Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger Sunday attended the Democratic Nominating Caucus at Burlington High School and delivered his 2018 re-election campaign kick-off speech. In his remarks, the mayor set forth three main themes and related goals of the city’s work ahead. The full text of the speech is below.
“In a third term, this Administration will remain focused on protecting Burlington as an equitable and inclusive City; continue to invest in our public spaces, core infrastructure, and public facilities; and lead on the environment.”
The mayor also laid out three core strategies to achieve these ambitious goals:
“How will we get all that done? By staying true to the same core principles that have gotten us this far together: fiscal responsibility; public engagement and responsiveness; and resistance to President Trump when he attempts to undermine Burlington values.”
In his speech, Weinberger addressed criticisms heard on the campaign trail and set the record straight:
“One of my opponents is trying to reuse the old campaign slogan that “Burlington is not for sale,” suggesting that Burlington Democrats are recklessly selling off the City’s assets. Nothing could be further from the truth. We aren’t selling Burlington. We are responsibly, ambitiously, and – because Democrats know how to manage the City’s money right – affordably investing in our public spaces, public infrastructure, and public facilities as never before.
"In short, this is an Administration that knows it is impossible to get anything done without strong public trust, and that will never stop working hard to earn and make good on that trust.”
Complete text of the 2018 Democratic Nominating Caucus speech:
“Six years ago, I came to this Democratic caucus as a first-time candidate for elective office. I did not have name recognition, deep government experience, or much of a history giving speeches when I stood before you that day. I did have two things: clarity that our great City had lost its way with its finances and was no longer able to get big things done; and a commitment to set things right.
I will always be grateful that this caucus took a chance and voted for a Fresh Start and the opportunity to forge a new direction together.
At the beginning, we faced some large challenges, and the work has not been easy. The City was downgraded to the edge of junk bond status two months after I started, as we teetered on the edge of fiscal crisis. Our wonderful airport had the lowest airport credit rating in the continental United States. Our water, sewer, and traffic funds were all in the red, and our core infrastructure was in serious decline. One of the largest banks in the world came after us for tens of millions of dollars and attempted to tear the Burlington Telecom fiber-optic cable out of the ground. We had to grapple with big, tough questions about the future of our waterfront and our downtown.
However, with challenge after challenge over the last six years, the Administration, the City Council, and the people of Burlington have stuck together. And, we have made great progress:
Together, we have earned three credit rating upgrades over the last three years that will save City and school taxpayers and ratepayers more than $12 million dollars.
Together, we successfully fought off more than $15 million of CitiBank claims, kept the BT fiber in the ground, and saved high-speed internet choice for Burlingtonians.
Together, we righted the ship for all our City enterprise funds, passed the Sustainable Infrastructure Bond, and now our core infrastructure is on the mend.
Together, we have transformed the northern waterfront from an eyesore into one of our best places to walk, exercise, or simply marvel at the beauty of Lake Champlain.
And, after a three-year community debate and continuous improvement of our plans to redevelop the downtown core, the construction of a new, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood is now underway.
In doing this critical work, we have built a foundation for even greater successes in the next few years. In a third term, this Administration will: remain focused on protecting Burlington as an equitable and inclusive City; continue to invest in our public spaces, core infrastructure, and public facilities; and lead on the environment.
How will we get all that done? By staying true to the same core principles that have gotten us this far together: fiscal responsibility; public engagement and responsiveness; and resistance to President Trump when he attempts to undermine Burlington values.
I will say more about both what we are going to get done and how we will do it.
First, we will remain focused on protecting Burlington as an equitable and inclusive City. Burlington must remain what it has been for over 150 years – the place in Vermont where people of all backgrounds can launch their career, start a family, and grow a business.
This vision of Burlington was at risk six years ago when the average Burlingtonian was spending 44% of his or her income on rent, and large numbers of young households were being pushed out of the downtown by wealthier, older households. We were in danger of becoming a boutique city accessible only to the rich.
One of the ways we are turning this around is by doubling down on our commitment to permanently affordable housing. I have a deep belief in the transformational power of safe, quality housing for our most vulnerable. Just after I finished college, I moved to the rural town of Americus, Georgia. There, I worked as part of a small Habitat for Humanity crew that coordinated hundreds of community volunteers to build a new home for an elderly couple that had played by the rules, but had fallen on tough times when the husband got hurt on the job at a peanut processing plant. On the day we dedicated a brand new home to this sweet couple, their adult children had come home from around the country to carry in the new furniture they were giving their parents, volunteers clapped and cried, the family fed the whole community to celebrate, and I was hooked on a career in affordable housing.
For the next 15 years, I built affordable homes in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I never saw a move-in day again quite as dramatic as that first one, but I never got tired of seeing families and seniors in need move in to high-quality homes.
I brought this commitment to helping our most vulnerable to the Mayor’s Office and have converted it into action on many fronts. We doubled the annual investment in the local Housing Trust Fund and used the City’s federal housing resources to help protect permanently affordable housing at the Bobbin Mill and South Meadow, and to help our non-profit partners build the new Bright Street Co-op and new COTS housing on North Avenue. We helped the residents of the Farrington Mobile Home Park take control of their future and create the resident-owned North Avenue Co-op.
This work is far from done. Earlier tonight, we welcomed first-time voters to this caucus. If we want Burlington to remain a City that welcomes New Americans from around the world and to remain a place where our kids can start their careers and raise their families, we must get our housing and land use policies right and continue to build as much housing for households of all backgrounds as we can.
Protecting Burlington’s equitable and inclusive character also means doing more as a City to support our most vulnerable. In the years ahead, we will: pilot the expansion of the seasonal low-barrier warming shelter we created with partners four years ago into a year-round facility; grow the new Burlington Early Learning Initiative that will make its first-ever grants in the next few weeks so that all Burlington kids – including those born into poverty – have the opportunity to thrive; and turn the tide on the opioid crisis. We will talk about each of these initiatives more in the weeks ahead.
Second, we will continue to invest in our public spaces, core infrastructure, and public facilities. Stewarding our core infrastructure and other physical public assets is one of the most important responsibilities of local government. Public infrastructure supports our economic vitality and quality of life, and the public spaces where we gather for recreation and to advocate for important causes define us as a community.
Improving our infrastructure and public assets has been a top priority since the very beginning of this Administration. We repaired and re-opened the flood-damaged Bike Path so the Vermont City Marathon could be returned to its traditional course in our first 60 days in office, and we completed dozens of Penny For Parks projects in our first construction season.
Since then, we have completely rebuilt more than five miles of the Bike Path, created a new park at the north end of the urban reserve, built a world-class skate park, purchased 12 acres of the former Burlington College land for a new park and public beach, made long-overdue investments in the library, fire houses, and Leddy Arena, tripled our historic level of annual sidewalk construction, and are proactively replacing our water lines for the first time.
And, all that is just the beginning. The voters of Burlington have mandated with multiple votes additional, historic investments in a new lakefront park west of the Water Plant, more than $30 million of additional investment in our streets, sidewalks, water lines, and other core infrastructure, and the rebuilding and improvement of 12 blocks of our downtown, including the reconstruction of the segments of Pine Street and St. Paul Street lost during Urban Renewal. And, in the months ahead, we will create a plan for voters to consider to restore and re-open Memorial Auditorium as a successful 21st Century public assembly space.
One of my opponents is trying to reuse the old campaign slogan that “Burlington is not for sale,” suggesting that Burlington Democrats are recklessly selling off the City’s assets. Nothing could be further from the truth. We aren’t selling Burlington. We are responsibly, ambitiously, and – because Democrats know how to manage the City’s money right – affordably investing in our public spaces, public infrastructure, and public facilities as never before.
The work of City government for the next three years will, in large part, be about successfully implementing the plans the voters have recently approved by getting tens of millions of dollars of contracts, design details, and construction oversight right. This work takes sustained discipline, focused commitment, and experience. The City has the right team in place to get this tough work done and, if given the chance to keep leading our City, I promise that we will deliver on these plans just as we have made good on so many past commitments.
Third, we will lead on the environment, particularly with respect to climate change. Burlington has long been a leader on the environment, and this work reached an important milestone in 2014 when we became the first US city to source 100% of its electricity from renewable generation. I look forward to detailing in this campaign how we will build on this work and making great strides in the next term towards becoming a Net Zero Energy City across electric, thermal, and ground transportation sectors over the next 10-15 years and reaching other environmental goals.
That is what we are going to do. Here is how: we will continue to put financial responsibility first because, without that base, nothing else is possible. During the years when our finances were a mess, our community dreams were stalled, and we were in no position to advance our values and beliefs. Together, we cleaned up our finances, reformed our internal controls, and methodically rebuilt our financial reputation, and now we are getting big things done.
One of my opponents has applauded our financial successes and expressed her intent to move on to other matters more in line with Burlington’s goals. That is not the way it works. Fiscal responsibility is not a checkbox on a to-do list to be marked and then forgotten. Fiscal responsibility is a work ethic either strengthened through ongoing vigilance or quickly lost. Let’s not risk going back to the days when City government was careless with our resources and squandered them instead of advancing our highest community priorities.
We will continue to be proactively engaged with, accessible, and responsive to the public. This has been a focus since Day One. This is the Administration of SeeClickFix, the BTV Stat Dashboard, and the Public Investment Action Plan for the northern waterfront. This is an Administration of weekly public coffees that has taken 17 different ballot initiatives to the voters in six years and worked with the City Council and stakeholders to pass every single one.
In short, this is an Administration that knows it is impossible to get anything done without strong public trust, and that will never stop working hard to earn and make good on that trust.
And finally, we will resist President Trump whenever he pursues efforts that are in conflict with Burlington values.
To the surprise of no one in this room, the first year of the Trump presidency has been harrowing. Almost every day, we learn of new ways in which this federal Administration is attempting to undo the policies and norms that have strengthened and bound us together as a nation.
The most encouraging moments of the last year have been the times when State’s Attorneys, Governors, and Courts have stood up to the President, and the checks and balances of the system have held (thank you for your leadership in so many areas, TJ).
Often, this work of checking a reckless federal Administration falls to Mayors. In the first year of the Trump presidency, defending Burlington values included taking legal action to oppose Trump’s draconian immigration policies, co-founding the new Vermont Climate Change Coalition so that our state can continue to contribute to the Paris Climate Agreement, and joining an amicus brief in support of the gay couple that was refused service at the Masterpiece Cakeshop, and much more.
We cannot know which Burlington values our impulsive, lying President will attack next, but there is no doubt that more assaults are coming. If given the chance, I will continue to stand up to Donald Trump whenever he comes for us, as I have since his first, out-of-control campaign visit to Burlington in 2016.
Over the next eight weeks, I will make the case I just laid out to you to the people of Burlington. If you support the vision of an equitable and inclusive City full of opportunity for all, with great public infrastructure and public spaces that leads on the environment, I ask for your help talking to all the people who are not in the room with us today.
You can help by signing up for phone banking and canvassing, with your social media posts, and through conversations with your neighbors. Together, this caucus has brought Burlington so far during the last six years. Now is not the time to turn back. Let us leave here tonight and work hand in hand to elect City Councilors and a Mayor who will keep Burlington Moving Forward!”
Source: Mayor 1.7.2018