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Category — Vince Dober

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?

Councilors:

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

Larry Kupferman
Director
Community and Economic Development Office
City Hall, 149 Church St.
Burlington, VT 05401
direct 802-865-7174
fax: 802-865-7024
www.cedoburlington.org

*****

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

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

Dober Wins in Ward Seven

Re-run from 03.24.09.  The comments are interesting.

http://www.burlingtonpol.com/2009/03/25/dober-wins-ward-seven-run-off/

February 23, 2011   No Comments

Jenkins Jumps the Gun

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

Driscoll Seeks Ward 5 Dem Nomination

Breaking News

Driscoll seeks to unseat Shannon; Blais to Run Again in Seven…

A reliable source has confirmed that Carina Driscoll, former state legislator and Progressive city councilor from Ward Three will be seeking to wrest the Democratic nomination for Ward Five city council from incumbent councilor, and possible mayoral candidate Joan Shannon.

There is speculation about whether Discoll is abandoning the Progressive party entirely, or whether she will seek to be a fusion candidate running under a duel Prog/Dem banner.  There is also speculation about whether she will actually attend the Democratic caucus, personally- or simply be nominated by someone else in absentia.

Developing Story…

Also- In other News, a source confirms Ellie Blais, former Ward Seven city councilor will seek to unseat incumbent Republican councilor Vince Dober in the March election. No word yet on her intended party label.

Developing Story…

January 3, 2011   3 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

The Place To Be II

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

Picks and Predications Election Day 2010

It’s a serious form of exhibitionism to want to tell people who your voting for, but based on this blog’s traffic stats, I’m guessing I find at least 200 voyeurs willing to accommodate me on election day.

I live in Chittenden 3-2 so I’m just going to tick off who I plan on voting for by looking at the sample ballot on the City’s website.

*Constitutional Amendment to let folks register to vote at 17 if they will be 18 by the time the general election rolls around: Yeah, I guess. Hey if that means you turn 17 in January like I did you can vote on Town Meeting in March even before turning 18? Hmmm. I don’t know anymore. Maybe I won’t vote on this.

*For Congress Pick: Peter Welch Prediction: Peter Welch
*For Governor: Pick: Peter Shumlin Prediction: Peter Shumlin
*For Lieutenant Governor: Pick: Steve Howard Prediction: Phil Scott
*For State Treasurer: Pick: Jeb Spaulding Prediction: Jeb Spaulding
*For Secretary of State: Pick: Jim Condos Prediction: Jim Condos
*For Auditor of Accounts: Pick: Doug Hoffer Prediction: Doug Hoffer
*For Attorney General: Pick: William Sorrell Prediction: William Sorrell
*For State Senate: Picks: Philip Baruth and Andy Montroll Prediction: They both win.
*For State Representaive: Pick: Angela Chagnon Prediction: Mark Larson
*For Probate Judge: Skip it.
*For Assistant Judge: Skip it.
*For State’s Attorney: Pick: TJ Donovan Prediction: TJ Donovan
*For Sherriff: Skip it.
*For High Bailiff: Skip it.
*For Justice of the Peace: Picks: Ed Adrian, Terry Bailey, Angela Chagnon, Paul Decelles, Vince Dober, Thom Fleury, Jim Flint, Carmen George, Maggie Gunderson, Selene Hoffer-Shall, Michelle Lefokowitz and Kurt Wright. Prediction: Terry Bailey wins on the strength of this blog’s preceding post.

*Ward Three Special City Council Seat: Vince Brennan has probably already won.  His absence will be felt on the school board.  Good luck on the council Vince!

November 2, 2010   3 Comments

Council Delays Financing II

“Had I been there I would have voted against splitting the question, and against the postponment of the letter of intent.” -Me from the last post

A prominent local attorney wrote to me yesterday to express his belief that Monday’s resolution was more binding than I thought. Why a resolution authorizing the pursuit of funding from a lender, with whom a tentative agreement had clearly already been pursued?

Good point.

The bottom line though- can BT possibly repay one-hundred million dollars in twenty years on its own merits? Based on its current track record, a reasonable person could conclude- no. They could not become cash flow positive after spending fifty million dollars and there is no proof they ever can.

Let’s look at the facts, OK? BT has 4,500 subscribers (maybe). Comcast has twenty-five million. That’s five thousand times as many. What makes the city interested in competing with that? It feels like we’re trying to cross the ocean in a row boat with this thing. For what? We might just want to turn back while we can still see the shore. In another year or two Burlington Taxpayers might only be able to dream of owing just seventeen million dollars.

This re-fi makes the city liable to repay 6o million in principle and 40 more million in interest. Sure the city may repay the money with BT proceeds if it wishes, and if they’re sufficient to do so, but as far as Piper Jaffrey is concerned repayment is “fungible.” That means they don’t give a shit where the money comes from as long as we pay them.

No creditor ever gives a shit where the money that pays them back comes from.

And when BT revenues aren’t enough- the money will come from the taxpayers.

At this point it’s hard to imagine Chris Burns and Jonathon Leopold can slap together a convincing business plan to show how BT becomes profitable. I mean for heaven’s sake- they start their customer service reps out at seventeen dollars per hour. Seventeen dollars per hour! That is so much money! They aren’t worth it. Richard Donnelly alone took home nearly 70K in FY08. Somebody could have done whatever the hell he did for BT for half of that I’m sure.

Most of the network is already built in Burlington. Wiring the city with fiber was forward thinking, but who really cares who runs the network? And the value of fiber could easily drop with more and more wi-fi available.

The thing is BT is a totally non-essential city service. It could disappear tomorrow and Bob Kiss could still be remembered as a good mayor for creating a rainy-day fund and paving the roads. Who care about BT? Judge Judy is Judge Judy regardless of the cable carrier. So who cares?

“Um is not an answer, sir!”

Is it worth the risk of owning a 100 million dollar dinosaur that eats? I urge my city councilors Paul and Vince in particular to consider that question carefully, since they are the swing votes.

November 19, 2009   1 Comment

Dober Wins Ward Seven Run-Off

According to Briggs at the Burlington Free Press, Vince Dober has defeated Eli Lesser-Goldsmith in the Ward Seven run-off by a vote of 515-425. As a result, the Democrats will not have a majority on the new city council.

March 25, 2009   10 Comments