Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Final Negotiations With Burlington Teachers Underway as Strike Looms

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 9:33 AM

Burlington teachers picketing last month. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Burlington teachers picketing last month.
Updated 5:30 p.m.

With a possible strike looming Thursday, the Burlington Education Association and the city school board were in a daylong, last-ditch negotiating session that extended into the evening.

Talks began early Wednesday at the Burlington School District central office on Colchester Avenue, and federal mediator Ira Lobel spent the day going back and forth between the teachers and the school board hoping to bring them together — without immediate success. There was still no resolution as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“Hopefully he’s working his magic,” said Darren Allen, communications director for the Vermont-NEA, in a telephone interview.

Superintendent of Schools Yaw Obeng said late in the afternoon that schools were “absolutely” still scheduled to open Thursday. Teachers have vowed to strike Thursday morning if no contract deal is reached.

The conflict over pay and benefits has dragged on for more than a year. In September, the school board imposed employment terms that gave teachers an average raise of around 2.75 percent but cut certain perks and increased teachers’ share of health insurance costs.

Teachers saw the board’s move as a power play. They responded with pickets, claims that the board was trying to bust the union, and a vote authorizing a strike Thursday, pending the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

‘Unity Campaign’ of Burlington Councilors Backs Ballot Items

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 4:29 PM

Former Burlington mayor Peter Clavelle, surrounded by (left to right) councilors Jane Knodell, Dave Hartnett, Joan Shannon, Tom Ayres and Mayor Miro Weinberger - SASHA GOLDSTEIN
  • Sasha Goldstein
  • Former Burlington mayor Peter Clavelle, surrounded by (left to right) councilors Jane Knodell, Dave Hartnett, Joan Shannon, Tom Ayres and Mayor Miro Weinberger
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger unveiled on Tuesday a “unity campaign” of city councilors — along with former mayor Peter Clavelle — who are urging residents to vote “yes” on four city ballot items.

While ostensibly about all four local issues on the November 8 ballot, the news conference — held along Cherry Street in the shadow of the Burlington Town Center mall — focused mainly on the two most controversial items: a downtown zoning change that would allow the mall redevelopment to go forward and $21.8 million in tax-increment financing for street and infrastructure improvements around the proposed development.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Early Voters, Rest Assured — Burlington Ballots Will Arrive in October

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 3:57 PM

Burlington Ward One polling place at Mater Christi School - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Burlington Ward One polling place at Mater Christi School
Consternation is brewing among some Queen City residents ahead of the November election. Early voting is underway, even though the Burlington ballot remains a work in progress. Just Thursday night, the city council added a controversial question about a significant downtown zoning change. That’s led the civic-minded to worry that those voting by mail won’t get a chance to weigh in on city affairs. 

Not so, says city attorney Eileen Blackwood. 

Burlington has already mailed out the state ballot, which includes candidates for president, statewide office and statehouse seats, because state law requires that those ballots be sent out no later than 45 days before the November 8 election.

The deadline for local-issue ballots isn’t until October 19 — so they’ll be sent out separately. Even if the council weren’t deliberating into late September, Blackwood said the city wouldn’t be able to get its ballots out much earlier than the deadline because it would reduce the time available for petitioners trying to get questions on the ballot. 

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Higher Purpose? Council Approves Zoning Change, Sends It to Voters

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 10:37 PM

Rendering of proposed redevelopment from Cherry Street side, if the proposed zoning change passes. - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Rendering of proposed redevelopment from Cherry Street side, if the proposed zoning change passes.
The Burlington City Council approved a zoning change that will allow taller buildings in one section of downtown. The vote Thursday night was 8 to 3.

But the council will also let voters have the final say, as they decided to put the question on the November ballot — a move backed by Mayor Miro Weinberger. The decision appeared to be preemptive. Opponents of the project were planning to collect signatures for a petition that would spur a citywide vote. 

In the new district, the maximum building height would increase from 105 feet to 160 feet. New developments would also be subject to higher environmental and architectural standards. 

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Burlington Mayor Wants Building Height Issue on November Ballot

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 7:33 PM

Rendering of proposed mall from the Cherry Street side - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Rendering of proposed mall from the Cherry Street side
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wants city voters to have a say on a controversial zoning change that would increase allowable building heights downtown.

He will ask the city council Thursday to approve the change, and to also put the zoning question on the November 8 ballot for voters to decide.

Weinberger is a staunch supporter of the height increase, which would allow 
buildings up to 14 stories tall at the site of the proposed $250 million Burlington Town Center redevelopment. The current height limit is about ten stories. 

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Picketing Burlington Teachers Call for Negotiations

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 7:46 PM

Burlington teachers picketing Tuesday. - MOLLY WALSH/SEVEN DAYS
  • Molly Walsh/Seven Days
  • Burlington teachers picketing Tuesday.
Several hundred Burlington teachers raised the volume of their labor dispute with the city school board Tuesday afternoon by staging a rush-hour picket complete with bongo drummers on U.S. 2 near the entrance to Interstate 89.

As drivers honked noisily in support, teachers on both sides of the busy road waved signs reading "Return to the Table." They chanted: "Hey ho, hey ho, imposition has got to go," referring to the employment policy the city school board imposed on them recently.

Burlington Education Association president Fran Brock thanked teachers for rallying together and chastised the imposition of employment terms. 

"Basically it's an evil sort of thing to do," she told the crowd of teachers as they wrapped up the picket shortly after 5 p.m. "They are trying to bust the union and we're not going to let them do it!" Teachers cheered.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Burlington Teachers Protest Contract Imposition

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 12:02 PM

A Burlington High School hallway - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • A Burlington High School hallway
The Burlington School Board’s decision last week to impose terms of pay and benefits on the teachers’ union has not ended a labor dispute that persists despite a year of negotiations. 

The union has assailed the move as unfair and said it would breed “chaos” — perhaps making a not-so-veiled reference to the union’s right to strike.

Burlington Education Association president Fran Brock urged the board this week to come back to the table. “There is only one way to come back from the brink, and that is for the board to rescind the imposition and reach an agreement with us,” Brock said in a prepared statement.

It’s unusual for a Vermont school board to impose working conditions. It’s happened only about 20 times since 1969, according to the Vermont-NEA, which represents thousands of teachers in the state.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Burlington Residents Will Vote on Capital Bonds, Bike Path Question

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 9:52 AM

The capital bond would fund additional repaving of the Burlington Bike Path. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • The capital bond would fund additional repaving of the Burlington Bike Path.
Updated at 4:15 p.m. to add in estimated tax increases in the event the bond proposals pass.
Burlington residents will have a say at the polls this November on several big-ticket items. 

The city council on Monday unanimously approved Mayor Miro Weinberger’s proposal to put a $27.5 million bond for capital upgrades on the ballot. Among the repairs it would pay for: sidewalk and street upgrades, bike path improvements, and several new fire engines.

At the same meeting, the council approved an $8.4 million bond to replace aging water pipes. Forty percent of Burlington’s water mains are more than 75 years old, according to the administration.

The water bond needs a simple majority to pass, while the capital bond requires approval from two-thirds of voters. 

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Unilever to Buy Seventh Generation

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Company headquarters in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Company headquarters in Burlington
The same multinational company that purchased Ben & Jerry’s back in 2001 is scooping up another Vermont-based company.

Unilever announced plans Monday to purchase Burlington-based Seventh Generation for an undisclosed sum.

Unilever North America President Kees Kruythoff hailed the acquisition of Seventh Generation — which makes Earth-friendly laundry soap, toilet paper, dishwashing detergent and personal care products — as beneficial for both companies. 

“We’re thrilled to add Seventh Generation to our brand portfolio, providing us with the opportunity to accelerate growth with our retail partners and connect in new ways with consumers,” Kruythoff said in a press release. 

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Artwork Mocks Burlington City Officials for ‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 1:34 PM

  • Stop the 14-Story Mall Facebook page
  • “Oh yeah!”

This drink goes down anything but easy.

An unknown artist created a series of at least four satirical postcards using old Kool-Aid ads to mock Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and city councilors who are in favor of a zoning amendment that will allow developer Don Sinex to build up to 14 stories high.

“An appreciative City Council says … ‘Mayor knows best,’” reads the riff on a vintage advertisement. The original shows a family paying tribute to Mom, whose head in the edited version has been replaced by Weinberger’s. It reads: “He keeps Kool-Aid in the ice box by the pitcher full — and they’re drinking it!”

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