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Category — IRV

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

Election Day 2011

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

Wards 4/7 NPA Ballot Forum Hot

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

Five Years Ago

February 5, 2011   1 Comment

SEI vs. Neighborhood Schools

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

(note- S.E.I. stands for “Socio-Economic Integration”)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m on the School Board’s Policy and Advocacy committee.  At our last meeting on January 18- my 38th birthday- Commissioner Amy Werbel from Ward Five was present to advocate for changing Board Policy JE on School Boundaries.  The policy reads as follows:


Pupils shall be enrolled and attend the school located in the district in which they reside except as otherwise authorized in accordance herewith.

District boundaries shall be determined and may be revised by the Board of School Commissioners.

Individual requests for variance shall be acted upon by the Superintendent. Variances from one school to another will only be allowed when they directly benefit the education and/or welfare of the pupil. The Superintendent shall establish procedures to govern parental requests for variances to established District boundaries.

In the event that a neighborhood school has reached established class size limits, students may be assigned to another school at the discretion of the Superintendent. This assignment will remain in effect for the remainder of the school year. (See Policy EED – Student Transportation Services).

POLICY ADOPTED: December 7, 1986
POLICY REVISED: May 20, 1986
POLICY REVIEWED: October 12, 1988
POLICY REVISED: August 22, 1989
POLICY REVISED: October 12, 1993

Amy is looking for a change of language to accommodate the new practice in elementary enrollment of ranking schools by preference. Now what happens is parents rank schools in order of preference. For Koko, Poopsie and I picked the school closest to our house as our 1st choice. We picked the school second closest as our 2nd choice. Superintendent Jeanne Collins seemed to indicate in the meeting that the vast majority of parents behave this way in deciding where to send their little ones. And of course that is obviously borne out by common sense. Parents want to be close to their children.

Come to think of it the ranking system we’re using to choose an elementary school for our kids in Burlington is a lot like the IRV voting system we just got rid of.

Anyway the point is- most parents pick the school closest to their home, which tends to correlate to the old boundary map that used to dictate where kids went to school, and so most people don’t notice a difference.

Now my understanding is- and any other commissioner or anyone- feel free to jump into the comments here- is that the SEI model of placement we’re working under functions a little bit like the nation’s military recruitment.  All volunteer, but we reserve the right of complusary placement.  And I guess so far with the so-called “magnet schools” (Barnes and Wheeler) we’ve had all volunteer recruitment from outside the old north end.  There is (or are?) seperate application(s) required to attend a magnet school.

In committee I was delighted to learn that the old policy still stood.  Some of the folks who had been around started talking about the last time they looked at this policy- which was not “June 6, 1997″ like the policy says but really December 12, 2006 when after its first reading in amended form, the full Board sent it back to the Policy Committee where the amendment died.  The amendment would have inserted the following language at the beginning, before the word “pupil.”

The Burlington School District is committed to providing excellent and equitable education for all students.  The District believes that each student deserves the opportunity to learn from a comprehensive curriculum with a diverse population mix of peers that is similar to the demographics of the district as a whole.

Well- that little wedge meant to weaken the idea of kids going to school close to home- in neighborhood schools failed. 

 Thanks to commissioner Kathy Chasen from Ward One for providing the committee that reminder and a copy of what was voted out of committee at that time.  ‘She is the eyes and ears of this institution my friends.’

But now Amy Werbel is back at the committee trying to tie up some loose ends.  She wants the language of the current policy to bend and weaken in order to further solidify the concept and practice of Socio-Economic Integration in the Burlington School Distict.

I’m pretty sure Ward Seven, which I represent, would not want the current, traditional, common sense policy to be messed with.  In committee I tried to mollify concerns that the Policy does not concur with the current practice of ranking schools- (in place because of a seperate resolution, not a policy change) by arguing that when someone ranked a school that would have been outside their normal school boundary as #1, that was in essence a request for a varience.  Similarly, when someone from outside the old north end boundaries of Barnes or Wheeler applied to a magnet school, that too was a request for a varience.

This strategy succeeded in allowing passage of a motion to table the discussion until the next meeting Tuesday February 15 at 7pm- most likely at the Ira Allen Building on Colchester Ave.  But the discussion of amending the current policy JE called “School Boundaries” will be back on then- and I’m afraid there is a sticky wicket in my argument that the current practice fits the existing policy.  It doesn’t fully.  Both the ranking system and the magnet school applications exist so the District can mix up rich kids and poor kids, not according to boundary lines on a map, but according to their parents income tax returns.  The District will do it by parent choice if possible, and by force if necessary.  Even if that comes with a significant transportation cost to the district, as it did this year when we had to add a new bus for that kid that somehow though a misunderstanding ended up at Wheeler instead of Edmumds.

The reality of the whole “Socio-Economic Integration” hullabaloo is that this practice as it now exists in the Burlngton School District, is out of line with the district’s own policy.  Under what I was trying to argue ‘mostly’ fits the current policy variences may be granted not becuase it will  “directly benefit the education and/or welfare of the pupil”  as an individual as the policy states, but will serve a much more hypothetical good of the District as a whole.  Interested parties with deep enough pockets and enough time on their hands might have halted the SEI via Magnet School model in Burlington in its tracks with a lawsuit anytime in the last two or three years.

Well what am I supposed to do about this?  I represent my ward and what I think is common sense and the best good of the kids the best I can.  Everything else is up to parents and voters.  You want to keep the policy the way it is?  Write to the school board, especially the one assigened to you by virtue of the map, and not the socio-economic status of the commissioners, of which mine is probably the lowest or second lowest. Here’s a link to our email addresses.  It’s a crappy link, because you have to scroll down and you can’t cut and paste, but it’s got what it takes to allow some involvement with a little effort for those who care enough. 

If there’s a large enough outcry again, like there was the last time around- we will keep our wise and good policy the way it is.  Otherwise, Amy and other pro-SEI commissioners will probably succeed in getting the policy changed.  I’m only one vote and I can’t stall them forever.

January 26, 2011   6 Comments

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

Fifty Percent Does Not Matter

John Briggs reports today that last night the city council…

“Approved by an 11-3 vote, with the council’s three Republicans opposed, a measure that instructs the Charter Change Committee, by Oct. 25, to create language for the charter requiring a majority vote — 50 percent plus one — for the winning candidate in a mayoral election. If approved by city voters, the change would then require approval by the Legislature.”

A couple of thoughts on this-

*The charter change committee might just hand the council IRV again.

*Assuming IRV (or Condorcet or any such method) is out, and a real runoff must be employed to attain 50%+1, then I hope the folks who argued in favor of IRV because it would spare us the expense of a runoff, realize a majority-winner system will likely necessitate that dreaded expensive runoff. I hope the anti-IRV folks like me who argued for the benefits of a “real” runoff vs. an “instant” runoff realize a majority winner system will likely necessitate that critical extra-time to hear from the top candidates- or for an October surprise to happen.  Oh boy!

*Anyone arguing any side of a new system related to the council’s action last night is likely to find themselves in some kind of hypocritical territory, because at the very least what’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. Why don’t we ever include city council races in these discussions?  They’re all still at the 40% threshold, aren’t they?  Tinker with yer own darn elections, why don’t cha, council?

*Just leave it alone already people. I’m with the Republicans on this. It’s fine the way it is. Nobody questions the legitimacy of a plurality mayor or a of a plurality president for that matter. Move on already.

June 8, 2010   2 Comments

Mayor Speaks!

I feel like folks may be starting to catch on to this blog. For example look at this picture from the Wards 4-7 NPA blog

It feels like a vaguely familiar visual pun and juxtaposition.

So I attended the entire north end Neighborhood Planning Assembly meeting tonight at the Miiller Center.  Man that was the place to be.  Bob Kiss was the main attraction and he did very well in his speech, saying that he was going to try to go to one NPA per month for five months to get around to all of them in the city.

Loyal Ploof was selling “Proud Naysayer” buttons to chide the mayor about his election night comments about the new north end returning to a nay-sayer role, and the mayor did well to acknowledge the pins and other reactions to those remarks.  He discussed paving, which was good, sister cities and even threw a kind word my way for winning the Ward Seven School Board election.  He ended his speech to a very solid and sustained round of applause.  Bob knew we might be his toughest crowd out here in South Colchester, but that very genuine round of applause spoke to how regardless of politics, people really appreciate having the attention of their leaders.

Other highlights- Larry Solt is the father of Drummer Chris Solt from the legendary BHS rock group and Battle of the Bands winner Brass Tactics!

Kurt Wright spoke both as councilor-elect and as a state representatives.  He seemed almost giddy to report on when a committee he’s on will take up the city’s IRV charter change.

Our other state rep Mark Larson reported a little about Doug Racine’s senate health care proposal and said that in Vermont in the next three years, health care costs are expexted to rise by 100 percent.  I’m pretty sure that means it will double.  He said that would be an additional billion in health costs, so presumably that’s what the state is paying now.  My thought is that it’s the calender that’s driving those projected increases, in that’s it’s been sixty-five years now since 1945.

There’s a new sheriff in town on code enforcement and his name is former Burlington Police Officer Bill Ward.  He is taking names and writing tickets in that wild frontier land known as “Lakewood Estates.”

There was a lively discussion on a range of topics.  People are concerned about the state of our school buildings.  People are concerned about the city’s retirement fund.  People are concerned with vacant buildings.   And so on.

I get sworn in on the school board April 1, I believe.

March 16, 2010   3 Comments

Pacy on Protocols

From: Haik Bedrosian []
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 12:03 PM
To: Ben Pacy
Cc: Jonathan P.A. Leopold, Jr.; Bob Kiss
Subject: Election Protocols and Safeguards

Hi Ben,

It seems to me the necessity of moving the votes from the polls to city hall because of IRV introduces a new opportunity for cheating.

I am curious to know what safeguards are in place to prevent possible switching of memory cards holding IRV votes when they are en route from the ward polling places to the central tabulator at city hall.

I realize this is short notice, but I would like an answer on this today so that I may publish it at before the election Tuesday. If Ben is not available today, I would be satisfied to get an answer from either Jonathan or Bob instead.


From: Ben Pacy
Subject: RE: Election Protocols and Safeguards
To: “‘Haik Bedrosian‘”

Cc: Jonathan P.A. Leopold, Jr., Bob Kiss
Date: Friday, February 26, 2010, 12:20 PM


This may best be described orally, or I can show you. Nonetheless, I will attempt to describe in writing.

Upon preparing the machine for the election, the memory card is sealed into the tabulator with a seal. The number on this seal is documented on a form and sealed into the tabulator case. The number on the seal for the tabulator is also recorded on that form. On the morning of the election, the tabulators are delivered to the polling places, where the seal on the tabulator case is broken, and the form is then accessible to the Ward Clerk and Inspectors of Election, to verify both the seal on the tabulator case and the seal on the memory card. This process is repeated for the return to City Hall, except the memory card seal should be the same, only the tabulator case seal will be different. In addition, two election officials of different political party are required to accompany the tabulators and ballots back to City Hall. These seal numbers are then verified at City Hall when they arrive. At the 2009 Mayoral Election, candidates also had representatives accompany the election officials and the tabulators. If I recall correctly every candidate had a representative for every ward. Let me know if you have further questions.


From: Haik Bedrosian []
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 12:03 PM
To: Ben Pacy
Cc: Jonathan P.A. Leopold, Jr.; Bob Kiss
Subject: Election Protocols and Safeguards

Thanks for the fast reply. How do we know there aren’t already votes on the cards when they go out to the polling places to begin with?

From: Ben Pacy
Subject: RE: Election Protocols and Safeguards
To: “‘Haik Bedrosian‘”

Cc: Jonathan P.A. Leopold, Jr., Bob Kiss
Date: Friday, February 26, 2010, 1:46 PM


The memory cards are programmed with the current election information by the vendor LHS Associates. The memory cards are placed in the tabulators and test ballots are run through the machines to verify that the tabulators are adding up the correct markings on the test ballots. Once the test is done the tabulators are then put in election mode. This is the point at which the memory card is sealed into the machine. When the tabulator arrives at the polling place on the day of the election; the seals are verified and then the machine is turned on. When the machine is turned on the tabulator prints out what is called the zero tape. All of the races show zeros in them reflecting what is on the memory card. This is to verify that there is no ballot information stored in the memory card. I guess the next question would be, could the memory cards be manipulated in some way. I do not know the answer to that, but we can always count the ballots again. The State laws do provide for recounts if races are close or contested through a court.


From: Haik Bedrosian []
Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 2:20 PM
To: Ben Pacy
Cc: Jonathan P.A. Leopold, Jr.; Bob Kiss
Subject: RE: Election Protocols and Safeguards

Thanks very much. Have a good election Tuesday!

February 26, 2010   3 Comments

Dean and Sanders Fail on IRV

Failure from the two top Burlington pols this week on the IRV question.

First from Dean speaking to reporters on Church Street along side a representative from the League of Women Voters. He said that the ‘Hinda Miller’ election did not use IRV, and that it had only been used once- in the most recent election. Before and after that embarrassing gaff, on which he was immediately corrected, he did a good job of spitting out the textbook arguments for IRV. But that flub kinda killed the whole press conference for him, it seemed to me. Kinda killed his credibility on this issue. I mean, did he not vote in the 2006 mayoral election? Maybe not.

Then yesterday I received a flyer in the mail with Bernard Sanders’s picture on it. Here look:

I mean that’s just embarrassing, right? Are we supposed to forget that Bernie’s 1981 “10 Vote” victory over Gordon Paquette put Sanders in the mayor’s office with just 43% in a race with a spoiler? I’m sorry but the “fifty percent matters” folks using Bernie’s image like this is just, well- It just makes me embarrassed for everybody.

And by the way- it is simply not intellectually honest to equate a traditional majority with a the kind of majority manufactured through the instant runoff system. They are not the same and I’m sure Jason Lorber, Mark Larson, Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean all realize that.

February 26, 2010   11 Comments