Jeremy Ryan Announces Run for Burlington City Council

Jeremy Ryan announced he is running for city council here in ward 7 of Burlington. He chose to run because he would like to help make some much needed changes to how the city government does business. He wants to help improve the quality of life for Burlington residents by pushing for lower taxes and affordable housing. By cutting excessive regulations and state control, he believes our city would be far better off. He will fight for taxpayer rights and local control over our finances and our schools. He is a strong believer in protecting your property rights and personal freedoms.

Jeremy Ryan supports the following:

– Lower taxes and voter control over city budget.

– Open and honest government.

– Local control over schools and government.

– Affordable housing by lowering taxes and regulations.

You can read more on his positions, his biography and blog by going to his campaign web site at: http://www.jeremyryan.org.

Contact:

Jeremy Ryan, candidate
Jeremy Ryan for City Council
53 Avenue C
Burlington, Vermont 05401
Phone: 802-865-0111
Fax: 309-406-3143
http://www.jeremyryan.org

Heavenly Ryan Re-elected Vice Chair of Vermont Libertarian Party

At the November state committee meeting, Heavenly Ryan was re-elected vice chair of the Vermont Libertarian Party.

About Heavenly Ryan

Heavenly currently serves as secretary of the Burlington Libertarian Party, Ward 7 steering committee member, and works with her husband, at Advantage Creations of Burlington.

Contact:

Heavenly Ryan
53 Avenue C
Burlington, Vermont 05401
Phone: 802/865-0111
Fax: 309/406-3143
Web: https://burlingtonlp.org
Email: [email protected]

Burlington Libertarian Party Urges Burlington to Not Pursue Rent Control.

The stated purpose of the new rent control resolution proposed by councilors Fiermonte, P-Ward 3 and Ashe, P-Ward 3 is to help fix high rents. While the resolution was written with good intentions, the practice of rent control does not work. The problem is based on simple economics. The supply is less than the demand and you do not fix the supply by attacking it.

The resolution urges “a simple but effective method of regulating the annual increase in rents while allowing property owners to recover reasonable costs.” It would require advance notice to tenants of annual rent increases of more than 5 percent and give them the right of a quick appeal to an unspecified board. Landlords would be required to appear before the board to justify the increase.

Enacting the resolution being proposed almost assures a 5% per year increase in rent, not a reduction. Furthermore, rent control will cause reduced investment in existing and new rental housing. The end result will be still higher rents, even less affordable housing and lower quality housing.

What caused the high rents? Excessive regulation, the recent reappraisal, and excessive property taxes are to blame. The regulations make it too hard to build enough units of housing in Burlington. Regulations are the mandates that make the too few permitted units much more expensive, driving up rents. Also, if we are to avoid sprawl, the cities like Burlington have to loosen up regulations to make more honestly affordable units.

The 2002 Mayor’s Affordable Housing Task Force Report quotes the Burlington Housing Authority staff saying that they wouldn’t own rental property in Burlington because the City makes it so hard for landlords.

The Burlington Libertarian Party urges the city council to reduce the regulation and property taxes in order to make rents more affordable. The city must understand that any attack on landlords is passed on to the tenants.

Contact:

Jeremy Ryan, Chair
Burlington Libertarian Party
53 Avenue C
Burlington, Vermont 05401
Phone: 802-865-0111
Fax: 309-406-3143
https://burlingtonlp.org
[email protected]

Burlington LP News – October 2005


Burlington LP NEWS


October 2005

Sponsored by
The Burlington Libertarian Party
www.burlingtonlp.org

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. From the Chair
2. Moran Plant, a Historical Landmark?
3. Bar Smokers Shown the Door
4. Resolutions to Cut Retirement Benefits for City Employees
5. Resolution Regarding Burlington Property Taxes
6. 76-78 Cherry Street
7. Burlington Libertarians in Action
8. Libertarian Humor
9. Quote of the Month
10. Letters to the Editor/ Submit an Article

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From the chair…


This is our fifth newsletter. We will to provide you notice of current issues facing Burlingtonians, views of other Burlington Libertarians, notices of events of interest, and more.

I hope you enjoy the newsletter. Please feel free to send me your comments, suggestions and your own letters and articles to be included in future issues.

In Liberty,

Jeremy Ryan, Chair
Burlington Libertarian Party
contact me

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Moran Plant, a Historical Landmark?

It was recently announced that the Moran Plant will be considered for historical landmark status. It seems to me that the plan behind this is to make it harder for many of the ideas that the people want for the Moran Plant to happen.

It is very obvious that when asked the majority of people want a public park where the moran plant stands however, Mayor Clavelle and CEDO obviously still want their YMCA deal to go through or something similar. I still hear people pushing for it. This is a way to get it back on the ballot.

I remember when we were asked for suggestions, the comment card itself said that the most popular ideas would not necessarily be the ones put on the ballot. This sent an obvious signal that the board and the mayor will be choosing the choices we vote on. Hopefully, they do not intend to put the YMCA and then list a bunch of unpopular choices so that the YMCA becomes the most logical choice and pushing for the moran plant to be declared a historical landmark would make it that much easier for them.

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Bar Smokers Shown the Door.

It’s now official… no smoking in any public or private bars, restaurants and clubs in the whole state of Vermont. It’s unbelievable to me… The businesses along with their employees and customers cannot even decide on their own whether they want to allow smoking or not. The smokers cannot have one place to go to hang out and smoke… not one. I find this so offensive. It’s oppression of a minority by the majority. As the article states, it’s a different crowd. The state has essentially kicked out the minority and replaced them with the majority. Whether you believe smoking is bad for you or not, you should be upset by this decision. It really attacks the essence of our freedoms. By allowing a nanny-state to prohibit risky behaviors gives the state far more power than they should have over us. I will end with a quote from Marilyn Ferguson…

“So long as we need to control other people, however benign our motives, we are captive to that need. In giving them freedom, we free ourselves.”

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Resolutions to Cut Retirement Benefits for City Employees.

The Board of Finance proposed a resolution to lower the cost to the city of the retirement system for city employees. The resolution, noting that city contributions to the retirement fund jumped from about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2002 to $4.6 million this year and are “still not sufficient to meet the actuarially projected future costs.”

This part was a bit confusing to me… when city employees spoke out about this during the public forums at the city council meeting, they were under the impression that they were promised a certain level of benefits in exchange for lower wages. If the city did in fact promise them these benefits then they do owe it to them… they should weasel out of it. However, as we all should should know that retirement funds to have fluctuation and the economy is still not performing as well as it has in the past, so investments are still generally lower. This is the problem for the city’s retirement fund. However, I believe it’s only temporary. Besides, the retirement fund should generally be invested in safe investments such as bonds… maybe they messed up… and now they want to pass on their promises. It’s seems that the city had plenty of money to give the YMCA last year and they have enough money to go after churches to take their property… you can’t trust a politian I guess.

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Resolution Regarding Burlington Property Taxes.

Coucilors Bushor and Fiermonte introduced a resolution to help with the heavy property tax burden facing Burlington residents. The resolution states that the current procedure that pays much of education costs statewide is “convoluted and not well understood by taxpayers” and asks that the city’s representatives to that state Legislature work to revise the property tax system. The resolution calls for:


  • Having the state – instead of the individual cities and towns – collect the statewide property tax and billing homeowners based on their income.
  • Increasing the income threshold to expand the renter rebate program.
  • Giving Vermont municipalities the authority to impose local sales taxes.

Hmm… I wonder why the city is looking to push the taxing responsibility to the state. Here are my thoughts… first, they would rather have the residents blame the state than them, the city councilors… they don’t want the responsibility and of course they want the state to force the Burlington residents to accept a local sales tax as they know very well the voters voted it down last town meeting day. Interesting indeed.

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76-78 Cherry Street

One of the major topics discussed at the last city council meeting was the 76-78 Cherry Street building which is owned by the Catholic diocese. The Catholic diocese decided they wanted the building to be torn down so they could do something else with the property. However, councilor’s Shannon, Montrell and Perry along with Preservation Burlington wanted to not allow the Catholic Diocese the permit to take down their own building because they believe it has some historic and architectural value.

Councilor Shannon particularly fought the hardest for the now allowing the permit as she herself has purchased and restored an older building as her home and she felt that this building was quite a find architecturally and historically. It’s one of the few surviving homes from the urban renewal.

The following issue arose during the discussion:

The city’s legal department has already spent $25,000 in legal costs and there is no idea of how much more to continue as experts will need to be called in to figure out the options. I could not believe that it $25,000 has already been spent just in the initial stages of this deal. That’s enough to buy our home or what Heavenly and I make in nearly two years. It’s just plain reckless to me.

If the city wins, the city would need to study code requirements and the fact remains that the Catholic diocese does not want to the sell or donate the land to the city. They city would need to take it from them!

The resolution is not economically viable for the city… there is too much public cost, opportunity costs, and there are no limits to the expenses… the resolution calls for whatever funds are necessary, no budget or anything. The money involved could buy 100s of affordable housing units, which are much needed.

It was because of these issues that I believe the resolution was voted down by the majority of the councilors. I congratulate them on a good decision. What place does the city have to be trying to take land from a church… what’s next sending cops to take candy from a baby? Really.

I think that problem governmental people have is that whenever they see something that they like or dislike going on in the city the first thought is to write a resolution… create a law. What about a voluntary discussion without force… what about getting together with others that feel the same way to try to work something out. It seems to me that if the building was really valuable, people would want to get together to save it without having to take it by force and forcing the tax payers to pay for the seizure. I’d also like to mention that at one point the city council kicked the audience out so that they could talk in secret about the issue. This was kind of unusual as usually they do that at the end of the city council meeting for other various legal stuff the city is involved in that they don’t want us to know about. They call these “executive sessions”. I think the city council really abuses this power. It’s supposed to be used for the most sensitive of issues not every meeting so that councilors can protect their reputations from the public. They are simply abusing the power and it’s not right to me.

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Burlington Libertarians in Action… (upcoming events)


  • October 5, 2005, 5PM
    CEDO Open House & Dinner
    Will be held at the CEDO office over City Market.

  • October 15th 2005, starts at 9AM
    FreedomFest 2005
    Click here or go to the following url for more details:
    http://www.ethanallen.org/home.html

  • October 17, 2005, 4PM
    Speaker: Stephen Moore
    Saint Michael’s College presents Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal speaking on “The Ownership Society”. Moore was founder and president, 1999-2004, of the Club for Growth, a 25,000-member organization dedicated to helping elect free market, tax cutting candidates to Congress. The group raised nearly $22 million for Republican Congressional and Senate candidates in 2003-04. A commentator for Fox TV, Moore has been a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, publishing on Federal budget and tax policy. He is the architect of the flat tax proposed by Dick Armey of Texas. He is the author of four books, including most recently Bullish on Bush: How the Ownership Society Will Make America Stronger. Where: Saint Michael’s College, International Commons building. Costs: Free. More Information: Call 802-654-2536.

  • October 24th 2005, 7PM
    Burlington City Council Meeting
    Will be held at City Hall’s Contois Auditorium. The rent control resolutions will be discussed.

  • October 29, 2005
    VTLP Meeting
    Time and location not certain. Contact Scott Berkey at 802-728-6211 for more information.


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Libertarian Humor…

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Quote of the Month…

“Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer.”

– Ludwig von Mises

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Letters to the editor/ submit an article

For information or to submit news, letters, or articles, contact us .

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Burlington LP News is a publication of the Burlington Libertarian Party, 53 Avenue C, Burlington, VT 05401. All Rights Reserved. Copyright (C) 2005.

FDA Costs Lives

I came across a great article regarding the FDA written by Mary Ruwart, author of Healing our World. The article is entitled DEATH BY REGULATION: The Price We Pay For The FDA. The article in full is below with my comments afterwards…

[Article Begins]

Have you lost a loved one to breast cancer recently? If so, you probably wished with all your heart that your sister, mother, or wife had detected it earlier. Perhaps they would have – if the device that clinicians are calling “one of the most effective weapons against breast cancer” hadn’t been banned from the US market by the FDA.

The Sensor Pad, developed in Decatur, Illinois, is simply two sealed plastic sheets with lubricant in between. When a woman or her doctor places the pad over her breast, friction is reduced, making lump detection easier. The FDA has refused to approve this simple medical device for over a decade, even though the product is sold in Japan, Singapore, Korea, and most West European countries. The reason? The FDA wants this $7 device to go through the same testing procedures that it demands for expensive pharmaceuticals. After such testing, the FDA will take up to six years to decide whether or not the device should be approved. Because drug manufacturers are required to spend much more time and money getting US approvals than offshore ones, Americans get new, life-saving drugs and devices years later than citizens of other countries – if they get them at all.

Sometimes this delay protects us from side effects not readily detected in animal studies. The sedative thalidomide, for example, was marketed in Europe for several years while awaiting FDA approval. In the early 1960’s, the sensitivity of an unborn child to the deforming effects of drugs was not widely appreciated, so doctors began prescribing thalidomide to pregnant women. Consequently, approximately 12,000 European children were born with deformed limbs. Few American babies were affected because only a few test samples had been distributed in this country. The FDA physician who had delayed its approval was given a Presidential Award.

Paying With Our Lives

Encouraged by this feedback, the FDA began to require even more studies. Testing and approval took even longer, especially when compared with countries like Great Britain where there were no immediate changes in the way new drugs were processed. While the British continued to enjoy many new drugs to treat their illnesses, only half of these were available to Americans, and only after many more years of waiting. One of these new drugs denied to Americans was propranolol, the first Beta-blocker to be used extensively to treat angina and hypertension.

Approximately 10,000 Americans died needlessly every year for the three years it was against the law for their doctors to treat them with propranolol. Propranolol was finally approved in the US for minor uses in 1968, but was only approved in 1973 and 1976 for angina and hyper-tension respectively. The regulatory delay of this single drug may have been responsible for the death of more Americans than all other deaths from drugs in this century. Even so, the FDA came under severe criticism by Congress for “premature” approval of this valuable drug! Former FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt noted that “. . . rarely, if ever, has Congress held a hearing to look into the failure of FDA to approve a new entity; but it has held hundreds of hearings alleging that the FDA has done something wrong by approving a drug . . . .” The “drug lag,” he claimed, could only “be remedied by Congressional and public recognition that the failure to approve an important new drug can be as detrimental to the public health as the approval of a potentially bad drug.”

The “Drug Lag”

Just how detrimental is the drug lag to public health? Conservative estimates of needless deaths to the “drug lag” are tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans every year. Many more people die from the FDA’s delay than are saved by waiting to see if people from other countries experience side effects from new drugs.

Perhaps a loved one you’ve lost is among them.

While any harm from drugs is undesirable, we must recognize that no drug is safe for everyone. People die every year from drug allergies or idiosyncratic reactions which cannot be predicted with state-of-the-art expertise. Whenever we take drugs, we must weigh the risks and the potential benefits, just as we weigh the substantial risks and benefits of driving an automobile. By demanding that the FDA protect us from drugs that have any side effects, we deprive ourselves of drugs that save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Ironically, FDA regulations sometimes force people to choose between legal, but toxic, drugs and safer ones from the black market. One San Francisco physician actually encouraged his patients to take the unapproved AIDS therapy DDI, instead of the FDA-approved DDC. The less toxic DDI was developed to replace DDC, but the delays caused by FDA regulations made it unavailable for many years. In desperation, AIDS patients began purchasing the safer substance from illegal buyers’ clubs, which provide unapproved medications for the terminally ill. Many people are still forced to get their medicine on the black market because of the drug lag caused by the FDA.

In 1988, AIDS patients convinced FDA commissioner Frank Young to let them import drugs marketed overseas for their own personal use. Theoretically, any US citizen can now order personal supplies this way. However, current FDA administrators are attempting to close this life-saving loophole.

At least cancer and AIDS victims can purchase new medicines somewhere. Diseases that affect only a few are seldom researched, since the staggering development costs imposed by FDA regulations can never be recovered.

Censoring Health Claims

Claims for unpatentable products, such as vitamins and mineral regimens, are likewise too expensive to recover the cost of FDA approval. For example, Vitamin C manufacturers still cannot tell the public about the published scientific papers attesting to its cardio-protective effects. Furthermore, the FDA prosecutes companies that try to share information on new uses of marketed products without going through another time-consuming and expensive approval process. For almost a decade after a definitive scientific study, the FDA forbade aspirin manufacturers to tell the public that their product could reduce heart attacks by over 40%. Since heart disease is the #1 killer in the US, many thousands of Americans each year are needlessly sentenced to death by regulation.

If aspirin had to undergo the rigorous testing that today’s FDA demands, it would never be marketed. Thankfully, aspirin’s benefits were well-established before the FDA had the power to suppress it.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching victims of the FDA’s refusal to permit truthful claims for unpatentable products are children born with spina bifida. Because vitamin companies are not allowed to advertise how folic acid supplementation reduces the risk of birth defects, approximately 2500 children are born each year with spina bifida and many more are aborted. Since the benefits of folic acid have been known for well over a decade, this single regulatory decision has harmed more children than thalidomide, the greatest drug tragedy of the 20th Century. How would you feel if your child was needlessly handicapped by such over-zealous regulation?

Not satisfied with its usual “gag order” on information distribution, the FDA actually ordered one US company to destroy all its cookbooks and literature about stevia, an herb used as a sweetener. Certainly something is seriously wrong with the FDA when it resorts to “book burnings” reminiscent of fascist dictatorships.

Between 1989 and 1990, two private organizations, the American Heart Association and the HeartCorps Magazine, provided consumers with “heart-smart” guidelines for food. The American College of Nutrition gave its endorsement to certain brands of vegetable oils, and a calcium-supplemented orange juice was endorsed by the American Medical Women’s Association. The FDA took legal action against these organizations to keep its monopoly on health claims – even health claims made for foods!

If these tactics sound as if they abridge your rights to free speech, you’re right – and the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agrees! In January 1999, they found the FDA in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Will this court ruling reform the FDA and save us from death by regulation? Unfortunately, this ruling is only a first step. Donald Kennedy, former head of the FDA, notes that “the pattern of intervention into science from a combination of local, state, and federal sources has moved from reason-able control to something close to chaotic strangulation.” Clearly, our entire regulatory system needs major reform.

For reforms to be effective, we must understand what caused our regulatory problems in the first place. We took choice away from the consumer, the person who actually experiences the impact of that choice. We gave the choice to bureaucrats, who are rarely held accountable. For example, in spite of First Amendment violations, no one in the FDA will be prosecuted or punished. With no real down-side, the FDA has no motivation to change!

The Easy Way Out

What do we do when even those affiliated with the FDA can see that drug regulation flunks its own criteria of being safe and effective? How do we stop our tax dollars from being spent on killing both ourselves and our loved ones? How do we insure that Americans get all the safe and effective drugs possible?

Patients and their physicians legally should be able to buy whatever drugs they wish, regardless of the stage of testing. Each person needs to decide for him or herself, in consultation with their physician or other specialists, which risks they are willing to take. Those who wish to wait for FDA approval or a “Seal of Approval” from a medical organization or a consumers groups should have that option. Indeed, the American Medical Association and Consumers’ Research both evaluated drugs in the days before the FDA.

The terminally ill, who can’t wait a decade or two for a new drug to be tested and approved, should be able to buy whatever pharmaceuticals give them a chance. It is their life, and should be their choice. If you or your loved ones were dying, wouldn’t you want access to every possible cure?

We’ve Done It Before

In the early 1900’s, Americans could decide for themselves which drugs to take. Before the FDA came into being, American drug manufacturers usually gave their customers the best drugs that the state-of-the-art would allow. After all, killing the customer is bad business. Deaths due to inadequate testing were much less frequent than the deaths produced by today’s “drug lag.”

The FDA is a cure worse than the disease. If the FDA can’t meet its own criteria of being safe and effective, we are better off without it.

Isn’t it time we stopped denying ourselves and our loved ones life-saving drugs?

[Article Ends]

I believe that reducing the FDA’s power and allowing the individual to decide between FDA approved drugs and non-FDA approved drugs would be a great step in reducing the costs of prescription drugs, which is essentially what Vermont was asking for with drug importation from Canada, or at least a step in that direction.

In the meantime, I suggest that looking for cheaper prescription drugs take a few steps to reduce their costs.

First, shop around. Wal-mart and Drugstore.com have some of the best prices around. You can also ask your existing pharmacist if they will match a lower price you find elsewhere. I know for talking with others that some Kinney Drugs stores will match prices of Wal-mart or even beat them, especially if you are of low-income. You just need to ask.

Second, check out using generics of name-brands you may be currently using. They are often of equal quality, but at a far lower cost. Ask you doctor about switching.

And third, splitting your pills cuts your costs by 50% instantly. Many people currently taking prescriptions can actually make due on half a pill. Again, ask your doctor about this.

Gov. Douglas Reacts to Ruling

The following is reprint of a segment from a past WCAX broadcast regarding Douglas’ reaction to a court ruling regarding the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada…

[segment begins]

A federal judge has dismissed Vermont’s first-in-the-nation lawsuit seeking to overturn the government’s ban on importing prescription drugs from Canada.

The Douglas administration wanted to give state workers and retirees legal protection to buy cheaper drugs in Canada. But the Food and Drug Administration denied the pilot program and Vermont sued to have the FDA’s decision overturned.

In his ruling, the judge said the Bush Administration has the legal right to block the importation program.

“I’m disappointed, but I’ve said all along re-importation of drugs is not the long term solution. What we need is to do is allow Vermonters to buy phamaceuticals at affordable prices at their neighborhood drugstores. That would require action by the Congress, frankly, to reform the marketplace for drugs, to change the patent lawas, to get generic drugs on the market sooner. We need to work on that as a long term solution,” said Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vermont.

No word yet if the Douglas Administration will appeal.

[segment ends]

I agree with Douglas that Vermonters should be able to import their prescriptions from Canada. I would also say that we all should be able to buy prescriptions from wherever we want, whether the FDA approves or not. We should be able to buy non-fda approved drugs if we wish. I believe that the FDA has cost many more lives than they have saved with their expensive and lengthy approval process. I believe the FDA is directly causing drugs to be expensive and because of the huge costs for getting a approved, they are the reason that we have only a few pharmaceutical companies. You would have to be a large corporation to be able to afford to produce a new drug in the US.

Burlington Faces Budget Problems

The following is an article from the Burlington Free Press regarding Burlington’s budget crisis, my reaction and possible solutions.

[Article begins]

Mayor Peter Clavelle, who submitted his final budget to the City Council last spring, is emphatic that the city’s current financial health is satisfactory.

“This is not a crisis,” he said. “The city is fiscally fit.”

Still, after balancing 15 budgets, an accomplishment he points to with pride, Clavelle has formed a super committee — the Board of Finance plus veteran councilors Andy Montroll and Jane Knodell — to begin to prepare for harder times next year and beyond.

The committee, charged with understanding the city’s fiscal condition and coming up with service and spending recommendations “for the future,” Clavelle said, met for the first time Sept. 1 and has three more meetings planned.

Montroll said the unusual meetings reflect the anticipated budget strains down the road.

“That’s why we’re starting work on it now, instead of waiting for the usual budget process,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to continue cutting expenses and it’s going to be hard to raise new revenue.”

Clavelle, while insisting that all is currently well, acknowledges that “fiscal challenges” lie ahead for the city. The economic trends are stark.

In plain language, as demonstrated by the data put together for the super committee by Chief Administrative Officer Brendan Keleher, it costs more year by year for cops and firefighters and parks and library and all the other city services; but the city’s incoming dollars, as Montroll put it, are “relatively fixed from year to year.”

Costs of the General Fund, which pays wages and benefits and for day-to-day operations of most city departments, have risen 41.7 percent since fiscal year 2000 — from $29 million (figures are rounded) to $41.1 million. The increases are pushed particularly by steep increases in the cost of wages and benefits such as health insurance. Property taxes, meanwhile, which Clavelle calls the city’s “primary tax base,” haven’t kept pace. The amount of money collected has risen just 35.2 percent in the same period.

That’s due in part to Burlington’s physical constraints. With most of its buildable land already occupied, creation of new properties is difficult. The property tax base, Clavelle said, grows only at about 1 percent a year, while expenditures rise by about 5 percent.

Another stricture is what Clavelle calls the “whole revenue neutrality issue.” When the assessed value of properties rise, as they did this year after the state-mandated reappraisal, he said, the city doesn’t pick up additional tax dollars, even though individual property owners see tax increases. The city charter, shielding residents from abrupt tax increases, mandates that the tax rate decrease in proportion to the overall increase in value.

While taxes increase, Clavelle said, “the lion’s share, roughly 60 percent of the property tax,” now goes to the state government.

“We see a huge growth annually in tax revenues generated by economic activity,” he said. “Sales, gasoline, rooms and meals, income tax, corporate taxes — all flow to Montpelier, with the exception of a 2 percent rooms and meals tax.”

About a third of the potential tax base, he said, is made up of untaxed properties such as churches, state and federal office buildings, hospitals, colleges and universities and nonprofits.

“They don’t pay taxes,” he said, “but they require services.” Agreements between the city and the University of Vermont, or Champlain College, or Fletcher Allen Health Care, he said, bring in far less money than if the properties were taxed.

The city’s fund balance (though it is largely committed and not available for unexpected expenses) is at its largest ever, Clavelle said. Burlington’s bonded debt, Clavelle said, is relatively low, and the city has “a low effective tax rate compared to other cities in Vermont.

“This is a healthy economy, by any measure,” he repeated, pointing to low commercial vacancies, low unemployment rates, continued job creation and rising property values.

“What’s unusual,” he said, “is that after years of asking department heads to do more with less and tightening the belt and exploring alternatives to the property tax, the low-hanging fruit has been picked.” Burlington not unique

Steven Jeffrey, director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, said looming dollar problems aren’t unique to Burlington. Local governments across the state are scrambling to find a way to pay for the services their citizens expect them to provide.”

“The common element,” he said, “is that municipalities collect a billion dollars a year in property taxes and promptly turn over 75 percent of it to their schools. That percentage has grown from 67 percent in the past eight years.

City governments, an “infrastructure, heavy-equipment industry,” he said, are paying more for fuel, just as individuals are.

Like Clavelle, Jeffrey points to a number of pressure points on municipal finances. State and federal grant money used to flow to cities for highway and sewer projects and law enforcement, he said. Now, instead of coming as a grant, it comes as a loan. Or grants remain at fixed levels, he said, despite rising costs faced by local governments. “And retirement costs are hanging out there,” he said.

In Burlington, for example, according to Keleher’s figures, the city’s payments to employee retirement funds have more than doubled since fiscal year 2000, from $2.45 million to $5.36 million in the current budget.

The League, Jeffrey said, arranges health insurance for Vermont municipalities other than Burlington and has seen insurance costs continue to surge. “Two years ago,” he said, “the cost went up 20 percent. Last year it was up another 11 percent. In two years, up a third. That’s a tremendous increase.”

The costs to Burlington of employees’ health insurance are comparable, rising from $2.5 million in 1997 to a projected $6 million this year. What faces Burlington and other municipalities, Jeffrey said, is not so much a “crisis” as a narrowing of possibilities that, sooner or later, would become noticeable.

Burlington won’t fire its police force to save money, he said. Instead, response times to calls might begin to lengthen. It might take longer to have the streets plowed. The library might have to cut its hours; the parks might raise their fees.

Another sales tax vote?

The furrowed brows in Burlington government councils haven’t yet translated into rhetoric designed to attract the public’s attention, and that may not change soon. With Clavelle’s decision not to run again for mayor and a slew of possible candidates taking pains not to make a critical misstep, Burlington residents may hear little but economic generalities and commitments to “fiscal sustainability,” as Knodell put it last week.

Voters rebuffed the city’s plea in March for a local option sales tax, partly, Montroll said, “because it wasn’t sold. But more than that,” he said, “the public wasn’t ready for it.”

That proposal will probably reappear on the ballot in March, Clavelle said.

Councilor Kevin Curley, R-Ward 4, who hasn’t decided if he wants to run for mayor, said the new mayor would likely be a one-term mayor if he or she reined in city spending as must be done. He repeated that Thursday at the lightly attended Republican reorganization caucus.

“Those decisions wouldn’t be popular,” he said.

He has said the city will face at least a $2 million deficit as it puts together next year’s budget in the spring.

“I don’t think we have a sustainable budget right now,” Montroll, a past council president and potential mayoral candidate, said. “It’d be easy to balance the budget with massive cuts in services or with massive tax increases, but neither of those is acceptable. We have to do it in a way that provides services people are accustomed to, and that’s where the challenge is.”

[Article ends]

Just from hearing this article you can see that there is a lot of confusion over our city’s budget. The people involved in crafting the budget cannot even agree on whether we are in a budget crisis or not. I personally do not believe that the city is being completely honest with the public regarding the city’s finances. Heavenly and I have followed the finance board meetings and I will let you in what we saw. As you may know, we had a local option sales tax proposal on the last March ballot, which failed. They city had threatened us with more property taxes if we didn’t accept the sales tax. We were told that the local sales tax would be dedicated to “property tax relief”. However, as the proposal was worded it would only devote a portion of the sales tax revenue to property tax and the rest would go into the general fund. There was little guarantee that much of the money would even be set aside for property tax relief, meaning the “property tax relief” would have actually amounted in a net increase in tax burden for us all. Luckily, the voters saw through this and voted it down. However, as we can see from this article, the city does intend to bring it back, possibly on the next ballot.

Now, what happened after the local sales tax got voted down? The finance board had to go back and revise the budget as the budget had actually been drafted expecting the sales tax would go through. Mayor Clavelle was so sure it would go through, that it was assumed the city would have the extra revenue, thus proving that they had no intention of providing the city with tax relief.

Mayor Clavelle and Brendan Keleher had proposed several possible cuts to police and parks that they knew that would never be accepted by other board members acting as though that’s all they could do.

Then, when the next meeting started, some how the budget was balanced and most of the proposed cuts were back in and everyone was happy. Apparently, the city found some money they hadn’t counted on. How convenient.

Montroll believes that we don’t have a sustainable budget and that massive tax increases or cuts in services will not work. I agree that massive tax increases will not work, as the taxpayers of Burlington are through with increases, they cannot handle anymore, nor should they have to. This means that the city will need to cut back on services… or cut costs, or increase user fees or most likely some combination of the three.

Since, most people currently in government believe there is nothing left they can cut from the budget that would be acceptable, I have an idea that would help and get more people involved in their local government at the same time. Why not offer a bounty for helping us get rid of the waste in the budget. I’ve written and spoken about this before. I will go over it again. The following is an excerpt of the Bounty Hunter program described by Michael Cloud…

[Article Begins]

As we all know, waste is bad for government and bad for taxpayers.

There are at least 3 kinds of waste.

Paying champagne prices for beer quality.

Paying champagne prices for champagne – when you only need beer.

Buying champagne or beer items when you don’t need either.

All 3 kinds of waste balloon government spending and keep taxes high.

The Bounty Hunter Program targets all three.

Bail Bondsmen and Law Enforcement Agencies offer Bounty Hunters juicy rewards for tracking down, capturing, and bringing in bail jumpers and at-large criminals. They pay Bounty Hunters for results.

The Bounty Hunter approach works the same way.

Offer a bounty of 10% of the first year’s savings for removing the wasteful government spending. Get rid of $100,000 a year in needless government spending, and the citizen gets a $10,000 bounty. Immediately refund the other $90,000 to taxpayers. The next year and every year after, taxpayers get the whole $100,000 savings.

How many private citizens will scour the city budget, comparison shop what the city’s paying for goods and services, and determine whether it’s prudent and thrifty spending – or waste?

How many small business owners and employees will put city spending under a magnifying glass? How many retirees will stop playing the Lottery – and start seeking out city government waste?

Why will they do it? For the chance of getting a $5,000 bounty, a $10,000 bounty, a $50,000 bounty, or more.

Why will taxpayers love it? Because 90% of the first year’s savings go back to the taxpayers. And 100% of every other year’s savings go to them. Less government spending. Lower taxes.

The process would be simple.

1. The Bounty Hunter would find the waste in the budget, put together evidence that it is waste, and put the item on the agenda of the next city council meeting. Or school board. Or other local government body.

2. The Bounty Hunter would be given 5 to 10 minutes during the meeting to present his facts and figures, his testimony and evidence. City council members could ask him questions to make sure they are properly informed.

3. The city council would have until the next meeting to look into the matter.

4. At the next meeting, the city council members would provide the Bounty Hunter with their findings, and roll call vote on whether to remove the spending from the budget.

5. If they voted to remove the spending, it would take effect immediately. 10% would go to the Bounty Hunter. 90% to the Taxpayers. Immediately.

6. If they voted to keep the spending, voters could decide whether they were right or wrong, responsible or irresponsible. Which ones deserve to be re-elected – and which ones need to be voted out.

To make the Bounty Hunter Program fair, to remove even the appearance of conflict of interest, we would exclude all government employees, retired government employees and their families. We would also exclude those who work for businesses who sell supplies or services to government.

Would you like a Bounty Hunter Program for your city government? Your county government? Your local public school district budget?

Run for city council on a Bounty Hunter Program – as a first step toward making government small. Or run for school board. Or any other local office that controls budgets.

Propose them. Publicize them. Promote them.

Or make a small government candidate in your city or state aware of this simple and powerful proposal.

It will make government open and accountable to the taxpayers.

It will increase citizen involvement in local government.

It will increase voter participation.

Every concerned citizen should support this. Every liberal, moderate, and conservative should support this. Every caring government employee should endorse and support this.

[End Article]

Fluoridation Debate at City Council

The following is an article from the Burlington Free Press regarding the fluoride debate at the last city council meeting…

[Article Begins]

Water fluoridation has become an issue in Burlington, and the City Council on Monday took note of the debate. After lengthy debate, and by a divided vote, it passed a resolution urging that the amount of fluoride in the city’s water be reduced to the minimum level recommended by state and national authorities.

The final version, which passed by a 7-4 vote, was a watered-down version of the original resolution. Language that declared fluoride was a “significant health risk” to infants was removed, as was language indicating that infants up to 6 months of age should receive no fluoride.

Joan Shannon, D-Ward 5, who sponsored the resolution with Sharon Bushor, I-Ward 1, urged that it be passed in its original form, calling it “a small and conservative step,” but the council, following the lead of Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4, narrowed it considerably.

To fluoridation supporters — dentists and the Vermont Department of Health — adding fluoride to the water a proven and cost-effective way to deliver a mineral that reduces tooth decay. To those who oppose it — groups such as the Fluoride Action Network — it is mandated medication that carries with it significant health risks, particularly for children.

Burlington’s Board of Health held public hearings on fluoride this year and decided by a 3-2 vote that the city should continue fluoridating its water supply but consider reducing the amount of fluoride. The board also said that exposing infants up to 6 months old to fluoride constituted “a significant public health risk.”

Even before last night’s crowded meeting began, Dr. Steve Arthur, director of the health department’s Office of Oral Health, e-mailed a lengthy statement to councilors arguing that fluoride is not a significant health risk. He said the department continues unreservedly to support water fluoridation.

He also took exception to a provision in the resolutions that would have the Board of Health leading the effort to develop information on fluoridation to be distributed to Burlington parents. The board, he wrote, “is not the appropriate body to ‘develop’ health education literature. Instead, he said, the Health Department should have that job.

The council, after listening to 21 speakers for and against fluoridation, leaned in Arthur’s direction. The “significant risk” language was removed from the resolution, and the Department of Health gained the seat it wished on the panels that will recommend the appropriate amount of fluoride in the water and develop the literature informing parents about fluoride.

The resolution was amended extensively on the floor. Two attempts to send the resolution to committee for fine-tuning failed, despite promises that it could be returned for a council vote at the Oct. 11 meeting.

[Article Ends]

I still believe that the city council is really missing the issue here. It’s my opinion that it’s not their job to decide on the validity and safety of water fluoridation… they should be deciding on if it’s the city’s job to force medication on its citizens. This is the real issue, not to become an authority on water fluoridation and make the decision for us all. While, its believed that the resolution that was passed puts the issue in the right direction, I don’t. By accepting this resolution, we are still accepting that the city has the right to force medicate all citizens. The resolution just suggests that the city needs to explore it further, educate the public on fluoride and debate on how much fluoride to add to the water.

I truly believe that when the dentists are pushing so hard to continue water fluoridation and get so antsy when anyone even mentions the possibility of risks of water fluoridation, it is mostly a result of fear. They are so afraid that if people feel they were hurt as a result of water fluoridation, they will file lawsuits and that their credibility will be lost. The city could also be liable because they are directly responsible for public water fluoridation, which I imagine is also putting a lot of pressure on the city councilors. This is why the government has no place getting involved in this kind of business. They are doing something that would be illegal for any doctor to do. A doctor cannot just start medicating a patient with a prescription grade drug without the patient’s consent. Why should the city government have this privilege?

Be a Better Neighbor

There was a recent article in the Burlington Free Press regarding Vermont bars and clubs and smokers blocking sidewalks and making a mess. The article and my comments are below…

[article begins]

Vermont bars and clubs owe it to their customers and neighbors to provide a suitable place to smoke outside the establishments. In some cases, smokers are blocking sidewalks outside bars, creating problems for passers-by and litter for someone else to clean up.

This is a new issue for many bar and club owners. The Legislature just passed a law banning smoking in these establishments to protect the health of customers and employees from second-hand smoke.

It’s a good law that sends an important message about a public health problem that costs the state millions of dollars and about 1,000 lives annually.

Burlington bars ought to be further along in planning for outdoor smoking. The city prohibited indoor smoking in May 2004, followed by South Burlington, Winooski and Williston.

However, some bar and club owners aren’t policing their smokers outside their establishment.

In some cases, smokers stand in groups outside the front door, blocking the sidewalk and dropping cigarette butts on the walkway or curb. People passing by are forced to either step into the street to pass or carefully wind their way through the crowd.

Most bars are more careful about their patrons’ smoking behavior, providing plenty of large ashtrays to prevent littering and even an out-of-the-way sheltered spot for smoking so walkways are not blocked.

The new law took effect Sept. 1, and many bar owners and private clubs are just beginning to tackle this issue.

They would be smart to take the time to create a safe place for their customers to smoke that doesn’t cause problems for their neighbors.

[end of article]

It sounds to me that many of the people for the smoking ban really ignored the issue discussed in this article. They fought hard to push people the smoke out of the bars where they belonged on onto the street and just ignored the fact that they would be smoking on the sidewalks and that the litter would increased and that people passing by would have to deal with it. Bars for as long as they have been around have always had beer and smoking. That’s what they have been for. First, the city attacked the bars forcing them to provide food so they became more like restaurants which basically forced the evolution of bars and restaurants becoming the same thing here in Burlington. Then they banned all smoking including chewing tobacco, which has nothing to do with second-hand smoking threats.

The article claims that the state loses millions of dollars and 1,000 lives annually. I believe these numbers to be simply false. There has never been any conclusive evidence that a death has been the direct result of smoking. It may be a contributor along with many so-called unhealthy habits such as eating too many carbs, fat, beer, salt, sugar and so on.

Getting back to the issue at hand, many of these bars and restaurants were not built or designed to accommodate outdoors areas for smokers as this whole idea was never conceived of in the United States before now. In the past, behavior modification by the government was never considered and was strongly discouraged, but is now considered common practice. How much more time before they start going after fat, salt and sugar?

The bottom line is that the government doesn’t like smokers, they don’t want them around and they want them to leave Vermont and shop and hang out elsewhere and by looking at increasing business being done by Vermonters in other states like New Hampshire, I think they’re getting the hint. What minority and form of intolerance will be next?

School Choice

I would like to now share some thoughts I’ve had while researching the idea of school choice. As I mentioned earlier, we do currently have school choice among the 6 elementary schools here in Burlington. I would prefer a more advanced school choice policy than we have right now. How about choices outside of Burlington and high school choice? About 90 towns in Vermont currently have complete choice as they lack a school district, why shouldn’t we as Burlingtonians have the choice as well? There are several different options here:


  1. We could allow school choice among public schools in Vermont, which would allow for a choice in which public high school you want to attend.


  2. We could allow school choice among public schools and include private schools, further expanding the pool of choices we would have.

To allow school choice among public schools, should be fairly easy to do as most likely what would happen as the money’s your child current are allotted by the your local and state government would be turned over to whatever public school you chose in the state. This would help increase competition for students and the quality should increase dramatically.

To allow school choice among public schools and private schools is more difficult as it’s more controversial. As many people fear what may happen if private schools were allowed to compete. Most of the fears are put out there by the public education people themselves because of course they fear competition. No group is going to support a move that would create more competition for themselves. There are a couple of ways of going about it to make sure that everyone has access to the best possible education that fits their beliefs. School Vouchers provides the choice to everyone so that no child rich or poor is left out. However, the critics say, “I don’t want my taxes going to pay for a private school, or I wouldn’t have any say in how it’s run, or private schools are too expensive.” I personally don’t really see the difference. With public schools, everyone working there, the teachers and the administration are working for a profit aren’t they? Costing much more than the private schools. I believe that with more competition including the private schools, the parents would have far more say than they do now. How much say does a parent really have in Burlington schools? If you don’t like what’s going on in the school, such as with the General Dynamics books for example, but nothing happens, what can you do… you still have to pay for school system that supports corporate help. What if you are not a democrat, support the war, believe in prayer and intelligent design… you still have to support a school system and have your child subjected to ideas that are against your personal beliefs. And regarding private schools being too costly… depending on who you talk to our per pupil costs for Burlington public schools are around $12,000 and the average for private schools is $3000-$4000. This is incredible to me. A third of the cost, they provide a superior education, and they still are able to make a profit. There’s obviously something very wrong with the economics of our public schools.

Another spin on school choice among public and private schools is that the town could offer property tax refund and renter rebates to individuals that chose to opt out of the system for their educational costs. This method would actually save the city money as for each child that opted for private school or even home-schooling, they city would be only liable for the $3,000-$4,000 instead of the full $12,000. A very interesting idea I think. Something definitely worth looking into.