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Coalition for a Livable City Survey Answers
Monday, February 01, 2021

Coalition for a Livable City
March 2021 Town Meeting Candidate Questionnaire
Please return your questionnaire by February 2nd, 2021

The Coalition for a Livable City is a collection of civic activist groups working to help Burlington become a safer, more affordable, enjoyable and just city. If you seek our endorsement for your candidacy, please answer the following brief questionnaire.
Your name __________Haik Bedrosian___________________
The office you seek _____Mayor_________________________

COVID RESPONSE 

As we face both health and economic problems of the COVID-19 crisis, how should the City government respond? Are current responses adequate?

The city should be, and is coordinating testing and vaccination events, and food and shelter responses for the most affected. I don't know if the current responses are adequate but the administration's efforts appear well organized and robust to me.  I think Miro deserves a lot of credit for his Covid response.

How do we monitor Eldercare Homes better, now that we know it is necessary?


I think we've known it's necessary for a long time.  The reality is that better care reduces profits for eldercare companies and therein lies the conflict of interest that has regularly produced tragic outcomes since long before the pandemic.  

It seems to me this industry must be more highly regulated, more highly monitored, punished more severely for infractions, and pay for all this oversight on themselves through higher fees and taxes.  Attracting and retaining adequate staff levels will require Eldercare companies to pay caregivers more.  All of these things will reduce the profits of these companies and they will resist them.

GOVERNANCE
 
Burlington has a “strong mayor/weak council” form of government. Other towns in the area have a council/manager form which gives more executive power to the council.  Do you see a need to change the structure of our City government?  If so, how?  If not, why not ?

I think it's absurd that four members of the council represent the same number of people as the other eight.  In my opinion every city council should represent the same number of people to eliminate any question of varying moral authority.

I would not grant more power to the city council unless they decide to pay themselves a full time living wage and hire an adequate staff  in order to use the  power responsibly and effectively.  

Are you satisfied with the way City departments currently address ongoing challenges: street and sidewalk repair, removal and replacement of trees, wastewater treatment, public parks and beaches?  Would you change it?  How?

New housing requires expanded wastewater treatment capacity with traditional methods, and any new and better methods we can find.  I would consider a moratorium on new housing construction until we can go one whole year without a sewage discharge into the lake.
 
Given the present economic realities, what is your view of the reconstruction of  Burlington High School, a project for which voters approved a $70 million bond issue last year?

My view as that we should of course build a new Burlington High School.  $70 million is a reasonable amount for a project of this size and scope and we have to do it.  Is Vermont's largest city not going to have a high school?  Of course we are.  We owe it to the future.  If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Do you support eliminating or weakening Act 250 environmental protection  standards for downtown construction projects?  

I don't think so, but I would have to look the specifics of a given proposal.

Will you review the charter language for the city arts department to see that it reflects fair service to all art forms?  (Currently, it is dominated by very few.)

Sure, why not?  Promising to review something is about the easiest thing a politician can do.

How would you improve public and private collaboration in this field?

I don't know.
 
Will your administration help establish methods for consistent responses to public input?  (It has been dominantly inconsistent.)

Okay.
 
Will you improve the regional equity of public participation in government decision-making by ensuring each Ward has representation on City Commissions?

I don't know how to ensure there will always be a volunteer from every ward, for every commission,
 
Will you improve public participation in City decision-making by setting term limits for Commission seats?

I'm not sure term limits would accomplish that goal, so probably not.

CHAMPLAIN PARKWAY

​The $90+ million Champlain Parkway’s obsolete design is parked in US District Court, and idles in a second year of a national Environmental Justice review — due to our Pine Street Coalition pointing to federal regulations having changed since the 2009 environmental document, which was the basis for the road splitting the King-Maple neighborhood in two, always opposed by the City.  

Consensus now emerges to revise the design to bypass 26% minority King-Maple by connecting Pine Street at Curtis Lumber to Battery Street, through the railyard, (also favored by our City).  The current design has not an inch of sidewalk, not an inch of safe, separate bikeway.  This is unacceptable.

a.  Do you support and will you work for the Parkway re-design, a “Right Way,” bypassing minority/low-income King-Maple by way of the Railyard, thereby decreasing traffic through King-Maple?     Yes  ____     No  ____

Probably, but I would have to study the issue more.

b.  Do you support and will you fight for a sidewalk and separate safe bikeway along the Parkway route?  
Yes  ____     No  ____


Yes.

c.  Do you support and will you fight for roundabouts and other safe intersections which cut climate change emissions, in support of both the City's policies of Climate Emergency and Racism as a Public Health Emergency?  
Yes  ____     No  ___


I'm not sure how I feel about roundabouts.  I'd have to look at it on a case by case basis.

F-35

In 2018, Burlington citizens at town meeting and the Burlington City Council both adopted resolutions asking the U.S. Air Force to "request the cancellation of the planned basing of the F-35 at Burlington International Airport, and request instead low noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record appropriate for a densely populated area."  The resolution was adopted by over 55% of the voters, despite $100,000 spent to help defeat the resolution.  

(a) If elected, will you take action or support measures to terminate F-35 training  operations at the City's airport? Yes ___ No ___  

No.

(b) Will you speak out or campaign in favor of halting F-35 training at the City's airport? Yes _ No__  

No.

(c) If you answered No to (a), what do you feel overrides the will of the people?

You cited the voters request to cancel the “planned basing” that has happened, past tense.  That “cancellation” request was ignored by the Air Force, and is now moot.  To my knowledge there has not been a new resolution passed by voters that request the removal of the F35 now that it's based here.

Generally speaking I'm not interested in this issue.  I agree the plane is way too loud and I would look for ways to work with the Air Force on that problem, but any efforts to make this plane go away would almost certainly fail, and it's not clear to me that “not in my back yard” is a morally superior attitude than agnosticism on the F35.  The world does not become any safer or better if the planes simply move to another town.

How should the City respond to the presence of 20 F-35 fighter/bombers at BIA?


Work with Air Force to mitigate noise concerns as much as possible.

POLICING
 
Like the rest of the country, Burlington is addressing proposals to change what policing means to a community. What is your vision for appropriate policing, including the size of the Police force and its range of duties, such as presence in public schools?  

Except for the last few years, I seem to recall there have always been between 90 and 100 cops in Burlington.  That seems about right to me, but what do I know?  I don't know the right number of sidewalk plow drivers to hire either, or the right number of electric lineman but we've been a city since 1865 and these things tend to work themselves out.

Simply reducing the number of police does not qualify as police reform.  Increasing the number might make more training and education easier.  Paying them more would help retention and reduce stress levels.

We should improve body cam systems so they don't need to be turned on and can't be turned off.  Audio should never be turned off either.  Body cam footage should be treated as public record. Redaction should be rare and applied with consistent standards only when absolutely necessary.  Cops should always be willing to identify themselves. Police should know there are consequences for discouraging citizens from filming them, unless there is a legitimate safety reason to do so.  Alternative means of non-lethal force like martial arts should be explored.   Every effort should be made to recruit a diverse force.  We should return to using the brightly colored police patch with the Ethan Allen Tower on it, which presented a much friendlier image and tone than the current patch with dark tones and Gotham skyline.

What is your plan for increased transparency of City government and Police dept.?


I think it might be a good idea to make the police commission an elected body, and give it ultimate responsibility for the department, including hiring, firing, and discipline.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Burlington (and greater Vermont) is experiencing a housing crisis as the gap widens between wages and housing costs.   [To qualify for “affordable housing” one must earn less than 80% of median income for the area.]  Here, “affordable” translates to $1,100 monthly rent for a studio.  Of people in the area who need financial help, most make less than 30% of the median income. 62% of Burlington renters pay over 70% of their paycheck for rent. Section 8 will not cover the current rent of a 2 bedroom apartment.

Would you support a Rent Cap for Burlington residents ?


I don't know what that means.
     
Burlington renters call the Department of Permitting and Inspections for code violations. The DPI does not force Landlords to keep buildings up to current code standards.  The DPI Office is told they don’t have the power to enforce the code of Ordinances.

How would you remedy these issues?


I support improving code enforcement.

Would you support compelling the DPI to enforce the Code of Ordinances as written, and follow State Laws for use of hazardous chemicals ?

I support improving code enforcement.

What would you propose to improve conditions for Renters?

I support improving code enforcement.

Would you support upgrading the Code of Ordinances to match the Climate Crisis?

Probably, but I'd have to study it.

How would you help make truly affordable housing accessible to those residents who qualify?


The question seems to be asking “how would you lower the cost of housing?”  I'm not sure but I'm open to creative ideas.  One idea might me to add low cost, dormitory and hostel options for people.  Expansion of housing trust properties is another.  It's not clear to me the mere addition of supply per se lowers the cost because the more units we build, the more people come.  The demand is infinite, so the high cost of housing in Burlington is a vexing problem.

HOMELESSNESS

Burlington has empty buildings that are said to be rented by people from other states to keep rents high, to further the gentrification of Burlington. Would you require the owners of those buildings to rent only to residents of Burlington?

The premise of your question appears to rest on hearsay.  I don't know that it's true.

Would you support “eminent domain” taking over empty buildings to help solve the Homelessness issues in Burlington ?

I wouldn't rule it out.

Do you support writing a plan to ensure safety for homeless campers and homeless in cars?


I'm not sure.  I'd have to study it.

Do you support providing garbage pickup to locations near homeless camps?


I'm not sure.  I'd have to study it.

Do you support implementing a network of community accessible toilet/porta-lets in the City of Burlington?

Yes.

Do you support voluntary registration of homeless camp sites to enhance safety and regulation of use?

I'm not sure.  I'd have to study it.

MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM

Will you help champion the public’s wish to repair and sustain Memorial Auditorium as a publicly-owned community space?

Yes.
 
Will you champion the public intent to restore teen-led programming to the 242 Main location at Memorial Auditorium (which has been in operation 25 years)?

Yes.

Should the Trustees of UVM stop cutting Departments in favor of having  lower salaries for the highest-salary Administrators?

What does this question have to do with Memorial Auditorium?

How can we get public input for the use of Grant Funds from the VT Arts Council – getting the money to those who truly need it?

I don't know.  The internet maybe?

CITYPLACE AND ALTERNATIVES

Who are the new owners expecting to move downtown, and how much do those people make who will inhabit the condos and apartments of Cityplace?

I don't understand the question.

CATHEDRAL BLOCK

What is your vision for the now-defunct cathedral by the new bus terminal?

Possibly homeless services.  Possibly a planetarium or a go-cart track.  Possibly a year round food bazaar.

Will you commit to keeping the historic park as green open space?

No.

Will you have a process to engage the community about what people would like to see the cathedral building used for?

Maybe.

If current plans for City Place fall through, what is your vision for that space? Will you reopen a community engagement process for input on its development?

I would be happy to let this space become a park.  Large public indoor greenhouses are good too.  Community engagement would be invited as appropriate.

Are you committed to keeping the inclusionary zoning rule whereby developers must include a percentage of affordable units when they build?  How stringent should the penalties be if a developer “opts out” of building required affordable units?

I'm not sure.  I'd have to study it.

THANK YOU!  
The CLC deeply appreciates your participation.

posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 11:50 PM  
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