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January 08, 2009

Kiss at reelection kickoff: 'Issues not politics'

IMG_2152 The weather outside was frightful last night, but it didn't stop more than 125 people from attending Mayor Bob Kiss' reelection campaign kickoff at Contois Auditorium.

Among the attendees who braved icy slush: City Treasurer Jonathan Leopold, Community and Economic Development Director Larry Kupferman, City Attorney Ken Schatz, failed Independent (and, formerly, Progressive) gubernatorial candidate Anthony Pollina, Firehouse Gallery Curator Chris Thompson, City Councilors Jane Knodell (P-Ward 2) and Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1). (Adrian, who had publicly considered running for mayor, left as Kiss took the floor.)

In her introductory speech, Police Commissioner Sarah Kenney said Kiss "doesn't toot his own horn," but works hard "in his reserved way." Kiss blushed. Kenney added that she appreciates how the mayor has managed the city budget without cutting social services.

Kenney was followed by Tim Ashe, a Ward 3 Progressive Councilor who had just been sworn in as a Democrat/Progressive "fusion" senator. Wearing a snappy new suit, Ashe said Kiss and City Treasurer Leopold have created jobs and kept property tax rates level despite a budgetary "mess" inherited from previous mayoral administrations. Moreover, Ashe said, 2009 mayoral campaigns by two of Kiss' opponents — City Councilors Andy Montroll (D-Ward 6) and Kurt Wright (R-Ward 4) — have "lacked introspection."

"No blame resides with any one city councilor," the thirtysomething frosh senator added, "but [Kiss] walked into a minefield and pulled us out of it without having to reduce services."

Kiss approached the microphone to boisterous applause. He smiled and put his hands in his pockets. Then, in his classic, unassuming style, he addressed a few points from his mayoral platform. Here are a few, provided by his reelection team:

·         No municipal tax increase for the past two city budget years, while continuing to maintain essential services for streets and sidewalks, snow removal, Fire and Police services, and Parks and Recreation;

·         Received overwhelming support from voters to move forward on the Moran Redevelopment Project;

·         During Bob’s term, Burlington’s job and wage growth has exceeded the state as a whole;

·         Strongly supported and pursued Intervale land sale;

·         Establishing the Citizen Budget Task Force, which has worked over the last 3 years to make recommendations for the City Budget;

·         Numerous opportunities for citizen participation in decision-making process such as establishing Environmental and Energy Coordinating Committee, Climate Action Process, Retirement task Force, and Afterschool Committee;

·         Created the first ever City wide process for prioritizing infrastructure projects.

   During his speech, Kiss added that he would not propose a tax increase for 2010 if elected, and that he doesn't "politicize personnel issues." That last point was an obvious jab at his opponent, Council President Kurt Wright, a Republican from the New North End who has been a vocal critic of the Kiss administration's handling of the scandal surrounding Waterfront Manager Adam Cate.

    "Progressive leadership reaches out to Democrats, Republicans and Independents to move forward based on issues, not politics," Kiss said, "based on what's good for the people of Burlington, not what's good for the politicians."

     "Reserved" fightin' words?

"No municipal tax increase for the past two city budget years, while continuing to maintain essential services for streets and sidewalks, snow removal, Fire and Police services, and Parks and Recreation"

Since Mayor Kiss "speaks softly" much of the time, it was easy for all of us to not notice this tremendous accomplishment, especially considering the surprise mess the Kiss administration found waiting for them three years ago.

Thanks to these essential services, all of which are part of creating a livable community and the necessary foundation for sustainable economic development, Burlington is still open for business, but not for sale.

This was a really inspiring kick off for Bob Kiss. Tim Ashe gave a compelling opener for Bob and really let us know who is behind all the good things that are happening in Burlington. Although a soft spoken and unassuming man, he was done a ton of great things for our city without getting out a megaphone. "walk quietly, carry a big stick," reminds us of Bob and how he works. Keep going, Bob, and we hope to see you contiue your run as Mayor of this fine city. Only 7 and a half weeks to go.

" . . . despite a budgetary "mess" inherited from previous mayoral administrations."

" . . . especially considering the surprise mess the Kiss administration found waiting for them three years ago."

There seems to be a general admission, even from Prog Ashe, that Prog Clavelle left town with a mess. That's correct; he did. Thanks for at least acknowledging that inescapable fact. Facing facts is a good first step. But the "mess" has hardly been cured. The unfunded pension obligations that the city accrued during the almost 15 years of Clavelle are nothing short of staggering, and someday the residents of the city are going to pay for it with staggering tax increases. Prog Kiss hasn't cured this looming problem.

"Prog Kiss hasn't cured this looming problem."

Without the willingness on the part of City Council to even address the situation, let alone take the hit on a tax hike together, what is likely to be done? Since some of the City Councilors that were part of making this mess have decided to pursue other opportunities, perhaps we should look to the new City Council candidates and see if any of them have a willingness to face the problem squarely, and have concrete ideas for solving the crisis.

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