Monday, June 11, 2012

Assessing Burlington's Fresh Start

After two months Mayor Miro Weinberger flashed a big smile and said, “I’m still loving it, but it has been quite intense.” 
     Then he listed some of the city business that has dominated his days and nights – finding enough savings to avoid a tax increase (check), reviewing every department with the city council to prepare a new budget (underway), reviewing and offering a list of key staff appointments (a bit late), and what he now calls “the self-inflicted” July 1 deadline for reaching a decision on whether to pursue or abandon a redevelopment plan for the Moran generating station on the waterfront....

In this clip from the Maverick Media/VTDigger interview with Miro Weinberger, Burlington's new mayor reveals his least favorite word, his favorite sound, the other job he’d love to do, and what he’d like to hear God say. It comes from part four of a new video, "Assessing Burlington's Fresh Start." To watch the complete interview look below or visit Maverick's YouTube Channel: Opening Segment. For the accompanying two-part feature article go to VTDigger:
Part One: Promises vs. Realities
     Looking back at an early decision to request a higher salary for his City Attorney pick, Mayor Weinberger draws some lessons. The new mayor admits that he didn’t fully appreciate the City Council’s interest in the position – or the mixed message it sent to other employees and the public. Looking forward, he hints at a pending decision about the future of the Moran plant. Weinberger claims that progress is being made after what he calls the discord and low morale of the last administration, and mentions a kiosk parking meter system and parking garage automation as areas for potential savings. Faced with staff, budget and tax decisions in his first 90 days he explains the decision to delay a promised summit on the pension fund until fall. (9:28)

Part Two: Housing
     About 40 percent of downtown Burlington could have more development that is totally consistent with the character of Burlington, says Miro Weinberger. The new mayor speaks enthusiastically about Plan BTV as a process for reaching community consensus on what the city should look like in the future.  He argues that the “major driver” of housing costs is unpredictable zoning rules. Asked about new occupancy limits under discussion by the City Council he makes a case against a change that he predicts will reduce the number of people living in some neighborhoods. Weinberger also talks about encouraging plans by Champlain College to develop the old Ethan Allen and Eagles Clubs, with a goal of potentially housing 100 percent of its students. (7:40)

Part Three: Development
Mayor Weiberger discusses promising projects, unfinished waterfront business, and the real threat to keeping the city affordable. He begins with enthusiasm for a proposed remodeling of City Hall Park, and then talks about discussions with the Pecor family about development of a key property between the Echo Center and ferry dock. “We’re not going to start putting up buildings on Waterfront Park,” he promises. But he thinks that attitudes are changing and people today want more opportunities to enjoy themselves. On gentrification, he argues that the greater risk in a desirable place like Burlington is that not allowing enough growth will make existing housing stock more expensive. (6:23)

Part Four: Race, F-35s and Favorite Things
In the final minutes Mayor Miro Weinberger explains his support for basing F-35s at the airport, uncertainty about the future of the Air Guard, and his belief that noise impacts can be reduced.  Turning to local tensions growing from racism and harassment in the schools he holds back from endorsing a contract extension for Superintendent Collins. But he remains hopeful that her new plan will offer a way forward. Although saying that he is active behind the scene he declines to say much and describes himself as a relative newcomer to the issue. The interview concludes with spontaneous answers to the series of questions made famous on the TV show, “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” (9:56)

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