By Michael Bielawski
The mayor of Burlington Miro Weinberger announced during a press conference on Thursday afternoon that he will not seek another term as mayor. He’s been mayor for 12 years and he will remain in office into April of next year.
“I’ve decided now is the right time to conclude my service as mayor,” he said. “I will not be seeking reelection for a 5th term.”
He implied that he will likely stay in politics but he’s not sure what his next move is.
“I have every intention of staying involved,” he said.
He noted some of the unfinished business.
“We still have an enormous housing shortage and the second-worst homelessness problem per capita of any state in the nation,” he said. “We have a deepening drug crisis that is taking an enormous toll on this community and on the rest of Vermont and a wide range of serious public safety problems.”
Weinberger spent much of the time listing accomplishments. He appeared in high spirits and satisfied with his decision.
“I said I would fix the city’s finances, hold the public city officials accountable, and get stuck installed projects moving again,” Weinberger said. “I promised the people of Burlington a fresh start, hard work, and a steady hand during the crisis of our time.”
He said he was surprised by the number of challenges including the escalating drug epidemic, stalled major construction projects, the shutdowns during COVID-19, political unrest, and more.
He said over seven years the city was taken from “the edge of insolvency” to a AA credit rating. He suggested this saved the city at least $45 million so far.
Other accomplishments include the revitalization of the city’s 8-mile-long lakefront bike path and the city’s Northern Water Front. He noted the train service is getting Burlington residents to and from New York City which had not been possible since the 1950s.
He said the Champlain Parkway is now under construction, which the mayor described as “the mother of all stuck and stalled Burlington projects.”
He said that since 2011 more than 2,000 homes have been built or are currently being built.
A green future?
He spent some time touting their green energy initiatives.
“We are leading the nation in our muscular and innovative local climate policies,” he said. “We were the first community in the country to create net-zero energy revenue bonds so that we can invest $20 million into improving our grid and electrifying everything.”
He added that all older buildings are required to be weatherized to improve insulation standards.
He also reminded Burlington voters that they had voted on and approved a carbon tax on themselves, but it didn’t call it a “carbon pollution impact fee.”
“And while many have given up on the critical climate policy of properly pricing carbon, because they all think it’s politically possible, before the end of the year here in Burlington with the approval of the voters, with the approval of the legislature, with the signature of the governor, we will implement one of the country’s first carbon pollution impact fees.”
He cited the city’s now annual Juneteenth celebrations as a big accomplishment, even though it’s been marred by funding controversies.
He touted the department that worked on the celebration.
“We created one of the state’s first racial equity and inclusion and belonging departments,” he said.
The ongoing crime challenges
In regards to the highly publicized and controversial 2022 move by the City Council to defund their police force by a third, he says that he was not a part of that effort and he “fought those who fought to decimate our officer ranks.”
He added, “I do regret that it took 18 months to reverse the City Council decision to eliminate 30% of our officers. We are now on track with our rebuilding plan, we have a confirmed and committed chief, and we are on a trajectory to become a stronger and better-resourced and more skilled police department than ever.”
Currently, several major crimes are at record rates for the year, including the city’s 350th overdose of the year recorded already, according to the police chief’s latest report.
He said that this year the city will break ground on a “$30 million effort to transform Main Street”. He said there’s another $50 million in TIF funding [tax increment financing] and federal funding which will be focused on rebuilding Cherry Street, Bank Street, and other streets running through City Place. He said more trees, outdoor public art, bike lanes and more can be expected.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle
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