Weinberger's Vision For A Second Term In Burlington
Voters in the city of Burlington chose their mayor yesterday, and Democrat Miro Weinberger won a second term to be mayor of Vermont's largest city by a margin of more than 3,500 votes.
Weinberger shared his goals for his next term with VPR's Mitch Wertlieb.
Challenger and second-place finisher Steve Goodkind hit Weinberger hard on the issue of development in the city, especially in the South End. Weinberger said his victory had more to do with good governance and the city's path over the last few years.
"I also think the vote showed there is a shared vision among the people of Burlington for a more affordable, walkable, bikeable, liveable downtown. Are there concerns about moving too fast?, are there concerns about getting too big? Absolutely, I certainly have heard those concerns on the trail. And those conversations over the last few months will inform how we go forward," Weinberger said. He acknowledged concerns over the South End corridor, especially in the area of Pine Street.
Weinberger said the first Mayor's Task Force on Affordability began in the 1980s, so it's not a new issue in the Queen City. His plan has two parts: continuing the city's tradition of housing the most vulnerable residents and making sure that people of all backgrounds can continue to live in Burlington. But the second part of the plan would involve new strategies.
"For many years we've struggled with a low vacancy rates, we've struggled with very high rents relative to our incomes as a city. One of the new approaches we've put out there is let's set this big goal of building 1,500 new beds for students, which is about half the students living off campus in the historic residential neighborhoods. Let's work with the colleges and universities to have as many of those built on campus as possible. But let's look at some other possibilities of where those beds could be built," he said.
Weinberger said his 17-point housing plan has other ideas, including increasing the housing supply in the downtown area.
"The downtown and waterfront areas are places where we could fill in some parking lots and underutilized parts of the city, like the two blocks of downtown the mall sits on, this one and a half story suburban building. We can see those areas filled in, be used for a higher and better use, create jobs, create more housing opportunity, create revenue for the city and address some of our other challenges," he said.
Weinberger and city officials are working on a ten-year capital plan to address the city's infrastructure: sidewalks, streets, water and sewer systems, buildings and parks. "We've never had a long term vision for how we do that. That's about to change."
Supporting young children is another goal of Weinberger's second-term. He is seeking philanthropic dollars and government support for an initiative to support children and their families from birth to age five.
"Too many kids, particularly kids who are born into poverty, reach kindergarten already behind and they struggle to catch up from that point on," he said. Weinberger's initiative would focus on home visits for young children, provide scholarships for high-quality early childhood centers, and an analysis of what a permanent early childhood program would look like. "We believe that based on successes of other programs around the country, that this kind of investment will save considerable public dollars over time that there are very substantial downstream savings in special education and other public spending areas if we get these investments in children, zero to five, right."