Mayor Miro WeinbergerDecember 2013
The day after Thanksgiving, I had the moving
experience of standing behind 4-year-old Charlotte Coffey on a stage at the top
of Church Street as she fulfilled a dream by throwing a large white switch that
was almost as tall as she. As we looked
down the street over thousands of red foam antlers, more than 250,000 white
lights came to life.
The holidays are also a time for remembering
those who need our help. I want to
congratulate and thank the record number of City employees who rallied this
year during our annual United Way of Chittenden County (UWCC) giving campaign
and succeeded in breaking the City’s prior total contribution record.
As the year comes to a close and we move
into the second half of our three-year term, my Administration remains focused
on our original priorities: fiscal responsibility and getting the City moving
improvement on financial systems and savings
In his first six months, CAO Bob Rusten has
focused in large part on much-needed improvements to the City’s financial
management. For the first time in
memory, City officials are receiving meaningful monthly financial reports. Department Heads are now responsible for addressing in writing emerging budget
problems in these reports. The “pooled
cash” account – from which millions of dollars were spent on BT without City
Council oversight – has been replaced by dozens of use-specific bank accounts,
a rigorous approval process for management of these accounts, and a new Council-approved
City investment policy.
All of this information is now posted regularly
to the CAO’s section of the City website so that the public has the same financial
information City officials have at nearly the same time. Had these policies and transparency efforts
been in place in the mid-2000s the spending of taxpayer dollars on BT and other
expenses may well have unfolded differently.
In addition, in November CAO Rusten secured
Council approval of over $470,000 of current year budget savings, fulfilling a
goal he made at the end of the budgeting process last June. These savings come primarily from a long list
of City efficiencies.
I want to thank CAO Rusten for his much-needed
commitment to detail and systematic change during this impressive start to his
Finally, November also saw a step forward in
our efforts to address Burlington’s most significant long-term financial
challenge. My Administration and the
City Council hosted an evening Pension Summit that accomplished its goal of
beginning an important community discussion about the system’s unfunded
liability. I recommend that anyone interested in this topic watch the online CCTV
recording of the evening.
progress on infrastructure improvements
In recent months, we have responded to the
growth of pedestrian activity in the Pine Street corridor by expanding the
sidewalk system and installing pedestrian activated rapid-flashing beacons at
Further, we are making progress on long-term efforts
to improve the Pine Street corridor by building the long-delayed Champlain
Parkway and designing it to enhance, not erode, walkability and livability in
the South End. In November, Allan Hunt
settled his long-standing Act 250 dispute with the City and expressed
satisfaction with the improvements in the plan over the last year. Two of four appeals are now settled, and in
the coming months we will either settle the remaining disputes or go to court
to secure resolution.
There will be more to come soon regarding South
We are fortunate to live in one of the safest
cities in the world, with an extremely low violent crime rate. In recent years, however, we have seen a
significant rise in levels of property crime throughout the region. While our overall burglary and larceny rates
are slightly down this year, that is not reassuring when your home or car is
Burlingtonians should know that you are far
less likely to be the victim of a property crime if you proactively take steps
to lock your doors and first floor windows, remove valuable belongings from
your car, and immediately call the police if you see suspicious activity in
your neighborhood. There is more
information on other steps you can take to make the City safer on the Police
coming to Vermont
I was honored to stand with Senator Leahy,
Governor Shumlin, and the Vermont Air National Guard on December 3 when General
Stephen Cray announced that VTANG’s dual federal and state mission will be
preserved by the basing of F-35s in Burlington starting in 2020. I congratulate the women and men of the Guard
who earned this assignment through their decades of committed and skillful
service, and I am reassured that economic and community benefits that flow from
a strong VTANG mission will be preserved for decades.
As I said at the announcement, I remain mindful
of controversy that the F-35 basing decision sparked. I am committed to working with neighbors
around the airport terminal and South Burlington to address some of the most
significant concerns raised by basing-opponents. I am pleased that South Burlington has just
received grant money to jumpstart this process.
On a personal note, Stacy and I have been
deeply moved by the warm welcome you have given our new arrival, Ada
Champlain. We feel so fortunate to be
raising Li Lin and Ada in this incredibly supportive community.
more on the Mayor’s active Facebook page or at the 8:00-9:00am public coffees each Wednesday at the New
North End Bagel Café.