Councilor updates

View the Burlington Progressive Town Meeting Day Nominating Caucus 2024. You can see my nomination speech by Jody Woos and my nomination acceptance speech at the 00:55:24 time stamp, and my closing speech and reciting of the poem V’Ahavta, byPuerto Rican poet Aurora Levins Moralesat the 02:04:28 time stamp.


Support and Call for a Permanent Ceasefire Resolution: 12/11/2023

Click the plus sign to read my comments on the resolution to Support and Call for a Permanent Ceasefire. You can also watch my commentary by clicking the image above and watching the statements from the council meeting in December 2023.

  1. Thank you. It’s been hard for me to take a public stance on Palestine and Israel since Oct. 7. Divergent values and principles and my own history in the struggle for human rights and liberation have been evoked.

Because it is not easy, I take seriously the heart-felt emails of many people who’ve reached out. I feel the weight of the traumas caused by Anti-Semitism, Colonialism, Pogroms, the Nakba, and the Holocaust.

I am a Jew, named after my father’s brother who was mortally wounded fighting the Nazis. My grandfathers both left Eastern Europe in the wake of the pogroms. I take very seriously the significance of this legacy and the legacy of my people.

It is why I reject the criticism that Hanukah is being desecrated by our bringing this resolution now. Hanukah is not just about latkes and dreidels, singing the Bruckahs and lighting candles; it is a commemoration of a revolution of the Jewish people against foreign occupation and repression. This is not a holiday that is incongruous with a resolution asking that we care about the Palestinians, that we speak out against Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. I question the use of this holiday as a cudgel against acting for peace and justice.

My sponsorship of this resolution is founded on 6 basic beliefs:

1. It is not ok to shoot people down in the street, especially for them speaking Arabic or wearing Keffiyehs.
2. It is not ok to kidnap or murder 3 year olds or 85 year olds, or use sexual violence as a weapon of war, no matter what the rationale or justification.
3. It is not ok to bomb a people, a people that includes tens of thousands of 3 and 85 year olds, into rubble and to not do everything humanly possible to immediately end the humanitarian crisis that results.
4. It is not ok to harass and threaten a people due to their religion or nationality and to not acknowledge the competing traumas that people, in this case Palestinians and Jews, are suffering.
5. It is not ok that terrible things are being done in my name as a Jew and with our money and power as citizens of the US.

I believe in the right to self-defense and the right to resist and rebel against oppression and occupation.

But I have had a growing belief that Gandhi was right, that “an eye for an eye” just leaves all of us blind.

Reconciling these believes has been hard but I believe that this resolution fairly does that.

Let me briefly respond to 3 objections to our resolution.

The listing of the number of people killed and taken hostage in Hamas’ Oct. 7th attack in lines 24-25 and the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis in response in line 29 is factual. It is not embellished but simply stating the facts does not gloss over anything.

UN officials have called the bombing of Gaza collective punishment for over a month. A prominent Israeli human rights organization has characterized the conduct of the Israeli war ascollective punishment. The statement on line 27 that the Palestinian people are suffering collective punishment for the acts of Hamas is fair and accurate.  

We’ve also been told that we should not be dealing with non-local matters. I reject that entirely; this City Council has a long history of being part of a global movement for peace and justice from the Nuclear Freeze to Central American solidarity, and even Palestine and Israel through the Bethlehem-Arad-Burlington sister city program I was co-sponsor of with Councilor Bill Aswad, a Lebanese-American, some 30 years ago.

What we do here does and can make a difference in the greater world.

I thank Councilors Dieng and Magee for drafting this resolution and asking for my support.

A Muslim and a Jew and the descendent of Irish immigrants uniting to call on us to stand against hate and for peace and justice is a good thing.

We need to speak out against hate and support the victims of the shooting. The Palestinian people need our voices to help them get the humanitarian aid they urgently need.

It is clear that an end to the blockade, the bombing, and the military operations in Gaza is essential to that aid getting through. They need a ceasefire. And Israelis and Palestinians need their war to end.

 This is what our resolution calls for and what I ask you to support. Thank you.

On Just Cause Eviction: 2/22/2022

On the Just Cause Eviction charter change, to soon be reviewed in the House Committee on Government Operations

Dear friends,

Last year the voters in Burlington overwhelmingly supported changing our charter to add protections for tenants to stop evictions for no cause. The legislature is reviewing the charter change and there is a proposal in the committee reviewing it (House Gov Ops) which, in my opinion, will greatly weaken the protections.

I've been told by supportive legislators that they need people to write and call into the committee to oppose the proposal. I did early this morning and I'm asking you to help Burlington's tenants by contacting the committee too. My email to committee members is written below, along with their email addresses and a link to the bill with the amendments highlighted in yellow. I focused on the two most problematic amendments but you might want to comment on others as well.

The work for justice is hard but together we can make important changes. Just cause eviction is one of those changes. I hope I can count on you to stand with me and Burlington's tenants in protecting this hard fought and won reform. It will make a difference.


Download the bill (in PDF format)

Below is my letter to the committee:

"Dear Vt. House Gov Ops Committee,
I’m writing to support your approval of Burlington’s just cause eviction charter change and ask that you remove the amendment on page 2, line 18 (exemption for people owning 4 or fewer rental units) because it creates a giant loophole that will nullify the entire charter change.

I’ve lived in Burlington since 1971. I was a tenant for a long time and am now a homeowner. For about 11 years, My wife and I were landlords, renting out an apartment in the house we lived in with our 2 children. Throughout this time, Burlington has had a housing crisis in which a tight market has been exploited by landlords.  Exorbitant rents, poorly maintained-underinvested in apartments, insecurity caused by a lack of options, these were the results.

For much of the time, I worked for fairness and equity between tenants and landlords, including as an attorney for the City to improve our housing code and hold landlords who fail to keep up their units accountable and as a pro bono attorney in eviction cases, representing tenants without a lawyer when their landlords are represented by lawyers. 

Based on these experiences, I believe the just cause charter change provides a basic measure of equity to Burlington’s tenants by requiring a landlord who wants to evict a tenant to have a good reason, and if necessary be able to prove it in court, just like they would have to if they were to allege that the tenant owed back rent or broke the lease.  It is not a cure all because there is no single solution to the housing crisis but it is important.  

There is a reason why the City’s affordable housing landlords (i.e., Champlain Housing Trust) all require just cause to evict a tenant: housing is a basic human right and should not be taken away without a good reason. If we’ve learned nothing from COVID we should have learned this.

The amendment on page 2, line 18 will nullify the effect of the rest of the bill because the definition of “person” includes corporations and LLCs and other entities.  This means that all a “person” has to do to avoid this requirement is create an LLC to purchase the building. This regularly happens now and I believe it is an increasing occurrence as the housing market heats up, especially when there is so much out of state money buying up properties. Even if you could somehow fix this problem it would still be a bad amendment because you would be depriving the affected tenants of the right to housing security. I urge you to reject this amendment.

I also believe that the amendment on page 3 limiting compensatory expenses to one year is inadequate to protect tenants from violations and the negative effects of displacement. It costs a lot to move, much more than the cost of a month’s rent.

Thank you for considering this. The people of Burlington really need this protection.

Gene Bergman, St. Louis St., Burlington

Main Street TIF Bond Vote: 2/21/22

Here's why I support the Main St. TIF Bond vote, Item #4.

Dear Friends,

I recently posted on Front Porch Forum on why I support the Main St. TIF bond vote, Item #4. I’ve attached that here.

I know that there are people who oppose it, including people I consider my friends and allies. These are people who I respect and have joined with on other projects. On this we just disagree.

As I understand it, some oppose this item because they believe we just can’t afford it. I understand the affordability crisis and believe we have to be efficient and cost conscious but I do not believe that continuing to avoid capital spending to fix our infrastructure makes our city more affordable. Austerity means delay and that leads to continued decay. We are all poorer for that.

Affordability is more certain when we make the right investments and we fix the economic system. Key to this is fixing the tax system; we’ve gotten a start through the attached resolution which was introduced by Councilor Magee and adopted unanimously by the city council. We’ll need your help if that is to make any progress.

Key to affordability means expanding our economic base in a manner that shares the wealth more broadly. This is what the improvements in the Main St. TIF district can do if we are committed to making it so.

Others simply oppose TIF. I understand that dedicating a part of the tax revenues in an area to pay for the infrastructure improvements there is not universally accepted. Still, I believe that when major fixes are needed, as they are on Main St., then we have to be creative in the ways we pay for them. With the federal government walking away from this funding since Reagan in the 1980s we’ve had limited options. TIF is an option.

We get to use TIF district tax revenues on long term improvements to spur investment in the area and fix serious infrastructure problems that affect much of the whole city. We avoid competing with our normal bonding capacity which is needed to fix other streets and sidewalks, make safety improvements, and do other upgrades, as we see on Item #3.

The Ravine Sewer and the large water main are two such problems in the TIF district. So are the planned for Main St. storm water improvements. It is my understanding that there is just not the capacity to do all this capital work without the TIF and the TIF bonding was simply folded into the normal bonding as some suggest.

There are complaints that TIF takes away our ability to deal with the impacts of new development in the district. I’m not seeing that. There are still Impact Fees assessed and kept by the city to cover the capital costs associated with new development. The schools still get all the school taxes generated on the value of the property at the time the district was created, 2011, and 25% of all the increased value since then. With our alternatives to the property tax like the local sales tax and gross receipts tax, revenues that come from sales at new businesses go to the general fund to pay for any increased operational costs. The affordable housing developed as a result of the improvements is housing we desperately need. Finally, when the district ends by law in 2035, all the revenues in what should be an expanded district go back to “normal”.

I’ve heard complaints that the street improvement plans for Main St. are too vague and don’t embrace safety. I disagree, first because the Great Street Plan has shown itself to be a good street design for St. Paul St. and a good storm water retention and filtration system for Main St. and City Hall Park.

Second, the pedestrian and bicycle safety seem significant but can be enhanced as part of the continuing design process that will begin in May 2022. These include slowing vehicle speeds, improving intersections, and adding more robust bike/pedestrian facilities. Specifically these include reducing the curb to curb width of the street, narrowing Main Street intersections with bump-outs, adding continuous protected bicycle facilities and widening sidewalks.

Third, the storm water projects include rain gardens to pre-treat storm water runoff and creating a tree canopy to reduce urban heat-island effect and absorb and filter runoff and absorb carbon dioxide. Structural soil for the tree plantings will serve the dual function of supporting the sidewalk pavement and accommodating tree root growth. Soil cells should provide trees and plants with the nourishment they need, without disturbing the structures above which is essential since the limiting factors in the growth of urban trees are small planting volumes and highly compacted poor-quality soil. Soil cells address this limitation. Permeable pavers will be installed to allow storm water to percolate and undergo filtering rather than going straight into Lake Champlain during sewer overflow events;

Finally, I’ve heard complaints about the way Miro has handled transportation and that he can’t be trusted to make the changes we need. I understand and share these complaints, especially about the Champlain Parkway. I believe we have to make sure that the plans maximize safety, are cost efficient, and the work is done in a timely manner to minimize disruptions to the downtown.

But none of this means the project isn’t needed. We have to be engaged and hold our officials accountable, including me if I’m elected. But if we do, then this project and its impact on so much else we need to do will be very positive, for ourselves, our children, and their kids to come, as well as the health of the Lake and the rest of our environment.

Let me say that I believe all the people who I have interacted with who disagree with me on this care deeply about this city. We also have a shared vision for a socially just city. We agree about so much and after Tuesday’s election we’ll see who has to do what. If the vote is Yes, I hope to work with them to make sure the project is done right. If they prevail, I hope they will work with me to figure out how to fund the infrastructure we need to fix and build. And regardless, I look forward to working with them and you all to build a just city with a solidarity economy that works for all.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading.

We must do better but together we can.



You may have seen my thoughts on economic justice laid out on my website. In the economic justice section, I say in part, "We cannot solve the affordability crisis without a dynamic and just economy. An economy that is affordable for everyone has to be built on the values of equity and solidarity to be successful. . . . Some call it a Solidarity Economy that builds Community Wealth."

To do this we have to move away from the Weinberger Administration's neo-liberal approach, which relies on "the invisible hand of the market" and the hope that wealth will trickle down to the rest of us. Our greatest successes in building wealth that is shared broadly have come through a dynamic and public oriented City economic development strategy. What comes to mind is the Waterfront, the pedestrian and public Church St. Marketplace District, BED, and CEDO's former emphasis on supporting and growing locally owned businesses.

There was a time when CEDO really engaged in exciting and meaningful economic activity. I want to share one of these success stories, the relocation of the Onion River Coop to downtown 20 years ago. City Market's downtown relocation was done on City owned land and with City support. The move was and is a testament to what we can do when we have the vision and commitment, and devote the resources, to build an economy that works for all and not just a privileged few.

This video tells part of the story.

I hope it inspires us to build the Solidarity Economy we need. A few more of my thoughts are on my website.

If you have ideas, please share them by emailing me at: [email protected].

Thank you.


The story of City Market - Watch here

Community Update: 2/18/2022

VT AFL-CIO: Workers left behind in initial climate plan

We have some powerful friends in the movement for a climate action plan that is not built on the backs of low and moderate income people. Working class people are the very people who have suffered from the extractive and exploitative system that caused the climate crisis in the first place and continues to perpetuate it.

In an op-ed published on Jan. 9, 2022 in the Vermont Business Magazine by its executive director, Liz Medina, the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which represents some 11,000 unionized workers in Vermont, has just put out a strong and comprehensive statement critiquing the Vermont Climate Council’s recently adopted “Initial Climate Action Plan” (CAP). 

I’ve worked with union leaders, including Liz and Burlington AFSCME leaders on creating a democratically run, not-for-profit municipal consolidated solid waste program, and I am continually impressed with their commitment to building a democratic and equitable Vermont.

The op-ed is worth the read for the critique of the CAP and the calls for some specific steps we need to start taking for a just transition to a fossil fuel free future. I thank executive director Medina for her permission to repost her op-ed on my campaign website. Please note that the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has not yet made any endorsements for the Burlington City Council election, including my own. My goal here is to amplify the voices of Vermonters who I believe share a powerful and good vision for our state.

To read the op-ed, go to this link.

Proposition 0: 2/18/2022

On direct democracy - Vote yes on Prop 0

Dear Friends,

Democracy is one of my guiding political values. It is encapsulated in a phrase of Bernie’s that I have been amplifying: “Not me. Us!” It is what I mean when I say “We must do better. Together we can!”

Right now we have 2 community groups looking to expand democracy in Burlington. I’m writing to ask you to look at their information below, and seriously considering joining them in getting their proposals on the ballot.

One group, Proposition Zero is pushing for a charter change to empower voters with the right to directly adopt ordinances and resolutions.

The second group, People for Police Accountability, is a group I’ve been working with for a while on the charter change for an independent community police discipline board. The proposal is similar to the proposal that was to be put on the 2021 ballot before the Mayor vetoed it.

Both groups are looking to get their proposals on the ballot by gathering petition signatures from 5% of Burlington’s registered voters, about 1800 voters. They need people to collect signatures and people to sign. I hope you can help them. Because together we can make the change we need.


Why I don't support the appointment of Jon Murad: 1/3/2022

We need a chief who champions the reallocation of funds for social workers, addiction and recovery specialists, and mental health professionals to deal with situations police are called to respond to but for which they are unsuited. We need a chief who supports the reallocation of funds for health, social, economic, and education services because crime can never be eradicated without economic and health equity and security. We need a chief who understands that the community itself must be able to hold officers accountable when they break our trust to serve and protect us.

As a candidate for Ward 2's City Council seat, I want to share why I don't believe Jon Murad should be appointed to lead the police department permanently on January 31st.

I believe we need a chief who seeks transformation, using public safety dollars to enhance a right-sized, accountable police force within a comprehensive public safety system. In a transformed police department racial disparities and bias are addressed, and even people with negative views of policing are valued and respected.

We need a chief who champions the reallocation of funds for social workers, addiction and recovery specialists, and mental health professionals to deal with situations police are called to respond to but for which they are unsuited. We need a chief who supports the reallocation of funds for health, social, economic, and education services because crime can never be eradicated without economic and health equity and security. We need a chief who understands that the community itself must be able to hold officers accountable when they break our trust to serve and protect us.

Acting chief Murad has not been this leader. People I respect who have much direct experience with him say that he has not addressed racial disparities in the department's use of force and is unwilling to acknowledge a racial bias problem in the BPD. I've observed no steps to build positive relationships in the community, despite, as I understand it, the police commission encouraging him to do so. He's selectively used data to generate fear in order to call for more officers. I believe he's fought the commission on oversight and I know he's opposed to a community discipline board. When I spoke with him about the officer hiring process he was defensive despite my simply trying to get information. His solution to our public safety needs seems just to be more officers = lower crime. This is simplistic, not transformative.

The mayor says Murad is committed to reform but he hasn't demonstrated this. He's not moved us closer to a CAHOOTS model and when the commission proposed a mental health summit to develop a "system of care" with the police and social service agencies, he did not embrace it.

I'm mindful, as Councilor Tracy pointed out, that Murad's public silence on a proposal to pilot an overdose-prevention site in Burlington is an example of how he isn't the "transformative" chief the city needs. According to Max, "It feels as though Jon has done everything in his power to stand in the way of progress."

Experience shows that when a person is in an interim position the worst aspects of their performance worsen after they're given it permanently. The best predictor of a person's future behavior is their record of past action. These past actions are why I do not support Jon Murad's appointment as permanent police chief.



April 2024 Debrief

First, we ONE councilors and the other members of the Progressive Council Caucus want to thank voters again for your vote of confidence in electing us. We believe our mandate from you and those who we share this community with is to do our best to provide for the common good regardless of income, housing status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ethnicity, immigration status, or political alignment. We Progressives have five councilors and the Democrats seven. We are ready to move forward across party lines & put people before politics. 

Our first meeting started with the swearing-in ceremony of Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Burlington’s first out queer, woman mayor, and ward councilors, newly elected & re-elected ones. After this, we elected the council president, Ben Traverse, and council’s members to the Board of Finance. 

Learn more by clicking the plus sign.

First, we ONE councilors and the other members of the Progressive Council Caucus want to thank voters again for your vote of confidence in electing us. We believe our mandate from you and those who we share this community with is to do our best to provide for the common good regardless of income, housing status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ethnicity, immigration status, or political alignment. We Progressives have five councilors and the Democrats seven. We are ready to move forward across party lines & put people before politics. 

Our first meeting started with the swearing-in ceremony of Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Burlington’s first out queer, woman mayor, and ward councilors, newly elected & re-elected ones. After this, we elected the council president, Ben Traverse, and council’s members to the Board of Finance. 

Council committees are appointed by the president after consultation with councilors. Most have three councilors. The Transportation, Energy, & Utilities Committee (TEUC) has four and the Board of Finance has 3 councilors (Kane, Barlow, & Carpenter) plus Mayor Mulvaney-Stanak, & newly elected Council President Traverse.

For a full listing of council committees, go to City Council Standing Committees | City of Burlington, Vermont (

Our first substantive working meeting was on April 15. To see the agenda and posted materials, go to Regular City Council Meeting • City of Burlington 149 Church St. | Burlington, VT 05401 | 802-865-7000 • CivicClerk  There were three major issues we’d like to summarize. 

First, we discussed the proposed sale of the city-owned building at 200 Church Street. This was purchased in 2005 for the formerly municipally-owned broadband provider Burlington Telecom’s (BT’s) Network Operations Center. The Community Justice Center and Human Resources Department also occupy offices there. The cost of fixing the HVAC, roof, and other building systems due to deferred maintenance is the major driver of the proposed sale, which was only brought to the Council by Miro’s administration late last month despite the serious issues with the building.

Our caucus voiced concerns over selling public property and expressed a desire to explore federal grants for climate-related municipal building upgrades instead of selling a building that will likely see a significant increase in value over time, especially given the significant investments underway in the downtown core at City Place & the ‘Memorial block’. A decision is pending.

Next, Darren Springer, Burlington Electric Department’s General Manager, provided an annual update on Burlington’s Net Zero Energy (NZE) Road Map. Despite the progress made, we are not on track to meet the plan’s goals. Greenhouse gas emissions in the ground transportation & the thermal/building sectors are down 18.2% in 2023 relative to the 2018 baseline but almost half of that decrease can be attributed to unusually warm winters. Our natural gas consumption is nearly 1 billion BTU above our goal and our CO2 emissions are exceeding the goal by 50,000 metric tons in the thermal & ground transportation sectors. We expressed this concern.

During the update, we voiced how important the workers who do the weatherization needed to meet our thermal/building goals are. We are behind these goals and GM Springer said that workforce is the primary impediment to weatherizing buildings at the rate needed to accomplish the NZE goals. 

Our councilors advocated for more frequent updates on our climate progress, acknowledging that we are grateful to have a forward-thinking community and hopeful that we can close the gaps to adequately address the climate crisis. We will continue working with climate advocates & city employees to ensure we close these gaps and  lead on climate. To hear more from former Progressive City Councilor Hightower & Newly-elected Councilor Neubieser go to 

The last major item was the Vermont Transportation Agency’s (VTRANS) and DPW staff recommendation to approve the funding & maintenance agreement to replace the Winooski Bridge. It is widely agreed that the bridge has major defects and is not safe for pedestrians and bikers. The council voted unanimously to approve the agreement, in part based on staff representations that the design is still being finalized and can be improved to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety. The estimated project costs range between $60 & $80 million with the City’s share being only 5% based on a Federal RAISE Grant of $24.8 million was secured in 2023. Construction is slated to commence in late 2027 & conclude in late 2029. 

We hope this is helpful in understanding our work. Feel free to contact us to discuss the council’s work in more detail. It is an honor to represent you. Thank you.

Gene, Melo, Joe, Carter, and Marek