Thanks to all of you who are standing with me today, and to those who have sent me hundreds of encouraging messages.
I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for your encouragement and confidence in me. I truly wouldn’t.
My name is Joan Shannon, and I’m running for Mayor of Burlington.
For 20 years, I have served as a City Councilor and for three of those years as Council President. Obviously, I’m passionate about serving Burlington and making government work for all our neighbors. I am ready and well prepared to take this next step and serve as your Mayor.
When I arrived in 1985, I was a college student here for a summer job teaching sailing. My sister went to UVM and set me up with a summer sublet. I was supposed to go back to school in Pennsylvania, but I fell in love with Burlington’s beauty, the lake, and the enthusiasm of Burlingtonians. I then rearranged my life to permanently move here, figure out how to graduate from college, and make a living in Burlington.
I’ve lived in college student neighborhoods, I’ve lived on North Street, I’ve lived in the old North End, and in 1995, I landed permanently in the Lakeside mill neighborhood where Ken and I raised our daughter Julia and a revolving door of rescue dogs. There isn’t a street in Burlington I don’t care about.
I’ve been searching my soul and asking the question: Do I have what Burlington needs at this critical time?
What I believe we need is the courage and leadership to make hard decisions on the path to success. I’ve been tested, at times. I have stood against strong political winds, and I know I have what it takes to make those hard decisions in Burlington’s best interest.
We face enormous challenges. In the domain of public safety alone, we have:
A diminished police force
Debilitating drug use and addiction
A significant increase in unhoused neighbors
Theft, crime, and other concerning behaviors
I stand by my record as the only candidate who has consistently supported investments in public safety, supported community policing, and opposed misguided efforts to defund the Burlington Police — while also recognizing the need for evolution and improvement. My approach is evolution, not revolution.
One of the considerations for me in making this decision was that no one can do this alone. It will truly require a community effort, and I can tell you that my optimism for our future rests in you! So many of you have stepped up to say, “How can I help?” You have offered professional skills, time, and labor. Burlington, thank you for your spirit.
We need and welcome your help. As your mayor, I plan to once again normalize a word that more recently gets stuck in our throats, and I will say it loudly: accountability. We recognize that we need to do better, that people are not getting the help that they need. And still, while we are working to build that infrastructure, our community cannot and should not have to tolerate open drug use, open drug dealing, graffiti, car theft, bike theft, retail theft and other harmful behaviors in our parks, in our neighborhoods, and in our community living room: Church Street.
The plan for public safety must be twofold: accountability and care. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the need for collaboration, and so to accomplish this, we will need all hands on deck!
We all want a safe, clean, and vibrant community where our neighbors have access to the help they need to be healthy and housed. To get there, we will need to work together with state partners to provide the statewide social safety net that people deserve, and also work together to clean up graffiti, pick up litter, and hold people accountable for illegal actions here in Burlington.
Community policing relies on all of us in partnership with our police department, and we need to rebuild not only the department itself but the trust and relationship with the community. My intention and plan is to do both. We need to grow our police department and assure current and prospective officers that city leadership and the public support them performing their jobs according to their training and directives. We need to also work to modify protocols where appropriate and hold officers accountable to those high standards. We need to diversify the services offered by our police department and are working to do so right now.
For our officers to do their best work for our community and in order to hire officers in a highly competitive market, our police department needs to be a supportive environment. Both accountability and care.
To truly have public safety for everyone, we need a healthy community. We need functioning physical health, mental health, and addiction treatment systems so that those suffering the most in our community can get well and again make positive contributions to our social fabric. Burlington cannot provide a public safety net to all of Vermont from within the boundaries of the city, and we certainly can't do it on the backs of city taxpayers and neighborhoods. But we can and will do our share. I look forward to working with our legislators and Governor to find solutions within and outside of Burlington to provide these needed supports. We will be turning to our state leaders and partnering with them to join in our movement to bring all hands on deck.
Housing is a human right. And if we want to have a healthy and inclusive community, we need more of all forms of housing for people in all stages of life. Some people need supervised housing on their way to recovery. Others need supportive housing as they transition from intensive treatment to independence. And we all need affordable and desirable housing options to attract the workers who staff our hospital, our city departments, our hospitality industry, child care centers, the Howard Center, and colleges; and to meet all of our other community needs.
In order for working people to be able to raise a family with financial stability, their housing must be stable and affordable. The city is currently 70% renter occupied. Renters should have a pathway to homeownership, if they so choose. Homeownership is too far out of reach for too many in our community. This will be an important part of our administration’s efforts to build community and financial security for everyone.
I commit to working with healthcare providers, transitional housing providers, affordable housing developers, market housing developers, lenders, and city staff to help us build housing that enhances our beloved Burlington neighborhoods and provides needed homes and financial stability for our workers. We will ask them to join us bringing all hands on deck.
Many residents have expressed their grave concerns about our city’s affordability. While we need fiscal responsibility, we also need to ensure we have a thriving downtown and a growing tax base so that we can keep property taxes under control for the benefit of both homeowners and renters. People should not have to leave the city we love because they can’t afford to live here.
Protecting our downtown businesses and growing the tax base are imperative as we restore our safe and vibrant city. Businesses pay taxes that would otherwise become a residential tax burden. We want to continue to be a destination for tourists to come and enjoy our city — and spend money!
As a community, we have a universal value for our lake, our environment, and our planet. We need to continue to find opportunities to address climate change, keep our lake clean, and to stay ahead of best practices and new technology. Implementation should be both aggressive and sensitive to community needs and financial capacity. I support our Net Zero Energy Roadmap and Burlington’s continued leadership on climate action.
In the past 20 years, I’ve had countless conversations. I’ve heard your concerns as parents, business owners, immigrants, college students, generational Burlingtonians, and chosen Burlingtonians like myself.
As your Mayor, I will listen to you. To move our City forward, we need to consider all viewpoints and ideas — whether they are progressive, conservative, or anything in between. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. A successful path forward will require open mindedness, careful listening, and rational, evidence-based decision making in the interest of Burlington and not for the purpose of serving blind ideology.
Please know this — and those who know me do — we may not always agree, but you will always know where I stand and why.
I love Burlington, and I know we can do better. With your help, I will lead the way for a better Burlington. In this effort, I invite you to join our team, Joan For Mayor, and our movement…
All hands on deck!