Wash Your Hands

COVID-19 Message

Dear Neighbors,

How are you doing? I hope you and your loved ones are well.
We are living in unprecedented times as a community, state, country and even as humans. Directly or indirectly, we are all dealing with a massive public health emergency. The global Covid19 outbreak has substantially changed our norms of life, everything we used to do or enjoyed doing is changing. Schools are closed, nonessential businesses are closed, people are required to stay home.

We need and must follow the state guidelines of social distancing, staying 6 feet away from each other, regularly washing our hands and following the ‘stay at home’ order from the Governor of Vermont. This is not only his recommendation but also the request from our healthcare providers, doctors and nurses. As they say it best “we are showing up to work for you, please stay at home for us”. The virus is here in our community. Two days ago, I learned that a friend, who is a nurse, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Soon enough we all might know someone directly who is fighting to beat the virus. My deepest hope is that we don’t get there.

This outbreak has shown me more than ever before what Vermont is about when it comes to community mindedness. In Burlington, we have witnessed regular people stepping up to support one another – businesses showing innovation in keeping people employed, people donating funds to local organizations that directly support people in need, musicians providing concerts from their homes, sidewalks are filled with beautiful messages of support and hope.
An example is a FPF post yesterday on Ethan Allen Parkway from Liz Pieroni on Gazo Ave. seeking participation in a community art project: “All we have to do is to cut out a heart or hearts and then display them on your door or window. Feel free to write a wish for the community or people working hard to keep everyone safe such as our health care providers”. Please let’s show the wave of love through the New North End & Burlington. I know that my children, as part of their homeschooling schedule, enjoyed doing this project.

The impact of this outbreak cannot be seen or felt fully as of yet but we have to stay positive and hopeful by continuing the level of support and by stepping up to lend a hand in any way we can. I am confident that we will get through this and then start to think about the road to economic recovery as a state and city.

As you probably know, thousands of people have lost their jobs. The City has established a virtual Resource and Recovery Center. The contact info RRC is: recovery@burlingtonvt.gov – 802-755-7239.

If you are an elder living in the New North End or someone with underlining health conditions in need of support to run errands such as medication pick up, grocery shopping, some light outdoor work, please feel free to contact me at adieng@burlingtonvt.gov or 802-318-2527.
Hang in there, the best days are yet to come.

With love and gratitude

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 and has conducted Commercial Electrical Project Estimating successfully in the past.
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.