New city council member Ali Dieng breaks campaign promise in first vote

BURLINGTON, Vt. — New City Council member Ali Dieng ran largely on a campaign pledge that he would strictly adhere to voting with his constituents in Ward 7. That promise didn’t last even past the gavel strike of his first vote.

“If I am elected as your city councilor, what the people say, that’s what I will do,” then-candidate Dieng promised in May, as captured on video by Burlington’s Channel 17. “The people who bring me there, I am going to be their representative.”

But at a raucous City Council meeting Monday night, Dieng, a Progressive/Democrat, cast his vote for the North Avenue Project, a controversial bike lane configuration rejected three times by his New North Avenue residents of Ward 7. The project cuts the four-lane main artery connecting downtown and the New North End down to two lanes, and adds bike lanes on each side.

While the Council’s approval was a foregone conclusion, all eyes were on Dieng to see if he would stand by his promise to vote with the majority of his constituents, even if it meant going against his impassioned liberal supporters.

When the time came to explain his vote, Dieng, to the surprise of many, said his constituents strongly supported the new bike lanes.

“Ward 7 people are for biking, they love it, they like this, and they would like to see this move forward,” he said.

On Town Meeting Day 2016, in the only citywide vote on the project, Ward 7 residents voted against bike lanes by a tally of 1,197 to 765. Two surveys conducted since that time show local residents continue to oppose the lane changes.

Councilor Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4, quickly contested Dieng’s statement.

“I want to make sure we are being completely factual here,” Wright said. “It may be Councilor Dieng’s opinion that, from the results of the election, Ward 7 is very much in favor of the pilot. But, in actuality, the survey results, which I think have been skewed a little bit one way — even with that, Ward 7 narrowly opposed the project.”

Wright noted a handful of criticisms he had with the survey conducted by Castleton Polling Institute, which was debated for much of the evening. One concern was the postcard’s bland design, which may have led many to overlook it.

“There was fairly strong universal agreement that this postcard was not designed well,” Wright said. “So many people simply said they never got the postcard.”

David Hartnett, I-North District, said he promised his constituents that New North End council members would be permitted to see the survey results before Public Works Department officials would.

“Because we’ve had so much distrust in this process, Public Works could not be the ones to see this data first,” Hartnett said. “There had to be buy-in from this community, and that buy-in would start with the three council members of the New North End. That did not happen — the city received that data (and) never notified any of the three North End members.”

He added that he wasn’t notified about the completed survey data until a public meeting was posted for it on the community website Front Porch Forum. Hartnett said this was evidence that approval of the project was a forgone conclusion and that Public Works was intent on serving a single interest group.

Photo by Michael Bielawski

Burlington City Council faced a packed audience as councilors debated a bike-friendly “complete streets” re-design of North Avenue.

“Local Motion is driving these plans … these plans are made up to advance a world where these people don’t believe in automobiles — and if they do, they think they’re going to be gone in a few years. If you don’t believe me, look at their plans, they reflect that,” Hartnett said.

Portions of the evening focused on traffic safety, which supporters of the project claim is improved by the new road configuration. While Burlington Police Department data indicated that accidents for the pilot project were down about 25 percent, and accidents involving injuries were down around 75 percent, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said the sample sizes were “too small to have statistical significance.”

Wright proposed a strike-all amendment that would have allowed for another public vote next year on the project “to instill confidence in this project … and get better data about safety.” He was the only council member to support his amendment with a vote.

Many council members, even those who voted for the project, commented that the process was not transparent.

“The process was an issue for me — not the results, but the process — and the results were driven by it,” said Sharon Bushor, I-Ward 1. “It was flawed and there are lessons that I would like to see taken from this.”

About two-thirds of the public speakers, of which there were around 35, spoke in favor of the project. Most of them appeared to be connected to Local Motion.

Alice Elder, who has lived along North Avenue for more than 25 years, told True North that she supports the project.

“I drive to and from work every day. I have two kids (that) I drive to and from school every day, and I feel basically there’s been no difference to the traffic flow, except that it’s made it safer,” she said.

New North End resident Deb Wells told True North that the majority of her neighbors have been ignored in the process.

“We voted on this several times now and the answer on this has always been a resounding no,” Wells said. “We do not support the project for a number of reasons. For one, it’s not safe for the bikes to be in the same place where the cars are. A white line doesn’t really do it.”

Dieng, after voting for the bike lanes, also criticized the process directed by the Public Works Department. The head of that department, Chapin Spencer, was the former director of bicycle advocacy group Local Motion.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorth82X.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken and Michael Bielawski/TNR

24 thoughts on “New city council member Ali Dieng breaks campaign promise in first vote

  1. Democrat = Dishonest

    They will say anything to get what they want. They will use deception to get what they want.

    Even at Monday nights meeting there was deception. The current Executive Director of Local Motion handed out signs to supporters in the crowd, many of which stated “Another NNE Family thankful for a Safer North Avenue”. When I asked him if he was asking the individuals he was handing signs to if they LIVED in the NNE his response was “It doesn’t matter”. His intent was to create a visual lie, which he did.

    They have no conscience!

  2. Actually, according to the survey data that breaks it down by Ward, 53% of Ward 7 prefers 3 lanes from RT 127 to Ethan Allen Parkway. And, 55% prefer 3 lanes from Ethan Allen Parkway to Shore Road. On safety, 43% of Ward 7 folks feel safer in cars, while 34% don’t. On bikes, 66% feel more safe and only 16% feel less safe and people feel more comfortable driving by a 47-43 margin.

    Hard to see how that’s not a majority. People may be unhappy (and perhaps even a plurality) but it seems that has to do with process, not safety. And, that process is something Ali was critical about in the election.

    • Kurt Wright pointed out, as well as others including the police, the numbers are TOO small to get accurate statistical numbers. The data info remains a fraud.

      • The “Not True” comment below should be after Shay Totten’s comment not Marianne Ward’s I AGREE TOTALLY with Marianne Ward’s comment – the crash data was not significant and even though the Chief also said there was not an increase in crashes on the beltline during the survey – that was ALSO not true. There were 16 crashes on the beltline before the pilot and 19 after. That’s an increase and those crashes are more dangerous. I also got word from three people that they were in very near head-on collisions in the suicide lane. NOT SAFE!

    • Not true – it came out to 47 percent very dissatisfied/dissatisfied to 46 percent satisfied/very satisfied. Also that survey was designed by DPW / Chapin Spencer / Mr. Conflict of Interest himself to get a positive outcome for the lanes. Everybody knows that. They were asking about one’s experience “in the last 30 days.” Do you know what they were doing the last 30 days prior to the survey? Tweaking the lights – a real no no during a survey but of course we live in one of the most corrupt cities in America and everything goes – Conflict of interest – messing w/ the lights.

  3. Watch out for Progressive Democrats. They will say another to get in power and then forget you even exist, as they pursue their ideological goals.

  4. Councillor Dieng ran a campaign that included supporting the changes to North Ave. He clearly beat Vince Dober (R), who was against the changes. Dieng took home 62% of the votes in the special election, beating Dober almost 2 to 1 at the ballot box.

    When he says “The people who bring me there, I am going to be their representative” – I think he got a pretty clear mandate from the people who elected him to vote yes on making the pilot permanent. That is how a representative democracy works.

    • Not true – He was specifically asked if he would vote as per the survey results after Ward 7 said had already said “no” twice. Once in a vote by a significant margin and then in the second survey by about 58% even though Chapin Spencer LIED (like he always does). He said it was 45 percent to 49 percent our data people reviewed the same 287 pages and came up with much higher numbers against the pilot on that survey. That survey was also designed by Mr. Conflict of Interest Himself and manipulated as it was to get an outcome for the lanes by not offering it to all of the NNE residents, they said “no” again. (Another typical dirty trick from that side). Chapin Spencer has no clue how to analyze data but he is an expert and manipulating it.

      • I agree with Liam that Ali repeatedly said he supported the changes – even after being a skeptic. Your Do-Nothing Dober lost and since you and others believed it was a referendum on the Pilot, all of this is just sour grapes. Ali is right – it’s time to move on and use this bad public process as a way to improve things, not keep rehashing the same vote over and over again. That’s such a waste of public resources and time. Even the downtown mall opponents have decided to move on after their battle over the Sinex development.

        • Shay: Would you be singing a different tune if the vote to continue the pilot had been no?

          It’s one thing to move on if this had been an honest process, but it wasn’t.

          • Yep, I would. Because then councilors would have been voting against a project that met the objectives it had set out in the first place. It would have been caving to a vocal minority, not the majority. And, quite frankly, I don’t think the opponents to the lane changes will be satisfied with any process that didn’t meet their own narrow interests. Looking forward to Kurt and Dave et al to start blaming the Russians for hacking the survey results.

          • I am surprised that someone who used to be a reporter is so judgmental based on stereotypes and narrow-minded. This is about the the pilot, not bashing Reps, and being so self-righteous that you think you have all the answers. Disgusting.

  5. Are you people really surprised???? Shame on you all. You voted for a Progressive/Democrat and you put a liar in office. So what else is new??? Will Vermonters ever wake up? Based upon the voters preferences over the past elections, I would suggest never. Oh where, oh where is Jim Douglas?

    • For the record, this New North Ender (who was born and raised here, 1961) voted for the Republican, too many Progressive/Democrats on the City Council already

  6. Ali, I am very disappointed that you acknowledged that the process was very flawed AND, still looked the other way – shame.

    I myself, didn’t care if the pilot stayed or didn’t, but I just couldn’t support the dishonesty. I also don’t think that traffic decisions should be decided by vote however, in this case, it was far more important to expose the lies and lack of honest democracy – think Trump.

  7. Ali Dieng a typical politician , says what you want to hear to get your vote then follows
    the progressive democrat following in Burlington pretty shameful

    Voting for this bike path boondoogle ,well enough said . A then we have data from BPW
    Chapin Spencer who has a slated views on this project, being the former Director of Local Motion …… Follow the Money !!

    Let see you have thousands of cars using the road daily and ten bicycles that use it, sounds
    like a great investment Burlington !! And what’s wrong with using the million dollar bike path
    as most side streets connect from the bike path to north avenue ???

    • ….according to them (bicyclists) the multi-million dollar bike path is not “convenient” enough…

      selfish of them to affect thousands of daily commuters so they have another biking option…

      FYI Chapin Spencer did not apply for this job, he was sought out by “Developer” Wienberger (he’s not my Mayor) for this position so that he can get a feather in his cap for a “Bicycle Friendly Small City” under Obama’s program.

      The bicyclists are now upset that Pine Street will be dead-ended at Queen City Park Rd. once the circ highway is completed. They want to put a rotary in that location so that bicycles can still go south from there. Rotary’s only work when there are no bike lanes, or crosswalks. Look what happened in Winooski…..

  8. Well, how about a scientific, random poll of each New North End ward? That would answer the question–but, oh well, who really wants and answer?

    • Well stated, Tony. Miro administration can deny it until, as my mother would have said, until you are blue in the face, still this was a done deal when Chapin Spencer was hired to lead DPW, opening the door to cater to the Local Motion crowd. Sickening.

      You’d have to be dumber than a box of rocks to believe otherwise.

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