- Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
- Joan Shannon on Thursday
She's the second city councilor running to replace outgoing Mayor Miro Weinberger, a four-term Democrat. Her colleague Karen Paul, the body’s current president, is also seeking the Democratic nomination.
The candidates will face off at the party’s nominating caucus on December 10 ahead of Town Meeting Day elections in March. Progressives haven’t set a caucus date yet, and so far Vermont Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P/D-Burlington) is the only Prog in the running.
If elected, any of the candidates would be the Queen City’s first-ever woman mayor. Democrat C D Mattison is also mulling a run, as is Carina Driscoll, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2018 as a Prog-endorsed independent.
Shannon, who has served on the council for 20 years, said she has the "courage and leadership" to be Burlington's next mayor.
"I have stood against strong political winds," she said, "and I know I have what it takes to make those hard decisions in Burlington's best interest."
Shannon was first elected to the city council in 2003 and served a three-year stint as the body’s president starting in 2012. She's proven popular in the South End: Shannon trounced Democratic challengers in last year’s caucus, then went on to easily defeat Progressive and independent challengers in the general.
Shannon's council website lists numerous accomplishments, including proposing zoning changes that allowed the Soda Plant to be redeveloped and City Market, Onion River Co-op to be built in the South End. She has also advocated for stricter rules governing short-term rentals and for the closure of the former Sears Lane homeless encampment in 2021.
As the city has grappled with public safety challenges, Shannon has been steadfast in her support for Burlington police. She was one of three councilors who voted against reducing the size of the police force in June 2020 and has supported subsequent votes to rebuild the department and give officers raises and bonuses. She never wavered in her support for Police Chief Jon Murad, even as he was embroiled in multiple controversies earlier this year.
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Public safety featured heavily in Shannon's remarks. She pledged to hold people accountable for committing crimes and to treat them with compassion. State government needs to help, too, Shannon said, noting that Burlington "cannot provide a public safety net to all of Vermont."
She also wants to bring back the police department's street crimes unit, a team that assisted with drug investigations and responded to property crimes such as burglaries. The unit now only operates as an overtime detail due to staffing constraints.
Hours before Shannon's announcement on Thursday, Paul released a three-year public safety plan that also mentions the street crimes unit. The plan calls on the city to increase funding for the Howard Center's Street Outreach Team and for upgrading police headquarters at 1 North Avenue. It also mentions the possibility of increasing the head count at the department, which is capped at 87 officers.
Shannon's platform also mentions boosting the city's housing stock, including building "supportive housing" for people in recovery.
Both Paul and Shannon have support from high-profile Burlingtonians. At her event, Paul was endorsed by former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden-Central), and City Councilor Sarah Carpenter (D-Ward 4).
Shannon, meantime, was endorsed by Pat Robins, cofounder of the Church Street Marketplace; Councilor Mark Barlow (I-North District); former city councilor Dave Hartnett; and Brian Lowe, Weinberger's one-time chief of staff and Burlington's former chief innovation officer. Shannon was introduced by Jane Knodell, a former Progressive council president and Shannon's campaign treasurer.