FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2018

Contact:  Olivia LaVecchia

                (802) 734-0617

 

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Support for a Revenue-Neutral Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee

Mayor Weinberger also announces the formation of a new coalition for regional action, “Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing.”

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Weinberger today announced his support for Vermont to lead the nation in the fight against climate change, and become the first state to pass a revenue-neutral Carbon Pollution Fee. While Vermont can and must lead, given that this tool would be strengthened as a regional policy, Mayor Weinberger also announced that he has formed a coalition of mayors throughout the Northeast – “Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing” – who commit to calling on their state legislatures to enter a multi-state agreement to put a price on carbon pollution. Already, mayors from three neighboring states, along with fellow mayors from Vermont, have joined the coalition.

 

“Even as Burlington takes active steps to fight climate change, it is clear to me that we must do more,” said Mayor Weinberger. “The power of a revenue-neutral Carbon Pollution Fee is that, by sending a price signal, this policy works as a transformative tailwind that pushes forward all of our other efforts to decrease our carbon emissions and mitigate the damage that climate change is already inflicting on our communities, and does so without creating a drag on the economy.”

 

The Mayor made his announcement during the keynote session at VECAN’s 11th Annual Community Energy and Climate Action Conference, held in Fairlee, Vt.

 

Mayor Weinberger set out three foundational principles for a Vermont Carbon Fee, which are also the founding principles of the Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing:

 

  • Equitable: A Carbon Pollution Fee should be revenue neutral, rebating all fees back to Vermonters through a system that is progressive, and protects low- and moderate-income Vermonters. 

 

  • Effective: A Carbon Pollution Fee should reflect the actual economic cost of carbon pollution, and should be adjusted on a schedule to reduce pollution at levels necessary to meet the climate change goals of particular states and regions.

 

  • Pro-Economic Growth: A revenue-neutral Carbon Pollution Fee will ensure that resources are not removed from the economy and that over a billion dollars of fossil fuel payments are not sent out of state annually. This fee should be phased in incrementally to offer predictability, while at the same time giving a clear signal that can boost clean energy investment.  Early adopter states will be positioned to benefit from the Climate Economy and should work vigorously to bring neighboring states into this effort to mitigate any adverse impacts on border town businesses.

In his announcement, the Mayor stressed the economic costs of inaction. “Some still say that a fee on carbon will drag down the economy, but it’s climate change that will have the far greater economic cost,” said Mayor Weinberger. “What’s more, we now have the examples to know that a well-crafted carbon fee can spur economic growth. In British Columbia, for instance, after seven years of a broad-based carbon tax, the province’s emissions had fallen by 4.7 percent even as GDP had grown by more than 17 percent.”

 

The Mayor concluded his announcement with an expression of hope. “I know there is skepticism that Americans will ever accept a Carbon Pollution Fee, but we have overcome great environmental challenges before,” said Mayor Weinberger. “By acting now on carbon pricing, Vermont can break the gridlock that has held America back on climate reform for far too long and lead the country away from the dark future we are headed towards.”

 

Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing

Mayor Weinberger also announced today the launch of Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing, and that the leadership of this new coalition includes mayors from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, along with fellow mayors from Vermont. Several of the participating mayors shared the following statements:

 

“New York and the Northeast must lead on climate change, and even as Ithaca and other cities continue to work to become more sustainable, a carbon pollution fee that follows the three principles that this coalition is proposing is the kind of significant action that we ultimately need to take,” said Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, N.Y. “We know that state and local leadership can be a powerful push for change, and I’m excited to join together with these other mayors from the Northeast to help move our region forward on this critical issue.”

 

“Climate change is a complex issue with moving pieces and challenges, but the City of Somerville, Massachusetts faces such challenges head on, and we’re proud to join in this call for action,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Mass. “Just last week, Somerville launched our first-ever Climate Forward Plan, a data-driven approach to guide our goals and actions, such as our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Now more than ever, we need bold local solutions and transformational change that are only possible through collective action, and this call to action is an important step.”

 

“This initiative will enable the public to directly and positively improve our air and water, and to mitigate the catastrophic effects of a volatile and changing climate,” said Mayor Dan Drew of Middletown, Conn.

 

"Cities are too practical to deny climate science, because we see the effects of it on the ground," said Mayor Anne Watson of Montpelier, Vt. "Pricing carbon is the most expedient and obvious solution to climate change, and now is the time for expedient solutions. If we, as mayors, can help smooth the way for sensible climate policy, I'm all in."

 

For more information about the Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing, please see the website, available at <https://www.northeastmayorsforclimate.com>.

 

 

Please see the complete text of Mayor Weinberger’s remarks at the VECAN conference below.

 

# # #

 

Good morning. I am excited and energized to be here with all of you. Thank you VECAN and thank you Johanna Miller, Brian Shupe, and Jared and Sarah from EAN for the opportunity to address this engaged group of community energy leaders from around our state.

I appreciate very much the clarity provided by Bill McKibben and EAN in outlining the stark challenge ahead for Vermont, for our country, and for the international community in tackling climate change. I know that all of us here today feel the urgency to take action.

That’s why I’m here.

I am fortunate to be Mayor of Burlington, where we’re taking active steps and making real progress toward fighting climate change. For decades we have seen local and state leadership and progressive utilities and businesses here in Vermont make our communities more energy efficient and increasingly powered by renewables. Yet, we also know that here in Vermont and throughout the country we are falling behind our climate goals, and that much more must be done.

So today, I am here to announce a new commitment in the fight against climate change. I call on Vermont to lead America forward by becoming the first state in the country to establish a revenue-neutral Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee. Vermont should lead, as we have on so many other issues in our history. However, the road ahead will be harder if we act alone. That is why I am also launching today a coalition of Mayors – the Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing – to advocate for Carbon Pollution Fees in state legislatures around the region.

There are five main points I want to make to you today in support of a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee: One, although the problem of climate change is international in scope, we are at a moment in America today where urgent action is required at the state and local level; Two, a state Carbon Pollution Fee is the most transparent, comprehensive, and simple policy intervention we can make; Three, a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee should be implemented in a manner that is equitable, effective, and pro-economic growth; Four, a properly-designed Carbon Pollution Fee will create Vermont jobs and protect the economy, not hurt it; and Five, this is a battle that we can win, just as we have won so many before.

I will begin with the case for local and state action. 

I don’t have to tell this crowd, especially after the speech we just heard from Bill, that we face real and increasingly severe consequences from our lack of progress on climate change. In recent months we have been reminded of this virtually every day by biblical level calamities throughout the country.  With wildfires that move at the speed of a football field every second, superstorms almost the size of Colorado, and algal blooms depriving hundreds of thousands of drinking water, Americans have already suffered greatly from climate impacts.

As bad as the recent months have been, it will soon get much worse.  The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October made it clear that we, as a global community, have just over a decade to slash carbon pollution 45 percent from 2010 levels to have a chance at mitigating some of the worst impacts of climate change.

Yet, at the very moment in which urgent American action is critical we face at least two more years – and hopefully not six – of leadership by a President so hostile to climate action that he is actually taking the country backwards, undoing the substantial progress towards carbon regulation made under President Obama.

Fortunately, there is an alternative route to national environmental progress – a route that has been trod many times in the past, through the country’s cities and states, our national laboratories of public innovation.

Take, for instance, the example of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), through which states require utilities to increase the supply of renewable energy to customers.  Iowa created the first RPS in 1983, and today Iowa is the leading state in the nation on wind energy, with nearly 37 percent of Iowa’s electricity coming from wind power. That impressive accomplishment dramatically reduced Iowa’s reliance on coal, created thousands of jobs, and attracted billions of dollars in capital investment to Iowa.

Iowa’s work triggered a domino effect with impacts that went far beyond its borders. Today, nearly 40 states have established RPS policies or goals, from red states to blue states and from coast to coast, with Vermont being one of the most recent states to adopt such a policy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory credits these state policies with driving forward roughly half the growth in renewable generation and capacity since the year 2000. That is real leadership and real change driven by state policy – even in the absence of strong federal action.

Other recent examples of state action creating national change in the last few years include the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, which created new toxics standards and gave the EPA the authority to protect vulnerable populations from toxic chemicals, and the Massachusetts state health care system, which was used as the template for the Affordable Care Act.

Cities too have been a source of climate progress, as Burlington’s environmental track record over the last thirty years makes clear.  As a city, we currently use about four percent less electricity today than we used in 1989, saving Burlingtonians millions of dollars annually in avoided retail power costs. And in 2014, a decade after making a decision to turn away from nuclear power, Burlington earned the honor of becoming the first city in the nation to source 100 percent of our electricity from renewable generation.

Today, led by our municipal electric utility – the Burlington Electric Department – Burlington is building upon that momentum. We are heading down a bold and ambitious path toward our goal of becoming a Net Zero Energy City by 2030 across the electric, thermal, and ground transportation sectors. Since setting this goal, we already have launched a variety of programs to move us toward strategic electrification, including the state’s largest electric vehicle (EV) incentives, and a forthcoming EV charging rate that will make EV charging significantly cheaper than filling up the tank with gas. In further pursuit of that goal, next year we will have a roadmap in place that outlines the path that we will take to achieve Net Zero.

Yet despite this progress in Vermont’s largest city and comparably aggressive state action, even here in Vermont, we have not been meeting our own climate goals, particularly in the heating and transportation sectors.  Our total emissions are up 16 percent since 1990, putting us increasingly of track from our statutory goal of reducing emissions 50 percent by 2028.  Clearly we here in Vermont must do more, both to meet our own state goals, and to help achieve the coordinated, urgent state action that is necessary in the face of a derelict federal government.  Vermont must lead, not wait.

How should we lead?  I recognize that there are a variety of ideas and potential solutions to reduce carbon pollution, and I am open to exploring all of them. In my view, however, a fee on carbon pollution is the most transparent, simple, and efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would give a tailwind to all other Vermont efforts to combat climate change being led by the people in this room.

For years there has been consensus among economists that a carbon pollution fee is the best way to tackle climate change – a consensus that was formally recognized in October when the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to American economist Bill Nordhaus, to recognize his decades of pioneering work on carbon fees.

Increasingly, we are seeing examples of this academic work leading to on the ground progress in countries and regions that have implemented carbon fees.

For an examples of how a carbon fee can be both effective and support economic growth, we have to look only as far as our neighbors in Canada. In 2008, British Columbia instituted North America’s first broad-based carbon tax. By 2015, the province’s GDP had grown more than 17 percent, while emissions had fallen by 4.7 percent. More recent studies credit BC’s carbon price with reducing emissions by between 5 and 15 percent, and the policy has gained increasing acceptance and support from businesses who find a carbon fee to be a more predictable and straightforward regulation to plan for than other climate regulations. British Columbia is now in the process of increasing its carbon pollution tax, and the province’s work has sparked interest from Canada’s federal government in carbon pricing nationwide.

Today our climate initiatives in America take enormous effort, yet it feels like we’re still just nibbling around the edges of what we need to do. In contrast, the strong price signal of a carbon pollution fee offers a comprehensive solution. With this one move, we can create wind at the back of all our other work to address the causes and impacts of climate change.

Here is one example of how a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee would have an impact on the ground in Burlington. For 30 years, we have been trying to implement a district energy system, which would capture waste heat from our biomass generating station – 75% of which is lost today – to provide clean heat to large customers. Through this one intervention, we would be able to reduce total thermal greenhouse gas emissions in Burlington by 13 to 15 percent. This is a huge opportunity, bigger than anything else we have identified, and would be a significant innovation in clean energy. We are working hard on this initiative today and we are closer to making it happen than ever before, but we are competing against artificially low fossil fuel prices that do not factor in the damage these fuels do to human health and the environment. With a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee the economics of a district energy system in Burlington would be a slam dunk.

With a Carbon Pollution Fee, making the better choice for our climate would not only be the right thing to do, it would also make economic sense. A fee would impact decisions like whether transit agencies purchase buses that run on diesel or electric power; and whether families purchase a fossil fuel boiler or an electric heat pump.

The manner in which a Carbon Pollution Fee is implemented matters. In creating a Carbon Pollution Fee, we must ensure that it does not disproportionately impact low- and moderate-income Vermonters, that it does not negatively impact our state and local economies, and that it works. This is why I propose that a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee meet the key principles of being equitable, effective, and pro-economic growth.

By equitable, a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee should be revenue-neutral, and return all revenues back to Vermonters through a rebate system that is progressive and protects low- and moderate-income households.

By effective, a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee should reflect the actual economic cost of carbon pollution, and should be adjusted regularly based on science and data, to meet the pollution reduction goals of the state and the region.

By pro-economic growth, a revenue-neutral Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee will ensure that resources are not removed from the economy and that over a billion dollars of fossil fuel payments are not sent out of state annually. This fee should be phased in incrementally to offer predictability, while at the same time giving a clear signal that can boost clean energy investment.

This principle brings me to point number four, that a properly-designed Carbon Pollution Fee will be pro-economic growth, creating Vermont jobs and protecting the economy.

I recognize that that this will be contested as, all too often, incumbent industries such as fossil fuel corporations use the idea of a Carbon Pollution Fee as a wedge to divide Vermonters.  In Washington State this past fall big oil companies spent tens of millions of dollars convincing voters that a carbon fee would hurt the economy. 

But they are wrong that business can’t thrive under carbon pricing.  In fact, we have many examples in Vermont of decision-makers already using a carbon price to evaluate their decisions. Our Vermont Public Utility Commission, for example, already uses a carbon price to evaluate energy efficiency programs. And many Vermont-based companies, including Seventh Generation and Ben & Jerry’s, already impose a carbon fee on their own operations to support sustainable decision-making in their businesses. If businesses can do this on their own, then so can states.

Further, we also see the economic cost of inaction. Some skeptics will tell you that a fee on carbon will destroy the economy, despite much evidence and examples to the contrary. But, in reality, climate change is the threat that will devastate the economy. The National Climate Assessment released last week projects climate change’s direct damage to be the equivalent to 10 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the end of this Century – that’s more than double what we experienced during the Great Recession.

While this damage will dwarf any negative impacts of a Vermont Carbon Pollution Fee, I do think concerns about border impacts are legitimate. Part of a policy that is pro-economic growth is that we will need to work vigorously to mitigate any adverse impacts on border town businesses.

To that end, while Vermont must lead on this issue – on our own if necessary – this effort will be stronger if our neighboring states join us.

That is why today we are launching the Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing, a coalition of regional Mayors that will call on our state legislatures to enter a multi-state agreement to put a price on carbon pollution, and to work for a carbon pollution fee that meets the key equitable, effective, and pro-economic growth principles.  The leadership of this new coalition already includes mayors in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Vermont, including Anne Watson from Montpelier, who is here with us today.  The coalition has posted a website today, and I look forward to announcing more news about our members and work in the coming months.

I’ll leave you with this closing thought.

I know there is great skepticism that Americans will ever accept a Carbon Pollution Fee.  Many believe that Americans are so opposed to new government fees that proposals such as the one I have just made are politically toxic.  Even here in Vermont, politicians have treated explicit carbon pricing as a third rail.

This moment reminds me of the pushback Vermont’s mayors faced in the weeks after the shootings of 20 first graders in Newtown, Connecticut when we called for gun violence reforms. You can’t do that, the critics said. That will never happen here in Vermont, we were told.

Well, last winter, the leaders of this state stood on the front steps of the capital behind the Governor’s wooden desk as he signed three bills that proved these predictions wrong.

The same transformation and progress is possible with carbon pricing.  America has overcome great environmental challenges before.  The air we breathe is cleaner today than it was a generation ago and our lakes and streams are also cleaner.  The threat of acid rain that hung over Vermont during my childhood here in the Upper Valley has been tamed.  By acting now on carbon pricing, Vermont can break the gridlock that has held America back on climate reform for far too long and lead the country away from the dark future we are headed towards. 

I have great hope – and I look forward to working with all of you to make this strong step toward fighting climate change a reality. Let’s get it done. Thank you!

Press Release Date: 
12/01/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office
wave effect

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 29, 2018
Contact:  Olivia LaVecchia

                  (802) 734-0617

Mayor Miro Weinberger Releases Statement on Shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue

 

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger released the following statement in response to the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue on Saturday:

 

“The City of Burlington and I are grieving for the members of the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue and the entire Pittsburgh community after yet another reprehensible and deeply disturbing mass shooting. Americans have long fought and died to overcome this kind of bigotry. Our generation must now join together and force this hate and violence back out of the public square for good. We must make it far harder for those who would commit mass shootings to get their hands on a gun.”

 

# # #

 

Press Release Date: 
10/29/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 25, 2018

Contact: Olivia LaVecchia

                  (802) 734-0617

 

 

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Opening of Phase One of the Oakledge for All Accessible Playground

 

As the first universally accessible playground in the region, the Oakledge for All playground will give more people access to play. Looking forward, community members are leading a fundraising campaign to complete the playground.

 

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the opening of the first phase of the Oakledge for All playground at Oakledge Park. As the first universally accessible playground in the region, Oakledge for All features accessible play structures, surfaces, and pathways that allow people with a range of mobility, visual, sensory, and other needs to be able to play.

 

“Burlington’s history of investing in our recreational resources has given our community access to world-class parks and outdoor spaces,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Today, I’m proud to announce the opening of the first phase of the Oakledge for All playground, which will extend those opportunities for play and recreation to more members of our community. This grassroots, community-driven project creates an important resource for our City, and highlights Burlingtonians’ commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

 

“Working in partnership with the dedicated group of Oakledge for All and the creative designs of GroundView, our team has embarked on a first-of-its kind playground for our parks system,” said Cindi Wight, Director of Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront. “We’re thrilled to receive a grant to help kick start this ambitious project of installing an expansive accessible playground.”

 

Phase one of the Oakledge for All playground is funded in part with a $30,000 play space grant from The Walt Disney Company. The grant is part of the National Recreation and Park Association and Disney’s national Meet Me at the Park program, which aims to support healthy lifestyles by providing one million kids and families with greater access to play. Burlington’s Penny for Parks program, a parks improvement fund that was approved by Burlington voters in 2008, is contributing additional funding of up to $75,000.

 

With these funds, the first phase features core playground components, including a wheel-in rocker accessed by a sustainable-wood ramp, a multi-user swing, a swing with head support, and a new connection to the Burlington Bike Path that provides an accessible entrance and exit to the playground. The playground sits atop permeable recycled rubber surfacing, a first in a Burlington park, which cushions falls without impeding accessibility.

 

“This is our region’s first fully accessible playground for children and adults,” said Julia Wayne, founder of the Oakledge for All community group. “Inclusion is at the core of community, and we are so excited to be at this special point of bringing the playground to life and serving as a resource for other communities.”

 

“I’m very grateful to Burlington for prioritizing this playground,” said Annie Bourdon, a Burlington resident and member of the Oakledge for All community group. “It means that my son Otis, who has cerebral palsy, can finally swing and play alongside his sister and friends at our neighborhood playground—a simple pleasure I know he'll enjoy. Oakledge for All is a bold and beautiful step towards making our community more inclusive of people with disabilities, and the first of many projects I’ll champion on behalf of Otis and the community we love.”

 

"From the first moment that the Oakledge for All committee presented their vision to those of us on the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Commission, we have all been firmly in support,” said Laura Hale, Parks Commissioner. “Accessibility benefits everyone, and having a universally accessible playground opens up the world of exploration and play to all members of our community. Having seen my nephew, who has multiple physical and developmental disabilities, nearly explode with joy and delight while getting to experience the accessible play structures in his community and the difference it has made for him to connect with other kids of all abilities in that way, I know that this is a critical addition to Burlington and one that is long overdue."

 

"The Parks Foundation fully supports this wonderful initiative,” said John Bossange, Board Chair of the Burlington Parks Foundation. “The playground will be a unique destination for families offering an enriching experience by the lake in beautiful Oakledge Park. Because this project is along the Bike Path, when combined with the total rehabilitation of the eight miles of the path, it will make the connection to the greater Greenway much easier and more enjoyable for everyone."

 

Looking forward, community members are launching a fundraising campaign to expand the playground. The community members have formed the group Oakledge for All, and with the Parks Foundation of Burlington as a fiscal sponsor, are working to attract donations to the playground. The group is also working with Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront to pursue grant opportunities. The plans for the expanded playground include additional play and recreation features, such as nature-based play experiences.

 

To celebrate the opening of the first phase of the playground, as well as to launch the fundraising campaign, the Oakledge for All community group and Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront are hosting an event on Saturday, October 27 from 2-4pm at the playground. The free event will feature live music, face painting, and tasty treats. For more information about the event, see: www.facebook.com/events/335158483979456/.

 

History of the Oakledge for All Accessible Playground

In 2012, the Oakledge for All community group (which was called Play and Engage in Accessible Spaces for Everyone, or PEASE), brought a proposal for a universally accessible playground to Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront (BPRW). BPRW enthusiastically embraced the project and incorporated it into the Parks Master Plan. Through this process, BPRW identified Oakledge Park as the ideal home for the future playground because of its beautiful natural setting, existing recreational resources, connection to the Bike Path, facilities, and broad user base. Oakledge Park is also in need of repairs, which makes the renovation to make the park accessible both timely and efficient.

 

After selecting Oakledge as the site, in 2016, BPRW embarked on designing the playground, which included public engagement to solicit ideas and promote awareness. Through this process, BPRW and community members achieved a shared vision to create a playground that provides play opportunities for everyone; supports social, physical, and cultural diversity; strengthens our community; provides access to Lake Champlain and the Burlington Bike Path; offers a unique range of recreational play features, rehabilitation equipment, and nature-based experiences for children and adults; and exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and achieves universally accessible (UA) principles.

 

For more information about Oakledge for All, visit oakledgeforall.org.

 

Please see the following image:

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Press Release Date: 
10/25/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

October 16, 2018

Contacts: Olivia LaVecchia, Mayor’s Office

      (802) 734-0617

 

      Gillian Nanton, CEDO

                  (802) 865-7179

 

Mayor Weinberger Announces Winners of Second Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship

In partnership with Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the City awards $100,000 in second year of competition.

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Weinberger today awarded $100,000 in grants to help entrepreneurs start and grow more businesses in Burlington. Fully funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship was first launched in October 2017 as a way to increase support for innovation and entrepreneurship in Burlington.

 

The winners of the 2018 Burlington Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship are:

 

  • Generator: $50,000 awarded to Generator, Burlington’s largest makerspace, which provides the tools, training, community, and workspace to help makers test, evolve, prototype, and bring their best concepts to market. With this award, Generator will complete a four-fold expansion of its JumpStart program, which provides founder education and support for early stage entrepreneurs.
  • The Center for Women and Enterprise: $25,000 awarded to the Center for Women and Enterprise to build on the success of its Power Forward program, a four-month accelerator designed to support women-owned firms. With the award, CWE will expand this program to the food and retail industries, and also launch a new Retail Bootcamp initiative, an eight-week course designed to help retail entrepreneurs open a brick-and-mortar business.
  • Women’s Small Business Program - Mercy Connections: $25,000 awarded to the Women’s Small Business Program, which provides business and financial education to aspiring women entrepreneurs. With the award, WSBP will activate its extensive alumnae network and expand into new initiatives, including specialized workshops, peer-to-peer exchanges, and mentoring networks.

 

“I am proud to award the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship to these three organizations, which work to help local entrepreneurs succeed and in turn drive economic development in Burlington,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “As the City works hard to make Burlington a great place to live, work, and do business, part of our role is to invest in the people and organizations that are making an impact. I’m appreciative of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Found ation for recognizing Burlington’s potential and ambition and providing us the support that allowed us to create this award, and I’m excited to see how these three organizations use these funds to spark innovation and entrepreneurship in Burlington.” 

 

“CEDO was delighted to partner with the Kauffman Foundation on the Mayor’s Prize for the second year in a row,” said Gillian Nanton, Assistant Director of the Burlington Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO). “These grant funds will provide support to Burlington’s entrepreneurs, and I’m especially proud that the Mayor’s Prize continues to empower women entrepreneurs here in Vermont.”

 

Both the Center for Women & Enterprise and the Women’s Small Business Program – Mercy Connections were also recipients of the Mayor’s Prize in 2017, the first year of the award. That year, Mayor Weinberger awarded $200,000 in grants to four organizations.

 

The Mayor’s Prize is awarded as a result of a competitive process. In that process, entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) that serve Burlington entrepreneurs were invited to submit proposals either to expand a successful program, or to support the creation of a new program that addresses the needs of entrepreneurs. This year, a judging panel of six members with expertise in entrepreneurship-related fields, drawn from both local and national organizations, reviewed the proposals to select the winners. The competition received five applications. The members of the Judging Committee were:

  • Justin Wick, Chief Financial Officer, Venture.co (Burlington, VT)
  • Paul J. Corson, Director of Entrepreneurship, University of Utah (Park City, UT)
  • Brooke Gillman, Managing Director of Marketing and Communications, eSecLending (Burlington, VT)
  • Dr. Elizabeth Mack, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
  • Lazarus Manrique, Statewide Small Business Lender, Opportunities Credit Union (Burlington, VT)
  • Gillian Nanton, Assistant Director, Sustainability, Housing, and Economic Development, City of Burlington Community and Economic Development Office (Burlington, VT)

 

The awardees of this year’s Mayor’s Prize shared the following about what the award means for their organizations:

 

"Generator is proud to be a recipient of this year’s Mayor's Prize for Entrepreneurship,” said Chris Thompson, Executive Director of Generator. “This award will be crucial to allow us to expand our successful JumpStart program focused on providing high-quality founder education for early stage entrepreneurs. In particular, we are excited to be launching a summer incubator to help college students launch businesses in Vermont, as well as a business bootcamp for artist entrepreneurs next fall.”

 

“With the support of the Mayor’s Prize, our Power Forward and Retail Bootcamp programs will fuel women-owned firms with the knowledge and networks they need to grow strategically and effectively,” said Gwen Pokalo, the Director of the Center for Women and Enterprise Vermont. “We’re proud to work with the Mayor to offer meaningful, effective programming to an oft-underserved group of business owners.”

 

“Mercy Connections is honored and grateful to be receiving a second iteration of the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship in support of our Women’s Small Business Program,” said Lisa Falcone, the Executive Director of Mercy Connections. “2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the WSBP, and the Mayor’s Prize will allow us to elevate our educational offerings and alumnae network, and highlight the remarkable contributions of women business owners to the Vermont economy.”

 

About the Mayor’s Prize for Entrepreneurship

The goal of the Mayor’s Prize is to foster the growth and development of entrepreneurship in Burlington and encourage outside-the-box thinking about how best to achieve this. The Mayor’s Prize is entirely funded by a grant from the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which has also supported the Let’s Talk Progress speaker series.

 

About the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private foundation, is a recognized leader on entrepreneurship. Established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, MO. In 2015, the City of Burlington was chosen as one of two cities for the Kauffman Foundation’s Metro Strategy initiative, a pilot project that sought to work cooperatively with two communities in the country to develop a strategy that would improve conditions for entrepreneurial growth in those communities and bring up to $500,000 in programmatic grantmaking. As part of this initiative, Kauffman Program Officers visited Burlington several times over the ensuing months and conducted a landscape analysis of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

 

Based on this analysis, in June 2017, the Foundation supported an eight-part speaker series, “Let’s Talk Progress,” about Burlington’s potential and how smart growth can help the City get there. The series was produced by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce in association with community partners. Additionally, the Foundation worked with CEDO on a strategy for disbursing the remainder of the grant funds in a transparent, competitive, and equitable manner, which resulted in the Mayor’s Prize. This competition is based on a similar model in Albuquerque.  

 

For more information, see CEDO’s website at www.burlingtonvt.gov/CEDO

 

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Press Release Date: 
10/16/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

 

The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting is the highest form of recognition in this area.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

October 12, 2018

Contact: Olivia LaVecchia

                  (802) 734-0617

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced that the City of Burlington has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The certificate is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.

 

This is the second consecutive year that Burlington has been awarded the Certificate of Achievement. Burlington was awarded the certificate for the first time in its history in 2017. The only other Vermont recipients of the award have been St. Albans and the State of Vermont.

 

“This award affirms the hard work that the City has done to be a responsible financial steward for Burlington’s taxpayers and ratepayers,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “I congratulate the entire Clerk-Treasurer’s Office team on this achievement, and thank them and staff throughout the City for their commitment to reliability, accuracy, and transparency.”

 

The Certificate of Achievement is for Burlington’s comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), and is awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). In its materials informing the City of the award the GFOA noted, “We hope that your example will encourage other government officials in their efforts to achieve and maintain an appropriate standard of excellence in financial reporting."

 

Along with the certificate, Burlington’s Clerk / Treasurer’s Office was recognized with an Award of Financial Reporting Achievement (AFRA).

 

We would like to thank the GFOA for honoring us with this prestigious award.  The Clerk/Treasurer’s office is excited to have our commitment to transparent and accurate financial reporting recognized,” said Comptroller Ann Barton. “This award would not be possible without the Administration’s focus on financial management, and the hard work of the Finance Team, as well as the efforts and support of all City Departments.”

 

In making the certificate award, an impartial panel judged Burlington’s CAFR to meet the high standards of the certificate, including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and encourage readership.

 

Receiving the award demonstrates strong financial management reporting. A commitment to meeting the standards set by the GFOA award is also a signal for City underwriters and the buyers of Burlington bonds about the strength of investments in the City, and helps to continue a strong market for City bonds.

 

About the GFOA and the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting

 

The Government Finance Officers Association, which awards the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, is a professional association serving nearly 19,000 appointed and elected local, state, and provincial-level government officials and other finance practitioners. The mission of GFOA is to promote excellence in state and local government reporting.

 

The GFOA established the Certificate of Achievement of Excellence in Financial Reporting Program in 1945 to encourage state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles, and recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal. Each year, the GFOA convenes an impartial panel to award the Certificate of Achievement to government organizations that produce annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure.

 

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Press Release Date: 
10/12/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

October 2, 2018

Contact: Olivia LaVecchia

                  (802) 734-0617

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the appointment of Darren Springer as General Manager (GM) of the Burlington Electric Department (BED) at a press conference at BED. Springer brings extensive experience in the energy field to the position, including at the federal, state, and local levels of government. Effective immediately, Springer will serve as acting GM, and Mayor Weinberger will ask the City Council to consider confirmation of the appointment at its October 15, 2018 meeting.

 

“The Burlington Electric Department is enjoying a sustained period of customer affordability, financial improvement, positive labor relations, innovation, and progress towards some of the most ambitious climate goals in the entire American power industry,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger.  “Darren has the temperament, experiences, and skills to ensure that BED continues to advance in all of these areas, continues to transform into an outstanding 21st century utility, and continues to lead Burlington’s efforts to become a Net Zero Energy City.”

 

Springer already knows BED well, having served as the Chief Operating Officer and Manager of Strategy and Innovation at BED since January 2017. In that role, he managed 35 employees across five divisions and led innovative initiatives, such as BED’s efforts to offer a first-ever rebate for electric vehicles, which includes an enhanced incentive for low and moderate-income customers. Springer’s work at BED has included development of an RFP to create a Net Zero Roadmap, which will analyze different paths for the City to achieve the Net Zero Energy vision and detail economic and environmental outcomes. Springer has also served in a leadership role in the progress BED has made towards creating a District Energy System.

 

Prior to his work at BED, Springer’s experience included serving as Chief of Staff for Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, and as Deputy Commissioner for the Vermont Department of Public Service. While in state government, Springer successfully led efforts to advance significant solar legislation and Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard, policies that now provide the regulatory foundation for several of BED’s innovative programs. Across his professional experience, Springer has led staff with diverse professional backgrounds, managed significant budgets, and shown commitments to renewable energy and public service. Springer holds a Master of Studies in Environmental Law and a Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School.

 

“I am excited to serve as the next General Manager of Burlington Electric Department, and want to thank Mayor Weinberger for this opportunity,” said Darren Springer. “Burlington Electric has a strong record of providing affordable and reliable electricity, while leading the way when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy. That is a testament to the strong team at BED, and I am grateful to serve with that team as we work to take the next steps to achieve the Net Zero Energy City goal.”

 

Personal Background

Springer grew up in Florida, and graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a B.A. in History and a Minor in Business Administration. He moved to Vermont in 2002 to attend Vermont Law School where he met his wife Stephanie.  In 2005 Springer earned a Juris Doctor and Master of Studies in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School. During law school he served as managing editor of the Vermont Law Review and clerked for U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

Following law school, Springer worked for four years at the National Governors Association as a Policy Analyst and later directed its program on Energy & Transportation, assisting governors and states with energy and climate policy development. From 2009 to 2013 Springer served as a Senior Policy Advisor and later Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. During that time, Springer worked to advance legislation that ultimately brought a $1 million energy efficiency financing program to Burlington Electric. Following his move back to Vermont, Springer served as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Service, helping to manage a staff with diverse professional expertise. Springer worked on a range of topics at the Department including energy legislation, utility rate cases, and developing new programs such as the Heat Saver Loan Program. As Chief of Staff to Governor Shumlin, Springer served as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet and helped to manage 24 agencies and departments as well as the executive office staff and budget. 

 

Springer and his wife Stephanie married in Stowe, Vermont in 2007, and returned to Vermont permanently after spending eight years living and working in the Washington, D.C. area following law school. Springer, Stephanie, and their children live in the New North End of Burlington, and their children attend school in Burlington.

 

In addition to his professional work, Springer has demonstrated a personal commitment to clean energy. As BED customers, Springer and his family have installed solar electric and solar water heating panels at their home, as well as energy efficient appliances and cold-climate heat pumps that provide efficient electric heating and cooling.

 

As he states in his cover letter, “As a Burlingtonian…I have seen first-hand the pride our community takes in our municipal electric utility. That pride is a result of the hard work of the BED team.”

 

Springer is a member of the Vermont Bar, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Energy Action Network and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. He also has served as a Policy Fellow on Climate Change and Renewable Energy at the University of Vermont, and in that capacity authored a law journal article on the future of utility regulation published earlier this year in the William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review.

 

Building on Past Success at BED

Springer will lead a department with many recent successes, including:

  • Making Burlington the first American City to source 100 percent of electricity from renewable generation in 2014;
  • Completing two comprehensive labor agreements with BED employees in 2015 and 2018 without resorting to arbitration;
  • Receiving a December 2016 Moody’s Investors Service credit rating upgrade to “A3,” affirmed in November 2017, as a result of forward-looking financial policies, renewable power supply, competitive rates, and strong management;
  • Completing an extensive re-organization that resulted in millions of dollars in cost savings for ratepayers;
  • Achieving a decade of rate stability;
  • Leading a six-fold increase in the number of Burlington solar installations from 2012 to 2017.

 

The department also has ambitious future goals, including:

  • Becoming a Net Zero Energy City across the sectors of electric, thermal, and ground transportation over the next 10 to 15 years;
  • Advancing the District Energy System, which would capture the heat generated by the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station biomass plant and distribute it to customers as a heating service;
  • Finding new ways to encourage people to move away from transportation that’s powered by fossil fuels, and toward electric vehicles, electric buses, and other modes of transportation that are powered by renewable energy.

 

Extensive Search

The Mayor’s office began its search for a new BED GM in July 2018. The extensive process included:

  • Meeting with BED employees to understand their priorities for the next leader of the Department.
  • Posting the position locally, state-wide, and nationally in July 2018, a process that included targeting diverse communities and conducting supplemental recruitment efforts.
  • Reviewing resumes that met minimum requirements and initial interviews of both in-state and out-of-state candidates by the following search committee, led by the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jordan Redell: Tom Dunn, President & CEO of the Vermont Electric Power Company; Jim (Duke) Dutra, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Chief Steward; Sabina Haskell, Electric Light Commissioner; Mike Kanarick, Manager of Customer Care and Communications; Scott Moody, Electric Light Commissioner; Karen Paul, City Councilor; Mark Stephenson, Owner & General Manager, Vermont Energy Contracting & Supply; Lynn Reagan, Human Resources Manager for BED.
  • Interviewing three finalist candidates presented to the Mayor for consideration by the search committee.

 

At the conclusion of the search, Springer’s skills and experience working with regulatory bodies and leadership on many of BED’s top priorities made him an outstanding candidate to continue the momentum and progress of the City’s ambitious agenda to become a Net Zero Energy City.

 

Broad Support

“My congratulations to Darren on his appointment as the GM of BED,” said City Councilor Karen Paul, a member of the BED GM search committee and former Chair of the Electric Commission, who joined the Mayor and Springer for the announcement. “I have no doubt that he will be a visionary leader for this amazing public asset that we all value so dearly. There is much work to be done and the road ahead, while exciting and filled with opportunity, will have its challenges. Electric power is a competitive industry and those who are nimble, deliberative, innovative, and collaborative will excel in the years ahead.  Now is the time for bold leadership tempered with seasoned knowledge and the ability, above all, to bring people together. Darren’s deep commitment to BED, to our City, and to each employee’s contribution to the greater good will serve all of us well as he leads BED for the years to come.”

 

“Darren Springer is an outstanding choice to lead the Burlington Electric Department,” said Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power. “It has been a pleasure and an inspiration to work with Darren at this exciting time of transformation and innovation in all things energy to benefit customers. The planet needs energy leaders like Darren Springer.”

 

“Having worked with Darren Springer for years, I know that he has a great skill for understanding the complexities, legally and technically, of our evolving clean energy economy,” said Senator Chris Bray, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. “Perhaps even more importantly, he has the ability to take that knowledge and find opportunities to develop innovative programs that deliver both economic and environmental benefits to customers. The Mayor has chosen well."

 

Please see the documents below for more information:

Press Release Date: 
10/02/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

On the Heels of Upgrade from Moody’s in May 2018, this Upgrade Demonstrates the Continued Strength of Airport’s New Airline Agreement, Managed Capital Program, and Stabilizing Debt Service

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 25, 2018

Contact: Gene Richards, Director of Aviation

                (802) 343-9909

 

                Olivia LaVecchia, Mayor’s Office

                (802) 734-0617

 

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger and Aviation Director Gene Richards today announced that Fitch Ratings has upgraded Burlington International Airport’s credit rating to “BBB” from “BBB-,” and revised the Airport’s credit outlook from positive to stable.

 

This upgrade is particularly significant. For the past six years, the Airport’s credit rating has been “BBB-,” which is the lowest a bond can be rated to be considered investment grade. With this ratings upgrade, the Airport is crossing an important threshold into greater financial health. (Please see the complete Airport ratings table below).

 

In its credit report, released on Wednesday, September 19, Fitch stated that “the upgrade reflects the Airport’s improved fiscal profile demonstrated in recent years.” The report particularly highlights the new Airline Agreement, which began in Fiscal Year 2017 and will extend for five years, noting that it “provides strong cost recovery mechanisms.” The report also cites the Airport’s strengthening liquidity position, stabilizing debt coverage, and conservative debt structure, and draws attention to the fact that the Airport’s four-year capital improvement plan does not call for issuing additional debt.

 

With this upgrade, the Airport is continuing a trajectory of recent success. In May 2018, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the Airport’s credit rating to “Baa2,” the Airport’s highest rating since prior to its financial troubles in 2010.

 

“This upgrade is yet another indication that the Airport is having a great 2018,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “In addition to this continuation of years of financial improvements, I’m encouraged to see that enplanements are now starting to rise as well. I congratulate the Airport staff on this achievement and their hard work on this issue.”

 

“The extraordinary team effort to accomplish unprecedented financial and infrastructure improvements has been reflected in the upgrade ratings by both Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings,” said Gene Richards, Burlington International Airport’s Director of Aviation. “With the guidance of the City of Burlington, I am extremely satisfied with the progress that the Airport has made and I am pleased to see this well-deserved upgrade. Our financial discipline has directly led to the improvements in the Airport’s financial profile. These are great times for BTV Airport and our traveling public with more flying options and seats available than in past years. The credit for this significant accomplishment goes to the entire Burlington International Airport team, as well as the City of Burlington team of Rich Goodwin, Beth Anderson, and Mayor Miro Weinberger.”

 

The Airport has seen numerous positive trends in recent months, including:

  • Enplanements up 4.3 percent in FY 2018;
  • Growth in total operating revenues of 2.4 percent in 2017, and growth in preliminary operating revenues of 5.8 percent in 2018;
  • Strongest financial position in last five years, ending FY 2017 with 276 days’ cash on hand as calculated by Moody’s, and 186 days’ cash on hand as calculated by Fitch, which excludes customer facility charge revenue.

The Fitch report focuses on the new Airline Agreement, which is intended to maintain a debt-service coverage ratio (DSCR) of 1.5x into the future, with excess net revenues shared among air carriers. This arrangement, along with a well-received four-year capital improvement plan and a conservative debt structure, provide the basis for Fitch’s upgrade. The full report is attached.

 

The Fitch report also highlights the Airport’s proactive work to remain strong. “The Airport has recently also undertaken various steps to increase demand,” the report notes, “including offering new service incentives and launching aggressive marketing campaigns for new domestic routes for two years of operation.”

 

Fitch Ratings table:

 

Fitch's BTV Ratings History

Date

Action

Rating

Action

Outlook

9/19/2018

Upgrade

BBB

Revised

Stable

8/18/2017

Affirmed

BBB-

Revised

Positive

7/29/2016

Affirmed

BBB-

Affirmed

Stable

7/22/2015

Affirmed

BBB-

Affirmed

Stable

11/13/2014

Affirmed

BBB-

Affirmed

Stable

5/30/2014

Affirmed

BBB-

Revised

Stable

11/15/2012

Downgraded

BBB-

Affirmed

Negative

3/23/2012

Affirmed

BBB

Affirmed

Negative

3/23/2011

Downgraded

BBB

Revised

Negative

1/12/2009

Affirmed

BBB+

Affirmed

Stable

11/1/2005

Affirmed

BBB+

Affirmed

Stable

 

Please see the Fitch Rating Report for additional information.

 

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Press Release Date: 
09/25/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 26, 2018

 

Contact: Olivia LaVecchia

                (802) 734-0617

 

Burlington, VT – In an important step for the stability of the City’s financial future, on Monday, Sept. 24, the Burlington City Council voted unanimously to adopt a first-known debt policy for the City. The policy outlines a target and a maximum for the amount of General Obligation debt that the City can incur, as well as for the amount of “overlapping debt,” or the total amount of combined General Obligation Debt incurred between the City and the Burlington School District.

 

The new debt policy has been in development by the Administration and Board of Finance since January 2018 when PFM, the City’s financial consultant, recommended its creation as part of a memo advising the City on additional actions the City could take to improve its credit rating (please see the full memo from PFM linked below). Chief Administrative Officer Beth Anderson summarized the significance of a debt policy in her September 24, 2018 memo to the City Council (please see the full memo linked below):

 

“A debt policy is designed to enhance the quality of decisions related to debt issuance by providing consistency, continuity, order and discipline; clear guidelines for the type and structure of debt; parameters for the amount of debt to be undertaken; and a process to ensure cost effective issuance. A debt policy should articulate the City’s policy goals, which include a continued commitment to improving and sustaining the City’s financial position, increasing the City’s credit rating, and ensuring an affordable cost of borrowing for taxpayers. These actions are generally positively viewed by the rating agencies in reviewing credit quality.”

 

In response to the vote, Mayor Miro Weinberger released the following statement:

 

“This policy was crafted with our community’s infrastructure needs, best practices for responsible financial management, and the high property-tax burden that Burlingtonians currently face in mind. This new policy is intended to continue our financial progress as a City, support much-needed and historically important levels of community investment, and reassure our taxpayers that we are nearing the limit that they will be asked to invest in our infrastructure. I am deeply appreciative of the hard work that Chief Administrative Officer Beth Anderson and the members of the Board of Finance put into developing this policy, and I hope that it will prove to be an important part of our administration’s ongoing work to balance investment in our public goods, affordability for Burlingtonians, and responsible financial stewardship.”

 

For more information on the debt policy, please see the documents linked below:

Memorandum from CAO Beth Anderson: “Proposed Debt Policy

Full Debt Management Policy: “Debt Management Policy

Memorandum from PFM: “City of Burlington, VT: Rating Review/Policy Samples and Benchmarking

 

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Press Release Date: 
09/26/2018
City Department: 
Mayor's Office

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