The first and most important job of the next administration must be to put Burlington’s finances in order. To do this, we must define the full extent of the City’s financial problem and obligations, identify savings and efficiencies, work to resolve the financial issues surrounding Burlington Telecom and the Burlington International Airport, and address the looming pension pressures facing the city.
City Hall simply cannot continue to kick this can down the road. Every day we postpone facing our financial woes will ultimately cost Burlington taxpayers more money.
There are several high profile public projects around the city that are stuck or failing. I have a strong background in urban development and have managed over $40M in development projects – the majority of which were mixed use and affordable housing. Furthermore, I am highly experienced in negotiating complex deals.
Between our retirement fund, Burlington Telecom and Burlington International Airport, I believe that Burlington has at least $80M of unfunded obligations and potential liabilities for unfinanced capital projects. You can see my entire five point plan here.
The Burlington Telecom situation is casting a shadow on the City’s finances. The Moody’s outlook for the City is “negative,” citing specifically the Burlington Telecom obligation, and this outlook is unlikely to improve until the situation is resolved. I believe that the issue is now ripe for negotiation with CitiCapital Municipal Finance, the state Public Service Board and potential new investors.
My priorities in that negotiation will be to do the following:
- Stop further public investment in the company and minimize the cost of extended legal wrangling as much as possible.
- Preserve BT (or its successor) as a competitor to Comcast for the benefit of Burlington residential and business telecom customers.
- Preserve the possibility of long-term repayment of $17M.
- Maintain a public role in the governance of BT.
Burlington is a community with a proud history of making steady, sometimes spectacular progress. Unfortunately, that progress has stalled. The next mayor must act decisively and skillfully to return the City to its proud legacy of achievement – to create jobs and lay the foundations to generate new tax revenues for the City. By getting our City economy going again, we can reduce the tax burden on residents.
I will jump start the City’s economy by pursuing a broad set of initiatives from completing the unifinished work of transforming an industrial area into a modern, world-class waterfront, to improving access to downtown for residents, commuters and tourists, to unleashing the potential of the west side of Pine St.
These and other initiatives outlined in my economic development plan will get the city economy moving again. Click here to read the entire plan.
Burlington should be a leader in innovation, renewable energy and energy efficiency, not a community that lags behind. As mayor, I will see to it that city buildings undergo energy efficiency improvements, increase efficiency opportunities for homeowners, landlords and businesses, improve solar and hot water energy instillations, seek innovative proposals for Department of Energy grants, and offer greater support for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Read the details of my plan here.
A New Era of Leadership
We need a New Era of Leadership in City Hall. I will call for a top to bottom review of city departments and city financial management, improve communication between the Mayor and City Council, and enhance communication, accessibility and accountability to members of the press and public. In addition, I will establish an emerging leadership program and community leaders advisory councils on the City’s major issues.
To see the specific 7 point plan regarding each of the above items and how I would implement them in City Hall, click here.
I attended Vermont public schools growing up. I know first-hand that strong schools are vital to the future, to the health of our children and to our city. As the next Mayor, I will be an involved and engaged leader focused on assuring that all Burlington children get the education they deserve.
By using the Mayor’s office to focus attention on progress and challenges in the schools, I will be a vocal advocate for all of Burlington’s children, establish active communication and collaboration between city and school leaders, expand resources by developing and deepening community partnerships, and ensure that our school facilities support educational needs by playing a leadership role in the planning and implementation of school capital projects.
Our schools face challenges, but we also have great opportunities. Working inside and outside of the schools, I will be a mayor that embraces our community’s diversity, tackles our poverty challenges, and works to ensure that all of Burlington’s children have an opportunity to thrive. To see my more about my education priorities, click here.
To read my statement on the FY ’13 school budget, click here.
Housing Affordability and Livability
Weinberger’s plan includes the following key components:
- Creating new housing options downtown consistent with Burlington’s downtown character;
- Collaborating with pioneering housing non-profits;
- Partnering with City colleges to address student housing issues;
- Reducing the costs of housing maintenance and operations; and
- Improving the quality of rental housing.
The cost of housing in Burlington is too high and is causing great strain on many seniors, middle-class and low-income families in our communities. Through careful planning and collaboration, the City can reduce the cost of living, attract new residents downtown, grow the property tax base, restore traditional family neighborhoods, and ensure that more students have campus housing. People want to live in Burlington’s authentic downtown and traditional neighborhoods. This is a positive trend that bodes well for the City’s future, but if not managed correctly, this rising demand for housing will hurt our seniors and our middle-class and low-income families. To protect our seniors and families, we must build a new consensus about the future of the downtown, eliminate illogical zoning provisions, partner with our colleges to create and relocate student housing, and balance our desire to preserve historic resources with our need to encourage homeowners to maintain their properties and improve energy efficiency.
I have received a great deal of public support for my plan, including from Burlington real estate attorney and former president of the board of the Champlain Housing Trust, Randy Amis, who stated: “I wholeheartedly support Miro’s vision for housing and affordable housing for Burlington. The City must plan for its growth and include housing as a significant part of that growth. Miro’s plan balances the needs of the City now and in the future.”
You can read my entire plan here.
Burlington International Airport
We have to treat the airport like an airport, not a cash cow. The Burlington International Airport is critical to the region’s economic development –individuals and businesses rely on the airport having affordable fares and a wide selection of routes. In the past, the airport has also helped fund important city services, but that is not possible with the airport’s current finances. Remarkably, the current administration seems more interested in squeezing fees out of the airport than in its long-term financial health. I would put the airport back on stable footing by resisting dramatic fee increases on the airlines. Burlington International Airport needs to be a viable airport, manage its parking garage efficiently and professionally, partner with the region’s businesses to increase the airport’s Canadian presence, and work with the State of Vermont to reduce high financing costs.
Centennial Field has been a Burlington treasure for over 100 years, and professional baseball has been an important part of the city’s economic development and entertainment landscape since the 1930s. It has been clear for several years that this historic building and the tradition of baseball in this city are at serious risk. As mayor, I will work hard to save Centennial Field and keep the Lake Monsters in Burlington without spending taxpayer dollars or putting the City at financial risk.
Burlington taxpayer resources will not be used to finance the new facility. I plan to negotiate with both the State of Vermont and the University of Vermont to create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District surrounding the ballpark. A TIF has the potential of creating substantial revenues for Centennial Field’s public improvements. I also will work to secure Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits for the facility and a long-term commitment to Burlington from the Lake Monsters. By taking these steps, we will be able to keep our ballpark, our team, and the jobs they bring to Burlington. You can find more details about this plan here.