Jan 17 -- Vermont Immigrant Voting Alliance, Affordable Housing Panel, Library Happenings

Watch the meeting on Ch 17.

Wards 4 & 7 Neighborhood Planning Assembly
Thursday January 17, 2008
Heineberg Senior and Community Center
Linda Deliduka, facilitator. Senada Sekocevic, timekeeper. Lea Terhune, notetaker.

6:45 – 7:00 Gathering and Sign in. 62 people were present. 45 people signed in, 26 W4, 13 W7, and 6 other. 11 elected officials were there, 5 presenters, and 2 city staff. NPA Steering Committee present: Ron McGarvey, Lea Terhune, Carol Jaramillo, Bob Schwartz, Jon Flint, Linda Deliduka, Alan Sousie, Senada Sekocevic, Marga Kempner, Susan Wheeler, Steve McIntyre.

7:00 – 7:15 Introductions, ground rules, minutes, agenda, election. Elected to the steering committee were Marga Kempner, motion by Jon Flint, ward 4; Steve McIntyre, motion , ward 7; and Susan Wheeler, motion Linda Deliduka, ward 4.

7:15-7:45 Open Forum for Residents and Reports from Elected Reps. Chuck Seleen encouraged people to contact him if they are interested in working to propose a resolution to create a bike commuter lane on North Avenue. Steve McIntyre announced that he is running for City Council, and he is concerned about pedestrian safety at the Plattsburg Ave intersection, and the timing of the light by Heineberg Rd. Representative Mark Larson reported on many issues and invited questions. Carol Ode asked if state employee travel budgets could be cut and Mark said they are using VT Interactive TV whenever possible. Steve McIntyre asked about campaign finance reform. Mark said the influence of money on government is a serious concern, and VT is trying but the limits law was overturned and now VT has nothing. A resident asked why the statehouse doesn’t have energy saver bulbs. Mark said he’s check on that. Alan Sousie asked what the state is doing to bring business to VT. Mark said that businesses say workforce is the biggest issue, so VT is investing in workforce training. Energy costs and health insurance are the other challenges, as well as affordable housing for the workforce. Carol Ode said she is a member of AARP, she’s concerned about safety and she wants to know what other states do to make sure all drivers are safe drivers. Mark agrees this is a sensitive aging issue. As a parting thought, Mark urged people to contact him to let him know what they care about – email or call. He says it really makes a difference, and he welcomes it. Councilor Paul Decelles reported that his committee has looked at funding for senior centers to see what the city can do to help. Centers need sustainable funding. There was a proposal for a ½ cent tax for senior centers, which the committee was concerned about jumping into, so they amended the resolution to ask the city to include senior center funding in the budget. Paul will work on this, and he will vote on the motion to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Carol Ode suggested that, as senior housing is built, there be an impact fee to support senior centers similar to the school impact fees. Ralph Montefusco asked how Paul intends to vote on the marijuana motion, and Paul said he would vote no. Mayor Kiss was introduced by Linda Deliduka who thanked him for his support for Senior Center funding. Mayor Kiss affirmed that senior center funding is important, and the city will partner with United Way, or maybe bring back a recommendation for a tax, but will take a year to study the issue. Budget – the mayor said he is starting the budget process, and with additional fees paid by non-profits in the city, Burlington’s goal is to be sustainable. Appointment of Larry Kupferman – Larry is the new candidate for CEDO director. He has experience with economic development and human needs. New police chief search – three candidates are being interviewed, and an appointment will be made soon. Burlington is in a better financial position than many other cities that are all struggling with lean budgets. And the city doesn’t have the social problems of other cities, like drugs and no housing downtown. BED bond – it will put a NOx unit on the McNeil Plant to reduce air pollution. Burlington Telecom – fiber is almost city-wide. BT wants to be sure that services are delivered to Burlington before going out to other towns. High Def and DVR are further options. Housing – The population is growing older, and the mayor supports pedestrian access and building senior housing in smaller denser units. The city has a process that works pretty well, so when someone proposes a project we work through the issues. Questions: Alan Sousie asked about the debt for the wastewater treatment plant. Mayor said it’s a zero interest loan, and fees will begin to pay that loan off which was the long term investment strategy. Susan Wheeler asked if the city has given any thought to building up funding for electric company improvements or police equipment instead of bonding for everything. Mayor said that some of this is being done now, and some portions of the BED bond, for example, will be paid off by selling pollution credits that the new equipment creates. Susan said it’s better to save money to buy new equipment instead of bonding. Steve McIntyre said the mayor mentioned building new housing units, and asked what areas in ward 4 and 7 the city is looking at? Mayor said the city isn’t doing any development out here, There is a request for something on city land at Brown’s Court which is city land, but they haven’t pursued any final plan for that. Carol Ode said she’s a member of VT’ers Against Sprawl, and VT Interfaith Action, and she cares about housing, but she also cares a lot about the environment and not every spot of open land is appropriate to put development. There needs to be a balance between development and wetland preservation and open space protection. Mayor said the idea that open space isn’t wasted space is what he agrees with. Burlington is open for business, but it’s not for sale. There’s an Open Space plan that the city pays attention to. Lea Terhune thanked the mayor for hiring from within the city, and for acknowledging the importance of the Open Space Protection Plan, She added that Ward 4/7 NPA created Neighborhood Activity Centers (NAC), which are part of the Municipal plan and direct density to those areas which already have the infrastructure to support it. Lea handed out a map of Wards 4/7 which show NACs, the busline and available land for housing. She said she encourages the city to use this land for mixed housing. School Board member Wally Elliott introduced Bernie O’Rourke who is running for school board from Ward 4. Thom Fleury, Chair of the School Board, said he will be back to the NPA in Feb to go over the school budget. He reported that changes in city demographics present challenges, and we’re proceeding with work on excellence in our schools, surveying residents and proceeding carefully and cautiously.

7:45-8:05 VIVA - Vermont Immigrant Voting Alliance: Marta Ceroni and Martin Baumann spoke about a community effort to restore immigrant voting rights in local elections. Martin is a 10 yr resident, and thinks Burlington is a great place to live and bring up his 4 kids. He’s a German citizen, and chooses to live here and he has a lot of family in Germany. He works in Milton, and brings business to VT. He has a green card, he is legal, but he can not vote. He thinks that VT could attract many young immigrant professionals by welcoming them with the right to vote in local elections. Marta has lived here for 5 years, and it takes a long time to be eligible for citizenship – it can take up to 20 years! All this time her children are going to school here, but she can’t say anything about how the schools are run. In the pas,t immigrants had voting rights, and cities and towns can offer these rights again. Susan Wheeler asked what we can do to help? The answer is to sign petitions, and ask City Council to put it on the ballot.

8:05-8:35 Housing Panel Brian Pine CEDO, the City’s Vision for Housing. Melinda White Bronson, VIA and Habitat for Humanity, Inclusionary Zoning. Carol Jaramillo, Mixed-use Housing. Thom Fleury, Burlington School Board, socio-economic integration in the schools. They will be discussing the vision of housing for Burlington residents and its implication for all of us. Hans Heikel will add information about a project he worked on recently. Questions: Resident asked about local exposure to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and about recent trends in vacancies and rents; and, does the city have plans to address the deficiencies in the inclusionary zoning ordinance? Brian said foreclosure rates are climbing in VT but we have good banks and smart homebuyers. Vacancy rates are low, and rent inflation is high, largely attributed to students. The inclusionary zoning loophole has been address in the Zoning Rewrite. If you build affordable housing off-site, you have to pay $100,000 into the City Housing Trust Fund. Cliff Cooper asked who in city government does a developer go to first. There’s a huge development project proposed in ward 4, and we’d like to know who in city government thought that was a good idea?

8:35-8-45 Fletcher Free Library Robert Resnik Discussing the new library programs. Including computer terminals, home delivery of books, downloadable books, WI-HI services. Rob wrapped up with a rousing ditty, which ended the evening on a very joyful note.
8:45- 9:00 Reflections – Announcements. Applause and thanks to Steve Jaramillo and Hans Heikel for videotaping the meeting for Ch17. Meeting adjourned. Many people stayed to chat with city officials and neighbors about issues raised during the meeting.
Respectfully submitted, Lea Terhune, notetaker.

CCTV Ch 17 Web Site:

Burlington Wards 4 & 7 NPA Meeting 01/17/2008

1. Brief report from Mayor Bob Kiss. 2. Marta Ceroni and Martin Baumann from VIVA (Vermont Immigrant Voting Alliance) talk about a community effort to restore immigrant voting rights in local elections. 3. Housing Panel: Brian Pine CEDO, Melinda White Bronson, VIA and Habitat for Humanity,