On Thursday, December 31, Mayor Weinberger’s veto of the Charter Change regarding the independent community control board was posted as part of the City Council agenda, along with a memo that outlined the Mayor’s decision and called for an attempt to find consensus. Today, Mayor Weinberger released the following statement:
“Following the release of my veto letter on Thursday, City Council President Max Tracy reached out to me on Sunday morning and invited me to discuss my veto with several Progressive City Councilors. I met with them at noon that day for approximately 90 minutes. Director of Police Transformation Kyle Dodson and Chief of Staff Jordan Redell also attended.
“The meeting was productive, detailed and, from my perspective, appeared to be conducted in good faith by all participants. I left the meeting optimistic that there is much common ground between us on the issue of reforming police discipline, hopeful of achieving a compromise either now or in the months to come, and awaiting a response from the Councilors as to whether they were interested in continuing the talks and attempting to negotiate changes to the proposed Charter Change before tonight. No further progress or material communications took place until early this afternoon, when Councilors were back in touch with me and shared some proposed new Charter Change language.
“I appreciate that over the last two days, the Progressive Councilors showed willingness to find compromise. Unfortunately, however, the changes transmitted this afternoon fell well short of addressing my fundamental concern that the current Charter Change proposal will undermine the City’s ability to ensure public safety – specifically, that when the public calls, we are able to respond with professional public employees who are trained for the full range of emergencies and needs that the public expects to be addressed.
“Further, following additional consultations with the City Attorney, it has become more clear to me than it was at the time of my Thursday veto letter that the legally prescribed process for making Charter Changes does not lend itself to compromise at this stage. Indeed, it is clear that there are no options to make binding changes to the Charter Change language at this point that would provide adequate transparency and opportunity for the thorough vetting and review needed by Councilors, the Administration, and the public. Specifically, all options for making changes to the Charter Change language at this point would require last-minute amendments of tonight’s City Council agenda, language to be negotiated and acted upon by the Council without any public review, and some kind of non-binding Council vote at tonight’s meeting.
“Therefore, I will not be rescinding my veto, and I urge the City Council to sustain it tonight.
“It is very unfortunate that a clear opportunity for consensus and progress on this important policing and racial justice issue was missed. Prior to the key vote on this Charter Change on December 14, I made repeated requests for the City Councilors who have led this effort to engage the Administration. Unfortunately, they declined to collaborate sooner. I believe that had we been able to have those discussions earlier, before that vote, we now would have a Charter Change with broad support heading to the ballot for Burlington voters to decide in March.
“While we will not have that consensus for this March, I am still committed to achieving that goal as soon as possible. If my veto is sustained tonight, the work to improve our police discipline system and build trust with Burlington’s BIPOC residents on this issue must continue with urgency. As detailed in my veto letter, there is much that we can and should do immediately to continue making progress in our current disciplinary system while, at the same time, working toward necessary structural change. I am committed to continuing this work and I hope my City Council colleagues will be as well.”
“Finally, I want to address the many Burlington residents who have advocated for this Charter Change. I respect and am grateful for the work you have put into this process. Though I do not feel I can responsibly do what you want me to tonight, I believe you have shaped Burlington’s discussions, raised critical ideas, and advanced policy goals in recent months. I hope that on another day, not far in the future, we will be able to find compromise and common ground on this issue, and achieve enduring progress for policing and racial justice.”
Mayor Weinberger’s veto letter from Thursday closed with an alternative plan that can progress immediately. That proposal is reprinted here:
“I am committed to taking the following steps to implement immediate improvements to our current system and continue momentum towards future structural changes:
· I will work with the City Council to bring forward a resolution soon that immediately delegates new disciplinary authority to the Police Commission, including the authority to conduct independent investigations. We do not need a charter change to delegate this authority to the citizen oversight board that exists today.
· I will also work with the City Council to bring forward soon a current year budget amendment granting the Police Commission a budget for conducting such independent investigations.
· Ultimately, we will still need a charter change on police discipline. As soon as possible, the Council and the Administration should appoint a new Special Committee of Councilors and Administration representatives that continues to work to find common ground on this issue. This committee should be tasked with hearing from both racial justice advocates and police officers who will serve under a new system, and returning with a consensus proposal by mid-2021.
· To ensure that this consensus proposal can be put to the voters and delivered to the legislature for the start of the 2022 session, I propose that we commit to a Special Election next fall (such a Special Election will also likely be necessary for TIF project bonding authority and perhaps other infrastructure bonding as well).
· One of the major short-comings of the Council’s current charter change proposal is that it is unclear what standards the new board would attempt to hold officers accountable to. I propose that the Council and Administration act in January to address that short-coming by requesting that the Police Commission review the current departmental discipline standards and recommend new standards in advance of a Special Election next fall.
· While getting police discipline right is critical, we must expand our focus if we truly seek to secure different policing outcomes. I have requested that our Director of Police Transformation Kyle Dodson complete a review of our officer training and evaluation systems and issue recommendations to me and the City Council before the end of his six-month tenure. Further, Director Dodson has been exploring the creation of a process to forge reconciliation between the Burlington police and the BIPOC community, and I have asked him to conclude that work and issue recommendations before his tenure ends.”
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