Petition Drive Wins Place on Ballot

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Thursday February 02, 2012

At a special meeting January 25th, the City Council reversed a long held policy of only placing items on the ballot if they pertained strictly to matters of city business.
In a 3-1 vote, the Council accepted a petition for a resolution not related to city affairs to be placed on the March 6th ballot. 

The ‘Citizen’s United’  petition was presented to the Council by resident Rick Hubbard with over 950 signatures.  Over a three week period, 43 South Burlington residents worked in a concerted effort to spread the word, gain support and gather the required 5 percent, or a minimum of 610 signatures of registered voters needed for the request. 

The resolution will appear on the ballot as follows:

In light of the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that equates money with speech and gives corporations rights constitutionally intended for natural persons, shall the city of South Burlington vote on March 6, 2012 (town meeting date) to urge the Vermont Congressional Delegation and the U.S. Congress to propose a U.S. Constitutional amendment for the States’ consideration which provides that money is not speech, and that corporations are not persons under the U.S. Constitution, that the General Assembly of the State of Vermont pass a similar resolution, and that the town send its resolution to Vermont State and Federal representatives within thirty days of passage of this measure?

A number of supporters spoke, asking the Council to enable the ‘conversation’ to take place by allowing the resolution to appear on the ballot so that registered voters in the city can weigh in.  They echoed frustration about how the current funding of the political process eliminates the voice of the common man.  Petition gatherers noted that the concept was very well received in the community, and proves that South Burlington voters want to be heard.  Hubbard emphasized that the resolution was not politically motivated, had common appeal across party lines, and was also being put on the ballots of many other towns and cities across the state.  There are similar efforts across the nation.

Council members also heard comments from the audience cautioning them to not make a hasty decision which would set a precedent for the future.  It was suggested that future councilors could be voted in based upon their political leanings, and that the council should not be seen as a political organization. Resident Agnes Clift asked how the council would achieve consistency as they pick and choose which articles to put on the ballot, and wondered about the complications of too many unrelated items appearing on one ballot. 

Councilor Jim Knapp commented that the resolution wasn’t appropriate for the ballot but suggested that it be presented at Town Meeting for a voice vote.   The Council also considered a recommendation that the decision be postponed until the Monday, January 30 City Council meeting.

After some discussion, Councilor Paul Engels made the motion to vote, which was seconded by Councilor Rosanne Greco.  The councilors in favor were Meaghan Emery,  Engels and Greco; Knapp opposed the motion.  Council Chair Sandy Dooley was not present at the meeting. The motion passed 3-1.

The South Burlington City Council is made up of 5 citizens who live in the City of South Burlington, elected at-large by the voters of the City. These five councilors sit with 2-3 year terms expiring in an annual rotation. The City Council meets regularly on the 1st & 3rd Mondays of each month to conduct business of the City and carry out the provisions of the City Charter. Special or emergency meetings can be called in the event that an urgent need arises for City Council authorization.  City Council meetings are held at City Hall in the conference room and begin at 7pm.