Candidate for Council: Chris Shaw, 3-Year Term

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Thursday February 28, 2013

Chris Shaw

Education: Harvard College (BA)University of Vermont (M.Ed.)
Occupation: Instructor, Stern Center for Language & Learning
Years as SB resident: 13

What skills uniquely qualify you for the position of City Councilor? 

With 13 years on City board/committees, I started on the Natural Resources Committee(identifying/protecting wetlands/wildlife/open space). Then as Planning Commission member/chair, I helped write our City’s Comprehensive Plan, worked with Interim Zoning (2006) to protect Natural Resources/Space in the SEQ, restricted building heights to preserve neighborhood character, began the City Center Form-Based Codes, and expanded wetland/wildlife protection. I am a 5 year trusted City BCA official. As a 23 year logistics executive, I managed budgets of $15 million, working with personnel, labor contracts and fleet/facility management. As a 9 year teacher, I use guidance and facilitation to flexibly achieve goals.

Interim Zoning is at the half-way point.  What are its successes and/or failures. What are your post-IZ objectives? 


A chief failure is that IZ makes City Council the expert in Development Review. It’s cost us a lawsuit with our largest taxpayer(UMall). Council can take 9 meetings to review a simple building plan. No Councilor has land use experience, but they demanded the power under “emergency” IZ. We pay $300k to educate them in land use with consultants up front and lawyers to defend us afterwards. Developers go elsewhere to avoid dealing with Council, so our Grand List does not expand, and yet our School costs continue to rise. These 2 years will shift the tax burden to residences and away from commercial property (we’ve had a 50/50 split). For Post-IZ, Form-Based Codes are a successful City Center vision; we should incorporate the other IZ committee findings. An evaluation of citywide Form-Based Codes would follow to determine if they are appropriate. Council alone should not make that decision.

South Burlington has a unique relationship with VTANG, Burlington International Airport, and the city of Burlington. What are your views on airport related finances, expansion, noise, and loss of housing.  What role does City Council hold?


In 2009 Councilor Dooley’s Council let BIA double its home purchases. Money could have been used for mitigation instead, but Council agreed to “urban renewal”(without the renewal). If there is a land use emergency in the City – it is here near the Airport! This should be addressed before sustainable agriculture, open space and form-based codes. We need to support the neighborhood, BIA and VTANG since we all had worked together effectively before this Council. VTANG has been a vital partner for 66 years and provides airport fire protection which allows us to host major carriers. What planes VTANG flies should not change our partnership. BIA isn’t yet solid with its finances. We need to work with BIA and the neighborhood to help create a transition zone. We deserve more representation with BIA. We haven’t been meeting with them and helping the neighborhoods and that has to change right now.


The city is at a difficult crossroad on many issues, including management, policy, and process. How will you determine what direction best balances the needs of the community moving forward?


That’s why we have five councilors, excellent department heads and terrific boards/committees – to listen to others. Regular neighborhood forums would also help. Council needs to stop its overreach and overreactions. Council has been rash and it has cost us dearly.  We need to reject a Council that gives orders and knows the answers and find one that asks questions and understands the answers. We need to hear more from our City employees, our boards, and our community – with more input our policies and direction will be much better. This has traditionally been our process – not the one that exists today.

What do you feel is the single most pressing concern for the city, and what solutions/actions would you propose? 

Our Council’s reckless performance has been THE theme throughout my discussions with residents. They question why South Burlington causes so many negative headlines; I can’t explain Council’s behaviors and actions. Their City Manager was just another troubled symptom since Council did not properly investigate his work history. He was deemed “risky” by my opponent who hired him, yet Council rewarded and encouraged him for 3 years. Council cannot now blame its many issues on the City Manager. All our issues needed their approval and have cost us considerably. We must elect a better Council to improve this woeful performance.

Closing Statement


Taxes have increased 5% for 4 years. Minor concerns have become divisive issues. Matters with two City Managers, our Library, our City Clerk, Cairns, NGA, the UMall, and BIA have been handled poorly. Our partners won’t work with this current Council. Council created a costly two year distraction with Interim Zoning. I provide a well qualified choice for South Burlington by having managed people, processes and budgets. I have City experience, people skills and the necessary sense of public service to prevent another three years of costly mistakes. Thank you for voting; you have a choice for a change.