Category — Interviews
The following is a faithfully transcribed conversation between me (Haik Bedrosian) and Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Cassandra Gekas recorded at Uncommon Grounds coffee shop on Church Street in Burlington on August 12, 2012 between 9am and 10am.
HB: Thank you for joining me Cassandra Gekas, Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
CG: I am indeed. Thank you.
HB: Ok one question off the top.
HB: Have you ever driven a race car?
October 30, 2012 No Comments
How’s it going? Jeanne mentioned there might be a bill in your senate committee that takes up the allowed dropout age. I’m in favor of not allowing kids to drop out. I did a short post on it http://www.burlingtonpol.com/2012/01/26/obamas-challenge/ Got anything I can add to it and attribute to you about this bill Jeanne mentioned, should it exist?
Good to hear from you — I keep checking Burlingtonpol for breaking gossip on the mayor’s race, but you seem stubbornly fixated on performing the job the voters elected you to do . . . but what about my needs? A photo of Kurt kicking a puppy, or Miro pushing an old woman down a service elevator when he thinks no one’s looking? Enquiring minds want to know . . . because you’re the only one who does Burlington in HD.
We do have this bill, and we heard testimony all of yesterday. Everyone we talked to — the reps for the teachers, the school boards, the principals, the literacy advocates, higher ed, everyone with a stake in educating kids and eliminating the drop-out rate altogether — thinks the idea is powerful and very worth pursuing. New Hampshire made this change not too long ago. But NH also dropped about $6 million into robust new retention programs over the last three or four years — because if you suddenly close the legal drop-out door to a small but resource-intensive population, you need to think really carefully about their needs, and the needs of the kids who would now be sharing classroom space with them for an additional two years. So like everything, it’s money. If we make this move, it costs — just like expanding pre-K or early college programs. And in this environment (Post-Irene, Great Recession) fists are tight. My bottom line? We created the land-grant college system during the Civil War. We can do this now, if it’s the right thing to do. And more and more I think it is.
Feel free to use any or none of that rant . . . and I’ll see you soon.
January 27, 2012 No Comments
The following is a faithfully transcribed conversation between me (Haik Bedrosian) and mayoral candidate Tim Ashe recorded at The Bagel Cafe and Deli in the Ethan Allen Shopping Center on North Avenue on November 27, 2011 between 11am and 1pm. Ashe is currently a state senator from Chittenden County and is running for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Burlington…
December 9, 2011 1 Comment
November 7, 2011 2 Comments
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 BurlingtonPol.com. Visit often!
January 17, 2011 19 Comments
Merry Christmas. Thank God it’s over. I have to finish up my reporting on the Wards 4 & 7 NPA meeting Tuesday. It’s not going to be great reporting, but it’s free to read. I just want to relay a couple of things before I forget them. Off the top of my head and in no particular order-
*Somebody asked Vince, Paul and Kurt to respond to something Shay Totten reported in the 12.15.10 “Fair Game” column. Specifically:
“Leopold remembers it differently: He presented “Fair Game” with minutes from a late November 2007 city council meeting, during which he explained to councilors that BT would run out of money in March 2008.
In the spring of 2008, the finance board got a follow-up analysis of BT that included the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Their answers were all surprisingly weak. In a nutshell- Vince:’I wasn’t there’; Paul:’I don’t remember’ Kurt:’Being on the council is hard/I blame the mayor’
*People have wildly different levels of understanding of the Burlington Telecom issue. That’s because it’s complicated.
*Kurt said again that his top priority was recovery of the 17 million. I said the 17 million was lost and what we really ought to be worried about was the 33 million The City owes Citi Capital. To try to make this point I asked the city councilors if BT was part of the City of Burlington and they hedged on even that. Kurt tried to say it was an ‘Enterprise Fund’ or something- but I mean seriously. Really? We can’t even come to grips with known, obvious and basic facts like ‘The City of Burlington owns Burlington Telecom? ’ If BT isn’t part of The City, then why were three city councilors and the mayor there anwering questions about it. I mean, really?
*In hedging on whether or not BT was even part of the City, Kurt also hedged on whether the 33 million will even have to be paid back. I said Citi Capital will sue us for it and win. Kurt said nobody knows how such a lawsuit would turn out.
*Bob then said the 17 million wasn’t lost, that it was invested in the building of the fiber network.
*The mayor’s assisant Joe Reinert, sitting near me in the audience leaned over and told me that the 33 million dollar loan was not backed by the full faith and credit of the City of Burlington as I was suggesting, and he advised me to Google what a “municipal lease purchase agreement” is, which I did immediately with my super-duper Blackberry smart phone. I read this which kinda backed up what he was saying, but not entirely in my opinion.
After the meeting I discussed the municipal lease-purchase concept with Reinert a little more. I said that in theory, the city was only on the hook for returning the equipment it was leasing, but that giving back a fiber network was not the same as giving back a fire truck. I pointed out that a smart person (Leopold) once said “you don’t just walk away from a 33 million dollar debt” and asked why the city’s damaged credit rating didn’t indicate the debt was ours. Reinert said the damaged credit rating was not because BT couldn’t make its monthly payments to Citi Capital, but because of the insolvency caused by the 17 million missing from the cash pool. I’m not sure I get it. I’m not sure I buy it. But it is interesting, and I will pursue these questions further when I interview the mayor in January.
*None of the Republican councilors advocated for the city dumping BT outright. Actually maybe Paul did. I’m not sure. Kurt didn’t. He said he wants the City to be a minority stakeholder so there would be some chance at recovering the 17 million. I’m not sure I buy Kurt’s line of thinking on this either. Even as a minority stakeholder, The City would still endure the risk of loss, and BT would still have to succeed for the City to see its 17 million again someday. Going for the minority share just seems wishy-washy to me. I’m more of the opinion that the City should either be all-in, or get the hell out entirely.
***This is totally off topic and unrelated- but I heard an ad for the New York Lottery the other day promoting lottery tickets as great holiday gifts. I can’t imagine a worse gift idea. The odds are you’d would be giving a losing ticket and a worthless present. If you beat the odds and actually give away the winning lottery ticket as a gift, then how shitty would you feel knowing it could have been yours?
December 25, 2010 6 Comments
The NPA was a little disorganized, but it worked. The open forum on Burlington Telecom broke out during the city councilors’ report, and it never stopped, so in essence it took the form of a Q & A with Vince Dober, Paul Decelles and Kurt Wright. Bob Kiss took part from the audience, answering questions from there. I spoke with him a bit before the meeting convened and he agreed to do another interview with me. Sweet. Hopefully we can set that up soon.
The place, as usual, was a virtual who’s who of hardcore local political types. In attendance beside the folks I mentioned, Dale Tillotson, Lea Terhune, Karen Paul, Russ Ellis, Bernie O’rourke, Dave Harnett and Loyal Ploof.
I’ll come back to this…
December 21, 2010 4 Comments
I had a nice chat with recent BHS assistant principal (and current Wheeler interim principal) Brian Williams this evening and he gave me the skinny on the cameras at the high school. According to Brian there are is/are:
3 cameras in C Building intended to deter theft of valuable equipment stored there; 4 cameras in the tech center intended to deter theft of valuable equipment stored there; 4 cameras in the cafeteria intended to deter naughty behavior; 1 camera in front of the school; 8 cameras around the grounds and exterior of the school (but none in c woods) to record who comes and goes; 3 cameras in the lobby; 1 camera outside the girls’ locker room; 2 cameras outside the boys’ locker room; about six other cameras in various places throughout the school.
Brian explained the plan for these cameras’ installation has been in the works for a couple of years and as Molly Walsh reported Sunday, they were installed during the last school year. Mr. Williams is clearly a big supporter of the cameras and touts what he sees as their effectiveness as a deterrent. “We had rash of thefts from the locker rooms” he explained “things like ipods, cell phones and cash were being stolen almost daily.” However after the cameras went in the thefts just about stopped completely, said Williams.
Williams said the cameras were “innocuous” in their placement and appearance, and provide school officials a much faster and more accurate method for figuring out events they might have previously been forced to piece together from conflicting accounts. He cited the case of a student fight in the cafeteria that precipitated numerous interviews about who did what, juxtaposed with another fight caught on camera outside the school’s main entrance. “With that one, we just had it” he explained, pointing out the cameras’ elimination of mystery and the detective work it generates.
August 3, 2010 No Comments
Breaking News: City Chief Administrative Officer Live on Channel 15 Now-
2:50pm- “All the Way to the Hamptons” I’m blogging live from the Channel 15 Studio Where I just officially met Jonathan Leopold for the first time in person. He’s inside now talking to Mike Jones about pooled cash in preparation for his half-hour appearance on “The Matty and Stech Variety Hour” airing live in five minutes. I am to be the show’s guest for the second half hour.
2:57pm- Matty, Mike Jones and Jonathan Leopold are in their places on the set. The introduction music is playing. A TV has been set up for me to be listening to the show and live blogging now. Phone calls will not be taken during the CAO’s segment, but will be turned on when I apppear…1 minute to air…
3:00pm- Has Leopold ever seen this show? It’s hard to believe he’s here about to do it. We’ll see if Mike Jones curses during the interview. He may not. I thought this was a bluff Like George’s “fake house in the Hamptons.” I guess not.
3:02pm- Matty says questions will be accepted by email. It’s getting difficult to hear. Question about BT from Matty- How did it go from ‘voter approved’ to partisan?
JL: BT 2 Phases- 2nd phase anticipated more customers faster and more profitability. Start up cost projections were unrealistic. “Shanahan Report” said Nulty left BT in bad financial shape. Comprehensive review of viability said BT viable with greater investment in time and money. Report shared with Board of Finance.
3:08pm- JL: Pooled cashed used, financing dried up. “It was a year and a half” until we were able to get funding. That was last November with Piper Jaffray deal.
3:09pm- about a third into it and Leopold has owned the show so far. Two more softball questions and his segment will be over. This may be a public relations coup, but it’s a risky move.
3:11pm- Mike Jones: “Was there any red flag that told you something was wrong with this investment?” (17 million to BT?) Matty: This investment compared to investments in Burlington Electric? JL: BT & BED different. Certificate of Public good does not level playing field with other carriers. Provision 60 says telecom can’t used pooled case for more than 60 days…
Mike Jones: How is Telecom going to pay back the seventeen million?
JL: Pooled cash like a checkbook
MT: I’m not clear- how severe of a crime is condition 60 violation.
3:14pm- A call is being taken after all- it sounds like Kurt Wright on the phone- Caller- Why did you not take the 17M loan to mayor and council more openly?
JL: Thanks caller for question- 1st background. There was not a decision at any point in time to loan BT 17 million. We were simply continuing to pay BT bills out of pooled cash as we had been from January to August 2007… Spring of 2008 economy and financial markets collapsed… This was not done in secret… Board of Finance knew in May 2008 BT was having trouble finding financing…
3:18pm- Leopold still talking about Board of Finance. He said the told BoF in November of 2008 BT owed pooled cash. No prospect of revenue bond…
3:20pm- Jonathan is two-thirds home- JL: unclear how much city council understood. Five new councilors. Lost four with experience. Problematic transition. Administration did not anticipate green council.
3:21pm- Mike Jones & Matty- What do you think of Ed Adrian calling for mayor to resign?
JL: BT has become a political issue and that’ s unfortunate. Council voted 13-1 to ask public service board to relax provision 60…
3:23pm- banter, banter, banter- Matty- How serious a violation is CPG violation?
JL: I’m not an attorney but- It’s a civil, not a criminal violation. First remedy is to cure violation. City brought issue to PSB. No doubt city is in violation…
3:25pm- MJ: People have said you should be out of a job- What’s your future?
JL: Preserve and protect Telecom- meet city’s challenges.
3:26pm- JL: Still have challenges with retirement system… MJ- “Scapegoat?” JL- I won’t be a scapegoat- complicated situation seeking simple story line- facts will vindicate administration-
3:28pm- Caller: BT as of 6/30/09 was negative 14.1 million- how much info was given to new councilors? What are real facts? How much info does council have? True BT debt may not be truley known?
3:30pm- Monday final audit will be published- will be similar to preliminary audit…
(Phone starting to ring off hook…) (Leopold talking interest rates over sound of ringing phone…)
3:32pm- failure of BT to complete city build-out another CPG violation. Exact BT debt not yet known.
MT: How long for return on investment and everyone being happy?
JL: Not that long….
3:33pm- Leopold is wrapping up his segment… I have to go on now…
April 18, 2010 1 Comment
- Empire State of Mind by Jay Z and Alicia Keys
I’m glad I went and I’m grateful to Aram for inviting to ride down with him to New York City on Saturday. I hadn’t been to New York in three years, and I hadn’t really had a vacation in six, unless you want to count that week in Armenia last summer, three days of which I spent in the air. That was more a pilgrimage than a vacation.
NYC is always a bit of a pilgrimage to. I like to think about my ancestor who came to Ellis Island on a boat. That was my father in 1950.
It was a good thing I took today off too. Good to have a day to settle back in before returning to whatever it is I do for a living. I have a dental cleaning scheduled today as a nice way to top of my vacation. That’s right. For my vacation I dove straight into the center of humanity’s hustle and bustle and am topping it off with a trip to the dentist. That’s the way I roll.
So let’s look at some pictures of some of my dear friends in New York, shall we?
Here’s my friend Ari and his girlfriend Eun. We had breakfast at a trendy little brunch place. Eun is a dentist and Ari is an entrepreneur and inventor. Sometimes Ari works for other people too. He had a special Job interview Monday.
Here are Ben and Leanne. They met about ten years ago and married, what? About five years ago? Poopsie and I attended their wedding in South Carolina. It was lovely. Ben and I have been friends since first grade. That’s thirty years to you.
Here is my friend Josh and his lovely wife Cassandra Jupiter. Josh was also in the same first grade class with me and Ben. Josh came in to Central Park with a posse of family eight deep, and met up with me, more friends, and more family there.
It was getting dark and I had to bail on the dinner posse. I took the 7 train out to Woodside to see my friend Mr. G.
G is a New York City school teacher of juvenile offenders at Rikers Island. A co-worker of his coined the term “Baby Mama Drama Bus” to describe the weekly busses that bring in the visiting mothers of the kids going to high school in prison there. G took me t shirt shopping in a relatively Indian neighborbood somewhere between Woodside and Jackson Heights.
From Mr. G’s I went to Times Square to meet up with our mutual friend Jude. (See the post Live From New York)
And after I visited Jude and picked some of my stuff back up from Ari’s place, I caught back up with Aram and had the good fortune to visit with both Mahlon and Toby.
It was a wonderful trip and I’m glad I got to see all of these great friends. It was quite a thing to be in New York on its first gorgeous spring days.
New York is the melting pot and the most shining example of America’s great ideals.
April 7, 2010 No Comments