It was an honor to witness Christopher Coyne being installed as the Tenth Bishop of Burlington in the beautiful Saint Joseph Co-Cathedral. Bishop Coyne brought a message of joyfulness and, as the world’s first blogging and tweeting Bishop, @bishopcoyne seems well suited for #BTV.
It has been an honor to be your Mayor for the past three years as we have worked hard together to put our City back on track, fixing our finances and making much-needed investments in our parks, the Bike Path, and other City assets.
While we continue to focus on improving the City’s finances, there is much more to do. As Town Meeting Day approaches, I would like to share my priorities for the years ahead.
In the years ahead, we will continue modernizing the post-industrial areas of our waterfront, accelerating Burlington’s efforts to become a great tech City, and reforming the permitting system that makes it difficult to grow jobs in the downtown. We will also find a way to create an Economic Development Infrastructure Fund to continue our work rebuilding and expanding the Bike Path, make investments that enhance our other public spaces, and bring more visitors to Burlington.
Also, your support of ballot item #3 on Town Meeting Day will allow us to begin a major new economic development initiative to improve our downtown sidewalks, street trees, and other public infrastructure paid for with TIF funds that do not impact local property tax rates.
Making Burlington more affordable, walkable, livable and sustainable
One of the most positive trends in the country over the last twenty years is the dramatic increase in the number of people wanting to live in our cities instead of moving further out into the suburbs. Unfortunately, the numbers show that Burlington has not responded to this shift and, partly as a result, our City has become one of the most expensive places in the country to live in.
I believe it is critical that we re-affirm our commitment to house our most vulnerable Burlingtonians AND fix the broken housing market. We can do that by passing and implementing the 17-point Housing Action Plan that we released in November and are now working with the City Council to finalize.
This plan, if implemented successfully, will accomplish many City goals. More people living downtown will make Burlington more affordable and vibrant, increase municipal revenues, improve the quality of life in our historic neighborhoods, reduce sprawl, help our businesses recruit and retain talent and much more.
Municipal savings and efficiencies
Over the past three years we achieved about half of the $8 million in long-term cost savings that we had set as a target. We are positioned and focused to complete this goal through technological efficiencies, the completion of a major push to make our City buildings more energy efficient, and completing the reform of the City’s pension system that we have been working towards with our public employees for over a year.
Making municipal government more effective
Building on our past efforts in this area, we are in the process of hiring for a new Chief Innovation Officer position to improve our use of municipal technology and create a culture of continuous improvement. And soon we will roll out the City’s first-ever, ten-year capital plan to emphasize cost-saving preventative maintenance and to ensure that we do not return to the days of decaying public infrastructure.
A City of inclusion and opportunities for all
This country was founded on the principle that all Americans should have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, the country we live in today has not fully realized this promise. Even here in Burlington nearly half of our children reach kindergarten unprepared, and a disproportionate number of these kids come from poor homes.
This pattern becomes more pronounced and harder to change every year as kids grow older. Far too often these children who start school behind graduate at an unusually low rate, earn less as adults, suffer higher rates of incarceration and drug use, and enjoy a far lower life expectancy.
It does not have to be this way. For decades we have known that the driver of these outcomes is childhood poverty. What has changed in recent years is that we now know the solution. Done right, investments in high quality childcare for children from birth to age five eliminate the learning gap between poor children and their peers and create enormous, documented, public returns on investment over time.
We will soon release a plan for an ambitious Burlington Early Learning Initiative pilot effort. Our goal will be nothing short of ensuring that all Burlington children have the opportunity to lead full, healthy, successful lives.
Hope to see you soon
I plan to visit all of the NPAs in February to discuss these priorities and more. As always, I invite you to join me at the Bagel Café on Wednesday mornings from 8:00-9:00 am and at our other frequent community events. To get information about these events and other City news, please visit www.Facebook.com/MiroBTV.