One of the symptoms of atrophying boards and commissions is that it is sometimes very difficult to fill commission spots with new faces. Whenever I talk to less political friends, they have no idea what commissions do or how to apply to be on one, and the Vehicle for Hire Board is a symptom of the same general groups of people applying for commissions and boards, especially when no one else knows about it. A couple things stand out.
Councilor Roof, who is an elected city official, is on the board. I don’t know if this has happened many times in the past, but it’s certainly a rare instance that blurs the line between citizen boards and elected officials. Since the other councilors vote on most Board candidates, this certainly feels like it could easily open up a conflict of interest.
Two members of the Vehicle for Hire Board are also on the Airport Commission. Wouldn’t city councilors want to ensure power and influence isn’t concentrated, even in the hands of individual citizens? And does this create a conflict, if those commissioner put the needs of the airport over the needs of cab drivers?
Vehicle for Hire Board
William Keogh Sr.
William Keogh Sr.
Jeffrey L. Schulman
Our citizen boards falter and lose credibility when we don’t put enough resources to help publicize to folks outside of the political establishment. We need a group of councilors committed to funding outreach to help include marginalized folks in government, especially for Councilor Roof’s Ward 8, since there are so few commissioners from his ward.
Today I’d like to delve a bit deeper into the data that I first presented in part 1. To ensure that the sample sizes were large enough, and not just the aberration of small commissions, I chose to look only at the commissions with at least 4 members. You may be surprised by what the data reveals, I know I was.
I want to offer a few caveats – I made assumptions about folks’ genders based on their first names. While it’s certainly not 100% accurate nor good practice, the city does not seem to collect any data on gender or race when it comes to commissioners, so I worked with what I got. I also did my best to ensure that no identifying data would be presented, even though all of this information is public in one place or another.
Ward 2, 3, and the gerrymandered student Ward 8 have the lowest number of commissioners, while Ward 1, 4, and 5 have the highest.
Ward 2 and 3 are represented on less than 50% of all commissions, while Ward 8 has barely any representation. Wards 4 and 5 are represented on 3/4ths of all commissions.
There are more commissioners living outside Burlington than from half the city’s individual wards, Wards 2,3,7, and 8.Note: Ward 0 denotes commissioners who live outside Burlington.
Burlington’s gender demographics are 51% female to 49% male, yet 34% of commissioners are female and 66% are male.
While 65% of commissions have more males than females, only 35% of commissions have more females than males.
The commissions involving business, development, financials, and housing skew heavily towards males, with over 80%.
Housing Board of Review, Design Review Board, and Retirement Board have combined 19 males on the boards and 0 females.
When we look at the commissions involving finances and development, the disparities are even starker:
By Home Owners and Renters:
Although 60% of Burlington residents are renters, only 14% of commissioners are renters.
Nearly as many commissioners live outside the city than are renters in the city.
Burlington’s median assessed value of a single family home is $234,200. 75% of home-owning commissioners, or 65% of all commissioners, own homes valued about the city median.
Every commission had a higher average home value than the median.
While 100% of commissions have homeowner representation, only 40% have renter representation, and only 25% have very low income renter representation of any kind.
30% of commissions have representation from outside Burlington.
While 100% of commissions have more than 3 home owners, only 5% of commissions have more than 3 renters.
Overwhelmingly, over 44% (Business/Real) of commissioners work in the fields of law, housing, development, business, and finance. These are jobs that tend to pay much more than a livable wage.
Nearly 10% (Community/Social) of commissioners work in education, social work, community mental health, politics, or community organizing.
1 student (UVM) was on any commissions, and they were a graduate student. No undergraduate students, who number over 12,000, have any representation on any boards or commissions.
11.4% (Government) of commissioners work for either the city or state.
Note: One person worked in UVM real estate, and others worked as real estate and/or business lawyers. They were counted in all applicable groups.