In Burlington's New North End, a Longtime Resident Takes On a Titan | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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In Burlington's New North End, a Longtime Resident Takes On a Titan 

click to enlarge Carol Ode

Courtesy of Alicia Freese

Carol Ode

Burlington's Big Questions

Burlington voters will weigh in on guns, taxes and a dam next Tuesday on Town Meeting Day. They will also vote "yea" or "nay" on plans to redevelop the waterfront and reconfigure the city's political wards. Here's a primer:

1. Paying for school: The biggest-ticket item is a perennial one: public school funding. Voters will choose whether to approve a $66.9 million school budget for fiscal year 2015. That's a spending increase of roughly 4 percent, which would push the property-tax rate up 9.9 percent.

2. Developing the waterfront: A "yes" vote would authorize the city to take on $9.6 million in debt to revamp key areas of the waterfront. That money would supplement large private investments in six different projects, from building a new marina to refurbishing the Moran Plant. The city's contribution relies on tax increment financing, or TIF, which uses future increases in property tax revenue to pay off the debt incurred at the start of the project. The projects come as a package deal. An affirmative vote would also authorize the city to tear down the Moran Plant should the private developers fail to raise the required capital.

3. Raising city taxes: Voters will accept or reject a 3 percent increase in the general city tax rate. It's been 10 years since the last increase. City officials say the additional money would let them make infrastructure improvements to city buildings, such as more energy efficient lighting, and create 10 new staff positions, two of which are IT jobs.

4. Buying a dam: Voters will check "yes" or "no" on a plan to purchase Winooski One, the hydroelectric dam spanning the Winooski River, from its private owner. Price tag: $16 million. A "yes" vote would authorize the city to use bonds to borrow $12 million of that. Money set aside decades ago for the McNeil Generating Station would make up the difference. The Burlington Electric Department estimates the 7.4-megawatt dam could supply roughly 8 percent of the city's energy needs.

5. Redistricting: To avoid running afoul of the U.S. Constitution, the city has to reconfigure its ward boundaries, adjusting for population changes, to give residents equal representation on the city council. In the current arrangement, seven wards each elect two councilors to the 14-member council. Under the proposed system, eight wards would send one councilor each. The wards would also be paired to form four larger districts, each of which would elect one councilor, for a total of 12 councilors. First voters have to agree to the new system; then the state legislature has to approve the change. The goal is to have it in place for the March 2015 election.

6., 7., 8. Locking up guns: Ballot item number six, if approved, would allow police to seize firearms if there's a reasonable suspicion of domestic violence. The seventh measure would prevent people from bringing guns into any place that holds a liquor license; law enforcement and the owners of these establishments would be exempt. The eighth item would require that all firearms be securely stored when not in use.

All of these restrictions, too, are subject to the legislature's approval.

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About The Author

Alicia Freese

Alicia Freese

Bio:
Alicia Freese is a Seven Days staff writer.

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