Mayor’s Office

State of the City - 2012

Mayor Miro Weinberger's State of the City Address – April 2, 2012

Good evening.

I come before you tonight both humbled and excited by the opportunity to serve Burlington as its Mayor.

I would like to begin by thanking our dedicated City Councilors, both incoming and outgoing, for all you have done, and all we will continue to do together, to make our city strong.

I particularly want to congratulate the four new councilors who are being sworn in along with me tonight. This council, which includes more parents of young children than at any time in recent memory, personifies the dynamic, growing city we are, and includes the broad range of perspectives needed to engage all of Burlington’s challenges.

And I want to give a special thanks to Councilor Kurt Wright and outgoing City Council President Bill Keogh. I want to thank them both for their decades of diligent public service to this city. I particularly want to thank Kurt for his role in the spirited, substantive and important mayoral campaign that we just completed.

Tonight, we are turning the page.

Last September, when I entered the mayoral campaign, I noted that our great City faced a mood of anger and anxiety about our future.

The long months of debate that followed clarified our understanding as a community about those anxieties. That is, in fact, one of the most important functions that elections serve: they require us to think and talk very specifically about the difficult decisions that lie ahead. And we have many:

The city is confronted by serious financial challenges. We have an immediate budget gap and a number of long-term, unfunded obligations and liabilities that we can no longer kick down the road.

Municipal projects around the city are stuck or stalling. From the completion of small recreational projects funded by Penny For Parks, to the repair of the bike path from last year’s flooding, to large projects like the Moran Plant Redevelopment, too many of our city’s projects are drifting or bogged down in process.

The cost of housing in Burlington is too high and threatens to force the middle class out of our city. Even amidst a deep national housing recession this chronic, decades-long pressure has not subsided.

We must create new economic opportunity. Incomes in the City have been flat since the recession began in 2009 and too many of Burlington’s children are living in deep poverty.

We must recognize that we are becoming an increasingly diverse community and take action to ensure that this welcome trend continues to make the community stronger, not to divide us.

Perhaps most importantly, the paralyzing loss of trust between the Mayor’s Office, this council and the public must be repaired.

This is a daunting list of challenges. We know that each of these issues will require years of hard work and collaboration.

However, elections don't just serve to highlight our problems. They also serve to generate innovative solutions through substantive debate. They give us, as citizens, our most direct opportunity to chart the course the City will take over the next three years. And, they produce the hope, the energy, and the commitment necessary to get big things done.

They serve, in short, to turn the page on the past and to begin a new, more hopeful, chapter.

This recent campaign, this recent election, has done all of those things, and more. The City’s mood has already shifted dramatically. As we gather tonight our community is filled with optimism and a renewed sense of common purpose. We know that we have made a decision to write a new chapter for this great City – a chapter in which we confront our challenges with vigor and resolve.

As we turn that page together, I want to say:

To our City Councilors here with me: my office door is open. I am committed to restoring a new era of collaboration and cooperation between the Council and the Mayor’s office. This is the only way we can make the progress we were each elected to achieve.

To the leaders of our City’s institutions – including our vibrant colleges and world-class hospital: I look to you to help continue to provide the foundation and services that make this City great.

To our youngest families and our oldest residents: We will work together to make sure that our public schools remain strong, our seniors thrive, and that Burlington remains an affordable and attractive place to live.

To the public and to the press: You will get straight talk and engagement from your new Mayor. When we confront problems -- as we surely will -- I will address them quickly and directly. I know that without the public’s trust, the mayor's office cannot begin to tackle the challenges ahead.

To our businesses and non-profits: I am eager to forge new, innovative partnerships that make this City stronger than ever and to create a culture where you continue to grow and thrive.

To our City’s 600 employees: Tonight I become one of you. I join your team and will work side-by-side with you to deliver on the promise of providing the services taxpayers both deserve and expect.

And to all our City’s residents, as we turn the page and write this new chapter for our City, I request and will value your help, your input, and your participation in giving our community the fresh start you have demanded. Please know that all of you are integral members of the team that will create an even greater Burlington.

While writing this new chapter together, we will rely on old principles that have guided this City so well for many decades.

We will exercise great care and prudence with the public’s money. As Vermonters, we know we must live within our means. And, as Burlingtonians, we have made it a commitment to increasing those means by growing our City and getting great things done. We will return to this combination of prudence and ambition that has served our city so well over the last 30 years.

We will be a City that continues to operate with the familiarity of a small town. We will treat each other as the neighbors that we are – while also recognizing that remaining good neighbors often demands candid communication and respectful debate.

As was true in 1865 when this lakeshore timber and manufacturing hub first became a city, we must remain dynamic and deeply engaged in the world’s commerce in order to thrive.

And we will remain committed to fighting for the just society that proudly separates Burlington from so many other communities.

So, as I take on the great honor and great responsibility of leading our city as Mayor, I can tell you that the state of the City is challenged, but reinvigorated.

Let's roll up our sleeves, let's seize the unique opportunity before us, and let's get to work.