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Category — Burlington Telecom

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

Ward 5 Democratic Debate

From the clips I’ve seen it looked like a packed house at Champlain School.  I guess the debate was run by Paul Hochanadel? Huh. Nice one Paul. Anyway Mike Townsend from the Free Press panned it as weak tea. Townsend did mention Ashe saying something about ‘the bloggers…’

“Tim Ashe assured the audience of about 100 that the bloggers were wrong in criticizing him after he made a Johnny-come-lately announcement that he, too, wanted to be mayor.
For the record, Tim Ashe does not have tattoos on his “forearms” and he has never cooked “breakfast for Bob Kiss.””

Tatoos on his forearms? Could he have been talking about this picture I keep recycling?

I kinda think playing all nice and congenial is a bad idea for anybody but Tim Ashe. I mean if you’re going to sit right there and debate him and not mention the fact he was on the board of finance in 2008 and failed to say or do anything when Leopold told them BT was having trouble getting financing… well, I guess that means you don’t really want to win. I mean here’s a quote from the Board of Finance Minutes of May 1, 2008:

“Interim General Manager Chris Burns provided the Board a status report on the operations and finances for Burlington Telecom year-to-date. The Board then reviewed and considered the proposed budget and recommendations for both operations and capital improvements for Fiscal Year 2009. During this discussion, Councilor Wright joined the meeting of the Board by telephone at 5:20 p.m.

CAO Leopold made a motion, seconded by Councilor Ashe, to enter into Executive Session to discuss proprietary issues regarding Burlington Telecom operations and finances the premature disclosure of which could place the City at a substantial disadvantage. The motion passed unanimously. The Board went into Executive Session at 5:30 p.m.
The Board came out of Executive Session at 5:55 p.m.”

You want another one? From the Board of Finance Minutes of November 17, 2008:

“CAO Leopold advised the Board that the City should secure either a Letter of Credit or a short term financing to enable the City to carry the capital funding needs of the Electric Department and Burlington Telecom… “

Tim Ashe was right there when Leopold told the Board of Finance three years ago BT was broke. You might say these quotes don’t prove that, but these are the dates Leopold mentioned on the Matty and Stech Variety Hour when he was making the case that the council was warned. What is up with the three Democratic candidates? Have they done no opposition research?

Maybe they figure it’s a wash, or a non-issue somehow, since Kurt Wright was also right there on the board of finance and also failed to recognize the problem or do anything about it.

October 21, 2011   6 Comments

Burlingtons Debt to Citibank II

“You don’t just walk away from a thirty-three million dollar debt.” -Jonathan Leopold

So the other day I started expressing my opinion that Burlington should own up to its 33 million dollar debt to CitiFinancial.  Ironically the same day I was reminded of my own account with Citi.  Last month I transferred some credit card debt to a CitiCard to get zero percent interest for 21 months.  I guess I forgot to make my first payment the same day I wrote the post.  They’ve been calling me at least five times a day since then!  OK CitiBank!  I’ll pay you Thursday Back off!!!

The point I was trying to make is that I don’t think Burlington can avoid paying its Burlington Telecom debt, and if we do look it square in the eyes and pay it back, either by floating a bond, or heaven forbid, by making Burlington Telecom successful, well- that’s the kind of thing Moody’s might notice. 

To Wit- A couple of words about why Burlington Telecom has failed. It’s not public enough. The slogan “It’s your network” was never more than a trite platitude. Executive session after executive session, the mayor, the council and the board of finance (including Kurt Wright and Tim Ashe) kept BT’s affairs shrowded from public scrutiny. And for what? Did they ever think for a minute that there was anything they and BT with at most 5000 customers knew about the cable business that Comcast with their 50 million customers did not? Ridiculous! The thing that was supposed make BT special was the fact that it was public. That in some way, we the people would have control over our own media consumption in a revolutionary way. I had imagined with all that fiber optic bandwidth, any Burlingtonian who wanted one could not only have his own TV show, but also have his own personal broadcast channel… that we would see school plays and local sports and UVM professors on dozens and dozens of channels of real media choices and the public, limited only by our imaginations, would make it happen. What we actually got was all the same crap you get on Time Warner or Dish Network. Except perhaps for Al Jazeera English… for a little while.

Burlington Telecom was supposed to live in a glass house. It’s business plan was supposed to be democracy and be indestructible in the light of day. It’s failed so far because it’s gone completely the other way. It’s been built and operated by private contractor instead of public employees. It’s advisory boards had no power. It should have been run by a commission and named a department.

You can argue that a government shouldn’t jump into an industry and compete with private businesses, but if it’s going to do it, it should act like the public, democratic endeavor that it is. It’s shouldn’t pretend like it’s a real private business. If BT were a real private business we wouldn’t still be talking about it now. It would have been gone three or four years ago.

October 18, 2011   10 Comments

Burlington’s Debt to Citibank

This post is going to be very short. I’m not going to add any graphics to it or do any research for it. I just want to state an opinion.

You know the 33 milliion dollars or so the City of Burlington borrowed from CitiFinancial to build Burlington Telecom with? We owe that money back. I don’t care what the lease-purchse agreement says about ‘terminating’ or the agrument about whether or not Joe McNeil mislead Citi about Burlington’s ability to pay the debt (he didn’t by the way), or the arument that we might get away with giving them a couple of spools of wire and calling it even.

When you borrow money, you have to pay it back. That is the only moral truth of the matter. You won’t hear any of the mayoral candidates who have announced so far say that….

Oh wait… I have to get to McDonalds before they stop serving breakfast. I’ll continue this post later…

October 15, 2011   Comments Off

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

Special Council Meeting on BT II

I had fun Tweeting there I guess.  I picked up three or four followers during the meeting too.  I really just love everybody who was there.  I love the whole community.  I love Shay and Lauren Glenn and Ed Adrian and Paul Decelles- Bob Kiss, Dale Tillotson.  Yes, I even love Sharon Bushor.  Briggs- Kurt- Everybody!  We are lucky to have so many caring people in our community.

The meeting itself was technically worthless, but did it have a meaning and a purpose?  Did it restore any public trust?  Is there any chance BT can be resurrected?  The answer is- yeah probably restored a little trust.  Kinda-sorta.  It certainly didn’t hurt the mayor or BT to have a Festivus style airing of the grievances.  There’s something to be said for the inoculation of political rock-bottom.  Or maybe freedom is just another name for nothing left to lose.  Or something.

January 27, 2011   Comments Off

Special Council Meeting on BT

6:30 P.M.

2. COMMUNICATION: The Administration, re: Burlington Telecom (30 mins)
A. Questions from the public submitted in advance
B. Additional questions and comments from the public


I have to mention it because it’s a big media event.  I can’t be there ’till later, but I don’t know why I’m bothering at all.  Why is anyone?  Nobody’s going to get to the bottom of anything, and no new information is coming out tonight.  I’m listening to George Mallet and Shay Totten now.  Totten says Kurt Wright expects to run for mayor next year.

I have a weird feeling about this BT meeting tonight.  I don’t see the point, and I don’t understand what people are expecting to happen.  It’s just- weird.

January 27, 2011   Comments Off

Response to the Larkin Report

The mayor has issued a response to The Larkin Report .  It’s available at: .

I haven’t read it all yet, but I did glance at the response to issue number 6. “Non-Compliance with Condition 60 Since Issuance of the CPG.”  and I can’t say I find it entirely convincing.  Here’s the part with the gist- 

“Larkin does not accurately characterize BT’s available funding to repay pooled cash.  When taking into account available funds from the lease purchase financing, the debit to pooled cash was covered throughout the period. In other words, BT’s financial position was positive.”

 So… as long as BT had the money to pay back the cash pool, it’s cool that they didn’t actually do it, because they could have? Um…That doesn’t work.  Having the money and paying the money are two different things.

I’ll let you analyze the rest, and maybe I’ll see you Thursday at City Hall for the big BT meeting.

January 26, 2011   Comments Off

Special Council Meeting



Public to Have Opportunity to Ask Questions; City Encourages Questions to be Submitted in Advance

Burlington, VT – January 20, 2011. Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss has called a special City Council meeting on Burlington Telecom for January 27 at 6:30 pm, Contois Auditorium, City Hall.

The meeting will be an opportunity for the public to get information about Burlington Telecom and have questions answered. The City is encouraging those with questions to submit them in advance, to be answered at the meeting. Questions may be submitted in advance at

There will also be an open forum and opportunity for the public to ask questions and have questions answered by the City at the meeting, and time will be set aside for questions from the Council.

David Provost, Chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Burlington Telecom, will assist in facilitating the meeting.

January 22, 2011   1 Comment

Interview with the Mayor

Friday was the first time I’ve been in the mayor’s office in almost exactly 20 years. Twenty years ago around this time in January I went there to tell Peter Clavelle I was running against him in his first bid for re-election. He suggested I run for the school board instead. I probably should have listened to him. All well.

I’ve finished transcribing my interview with mayor Kiss. My thanks to him for for taking the time to speak with me on the record, and my thanks to you for reading Visit often!

Click here to read 01.14.11 Interview with mayor Bob Kiss.

January 17, 2011   19 Comments