Meaghan Emery, Two-Year Term City Council Candidate

Two-Year Term City Council Candidate: Meaghan Emery

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Thursday February 27, 2014

Meaghan Emery

Education:  B.A. (Northwestern U.), M.A., and PhD. (Ohio State U) in French literature

Occupation:Professor at UVM

South Burlington Resident 12 Years


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

I am seeking to return to the Council after having served for four years (2008-2012).  Prior to 2008, I served on the City’s Charter Review Committee, and since then, I have served on the Channel 17 Board and am currently Board president.  My time on the Council and Channel 17 Board has familiarized me with public institutions, which as compared to private businesses are required to operate with a high degree of transparency and accountability to taxpayers.  I am also familiar with City operations and have longtime experience with balancing tight budgets, goal-setting, and collaborating with community, regional, state, and federal partners.


2. If elected, what is your top priority for council and for the city? 
What action will be required? 

One of my primary reasons for running is to see through City Center land-development regulations, which will come before the Council in five weeks.  Citizens committees have already made formal recommendations to include civic buildings (City Hall, Community Library, and Recreation Center), a Central Green on Market Street, and nature paths along Potash Brook.  This vision will require an enduring commitment.  In addition to our funding mechanisms, graduated benefactor levels, and a naming opportunity, I recommend a City Center Planning Steering Committee whose charge would be to finalize a development plan and designate along with City Staff the roles of public and private partners.


3. What are your thoughts on post Interim Zoning development? 
What do you believe is the right balance and rate of residential and commercial growth? How will that be determined? What is the councilor’s role?

In 2012 I voted against the Interim Zoning being proposed because I believed it was too broad and ambitious for two years.  I was in favor of a step-by-step process beginning with City Center, whose form-based codes are now near completion in 2014.  One of the greatest outcomes of IZ was the tremendous level of citizen participation; scores of residents have actively collaborated through visioning meetings and the various committees established through IZ.  Another precious outcome of IZ is the work of these committees, which will be critical in order to determine what future balance we wish to see between residential, commercial development, so key to our financial sustainability, and the protection of open space for quality of life.  As a Councilor, I will want to hear the recommendations of these committees when setting future policy, keeping in mind smart-growth principles with regard to new residential and commercial construction.

4. South Burlington has a unique relationship with Burlington International Airport, the City of Burlington, and VTANG.  The topics of finance, expansion, noise and loss of housing pose recurring questions.  As the planning process begins, what is your vision for airport neighborhood redevelopment?  What is the council’s role in the outcome if there are competing interests and consensus can’t be reached?

The Chamberlin neighborhood has long provided one of the City’s largest inventories of affordable housing stock and it is a place with deep roots thanks to its tight-knit social fabric and neighborhood school.  It is also adjacent to City Center, whose future success will depend on a shared access (walkable, bikable, and drivable) vision that has proven successful nationally as a smart-growth urban strategy.  City staff has outlined a two-tier committee structure: a committee comprised of local residents and representatives of Chamberlin School, South Burlington, the Airport, and Burlington; and a steering committee that would make recommendations to policy-makers.  My top two priorities as a South Burlington City Councilor would be noise mitigation and ease of access for Airport and local traffic.  I would work to persuade others that a long-term successful partnership requires the fulfillment of these top priorities that serve the interests of the residents and of the Airport.

5. Closing Statement

If I have the honor of serving again, I will make my best effort to listen and include everyone at the table; be a strong advocate for our future prosperity and quality of life; and ensure that our tax dollars are put to good use and are fully accounted for while upholding the highest standards of transparency.  As a proponent of open government, I believe that the common good is best served when all concerned parties are included in the decision-making process.  I am beholden to no one but the residents of South Burlington and will measure my success by the trust you place in me.  Finally, all five candidates are asking to serve our neighbors, and, regardless of our differences of opinion, we are all giving of our time and energy, which deserves respect and acknowledgement.  Conducting city business with utmost civility is a primary qualification for this position.