Burlington Telecom - Champlain Broadband

Reinvesting in Burlington Telecom

Many of my constituents may have questions about whether or not the City of Burlington should reinvest in Burlington Telecom. Burlington Telecom was sold to Schurz Communications for
$30.8 million (the process began in 2017 and was finalized in 2019). Schurz Communications is a corporate company based in Indiana.

When I joined the Burlington City Council in the summer of 2017, I, along with some other city councilors and many community members backed the local co-ownership proposal “Keep
Burlington Telecom Local.” We fought really hard to keep the company local, as we learned about its potential. This model aligned with my beliefs of what a sustainable community should
look like with its own utilities such as clean water, electricity, and to some extent a fiber optic broadband network (built by the city) to supply our schools, city departments, local
businesses and residences.

As part of our due diligence on this issue, the council received a presentation from Schurz Communications around the benefits and risks of reinvesting part of the proceeds of our sale
into the company. It does not seem that those in favor of reinvestment are discussing the risks.

As you consider this issue for yourself, ask the questions about what we really want and need in our community related to stability and affordability. Here are some questions I have been
considering that you may wish to think about when you discuss the idea of reinvesting funds:

Has the city received advice from an independent entity different from Schurz on the idea of reinvesting in the company? The answer is NO. The city has not contracted with any
independent entity that has telecommunication business expertise and all projections for growth are assumptions from Schurz. If the growth projections are wrong, the financial growth could be overstated and the city could lose most or all of our investment.

Are we dealing with a local Vermont organization or an outside corporate organization? The answer is that Schurz is a corporation based out of Indiana with a corporate Board of Directors.
If the city invested in Schurz ($2.4 million of sale proceeds to purchase a 7.5% membership interest), we would have only one seat on the board of directors of the Schurz local affiliate
known as “Champlain Broadband Corporation.” Given this structure, it is important to add that some decisions are made at the bigger corporate level and those decisions might not align with
our local community values.

Are there additional risks? Yes, there are risks related to competition, potential changes in the ways that people communicate, i.e. if another technology is developed, risks of Schurz selling
the company, risks of lawsuits, and others. All these risks should be carefully considered before moving forward.

My view is that we are a city with many competing priorities, and as an elected official, I constantly hear that Burlington is becoming unaffordable. I believe that we need to strive for
stability, smart growth, and making decisions that will have a positive impact on future generations. We have already borrowed from our future via many bonds (water infrastructure,
high school renovation, etc.), and there are many additional projects that require substantial amounts of funding. It is imperative that we increase our tax base carefully without taking undue
risks. I personally believe we also need closure around the issue of Burlington Telecom and move forward as a community.

I’m happy to discuss my point of views with you and hear your thoughts.

Precautionary Boil Water Advisory

Social Empathy for the Underprivileged

The City has prioritized equity reports over the past couple of years and has allocated enough resources for the gathering, design, and distribution of such reports.

Let’s ask ourselves, who is better off having access to such a report? How does it affect the quality of life of our residents? How did it ensure the safety and well being of each and every one living in our community?

We are all aware that our city and county have changed substantially in terms of demographic shift since the 80’s, making Chittenden County the most diverse county in our state and Burlington one of the most diverse municipalities in Vermont. According to a 2017 report from the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, 97% of the population growth in our county was due to New Americans.

Recently in the city we have seen tools being created to improve communications, dashboards are being developed, and systems are in trial phase. None of these tools address the fundamental role of public governance to keep people safe by making city communications accessible to everyone.

During a similar water boiling notice that took place in late July 2019 in the South End of Burlington, I shifted my work schedule to make sure information was communicated to four major language community groups in Burlington, and then requested for the city to implement a language access plan for such communication to be accessible and understood by all community members. The Administration reassured me then that the the Community Economic and Development Office was leading the effort to develop a “language access plan” which would have an emphasis on outreach to speakers with limited English proficiency.

It’s incontestable that when we prioritize serving the people, timely, accurate and equitable communication tools should be accessed by all members of the community especially when the lack of communication could have a detrimental effect on the health and quality of life of members of the community.

The real and important question to be asked is why the City of Burlington is relying on Facebook alone to share translated written messages? Why has the administration not tapped into the effective communication tools of the Burlington School District to share life saving information to parents and guardians of our children?

Equality is defined as everyone having shoes, whereas equity is defined as everyone having shoes that fit them. We can only learn to harmonize many competing priorities by starting to make communication accessible to everyone. This is a request to shift resources from the general equity report and focus on an equitable language access plan.

Franklin Square - Burlington, VT

Franklin Square Update

Since 1961 the Burlington Housing Authority (BHA) has been providing vital services around housing affordability, Rental Assistance and low income property maintenance for many towns in Chittenden County. Tonight, Franklin Square residents were extremely happy to learn from both the City of Burlington’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and BHA about the process and timeline of Franklin Square Street Acceptance by the City of Burlington. It is anticipated that by fall 2020 residents will start seeing major improvements in the neighborhood specific to paving, sidewalk construction, utilities, stormwater, plowing, pothole repairs, lighting upgrades and much more. Thank you to both BHA and DPW staff for working proactively behind the scenes to respond to the aspirations and needs of Franklin Square residents. And thank you Franklin Square residents for your patience during this process.

Map of the New North End in Burlington, VT

Street Updates and Dog Park Discussion

I hope you are having a great end of summer and looking forward to the fall season. Happy new school year to all professionals at the Burlington School District as well as parents, guardians and students. As an employee of the BSD, I witness every single day much love, dedication and quality care from teachers, administrators, staff, volunteers and community partners in delivering top notch education of the 21st century and multiple pathways for excellence.
I wanted to take the time today to provide some updates specific to some issues in the New North End, Ward 7 in particular.

1 – Ethan Allen Parkway, next steps

Hope you are all enjoying the newly paved road at Ethan Allen Parkway and James Ave. Thank you to the Department of Public Works for meeting important timelines for project construction. I believe that residents of this great city deserve better in terms of accuracy when it comes to communication and engagement and how road project construction is being handled by contractors.
The repaving of Ethan Allen Parkway also presents opportunities to implement some bikeway improvements and traffic calming to a busy neighborhood school street. We hope that you will join the neighborhood meeting on Thursday, September 12th at 5pm in the Art Room at the Miller Community Center (130 Gosse Court). The purpose of the meeting is to provide input for the following:
• Replace the small speed bumps with speed humps
• Remove the raised centerline medians and, instead narrow the road with a northbound bike lane from North Ave to James Ave
• Add shared lane markings from James Ave to the Route 127 bike path entrance.
Please consider attending. Snacks will be provided. If you cannot attend, please provide direct feedback any time by September 18th by emailing or calling the Department of Public Works at dpwplanning@burlingtonvt.gov or 802-863-9094 x3.

2 – Gosse Court Traffic Calming Request

On Friday August 30th, I spent some time to connect and hear directly from residents on Gosse Court. Gosse Court is a wide and busy street with a Community Center that hosts community events, senior activities almost daily, a child care center, afterschool, etc, and nearby schools of course. Over 80% of Gosse Court residents signed a traffic calming request petition. Despite making such a request when I was first elected in 2017, it was disappointing to hear the following response from DPW:

“Our traffic calming program is very popular and projects currently move forward on a first in / first out basis. We have several neighborhoods already in the queue and we need to complete our work with them before we begin working with Gosse Court. We estimate a 2-3 year wait before our first community meeting. This may not be the speedy resolution you were hoping for, but our staff capacity and funding only allow us to work on 2-3 traffic calming projects each year. We are wrapping up 2 projects through construction now and starting 2 new projects in the coming months. Thank you for your patience and understanding while we work with other neighborhoods who submitted their traffic calming petitions years ago.”

Neighbors, please rest reassured that we will do all in our power to push for a speedier resolution of this important safety matter that contributes to the quality of life of those directly affected.

3 – Updates – Ward 7 Street Projects and timeline: James Ave, Randy Ln, Charity Street, Village Green & Saratoga

We were fortunate to have the attention of DPW Engineer, Laura Wheelock, Senior Transportation Planner, Nicole Losch and Public Information Manager Robert Goulding as well as their support staff. I want to thank them all for taking the time to come down to our neighborhoods to assess and report on a timely manner about next steps on some issues. Please click on link below for the full report. It is important to note that weather or urgent issues can disturb timelines. The needed follow up work on James Avenue has been captured and reported, Nicole will follow up. Thank you to all the neighbors we encountered along the way going around the neighborhoods.

Link: Short term Plan for ward 7 street projects

4 – Starr Farm Dog Park Public Meeting 9/17 at 4:30 pm.

I do not represent people of ward 4 but I am a city councilor who loves the New North end and its people. I received and followed up on several emails in regard to how the dog park may be diminishing the quality of life of certain residents. Personally, I think the best alternative to resolve this matter is to think about the relocation of the dog part in a non-residential area such as Ethan Allen Homestead where dog owners can easily access the park via the greenway, or by car. At the meeting, the City will present action steps geared to minimize the impacts of having the dog park in residential area… We hope to see you there on September 17th at 4:30 pm.

Thank you!
Such an honor to be at your service!
Ali