After first being appointed and then elected to complete the remainder of a one-year term, District 3 City Councilor Dan Richardson will seek a full two-year term on Town Meeting Day. He faces opposition from Alice Goltz, a school crossing guard whose poignant personal story drew state and international news coverage in 2015.
Richardson Looks Beyond the Pandemic
Richardson was appointed in late 2019 to fill a seat vacated by Ashley Hill. He then won a three-way special election in March to serve the remaining year of Hill’s term. His first year was dominated by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s FY2021 budget was barely passed when the City Council had to shrink it to cover a shortfall that resulted from lost revenue caused by the virtual economic shutdown. Likewise, the 2022 budget that voters will decide on March 2 is far from aspirational.
Richardson says there was no appetite for raising taxes in the current environment, but if and when the COVID crisis subsides, there are plenty of deferred projects that need attention. He said despite the lean budget, the Council was able to revive the Capital Area Neighborhood concept in the past year. CAN looks to connect residents in small geographic areas.
“This budget is not a sustainable budget,” Richardson said of the FY2022 proposal. “It’s a budget for a particular year. If we get more money there are a lot of things that have been put off and would return us to where we would normally be on the paving and repair schedule.”
Richardson said he would like to see the city develop more recreational opportunities outside of Hubbard Park. He cited land off Sherwood Drive on the south side of the river as a possibility, as well the former Two Rivers parcel near Agway that is embroiled in a complicated legal dispute.
He also said the city should lay the infrastructure groundwork for mixed use development that is likely coming to the eastern end of Barre Street. He suggested that such development include a mix of housing and retail businesses that would serve the local neighborhood and make use of the amenities already there, such as the bike path.
Richardson said he would like to see a cooperative regional effort to address homelessness, rather than to see each Central Vermont community go it alone. He said the human services agencies are regional and people who are without housing are not only in Montpelier, where two affordable housing projects have been completed recently by Downstreet Housing.
“Downstreet has, in some ways, maxed out the Montpelier community,” he said. “I know other communities say ‘When do we get some of Downstreet’s investment?’”
Making sure people are connected to the resources that are available is one way to create a path out of homelessness, he said.
Richardson, an attorney, said Montpelier is one of the best places to live in the world and that it will take careful planning to keep it that way. “I think I bring a skillset that excels in that kind of thinking and I bring in a basic knowledge of the ways municipalities in Vermont function,” he said.
Alice Goltz Never Gives Up
There can’t be very many people who have suffered a devastating loss like Goltz’s yet remain as determined to see that no one else feels the same pain.
Shortly after giving birth to her daughter in 2007, officials from the Department for Children and Families entered her hospital room and took the baby away. She has been fighting to get her back, or at least have a relationship with the child, ever since. Her story was featured on AlJazeera America and VTDigger, among others, in 2015.
At the time, officials ruled that Goltz, who has a mild cognitive disability and tremors in her arms, was unable to care for the infant. Non-specialized DCF staff members worked with Goltz for a year but ultimately determined that she could not adequately care for the child, despite the assessment of a state-hired psychologist saying Goltz only needed training to become a competent parent. Goltz contends the department failed to provide her with services that could help her gain the skills to care for the child.
Goltz’s daughter was fostered by a Chittenden County couple who, in 2010, adopted the girl, thereby ending Goltz’s parental rights and any access to her.
Gradually, however, she was allowed to send letters, and her daughter, now almost 14, has communicated with the woman she calls “Mother Alice,” Goltz said.
“She sent me a card thanking me for a gift card that I sent her,” Goltz said. “She’s getting older and it’s not going to be too much longer (until they can have a relationship, if the daughter wishes).”
Goltz, who for years has guided Union Elementary School and Main Street Middle School students across the busy intersection of Main and School streets, still advocates for parental rights and has never changed her view that the system failed her.
“You should not take a child away from a parent who is trying to do everything they can for the child,” she said.
Goltz said she will apply the same dogged determination to city governance.
On the issues facing the city, she said the police department needs more mental health workers to respond to cases involving people in crisis. She cited the death of her friend and neighbor Mark Johnson, who was killed by Montpelier police in a 2019 confrontation near Spring Street. Johnson was shot while holding a pellet gun that resembled a handgun. The officers involved were found by Attorney General T.J. Donovan to be justified in using deadly force.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
Goltz said she has lots of ideas to improve the community and supports more affordable housing, more traffic lights and street lighting, better sidewalk clearing, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
“I think I do a lot for the community,” she said. “But I want to do more.”