Burlington City Seeks Power to Banish People Based on Secret Memo
By William Boardman
"Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government." -- Jeremy Bentham
That's right, rather than explain why the law it passed is constitutional, the Burlington City Council is hiding behind lawyer-client privilege as if it--the council were some private corporation rather than a democratically-elected local government.
The ordinance in question, the "Church Street Marketplace District Trespass Authority," passed the City Council unanimously in February 2013. The council vote followed seven public hearings at which some concerns were raised and addressed, but no controversy arose. The ordinance allows the immediate and arbitrary banishment of people from public streets with no due process of law and no effective appeal process.
In part, councilors with doubts about this ordinance had them assuaged by an analysis of the proposed law written by Assistant City Attorney Greg Meyer in mid-2012, assuring the council that it was within its constitutional rights to ban people from public streets and without authority to do so from the state legislature. That City Attorney's office analysis was, and is, secret from the public.
"Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show it can bear discussion and publicity." -- Lord Acton