Max Tracy has worked for years on issues related to bettering the lives of Burlington city residents, especially those in the O.N.E. Learn more about Max’s work, his positions, and accomplishments for Ward 2 through his following position and issues statements: Public Safety, Restoring City Finances, City Pensions, City Budget, Sidewalk and Traffic Safety, Improved Bike Travel, Parking, Safe, Affordable Housing, Town Gown Issues, Supporting Small Business, Recycling Toters, Waterfront Public Ownership and Affordability, Livable Wage Ordinance Improvement, Patient Safety Zone, Gun Safety, Tar Sands, and F-35s.
Burlington is facing a surge in opiate addiction that is driving a rise in burglaries and other crime across our city. I have not been content to sit idly by and watch our sense of safety erode. Rather, I have worked with BPD, the Community Justice Center, and my Co-Councilor and Chair of Public Safety Committee, Jane Knodell to develop community-based policing strategies that draw on the incredible strength and connectivity of our community. For example, I went door-to-door surveying neighbors about their public safety concerns throughout this past summer and fall. Within the survey, we also gathered information about interest in forming neighborhood groups. I then met with neighbors to form an Old North End Safety Team that is already providing rapid community response to break-ins. In fact, within 48 hours of a recent break-in in the Old North End, the safety team distributed leaflets letting surrounding neighbors know about what had happened, who to contact if they saw anything suspicious, and safety tips to avoid future break-ins. I am truly inspired by the dedication and resiliency of folks in the Old North End when threats to our safety emerge.
Restoring City Finances
Over the last two years, I have worked with others throughout city government to enact necessary reforms to get us on more solid financial footing. In this way, I actively supported the Fiscal Stability Bond to responsibly transition our city from short term borrowing, similar to high interest credit cards, to longer term bonding, similar to lower interest mortgage debt. This has had the dual impact of saving the city significant interest expenditure, while stabilizing our credit rating.
I supported a resolution convening a budget summit that brought various stakeholders from across city government to begin the process of reforming our pension system. Despite these successes, we still face significant challenges with regards to underfunded pension liabilities for city employees. Currently, our pension system is only about 70% funded and taxpayer contributions to that system have only increased in recent years to keep pace with our obligations.
I directly involved myself in the budgeting process, attending countless budget sessions and thoughtfully reviewing the budget for each and every city department. As a result of the collaborative efforts of the Council and Administration, we have not had a general property tax increase during my term. Much of this has been the result of finding efficiencies, both small and large, as well as finding other, more progressive revenue streams. I even cut thousands of dollars from my own city council research fund because I strongly believe that we must all share the burden of restoring our finances.
Sidewalk and Traffic Safety
As Chair of the Transportation, Utilities, And Energy Committee of the City Council, I have focused on enhancing pedestrian, bike, and vehicular infrastructure citywide. To this end, I have made sure that run down streets in the Old North End were repaved in a cost effective and high quality manner. I also helped improve the dangerous intersection of Decatur Street and North Winooski, by working with DPW on installing a stop sign there. Finally, I have been a consistent advocate for developing a comprehensive sidewalk replacement plan that will ensure our sidewalks are more quickly repaired and better maintained.
Improved Bike Travel
I have pushed for tangible improvements to our bike infrastructure, making sure that existing bike lanes are maintained while looking for opportunities for expansion. I am currently working with Local Motion, Planning and Zoning, and Public Works to change zoning requirements to mandate more bike parking in any new development.
Did you know that, even at peak parking demand in downtown Burlington, there are still 1,800 spaces available? I know that it sure doesn’t feel that way to many of you. In fact, up to 30% of traffic downtown is caused by people driving around looking for parking. In response to this situation, the Transportation Committee of which I am Chair introduced a resolution kicking off a comprehensive reexamination of our parking system. Within this process, Public Works and CEDO will partner with the Burlington Business Association to work on solutions to make our parking system more efficient, user friendly, and cost effective for the city. As the City Council representative for this initiative, I am particularly excited about ways that we might enhance way-finding signage throughout downtown as well as how we might create new opportunities for secure bike parking.
Safe, Affordable Housing
Affordable housing or the lack thereof city wide is a huge issue. With a less than 2% vacancy rate in the city, demand for housing far outstrips supply in the city. As a result, rents are out of the reach of most working people, and the lack of competition among landlords means that there are few incentives for landlords to improve properties. We have worked hard to ensure inclusionary housing policies are within the city’s development ordinances, but there is much more work to do. We need to think outside of the box, and craft the next generation of policies, that keeps Burlington socioeconomically diverse.
In addition to fostering new housing, we must make sure that we take care of already existing properties. I have worked directly with neighbors, landlords, and Code Enforcement to identify and fix violations. For example, when a tenant contacted me with a broken furnace saying that the landlord was not fixing the problem and was refusing to provide temporary accommodations, I got into contact with Code Enforcement immediately and made sure that the situation was resolved that day.
Town Gown Issues
Having a public, research university in Burlington greatly contributes to the economic and cultural vitality of our city. At the same time, the high concentration of students living off-campus in our ward can and does pose challenges to neighborhood quality of life. I have taken a hands on approach to dealing with town gown issues, directly following up with noise violation recipients and working with the University to fund additional police patrols on the weekends. While these types of actions may help to deal with the short-term impacts that students have on our neighborhood, I fully recognize that we need to structurally shift the way we house students to have a lasting impact. Accordingly, I worked with neighbors to pass a zoning amendment to prevent further conversion of single-family homes to multiple units that would then be rented to students. At the same time, I have pushed the University to develop further housing for students in the downtown core, as I feel that this will open up space for more families and other more permanent residents to move in. I look forward to further collaboration with neighborhood groups in making these hopes a reality for Burlington.
Supporting Small Business
The Old North End has a dynamic and growing mix of businesses. I have prioritized their continued success by directly engaging business owners about the issues that they are facing. In some cases the issues have been specific to a particular business. For instance, I worked with longtime ONE business Dolan’s Auto to successfully change zoning regulations to allow them to build a wheelchair accessible waiting room for their customers. I am also currently working with Barrio Bakery to troubleshoot parking issues that they are having. Support for individual businesses must be coupled with broader strategic initiatives to develop new opportunities in the North St/ N. Winooski corridor, which is why I have supported mix use developments in those areas that will provide additional storefront space in our neighborhood. Along the same lines, as chair of the Transportation Committee, I am excited to begin the N. Winooski corridor study to facilitate better access to the Old North End.
I worked with the administration, Code Enforcement, and Public Works to craft a reasonable ordinance that is transitioning all rental properties to larger, covered, wheeled toters over the next year. Recognizing that the current use of small, uncovered recycling bins results in recyclables being blown all over our neighborhoods on windy collection days, I knew a common sense solution could be found.
Waterfront public ownership and affordability
Burlington’s Waterfront is a tremendous community resource that everyone in the community can and should be able to enjoy. When the current administration decided to change course with regards to the redevelopment of the Moran Plant and our waterfront in general, I co-sponsored a resolution meant to ensure continued public access to our waterfront. More specifically, the resolution stated that no publicly owned land on the waterfront should be privatized and that any redevelopment should include a mix of free and affordable options.
Livable Wage Ordinance Improvement
Upon review of the city’s 2001 livable wage ordinance this year, we found that many of the provisions were going unenforced and many employees of companies contracted by the city were not making a livable wage. As a result, I was proud to support an enhanced Livable Wage Ordinance that contains provisions for third party enforcement to ensure accountability. I also fought for the ordinance to be applied consistently across different types of workers in the City to ensure a level playing field.
Patient safety zone
Healthcare is a deeply personal experience. To that end, I think that everyone should be able to access the healthcare facility of their choice, without facing undue harassment and intimidation. When I found out that patients of the downtown Planned Parenthood location were bombarded by protesters, in order to access valuable and varied resources, I took action. I worked other Councilors and members of that organization to craft an ordinance that balanced the right of protestors to free speech with that of patient’s right to access healthcare, without intimidation. In the end, we created a uniform, city-wide buffer zone around the entrance of any healthcare facility, allowing patients more space from protestors when entering and exiting clinics.
I supported bringing Charter Change provisions regarding gun safety to Burlington voters for approval on Town Meeting Day. These proposals include not allowing guns in bars, giving our Police Department the ability to seize firearms from a home where domestic abuse is taking place, and requiring safe storage of firearms in order to prevent accidents.
I worked with other Councilors to craft a resolution opposing the transport of tar sands oil through an aging Vermont Pipeline while also making sure that we did not contract with fuel suppliers using them. Tar sands, from which oil can be derived for fuel, are incredibly environmentally harmful. Their extraction requires forests to be clear-cut and their processing relies on the use of harmful chemicals.
I was a lead sponsor of a resolution opposing the basing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at the Burlington International Airport. While I respect and value the service of our hard working Air National Guard members, I felt that the heightened noise levels around the airport created by the F-35, which is four times louder than any aircraft currently flying out of our airport, would have extensive negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods. In fact, in the Air Force’s own report, it stated that hundreds of homes would become, “not suitable for residential use,” were the planes to be based in Burlington. At the same time, the idea of basing a very new aircraft with a questionable safety record in Vermont’s most densely populated area is not, in my opinion, prudent. These combined safety concerns and the consequent devaluation of middle class homes in surrounding communities led me to oppose the basing plan, and urge the Department of Defense to explore other missions for our esteemed Air National Guard members, who proudly serve our state and nation, as mandated by federal law.