

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Many white Vermonters, including myself, need to recognize the bias and hatred that’s already present and directed at people of color in our communities. Let’s do the hard work of acknowledging privilege and dismantling racism in our own lives, and get involved in one or more of the numerous organizations working for racial justice in Vermont:

Thank you

Standing up with so many of you over the last week and a half has given me a lot of hope. Injustice didn’t start with Trump, but I hope we are waking up to our collective power. Keep loving, keep fighting. Together we win!

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November 28th: Welcome Syrian Refugees

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Burlington Says: Welcome Syrian Refugees

November 28, 2016

 6:30 PM Vigil at City Hall

7:00 PM City Council meeting begins

7:30 PM Public forum time certain [may begin earlier if there are many speakers]

RSVP on Facebook

On November 28th, the Burlington City Council will debate a symbolic resolution declaring our city to be open and welcome to Syrian refugees The resolution resolves that, “The Burlington City Council declares its support for resettlement of United Nations registered Syrian refugees in Burlington and calls on other Vermont municipalities to declare support in their own communities and to join Burlington in supporting a stronger national effort to resettle the most vulnerable Syrian refugees.”

You can find complete text of the resolution on the Burlington Board Docs site. The resolution is co-sponsored by Selene Colburn and Joan Shannon, in collaboration with Amnesty International USA in VT.

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If you want to speak in favor of the resolution:

  • The public forum portion of city council starts at a time certain of 7:30 PM, but may begin sooner if there are a large number of speakers.
  • When you enter Contois Auditorium, you can sign up to speak.
  • Speakers are granted 2-3 minutes each and asked to address the council via its President. It helps to have some quick notes or prepared remarks that you know will fit into that length of time.
  • Please limit cheers, clapping or boos in response to other speakers as it lengthens the forum and makes it difficult to hear all points of view. You can express agreement or appreciation by waving your hands in the air.
  • The resolution will be introduced later in the evening as the agenda moves forward. If you want to hear councilors discuss and vote on the resolution, please do.

Here are some points it might be helpful to make:

  • This is a symbolic resolution. The resolution does not request additional refugees or commit Burlington to a certain number of Syrian refugees. We recognize that Syrian refugees may be part of our local refugee resettlement program, as a result of federal decisions, and we welcome and support that. Not all communities or leaders have been so supportive, so this is an opportunity for Burlington to tell a different story.
  • Many refugees in our community face hardship and discrimination. It’s important to recognize this truth in any attempt to say “refugees welcome” and to ask ourselves how we can recommit to the hard work of dismantling bias and supporting those who have chosen to make new lives among us. If your experience has put you into a position to speak to this, that is a really important perspective for city councilors to hear.
  • Speak from the heart and let us know why this issue is important to you.

Thank you!

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A huge thanks to the voters of Chittenden 6-4 for sending Brian Cina and I to the VT legislature as your representatives in the House. We are thrilled and honored to serve you. Thanks also to my family for trusting in me and making it through another campaign season. Thanks to my wonderful campaign manager Lauren and to all the volunteers who helped us drop leaflets, make phone calls, stamp postcards and much more. Thanks to the many donors whose modest, grassroots contributions helped fund a people-centered campaign. Thanks to the Vermont Progressive Party and Rights and Democracy VT for their support for my candidacy, and to the many organizations who provided endorsements in support of our shared vision for a progressive Vermont. Thanks to outgoing Representatives Kesha Ram and Chris Pearson for their long and valuable service to our district and the state.

Like many Vermonters, I am dismayed by our national election results. As I have said elsewhere:

I am not going to Canada or Norway or Mexico. I am going to the Vermont statehouse where I am going to fight with everything I’ve got to turn back this wave of hatred, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and ableism. I am going to stand against the criminalization of poverty and addiction, the climate change denial, and the income inequality that is sweeping our country. I am going to work with my comrades and colleagues on the left to overcome our differences, so that we can build a true movement of working people who can turn this country around and deliver on the principles that excited so many of us earlier in this election cycle…not four years from now when the Democratic Party offers us a candidate, but right now. I am so grateful for the voters who have entrusted me to represent them, who support a progressive vision for Vermont and our country. When I stepped up to run for this office, I thought I’d likely be in for a Republican governor (we are), but I never really believed my work would require pushing back on oppression of this magnitude at the federal level. That’s privilege, pure and simple, and a failure of the imagination on my part. I am not going to let my children, or your children, see me sitting on the sidelines at this moment in history. I am in this 100% and then some.

Who’s with me?

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Why We’re Voting No on #3

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An early vision for added height density at the Burlington Town Center in Plan BTV, Burlington’s 2013 downtown and waterfront planning document.

On November 8th, Burlington voters will weigh in on zoning changes and public TIF investments in support of a mall revitalization project at the Burlington Town Center. We’re three members of the Burlington City Council who strongly support mixed-use development, growth in our local housing stock, efforts to increase housing affordability and the revitalization of our out-of-date downtown mall. We don’t support the size and massing in the proposed zoning, or a process that failed to explore alternatives more in line with the current upper height limits in our downtown.

When we vote on Burlington ballot item #3, we are voting on a zoning overlay district, not a mall project. Zoning, as established through community engagement and codified in the Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan, sets the terms for development. In this sense, the needs of one particular developer or project should not drive zoning policy. This, however, is exactly what happened with the zoning overlay district we’ll vote on this November 8th.

The zoning change process began with a Pre-Development Agreement (PDA) in May between the developer and the City. Current zoning allows developers to go to 65 ft. in height by right with 20% of units in those buildings set aside as affordable. Should a developer want to go beyond that current 65 ft. limit, they can go up to 105 ft. by including more public benefits like additional affordable housing. The PDA asked the Council to commit to changing these current zoning requirements to allow for buildings up to 160 ft and to allow those buildings to reach that height without additional affordable housing requirements.

Over the course of the summer, the Planning Commission and, subsequently, the Council debated an overlay district for the area surrounding the Burlington Town Center. That district included several adjacent properties: Macy’s, the College St. and Lakeview parking garages, and Peoples’ United Bank. Under the proposal, all properties within that overlay would be able to reach 160 ft. in height with an additional 15 ft. allowed for rooftop mechanicals and up to 10% in additional height at the discretion of the Planning and Zoning Director. At the same time, the change removed the bonus concept from our ordinance, meaning that a developer could go up to 160 ft. by right without including other community benefits like more affordable housing. These changes were the issues around which much of the debate revolved.

That debate, however, wasn’t much of a debate. Time and time again, we were told we could not consider changes that were not consistent with the Burlington Town Center PDA. In essence, that agreement was driving and limiting the terms of debate around the larger district. Because of this dynamic, the Planning Commission and Ordinance Committee did not make any substantive changes to the overlay as is typical in the zoning change process. Instead, they merely identified issues around which disagreement existed, leaving those for the full Council to resolve.

Undeterred by the resistance to change at earlier stages, we offered compromise amendments to the zoning overlay when it came to the full Council for final approval. An amendment to bring the height down to 130 ft. was voted down. An amendment to establish a hard cap on height at 160 ft. was voted down. An amendment increasing affordable housing requirements from 20% to 25% at upper height limits was voted down. Compromise that reflected public input and concerns, it seemed, was wishful thinking. Ultimately, the zoning change was passed by the full Council with only minor technical changes by a vote of 8-3 with the three of us voting against.

A vote against the proposed zoning is sometimes described as a vote against mall revitalization, affordable housing, progress, change, growth, the environment and even diversity and equity. This false dichotomy is discouraging to witness at the local level, as our national political discourse gets more and more polarized. Zoning can and should be a thoughtful process where we consider options, defining and upholding community values about how we grow our city. We believe we failed to do that in the context of the proposed zoning changes.

Now, the fate of the overlay district lies with Burlington voters. As you think about your vote on Question #3, we hope that you understand that you are not voting for a mall project, but a zoning overlay that extends beyond the boundaries of the mall that will dramatically change our downtown for generations to come. We’re voting no because the zoning overlay emerged from a process void of compromise or consideration of alternatives, includes increases in height that will result in buildings out of scale with the rest of downtown, and will lower the percentage of affordable housing that developers are required to build.

Max Tracy, Ward 2 City Councilor

Selene Colburn, East District City Councilor

Sharon Bushor, Ward 1 City Councilor

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Growing up in Burlington, I found a home for my interests in art and politics in Bernie Sanders’ Mayor’s Youth Office, at a time when I was struggling to fit in. It was a special honor to receive his endorsement earlier this week.

Senator Sanders writes, “Selene Colburn is a strong supporter of working families, the environment, and LGBT rights. She has done a great job on Burlington’s City Council and I am confident will be an excellent state representative.”

It has been a privilege to represent so many of you on Burlington’s City Council, where together we’ve pushed for housing affordability, quality-of-life improvements, environmental justice, livable wages, police reform and humane solutions to the opiate crisis.

I’m ready to continue this work for you every day in Montpelier and ask for your support as your representative to the Chittenden 6-4 district in the Democratic primary NEXT TUESDAY, AUGUST 9TH.

As I’ve knocked on doors over the last several months, I’ve been continually impressed by how thoughtful, informed and passionate my neighbors are. Thanks to all of you, I’ve learned even more about how badly we need improvements to our systems for healthcare, education funding, childcare access, property taxation and more. I am grateful to you for sharing your stories and your doorsteps.

With much warmth and gratitude,
Selene