Due to the pandemic I won’t be going door to door, but I do want to hear from you. If you would like to ask me a question, send it to: cotaforcouncil@votecota.org.  I will answer every question and will post some below. Thank you for checking out the Vote Cota website and please send in your ballot by mail or vote safely in person on March 2.

Frequently Asked Questions for Matt

Why are you running?

I think we need volunteer leaders who are determined to move our city forward. I have been on the Development Review Board since 2015, the last two years as Chair. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit all of us, there was an effort to shut down the volunteer committees. Indeed, some stopped operating for several months. The DRB did not. We knew then, as we all do now, that technology allows us to meet online, to hear and see from the public and to discuss issues in an open and transparent way. At my direction, city staff went above and beyond to help residents with concerns about technology. I believe then, and still do today, that public access is strengthened, not diminished, by these innovations. When we once again meet at City Hall, I expect there will be a desire to keep the remote meeting option available.  

We all understand the Covid-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on all of our lives. This is an extraordinary time, where safety requires us to maintain physical distance from one another. But we cannot simply suspend our responsibilities and allow this virus to grind the gears of government to a halt. I am determined to keep moving forward because a competent, responsive government is essential.

Do you get paid to be on the Development Review Board?

It is a volunteer position, appointed by the City Council. I have been appointed twice and elected twice as Chair. DRB members do get a small stipend, I donated about half of it back to city funds. This year I donated to the South Burlington Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Police Bequest Fund, the Blanchette Library Fund, and the Recreation Scholarship fund.

What is the biggest issue for the city?

Affordability. Ensuring that South Burlington is affordable allows diverse families across the economic spectrum to live here. This enriches our schools, informs our policymaking, and creates a more vibrant community. Consider this though: 10% of our neighbors put half of their income into housing. Any increase to the property tax, or an increase in the cost of essential services such as heat, hot water, electricity puts a strain on those who are living on a fixed income or anyone struggling to pay their bills.  The financial fall out from Covid-19 is not over, and won’t be over immediately after it is safe to shake hands again. If I am on the City Council I will make make sure we don’t spend beyond our means.

South Burlington has become a very expensive place to live. What are you going to do for families that want to move here?

No one wants the traffic congestion and emissions that increase when people who work here can’t afford to live here.  We need more diverse housing options in South Burlington. Let’s face it, we are not an island.  We are few miles away from the largest employers in the state and the gateway to points north and south on interstate 89.  As long as our region has a viable economy, as long as we are creating jobs, we should help those that work here contribute to our community and our tax base. We use something called inclusionary zoning, requiring developers to build affordable housing in their larger projects in certain parts of the city. This can be expanded. We don’t want further divide South Burlington from the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have nots.’

Do you support Fair and Impartial Policing policies?

I support  Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP). Everyone should be treated equally under the law. It is my understanding that South Burlington Police Department has adopted the state FIP policy model as required by Vermont legislature.  Meaningful police training on implicit bias, systematic racism and empathy is important and overdue. South Burlington is no exception. As a former journalist, I got to know many police officers. There are many good people who choose law enforcement as a profession, individuals that care deeply about the community they police. I think that in order to be effective, police officers must appreciate how perishable the trust is with citizens. The right organizational culture is critically important, it must be committed to ethical and service oriented leadership. It is important that all members of our community view police officers as resource, to protect them from criminal acts, regardless of their immigrations status.

What is your job?

Like many Vermonters, I have several jobs. I run a non-profit trade association that trains heating technicians and truck drivers.  These are the people you call in the middle of the night to fix the equipment in your basement, the people that make sure you have heat and hot water. I have also spent 17 years in the Vermont Statehouse, as a reporter and an advocate for small businesses. I’m not a lawyer, but I am a trusted resource on energy policy here in Vermont.  I also started a heating assistance charity that has helped deliver a surprise gift of warmth to hundreds of Vermonters.

Do you support a ban or tax on heating equipment like the one proposed in Burlington?

I do not support a tax on Vermonters that can’t afford to switch to electricity for heat, hot water, and cooking.  It is important to reduce carbon emissions, but heating your home in Vermont is not a luxury. It is a necessity.  A ban on heating equipment or a carbon tax will have unintended and harmful consequences on those we need to protect the most.

What is the name of your dog?

Juniper. She is a ten month old St. Bernard puppy that has brought so much joy to our family, especially my two teenage children, during this isolation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. BTW, you can follow her on Instagram @juniperthesaint