Thursday, January 29, 2015

Greg Guma for Mayor: Restore NPA Funding

At the Ward 4 / 7 Neighborhood Planning Assembly mayoral forum last night, I announced my support for a resolution passed by the NPA Steering Committee requesting $5,000 a year per NPA to make small grants to community projects.

After the NPA resolution was passed at the group’s quarterly meeting on December 3, 2014, ALL candidates for mayor were asked by the Steering Committee to take a position of the issue. However, when the topic was raised last night, Mayor Weinberger and Steve Goodkind said nothing.
In 1976, as Burlington Youth Coordinator, I worked with the city’s Youth Council and the City Council to look for ways to coordinate programs and services. At that time the Council adopted a resolution that endorsed the concept of neighborhood assemblies. However, it took more than five years and a different mayor to achieve that.

Watch the Debate
At the start each NPA was allocated at least $15,000 to disburse. A large number of initiates were funded, from tree grates to bus shelters and play grounds. But funding gradually declined over the years, and ended completely in 2011. Today each NPA receives just $400, barely enough to cover meeting expenses.
As the NPA Steering Committee noted in its resolution, “de-funding of the NPAs has removed a vital incentive for citizen attendance and participation. When the NPA was a space for the discussion and possible funding of neighborhood improvements, there was a sense that one’s participation could meaningfully shape the future of the neighborhood.”
I agree with the group’s conclusion that small, high-impact grants via NPAs will both improve neighborhoods and revitalize these vital institutions. The amount of funding requested is modest and reasonable, but the impacts would be enormous.
The NPA request concludes by urging each candidate to consider the proposal and respond. Yet the mayor did not comment, and Goodkind focused instead on more administrative consolidation as his priority. I strongly disagree, and noted last night that the Progressive administrations he served centralized too much power in the executive branch, rather that decentralizing power and broadening participation.
Restored funding for NPAs is a small step in the right direction.
During the forum, I also supported two local ballot items – an advisory vote on non-citizen voting and participation on boards and other city bodies – called for raising the local minimum wage, and said zoning for the South End’s industrial/cultural enterprise zone that keeps it affordable for artists and other innovators should not be changed, as is currently being considered.
I again called on the city to become more involved in the future of 33 acres in the North End owned by Burlington College. This is also an issue for the Ward 4 / 7 NPA. At a recent meeting, the NPA asked for more accountability for funds expended to conserve land and open space, and the use of such funds to leverage conservation of the BC/Diocese fields for public use, as well as the other remaining open space, forest, waterfront shoreline, and historical areas on the site.
Mayor Weinberger and Mr. Goodkind also chose to say nothing about that.
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