Local Government E-Newspaper Launches

Welcome to the first edition of The South Burlington Times, a bi-weekly newspaper dedicated to providing residents of South Burlington with current information on City government and soon, School District government as well. 

Below you will see commentary from two distinguished South Burlington residents expressing concern over the decline in local coverage by the newspaper published in our community and looking for a means to continue to get important and relevant information about our government out to the residents.  This commentary has been presented in other forums and served as the impetus for the creation of the Times.

The South Burlington Times will be a fully electronic newspaper and will be presented at no cost to the taxpayer.  We will cover the meetings of the Council and School Board as well as the meetings of various committees.  We will alert residents to news from our various Departments to keep you apprised of what is going on in Public Works, the Library, the Recreation and Parks Department, and Police and Fire Departments.  We will also update you on activities of the Planning Commission and Development Review Board.  We will present commentary by City and School leaders and invite comments from other elected representatives. 

What you won’t see will be advertising, cartoons, or articles not relevant to South Burlington.  Instead, our goal is to keep you informed regarding the actions of your local government, to ensure transparency and to enable you to fully participate on matters of interest to you.

We hope that you will read through this first edition of The South Burlington Times recognizing that this is a new initiative and that we will improve the quality of what we are offering over time.  

So, please now enjoy this first edition.We always encourage your feedback through our normal City and School emails so please let us know how we are doing. 

Kevin Dorn, City Manager

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by Barb Sirvis, retired adventure seeker
When I retired now more than 14 years ago, I had spent many years in public life and was ready to be anonymous.  South Burlington seemed to be the perfect choice, and, indeed, it was.  Everything I needed and wanted in a new hometown was readily available.

Then, I read an article in The Other Paper about a hearing on the airport noise.  I grew up under what became the take-off pattern for the LA Airport, so I decided to go.  In my first meeting, I found a City Council where many of the members listened, and comments were encouraged.  Much to my surprise, the Council actually listened to my comment about a designated area and adjusted the map.  I soon realized that unless I wanted to be the person that everyone thought, “What does she want this time?” when I appeared, I needed to become more of a regular. I’ve come to know a bit more about my community and am grateful that you listen.   Thanks to CCTV, I even attend when I am away during the winter months. 

After the airport, there was the water usage issue and, more recently, the dog park.  As I mentioned, something I read in The Other Paper brought me to my first meeting.  Tonight, it is The Other Paper that brings me back to the City Council.  The Other Paper byline says, “South Burlington’s Community Newspaper since 1977.”  Well, until recently, that was true.  Much has changed as a result of the pandemic.  Alas, the nature of reporting in The Other Paper is one of the unexpected changes.  Instead of a column by a member of the City Council or a member of the legislative delegation, we get a large listing of the police blotter.  I do understand that it is easier to print the police blotter.  However, recently, when I missed a portion of the City Council and wanted to read about an issue, there was not one word about the City Council Meeting.

I do want to know how the first day of school went during the pandemic.  However, by my count, the recent issue had five of sixteen pages devoted to the schools plus several columns for the police blotter.  There were two articles about issues of some relevance (one about the retirement of the City and Deputy Managers and the other about Higher Ground), and gratefully acknowledgment of the SBFD’s September 11th recognition event.  Much of the rest was iffy at best in terms of its relevance to much less its interest to South Burlington residents, but maybe that’s because I’m old!

So, recently I found myself asking, “What happened to our ‘community newspaper’?”  Since Judy Kearns and Lee Kahrs left, the content has changed.  The articles are less relevant and some at least likely the result of shared articles from other papers.  I realize revenues are affected by the pandemic.  However, I’m guessing more copies are now in recycling having not been opened because information about our city is no longer there.  That means local advertisers are getting less visibility for their investment. 

Having said all that, I ask the City Council to explore what happened.  Can you talk with the publisher and convince him to return The Other Paper to its previous relevance?  I hope so.  If not, can we find another way to keep the community notified of the few announcements that need to be published and remove the designation of The Other Paper as “our newspaper”?  if the publisher is not responsive, I suggest they print fewer copies or give us an opportunity to opt out of delivery.  My copies at least will likely end up unread in the recycle bin, and i certainly won’t be paying for them to be forwarded with my mail during the winter. 

Thank you for your consideration of my request and for your continued service to our community.  I, for one, am grateful I chose South Burlington as my retirement residence, even if I haven’t been able to maintain anonymity!

by Jennifer Kochman, long-time committee volunteer

I am thrilled to learn that City management and City Council are proposing to create an electronic South Burlington newsletter. We are an active and engaged community. We should have access to information on city work consistently, thoroughly, and inclusively. I’m hoping that this newsletter will fill the vital role of offering news of continuing City business.

Why is this important?

It’s important to have the work of city departments, and city boards and city committees summarized in one place. The work of these groups is interconnected. Scattered reporting does not allow the general public to see interconnection without a great deal of investigation.

The City work is on-going. Following the on-going work of the city provides citizens with a base for evaluating how and where the city is going, and if their concerns are being addressed. Regular reporting establishes connection to our government.

SB is a robust community of dedicated staff and active volunteers. I believe the number of people elected or appointed to city boards and committees is substantial. This reflects a spirit of caring for our community. A solid newsletter will invite more citizens to become engaged.

I want to see regular reporting on these: City management and departments; City Council, Planning Commission; DRB, Dog Park, Bike and Ped, Recreation and Parks, Natural Resources and other Committees; and Library Board, School Board, School Management; the various task forces, and any others at work. I would include also the columns by our city representative to the legislature.

At this time, we do not have access to this kind of reporting. We have announcements, some news, and vigorous discussion in our FB groups. We have the city website, which offers minutes and meeting, and individual department news; it takes some navigating. We have the OP which offers in-depth stories on particular topics. All of these serve a purpose. But I agree with City management that our newsletter inclusive and available to everyone will be a great benefit to all of us. I do hope the City moves forward with this proposal.