Mayor Miro Weinberger
February 27, 2014
With Town Meeting Day almost upon us, it has been energizing
to be out on the campaign trail again in coffee shops, NPA meetings, and
rallies in recent weeks sharing my reasons for supporting the ballot questions
Burlington’s form of democracy – codified in the municipal Charter
– requires an unusual degree of cooperation in the management of the City. The Mayor’s Administration has considerable
responsibility and resources, but can do little without the partnership of the
City Council. Together the Council and
Mayor can set the direction of the City, and the voters have the opportunity to
weigh in every year and confirm whether or not the City is on the right path.
As you consider your votes on one of the longest Town
Meeting Day ballots in years – a sign, in part, that your elected
representatives and City employees are working hard on a wide range of issues –
I hope you will consider the broader context.
After some of the toughest, most
turbulent years we have ever faced as a City, I see many signs that we have
turned a corner and are making progress on our largest challenges. Here are a few recent examples of progress:
We also are making steady progress on important public
Further, we are seeing an investment surge in the downtown
and Old North End.
To keep the City moving forward, we need your support on
March 4. I ask for your support on a
number of issues into which my Administration and the City Council have
invested considerable time and effort over the past year or more:
Ballot Question #2
concerns the Public Investment Action
Plan that has been developed over the past year through a competitive and
open public. A YES VOTE on #2 will
have no impact on your property taxes and will be a vote for action and
resolution as it will enable:
A no vote on #2 will mean that none of these projects
moves forward, the year-long Public Investment Action Plan effort is thrown
out, and we go back to square one in our long-term efforts to reclaim the full
waterfront from its industrial past.
Ballot Question #3
asks voters to approve the first General
City Tax Rate increase in 10 years to maintain existing City services and
make investments now that will save money in the future. This proposal was approved unanimously by the
City Council. I am very concerned about
overall property tax trends, agreed to this first General City Tax Rate
increase of my Administration reluctantly, and am working hard on numerous
other fronts to address the main drivers of property tax growth: education
costs; pension costs; and the lack of grand list growth. If
ballot question #3 passes, the total annual municipal tax increase is projected
to be $81 for a $219,000 property.
Ballot Question #4
– also approved unanimously by the City Council – asks voters to approve the purchase of the Winooski One Hydroelectric
Plant. This purchase would not lead
to a rate increase, will help keep rates stable in future years, and is likely
to lead to long-term savings for ratepayers. Winooski One currently provides competitive
rates with other energy options and is projected to be more affordable over the
100-year life of the plant. Importantly,
with a YES VOTE, the Burlington Electric Department’s portfolio of owned and
contracted power would be sourced 100 percent from renewable generators,
positioning BED well to address any future greenhouse gas regulations.
Ballot Question #5
is the culmination of a year-and-a-half long, public process surrounding the redistricting of City wards that
resulted in a sensible compromise plan necessary to meet the U.S.
Constitutional requirement of equal representation. With a YES VOTE, the new plan would function
much like the old – Burlingtonians would still be represented by two City Councilors,
elect a Councilor every year, and over 80 percent of Burlingtonians will still
vote in the same ward (your chance of voting in the same ward is much higher if
you don’t live in the new Ward 8, which has been carved mostly out of the
southern section of the current Ward 1).
This was the only plan of the many proposed able to secure the support
of a majority of the Council. After
appropriately spending large amounts of staff and citizen time reaching a
compromise that accomplishes many of the City’s redistricting goals, it is time
to approve the new plan and move on to other pressing issues.
Ballot Question #1 is
a vote on the school budget. Like many Burlingtonians, I have serious
concerns about both the growing education property tax burden and long-term,
state-wide education cost trends. However, I will be voting for this
year’s school budget for two reasons: first, after input from my
Administration, the City Council, and the public, the school board has worked
to present voters a budget with a cost increase of under four percent; and
second, the board has accepted my proposal to collaborate on numerous cost
control measures over the next year. I continue to believe that
both state and local government must work harder to bring rising education
costs and taxes under control. Our collaboration is focused on doing
everything possible locally to create future budgets that track inflation and
avoid deficits, and to create a long-term, responsible, affordable, and
coordinated capital investment plan for the City and School District.
Ballot Questions #6,
#7, and #8 all concern gun violence Charter
changes that the City Council worked hard on for a year. I support the three Charter changes focused
on protecting Burlington children, domestic violence victims, and law
enforcement officers, and I am proud to live in a community that does not feel
the status quo is acceptable in the wake of the horrific mass killings around
our country. Because all Charter changes
must be approved by the State Legislature before they become law, the Burlington
vote on these three questions will have an impact on the important statewide effort
to improve the national background check system.
Thank you for your attention to these important local
issues. I look forward to seeing you at
the polls on March 4, Town Meeting Day!
Find updates and more on these and other
topics at www.Facebook.com/MiroBTV and www.BurlingtonVT.gov.