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Category — Jonathan Leopold

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

Tim Ashe Running for Mayor

I can’t really blog from wherever it is I work, so you can’t expect me to break every story. Anyway I’m home now. It has been reported by VT Digger and WCAX that State Senator Tim Ashe will seek the Democratic nomination for mayor at the Party’s caucus November 13.

I don’t know how I feel about this. Maybe it’s the cold rain outside today, but I have to admit that I feel a tinge of melancholia. This news almost certainly means Bob Kiss is not running which in and of itself means the end of a certain era, the passage of time and the continuing of my own personal journey toward certain death. I really like Bob Kiss, and had very high hopes for his administration when he took over almost six years ago. There were some good good things about his terms. The roads got better. He negotiated a lot more payment in lieu of tax from UVM. His Pension Task Force made some important recommendations. The city council began to find a voice of its own on Bob’s watch in a way it never had before. But in the end everything else about his administration is eclipsed by the shadow and consumed by the gravity of what happened with Burlington Telecom, which I had high hopes for also in 2006.

So now Tim Ashe is in the race, probably hoping Miro Weinberger, Jason Lorber and Bram Kranichfeld split their support and allow him to storm the gates of Demland with as many supporters as he can muster, Progs among them. Remember the Democratic caucus is open. As long as he hasn’t voted in another party’s caucus by 11/13, you could potentially even see Bob Kiss vote in it.

Anyway… so I just wrote to Tim Ashe with a pretty obvious question. And he wrote back and answered it by promising not to run as in Independent or Prog if he fails to win the Democratic nomination…
[No Subject]
FROM:Haik Bedrosian
Monday, October 17, 2011 7:07pm

Hi Tim,

Please add my email to your mayoral campaign distribution list. Quick question for the record- If you don’t win the Democratic nomination on 11/13 is there any chance your name will appear on the March ballot for mayor anyway?

TO:Haik Bedrosian Message
Monday, October 17, 2011 8:11pm

will do. if i don’t win the caucus, i am out of the race…

Tim Ashe
State Senator
Chittenden County

So I guess this leaves Bob a little theoretical leeway to run again if Tim Ashe does not get nominated, but it still seems unlikely. The mayor told me he’d announce in “early” November. Presumably that would be before the Dems’ caucus on the 13th. But I guess he could announce on the 14th, and it would still be in the first half of the month, which might be considered the early half, and thus “early in the month.”

We’ll see, but after watching some videos of Tim Ashe at Anne Galloway’s YouTube page positively singing the praises of Burlington Telecom, Bob Kiss and Jonathan Leopold, I find it hard to believe Tim Ashe didn’t coordinate his announcement for mayor with the mayor.

October 17, 2011   6 Comments

Leopold Stepping Down

I got an interesting press release from the mayor’s office today…


Contact:Joe Reinert, Assistant to the Mayor


Leopold to Serve Through the End of Current Fiscal Year

 Burlington, VTApril 14, 2011.  The City of Burlington announced today that Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Jonathan Leopold will leave his position as of July 1, 2011.

“I have accepted Jonathan’s decision with regret,” said Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss .  “I want to thank him for his hard work and personal commitment to the City throughout his career.  Among many other accomplishments, Jonathan’s management of the budget has resulted in 5 straight fiscal years of a level general services tax rate and an increase in the City’s undesignated reserve fund from $75,000 to over $5 million.  Jonathan has also built a strong management team in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office which will ensure a successful transition.”

In his letter to Mayor Kiss, Mr. Leopold states that “I have been committed to and worked for our community for nearly 30 years.  I have strived to do my best to serve and protect the City’s interests and am proud of the success of this administration to address the challenges the City faced in 2006.  We have rebuilt the City’s financial reserves, maintained a stable tax rate, improved the status of the retirement system, repaved City streets, strengthened Burlington ’s energy sufficiency and improved City services and programs.  I truly love Burlington and want to assure that it continues to prosper.”

In his letter, Mr. Leopold also cites issues related to Burlington Telecom. “Over the past several years, these successes have been overshadowed by the Burlington Telecom controversy….The City’s efforts to overcome the financial and legal problems have been daunting but worth the effort. I regret the difficulties the City has faced as a result of the BT controversy and I hope the City is able to resolve these issues. In hindsight, I believe that we could have made a more complete disclosure of the violation of Condition 60 when we first learned of it in November 2008.  This has resulted in an unfortunate division within the city. I believe it is time for Burlington to come together and move forward.”

Mr. Leopold expressed confidence in the strength of his management team in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office. In the coming months he will work with the Mayor and Council to develop the City’s FY12 budget.

Leopold was appointed the City’s CAO by Mayor Kiss after the Mayor was first elected in March of 2006.  He previously served the City as Treasurer from 1981-1988 and was widely-lauded for his management of the City’s finances during that period.

 Mr. Leopold’s entire letter can be found here:  Mayor Kiss received Mr. Leopold’s letter this morning.

April 14, 2011   3 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

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

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

The Place To Be III

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

Midnight Round-Up

*Jane Knodell has been named the UVM Provost.  That’s the #2 UVM administrator behind the president.  Congratulations to her.

*Jonathan Leopold is on the Board of Trustees  at Burlington College.  Did you know that?  Anybody know how Burlington College can afford the Diocese?  I just don’t see how that’s possible.  Didn’t Burlington College try to buy a much smaller property recently and fail for lack of financing?  Or was that just a rumor?

*Dave Harnett is running for city council from Ward Four.  Will he have an opponent?

*There’s a school board meeting tomorrow night when we will officially find out if Burlington plans on meeting “Challenges for Change.”  Oh the suspense!

*TJ Donovan is taking over the State’s BT investigation.

*Um…oh!  1000 years ago Abenaki Indians used to walk from Appletree Bay to the Intervale  across what is now North Avenue.

*And 3 years ago there was all this…

December 14, 2010   2 Comments

Burlington Telecom Lease Terminated

Not too much in the media about the termination of the lease between Burlington Telecom and Citi Capital. Just this post from Seven Days.

And now there are 11 investors calling themselves “reboot bt” offering to buy the company.  Here’s a great quote from one of the investors From WCAX:

“The problems of BT have to do with the management of BT, in particular the marketing and executive management of BT itself”

I once had so much hope and excitement for Burlington Telecom.  Now what?  This group of folks might buy it for 10 or 15 million, and the city will still be out the 17 million and will still owe the bank 20 million dollars.  And don’t think they won’t sue Burlington for it.  If you had a fleet of lawyers and somebody owed you 20 million, you’d sue.  Is Ken Schatz ready?  Yikes!

You know Bob- you might have got the council to approve the Piper Jaffray re-fi if you had fired Leopold and let somebody else present it to them.  Now it seems the City is probably going to eat a loss of between 30 and 50 million dollars on the Burlington Telecom experiment, not counting increased interest costs from lower credit ratings.  Sad.

November 29, 2010   Comments Off