The Burlington Free Press kindly published a guide to Burlington City Council candidates, providing responses that were edited for space. Unedited questions and answers are below.
1. What concrete step can the City Council take to make housing more affordable for Vermonters? Please specify an actual action item.
We need to live up to our reputation for innovation and create new models for developing affordable homes that break away from reliance on diminishing Federal supports. We should also live up to our vision of a Burlington that’s fair to all and create affordable homes throughout the fabric of our city, preserving the diversity and vitality of our neighborhoods; an objective I work for through a local nonprofit. City Council can be incentivizing new cooperative housing and the purchase of homes in historic neighborhoods where students have concentrated, to re-establish affordable single-family residences and improve quality of life. We can address how our inclusive zoning criteria don’t create affordability for our most vulnerable or align with federal affordability standards that are income-responsive — truly affordable rents and homeownership for our workforce remain unrealized. The effects of gentrification — deterioration of our diversity and character as a livable and equitable city — don’t have to be inevitable if City Councilors like me face this issue with vision, empathy and commitment.
2. What unique needs does your ward have, and how can the City Council best address those needs?
In our neighborhoods: Our Downtown Improvement District, expanding from Church Street Marketplace, must be inclusive of our whole community’s interests. The route through Ward 3 to the growing New North End should be safe for walking, biking, and driving. Our local entrepreneurs should have their energy and vision welcomed into citywide economic development planning. Affordability must be addressed in a way that preserves the character of our historic built environment. The small business environment of North Street should be fostered. In our downtown: Development should add density at human scale and activate our streetscapes to strengthen our community. The community benefits negotiated to be provided by City Place Burlington should be stewarded responsibly and collaboratively with meaningful input from Burlington’s social service, educational, and cultural organizations. Public restrooms are needed, a modern and humane amenity. Our Ward’s voice needs stronger representation that pursues inclusion and civic engagement with determination, opening doors for Ward 3 residents to bring creativity, experience, and a responsible vision to City decisions about our future.
3. Is City Council too big, too small or just right?
As our population and responsibilities have grown, the city council has shrunk. A healthy democracy would celebrate its success with a City Council that reflects that growth and has the capacity to perform its duties. It is too small to do its job, a fact faced by Council leadership when it proposed reducing the activity of committees to lessen the burden of work, limiting opportunities for public interaction with councilors and handicapping the democratic processes we trust with our civic wellbeing. Redistricting further diluted our representation, dividing the attention of District Councilors between more than one Ward. Our City Council should have more than one councilor from each Ward and populate our City Council committees with councilors who have the time and energy to represent voters with the spirit of endeavor and optimism that we expect of them.
Photo by Glenn Russell, Burlington Free Press.