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February 03, 2009

Burlington's "Little" Green Man for Mayor

Last week, James Simpson, the Burlington Green Party candidate for mayor, called our office to complain about the way Seven Days is promoting its mayoral candidates forum, which takes place this Wednesday, February 4, at 7 p.m. (Click here for more info, or to suggest a question.) We advertised the event as a debate among "the four" mayoral candidates, and Simpson was upset that he wasn't included.

Not that he had ever asked to be included — according to a Burlington elections official, Simpson submitted his paperwork to get on the ballot at 4:50 p.m. January 26, 10 minutes before the city's filing deadline, and several hours after Seven Days' publishing deadline. After being rude to the woman who answered the phone here, Simpson left a long and vitriolic voicemail message for Seven Days Publisher Paula Routly. Because Simpson is running for elected office, we feel compelled to share that message with you. (Click here to listen.)

When I called Simpson back to learn more about this fifth mayoral wannabe, I expected him to engage in a dialogue along the lines of: "So, you're running for mayor, too? Why don't you tell me about your campaign?" Typically, candidates for elected office make some effort to notify local news outlets that they've launched their campaigns. After all, it's not like we're mind-readers or keep a reporter permanently stationed at the elections office waiting for prospective candidates to pop in.

No such luck. Before I could get around to asking Simpson if he wanted to join our debate, he became confrontational and argumentative. (That's a polite way of saying he told me to "jump off a fucking bridge.") Below is the transcript of that phone call.

Following our less-than-pleasant exchange, Seven Days columnist Shay Totten called Simpson to invite him to participate in Wednesday night's forum. He declined that invitation. Guess there's no pleasing some people...

KEN PICARD: Yes, hi, is this James Simpson?

JAMES SIMPSON: This is James.

KP: Hi, this is Ken Picard. I'm a writer with Seven Days newspaper.

JS: Hey, Ken. What's up?

KP: I'm just calling, I understand you left a message with one of our publishers, Paula Routly, and just wanted to call you back.

JS: Yeah, I was basically calling to wonder why you guys jumped the gun on the mayorial [sic] candidate, and you advertised there's only going to be four candidates out there for mayor.

KP, Uh, no, we said we're having four candidates in our mayor's forum.

JS: It says "Meet the four candidates for mayor."

KP: OK, well--

JS: Right on the advertisement. Right in the Seven Days.

KP: You said you're running on the Green Party ticket? Burlington Green Party, is that right?

JS: I think it's called Green. Just Green.


JS: As in the Green Party, yes.

KP: OK, because when I pulled up the Vermont Green Party home page, I don't know whether or not you're in any way affiliated with the Burlington Green Party, but I didn't see your name listed on there.

JS: Well, if you give Steve Ekberg a call, you'd definitely get all the information. You can also talk to the ladies down at the City Hall. We registered by the deadline and we're approved. I got a call back from her and everything.

KP: Well, just so you know, my publishers decided that the four candidates that they invited were the ones they wanted to participate in this forum, so--

JS: Oh, so you're basically, like, staging some little debate and, uh, discriminating against others.

KP: No. We're--

JS: Yeah, you are! Go jump off a fucking bridge!

[Mr. Simpson hung up. I called him back.]

KP: Yes, is this James Simpson?

JS: Yes. Who's calling?

KP: This is Ken Picard calling back. What's the matter?

JS: Why are you fucking harassing me, asshole?

KP: Well, because you called us and asked for us to call you back.

JS: No no no! Why are you calling me back after I hung up and told you to get your discriminatory bigotry out of my face? You're a racket! Do you know what racketeering is?

KP: Rackeering? Yeah, I do know what that is.

JS: Yes! You know what discrimination is?

KP: Well, I can tell you this —

JS: I can tell you that your little attitude doesn't stand up to the U.S. Constitution, that's for fucking sure!

KP: How so?

JS: Because you're sitting there shaking in your fucking office, because you're a private entity. That's why.

KP:  Why would I be shaking in my office because I'm a private entity?

JS: Apparently, you have some sort of a problem, there's some sort of strengthening issue in your voice, and I think it has to do with the fact that you know that your little agenda is quite biased and, how should we say, you have obviously cropped and picked your little association already laid forth.

KP: Do you —

JS: Dude! Dude! I'm not here for, I'm not here for your little argumentative little game!

KP: Argumentative little game? I'm not being argumentative at all. I just —

JS: Don't call this number again and harass me again! You guys are thieves! Enjoy stealing the election!

[Mr. Simpson hung up again.]

If I had a dollar for all the similar conversations I've had with candidates over the years...well I guess I would have about 10 dollars. Point is, I feel your pain.

Wow. What an asshole.

Marking my ballot now for Mr. Congeniality!

Lisa, you don't live in Burlington.

Holy inappropriate rage! This is a very telling first foray into the public spotlight. How can someone with such a wildly angry, paranoid outlook possibly work collaboratively in the manner so essential to mayoral effectiveness? Or mayoral campaigning, for that matter. It's not about bias or media conspiracy, it's about acting like a sane, cordial human being.

He need a little mayorial anger management training. Little.

He says "uh" way, way too much. I like my crazies with a better vocabulary.

This is why I left the Green Party...I'm now a Democrat.

Hello, I am running as a write in. Why didn't you include me in your f'ing debate. What a liberal agenda you have.

Wise move, Owen. Simpson and Ekberg? Talk about birds of a feather...

Ken i know what you are dealing with. i was going to vote simpson as one of of the 3 candidates and i emailed Owen and stent me a nasty email you can read later in the week.

All I'm saying is I bet Simpson wouldn't have a mini heart-attack over admitting he didn't support gay marriage.

Too bad he didnt participate in the debate. Would have been interesting to watch other candidates as well as voters respond to that kind of nonsense.

what a "little" "little" "little" douchebag

I know this is very old news now, but I have to mention a fact that everyone is overlooking, and that is that Mr. Simpson did not become confrontational until you said "my publishers decided that the four candidates that they invited were the ones they wanted to participate in this forum". You were not allowed to finish the sentence, but any reasonable person would assume you were about to say "so sorry, but you're not included". Regardless of Mr. Simpson's preexisting bias and anger, this article left me feeling some sympathy for him, as it seemed you were intentionally antagonizing him. It's disingenuous to claim you were about to invite him to join the debate, when you missed several opportunities to say so, and instead unnecessarily challenged his legitimacy. I can't help feeling that the professional approach would have been to simply start the call by apologizing for excluding him (regardless of where you felt the blame actually lay). This would surely have avoided the entire confrontation.

You may remenber the four proverbs:
The danger past and God forgotten.
The darkest hour is nearest the dawn.
The darkest place is under the candlestick.
The devil knows many things because he is old.

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