Tom Chittenden


2017 City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Thomas Chittenden

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Thursday February 23, 2017

Thomas Chittenden
3 year term

Education:
Masters in Business
Administration

Occupation:
Lecturer at the
University of Vermont

Years as SB Resident:
29 of my 39 years.

1.What do you see as the single most pressing concern for the City of South Burlington, and how would you address that issue? (100 words)

Affordability. South Burlington is a great place to live and raise a family but this high quality of living comes at a cost. Our cost of living is high because of many reasons including our relatively high taxes (compared to the other 50 states)  – income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, impact fees and more…these taxes cumulatively result in increased housing costs. Our city council needs to address this through effective affordable housing policies, careful stewardship of our resources to minimize the tax burden and with long-term solutions to strengthen our tax base through responsible growth.  

2.Voter approval for the Market Street and Dumont Park Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) projects marked the start of City Center. What project(s) would you put forward as the next step in the development of City Center? What are the benefits/challenges of this project?(150 words)

I see the role of a city councilor to be a community listener so I would not push any specific project forward – I would listen to the community on what projects they want to see as the next step.  More importantly, all City Center TIF projects must be fiscally prudent which requires developers to invest many millions of dollars into South Burlington. Without new development commitments in the City Center area, the TIF mechanism doesn’t work so any support for new TIF projects is critically dependent on private investment. As for the projects that have been discussed so far, I am intrigued with the possibility of a performing arts & library dual use facility and a Garden street extension could do a lot to reduce traffic congestion in this area but we need the numbers to work which requires private investment in the TIF District.

3.South Burlington has a unique relationship with Burlington International Airport (BIA), The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG), and the airport’s owner – the City of Burlington.
A) What is the councilor’s role as these competing interests grapple with governance, taxes, expansion, land use, noise, and home buy-outs/ demolition? What is your vision for the future of the airport?
B) If you are elected, how would you balance the needs of airport neighborhood homeowners with the needs of the City of South Burlington ? (400 words total)

A. City councilors have a fiduciary responsibility to the current and future residents of our fair city. That responsibility requires we balance competing interests to develop sustainable solutions that meet our quality of life, economic and environmental desires. The challenge is that our vision for the airport does not have authoritative influence in the decision making over this public asset, because the airport is owned and managed by the City of Burlington. BIA is a vital economic public asset for the region enjoying tax benefits as such yet is being governed by the interests of one city in which the asset does not reside. Because of this ownership structure, the interests of the Queen City voters heavily influence airport decisions. This leads to the planning and communication friction that we continue to see today. Our role as city councilors is to advocate for the interests of our city and our residents by asserting our authority over land use within our borders. For these reasons, my vision for the airport is one where representatives appointed by the City of South Burlington, Winooski, Williston, Colchester, Essex and Burlington have governing authority over a municipal entity not entwined with the City of Burlington.

B. By pursuing the regionalization of decision making over the airport. If a separate municipal authority were created to govern this critically important regional asset, we could separate the governance of the airport from ownership of the asset. The City of Burlington could lease the airport to the authority securing a stable cash flow from their asset which would improve their bonding authority and allow them to focus on matters within their borders. The Mayor of Burlington has plenty to work on and disentangling BIA from the municipality of Burlington would allow him to concentrate on those issues. Having an authoritative board of regionally appointed representatives accountable to the communities in which the public asset serves would reduce communication and planning friction by finding a better balance for the airport neighborhood homeowners and the needs of the airport located within our city. This type of change has happened elsewhere in the country and would align our municipal interests. Changing the governance structure of the airport won’t fix today’s problems but I believe it will fix tomorrow’s. If re-elected, I will work with our neighboring communities to advance this notion.

4.What are your views on growth in South Burlington regarding commercial and residential development, affordable housing, city services and infrastructure, and open space? (200 words)

South Burlington is a critical element of Vermont’s economic engine. People want to live here, work here, shop here, visit here and stay here. Through careful and thoughtful planning, we can harness the attractions of our community to develop the cityscape we desire. Our continued efforts with the TIF district to concentrate development relieves pressure on our open spaces and will continue as we extend more of our attention to other areas of our city namely Shelburne Road. Our entire city deserves the same thoughtful visioning for future development to achieve our desired cityscape characteristics. I support our continued attention to affordable housing and I believe we are taking the appropriate steps to achieve that goal. I also believe we need to look at options to maintain competitive and efficient trash collection within our borders. Competitive route biding could lower prices, lower emissions and reduce the wear on our neighborhood roads from multiple heavy trucks serving the same areas. Lastly, our cars are getting smarter and our streets need to keep up. Advanced adaptive integrated signaling needs more of our attention to have 21st century traffic flow working seamlessly with our increasingly smart cars.

5. What is your long-term vision for the South Burlington community? If elected, what steps would you take in this direction?(100 words)

At the heart of our community is our remarkable school system; it is the glue that connects all corners of our city bridging us from one generation to the next and needs to continue to do so. Our long-term vision for the city needs to continue our commitment to protect open spaces so that our future generations have outdoor spaces to enjoy the outdoors here in town. Our comprehensive plan articulates this vision well and I will continue to advocate for appropriate planning of our open space fund to pursue properties like the lake front property along Inn Road.

6. Closing Statement (100 words)

I’m running for re-election because I care about the city I grew up in and its future for our kids. I’m running because I believe I’ve been of value in important discussions on our budget, our city center plans, the airport, affordable living, caring for our open space and more. I’ve done so in a transparent and open manner while serving in the role as a community listener and steward of our resources. I am running to offer my time and perspective to gently steer the ship of our city towards smooth sailing. I humbly ask for your vote.