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Posts from — November 2010

Burlington Telecom Lease Terminated

Not too much in the media about the termination of the lease between Burlington Telecom and Citi Capital. Just this post from Seven Days.

And now there are 11 investors calling themselves “reboot bt” offering to buy the company.  Here’s a great quote from one of the investors From WCAX:

“The problems of BT have to do with the management of BT, in particular the marketing and executive management of BT itself”

I once had so much hope and excitement for Burlington Telecom.  Now what?  This group of folks might buy it for 10 or 15 million, and the city will still be out the 17 million and will still owe the bank 20 million dollars.  And don’t think they won’t sue Burlington for it.  If you had a fleet of lawyers and somebody owed you 20 million, you’d sue.  Is Ken Schatz ready?  Yikes!

You know Bob- you might have got the council to approve the Piper Jaffray re-fi if you had fired Leopold and let somebody else present it to them.  Now it seems the City is probably going to eat a loss of between 30 and 50 million dollars on the Burlington Telecom experiment, not counting increased interest costs from lower credit ratings.  Sad.

November 29, 2010   Comments Off

Vermonter of the year

Happy Thanksgiving. If you’re lucky enough to be stuffing your face today, you have farmers to thank for it. This item forwarded to me by Dale Tillotson seems appropriate to post today…


—–Original Message—–
From: mthbwu
To: letters
Sent: Fri, Nov 19, 2010 3:10 pm
Subject: Vermonter of the year

I nominate the farmers and producers of agricultural products grown and raised in Vermont as Vermonters of the year.
From apples to zucchini, from Allenholm farm to Zuckerman,the growers, producers, and farmers of Vt. products deserve our vote and support for Vermonters of the year.
People talk with supporting of local, now is the time to act.
These are the people with the handshake grip built so powerful from the molding of pie dough for their famous apple pies, to those that need to bleach their nails daily to get the days work removed from their fingernails.
The farmers, growers, and producers of Vt. need our vote, and I nominate them all to share this award as they are our past, and future.
Kudos to them all for all of their generations of hard work.
Dale Tillotson
Burlington Vt.

November 25, 2010   2 Comments

Icehouse Crazy

Did you know Australia is the wealthiest nation on earth?  It’s true if you divide their natural resources by their population.  I met a guy from Australia the other day.  He said he knew I was “a liar, a cheat and a bastard” simply because I was a man.  He also said the standard of living in Australia has now surpassed that of the United States.  Both statements rang true.

Here’s the Australian band Icehouse with their 1987 hit “Crazy.”  Right here on the station that gives you more.

November 23, 2010   Comments Off

Visits Palindrome Today

November 19, 2010

November 19, 2010   Comments Off

January 18, 1865

I just learned that I share the same birthday with The City of Burlington! January 18!

From Long Live The Queen City:

Burlington was not legally incorporated as a village until 1852. However, as its size and regional importance grew rapidly through the mid-1800s, it was split from South Burlington and transformed into a city on January 18, 1865 by a joint citizen vote and act of the Vermont State Legislature.

Me and The City are both Capricorns! How cool is that?

November 18, 2010   Comments Off

Ward Seven Comment

This comment is in response to “School Board Update 11.14.10” and its other comments…

I am parent and retired teacher living in ward 7. Reading the comments on this blog, I am struck by the irony that teachers express so little empathy for the low income families they serve. Act 60/68 notwithstanding, my school taxes keep going up, and my teacher’s retirement check keeps going down as medical insurance premiums keep going up. Even though I support a fair wage for teachers, it is hard not to resent the incessant cry for more so they won’t take a loss, when every year I am taking a loss.

I am frankly pretty disgusted with the administrator’s raise. What a wonderful gesture it would have been if they’d agreed to a freeze, or better yet a cut. Most of them live out of town so they don’t have the investment here, and virtually none of them have children in the system.

Several of you have talked about how hard you work, how you’re in the trenches day-to-day, and how you get no respect. I don’t understand the “trenches” analogy. I did the job for thirty-two years and loved it. I had other opportunities, but chose teaching knowing that at the other end I wouldn’t live an upper middle class retirement. I think teaching’s a good deal; a very fulfilling career, a decent wage that’s far better than when I started out, and a lot of time off to pursue other interests or to advance your career, your choice. To the blogger who claimed it was only 70 days off, those are week days by your own calculation; now figure your rate of pay.

Regardless of the best arguments put forward, however, it comes down to a matter of perception. I think that the teachers are paid enough in this economy, that step increases are no longer appropriate, that the district can no longer finance career advancement, that teachers don’t need three personal days. The perception in this ward is that teachers are asking for too much, and true to history, we will likely vote the budget down again.

November 17, 2010   5 Comments

Blogosphere Imploding

Re-Run from 
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Odum leaves Blogging, Dow Drops 416 points

Update- Right after I wrote the post below the row of stars, I noticed all the other blogs in the world (our world, anyway) have covered the same story. I guess the Snarky angle is way off base. I guess this was more about the 2nd VT Republic folks publishing where Odum works and implying they are paying for him to… what? Attack them? Who cares? I don’t really get this story. But it does remind me we’re all about a paycheck away from going off the air. If that makes any sense.


Odum is leaving GMD. He posted a farewell there and Baruth followed it up, so it’s official. If it was just Odum saying he himself quit, I wouldn’t be too sure. But if Phillip writes about it, you can pretty much hang it on your wall. And yes, this is true even if Baurth is just basing his post on Odum’s post and nothing more. I trust VDB more than my own blog. It doesn’t have to make sense. Read my disclaimer.

I think it’s public knowledge there was something happening between John Odum and a Mr. Snarky Boy. Just last week Odum revealed Snark’s ID to be this guy.

Freaky. Whether this Colby guy is Snaky, and whether Snarky had something to do with Odum’s departure, we don’t know for sure. We do know Snarky has written some very not nice things about Odum. Frankly I don’t see why Odum would be a target for harrassment. He is a great political blogger, but I’ve always found him to be a pretty mainstream Democrat- he never said anything too radical or outright offensive. I would worry way more about the some of the shit I say at Carpetbagger. Odum’s very likable it seems to me. Then again maybe those likeable, mainstream qualities of his drove some already crazy-radical more crazy. Who knows? I just hope it all turns out ok for Odum.

Odum announced he’s out yesterday. That’s a loss and I’m sorry to hear it. Of course I jumped over to SnarkyBoy to see what he had to say about it and I saw his post, also from Monday, called “A Day to Remember” but it wasn’t about Odum. It was about skiing and it was posted hours before Odum’s post.

So there’s that.

Related links from around the world (our world):
Odum’s last “huzah”
The whole Baruth and nothing but
She’s Right
Reason and Chaos
Five Before Brimstone
Cathy Resmer
Live & Local
Sky Barsch
Snarky Boy

November 17, 2010   Comments Off

Say No to NBC-Comcast Merger

Phil Fiermonte from Bernie’s office forwarded this to me. 

Click here If you want to sign a petition against this gigantic media merger.

November 16, 2010   Comments Off

School Board Update 11.14.10

School Board Update 11.14.10

“A lot of Moving Parts” or “Jeanne Collins not all Bad”

So I’ve been on the school board for seven months. I’m starting to get to know the personalities of the other board members, and of the administration. Everybody has a different style of course, and a different set of priorities and ideas, and they’re all good people with the best interest of kids at heart.

I have found that citizens are very engaged with the school board. More so than I remember they were with the city council when I was on it. It’s understandable since many of those citizens are parents with kids in our public schools. For many, engaging the school system is a responsibility of parenthood and so they come to the board with a certain visceral urgency seen much less often by the city council. There are never dozens of people clamoring to be heard on the finer points of tax-incremental financing or payments in lieu of taxes. But delay the hiring of their son or daughter’s school principal, and watch out. They will pack the meeting room and make sure you hear them.

It speaks well for Burlington that so many of our people are involved with shaping the future of public education. This leads me to the role and the power of the fourteen member school board. The main powers of the school board are 1) to set policy and 2) to hire a superintendent to execute policy. Of course we do lots of other things to engage and inform people, but when you boil it down- setting policy and hiring the superintendent to execute policy are the two real powers of your school board.

It’s for this reason that I’m delighted to be serving on the board’s policy and advocacy committee. Under the leadership of chairman Alan Matson, we’ve been reviewing the school district’s policies one by one, hashing out changes and bringing them to the full board to approve. Superintendent Jeanne Collins attends these meetings and usually takes the minutes. Committee meetings are smaller and more intimate than full board meetings and they give me a chance to see how Jeanne works and thinks up close.

I can say for sure Jeanne is very smart and intuitive. I can also say that her job is more complex than one might think. She has to serve fourteen different commissioners all asking her for different advice and information at the same time. At times it seems members practically ask her to do our thinking for us. She does her best to execute the policy of the board and accommodate all of our requests. One might argue she could spend less money, or spend it differently, but nobody can credibly say she isn’t a very hard worker. If people are dissatisfied with various aspects of the school system, it’s really the board who bears responsibility. The board sets policy. The board hires the superintendent.

And it’s for these reasons exactly that I may have already made the greatest contribution I’m going to as a school board member. Amendments I offered that passed unanimously make it board policy to review the superintendent’s performance annually. The previous policy on superintendent review was written in such a weak and confusing way as to make it quite possible for someone in that job to escape review altogether. Of course this policy change does not effect the terms of the superintendent’s contact, which for all intents and purposes are controlling for matters of hiring and firing. The current contract provides considerable advantage to the superintendent in terms of job security.

Citizen participation and the powers of the board are big picture things. Of course the day to day work of the district goes on. Right now at Jeanne’s request board members are visiting Parent Teacher Organizations and Neighborhood Planning Assemblies on a “budget listening tour.” Unfortunately the purpose of hearings is to find the least objectionable things we might cut if we tried to meet the state’s “challenges for change” objective for Burlington of cutting 1.2 million from next year’s budget. I attended the first of these meetings with the CP Smith PTO. Generally the folks at that meeting were not enamored of the choices offered to them. Some wondered whether we spend too much on consultants or administration. Whether Burlington will be able to comply with the challenges for Change mandates, or whether we may see changes to the mandates from new leadership in Montpelier remain open questions.

As you may have read in the newspaper, the board approved a contract with the school administrators that includes a flat $1,850 annual pay raise for each. This is equal to an average increase of 1.5%. It’s a small percentage that equals a large dollar amount because administrators make so much ($92,500 on average) to begin with. At least one constituent asked me who voted how on that, and when informed the vote was unanimous, asked me why I voted to approve. I explained that when it comes to a vote like that, there will almost never be a no vote. Too much time and effort went into hammering out this agreement which was budgeted for and in line with expectations. The potential costs of delaying a contracts could be larger than the cost of the contract, and if our goal really was an increase of zero, it’s hard to come much closer to that than 1.5% in real-world negotiations.

We remain at impasse with the teachers over their contract, but we hope the teachers union will be informed by settlement of the administrator contract. Commissioners Pillsbury and Conger and I have been workingg closely with our negotiating team on a special ad hoc committee to clarify our bargaining positions vis-a-vis the teachers. One of the things I’ve been hearing from the teachers’ side is that the board’s “tone” in negotiations has been negative, so let me take this opportunity to mention the great respect and admiration the school board has for our teachers. We appreciate each and every hard-day’s work you put in with Burlington’s kids. We will continue to pay you well for your work. In 2008 Burlington teachers made roughly between 36 and 80 thousand dollars per year each. Even at the lowest pay band, Burlington’s teachers already do better than most people in Burlington. We love and need our teachers but the district’s pockets are not bottomless. Hopefully our current impasse with the teachers union can be broken and we can return to the bargaining table with a more respectful, and more realistic tone from both sides.

Finally congratulations to Vince Brennen who won a seat on the city council, and to Philip Barth who won a seat in the Vermont Senate on November 2. Vince has resigned from the school board already to prepare for the city council. Philip, I understand will continue to represent ward four on the school board while he represents Chittenden County in the senate. Best of luck to both men.

November 14, 2010   29 Comments

More to Come…

November 8, 2010   Comments Off