City Council Meeting

The big topic tonight was the southern connector. To continue or not to continue was the question. I went into this meeting with mixed feelings on the issue. On one hand, I felt that a lot of money had been put into this so far and people have put up with a lot already in hopes of improving the traffic in the area. It seems that quitting now would just be another example of how the city wastes so much money and doesn’t follow through. It makes us look really bad in my book. On the other hand, I’ve been told that a lot of people in the area where the connector will be built are opposed to the project for traffic and environmental concerns.

The points made by the city council discussion and public forum participants are below:

  • $11 million needed to finish project. 95% paid by federal government, 3% by state and 2% by city ($220,000). Supposed to be a good deal as the state and city would usually pay higher ratio. (80-10-10). The $220,000 would come from existing pool of money that is used for city maintenance. The money is minimal compared to our recent investments of $6-7 million for North St. and $3 million for bike path.
  • Low return on investment so far.
  • Joan Shannon – the city needs the extra federal funds for other projects along the project area. 
  • Kurt Wright asked if about obligations we would have to pay money back if we quit the project. It was suggested that this would be a possibility and could be a much greater burden to the city. 
  • Nancy Wood of the BBA stated that the city should go ahead with the project. That the project would: 
    • Reduce traffic through neighborhoods.
    • Champlain School would be safer for kids with less commercial traffic in front of it.
    • Increase park n’ ride for CCTA.
    • Strengthen commercial property tax base – would be a boost to commercial zone and help stimulate business.
    • Someone argued that the traffic on Pine Street is bad and that the project would actually make it worse. 
    • Ernie Pomerleau stated that there is currently no decent way to get into Burlington from the south. He spoke of how difficult it is for someone to give instructions to get downtown from the Price Chopper parking lot.  He believes the southern connector is necessary to better Burlington’s economy.
    • Another participant stated that the city needs to make sure that Pine Street businesses don’t get too inconvenienced by completing the project, that they don’t get put out of business while constructing.

Public Works presentation
Steve Goodkind presented on the needs for public works this winter season. Goodkind said we need spare vehicles for break downs. Public Works needs more staff and vehicles to keep up with snow and ice. Residents have commented that the snow doesn’t get plowed often enough… service needs to be better. People expect their roads to be plowed every 3-4 hours during a storm. This would mean doubling current staff/vehicles.

Public Works is also trying a new salt this year. Its supposed to be better, but costs more. Public Works will be trying presalting this year, which means you salt the roads before a storm. The idea behind it is that it keeps the roads clear of ice before it forms rather than putting it on top of it and having most of it plowed away later. This should save money and keep roads safer. However, the trick is to get out there quick enough before a storm takes effect… could also end up salting and have no storm.

Moran Plant findings
We heard some of the results from the recent Moran Plant public forums. Many people wanted the land to be able to be used by all citizens. The top choice by far was a park of some sort along with observation deck and gardens. One odd finding was that many people did want the project to increase jobs and tax revenues, but selected the park as the project, which of course doesn’t go together.

Possession/Use of Bow and Arrow, Airguns Banned
The city council voted to ban the use of bow and arrow and airguns within Burlington. Councilor Ashe was the only dissenting vote. Ashe stated that he would have a hard time telling many residents, particular off north ave that have all the targets in their backyards that they cannot practice anymore. I was quite surprised by the vote. I believed that the two Republicans, Curley and Wright would have at least been against it, as usually you can count on Republicans to support the right to bear arms, right?

From the discussion it appears that this whole thing started with some kid shooting an airgun through a neighbor’s window and the police said there was nothing they could do. Isn’t this trespassing and reckless behavior? Surely, they could have done something about it, but just didn’t want to. So, now everyone must be punished and lose property rights because some kid did something irresponsible and the police didn’t want to do anything about it.

There was no mention of still having the right to use them to defend yourself… do we still have this right??

Outsourcing in Burlington
The city council approved an ordinance to only hire US firms and US citizens for city work and projects with an exemption for Canada. Fiermonte, Ashe and McDonough were opposed to the Canadian exemption. They want strictly US employees and firms only. Montroll spoke for the exemption stating that Canada is already a firm trading partner with us and that the Canadians are “more like us”, unlike Mexicans, and should be exempted. However, he did add that under NAFTA rules excluding Mexico may be illegal, but he thought the city could get away with it because no one would call them on it.

I was shocked by these statements. I found them elitist and racist. We are nation of many backgrounds and nationalities. Many people here came from different countries and for the government to pick and choose which countries to do business with our tax dollars is not ethical.

If this ordinance is in fact violating the NAFTA agreement, we should not be doing it. How can the city government break the law, just because they can get away with it?? What kind of example are they setting??

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