Posts from — February 2011
Below the row of stars to follow is this week’s North Avenue News “Councilor’s Corner” by Ward One city councilor Ed Adrian. In it he discusses the imbalance of civic power between the mayor and the city council. I’ve been saying that’s a problem for 15 years. It’s nice to finally have some company.
Councilor’s Corner by Ed Adrian
(from North Avenue News Vol.41, No. 3 week of March 1, 2011)
With elections just around the corner, it is a perfect time to take stock in Burlington’s system of government and see what is working well and what could be improved upon. Good government depends on a system of checks and balances. Without a system of checks and balances, one branch can amass an excess of power and can then proceed to make decisions that stand in stark contrast to those championed by the public-at-large.
The City of Burlington has reached a junction where it is clear that our system of government needs to be fixed. The keystone to good government is trust. At the City Council meeting of January 27, 2010 the Mayor refused to indicate what his plan was moving forward in order to restore public trust in his Administration in the wake of the way it has handled Burlington Telecom. This follows on the heels of former Progressive City Councilor Marrisa Caldwell’s statement in October, 2009 that “the money will be paid back to the City, either through revenue, a new financing structure, or in the worst case scenario, if BT were to fail, we would recoup the money through the sale of the assets.” And is reminiscent of former Progressive City Councilor Tim Ashe’s proclamation about Burlington Telecom in November, 2009: “There is no scandal. There is no controversy. And there is no poor health of our municipally owned telecom service.” The Mayor and his allies simply are not capable of moving forward to restore trust.
The current Administration’s lack of foresight is unfortunate; it is even more problematic that the Council by its form and structure is nearly powerless to counter any Administration in City Hall. Several years ago when the City was sued over opening ballot boxes prematurely, the current CAO opined under sworn oath that having a Council without a majority of any party made his job easier. In scratching the surface of this statement it is evident that the current Administration will continue to act with impunity until the next election.
I am suggesting that we overhaul the way we do business in City Hall. Here are my recommendations: 1) We reduce the number of City Councilors from 14 to 7. This will make it more difficult for future Administrations to attempt to divide and conquer future City Councils. It will also make it easier for Councilors to better keep in contact with each other. 2) Actually pay the City Councilors for the work that is performed. Currently we receive a “stipend” of $3000. Councilors will become more vested in what they do if treated and compensated like professionals and will be better able to justify to their families the time spent away from home (I am speaking from personal experience). It also makes serving more equitable since running for office would likely become more (financially) justifiable to a broader ranger of individuals. 3) Put together a stronger system of checks and balances that will hold a mayoral administration politically accountable for its actions. A good start in the right direction is to vote YES on ballot question 7 to change the charter to take the CAO off the Board of Finance and substitute the appointed official with an elected one accountable to the public.
I would love to hear from you on these issues. Feel free to call 233-2131, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @CouncilorAdrian
February 26, 2011 8 Comments
Frederick Lane is an author, attorney, educational consultant, expert witness, and lecturer who has appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He currently serves as chairman of the Burlington (VT) School Board. His fifth book, “American Privacy: The Four-Hundred-Year History of Our Most Contested Right,” is now available in paperback from Beacon Press or the retailer of your choice. His his sixth book, “CyberTraps for the Young,” will be published on April 1, 2011.
February 23, 2011 No Comments
Re-run from 03.24.09. The comments are interesting.
February 23, 2011 No Comments
It isn’t polite to continue commenting in a given forum when that forum’s moderator has asked you to kindly stop, at least until the fact-finding report comes out. A certain someone is ignoring this principle so sadly, I am having to approve comments before they are published to aviod publishing his or her’s, which I don’t welcome. This interrupts the natural flow of conversations that occur here, but as often happens, one bad apple is making it a little harder for everyone else.
Just as a review- BurlingtonPol.com- this blog here- is my own personal blog. Its contents- what I allow or disallow- constitute my own free speech. I cannot infringe on your free speech by refusing, deleting or changing your comments. You can only infringe on mine by rudely interrupting art in progress when you have been asked to stop.
Outside of this blog, your first amendment rights are all well and good- but BurlingtonPol.com in its entire presentation is my free speech. You are free to start your own blog, or go on CBS Sunday Morning or write to the Huffington Post or whatever. Just don’t comment here until after the fact-finding report comes out, please. Whether you call yourself anonymous, no respect, underpaid teacher, Wormer, Dorfman, or whatever. Just stop please. You’re an adult right? Ridiculous!
February 21, 2011 5 Comments
In ten months on the school board I have sent or received 1319 emails related to my being on the school board. That’s about 110 per month or 3.6 per day. I guess it’s not that bad if you just think “3.6 emails per day,” but there’s a lot more than just reading emails. Many of those emails are telling me to read something, talk to somebody, or go to a long meeting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying.
February 20, 2011 No Comments
After losing to Paul Decelles last year, Greg Jenkins is making his second run for the city council this year challenging Ward 7 incumbent Vincent Dober. It’s hard to see a path to victory for Jenkins against Dober, who is fairly popular in Ward 7 and among his collegues on the council.
Another reason it’s hard to imagine Jenkins winning, is that he seems prone to gaffes. For example at his Twitter feed Jenkins comments about his debate with Dober at the Neighborhood Planning Assembly by saying “Dover attracts me…I stuck with the issues” mis-spelling both “Dober” and “attacks” in what might be mistaken for a Freudian slip. It isn’t hard to delete a Twitter update and re-write it correctly, but Jenkins has left this one up as is for five days. Winning campaigns tend to pay greater attention to detail.
Two more serious gaffes are presented on both Jenkins’s campaign website and corresponding paper literature (three, if you count the added mnemonic effect of primacy and recency in a presentation).
The first blurb is a quote from Jenkins:
“My job as your City Councilor is solving problems, before they fall on the shoulders of Burlington taxpayers. I’m disappointed that this Administration and this Council have had to ask the voters for more money, while at the same time supporting wage and benefit increases the City can not afford.”
The first sentence (“My job as your City Councilor is…”) should not be written in present tense. Jenkins is not a city councilor. He is a candidate. Voters hate it when a candidate is presumptuous. I remember Bill Clinton giving a press conference as president-elect accidentally referring to himself as “president” and then correcting himself to say “president-elect.” Jenkins isn’t even “councilor-elect” and he’s referring to himself as “councilor.” It seems slightly delusional.
And there’s a gaffe in the last blurb: “How to be accountable- Stop executive sessions”
The gaffe is gross over-simplification. Voters aren’t stupid and most will easily see this as the empty sloganeering it is. You would be hard pressed to find a current or former city councilor who would honestly say there is never a need for executive session. Sure everybody’s pissed about all the secrecy surrounding Burlington Telecom, but there are other areas where the premature disclosure of information would put the city and taxpayers at a substantial disadvantage. Contract negotiations and civil lawsuits jump to mind.
Greg Jenkins is a nice enough man, but I predict another solid loss for him this year. Sorry Greg.
February 20, 2011 1 Comment
This post by Kathy Navarro was in the Village Green Neighborhood Front Porch Forum…
MIKAELA NEEDS EVERYBODY’S HELP
By Kathy Navarro, Rivermount Terr
Sat, 19 February 2011
Post your note to neighbors
If anybody can help please do so. Please remember this could be your child. We never know when it could happen to us, so please support somebody else in need. Please read the blogs, it is heart wrenching. If you know anybody in the media, please ask them to put it in the paper, tv or radio.
Mikaela is a 7th grader at Hunt Middle School in Burlington’s New North End of Burlington. She is currently awaiting a liver and kidney transplant at Children’s Hosptial Pittsburgh. Fundraising efforts toward the $150,000 goal are underway and YOU CAN HELP! How can you help Mikaela and her family? Please read:
http://www.CotaforMikaelaS.com is the website to access all the information.
her mom’s blog, written by Heather Siekiewicz. The February 9th blog, A Letter to our Surgeons, tells this story best.
ATTEND–”A Night for Mikaela”
Buy Tickets @ $50 each to the Friday, March 25th dinner/dance at the Elks Club in Burlington, featuring the Starline Rhythm Boys. Cocktails at 6, Dinner at 7, Dancing to Follow. Silent Auction, door prizes and raffle drawings! Silent auction highlights include an authentic signed Nolan Ryan baseball, Texas Rangers baseball cap signed by Nolan Ryan and a signed baseball card and other signed MLB signed items as well as various items from local businesses here in Chittenden County. Make checks payable to COTAforMikaelaS and send to COTAforMikaelaS, 75 North View Drive, Burlington, VT 05408
BUY — a Raffle Ticket to win a Flat Screen TV or a Laptop or a Wii System
Buy Raffle Tickets @ $5 each or 5/$20.
Raffle drawing will be held at “A Night for Mikaela” and NOTE: the winner NEED NOT BE PRESENT to win.
SELL Raffle Tickets to your friends, family and co-workers. Call Nancy Winn @ 660-8282 to get tickets today!
Learn about organ donation at http://donatelifevt.org
February 20, 2011 No Comments
I was watching a piece of paper burn in my fireplace and I noticed how when it disintigrated to a certain point, the remaining whisps were freed to fly away- possibly to catch other things on fire. It reminded me of danidilion seeds floating away to reproduce themselves. Fire’s symbiotic relationship with human beings hasn’t hurt it none, either, if you were to imagine fire as an organism. Fire certainly eats and is often described as “ferocious.” Is it possible fire evolved to be the way it is now, the way organisms evolve? Might there have been some different, more primative kind of fire long ago? Is fire alive?
February 19, 2011 2 Comments
Just an FYI for my readers- The Burlington School Board and the Burlington Education Association have not been able to agree on a teacher contract on their own, so on February 10 a meeting was held with an official fact-finder who will issue a recommendation in a couple of months. Then the board and the union will head back to the table with the findings of fact to guide us. Fact finding could lead to a settlement, a strike or the imposition of a contract by the school board for one year.
February 16, 2011 13 Comments
Healthy exchanges between residents, candidates, school commissioners, city councilors and the mayor tonight at the big 4/7 ballot forum and candidate debate. Congratulations to the 4/7 Steering Committee and Master of Ceremonies Lea Terhune on putting on a great event.
Here’s a picture I snapped with my phone. Left to Right that’s Dave Hartnett, Greg Jenkins, Kurt Wright, Bob Kiss, Paul Decelles, and I believe Ed Scott.
John Briggs was there and he told me Brian Pine is a possible mayoral candidate. Brian Pine was there too, but he demurred when I asked him about it.
Hot topics of the evening included taxes, school spending, smart-grids, IRV, executive sessions and hemp. All in all, a good night for democracy. At the end Lea said it felt like a real town meeting. I’ve never been to a real town meeting since I’m from Burlington, but it felt very much like what I imagine one would feel like.
February 15, 2011 12 Comments