DECEMBER 6, 2020
I cherish the exquisite freedom I allow myself with this blog. It's a
nirvana of absolute apathy. I like just having it. I don't need to do
anything with it for months, or years, or ever if I don't want to. See
the original disclaimer from 2006. Still awesome.
A couple of my more hardcore readers have asked me to write about the upcoming 2021 Burlington mayoral election. Okay, sure, but...
it comes to Burlington politics, I am a blind dinosaur. I lost track
of things when they changed the city council to the stupid configuration
it's in now where "district" counselors represent twice the number of
people as "ward" counselors, but they all still get one vote. I can't
countenance such baloney and as a result the local politics part of my
brain has partially shut down.
Nevertheless, I'll persist in
writing something. It may not have much substance, and the facts may be
wrong. As per my disclaimer, I may correct or otherwise
change the essay after it's published.
Finally for context the
reader must understand that at the time of this writing, it has
only been two months since the death of Edward Lodewijk van Halen. Every known
human paradigm is churning in his wake, and the world is still grappling
with how to move forward without the singular driving genius of our age. By contrast Burlington politics are meaningless.
The 2021 Burlington Mayoral Election
You'll notice I said "election" instead of "race." Let's dispense with the pleasantries and start from the premise that Miro Weinberger is going to be re-elected, and reverse-engineer the rest of this post from there.
I mean the reason it's taken me so long to write this, and why I'm doing such a bad job with it, is that this election is incredibly predicable. One might say boring. Just like last time, the leftern opposition to Miro will be split, except this time the Prog-endorsed candidate is weaker, and the Independent stronger.
Force majeure notwithstanding, there is a zero chance anyone other than Miro Weinberger will win this election. He only needs a plurality of at least 40%. and he's never done worse than 48% so...So what is there to write about? You think it's going to go to a runoff? It's not. For all the bluster about it from IRV/RCV proponents, it's never happened in the history of Burlington, and it ain't gonna happen this year either. Why is this interesting?
|"OMFG wake me up when it's over."|
When it comes to Miro Weinberger vs. Progressive nominee Max Tracy, it won't be the excitement of a race that draws the crowd this year, it will be the spectacle of a gruesome political slaughter.
|"I felt like destroying something beautiful."|
Let's start with the deeply flawed incumbent mayor Miro Weinberger, who probably should not be re-elected, but absolutely will be. His record is target-rich with legitimate things to attack, many of which can be categorized as either Del Pozo-related, or City Place-related.
In a world where Burlington had a deeper bench of stronger leaders, someone could exploit those weaknesses and make this a real race. But that's not the world we live in. So far in the 2021 mayoral election, there is no candidate in a position to do that.
It's an old story, but I don't consider myself to be part of any political party. I tend to vote lefty but not always. I keep my options open. This year Brian Pine came knocking at my door offering me some old black and white photo prints and contact sheets from my campaign for his city council seat 25 years ago, and asking for my vote in the progressive caucus.
If Brian hadn't convinced me to register for the Prog primary, I would not have received the phone call from Max Tracy that made me realize Tracy has no path to becoming mayor.
Max didn't ask that anything he said to me to be off the record, so I think it's legit to paraphrase our conversation for you. I knew I would probably support Brian, but I took Max's call with an open mind and gave him a fair hearing. This was on November 21.
It was not a very long call. I asked Max if he was part of the protests that stalked the mayor and city councilor Joan Shannon to their personal homes- and I think sensing the tone of my question, he attempted to take credit for not having personally joined those protests. "I did not participate in that" he said in such a way as would make one think he opposed "that." But then I asked if he spoke out against those protests and the conversation changed.
Max began attacking those who never having spoken out about racial justice or police violence, would now "get uppity to protect the white mayor." I associate "uppity" with the racist way its been used historically, so I thought that was an unfortunate choice of words.
It occurred to me that Max is white. It occurred to me Miro is Jewish. It occurred to me there is a Black, Muslim new American with a kick-ass Afro-pop campaign jingle running for mayor too.
Again Max seemed to remember he was trying to win my vote, and basically said "not you" citing my public criticisms of cyber-bullying by Miro's perjurious former police chief as appropriate bone fides for *me* to get uppity, I guess. Just not those other uppity hypocrites or their white mayor.
I did my best to explain to Max why it's wrong to target public officials at their homes, how it's uncivil and antithetical to democracy to practice intimidation that drags in a person's family and neighbors. I said it seemed to me that considering what many women go though with stalkers, following politicians to their homes was a decidedly anti-feminist and anti-progressive thing to do.
He wasn't buying it. "If it were me I'd just go out and talk to them" he blithely proclaimed. To not understand the level of privilege imbued in this answer is disqualifying. As I said in a text to Max the following day, that was an able-bodied, white man's confidence talking when he said "I'd just go out and talk to them." I advised him to drop out of the race for the Progressive nomination and endorse Brian Pine, which he did not do.
So that was the first time I really talked to Max Tracy. He seems like a nice enough person, and I respect his service, but he is trapped between the constituency who nominated him, who largely support the uncivil protests at Miro's house, and the rest of the city who find that sort of tactic way out of bounds. If he does the right thing and denounces the tactic, he risks alienating his base. He's stuck.
Max will also be a lighting rod attracting people's resentment about way the police budget and staff were cut, and for those who have negative sentiments about the City Hall Park protests last summer. I went to one of the first organized Black Lives Matter rallies at Battery Park and heard a young black woman at the microphone saying fiercely and expressly to other black people that when the shit went down, the white people there would not still be with them. That they could only count on themselves. That stuck with me.
I support Black Lives Matter, just like I support feminism. I believe in equality. Police brutality exists. We can't stop looking for ways to reform, improve, and enlighten ourselves. And it's also true that not everything is cut and dried. Some of the Battery Park protesters burned many copies of Seven Days newspaper. That wasn't right. Later the city council voted to allow some members of the protest into an executive session just to make them feel special, which was a violation of the Vermont open records law- a law that should have protected the right of the majority of the protesters in that park to know what was being said on their behalf.
On both the left and the right, the danger of becoming exactly what you hate is ever-present.
The Battery Park protests were good because they called attention to a real problem, but of course we knew it would disperse when it got cold. And they succeeded in making one of the three cops they hated rich, but at least they can say they effected his removal.
We knew they had to poop somewhere and as far as I know the city provided them with Porto-potties. But that means the same Mayor Weinberger they were directing their ire at was not only tolerating the civil disobedience, he was even sponsoring it, providing the protesters the grounds from which they attacked him. That's magnanimous. And the way he handled the obnoxious protests at his house was graceful and tolerant. I have to give him a lot of credit for that.
Miro has dealt with the pandemic responsibly and he did eventually fire Del Pozo, I have to give him credit for these things too.
I know I haven't said enough about Ali Dieng, my friend and neighbor and the main Independent in the election. I honestly just don't know enough about his policy positions. Know he's a super friendly and positive, and his campaign seems to have momentum. I know he's one of the few people who ever stops by my house for a cup of coffee and some chit chat. I believe many Republicans and Independents who can't bring themselves to vote for the Progressive or the Democrat, will support Ali Dieng.
The idea that most profuse and vociferous supporters of racial justice will be voting for the white candidate from suburban Illinois, while the Black candidate from Senegal will draw substantial support from the party of Trump reminds us to never underestimate the irony of fate. The frequently counter-intuitive nature of local politics is why we love it.