Mayor Bob Kiss: A "Vetting" Problem?
Mayor Bob Kiss formally reached out to the Burlington chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars — twice — in an effort to assuage damage created by a mayoral stand-in speaker at yesterday's Veterans Day ceremony in Battery Park.
"The remarks were unfortunate," said Joe Reinert, assistant to the mayor. "They were not the mayor's words, nor was it his speech by any means."
Kiss called the VFW yesterday after he learned of the remarks, and will do so again today, said Reinert.
According to attendees who contacted Seven Days, the mayor's stand-in honored military conscientious objectors rather than veterans.
"Kiss has the right of free speech — as fought for by these and other vets," wrote one attendee. "But what I could hear of the contents, it sounded like it was read to antagonize and anger those in attendance — who simply wanted to honor those in the military!"
The mayor had no advance review of the speech, and allowed Joe Hasrauth, 26, to speak on his behalf at the recommendation of someone he knew from the Combat Paper Project, said Reinert.
"We're not shedding responsibility, mind you," said Reinert. "The mayor has turned to this person, and others, in the past to find someone to represent him on occasion, and those people made remarks that were completely appropriate for the event."
A Burlington city councilor today said he was "deeply disturbed" by the comments, and issued an apology on behalf of the city to all veterans.
"He was expressing his own views and opinions and not speaking for anyone other than himself. I personally feel that his comments were inappropriate for the occasion," said Councilor Clarence Davis (P-Ward 3), who is also a U.S. Navy serviceman and graduate of Norwich University.
Davis said he was compelled to issue a statement after what he read in today's Burlington Free Press.
Hasrauth is a former U.S. Army medic who became a conscientious objector and is now active in the peace movement — including the vet-founded Combat Paper Project.
Here is Davis' complete statement:
As a Citizen of Burlington, City Councilor, United States Navy serviceman and a graduate of Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont, I would like to personally apologize to the men and women who were in attendance at yesterday’s Veterans Day observance as well as all of those individuals who have served and continue to serve our country. Veterans Day is a time to honor the men and women who wear the uniform of the armed services. They are our friends, loved ones, co-workers and family members and, as such, deserve our respect.
I was deeply disturbed by the comments made by the speaker at yesterday’s Veterans Day observance and want to make it very clear that he was expressing his own views and opinions and not speaking for anyone other than himself. I personally feel that his comments were inappropriate for the occasion.
I wish all members of the armed forces that are currently or soon to be deployed a swift and safe return home. Again, I thank you for your service and sacrifice, which is valued and honored by many of us.
Clarence E. Davis (P)
City Councilor, Ward 3