Mayor keeps lights out on Burlington

Representatives from the University of Vermont’s Student Government Asso?ciation have joined with the City of Burlington in an ef?fort to brighten dark streets throughout the city. The downtown pedestrian lighting plan was set in mo?tion by SGA last spring, when it passed a resolution calling for increased lighting in ar?eas frequented by University students. In response to calls for ac?tion by SGA members, Burl?ington City Council passed its own legislation aiming to create “a safe, effective, en?vironmentally sensitive light?ing plan for the exit pathways of downtown.” “Increased lighting is a documented deterrent to crime, would encourage peo?ple to walk rather than drive downtown, and would aid in the dispersal of late-night downtown crowds,” the Coun?cil’s resolution said. City Council’s resolution also requested a response, to include a documented time?table for the lighting plan’s implementation, from Burl?ington Mayor Bob Kiss. Mayor Kiss’s June 9 memo in response to City Council included no timeline and in?stead recommended, “work?ing towards a safer downtown and city in ways that do not involve lighting.” “The Mayor’s memo fell gravely short of the needs that we are looking for,” said Scott McCarty, chair of SGA’s Com?mittee on Legislative Action said. “In the past, the mayor has been a strong proponent of reducing light pollution,” McCarty said, “which is likely the reason he is not fully sup?porting the new plan.” McCarty said that he, oth?er members of the Commit?tee on Legislative Action and SGA senator and Student Ac?tion committee chairman Jay Taylor will continue to seek the mayor’s support by iden?tifying specific places in need of additional lighting around the city, and will report to City Council with their find?ings by October. “We are doing the heavy lifting for the mayor and the City Council,” McCarty said. “I would find it hard to believe if [the Mayor] continued to do nothing on this important is?sue.” McCarty said he hopes to find common ground with the mayor. City Council, in addi?tion to passing new legisla?tion, added a seat for student representation on the City’s outdoor lighting committee – the group in charge of city lighting issues, McCarty said. Taylor will serve on the com?mittee. The committee is com?prised of a broad range of representatives from both city departments and outside institutions, Mayor Kiss said. Some groups represented in?clude the Burlington Police Department, the Burlington Planning and Zoning Com?missions Burlington Electric Department, and the Vermont Astrological Association. “I expect that this commit?tee will be able to meet the goals expressed in the Coun?cil’s resolution and develop an appropriate lighting plan,” Mayor Kiss said. The Mayor did not mention implementa?tion. McCarty said he is not sure whether or not these new lighting initiatives would be taking place had it not been for the kidnapping of Michelle Gardner-Quinn on Main Street last year. “We can make improve?ments on this and we can keep students safe,” McCarty said. He said he hopes that, if a new lighting plan is imple?mented, it could prevent a similar tragedy from occur?ring again.