2016 City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Meaghan Emery

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Thursday February 18, 2016

Meaghan Emery

2 Year Term

Education B.A. French Studies, Northwestern University; M.A. French Studies, Ohio State University; PhD French Studies, Ohio State University

Occupation: French Professor, UVM

Years as SB Resident: 13+ Years

What is the city’s most pressing concern, and what actions/solutions are required? What is your own top priority for the city; how will this goal be accomplished?

The City is working under time constraints in order to reap the full benefits of the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district the State has allowed us to pursue. Timeliness of public votes/projects will be key to keeping tax dollars local for investment in our infrastructure to the benefit of the taxpayer. The more investment earlier on, the longer we taxpayers will reap those benefits. Fortunately, Market Street construction and U Mall’s renovation promise to get the ball rolling when most critical for that time-line and specifically ticking clock when it comes to state tax dollar investment in our City Center.

What is the right balance and rate of residential and commercial growth throughout the city? How does the preservation/acquisition of open space fit with your views of growth and development?

We need to encourage job creation and increased opportunities for local businesses and start-ups, in City Center and our Commercial/Industrial zones. The City should consider tax incentives for local businesses since their inclusion is an explicit goal of our State-approved TIF district. Targeted development would also alleviate development pressure on our open space. Balance is essential to fiscal sustainability. Both our Public Works Director and Fire Chief have warned of a tipping point in development that would stretch City services too thin, requiring additional staff, equipment, and a significant tax increase. Councilors must keep focused on maintaining this delicate balance.

What is your vision for City Center, taking into account the complex components of TIF financing and bonds, zoning, municipal and/or civic use, residential development, commercial interests of local and national businesses, citizen and stakeholder needs, and proposed plans for University Mall?

City Center should be a place for everyone to do business, live, dine, play, or sit and daydream. Ideally, the focus would be on pedestrians, with a mix of uses and green space. Our new LDRs provide for residential development for different income levels. Building for families, working or retired individuals and couples and drawing a variety of businesses and stores — from local to national chains — are essential elements of my vision. One must also consider municipal infrastructure. Depending on what voters pass, I am in favor of having the new Community Library (30% funded through TIF) close to Dumont Park (100%) and a town green. It would be lovely for the Friends of the Library to sponsor outdoor concerts in the adjacent park, bringing a unique municipal space with some cache to our City. I also like the idea of having a performance/program/exhibit space, proposed as a joint venture between the Library and our Recreation and Parks Department. Having the Library combined with some kind of Cultural and Recreational Center (30%) is not only a plan consistent with current recreation and library programming but also conducive to richer programming for our children, teens, and young and older adults.

Do you think the city would be best served by the Rick Marcotte Central School property being retained by the school district, sold or traded to the city, or sold to a developer?

With the School District and Council acting in concert with community feedback, we should actively pursue the best development opportunity that enhances taxpayers’ investment in the property. When the right opportunity comes along for its use -- one that the public can get behind, protects the full and projected value of this public asset (by keeping it a publicly owned property, through a trade, for instance), and ensures City Center’s financial and popular success -- then the City would be best served that we act decisively. By extending the TIF district to U Mall, we can be more selective.

What are your priorities for the airport, the surrounding airport owned properties and the Chamberlin neighborhood? What is the councilor’s role?

Our role is to allow the Chamberlin Neighborhood Airport Planning Committee (CNAPC) -- now with a clear charge that includes noise mitigation -- to do its important work. Support was needed at one point when the committee’s priorities needed clarification but now appear to be moving forward. After consulting with the CNAPC chair, I met with the Regional Planning Commission consultant, spoke with the Airport Director and his deputy, addressed the Airport Commission, and sent them my research notes on what has been done for noise mitigation elsewhere. In order to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome and protect public assets, I see as a top priority: a standing noise abatement committee including residents and chaired by, typically, an elected official living in the impacted area, partnered by the Airport’s technical advisory committee. Noise abatement committees have proven effective for securing federal dollars for noise and blast walls, earthen mounds or berms to help reduce noise and minimize the visual impacts caused by removal of the houses. Going forward, the Council will continue to oversee the Committee’s work and expects to receive their recommendations in June. In all, I pledge to support the Airport’s service to our region and state.

How should the city address requests by citizens for increased public transportation, and safe pedestrian and bike accessibility throughout
the city?

By keeping development densely focused, public transportation could serve more of our population, getting people where they need to go: work, stores, doctor’s office. Investment in public transportation and Park and Ride makes good sense since our major transportation portals bring many more people to our City streets daily. City policy can also ensure safe walking and biking routes for adults and school-age children through targeted use of our impact funds, similar to how they’re being used now in conjunction with regional/federal grants on our major roads. In all cases, we should seek separate bike lanes, buffered by a curb.

Closing Statement

After serving six years (2008-2012, 2014-2016), I am deeply knowledgeable about City operations and have longtime experience balancing tight budgets, goal-setting, and collaborating with community, regional, state, and federal partners. I pledge to listen and include everyone at the table; be an advocate for our future prosperity and quality of life; and ensure that our tax dollars are put to good use. The common good is best served when all stakeholders are included in the decision-making process. It has been an honor to serve you, and I will continue to measure my success by the trust you place in me.