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Eli Lesser-Goldsmith
Thursday, January 15, 2009
After wrapping up my show last Saturday at The Radiator on College Street, I stopped in to Stone Soup next door to get a cup of coffee. Inside I ran into Democratic Ward Seven city council candidate Eli Lesser-Goldsmith (photo right) and sat down with him for an impromptu interview.

He showed me a copy of his fist piece of campaign literature and I asked him how the door knocking was going. Although he said that by Saturday he had only knocked on about 100 doors so far, Eli was adamant that he will knock on every door in the ward at least two times. It's an ambitious goal in Ward Seven, which has the largest land area and least population density of any ward. When I mentioned this he said "I'm undaunted."

When the conversation moved to issues Eli outlined three main areas he wants to work on.

This first of the three was development. Lesser-Goldsmith says he supports building new senior housing at the site of the Motor Vehicles Department on North Avenue, but that most new development should take place downtown. He says the city "could have done a better job" on the recent zoning re-write and that it should have been more lax in terms of parking requirements. He believes that Planning and Zoning should be merged into Public Works and that "design review is a thorn in the side for a lot of people." He says permitting should be a faster process and gives Burlington developers credit for being "tenacious" in the face of cumbersome regulations.

The second issue Eli touched on was jobs. He said higher, denser buildings downtown would provide more room for business to grow, citing Fuse marketing as an example of a company recently forced to move out of the city because they could not find the office space in Burlington they needed. He said the city needs to attract new businesses and that he could personally act as a "go-between" toward that end.

Our jobs discussion moved tangentially toward the issue of transportation. Eli said "the fact that we have only one bus line in the new north end is a total joke." He said he'd like to see changes in the funding structure of CCTA to make federal funds correlate to ridership, and more park and ride facilities just outside the city to alleviate traffic congestion.

The third thing Lesser-Goldsmith promises to focus on if elected is the issue of parks and the waterfront. I of course tried to sell him on the idea of stairs from Battery Park to the Waterfront and he seemed to like the concept. We discussed making the College Street Shuttle more user friendly by bringing the drop-off / pick-up point back to the loop near the boathouse. This had been the bus stop in the past, Eli said, but traffic problems forced the bus stop to move to its current location at One Main Street. We discussed gating the loop as a possible means to avoid those past problems. "The waterfront has been a huge missed opportunity for the City of Burlington" Eli said. "The more people we get to the waterfront the better."

He said the "North 40" should be cleaned up and turned into a giant park for the time being. When I asked if he supported the Moran Plant redevelopment as it's proceeding, he said he liked the idea of re-using the building. Noting that the process is already underway he said "Sometimes when you're given lemons, you have to make lemonade- let's embrace that." But while he supports the proposed sailing center as an appropriate use of the building, he is much less enthusiastic about the climbing wall and children's museum proposals. Instead he said he prefers to see a mixed use for the building that would include high-end condominiums, a cafe and an observation deck.

Wrapping up our discussion, we touched on the topic of government transparency and responsiveness. He liked my idea of an official online forum where city officials could discuss issues online, in writing and in real time. He even went so far as saying he would actually blog live from the city council meetings themselves. When I suggested some might say this would distract from his duties as a councilor, he assuredly replied "I can multi-task." "If elected" he proclaimed, "I'll be the most easy-to-communicate-with city councilor Burlington has ever seen."

Labels:

posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 3:06 PM  
6 Comments:
  • At January 15, 2009 10:29 PM, Blogger Taylor said…

    High rises in Burlington, really?

     
  • At January 15, 2009 10:59 PM, Anonymous jonas said…

    I had heard a few years back of a plan to substantially increase the population of Burlington (I assume as an economic boost). The plan included high rises and the like.

    So, with VT's great employment, and pro-business atmosphere fostered by the state, it seemed like a fool-proof plan.

    Or...something.

     
  • At January 16, 2009 12:26 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    I don't think Eli was talking about high rise apartment buildings per se, just about greater density downtown generally. And I think that's part of what the recent zoning changes did.

     
  • At January 16, 2009 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    that's a good picture of ELI. he should use it for the flyer.

     
  • At January 21, 2009 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Burlington City Council faces change

    By John Briggs • Free Press Staff Writer • January 21, 2009

    The voting for city elections March 3 are inconsequential in one respect: regardless of how people vote, the City Council will have at least five new faces. The council will also have a new president.

    Seven of the 14 council seats come up for election each year. In March, only two of the seven incumbents are running for reelection.

    Independent Sharon Bushor, the incumbent in Ward 1, faces Green candidate Jerri Kohl. In Ward 5, Democrat Joan Shannon in Ward 5 is campaigning for a fourth term against Green Party candidate Lisa Ann Oberbrunner.

    Five current councilors, however, are leaving.

    Veterans Andy Montroll, D-Ward 6, and Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4, the council president, are running for mayor. Though one of them may move to the mayor’s seat on the half-moon council table in Contois Auditorium, the council will lose Montroll and Wright’s counsel on how Burlington’s sometimes quirky government works in practice.

    Democrat Mary Kehoe and Green candidate Kim Mason are running for Montroll’s council seat.

    In Ward 4, Republican Eleanor Kenworthy, currently a member of the Development Review Board, is running to replace Wright. She is currently unopposed.

    Jane Knodell, a Progressive, has represented Ward 2 since 1993 (with a break from 1997-1999). She generally ran unopposed. A University of Vermont economist, she gave the council budget and economic insights independent of the administration. Democrat Nicole Peltier and Green candidate Gregory Knops are running for her position.

    In Ward 3, Progressive Tim Ashe decided against running again after winning election in November to the state senate. School Board member Marrisa Caldwell, a Progressive, and Democrat David Cain are running to fill the Old North End council seat.

    In Ward 7, Republican Craig Gutchell is leaving after a single term. Democrat Eli Lesser-Goldsmith and Republican Vince Dober are running for that seat.

    Wright, the departing council president, endorsedWard 3 Progressive Clarence Davis as his pick for that job.

    “I’ve encouraged Clarence,” he said, “and I think he’s the best person for the job. I think he would do a fantastic job. You want someone who can bring people together and can work in a productive, non-partisan way.”

    City councilors choose a fellow councilor each year as president.

    Wright noted that Davis would be the first African-American council president in Burlington — a nice mesh, he said, with Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday as the country’s first black president.

    Davis couldn’t be reached Tuesday for comment.

    jbriggs@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com.

     
  • At January 21, 2009 7:32 PM, Anonymous Ivan Jacobs said…

    Not mentioned in today's article for some reason: Emma Mulvaney-Stanek is running in Ward 2 as a Progressive.

     
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