April 2024 Debrief

First, we ONE councilors and the other members of the Progressive Council Caucus want to thank voters again for your vote of confidence in electing us. We believe our mandate from you and those who we share this community with is to do our best to provide for the common good regardless of income, housing status, sexual orientation, gender identity, race or ethnicity, immigration status, or political alignment. We Progressives have five councilors and the Democrats seven. We are ready to move forward across party lines & put people before politics. 

Our first meeting started with the swearing-in ceremony of Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Burlington’s first out queer, woman mayor, and ward councilors, newly elected & re-elected ones. After this, we elected the council president, Ben Traverse, and council’s members to the Board of Finance. 

Council committees are appointed by the president after consultation with councilors. Most have three councilors. The Transportation, Energy, & Utilities Committee (TEUC) has four and the Board of Finance has 3 councilors (Kane, Barlow, & Carpenter) plus Mayor Mulvaney-Stanak, & newly elected Council President Traverse.

For a full listing of council committees, go to City Council Standing Committees | City of Burlington, Vermont (burlingtonvt.gov)

Our first substantive working meeting was on April 15. To see the agenda and posted materials, go to Regular City Council Meeting • City of Burlington 149 Church St. | Burlington, VT 05401 | 802-865-7000 • CivicClerk  There were three major issues we’d like to summarize. 

First, we discussed the proposed sale of the city-owned building at 200 Church Street. This was purchased in 2005 for the formerly municipally-owned broadband provider Burlington Telecom’s (BT’s) Network Operations Center. The Community Justice Center and Human Resources Department also occupy offices there. The cost of fixing the HVAC, roof, and other building systems due to deferred maintenance is the major driver of the proposed sale, which was only brought to the Council by Miro’s administration late last month despite the serious issues with the building.

Our caucus voiced concerns over selling public property and expressed a desire to explore federal grants for climate-related municipal building upgrades instead of selling a building that will likely see a significant increase in value over time, especially given the significant investments underway in the downtown core at City Place & the ‘Memorial block’. A decision is pending.

Next, Darren Springer, Burlington Electric Department’s General Manager, provided an annual update on Burlington’s Net Zero Energy (NZE) Road Map. Despite the progress made, we are not on track to meet the plan’s goals. Greenhouse gas emissions in the ground transportation & the thermal/building sectors are down 18.2% in 2023 relative to the 2018 baseline but almost half of that decrease can be attributed to unusually warm winters. Our natural gas consumption is nearly 1 billion BTU above our goal and our CO2 emissions are exceeding the goal by 50,000 metric tons in the thermal & ground transportation sectors. We expressed this concern.

During the update, we voiced how important the workers who do the weatherization needed to meet our thermal/building goals are. We are behind these goals and GM Springer said that workforce is the primary impediment to weatherizing buildings at the rate needed to accomplish the NZE goals. 

Our councilors advocated for more frequent updates on our climate progress, acknowledging that we are grateful to have a forward-thinking community and hopeful that we can close the gaps to adequately address the climate crisis. We will continue working with climate advocates & city employees to ensure we close these gaps and  lead on climate. To hear more from former Progressive City Councilor Hightower & Newly-elected Councilor Neubieser go to https://youtu.be/U8bPcGtFOgQ?si=utYt3UwR6r9TYzou 

The last major item was the Vermont Transportation Agency’s (VTRANS) and DPW staff recommendation to approve the funding & maintenance agreement to replace the Winooski Bridge. It is widely agreed that the bridge has major defects and is not safe for pedestrians and bikers. The council voted unanimously to approve the agreement, in part based on staff representations that the design is still being finalized and can be improved to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety. The estimated project costs range between $60 & $80 million with the City’s share being only 5% based on a Federal RAISE Grant of $24.8 million was secured in 2023. Construction is slated to commence in late 2027 & conclude in late 2029. 

We hope this is helpful in understanding our work. Feel free to contact us to discuss the council’s work in more detail. It is an honor to represent you. Thank you.

Gene, Melo, Joe, Carter, and Marek