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June 24, 2011

Burlington Councilors Want Free Parking — All the Time

P03-01-nolabels Burlington's city councilors may argue about any number of critical issues facing the city, but there is one thing they agree on: Free parking for themselves.

A resolution sponsored by Councilors Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1), Dave Hartnett (D-Ward 4), Joan Shannon (D-Ward 5) and Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) seeks the creation of a new city ordinance giving city councilors carte blanche to park at any city-owned meter, garage or city park free of charge — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What's the reasoning? An outcry among constituents that councilors were being treated unfairly, left circling the block for hours while critical business was being conducted? The high cost to taxpayers for police to issue, and then void, tickets to councilors while they were on official city business?

Nope and nope.

Simple, noted Councilor Adrian in an email to Seven Days: "Since we are on duty all the time the parking benefit should extend all the time. Just like when the police are on duty."

The mayor, as the resolution notes, has a dedicated parking space on Main Street near City Hall Park. Hey, no fair!

Currently, city ordinance allows for councilors, as well as city department heads and city employees, to request parking tickets be voided if they can prove they were on "official business." That ordinance has been in effect since 2003, and does not grant free parking to employees while they are simply on duty at their own work station, nor does it apply to any business being conducted on private time.

How many parking tickets does the city void?

Since December 2010, the city has voided a total of 157 parking tickets for people who claimed to be on "official business," according to John King, who manages the city's parking enforcement division out of the Burlington Police Department.

The council resolution would not give the same uber-parking privileges to city employees or department heads.

"Department heads are not on duty all the time; many live outside of town and most are not known by face to most of the general public," noted Adrian. "Councilors are always on duty; all live in town and are known to many of their constituents and others."

The city has taken different approaches with granting city councilors parking permits or passes in recent years. At one time, King noted, city councilors were issued a small placard that hung from their rear-view mirror. The placard had the words "official business" along with the city seal and was issued to city councilors and department heads.

In recent years, those placards became parking passes that had essentially the same information on them but instead of hanging from the rear-view mirror they were just placed on the dashboard, King said.

The resolution was prompted by a recent email from King to city councilors, the mayor and department heads reminding them of the 2003 ordinance that allows for parking tickets to be voided if city officials are on "official business." King noted that as of July 1, the police department was stopping the practice of issuing special parking permits for councilors and department heads.

After concerns were raised by city councilors, Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling reversed the decision and went back to the practice of issuing placards. Schirling told Seven Days it doesn't matter to him if there are placards or voided tickets. "At the end of the day, it matters not to us as long as it works."

In the resolution, the councilors note that King's note and Schirling's reversal "underscores the difficulty with not having an ordinance applicable to this issue."

In other words, "There oughta be a law!"

But, why?

The resolution notes that councilors are "often engaged by constituents while shopping; at sporting events, in the parks, etc. as well as at official meetings." The resolution adds there is a "benefit of allowing councilors to park at all times without fearing a parking ticket."

A benefit? To whom? The taxpayer with whom they are engaging? I wonder if constituents who "engage" with councilors at sporting events, public parks or at meetings can also get their tickets voided since they were just doing their civic duty. Probably not, eh?

The resolution asks the council's Ordinance Committee to return to the full council with a proposed ordinance that "establishes a parking permit for city councilors that will be attached to the outside of the vehicle and will be good at any and all times a parking fee or fare is required. This includes but is not limited to any and all spaces (other than spaces reserved for persons with disabilities) posted or otherwise, including but not limited to meters, garages and parks of the city of Burlington."

The resolution asks the ordinance be presented to the council no later than September 15. In the interim, the council will continue to utilize the parking permit system in effect.

King said his parking enforcement crew will carry out any law the city council creates, but he's skeptical of allowing city councilors to get free parking any day of the week at any meter.

"I can understand if a councilor is at a meeting downtown or on official business," said King. "But if the same councilor is downtown and they're shopping, that doesn't seem right."

Schirling had not seen the resolution until a reporter forwarded him a copy. The chief wouldn't say whether he thought it appropriate to allow city councilors to have such wide-ranging free parking rights. "That'll be up to the city council to determine what passes muster," said Schirling.

The question is whether this will pass muster with taxpayers.

Does this mean they can park quicker and have more time to ignore the Burlingto Telecom mess? Or will this just give them more time to point fingers while not actually doing their jobs? Glad to see something in this city can be bi-partisan. Too bad it doesn't help the citizens of Burlington in anyway. But hey, why should City Council start caring about the citizens now? Better to get their own perks first. What a freakin' joke.

No recall provision, no resolution to BTC, but ... our councilors can park for free anytime they want.

This City could screw up a wet dream.

Seems like a bad choice politically, but I suppose we can repeal their parking privileges at the ballot box if they misbehave.

I'm a city employee and as a program director I'm meeting with people constantly. I too am "on duty all the time" since lots of people recognize me and I'm stopped by someone pretty much every time I go out. And I have NEVER requested to void a ticket. I put money in the meters just like everyone else and if it runs out, I pay the ticket. The fact that Ed, Dave, Joan and Kurt (both sides of the political spectrum for the record) are asking this is absurd - especially since city counsel meetings take place at night, when metered parking is free.

This is ridiculous! The fact that they believe they're "on duty all the time" should not allow them free parking. Plenty of hardworking people in Burlington are parking downtown each day to keep the economy going and city running. Please.

This is ridiculous. First of all, City Council meetings are at night when parking is free. Second, there are lots of people who work downtown for the city who have to pay for parking. What's next? They get recognized at a restaurant by a constituent who has a five minute coversation with them and taxpayers will be expected to foot the bill for that, too?

This in the end indicates the parking problem of Burlington. If it is inconvenient for councilors to find parking it means it is inconvenient for all to find parking. This may be the reason for so many failed businesses in the downtown section. If it is a pain for the councilors it is a pain for all and it shows. Lets charge the high rent at Borders, and discourage them from keeping it open, lets charge the high rent for Army Navy store with same results. This ticky tack issue for the councilors is a huge issue for businesses on top of all the other impediments for a downtown experience.
Sorry folks the saga of the downtown pedestrian mall is coming to a grave end.

This is wrong on so many levels. Just another example of people who have a little bit of power feeling entitled to public resources.

Also, the Mayor doesn’t need his own parking spot. He (or she) should fight for a spot just like every lowly $9 per hour worker at Old Navy does.

The first City Councilor to stand up and oppose this is likely to get a fair amount of favorable attention.
Come back to reality, folks!

I'm not against the Mayor having a parking spot, I am against Kiss having one.

I would set the over under on how many tourist walk by his truck and think to themselves ' that guys going to get towed from the Mayor's spot' / day at 45.

Don't we pay that guy enough so he doesn't have to embarrass the city with that bumper sticker jalopy.

I can't believe he hasn't skimmed enough from BTC to be able to afford a nice green Prius. Or maybe he doesn't want to make any big purchases for fear of tipping of the feds.

As for the ordinance, it is insane the council (the entire council) thinks they need a "Free Parking" pass.


Once guess who the lowest paid City employees are on an hourly basis?


Sorry to correct you but the lowest paid on the totem pole are NPA steering members. Salary $0.00, and no parking pass, not that I want one.


I'm sorry, were you unaware of this when you ran for election? Do you really expect to get sympathy for this? I'm sorry you have to fight with the rest of us minions to park in this city but you chose to run for city council knowing you were doing a civic duty. I'm sorry if you are only now learning that doing a civic duty comes at a cost. Are you really having an issue paying for parking AT NIGHT when the city council meetings are? Or are you having trouble paying for parking during the day when I can only assume you are working? Tell you what, give us our recall position or show that you guys are doing something about Burlington Telecom and maybe we'll consider it.

You know what Ed, even if you guys do deserve this perk, are you that tone deaf to how the citizens of Burlington feel right now towards the city council and the current administration? Does now really seem like the right time to pat yourselves on the back for a job well done and add this perk? Again, you might deserve it but I have to question your (and the other councilors who signed on for this) judgment. Very poor taste. The citizens of this city are fed up and this just looks like you guys don't care. I know that's not true, but you know as well as the rest of us that perception equals reality.

I agree with Jeff. Sorry Ed, you business is conducted typically when Parking is Free. If you are going downtown on official business you got 2 free hours at the parking garage. Those were and are the terms. I think if throwing a few quarters in the meters are causing some financial difficulties then maybe consider stepping away from the job and focusing on your own finances.

It doesn't seem fair to just have mercy on these guys - we all deserve it. I hate the parking meters too. The free parking in the garage is okay, but two hours and one minute means you pay for about three hours...which seems funny. I say "about" because I only went once, but it's something like that. I just hate parking garages, try to avoid them - personal tic. But if you knew you'd be an hour or and hour and a half, for sure, they'd be okay. If there is room.

Jeff and JCarter et al

My preference would be to be fairly compensated. Of course I knew that getting into it parking would not be paid for. That does not mean I cannot try to change the system. My preference would be to actually get a fair wage. 15-20K is about average for a Councilor in a city with Burlington's attributes. I have been saying this for months. For the record right now we get a "stipend" of $3000 a year. My rough estimate is that on average department heads make 75-80K a year.

I think my constituents know I care. I reach out to them all the time and I reach out beyond that.


The City Council is as bad as Kiss. Pathetic. Every single one of them. Vote NO on question 1 Tuesday, June 28. We don't need their smart meters either.


If the City was in good shape and things were running smoothly maybe you could increase your compensation. But with the train wreck that Burlington has become, the lack of accountibility by anyone, and the lack of clue by anyone, I would propose that everyone from Kiss to the council should just be thankful they are getting compensated at all.

But you bring in an interesting point, if we compensated people better, maybe we could attract some candidates that knew what was going on. As it stands,

The BTC debacle is just unacceptable.
The lack of a recall provision is unacceptable
The zoning re-write is just laughable
The airport deal is just wrong,
Continuation with the moron plant is scary
and the fact that the council won't exert any control whatsoever over Kiss makes them pretty much useless and a waste of the compensation they currently get.

Instead you seem to want a pat on the back. For what? Proposing to infringe upon on civil liberties by banning smoking on church st? A non-binding resolution to decriminilize marijuana? (BTW, would you be allowed to smoke pot on church st?). Or should we applaud the wonderfull streets and traffic flow in Burlington? Cholchester Ave is still awaiting a second coat of asphalt........from 6-7 months ago.

The City is in shambles and going downhill and I don't think the people leading the way need to be coddled any further.

Get the Recall Provision on the ballot and shut down BTC and then bring back the parking issue.

Oh and Ed, explain this to me if you will. If the City no longer owns BTC, the system that is, how are they entitled to keep ANY of the revenue that's been generated over the past few months? Isn't that now Citi's money? Has BTV been running BTC for Citi for the last few months for free?

The council needs to put down the nonsense like this and get things straightened out. The bullshit of waiting for Toor to rule on Leopold and waiting for the next election to get rid of Kiss and waiting for the useless Scumlin appointee to get her head out of her butt at the PSB is a long past. Donovan isn't going to do anything and even if he levied charges is irrelevent. It's the council's job to represent and protect it's constituents, and in that regard, everyone's been on vacation.

Chief Schirling:

While we have your attention. I want to report a crime. In excess of $17 Million Dollars was stolen from the taxpayers of Burlington. The suspect is sitting in the SE corner office of City Hall on the main floor. He's only going to be there for a few more days. His accomplice is sitting above him on the top floor.

Waiting patiently,

I'd be all for a pay raise, if it went hand-in-hand with a requirement that all councilors must stop dicking around on their phones during meetings and start paying attention.

It is pitiful enough that people of free will decide to serve with full understanding of the "compensation" they will receive for their civic engagement, then seek what can only be described as a perk. Even worse is despite their failure to perform the duties they of free will volunteereed to do, they still seek a perk. Yet even more pitiful is that Councilor Adrian has the audacity to claim he and the BTV Council deserve "fair wage" of $20,000 a year.

What they all deserve is to be removed from their duties for gross negligence. The capacity of the current BTV Council-whether to address pension fund issues, the telecom debacle, the condition of city streets, to improve processes and reduce bureacracy, to make it easier for small businesses to create jobs and provide tax receipts, to overcome partisan rancor, to accomplish anything positive-is next to nil.

Ed, you know the constituents of BTV you choose to talk to and who choose to talk to you. Everybody sees your obnoxious bravado as distasteful and dysfunctional. Your behavior and actions diminish the capacity of the Council to serve BTV constituents. Ever greater numbers are noticing you're incapable of performing as a BTV Councilor, and unworthy of a $3,000 stipend.

If Adrian is "always on duty" there shouldn't be any problem calling him, or any of the other elitist buffoons, at ALL HOURS of the day and night with our concerns about the myriad of problems with the current Admin and the disappearance of $17/$50mil in city funds and taxpayer's trust while on your watches.

That number once again is 233-2131

Perhaps the most troubling thing about this initiative is how much it demonstrates tone-deafness to the public's justifiably cynical current view of city government. Even if this weren't an unfair and boneheaded idea, this wouldn't be the time to propose it. On the theory that "we work all the time" why don't we just pass state legislation that state office holders can park anywhere any time. So silly.

Madrid writes, "Perhaps the most troubling thing about this initiative is how much it demonstrates tone-deafness to the public's justifiably cynical current view of city government. Even if this weren't an unfair and boneheaded idea, this wouldn't be the time to propose it." And I couldn't agree more. But voters rant and rave for a few months and when Town Meeting Day rolls around they keep re-electing these numbskulls.

Not only does Ed Adrian want free parking at all times, he has the nerve to ask for "15-20K" in cash.

This for a guy who's conduct at meetings is completely rude and disruptive.

Last year the Seven Days described Ed Adrian as "egotistical, bombastic, tenacious and self-absorbed." His conduct illustrates this point very well.

Rules is for chumps.

okay, I'll jump in and defend this measure. I agree it's a PR nightmare for the counselors who proposed it, but there are precious few perks for a fairly thankless (and very important) job and this costs the city comparatively little. Seriously, people, this is a (very) small price to pay to make being a counselor a little bit easier. I sure don't want the job and I'm glad there are people out there who care enough to do it. Free parking? Sure.

Well, if high-speed internet access is a "fundamental human right" then I guess free parking is too.

Burlington's rudderless, wasteful policies are the fault of its voters. You've been drifting comfortably along in a haze of liberal smugness while "Progressive" foxes emptied the henhouse. Get involved, people!


Have you ever considered parking in one of the many free spots around the city (Buell, S. Union, etc.)? Or have you ever thought about walking your entitled self to City Hall. Or riding a bike or taking the bus. For god's sake, you only live in the Old North End. How lazy can you be?

And we don't have a parking problem in the city; we have a courage problem. When city councillors aren't will to take the lead on alternative transportation, how can they expect anyone else to care about the issue?

If the burden of governing is too great, or rather, your remuneration is skimpier than what you think you deserve, how about you do us all a favor and quit.

FYI: Councilor Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1) withdrew the resolution at tonight's council meeting and says he won't bring it up again.

I guess Ed really is just tone deaf and not completely deaf. Nice to see he got the message.

We still love you Ed!

Hey Ed, don't you live in Burlington? Why aren't you walking, taking a bus, or riding a bike when you need to get downtown for all of your super-important business? What a great example you are setting: lazy, whiny, self-important. What a cliche you are.

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