We are neighbors first!

“Sorry for partying, bro,” responded a student as I handed him back the champagne bottle that he unsuccessfully tried to break in the middle of Greene St.  He was dumbfounded that anyone cared enough to confront him about his apparent lack of judgement.  After all, this, in his eyes, “was a college neighborhood,” and I, “just needed to accept it.”  As a neighbor and your new city councilor, I refuse to accept these types of incredibly disrespectful acts which pose direct threats to our quality of life.

Over the past couple of days, I have heard from many residents who feel like they are under siege and that a beautiful weekend was soured by a variety of behavior issues.  Some tried to have reasonable conversations with unreasonable people and failed to have an impact.  Others called the Burlington Police and were impressed with the response, but understood that they could only do so much and that there are better uses for our police than babysitting drunk college kids.  The conclusion that I have drawn is that the size and scope of the issue outstrips current enforcement ability and strategy.
What is to be done?  I fully recognize that we are dealing with a culture of disrespect and that there is not a “silver bullet” that we can employ to immediately and effectively deal with these quality of life issues.  Rather, we must work together to enhance the elements of our current strategy (UVM organized clean up days, neighborhood barbecues, noise violation fines, direct resident to student communication, etc) and examine potential alternatives in advance of our renegotiation of the City’s Memorandum of Understanding with UVM this summer.  For me, this could mean:
  • UVM keeping a database of where students are living off campus and creating REAL consequences that matter to students.  This may mean preventing students with noise violations from registering for classes until they complete community service in the neighborhood, parental notification, revocation of off campus living privileges, or, in extreme cases, expulsion.  We may also want to require students attend a, “Good Neighbor” course that outlines their rights and responsibilities as tenants and neighbors before allowing them to move off-campus.
  • Work with UVM to house more students on campus.  The new Redstone Lofts project may provide some relief, but they can do more.
  • Consistent UVM sponsored clean up days year round.
  • Making sure that UVM continues its recent promise to invest UVM Police resources in dealing with off-campus student issues.
  • Reexamining how density impacts student behavior.  Specifically, several residents have asked that we revisit the issue of more than 4 unrelated adults sharing a rental unit in high density residential areas.
  • Making sure that landlords establish expectations for neighborly conduct and are contacted when such expectations are violated.
  • Keeping up with Code Enforcement to make sure that properties are safe and attractive.
 These are just a few ideas.  They aren’t perfect and many of you have probably already thought of them.  My main point is to get us thinking about realistic and varied alternatives to the issues we face.  If you have other ideas don’t hesitate to contact me at (802) 373-1968 or email me at maxwell.k.tracy@gmail.com.  I am also happy to have conversations with students in any houses that you have identified as being particularly problematic.
Neighborly yours,
Max
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