Ali Deing’s experience over the last decade in Burlington has given him a range of perspectives and insights on how to address Ward 7 interests on the City Council. Here are some of the issues he will address as your new City Councilor.
“I believe that Burlington’s diversity is its strength.” – Ali Dieng
As a City Councilor I will work to:
Be a voice for all of Ward 7. There is too little communication from New North End officials. I almost never see anything about upcoming city council meetings on Front Porch Forum, and if elected I would pledge to focus much more on making sure that our neighborhood is informed. I connect with people on a daily basis, and they know they can trust me as a leader who will bring about real change, and to be sure that their voices are heard. I see this local campaign as an opportunity to serve my neighbors on an even deeper and more meaningful level by working towards systemic change for the benefit of all. That means meeting people where they are – door knocking, inviting them to people’s homes, and meeting in public regularly.
Engage youth in healthy activities. In my work with kids and families, I see the power that positive activities and opportunities have in supporting healthy choices. Our children face multiple pressures and challenges in the 21st century and it is our responsibility as a community to provide them with options after school and on weekends that benefit their development and learning.
Increase access to affordable childcare. Early childhood education is essential for the lifelong success of the next generation. We need to look at access, cost and quality of care across the city and we need to ensure that families of all incomes and backgrounds are able to enroll their children in good programs in every neighborhood.
Make housing more affordable. Many people of all ages sometimes struggle to find affordable housing options in Burlington, and I recognize that affordable housing, for renters and homeowners, for young families and older Vermonters, is critical to our sense of security and quality of life. I will work to keep taxes reasonable while also bringing more housing options north of the beltline, while also working to strengthen our inclusionary zoning and seek increased funding for affordable housing and homeless shelters in the region.
Fight the opioid epidemic. This is an issue that has already taken center stage in the city and significant resources are being devoted to address the crisis. I want to make sure that resources are maximized for the best outcomes for the many individuals and families impacted. This is a major challenge and requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses root causes as well as awareness, prevention, and treatment. We need all hands on deck so that together we can solve this problem. I also would like to work with area agencies to provide more services to to the crisis by giving people more places to recover. I would also continue the work of former City Councilor Selene Colburn to investigate the creation of safe injection sites. I have talked with Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George and would like to explore this option as one way to combat this crisis once her task force has come back with recommendations.
Strengthen public transportation to and from our neighborhoods. As the New North End grows it is critical that we be connected across the city, and that means robust transportation options – frequent and affordable public buses, SSTA options, and more.
Bring more key Burlington events and services to the New North End. As the New North End grows and as more of our elders decide to retire in the neighborhood, we need more opportunities for people to get together and connect. I would like to see events from the Jazz Festival, Mardi Gras, as well as services like a UVM health center or the library have some satellite offices in the New North End. This would better serve especially our seniors, who can often have issues with getting transportation to downtown.
Racial Bias. Structural racism exists and is visible in a number of ways: lack of representation in key city or state leadership positions, racial profiling by police, lack of opportunity for people of color to access higher education and employment, and the disproportionate rate of incarcerations of people of color.
I would start by creating a policing oversight committee for our city. I would also like to create an office to look into diversity, equity, and inclusion processes and tackle complaints related to racism and provide policies that will make our city and state the best it can be around fairness, diversity, and equity engagement. I will work to provide the safe space where communities can have a deep conversation around this area and educational opportunities in our school around diversity and how it makes us great as a city, state and nation.
The redevelopment of Town Center Mall. I support the redevelopment on the whole because it will add more housing, which we need. However, I am concerned about whether these new homes will be truly affordable for working families, and whether the inclusionary zoning rules could have been applied better in this case given the size of the project. In other words, could we have had more affordable units? I think so. We need to make sure that our city maintains its identity as a healthy place to live and I would like to see buildings that are more green—net zero or net positive energy buildings, and that use more natural, sustainable materials. I would also like to see our city permits updated to include the preservation of our natural feel as we are surrounded by the lake and mountains. I am OK with tall buildings but I would rather not see them all made from steel and concrete.
The Moran Project. I really, really support this project. I’ve been meeting with the Moran people since before they took on this project, and I believe they will succeed. I like that it emphasizes the public and private partnership, which is wonderful, and it links to the skate park and will engage the young people more in these public spaces. The Moran plant staff (Minner Hobbs and Tad Cooke) have asked me to be part of their community Needs Steering committee and how it will be useful to this community. I have some ideas – to use the downstairs space to respond to the need of early childhood education alongside a farmer market is one of those ideas. We need to have more open, accessible spaces that our entire community can enjoy on the waterfront to give our kids a healthy place to play and learn.
The City’s relationship with its major institutions, such as UVM and the UVM Medical Center. We are lucky to have these institutions in our community because it’s what makes our community so vibrant.
They employ people from all over the state, and even New York, and that is good for our businesses. I know many people who work there from doctors to dishwashers. Having students spending money in the city is helpful, and many of them provide critical staffing to help with our city’s afterschool programs. I do believe we need to be mindful, however, of the costs associated with these institutions and to ensure that the PILOT fees are appropriate. I would, however, like to see those institutions expand into the New North End to provide jobs, and services, in our part of the city. For example, the medical center could have a satellite health clinics for seniors and families, or learning centers for adults and youth. Or, they could place some non-instructional staff offices in our neighborhood.
The sale of Burlington Telecom. I really believe that Burlington is unique in very different ways, and I would like to see more of the institutions in the city use it to help them grow, just like we’ve done with businesses such as Dealer.com. For a sale partner, I would be OK with a public-private approach in this or a local cooperative ownership. What we don’t want is to just have out-of-state corporations to impose upon us rules of how we use the Internet and services. We should, as a community, continue to have a stake in the company in order to ensure we are repaid the $17 million and that we benefit in years to come from our early investment in this business.
The North Avenue Pilot. Personally, I think people are starting to rally behind the idea and the project. Change is hard, but as a community, we need to focus on the positives – such as the improved safety on the street, and the bike lanes (which I use). I do believe that we need to wait more until the data comes out, which will show us if the pilot project has improved the overall safety of our street. However, this project has raised a strong divide in our community because of the process that was used, and I do think that the city needs to do a better job at bringing people together around these projects that impact a neighborhood. I think there are some improvements that can be made by the Dept. of Public Works, such as the length of waits at the Ethan Allen Parkway light, and other key intersections where it can be difficult to turn onto North Avenue.