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January 04, 2011

Shannon Faces Challenge in Ward 5 Democratic Caucus

Joan Driscoll ** updated **

** updated #2 **

Incumbent Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon, a Democrat, will face a challenge Thursday night for her Ward 5 seat at the district's Democratic caucus. The challenger? Former Progressive City Councilor and state legislator Carina Driscoll.

This time around, however, Driscoll is running as a Democrat and says she has no intention of running as a Progressive.

"I have no plans to run as a Progressive," said Driscoll. "Though, I think it's fair to say that, if elected, I would represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party."

Driscoll left politics in 2004 to begin raising a family, and now believes it's time to get involved again. She also believes the city council isn't providing enough leadership — whether it's Burlington Telecom or other issues facing the city.

"It's seems that people are more interested in pulling political stunts and scoring political points than providing leadership and doing all they can to ensure taxpayers will see that $17 million protected and repaid, not lost," said Driscoll.

In a pitch to Democrats, Driscoll said the council has been "asleep at the wheel" and failed in its oversight role when it came to Burlington Telecom.

"I have not been party to the evolution of Burlington Telecom's troubles. Unfortunately, there are many who are accountable and there will be a process that is occurring outside of the council that will address that," wrote Driscoll. "At this time, it is not clear what the council's accountability is, but at the very least it is fair to say that the council has been asleep at the wheel and has failed on its oversight responsibilities. It is time for some fresh faces on the council."

Driscoll (pictured above left) told Seven Days that she doesn't want to imply that Mayor Bob Kiss and Chief Administrative Office Jonathan Leopold are off the hook — quite the contrary. But the council can't claim ignorance.

Shannon (pictured above right) agrees the council needs to provide more leadership on key areas, but disagrees that she's to blame for attempting to provide leadership when it comes to resolving BT's mess. 

"I led the effort to remove Jonathan [Leopold] from office, but it didn't happen because the mayor didn't want it to happen," said Shannon. "I also was the councilor who created the blue ribbon task force that took a more thorough, independent look at Burlington Telecom."

That task force's report was issued almost one year ago. It found that Burlington Telecom was not viable by itself and needed to find strategic partners to help it continue to finance its buildout and run day-to-day operations. From that task force report, the city hired Dorman & Fawcett, a firm that specializes in turning around failing companies. Dorman & Fawcett took over day-to-day management in August, and had been working to restructure BT's debt with CitiCapital. That effort failed, and CitiCapital is now in the process of repossessing BT's equipment. BT, meanwhile, is trying to find a new source of funding and strategic partners to stay alive. Meanwhile, the costs of outside consultants and legal fees continue to mount.

"I have tried very hard not to politicize Burlington Telecom," said Shannon. "Which, in fact, is a very easy thing to do — politicize BT. Instead, I've tried to come up with approaches that everyone on the council can work with and that allows city government to continue to function."

But Shannon added that the BT blame should be shouldered largely by Mayor Bob Kiss, not the council. While councilors may have been informed about BT's financial problems, they were also told that plans were in place to deal with the issues. It wasn't until major problems erupted and the city needed to ask for absolution from state regulators that councilors were made fully aware of BT's failings.

"You also have to remember that the council works only part-time, while the administration is working full-time," said Shannon.

Additionally, she said, three political parties are represented on the council (along with two independents), and as a result the council does not always function cohesively. "There is that inherent political tension," she said.

For sure.

Driscoll is no stranger to Burlington politics, though she's touting herself as a "fresh face" in a note to potential supporters. Aside from her own background as a member of the school board, city council and state legislator, Driscoll is also the daughter of Jane O'Meara Sanders, President of Burlington College. O'Meara Sanders' other half happens to be none other than U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a former mayor of Burlington. Sanders has never run as a Progressive, though he did seek and receive the primary endorsement in 2006, only to turn it down later and run in the general election as an independent.

Driscoll said she left the Progressive Party in 2004 after she stepped down from the City Council. She was first elected as a Progressive from Ward 3 in 2003, the same year that Shannon was elected to her Ward 5 seat. Driscoll resigned in 2004 and was replaced by Progressive Tim Ashe.

"Since then, the Democrats have welcomed me into the party, and I've found myself more at home and aligned with the Democrats than the Progressive Party," said Driscoll, who runs the Vermont Woodworking School with her husband Blake Ewoldson.

So, that's what happens to Progressives as they age and become more "conservative" — they become liberal Democrats. Driscoll said she supported Hinda Miller in her 2006 bid for mayor.

Aside from Burlington Telecom, Driscoll would like to see more transparency at City Hall, particularly in the Community and Economic Development Office and the Planning and Zoning Department.

Former City Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Sullivan, and who was a lead volunteer on Sen. Doug Racine's failed gubernatorial bid, is endorsing Driscoll.

"She is both a breath of fresh air and someone with experience," wrote Sullivan in a note to fellow Democrats. "I believe she is the change we need."

Progressive-leaning Democrats in the South End successfully backed Democrat Suzi Wizowaty's primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Bill Keogh, a Democrat, in 2008. Keogh has since been reelected to the city council and serves as the council president.

Shannon is confident she has enough support, but given that anyone can attend the caucus and vote she's still working hard to ensure enough of her supporters show up that night.

"I think I've done a good job at being responsive to people's concerns in the ward and it's also not like I've been sitting there on the council and doing nothing. I think that is what matters most to people," said Shannon.

Ward 5 Democrats will meet at the Champlain Elementary School at 6 p.m. Thursday night. The caucus is open to all who attend and is not restricted to only Democrats.

Driscoll will be out of town that night and unable to attend the caucus.

Incumbent Councilors Sharon Bushor (I-Ward 1), Vince Dober (R-Ward 7) and Bram Kranichfeld (D-Ward 2) are seeking reelection. Councilors Mary Kehoe (D-Ward 6) and Nancy Kaplan (D-Ward 4) are not seeking reelection. Democrat Norm Blais is seeking the Ward 6 seat while Democrat Dave Hartnett is seeking the Ward 4 seat. No word if Republicans, or Progressives, will challenge either for those seats or in any other districts.

Incumbent Progressive Vince Brennan (Ward 3) is seeking reelection in March. He was just elected in November to fill out the remaining term of Marrisa Caldwell, who resigned her council seat in 2010.

Progressives will nominate the rest of their council slate at a meeting on January 16, said Morgan Daybell, the party's executive director.

* * Update * *

In an email to Seven Days, Carina Driscoll put the kibosh on rumors that she might run as a Progressive if she loses her Democratic bid at Thursday night's Ward 5 caucus.

She wrote: "I have been asked if I would accept the Progressive endorsement if nominated. In case you are curious, if I were to receive the Progressive endorsement, I would be honored and humbled, but would have to gratefully decline. There are many, many people who have been involved in the progressive movement over the last three decades for whom I have great admiration and respect. I will continue to be part of that movement as a Democrat. I have not changed my values and will always work for a progressive agenda to bring creative solutions to move Burlington forward."

** Update #2 **

Joan Shannon easily defeated Carina Driscoll by a 94-59 margin at tonight's Ward 5 caucus. Close to 175 people were in attendance. About 20 folks were politicos from other wards and members of the Ward 6 caucus who met at the same location.

As noted above, Driscoll did not attend, and Jessica Oski read a statement for her. Shannon was at the event and read her own speech. Despite being on site, however, Shannon was so busy talking with voters after her speech that she forgot to vote. By the time she remembered to vote, it was too late—volunteers and party official were already counting ballots.

Good thing the vote wasn't too close.

As the Chair of the Democratic Caucus of the City Council I have had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Joan for nearly four years. Joan is thoughtful, passionate and dedicated to making Burlington a better place. While Joan and I do not agree on every issue, I can say without pause that she can a fierce advocate, but is not afraid to compromise. Joan has been able to effectuate positive change in the City on many issues because she does her homework, reaches out to colleagues, and collaborates with peers, residents, businesses and all community members. A review of Joan's voting record reveals that she indeed has established herself as a champion of progressive/liberal social issues. I wish I could vote for Joan in the caucus, but since I do not live in Ward 5 I cannot. However, I would urge anyone from Ward 5 reading this to attend the caucus and cast your vote for Joan. Ward 5, the City and the Council need her leadership and experience at this critical juncture.

Ward 5 Democrats will meet at the Champlain Elementary School at 6 p.m. Thursday night. The caucus is open to all who attend and is not restricted to only Democrats.

It is restricted to residents of Ward Five, however. Is it not?

Driscoll will be out of town that night and unable to attend the caucus.

How do you know? Where is she going to be Thursday night?

I concur w/Ed's comments. There's absolutely no reason to remove Joan from her seat. She has been an exemplary Councilor.

I'm a Ward 5 atheist, but I'm going to quote the bible:

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves"

Joan, in all earnestness, thanks for your continued service. Get your folks out Thursday.

Seems unfair to try and tar Ms. Shannon with the BT brush and, ironic coming from Ms. Driscoll who apparently is now a (wink wink) Democrat.
Has the label "Progressive" become political poison so quickly? Yes, yes it has.

Haik: Carina told me she is going to be out of town (and out of state) visiting her in-laws. It was a pre-scheduled trip before she decided to run for the council seat.

As a Ward Five resident I am thrilled that Carina is willing to step up during this time of crisis in the confidence of city government with a desire to be a leader. Instead of collaborating to find solutions, our current elected leaders seem to be spinning their wheels, pointing fingers and waiting for the next shoe to drop. I know we have many hard working elected officials and I count the Ward Five current city councilors among them. But what we need now is skilled and bold leadership, generative thinking and creative ideas, non-partisan collaboration - we need change. I think Carina Driscoll will bring that kind of leadership and collaboration to the city council. This is not an easy time. Hard decisions need to be made, people need to be held accountable, and, Burlington needs to move forward and continue to be a great place to do business, to live, to shop and to go to school. Carina Driscoll has the qualifications that more than fit the bill.
I have known Carina for many years – as a State Representative, as a City Councilor, as a School Board member, as an advocate, as a small business owner, as a mother and as a friend. I have seen Carina in action as a leader – she is smart, thoughtful and decisive, she is creative and pragmatic, she is willing to listen to good ideas regardless of whether they come from Democrats, Republicans, Progressives or Independents, she understands politics and knows what it takes to move from idea to policy. I will be at the caucus and I will be supporting Carina.


Carina said "I believe at this time, the council has an opportunity to lead, but somehow with the current make-up of the council, it hasn't been able to move past pulling stunts, finger-pointing and bitter partisanship" and you said "Instead of collaborating to find solutions, our current elected leaders seem to be spinning their wheels, pointing fingers and waiting for the next shoe to drop."

So my first question is this, now that you have both condemned the entire current Council and knowing that there are likely to be 11-13 councilors still in place come April, how does Carina intend to mend the bridges that she just burnt down?

Second question, please name three specific issues that you think Joan has not addressed or not addressed to your liking and how do you think Carina will address them. For example, what errors do you think Joan made with BT and please tell us how Carina will do better. Why keep it a secret, we could benefit from this insight right now.


OMG! Driscoll running away from Progressive-ness? That seems like a joke. And is Ms. Driscoll really going to hold Prog Bob Kiss and long-time Prog butler Chris Leopold accountable for their shocking malfeasance? No way. Once a Prog always a Prog. It is incredibly arrogant that this loyal Prog soldier would try to gain a Council seat by crassly using BT as a political issue and accusing the Council of being asleep at the wheel (true, they kinda were, but it was the Progs were completely in charge of the boat). That's like the criminal who blames the cops for his crimes because they did not catch him sooner.

Voters of Ward 5 beware. Reject all Progs, including the ones who now conveniently and calculatingly call themselves "Democrats."

Can't go the the caucus? Lame, lame, lame. That's reason enough to vote against her. Too bad because she's a smart person. Just not honest enough to vote for. Shannon is particularly awful, but not trying to be something she's not.

Not into the political bickering just the facts. People need to know about Councilors like Joan. Joan works harder than just about any of us. She routinely puts in hours and hours of her own time to research issues to reach out to people, make phone calls, ask hard questions and always always come prepared to each and every meeting. To insinuate that Joan was not paying attention during the BT crisis is laughable. Call her and ask her to explain the minutiae of restructuring loans, financing telecoms, zoning permits, and ordinance issues. I do. Every one of us councilors brings our own unique perspective and passion to the job. I don't know Carina and can't comment on her tenure as a councilor. But Joan is one of a kind and you will not find a harder worker or a person more dedicated to the city. She deserves reelection.

From the files of Police Squad!

Commissioner Anabell Brumford: [Drebin has just run a tank into a zoo, causing zoo animals to escape]
[on the phone]
Commissioner Anabell Brumford: He did what?
Commissioner Anabell Brumford: How many escaped?
Commissioner Anabell Brumford: Oh my god.
Lt. Frank Drebin: Good evening Commissioner, you look lovely.
Commissioner Anabell Brumford: [angry] Do you realize that because of you this city is being overrun by baboons?
Lt. Frank Drebin: Isn't that the fault of the voters?

Joan Shannon is one of the most honest, civic minded people I have ever met. Her dedication to, not only Ward 5, but to the City of Burlington has been exemplary. Joan knows the rules and procedures and follows them always. Until recently Joan Shannon simply did not have the votes on the Council to wrest control of BT out of the Clerk/Treasurer's Office. For anyone to imply that she is somehow to blame for BT shows either an ignorance of how our form of government works or crass political opportunism. One or both of which would, for me at least, make the choice in tonight's Ward 5 Democratic Caucus crystal clear. Rather than simply point fingers and blame others, Joan reached out and formed the Blue ribbon Committee on BT, while steadfastly demanding clear financial information. This was not easy and won her not praise but withering condemnation from many claiming "partisanship". Undaunted, Joan deserves support and should remain our Democratic Councilor from Ward 5.

Hey Berezniak, as an elected official from a historically Progressive ward, I'd think you would use a little more care than to once again become Ed Adrian's lap dog and misframe a valid candidate.

Joan is a smart, dedicated City Councilor who is a great asset to he Ward and the City. With her leadership on the Ordinance Committee and heavy involvement with trying to resolve the BT problem debacle, the Council needs all the background and intelligence that Joan can and does offer....To put person with a strong Progressive background in office, would provide the Kiss Administration with more support for his BT la-la land viewpoint....The Ward needs Joan, the City needs Joan.

Just an observation here with some historical and maybe not historical facts and comments.
During the Pauquette years the city started forward in warfare between parties. The Sanders era brought displeasures within a failing Dem. and Rep. parties respectfully. Clavelle rode in and got railroaded out for a couple of years and then rode in on his white horse with his saving of the cities ideas, including failed Moran ideas, failed IRV ideas, failed telecom ideas, and then decided he could pass on his failed leadership to all of VT. Fortunately the state was spared the effects of his failed ideas, but unfortunately Burlington was left with his failed ideas that Kiss attempted to sweep under the rug.
The resignation of Kiss and the CAO seems like a good idea to me, as they attempt to lead us out of the Clavelle failures by hiding those very failures.
I urge all to ask these two top officials presently taking up valued space in city hall to resign and let us work together to fix their messes.

Wow, Keogh's post is amazing. Really shows his partisan colors. Driscoll is right.

Its over. Shannon won by something like 92-58.

Shannon won because she works harder at her job than could be reasonably expected of anyone and her constituents came out to show their support. The place was packed.

Note to Ms. Driscoll: try showing up - doh - it helps.

Final observation: Driscoll is an example of what's happening with the progressive party. Because Bob Kiss has soiled the parties pants, no one wants to wear them because it means losing. Thus as a strategy, the Progs have scurried like roaches and doing their best to find homes, such as the Democratic party. It gives them cover. Guess what - until Bob Kiss and Lie-opold are out of work, progressives are shut out of sanctuaries such as the Dem Party.

During the caucus tonight, at which close to 175 people attended — about 20 folks were politicos from other wards and members of the Ward 6 caucus who met at the same location — Joan Shannon easily defeated Carina Driscoll by a 94-59 margin. Driscoll did not attend, but Jessica Oski read a statement for her. Shannon was at the event and read her own speech. Despite being onsite, however, Shannon was so busy talking with voters after her speech that she forgot to vote. By the time she remembered to vote, it was too late—volunteers and party official were already counting ballots.

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