Category — City Council
(August 30, 2012)
Dear President Shannon:
Please accept my resignation from the Burlington City Council to be effective September 30, 2012. I have greatly enjoyed my 5 1/2 years of service to the people of the City of Burlington, but now I need to close this chapter in my political career.
Rest assured, that although my service will be ending, I hope to continue to weigh-in on the topics of the day, both in spirit and virtually through #BTVCC on Twitter. We are living in exciting times and just beginning to understand how technology can make government more transparent and more participatory. I am glad that I was able to play a small part in midwifing this new era.
I do want to make sure that there will be someone from Ward 1 replacing me as soon as possible. I have reviewed Charter Section 128 and it is my understanding that there will be a special election for the vacant seat on Election Day (November 6th). What I am less clear about is the timeline from now until then. I would ask that the City Attorney’s Office (I am including Chief Assistant City Attorney Gene Bergman on this correspondence since I know Ken Schatz is out of the office) answer the following questions by the close of business tomorrow (8/31) so that I may pass the answers along to my constituents: 1) Will the election indeed be on November 6th? 2) What is the deadline for filing petitions with the City Clerk’s Office? 3) Will there be a separate and distinct physical ballot for this race (as opposed to being listed with all the other races and ballot items on for election). If the City Attorney’s Office feels that there is anything else that needs to be detailed as far as an election schedule and mechanics, that would also be appreciated.
Thank you all for a tremendous experience.
With warmest regards,
Ward 1 City Councilor
September 11, 2012 No Comments
Thanks as always to senator Jim Webb of Virginia for waking me up to what’s going on in Burlington. The Burlington Free Press’s Joel Banner Baird reports today that mayor Weinberger has nominated Ian Carleton to be the new city attorney, and that Ian Carlton wants more money to do it because he went to Yale.
Good story, but I have to question the way Baird charactarizes Carleton’s city council experience…
“He served as a Democratic councilor 10 years ago and later was the Vermont Democratic Party chairman. The possibility of re-entering public service prompted him to seek the job in Weinberger’s administration, Carleton said, adding that the salary boost would give “some recognition to my compensation level over the past decade.” “
Now if memory serves Ian Carleton was the city council president as recently as five years ago, so to say he served 10 years ago is a little weird. It doesn’t tell us how long he served for, or that he was president.
But whatever. Miro’s first big scandal. It doesn’t look great to be citing Yale for more money, and I would not encourage Miro to copy Ian in this regard. Is Carleton worth it? Probably. But he also probably isn’t going to starve if he gets 105K vs the 112K he wants.
The mayor takes responsibility for the PR failure of agreeing to ask the council for the extra money for someone who is also his personal friend… I imagine Miro and Ian had the conversation about Ian skipping a pay step. Unfortunately Joel Banner Baird doesn’t have a quote from Miro in the story. That’s weird too. Like a honeymoon preservative.
More than any of his recent predecessors, Miro has to be very careful to avoid any conflict of interest, or the appearance of any conflict of interest like padding a friend’s salary. For instance, people might question what he’s going to do with April Cornell’s old warehouse on North Avenue and whether he’ll give himself the permits to do it (!) (cymbal crash) … Well I heard he own it and was going to develop the property, but that’s unconfirmed. But you see my point. The public loves a fresh face, but we are also fickle. Oh so fickle.
I’m hopeful the mayor is successful in improving the infrastructure and the economy and contributing to the culture of the city, so I hope we don’t see too many stories like this one.
May 1, 2012 3 Comments
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
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
Below the row of stars to follow is Ed Adrian’s Burlington Free Press “My Turn” post from Sunday. In it he again calls for the council to be smaller and to be paid more. I presume Ed is going to follow up on his pay-the-council campaign by offering a charter change or resolution of some kind, but I don’t know.
I hope so.
From The Burlington Free Press:
My Turn: Burlington City Council limited by lack of resources
Written by Ed Adrian
6:42 AM, Mar. 27, 2011
My The Free Press recently opined that somehow the Burlington City Council shared responsibility for the disrespect demonstrated to Burlington voters and the Vermont General Assembly by the Kiss administration’s failure to meet the statutorily-mandated legislative deadline for filing the documents to change the City Charter (“City’s missed deadline shows disrespect for voters,” March 20).
This charter change, recently approved by 68 percent of the voters, would remove the chief administrative officer from the council’s Board of Finance and replace the CAO with another city councilor. The Free Press claimed that the City Council “should have been on top of the situation, making sure things are getting done properly and on time.” This claim demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how power and resources are allocated in Burlington’s government.
Burlington city government in its current construction is a strong mayor/weak council form of municipal government. What this means is that essentially all of the resources (money and staff) in Burlington’s government are under the control of the mayor’s office. The Free Press correctly points out that 600 people work for the city. The vast majority of these employees are hard working people who report to the mayor and not the council.
Even at the top tier of administrators, the mayor has over a dozen full-time professionals at his disposal to carry out the will of the administration. The council has approximately “zero” full-time and part-time employees. Not only does the mayor have an arsenal of public servants, but he ultimately has total control of how his will is executed. In other words the buck stops with the mayor. The mayor also gets paid a full-time annual salary (approximately $140,000 including benefits) and has a daily physical presence in City Hall.
The council, on the other hand, has almost no control over how its will is executed, if its will gets executed at all. And then there is the question of what exactly constitutes the “will” of the council. Administration officials have told councilors on repeated occasions the only way the council can act as a body is by a majority vote. For example sometime an individual councilor makes a request and it is “granted” by the administration and sometimes the request “denied” under the pretext of it being too cumbersome or expensive to carry out. Usually these requests involve the production of information or request a task by administration staff. If the request is rebuffed, then the maker of the request can have the entire council vote to make the request. Even when the council votes, the mayor still has the option to ignore the will of the council.
The make up of the council is simply too big. Most similarly sized cities in this country have councils comprised of 7-9 (or fewer) people. This makes it more difficult for the Ccuncil to act cohesively and allows the administration to divide and conquer the council. We are comprised of volunteers with varying commitments and obligations — some more extensive than others. We are given a “stipend” of $3,000.
Many, many qualified candidates are discouraged from running because of the pugilistic nature of Burlington politics; a concern that council service may have ramifications on a councilor’s occupation; and the inability to adequately justify to a spouse or partner the many hundreds of hours spent annually on council work without remuneration.
Despite these numerous hurdles, several councilors have been able to adequately fulfill the council’s watchdog obligations. In fact Council President Bill Keogh both before and after the article on the charter change issue appeared in the Free Press, raised the issue with City Attorney Ken Schatz and remained in constant contact with Vermont House of Representatives Government Operations Vice Chairman Ken Atkins, to help ensure that the charter change would be acted on by the 2011 General Assembly and that it would take effect upon legislative passage.
The City Council does an adequate job fulfilling its responsibilities with essentially no resources at its disposal. City Councilors want to make sure that the residents of Burlington get the respect they deserve. We just need the resources to do it.
Ed Adrian is a Burlington City Councilor from Ward 1 and chairman of the Council Democratic Caucus.
March 28, 2011 No Comments
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.
Community and Economic Development Office
City Hall, 149 Church St.
Burlington, VT 05401
RESOLUTION RELATING TO CREATION OF
URBAN AGRICULTURE TASK FORCE
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
No balloons this year. Sorry. Can’t afford ‘em.
In the city council races today only 2 of 7 wards are officially contested and the incumbents in the two contested wards, Brennan and Dober in 3 and 7 respectively, will both win handily. Dave Hartnett running as a Democrat to replace Nancy Kaplan in Ward 4 faces a dark-horse write-in challenge today from Ralph Montefusco. That sums up the council races.
The school board races are just as uncontested this year, with 5 of seven wards’ candidates walking on. The outcomes of the two contested school board races are less certain than those for city council. In 5 it’s incumbent Fred Lane vs. challenger Paul Hochanadel. In 7 it’s incumbent Nathan Moreau vs. Challenger Ed Scott. Both races are toss-ups.
Who I’m voting for- I live in Ward 7. My vote for school board is a secret. As I said, my prediction for school board in 7 is “toss-up.” For city council in Ward 7, I can’t bring myself to vote for either guy, so I’m just going to write myself in. If you have the same issue, you’re welcome to write me in too (“Haik Bedrosian”), but as I said- I fully expect Dober to win easily.
OK let’s talk about the ballot items a bit.
1) School Budget: I’m voting yes. I predict it passes with around 54% of the vote. People will want to mollify their guilt for voting no on the general fund tax increase, by voting yes for the school budget.
2) City Tax Increase: I’m voting no. I predict it fails with around 40% of the vote.
3&4) Burlington Electric Bonds. I’m voting yes. I predict narrow passage for both.
5) Changing the way we elect mayor from 40%+plurality wins, to 50%+ wins: I’m voting no. Charter changes should not be based on face-saving measures designed to make last year’s losers appear consistent. Fail. And I predict it does fail with 49% of the vote.
6) The charter change in question 6 is purely to express that the existing practice of allowing a majority of a quorum to pass things is correct. It changes nothing. I’m voting yes. I predicts it passes with about 60% of the vote.
7) Take the treasurer off the Board of Finance: I’m against fixing a policy around a particular personality, and I think this is an attempt at that. However, this measure would take away the mayor’s de facto second vote on the board of finance, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Per se it wouldn’t have much practical effect because the finance board would still get its info from the treasurer, but I can see how for some it would be considered a start toward tipping the power balance between the council and mayor closer to equilibrium.
8) Advisory reforendum on keeping affordable housing: Sure. Why not? I’ll vote yes for this and predict is passes with about 60%
Comments are open. Consider this an open thread to talk about the Burlington elections today. And don’t forget to vote!
March 1, 2011 5 Comments
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
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
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