BALLOT QUESTIONS and CANDIDATES
Facilitator: Alan Sousie
Note-taker: Michael Crane.
6:45 Gathering and Sign in. ~~~ WELCOME!~~~
7:00 Introductions and Announcements, Ground Rules, Agenda, Minutes (see below). [Minutes posted below.]
7:20 Reports from Officials who are not candidates*
7:30 Open Forum for Residents*
8:00 PROGRAM~~~~BALLOT QUESTIONS AND CANDIDATES
Meeting Minutes, September 18, 2008
Facilitator, Steve McIntyre began the assembly with introductions and presentation of ground rules. The agenda was quickly reviewed.
Alan Sousie moved the acceptance of Phil LaVigne’s nomination for a position on the Assembly’s Steering Committee. Greg Jenkins seconded. Phil described his past experiences and interests briefly and emphasized his desire to serve the community. He expressed a particular interest in community policing programs. The assembly agreed unanimously to put Phil on the Steering Committee as a representative of Ward 7.
Lea Terhune moved the acceptance of Linda Pigeon’s nomination for a Ward 7 Steering Committee position. Kurt Wright seconded. Linda was not present to address the assembly. She was elected unanimously.
The meeting proceeded with reports and comments from our elected officials. City Council updates were provided by Craig Gutchell, Paul Decelles, Kurt Wright. Councilor Ellis was unable to attend tonight’s meeting. Their comments included some upcoming financial considerations like the 1 cent designated tax for Parks and Recreation, the school department’s request for support of its capital improvement plans totaling $226 million, and bonding for street/sidewalk repairs. In addition, they all agreed that the Disc Golf Course at Leddy Park got off to a wrong start. However, each councilor now believes that the process has now been sufficiently corrected. They each expressed confidence that the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff are doing what is right for both the City and our neighborhoods. Representative Bill Aswad spoke briefly about his efforts to improve Vermont’s transportation resources. He advocated strongly for increased rail services and promised to continue doing so.
Open forum began with information from Wally Elliot and Bernie O’Rourke who serve on the School Board. Each expressed his personal support for the total improvement plans package developed by the school department. Each also emphasized the importance of public participation in the process and encouraged attendance at events that will address the details of the plans. It was noted that there will be meetings at Champlain School, Tuesday 9/23; Edmunds School, Wednesday 10/1, and Burlington High School, Thursday, 10/9. Each meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
Next Tom Papp, president of the Strathmore Community Association addressed the assembly. He reiterated his concerns about the city’s failures to enforce the development and zoning ordinances that apply to certificates of occupancy. He moved the following two resolutions which were seconded by Steve McIntyre and passed unanimously. Each resolution was discussed and voted on separately and affirmatively.
Resolution I: CODE ENFORCEMENT AND CERTIFICATES OF OCCUPANCY
WHEREAS, the Ward 4/7 NPA’s are extremely concerned about the underlying causes surrounding the issues with the Strathmore and Westlake projects, specifically as they relate to the lack of Code Enforcement and certificates of Occupancy
BE IT RESOLVED that the Ward 4/7 NPA wholeheartedly supports the City Council’s 7/14/08 resolution regarding the aforementioned and welcomes their efforts to improve and correct the process so that no homeowner in this city is ever forced to live in a gray area with regard to Certificates of Occupancy for their home.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the responsibility of meeting Zoning Permit conditions should always rest with the original permit holder/developer and the Town Clerk be directed that titles cannot be transferred unless and until all of the Building and Zoning Permit conditions are met, or a forfeitable completion guarantee bond and completion date is posted by the developer, and the buyer is made aware of the deficiencies in writing prior to purchasing.
Resolution II: OVERSIGHT COMMISSION OF CODE ENFORCEMENT
WHEREAS, the Code Enforcement Department does not report to a Commission or the City Council, but only to the Mayor
BE IT RESOLVED that in an effort to promote Open Government and fairness to all citizens, the Ward 4/7 NPAs request the creation of a permanent Code Enforcement Department Oversight Commission consisting of citizen volunteers appointed by the City Council. The commission’s duties shall include monitoring the department’s effectiveness, performance metrics and presiding over public appeals hearings regarding the actions or inactions of the department.
Mr. Papp was followed by information from the Fire Department. Fire Marshal Francis reported that the department is revising existing related ordinances. A draft of the proposed changes is available on the city’s website at the Fire Department’s page. The department is actively seeking input for changes. Ideas may be submitted to Fire Chief Mike O’Neil’s office in writing or by email. He pointed out that there will be two public hearings which are scheduled on 9/23 at Champlain School Gymnasium and on 9/25 at Lyman C. Hunt School regarding this matter.
We next heard comments from Nancy Powers of Ward 4 who has recently formed the group, Friends of Leddy Park. Nancy reminded us about the lack of community involvement in the Disc Golf course development. She praised the quick response of the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff to the demand from the public for a hearing which was well attended at Leddy Arena. However, she noted that the meeting concluded without a clear description of how the process will continue. Nancy like others is concerned that there may not be specific ways yet determined for direct public involvement. She stressed the need for clarity from the city administration and staff and its elected and appointed officials.
Nancy was followed by Parks and Recreation Commissioner, Dave Hartnett. Dave acknowledged that the initial decisions and actions by the commission and staff concerning Leddy park were a major “slip up”. Nevertheless, in his mind the meeting at Leddy Arena was a success. He pointed out that the Commission and all staff wants to hear from constituents. In fact, at the Leddy meeting everyone was invited to attend the next Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Tuesday 9/23. Dave stressed that over 200 written comments have been received and the commission expects to vet them all. Dave also stressed that in his opinion there no other hidden plans about which the public needs awareness that will be completed by the Parks and Recreation department.
Open Forum was closed at this point and we heard brief presentations by Mayor Bob Kiss and Steve McIntyre, NPA representative on the Temporary Open Government Committee established by the administration. Mayor Kiss first reviewed how the committee was formed. He pointed out that it consisted of 10 members and three of them were citizen representatives like Steve M. The other members were invited from city government and staff, the media, and the business community. The committee began its process by receiving input from city departments and eventually its focus landed on IT development in the city regardless of the department. The committee also held public hearings and compiled written comments from numerous sources in the city. Finally, the Mayor reiterated his position that he believes the city is doing a great job operating in the light with considerable transparency and he concludes that Burlington is a very openly governed city. He committed to keeping it that way.
Then Steve McIntyre presented his views about the experience of serving on the Open Government Committee. He reinforced the opinion that this committee was necessary due to long term process failures by the city. He stated that there was an obvious shortcoming of the committee which demonstrated by its lack of diversity among members. He also reported comments that he received about the lack of openness during the committee membership selection. He reminded us that the first meeting held for the public was not even posted on the city website, but should have been. He also opined that there was insufficient time to deliberate any matter during any meeting. For Steve, the lack of opportunities for deliberation among the committee was a serious deficiency of the process.
The remainder of discussion included questions and comments both pro and con toward the idea of establishing a permanent open government committee. Ideas like these were heard:
n All city staff and officials should be fully responsible without daily oversight
n What would be done with any concerns brought to this permanent committee?
n The committee would serve as a resource and could make recommendations to the City Council for improvements.
n How will accountability be measured?
n There would be considerable subjective processes combined with the legally required processes
n Were there any hidden agendas and do any remain? Answer: a flat NO to both
n What is the role of the NPAs in open government? Both the mayor and Rep. Bill Aswad affirmed the opinion that NPAs play a very important role in the process and it is expected that they will continue to do so in the future.
n All recommendation made by the temporary Open Government Committee will be vetted by the NPAs before being sent as a final package to the City Council. And all recommendations will be brought back to the NPAs when determined to be useful
n Any action(s) that will affect the citizenry and their neighborhoods or public spaces must be made public earlier. We should place emphasis on proaction rather than reaction. And along with this notion, keeping a positive and amicable attitude rather than becoming negative and adversarial will get us further in keeping governance open and make for better community participation.
n Several members spoke strongly in support of ending the committee process at this point but continuing the correction process to enhance the openness of governance. With adequate diligence, it was thought by these members that our confidence in the system can be restored.
n A full description of the assembly meeting packet was provided for the Channel 17 audience by Lea Terhune.
n Greg Jenkins offered the conclusion that if it is decided to establish a permanent Open Government Committee, it should be done with the idea in mind that the committee should not be needed in the first place.
Following questions and comments, Steve McIntyre moved the following resolution and was seconded by Michael Crane. Discussion led to acceptance by the maker of a friendly amendment that has been included below. At the final vote done by hand count, the resolution passed 16 yea to 12 nay.
Resolution: REQUESTING A PERMANENT OPEN GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE
WHEREAS Burlington City Council passed a resolution that created a temporary Open Government Committee that held meetings between the months of May and August of 2008, and
WHEREAS several issues brought before the Open Government Committee by the public and members of the committee were not fully addressed, and
WHEREAS all three members of the Open Government Committee who represented the public at large and the citizens of Burlington agreed that a permanent Open Government Committee be established, and
WHEREAS all three members of the Open Government Committee who represented the public at large and the citizens of Burlington opposed suggestions that the responsibilities of the committee should be delegated to an existing committee or to the City Council, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that the NPA of Wards 4 & 7 request all NPAs to participate in the creation of an Open Government Committee that is diverse and has representatives from each NPA Steering Committee chosen by each NPA Steering Committee to serve.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Open Government Committee creates a mission statement that is consistent with the resolution already passed by the City Council and that this committee will report directly to the City Council and the NPAs.
With the passage of the above resolution, Michael Crane came forward to offer another resolution to create a City Council appointed Task Force to provide oversight to the Leddy Park development of a Disc Golf Course. The resolution was moved by Michael and seconded by Steve McIntyre. After consideration and speak out by those still present it was agreed by voice acknowledgement to table the resolution until next month’s NPA meeting. It was further acknowledged that this tabling would allow time for the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff to advance the golf course development process without an additional layer of oversight. It was assumed that the best interests of the city and neighborhoods will be respected and protected by the existing systems of oversight, i.e. the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff, City Council and Friends of Leddy Park organization.
Resolution: Ward 4/7 NPA OVERSIGHT ON LEDDY PARK DEVELOPMENT
WHEREAS the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department has allowed tree cutting by a private non-profit organization for the purposes of creating an 18 hole disc golf course with no prior public meeting, and
WHEREAS the Parks and Recreation Commission allowed “preliminary approval” of such tree cutting without calling for a public meeting or requesting public comment, and
WHEREAS the Burlington City Ordinance § 3-203 states “…all public recreational activities hereafter sponsored by the city, shall be under management, care and control of the City Council…”, and
WHEREAS the Burlington City Ordinance § 3-207 states “…The city council shall have power to make and alter from time to time, all needful rules and regulations for the maintenance of order, safety and decency in said parks and for said recreational program…”, and
WHEREAS the Burlington City Ordinance § 3-209 states “…No shade or ornamental trees growing in the streets and public grounds of said city, shall be destroyed or removed except by leave in writing, first obtained from the City Council…”, and
WHERAS these ordinances were not followed during the decision process to construct a disc golf course in Leddy Park nor did any city officer or councilor inform the Neighborhood Planning Assembly (NPA) of said proposed disc golf development, and
WHEREAS the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies were established by the city of Burlington to “help improve communication between the citizens of Burlington and city government”,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The Wards 4 and 7 NPA herby requests that the City Council, under its authority, appoint a special Task Force to investigate the impacts of a disc golf course in Leddy Park.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT:
The Wards 4 and 7 NPA requests that this Task Force be made up of:
6 representatives from the Wards 4 and 7 NPA (3 from Ward 4, 3 from Ward 7)
2 representatives from Burlington Parks and Recreation
2 representatives from the Btown Disc Golf Club
2 representatives from the Parks and Recreation Commission
2 City Councilors (1 from Ward 4, 1 from Ward 7)
The Task Force shall be charged with directing and otherwise being fully involved with an independent study conducted by a neutral third party, and paid for by the course developers, that shall determine the environmental, social, recreational and fiscal impacts of a disc golf course in Leddy Park. The Task Force shall present the study’s findings to the public and the City Council. The City Council shall then determine if such a course is to be built. Until such time where the City Council will make this determination all work on the disc golf course in Leddy Park shall stop immediately.
The meeting closed with announcements.
1. There will be two programs that will be conducted at the Ethan Allen Residence on Poirier Place and North Avenue. They are Savvy Seniors a comedy presentation on 9/28 from 2 to 4 pm and Life Changes: A Guided Discussion on 10/12 from 2:30 to 4 pm.
2. Apple Tree Point Historical Society Annual Meeting will be held on Monday, September 22 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at the Ethan Allen Club, Burlington. The keynote speaker will be Professor Paul W. Wallace who will address archaeological research methodology and pursuit of the cabin of Felix Powell at Appletree Point in Burlington. The public are welcome.
3. The next meeting of the Assembly will be Thursday, October 16 at the Heineberg Center and will be focused on the general election and candidates who are running for offices at the time.
Alan Sousie, Ward 7