Front Porch Forum

Front Porch Forum: 2018-10-09

Dear Neighbors,

Happy Fall! I hope everyone is enjoying the beauty of Vermont’s fall season. There is so much happing in the city and particularly in the New North End. I wanted to share a few updates.

Please join me in congratulating Darren Springer, for his nomination to lead Burlington Electric Department as General Manager. Darren is currently working as the Chief Operation Officer and Manager for Strategy and Innovation at Burlington Electric Department. He is an active member of the community, residing in the New North End with his family. The council anticipates confirming his appointment on Monday, October 15th.

Alongside other New American leaders, we held a Town Hall meeting with Senator Sanders at the Old North End Community Center (20 Allen St.) in September to empower people to vote and encourage civic engagement. The Town Hall was a great success with nearly 250 people in attendance. If you have not yet visited the ONE Community Center, I encourage you to check out this great community space, newly renovated and hosting programs of all kinds.

On September 24th, the City Council voted to put a $70 million bond for BHS renovations on the November ballot; a $30 million bond for water and sewage infrastructure updates was added. I have received many requests from my constituents to vote in agreement with the BHS Renovation ballot item. All shared concerns about the current BHS building’s accessibility, safety and learning environment. Most importantly, this would be an investment in the community. The BHS renovation plan was developed through five years of re-envisioning and was well vetted across the city through the hard work of the school board, Council and community volunteers.

I believe that we must find a solution to prevent sewage from spilling into Lake Champlain, but at the meeting, I articulated my disagreement with adding the $30 million utility bond on the ballot item in November for the following reasons:

  • We already pay for water/sewage directly and indirectly via city taxes and household water bills.
  • Unlike the $70 million bond for BHS which guarantees a safer and more accessible building, the $30 million utility bond provides no guarantee against future sewage leaks into Lake Champlain.
  • There should be a robust community conversation about any significant investment like this before putting it on the ballot.
  • As elected officials, we must think about all Burlington residents, with special consideration of those who are low income, older or living with a disability on a fixed income and the challenges that any additional taxes and fees put on their ability to make ends meet. A 2015 AARP-VT found that over half of Burlington residents age 45 and plus were ‘somewhat” or very concerned about being able to pay utility bills in the coming years. Similarly, in the statewide needs assessment of older Vermonters age 60+ conducted in 2017 by The Department of Aging and independent Living (DAIL), both housing and financial security rose to the top of respondents’ list of most pressing concerns, with people sharing responses, such as: “Taxes will make me leave when I retire;” “If all the taxes were less, I could afford to get what I needed on my own;” and “The taxes in this state kill the elderly more than the weather does.” Is there a different way to find the funds we need without overburdening the most vulnerable? We need to consider all the options, including how we move forward with the future of Memorial Auditorium.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you again soon via FPF with a few more updates before the next council meeting Monday, October 15th.

As always, thank you for your engagement and please reach out any time. And don’t forget to vote on November 6th!

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