Aim for the Heights of Your Vision: Meaghan Emery for City Council (Vote March 1)

In its best sense, politics allows us to lift up people’s dreams and help them realize their aspirations — this potential is intrinsic to the democratic promise and is at the very basis of our ideals as a nation, including our small but growing Vermont community. This ideal continues to be at the heart of my work on the City Council.

When I was first elected in 2008, I saw the hope and indeed the plea in the eyes of the men and women of our police force when they came before the Council to ask for better working conditions. And so, I set to work on educating the public on Bobby Miller’s offer of refurbishing an empty office building on Gregory Drive, and the bond vote passed with a wide margin! 19 Gregory Dr. is now home to the SBPD, the Community Justice Center, and soon our regional dispatch center which will provide faster response times to serve you better when you need their help most.

When a family approached the City back in 2009, eager to conserve into perpetuity their family farm — a piece of our city’s history and now a mainstay in the region, owned and operated by Bread and Butter — I recognized the value and acted to preserve this land, whose rolling green hills nourish our spirit and our bodies with the food they continue to provide us. Common Roots, an offshoot of SLIMY at Orchard Elementary School and part of the Farm to Table movement, is another such partnership that I supported, and it now donates 1/3 of its food production to our South Burlington Food Shelf. Just look at what is possible when people with a shared set of values and an idea get to work to make it happen! What a wonderful way to sustain our agricultural roots by teaching our children the value of farming and honoring the legacy of our founding families, all while ensuring that there’s food on everyone’s table.

If you drive down Airport Parkway, you’ll see our solar array, a 1.5 megawatt (AC) solar array, which since 2017 has been generating renewable, carbon-free energy for northwestern Vermont and net metering credits to the City of South Burlington. From this site alone, the city receives $65,000 annual accumulation of net metering credit value to offset our electrical costs (the schools benefit from additional savings). That will add up in all to $5 million over 25 years, the life or our solar array just north of the airport, and the City is using this offset to invest in more clean technology. Joining two other sites in South Burlington, the solar array at Veterans Memorial Park and the Solar Farm at South Village, it represents the best of what public-private partnerships can accomplish in this city and elsewhere.

These are just a few of the dreams that the Council has been able to help realize.

And we haven’t stopped dreaming! When you go down Hinesburg Rd. or Dorset Street toward one of our two shopping districts you see the culmination of years of work that began with the vision of our residents starting in 1985. Our City Center is the stunning culmination of the dreams of generations of South Burlington residents. It’s part of our lasting legacy to future generations. It says, along with everything else, who we are. And if you read the front page story in this week’s Other Paper, “What the TIF?,” you will be reminded that all of this was made possible thanks to the hard work of our phenomenal staff but most importantly thanks to you, the voters, who overwhelmingly added your voices to those of the Council and called for the establishment of a TIF District back in 2016. Our new Public Library and City Hall, City Center Park, all the new residences within proximity to stores, restaurants, services, and a growing commercial hub — all of this was made possible thanks to your vision, which came into focus through our community gatherings and forums, and could be realized because of the trust that you place in us as your elected leaders to take your dreams, lift them high, and make them come to life.

This is what I wish to continue to do for you and for all of us, to make us the best we can be — because it is your dreams that enshrine our parks and rolling green hills, our municipal services, and the place we call home with love and pride: South Burlington.