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Category — Breaking News

Weinberger Wins!

8:16pm Miro Weinberger has won the election for mayor of Burlington!  Congratulations to the mayor-elect…

10:55pm- Time for a little unpacking of the day’s events here in Burlington, Vermont.

*Thank you to Kurt and Wanda  for running honorable campaigns. 

* From a personal standpoint, thank you very much to the 1,392 people who voted to re-elect me to the school board from Ward Seven.  It’s an honor to serve you.  I believe I received the 4th 8th highest vote total in the city behind Miro, Kurt and Bernie O’Rourke. Oddly Bernie was the one school board member with an opponent on the ballot and he got more votes than all 6 of the rest of us who were unopposed.

*Thank you Lauren Glenn, Meghan O’Rourke, Nat Ayer, Jess Wilson and everybody at Channel 17 for hosting election HQ tonight, and to Kathryn Flagg, Paula Routly, Tyler Machado, Cathy Resmer, Andy Bromage and the rest of the crew at Seven Days for inviting me to blog with them there.

* Jay Vos, formally of the wonderful local blog “Blazing Indescretions” tells me that Blogger has deleted his entire blog because they mistook it for spam.  That is upsetting.

*The school budget passed  5359 to 4490 . 

*Council Winners by Ward:  1- Ed Adrian, 2- Max Tracy 3-Rachel Siegel 4-Byran Aubin 5-Chip Mason 6-Karen Paul 7-Paul Decelles  Congratulations all. 

*The council takes a step to the left.  Kurt departs in 4 and is replaced by a Dem.  Berezniak departs in 2 and is replaced by the Prog he Bram beat by 13 14 votes 2 years ago.  Paul Decelles, whom I voted for today, got 54 more votes than ge got last time, yet only won by 97 votes, beating Tom Ayres 52.6% to 47.3%.  Ayres is likely to run again next year when Vince Dober retires from the council.  Ed Adrian envisions a “New New North End” that is solidly Democratic.  Is his vision correct?

 *Chart and numbers stolen from Seven Days:

Burlington Mayoral Race

7 of 7 wards reporting results.
The winning candidate must receive more than 40% of votes to avoid a runoff.

Miro Weinberger (D) 5801 Kurt Wright (R) 3746 Wanda Hines (I) 498

Burlington City Council Races
Ward 1 Adrian (D) 709 Write-ins 0
Ward 2 Tracy (P) 503 Hammerslough (D) 297 Write-ins 0
Ward 3 Siegel (P) 755 Hurley (D) 440 Ruloff (I) 44 Salese (I) 40 Write-ins 0
Ward 4 Aubin (D) 1095 Kenworthy (R) 974 Write-ins 0
Ward 5 Mason (D) 1177 Daigle (I) 453 Write-ins 0
Ward 6 Paul (I) 1118 Write-ins 0
Ward 7 Decelles (R) 965 Ayres (D) 868 Write-ins 0

March 6, 2012   8 Comments

The Cross Report

The Name “Dottie Cross” is sprinkled throughout my childhood memories because she was friends with my mother who would mention her from time to time. I finally met Dottie and her husband George on May 22, 2005 at the Sheraton Hotel. They happened to be sitting directly behind my mother and me at the speech by Ann Richards there that day. Boy I miss my mother. We used to do cool things like that together. When I was eleven she took me to my first political rally. That time it was Geraldine Ferraro at Memorial Auditorium when she was running for vice-president. Ferraro didn’t know that day that her son would eventually be under house arrest just a few blocks away from there. The last movie my mom and I saw together was Sicko by Michael Moore. Ironic since my mother was dying of cancer. Just a few months before she died we went to a dinner held by the Society of Mayflower Descendants where my mom was inducted as a member. It’s smart to wait until right before you die to join the Mayflower Society. Saves on dues.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes. Jeanne Collins emailed the school board tonight to let us know Molly Walsh from the Burlington Free Press was asking about the proposal to shift retirement costs for non-teacher school employees from the city to the school department.   I’d better scoop Molly.  This cost shift and other measures were recommended to the Burlington City Council on June 22, 2010 by Dottie’s husband George Cross who was hired as a budget analyst a year earlier by the Democratic city councilors who pooled their meager operating budgets to pay him.

Now in April of 2009 when Cross, a former teacher was hired, I was pleased to see the city council empowering itself in such a way.  The Burlington Telecom scandal had just broken and it seemed logical that the plurality Democratic council would have its own guy to counter Jonathan Leopold.  I thought he was just going to help the council interpret the budget, so they didn’t have to rely entirely on the JPAL.  I didn’t know he was actually going to make recommendations, or that those recommendations would have legs with both the council and the administration.  I also had no idea at the time that I would be elected to the school board a year later and be forced to deal with the ramifications of those recommendations.

There’s the “be careful what you wish for…you just might get it” philosophy.  There’s also the “it doesn’t matter what you wish for, something bad always happens” theorem.  I like the way David Letterman put it best: “Life is just one disappointment after another, isn’t it?”

Some of reccomendations of George Cross’s “final report” (here’s a draft of the report which is similar to the final version) presented as a memo to the council June 22, 2010 first came to my attention a few months ago when Dale Tillitson told me Leopold was working them.  I asked Jeanne and Keith if they knew why a somone might be asking me about this and they gave me a breakdown of how the retirement works right now.   The proposal to change it wasn’t discussed, but how it works now is as follows.

School Department employees come in two types- folks licensed as educators by the Vermont Department of Education, and everybody else.  The licensed educators pay into and draw from the State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS).  Everybody else- food service, para-professionals, custodians, after-school staff, business manager, grants manager, diversity director- they are all considered municipal employees by city charter and draw from the Burlington Employees Retirement System (BERS) which the city pays for.  Also- until now they city has always cut the School Department a check to reimburse it for the FICA tax (Federal Insurance Contributions Act of 1935) for these non-teacher employees, which pays for their Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Cross has 3 main recommendations to the city with regard to its financial relationship with the school department 1) Stop paying the non-teacher FICA tax.  Make schools pay it.  City saves estimated $550K; 2) Stop paying into BERS for non-teacher employees.  Make schools pay it.  City saves estimated $792K 3) Move crossing guard services from the Department of Public Works (DPW) to Schools.  City saves estimated $216K.  These were estimates for FY11.

The School Board’s Planning Committee was made aware last month that the city is planning to move on these recommendations as soon as possible.   Since then there have been two meetings about this between city and school officials which took place on October 12 and November 3 at the mayor’s office.  Present 10/12: Me, Alan Matson, Jeanne, the school department’s financial manager Karen, Bob Kiss, Bill Keogh, acting CAO Scott Schrader and another city money guy named Rich… I think that’s it.  Present 11/3 were all the same people plus Keith, the school board chair.

The Cross report and the city officials explained several arguments in favor of this cost shift- 1) Act 68 which says “funds received by a municipality other than a school district may not be used directly or indirectly for education expenses” which is meant to prevent so called “gold towns” from shifting school costs to the town to keep their school rate lower; 2) Cleaner accounting.  It’s hard to know true school costs if city is paying for some of the school department’s retirement. 3) shifting the cost to school taxes and gives tax payers the benefit of school tax income sensitivity (it socializes those costs across the state).

Bob and Bill both seemed resolutely in favor.  From my perspective, I can see no up-side of doing this for the school department.   Even if this is a good idea, timing matters.  Right now it looks like the city’s broke and it wants to cannibalize money from the schools… from the kids. Plus the schools are losing stimulus funding this year, and this hit compunds the problem.  I argued a little bit, and Bill Keogh warned me if the school board fought, there would be political fallout…  Then I was like “that’s not a fair political fight for the council!” Then Bill stood up, shook his fists and yelled “You want a piece of me?!”

Just kidding.

Schrader tried to argue we’re at risk of a lawsuit from a taxpayer seeking income sensitivity, but I found that argument silly.  We’ve been doing it this way forever and nobody has ever sued.  The arguments in favor of the shift appear to make sense on the surface, but however much the city lowers their dedicated retirement tax rate because of the cost shift to the schools, the savings will appear invisible to the taxpayers because they’ll inevitably be swallowed up by increased spending elsewhere.  That’s as sure as the sun rising.  Nobody’s going to really feel that decrease, but people will feel the increase on the schools side, which will not be the only one coming, by the way.

In any event, it appears this is how it appears it’s going to play out…

Next year the city council isn’t planning on cutting that FICA check to the schools which will mean another 411K the schools will have to ask from the taxpayers for FY13 .

The BERS cost will be tougher for the city to pass on to the schools because it will require a charter change and the cooperation of the school board.  We’re going to kick that can down the road for now and see how the elections pan out.

Jeanne says the proposal to move crossing guards from DPW comes up every few years and it always gets beat back.  This one will probably get punted indefinitely.

There are a lot more ins, outs and what-have-yous, but there’s a little background for you to compare to the Free Press story on this if Molly writes one.

November 16, 2011   9 Comments

Leopold: Ashe and Wright Knew

Here is the video of Jonathan Leopold telling Matty Tanner and “Mike Jones” that the Board of Finance was briefed in May of 2008 about Burlington Telecom’s inability to get financing and of its continued use of pooled city cash in violation of its certificate of public good.  May 2008 was about a year before the story broke and almost a year before the re-election of mayor Bob Kiss.  If Kurt Wright had wanted to, or had been smart enough to, he certainly could have used that information in the last election, and he probably would have won. You may recall that at the time the Board of Finance was made up of the following five people- Mayor Kiss, Chief Administrative officer Leopold and a city councilor from each party.  Democrat Andy Montroll, Republican Kurt Wright and Progressive Time Ashe.

Assuming Kurt Wright is the Republican nominee- he’s going to have to answer for this soon enough, but right now the Democratic party has a choice to make in about a week.  Are you telling me they’re going to be stupid enough to nominate Progressive Tim Ashe with that kind of baggage?  Jesus Christ!  I almost dare the Dems to do it because it would be so comically self-defeating.  First of all, he’s not even a Dem.  Duh.  Secondly he would lose!  Given the choice between Wright and Ashe, many moderate Dems and Indpendents like me would vote for Kurt.  People feel the city needs a change and a shake up.  Tim Ashe loudly proclaimed Kiss, Leopold and BT to be resounding success stories when he nominated Kiss for re-election.  He’s about as far from “change” and “shake-up” as it gets.

And Where’s Lloyd Benson when you need him?  This week the Vermont chapter president of the American Federation of Teachers called Ashe the best choice saying  “Tim Ashe is a young Bernie Sanders.”  That’s like saying The Phantom Menace is as good as the orignal Star Wars.  Ridiculous on its face.   Somebody’s got to say it…

“Senator, I served with Bernie Sanders. I knew Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Bernie Sanders.”

November 6, 2011   9 Comments

Ten Thousand Dollar Task Force

Breaking News

In an email with little precedent, Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) director Larry Kupferman told city councilors on Friday his office cannot afford to staff a task force which the council will vote on creating Monday night.  With little explaination he estimates the council would need to give CEDO an additional $10,000 to staff a proposed new task force on urban agriculture.

Does this mean CEDO is now working at its maximum capacity and cannot take on any more work?  If so, then shouldn’t the council have been alerted to that a while ago?

Below the row of stars to follow is Kupferman’s email and below the row of stars after that is the resolution to be discussed at the 03.21.11 city council meeting. 

From: Larry Kupferman
To: Bram Kranichfeld, Ed Adrian, Joan Shannon, Nancy Kaplan, Vincent Dober, Bill Keogh, David Berenziak, Karen Paul
Cc: Ken Schatz, Richard Haesler, Bob Kiss, Jonathan Leopold, Richard Goodwin
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2011 3:30:03 PM
Subject: Urban Ag Task Force?


I notice that a council resolution entitled “Creation of Urban Agriculture Task Force” is scheduled to be discussed at Monday’s meeting.

I have not been involved in the discussions that have led to this resolution nor consulted about the staff time required to staff a task force of this nature.

Based on my experience with past task forces staffed by CEDO, I will state now that the department does not have funds designated now or in the next budget year for such staff assignment. If Council does not appropriate a sum (I estimate $10,000) for this purpose, I am afraid it will be an unfunded mandate until a way to pay for staffing requirements is determined.

I’ll be glad to discuss the intent of this resolution further before Monday night. Thank you.


Larry Kupferman
Community and Economic Development Office
City Hall, 149 Church St.
Burlington, VT 05401
direct 802-865-7174
fax: 802-865-7024



WHEREAS, a strong community-based food policy can provide benefits to the citizens of the City of Burlington including access to a healthier diet, a stronger local economy, a more robust food supply, and environmental benefits;

WHEREAS, Burlington is home to innovative, community-based food projects including the Burlington School Food Project, the Burlington Area Community Gardens, the Food Systems Spire at the University of Vermont, and the Intervale Center, a nationally recognized leader in food system innovation;

WHEREAS,Burlington residents are engaging in urban agriculture, defined broadly as “the growing of food and related activities within city boundaries,” including urban homesteading, permaculture, gardening, and community farming;WHEREAS, the City of Burlington currently lacks sufficiently clear regulations or a cohesive policy addressing urban agriculture;WHEREAS, this lack of sufficiently clear regulations or policy can cause confusion and creates an obstacle to engaging in these activities;WHEREAS, there currently is no single governing board devoted to review issues related to urban agricultural activities;

WHEREAS, the City of Burlington currently supports the continued development of a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food policy through the Burlington Food Council;

NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Burlington City Council hereby creates the Urban Agriculture Task Force (“Task Force”) which is charged with recommending to the City Council a cohesive urban agriculture policy, improved rules and regulations addressing urban agriculture, and steps to better promote and govern urban agriculture in Burlington;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Community and Economic Development Office is designated as the lead department for providing staff support for the Task Force with additional staff support to be provided as appropriate and as necessary by the Planning & Zoning Department, the Code Enforcement Office, the Parks & Recreation Department, the City Attorney’s Office, and the Public Works Department; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall consist of one (1) member of the Burlington Food Council appointed by the Burlington Food Council, one (1) member of the Board of Health appointed by the Board of Health, one (1) member of the Planning Commission appointed by the Planning Commission, and up to 4 additional community members appointed by the Burlington Food Council;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in particular, the Task Force is to

(1) Generate a cohesive urban agriculture policy informed in part by current research, best practices, and the needs of City residents,

(2) Review the current rules and regulations that govern urban agriculture in Burlington, including but not limited to city ordinances and zoning regulations,

(3) Seek input from residents, stakeholders, and experts as appropriate, such as the Intervale Center and the UVM Food System Spire;

(4) Identify potential inconsistencies or gaps in the current regulations and make recommendations on clarifying and improving them,

(5) Identify barriers to urban agriculture and make recommendations on how the city can better promote and govern urban agriculture,

(6) Make recommendations on how to integrate the needs of city residents with statewide and regional food system development efforts, and

(7) Create a written action plan including actionable next steps for the City Council and city departments, a timeline and outline of necessary work, and potential funding sources for further policy development and implementation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Task Force shall provide a final, written action plan as outlined above to the City Council within 1 year after adoption of this Resolution by the City Council, with interim reports to the City Council at three-month intervals describing activities to date.

March 20, 2011   8 Comments

Election Night 2011

Breaking News


7:26pm- Vince Brennan P-W3, Vince Dober R-W7 both re-elected to city council. Fred Lane defeated. Nate Moreau defeated. School Board will have five new members….

7:40pm- School Budget too close to call, Municipal tax increased crushed 2 to 1…, BED Bonds have have over 60% support, but may fail for lack of 2/3 necessary. I didn’t realize the BED bonds took 2/3 to pass when I predicted they would…

8:00pm- School budget now ahead with 53%…

9:06pm- Is that all there is to a fire? I guess it’s all over.

Let’s see how my predictions from this morning panned out-

I predicted Brennan and Dober would easily win and they did. I said both school board races were toss-ups and both incumbents lost.

On the ballot items-
1) I said the school budget would pass with around 54%; it passed with 53%.
2) I said the city tax would fail with around 40%; it failed with 31%.
3&4) Believing they only needed 50% I said they would pass narrowly; they actually needed 66.7% and failed narrowly.
5) I predicted 5 would fail with 49%; it failed with 41.5%.
6) I predicted 6 would pass with about 60%; it passed with 60.7%.
7) I made no prediction for 7; 7 passed with 68.3%
8 ) I predicted 8 would pass with 60% of the vote. It passed with 70%

So I kind of biffed on 3&4 but other than that I think my predictions were pretty darn good.

Who will chair the school board now? Not bloody me, that’s for sure. Probably Alan Matson. Let’s see how that prediction turns out…

March 1, 2011   8 Comments

Kiss, Ashe Seek Legislation for BT

Breaking News

In an email sent to the city council today, Burlington mayor Bob Kiss discusses working with state senator Tim Ashe on specific legislation that would allow embattled Burlington Telecom to become a public-private venture. The email is below the row of stars to follow…


From: Bob Kiss
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 11:12:47 -0500
To: Burlington City Council
Cc: Ken Schatz; Karen Lafayette, Terry Dorman; Tim Ashe; Erhard Mahnke; Joe Reinert
Subject: telecom legislation

Dear Councilors:

Senator Tim Ashe informed us that the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is taking up legislation on telecommunications.

Tim asked what language will be required, if any, to facilitate future operations of BT under a private-public venture. After conferring with Terry Dorman and Ken Schatz, we want to be confident that state law will allow the type of restructured BT that Terry is working on. As you know, Terry’s efforts include working with potential private financial and strategic partners for BT. Tim is worried that a business solution may be reached after the Legislature adjourns, and that the restructured entity will not be able to proceed because of the lack of specific authorizing language.

Consequently, we are recommending clarification of the rules for a “joint venture” (a business relationship to provide telecommunications services involving a private party and a municipality). Burlington ‘s Charter allows for a joint venture, but the State enabling law, 24 VSA, Chapter 54, Sec. 1911 – 1914 does not authorize joint ventures for municipalities. We have recommended the following:

- include general enabling authority for joint ventures in title 24, chapter 54

- clarify that joint ventures are eligible for any available State bonds, grants or loans or loan guarantees in the same way existing private entities are.

Other issues may arise, and if so, we will keep you informed.

The Committee will introduce its bill early next week so please let me know if you have questions regarding this approach by Monday at noon. Thank you.

Best regards,
Bob Kiss, Mayor
City of Burlington

February 12, 2011   4 Comments

Thunder-Snow in Burlington

Breaking News

Picture and Sound from Twitter’s rubberduckgrrl of I- 189 taken from an apartment behind Shaw’s Grocery on Shelburne Road.

February 5, 2011   Comments Off

Egypt Erupts

Breaking News

I’ve been watching Al Jazeera English online for the last 2 hours. It’s amazing what’s happening in Egypt. Protesters have set the main government building on fire and are demanding Hosni Mubarak leave the country. Hillary Clinton just made a statement. It feels a little like 1989….

Watch live at

January 28, 2011   2 Comments

Ed Scott Running for School Board

Breaking News

The post below the row of stars to follow was written by Ed Scott, candidate for Ward Seven School Commissioner. I appreciate guest posts like this very much. It’s less work for me. Thanks Ed.

Hello Haik, Hope you had a good break and happy new year. I’ve filed my petition, written a My Turn criticizing the budget process that should be in soon (don’t take it personally–also have copied my correspondence to board members to you), have had an announcement in North Ave News, and now I am taking you up on your offer to use your blog to say why I want to run. I appreciate this as I cannot afford to place ads, etc., and I am becoming more and more committed as I see Machiavelli at work such as the travesty that is the decision about after school program–that never should have gotten off the ground in the first place! Thanks

Why I am running from Ward 7 for the Burlington School Board

Thank you, Haik, for offering to let me use your blog to state why I am running for the school board.

Sixteen years ago, in 1994, I moved from the Northeast Kingdom where I had been a teacher and guidance counselor, to Burlington to take a job as guidance director at Burlington High School . Surprisingly, the rural union high school I left was state-of-the-art in many ways, but to my surprise when I got to Burlington, I found the guidance department I was taking over was still operating in the paper age, and the high school was entrenched in outmoded practices; teachers, not the administration, not the school board, were running the school.

Before the first bell rang on my first school day, tedious paper add/drop procedures so long in place, went out the window as I found it was possible to computerize such things. But other issues that elicited my ideas for change were often met with, “The teachers will never go for that.” While I can attest that the guidance department has been transformed, delivery of services continues to be outmoded and unsuccessful for a large number of students. Scores on the NECAP tests are low, and 15% of students do not make it to graduation. This information is on the department of education website for anyone interested.

I am retired now and have a 9-year-old, who with her friends, is closing in on middle school. I feel I must to do more than critique from the sidelines but to get involved in the decision making. With my background I can make meaningful contributions about how instruction can be improved. I have ideas about how to replace the current structure of leveling that puts a ceiling on academic and personal growth with a teaching model that is student centered and reflects individual differences. As a former teacher who likes kids and wants the best for them, I can be their voice.

Generally, we have a good school system with many successes. Acknowledging these as well as problems is important. However, like many voters, I am often suspicious of how decisions are made. Just recently, for example, the final decision was made about how to restructure the after school program. You can read about it in Haik’s blog, but quite frankly, the way the process worked out was Machiavellian. Now a BSD employee is the site director at Smith, Susan Carter and her sister have lesser, part time roles, just as was proposed last year. Our rep on the committee, Shireen Hart, voted no, but it happened anyway. I feel an obligation to be involved in these matters from the beginning so that perhaps I can help hold off such ill-advised, unfair decisions before they get off the ground.

I have held offices and community positions before where I lived in Derby , VT. Town moderator, community mental health board member, boy scouts committee, little league, always actively involved. I am a veteran who served as a helicopter pilot in Korea and Vietnam . Currently I am a guardian ad litem in Chittenden Superior Court. I am a good team player.

I believe I have the background, the ideas, and the energy to contribute meaningfully to the school board, and I hope you support me. Thank you. And thank you, Haik.

January 7, 2011   9 Comments

Driscoll Seeks Ward 5 Dem Nomination

Breaking News

Driscoll seeks to unseat Shannon; Blais to Run Again in Seven…

A reliable source has confirmed that Carina Driscoll, former state legislator and Progressive city councilor from Ward Three will be seeking to wrest the Democratic nomination for Ward Five city council from incumbent councilor, and possible mayoral candidate Joan Shannon.

There is speculation about whether Discoll is abandoning the Progressive party entirely, or whether she will seek to be a fusion candidate running under a duel Prog/Dem banner.  There is also speculation about whether she will actually attend the Democratic caucus, personally- or simply be nominated by someone else in absentia.

Developing Story…

Also- In other News, a source confirms Ellie Blais, former Ward Seven city councilor will seek to unseat incumbent Republican councilor Vince Dober in the March election. No word yet on her intended party label.

Developing Story…

January 3, 2011   3 Comments