Vermont is the land of maple syrup and Bernie Sanders. But it’s also home to some spicy city council happenings. I talked to Burlington Councilor Selene Colburn, who has some interesting connections to famous Vermonters and is also a dancer/choreographer!
Q: What’s the turnout like at city council meetings?
A: We have pretty packed meetings from time to time. Right now, we’re debating whether to change our zoning to allow a 14-story mall. Which doesn’t sound very tall, but it would be the tallest building in the state of Vermont.
Q: Fourteen stories?
A: Fourteen. And it would cause us to lose our distinction of being the state with the smallest tallest building. I think that honor will go to Maine!
Q: You have 12 council members. Four are Democrats, four are Progressive, three are independent, and one is a Republican. That sounds messy. Is it?
A: We make it work. It is pretty wild to have one Republican on a city council of 12 in a city of 40,000 people.
Q: Is this guy more of a build-the-wall Republican or an urbane, rational Republican?
A: He is not a build-the-wall Republican. He also serves dually as a state legislator and city councilor simultaneously. He’s what we call a “Vermont Republican.”
Q: In addition to being a city councilor, you are a dancer and a choreographer. If you could take the city council meetings and toss them aside and choreograph them to make them really pop, what would you change?
A: The public forum part is really frustrating for the public because they get their two minutes and they get to talk at the council–and then we move forward. There’s no back and forth from that point on really. Thinking choreographically, that’s like a prelude to the performance that compositionally doesn’t ping back to the main event ever.
Q: If Burlington city council meetings were a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, what would they be?
A. Hazed and Confused
B. Americone Dream
A: Definitely not vanilla. I’m gonna have to go with Hazed and Confused.
Q: You do realize that is a reference to marijuana, right?
Q: Have you met Ben and/or Jerry?
A: I have! Jerry just endorsed my campaign. They’re really active locally politically. They never go anywhere without scooping ice cream. Every event we have in Vermont that is remotely lefty and political, someone is there scooping free Ben & Jerry’s.
Q: You would think with all that dessert, Vermont would be one of the most obese states.
A: We’re not, we’re pretty healthy. We walk, bike…jump around. I had a meeting with [a constituent] about some of her concerns about a project and she was like, “ugh! Enough with the walking and the biking and the jumping! I’m so tired of hearing about all the jumping!”
Q: [Laughs] Now, we are taping this before Election Day, but you are running for the Vermont state house of representatives and you are unopposed. So congratulations on your victory.
A: Thank you! I hope there’s no vigorous write-in campaign in the last 48 hours.
Q: That would be terrible news. And Donald Trump is our president now, so that’s not ideal.
Follow Councilor Selene Colburn on Twitter: @