Happy Holidays Burlington!
I would like to start by sincerely thanking the voters of this City for the trust you have put in this Administration with the votes in favor of ballot questions #1-#4 on November 8. We will work very hard to deliver the improvements to the City’s infrastructure and downtown that those votes have authorized. I also want the many people who voiced concerns about ballot questions #3 and #4 to know that we will continue to listen and attempt to address issues that are raised as we move towards construction.
With the elections behind us we are now moving forward quickly on numerous other important initiatives.
A new, urgent effort to bring an end to the opioid crisis
On Chief Brandon del Pozo’s first day a little more than a year ago, I directed him to assess the Police Department and the City’s efforts to address the opioid crisis affecting so many in Burlington. Since that time we have dramatically increased foot patrols and other interdiction efforts, deployed Naloxone to all officers, and advocated strongly for treatment without delay in Chittenden County. In November of this year, with the launching of CommunityStat, we have opened a major new front in our critical effort to address our most urgent public health challenge.
The essence of the initiative is that by coordinating all of the different agencies that are working on some aspect of the opioid crisis and focusing on real-time, actionable data, we will quickly develop a far better understanding of the problem than we have today and better deploy the considerable resources that are part of the public health response. We have had two meetings so far that included dozens of different agencies and the effort is off to a good start.
I am thankful for the partnership of the United Way, the UVM Medical Center, the Howard Center, and the Vermont Department of Health in this critical effort. CommunityStat is one of four Action Teams working under the umbrella of the newly formed Chittenden County Opioid Alliance.
More progress addressing our housing crisis
Burlingtonians pay too much for housing. The basic problem is that we are a great city and a highly desirable place to live, and as a result housing demand has been rising for decades while the supply of new homes has not kept up.
After years of hard work by many both within the City and by partners, we have begun to turn the corner on this chronic problem. In addition to the progress we are making towards building 274 new homes in the redeveloped Burlington Town Center, last week the City Council took important actions to move forward the redevelopment of two other major projects: Cambrian Rise (the project proposed for the former Burlington College land) and Eagles Landing (the Champlain College project being built on what is currently the City parking lot and the former Eagles Club).
The Champlain College project is poised to start construction in December and Cambrian Rise will now enter the permitting process. If these two projects move forward we will see the creation of hundreds of new homes for households of all incomes and ages.
Great Streets initiative underway
Another exciting project that is gaining momentum is the Great Streets Initiative, which will ensure that Burlington residents enjoy a downtown that is even more vibrant, walkable and sustainable than it is today. The initiative is a culmination of years of planning and project development, including the public vote in March of 2015 to use the City’s downtown TIF district to make new investments in the downtown’s public infrastructure, and will advance key projects envisioned by Imagine City Hall Park, planBTV Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan, and the Transportation Plan.
Great Streets will develop design standards for the entire downtown that should inform and improve all work in the public street right of ways for decades, generating streets that are beautiful, practical, sustainable, and an authentic reflection of Burlington’s values and character.
The project also involves a redesign and renovation of Main Street and City Hall Park that is scheduled to start construction in 2018. This effort is a continuation of the conceptual redesign of the park that was completed in 2012 after the four-month public engagement process known as Imagine City Hall Park.
I find the recently released new designs for both Main Street and the renovated City Hall Park extremely exciting and believe they will be outstanding initiatives that will improve our downtown quality of life, protect the lake, and greatly improve the experience of walking and biking in the downtown. You can see the designs and learn much more about both plans at greatstreetsbtv.com.
I look forward to a continuing conversation about these and other City projects. As always, I encourage you to join me at the Bagel Café on Wednesday mornings from 8-9am to share any thoughts or questions you might have. To stay informed about City progress and happenings, please visit www.facebook.com/MiroBTV. I hope to see you soon.