Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss Speaks to the BBA

Mayor Bob Kiss - Burlington, VermontHeavenly and I attended the regular monthly Burlington Business Association (BBA) meeting this morning where Bob Kiss, Burlington’s new mayor, was the guest speaker and main event. Following is my account of his speech and Q/A…

Kiss stated that the best thing city can do is provide good and efficient services such as public works, police, fire, electricity (low rates), neighborhood schools (which contribute to good education), public transportation and telecommunications (through Burlington Telecom). These services must be provided efficiently. Our challenges as a city are in childcare and healthcare. While Burlington cannot do it alone, the city needs to be more aggressive towards coming up with a solution for the healthcare crisis.

Kiss’s major goal is more social equity in Burlington — to lesson the gap between the rich and the poor.

Burlington budgeting problems are going to be his major initial focus. He believes the local option sales tax will help and he will look for alternative ways to increase the tax revenue for the city, other than the property tax. Kiss is confident that the state will approve Burlington’s request for the local option sales tax. Kiss stated that the local option sales tax is capped at 1%… it’s not open-ended.

Kiss stated that he’s not looking to change much of the current city staff – he wants to work with the existing staff to make positive changes.


Preferred method of communication?
By email, he just got his new email address: [email protected]. You may also contact him by phone: 802-865-7272, City Hall: 149 Church Street
Burlington, VT 05401 Web: http://www.ci.burlington.vt.us/mayor/

Recently the city published a report that suggested capping the budget increases as 3%/year and reducing city staff to 2000 levels. Do you support this?
The city should strive for these goals. City employee benefits are major factor with the budget. The city needs more taxing and funding sources to meet needs.

Affordable housing?
Currently the city is short 21,000 rental and 12,000 home purchase opportunities. Burlington has made great progress towards affordable housing. Kiss hopes for more help from the state government for Burlington Community Land Trust to create more housing. Kiss also wants the zoning rewrite to allow more density throughout the city so more units can be built.

Business in Burlington?
Burlington needs more space for business. Again, Burlington’s zoning needs to allow more density so more businesses can open and expand. The city needs to continue to help grow small (micro) businesses.

The city’s infrastructure is critical for people and businesses locating in Burlington. Kiss stated if he could fill every hole tomorrow he would.

Why do you think you could be mayor?
What do you bring to the table? Kiss cited his 25 years in human services and 12 years managing a larger non-profit as providing him good experience which should translate well in managing the city of Burligton.

Burlington Telecom – what are the long term goals and how will it be financed?
Burlington Telecom is financed by a $20 million bond and the hope is that the revenue will be enough to meet the payments. However, the city is not responsible for the bonds, but Burlington Telecom will be part of the city government. Burlington Telecom will provide cable, phone and internet services to Burlington residents.

What are your thoughts on Northern Lights on Cherry Street and the State Mental Hospital locating at Fletcher Allen?
Northern Lights is a proposed half-way house for released female offenders. Kiss stressed his support for the project as he believes it’s our duty to provide capacity for offenders to be reintroduced into society in order for them to be successful. However, both projects need to be well run and fully funded. Kiss is pleased that the Burlington Housing Authority is a partner in this… this speaks very well of Burlington. Kiss also stated that the U.S. in general is failing in corrections in that far too many released offenders return to prison within a year for repeat offenses. There needs to be more support for them after being released so they are successful and not likely to re-offend.

Your thoughts on the Moran Plant and the Waterfront?
Kiss appreciates how inclusive our waterfront is and wants to keep it inclusive. Kiss wants the opportunity for everyone to use the waterfront and he is very happy with the success so far.

Business plan for city?
Kiss wants to think fresh about Burlington and he will open up discussion with the Burlington businesses regarding his plan.

End of Q/A

Please feel free to post your comments.

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14 Responses to Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss Speaks to the BBA

  • Aaarrrgghhh!  Where to start?

    < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> 

    Okay first, thanks for posting this.  It is so awesome that you guys get out to all these meetings and keep the rest of us informed.


    He says, “Our challenges as a city are in childcare and healthcare.  While < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Burlington cannot do it alone, the city needs to be more aggressive towards coming up with a solution for the healthcare crisis.”  But then when asked about potholes, he offers this lame cop-out: Kiss stated if he could fill every hole tomorrow he would.


    News flash, Mayor Kiss – it’s the Mayor’s job to fill the damn potholes!  Here’s a solution to make sure everyone has healthcare: the state government already offers health insurance to anyone earning less than 185% of the poverty level (and much higher for children), most jobs that pay more than that offer health insurance, and there is a clinic on Riverside Ave that offers a sliding-fee scale for those without insurance.  Healthcare problem solved.  Now get to work on those potholes!


    The other thing that irks me is his micro-management of what businesses the city will support.  This is the second time this week he has referred to the city helping to grow small businesses.  How about the city stops trying to control the business community and let it grow itself?


    And his solution to the housing crisis is the Burlington Community Land Trust?  Oy vey!  I can’t write any more because I am giving myself a headache just thinking about it.


    I am going to go flog myself for giving him my second place vote.  WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?!?!?!?

  • Yes, I too had a lot of concerns about things he said. It certainly sounds to me that he wants bigger government. More government control and/or influence over housing and business. When the opposite is what’s needed for both to thrive. Taxation and regulation needs to be reduced for housing to flourish and be affordable. While lessoning zoning density requirements is much needed, his bigger government mentality will most likely scare away future business development and housing creation. The < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Burlington government needs to stick to things such as police, fire, public works and road (the potholes) and let the market handle the rest.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


    One thing that is commendable, is his honesty. He could of came into the meeting and told everyone what they wanted to hear. He most likely knew that the BBA opposed the local option sales tax, but he still praised it and stressed his strong support for it as well as other alternative taxes.


    However, it’s scary to think that Kiss and his administration will be spending their time thinking up new ways to increase taxes and funding rather than reducing the costs associated with the city budget. How can Burlington ever be more affordable while taxation and government interference are always increasing?

  • Hey guys,

    Just thought I’d mention that Bob repeatedly defined his view of the government as ‘good government’.

    Also, I’ve made a personal observations of the meeting at my blog, which you can visit by clicking on my name.

  • Burlington’s population: July 2004: 38,934

    <i>Currently the city is short 21,000 rental and 12,000 home purchase opportunities.</i>

    I’m confused.  I’m assuming a population of 38,934 includes students some of whom are housed on-campus and that of the 38,934 individuals some of these are part of households.

    Affordable housing is a problem but how are they arriving at this statistic. 

  • Sorry about the italizing. (Not sure how to undo </i>)

  • Interesting. Your post starts out saying how answers to Q&A are “my account of his speech and Q/A”, yet that first person who posted treats your comments as quotes then has an e-tantrum.

    Maybe you can help me out with some questions I have after reading the original post:

    1) When you say, “It certainly sounds to me that he wants bigger government,” it makes me wonder: who WOULDN’T you say this about? You’re a Libertarian.
    2) How long did the meeting last (not including the 10-minute delay)?
    3) Were there really only 10 questions asked?
    4) Anticipating an hour-long meeting and the brief responses to only 10 questions, the time just doesn’t add up. What else did Bob say?
    5) Did you go in with an agenda so as to report only the responses you didn’t like? Guess it’s your prerogative since it’s your blog, but unbiased it is not.
    6) Your premise appears to be that Bob Kiss believes in bigger government. Is this your forecast for Burlington’s new mayor? If so, I’m curious to know if you forecasted the opposite (smaller govt) when Bush was elected in 2000. Just looking for a track record here….


  • Nice to know the health care problem is solved.  Thanks, Charity.  Wouldn’t you be happier if they changed the ridiculous non-system so that so much of your precious money didn’t go to some insurance company?  You think the insurance industry is trickling down a bunch of jobs.  No, I have a feeling the money only makes more money for them.  People in Burlington will be better off with Mayor Kiss.  The majority of them will be very happy and there will be a few of them that are sore because they have to pay some frigging taxes.  You’ll live.

  • Regarding the housing need stats… I’m not sure how Kiss got these numbers, it was not explained. I just talked with my wife, who also attended, and it’s possible he may have been referring to < ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Vermont needs.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


    The speech and the Q/A did not take the whole hour. There were introductions by Nancy Wood and Tim Halverson, brief business talk and a customer service award honoring Kiss the Cook, which was presented by Kiss. Yes, I’m a Libertarian and I do look at things I see through the eyes of a Libertarian. However, the initial post was reported as I heard it and as fast I could write while questions were being asked and answered so I wrote down the best points being made, but I did include every question and the main points of his answers to each question.


    At this point, I do believe that Kiss will be for bigger government in most cases as it appears that he really believes that more government would solve our city’s problems and create a better quality of life for its citizens.


    No, I did not forecast a smaller government under Bush’s rule and I didn’t vote for Bush either.


    I appreciate everyone who’s reading the posts and a big thanks to you all for participating!

  • Wouldn’t you be happier if they changed the ridiculous non-system so that so much of your precious money didn’t go to some insurance company?”< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


    Let’s see.  In 2003, I had a baby.  I paid a total of $15 out-of-pocket for everything, including monthly pre-natal visits, the delivery (including pain medication), and an extended three-day hospital stay.  If you factor in the cost of insurance, which was used for other things as well, it was still less than $4,000. (I can’t remember off the top of my head exactly what I was paying then.)  Sounds like a darn good deal.


    In 2001, I was paying $60/month for insurance for me and my two kids.  I started getting migraines.  I went to the doctor weekly for two months and saw three specialists.  I also had an MRI.  Granted, I had a $15 co-pay for many of the doctor visits, but still a darn good deal.


    Go to a hospital some time and just walk the halls and look at all of the technology.  How do you think that gets paid for? 


    Health insurance is a great investment.  I have no problem paying for it.  If the people providing it are making a profit, good for them.  It’s a win-win for consumer and supplier.


    I would much rather have our current “non-system” then have to wait an average of 6-9 months for an MRI like they do in Canada.  I got mine within a few days of the doctor ordering it.

  • You’re a lucky, lucky girl.

  • Just looking for a track record here”
    “You’re a lucky, lucky girl.”

    I agree that context, or a “track record,” helps to frame a poster’s comments if it’s offered. If you think she’s “lucky” because she and her husband made sure they had health insurance before having a child, then we certainly have yours. *plonk*

  • They’re pretty damn lucky they can afford it.

  • You can’t afford $75/month for state-subsidized health insurance? You honestly can’t muster all of your resources and find a way to earn an extra $75? Might be time to look at priorities. Your rent’s going up more than that with the next property tax increase anyway.

  • They’re pretty damn lucky they can afford it. 

    Wha’?!!  Health insurance for $75 isn’t something reserved for a lucky few.  75$ is a small price to pay to insure a family and people should budget accordingly. 

    Honestly, people could save well over 75$ a month by cutting coupons and buying groceries in bulk at hannaford (none of this overpriced co-op garbage in fancy organic packaging).  They could also save seventy five dollars by not eating dinner out (two meals a month (out) for a family of four is at least 75$).  There are so many ways to cut out excess spending – you’d be an idiot not to try.  There’s no excuse to not pay for coverage as cheap as that.  There’s no excuse not to pay for coverage period.  If people have kids, they have to be responsible and suck it up.  Luck has nothing to do with it.

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