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March 03, 2010

Councilor Calls for Mayor Bob Kiss to Resign

Local-adrian2 * * * *  Updated Below with Response from Mayor Bob Kiss * * * *

Newly reelected Burlington city councilor Ed Adrian (D-Ward 1) — never one to mince words — said Town Meeting Day results in the Queen City send a simple message: Mayor Bob Kiss needs to step down from office.

"I think it's time for the mayor to step down," Adrian said during a live interview on Channel 17.

The reason?

Adrian said the defeat of instant-runoff voting, combined with the city council losses of two Progressives, and the loss of a Democratic ally of the mayor send a clear message that voters have lost confidence in the city's top elected official.

"I think the voters clearly sent a message for him to resign," said Adrian. "It's time for him to show some leadership and step aside."

The mayor did not immediately return phone calls late Tuesday night.

Burlington voters rejected Instant-runoff voting by a 52 to 48 margin, with a substantial portion of the support to repeal IRV coming from the city's two New North End wards (see details below). Everything else on the Burlington ballot was approved by at least a two-to-one margin.

Tuesday's vote about IRV was largely seen as a referendum on Mayor Kiss and his handling of Burlington Telecom. If so, a 52-48 margin doesn't seem to be the wide-scale rebuke. For certain, Wards 4 and 7 clearly sent a message to the mayor.

Other city councilors weren't willing to go as far as Adrian in calling for the mayor to resign, but many agreed that the mayor needed to show more leadership.

"I think it's not helpful for anyone to come out tonight and call for the mayor to resign," said Republican Kurt Wright, who will rejoin the council. He defeated Ward 4 Democrat Russ Ellis by more than 300 votes.

"I think there has been a war of words between the mayor and the city council, and it has to stop," said Wright. "Certainly it's a rebuke, but it's not time to call for him to resign."

Wright said he hopes to bridge the gap between the mayor and the council when he returns to the council, and help the council provide some leadership — not just on Burlington Telecom, but on other issues facing the city, including economic development and the redevelopment of the Moran Plant.

City Council President Bill Keogh (D-Ward 5), who won reelection Tuesday night, also would not say whether he agreed with Adrian.

However, Keogh said, if he were the mayor here is how he would react to Tuesday's votes: "I would say, 'Hey, I'm in trouble. I've got to start listening to the public.'"

At bare minimum, Keogh said, Kiss needs to realize that voters want him to work with the council — not against it.

"He needs to start working with the council, and he has to start being more open with the council and the public," said Keogh. "Will he resign? No. Should he resign? That's something only the mayor can decide."

The voting results presented the council with a challenge also: It may need to provide the leadership voters desire.

"It's not generally the legislative branch that provides leadership, but the executive branch, but the mayor has failed in providing that leadership," said Keogh.

Independent City Councilor Karen Paul (Ward 6) echoed Keogh's sentiments.

"It's our time to step up and provide leadership where it really counts," said Paul.

When the new city council is seated in April, it will break largely along the same lines politically, with Republican gaining one seat from their current tally.

The new council will have seven Democrats, three Republicans, two Progressives and two independents. The current council has seven Democrats, two Republicans, two Progressives, and two independents. The Progressives had held one additional seat until December, when a councilor resigned because she moved out of her ward.

That councilor — Progressive Emma Mulvaney-Stanak — will return to the council from Ward 3. She ran unopposed. She joins fellow Ward 3 Progressive Marrisa Caldwell.

Progressives lost a seat in their longtime inner-city stronghold of Ward 2. Mulvaney-Stanak's seat went to Democratic newcomer Bram Kranichfeld. Kranichfeld, who chairs the Burlington Electric Commission, is a deputy state's attorney. He defeated Progressive Max Tracy by just 13 votes, 307-294.

Democratic incumbent David Berezniak (Ward 2) was reelected, defeating Progressive Jonathan Leavitt by a slim 10-vote margin, 302-292.

In Ward 1, Adrian easily won reelection against Progressive Miles Dougherty, 482-158.

In Ward 4, Republican Kurt Wright defeated incumbent Democrat Russ Ellis, 1087-717.

In Ward 5, Democrat Bill Keogh defeated Progressive Abby Russell, 778-509.

In Ward 6, Independent Karen Paul ran unopposed.

In Ward 7, Republican Paul Decelles defeated Democrat Greg Jenkins 911-515.

Instant-Runoff Voting

Here's how the IRV vote broke down by ward:

Ward 1: 405 to keep, 264 to repeal
Ward 2: 428 to keep, 185 to repeal
Ward 3: 510 to keep, 292 to repeal
Ward 4: 1203 to repeal, 606 to keep
Ward 5: 793 to keep, 545 to repeal 
Ward 6: 490 to keep, 477 to repeal
Ward 7: 1006 to repeal, 437 to keep 

The legislature will need to approve the repeal of IRV as it means the city charter must be amended.

A spokesman for the group 50 Percent Matters, a group that worked to keep IRV intact, said its work is far from over. "We're going to work toward having a candidate earn 50 percent of the vote be the standard for how we elect a mayor in Burlington," said Rep. Jason Lorber (D-Burlington). Lorber, who supports IRV on a statewide level, said Tuesday's defeat shouldn't stall efforts to put IRV in place for statewide offices.

Lorber pointed out that IRV was upheld in five of the city's seven wards, which indicated to him that enough voters do support a greater electoral threshold for mayor. He, and others, plan to work with the city council to propose raising the threshold to win the mayor's seat from 40 percent to 50 percent.

IRV opponent Sandy Baird, also a Democrat, said she thinks  reverting to the old system that required a candidate to win 40 percent of the vote worked well and hopes this puts an end to IRV in Burlington, and in Vermont.

Baird said raising the standard from 40 to 50 percent is a bad idea and will guarantee runoffs in almost every race.

"I think IRV helped create a crisis in confidence in the mayor," said Baird.

Other Burlington Ballot Issues

Clarification to mayoral appointment process 6070-1060 (approved)
Repeal of instant-runoff voting 3972-3669 (approved)
Creation of clean energy district  5702-1708 (approved) 
Fire truck bond  5863-1680 (approved)
Airport bond  5817-2091 (approved)
School budget 4230-2856 (approved)

Vermont Yankee

Photo In other Town Meeting Day news, 15 towns added their voices to the growing chorus of people hoping to shut down Vermont Yankee in 2012. Last year, 36 towns approved similar resolutions.

Voters in Woodstock, Thetford, Bristol, Fayston, Brookfield, Montgomery, Moretown, Waitsfield, Danville, Cabot,  Huntington, Sharon, Jamaica, Peacham, and Winooski voted to shut down Vermont Yankee in 2012 and replace it with renewable sources of energy.

In addition, Moretown added this clause to its resolution: "Entergy shall fund the training of Yankee's existing workers to build and maintain green energy production systems in Vermont to replace Yankee's power."

One town, Rockingham, defeated the measure and Cambridge took no action on it.

* * * *  UPDATED * * * *

I caught up with Mayor Bob Kiss this morning to talk about election results in Burlington, and one city councilor's call for him to read the electoral tea leaves and resign. Here's what he had to say:

"I think Ed's suggestion is patently ridiculous," said Kiss. “I don’t think Ed is a constructive force on the council and he brings a tension to the process."

The mayor added that during his four years as mayor, the city has made many improvements — despite some of the current challenges.

“During the four years I’ve been mayor, the city has made improvements in terms of finance, infrastructure and arts and celebration. I think the city is performing in a much better stance than when I took office," said Kiss.

He also doesn’t share the assessment of Councilors Adrian, Keogh and Paul and Councilor-elect Wright that his office hasn’t provided leadership on key issues facing the city.

“We face a challenge with Burlington Telecom, there’s no question, but there has been leadership from my administration across the board on a variety of issues and we have worked with the council on variety of topics as they merit discussion,” said Kiss.

He's not disheartened by last night's defeat of IRV, or of the three Progressives running in contested elections. "I think the Progressives running in Ward 2 ran strong campaigns, and the elections were close, which to me means that city voters continue to show support for Progressive values."

Kiss said the rejection of IRV was not unanimous across the city, and he believes it’s an issue that could come before voters again in the future.

“Only 22 percent of voters voted in the election, and I think there are people who would like to see IRV remain in place,” said Kiss. “I think this is an issue we should keep talking about. I don't think yesterday's vote ends the discussion.”

The mayor said he would favor increasing the threshold to be elected mayor from 40 percent of the vote to more than 50 percent.

Correction: This post has been corrected as Progressive City Councilor Marrisa Caldwell's name was originally misspelled. My apologies.

Here are some interesting statistics for those who believe in "false" majorities:

In 2009, Bob Kiss received 4,313 (52%) of 8,374 votes in the final runoff round. Kurt Wright received 4,061 votes (48%).

In 2010, Question 5 to repeal IRV (yes) received 3,972 (52%) of 7,641 votes. Against repeal (no) received 3,669 (48%)

So, how is a 52% majority of 8,374 voters somehow "false" while 52% of 7,641 is legitimate?

I wonder how a "Keep IRV" question on November's ballot (higher turnout) would fair. Anyone interested in signing petition? ;-) Maybe the legislature could legitimately delay acting on yesterday's vote until the next one was decided.

...Oh yes, and Kurt Wright had only 33% first-place votes in 2009. So had he won, nearly 70% of the voters would have cast a first-place vote for someone other than Kurt. (Had Andy won, nearly 80% would have voted for someone else.)

Can we PLEASE stop citing the 29%/71% statistic and calling the 2009 results "perverse" and a "false majority".

Time for Ward 4 to be annexed to Colchester. "Birds of a feather flock together."

Wards Four and Seven are part of Burlington and are unlikely to be annexed by Colchester.

And Doug. The point of claiming false majorities under IRV does not have to do with the percentages in the final round. It's about the system of the "rounds" themselves. The majority you speak for Bob in 2009 was manufactured by the IRV process. The majority yesterday did not have to be manufactured over multiple rounds. It simply was.

If Colchester wants to annex those wards, they should build a bridge or something, so you can get from North Ave. to Colchester.

Just sayin'.

There is a bridge. Am I missing a joke here?

Some information for Mayor Kiss.
He seems to consider this years turnout on the IRV question as not a real reflection of the city's opinion with 7641 voters voting on the IRV question For his information, 7315 voters voted on the question in 2005,326 less than this year.
He deemed this years turnout as "modest". Turnout would appear to be modest in both of the elections. So Bob what is your point?

There isn't a bridge if you drive to the end of North Ave. I mean, there is a bridge, but it's a pedestrian bridge. And of course there's 127.

But if you head past a certain point, you have to backtrack to get to Colchester by car.

So if you can't get to Colchester from the NNE, it really will be like the rest of Colchester, a collection of unrelated neighborhoods. Or is that Burlington? I tend to get confused.

Let's face it: IRV narrowly lost in large part because pro-IRV supporters (and I'm one) were not fired up & did not do a very effective job in convincing Burlington residents in most of the city of the need to vote on Tuesday (it's similar to the get out and vote challenge that will be facing Democrats nationwide this Summer and Fall).

In terms of the IRV vote, you can also add into the equation the fact that there were no big Council races outside of Ward 4, and that some voted against IRV to send a message to the Mayor. I'd also agree with Mayor Kiss that the debate over how we vote has not ended.


I find it amusing on this day after that some of the stalwart proponents of IRV just won't accept that citizen voter/activists beat back the money interests outside Burlington and didn't bow to the authority of the establishment politicians' endorsements. The pro-IRV folks are showing the same kind of sour grapes they (wrongly) accused Mr Wright of, after the 2009 mayoral race.

I gotta hand it to Mr Adrian. He is for IRV but didn't attach his name to the list of pro-IRV celebrity politician endorsers inside the BFP on Town Meeting Day. He said to leave it up to the voters. If Russ Ellis had done the same thing - rather than seal his Ward 4 defeat by writing his My Turn column in favour of IRV - there would have been one more Dem city councilor for the next year.

Ah, Mr. Adrian. You can always count on him to see one side of an issue.

"Ah, Mr. Adrian. You can always count on him to see one side of an issue."

Sort of like the pro-BT, pro-Kiss zealots who don't even see that ANYBODY in the Kiss Administration did absolutely ANYTHING wrong . . .

"During the four years I’ve been mayor, the city has made improvements in terms of finance, infrastructure"

Huh? Besides the financial disaster that is BT...the mayor has yet to even tackle or much less acknowledge the massive pension deficit. Between the two the city is down $50 million dollars. Both of those holes will be filled by your tax dollars. C'mon Shay (or Haik)...someone focus on this please.

Kiss is right about Ed though. But not sure which is worse, ignorance or insanity.

Please...there are fewer extremists than you think.

As I wrote in my FPF post before the election, while I do not agree with all that the administration has done, I was not going to tie my vote regarding IRV (which is an electoral process) to the "referendum on the mayor" mentality that some people used to oust the voting system.

With respect to IRV. I think that a lot of folks are trying to discern exactly what the vote meant. Since it was used as a referendum on the mayor, but only lost by 300 votes (out of far fewer votes than were cast in past elections to implement it), I think it is not so clear as Jay and others would like to paint it. If the same question were to be asked in the fall when far more people vote, I suspect (but do not know) that it would have failed...quite possibly by a far larger margin, and we would not be having this discussion.

I do not think that anyone has a lock on what all the citizens think when so few actually vote. It is one of the troubling aspects of our democracy.

The opponents to IRV (particularly those that supported someone other than Bob Kiss or Kurt Wright as their first choice), have to ask themselves...would as many people have voted for my candidate if IRV did not exist? Would my candidate have been painted as a spoiler?

I am pleased that there are folks looking to make the threshold at least 50% so that we can elect a mayor with 50% (as IRV did, with instant as opposed to delayed run-off).

As far as the North Ave./Colchester connection is concerned, just remember this: traveling from Burlington's center, head out North Ave. and near it's end, shift hard to the right and there you'll find the bridge to Colchester... hmmm, sort of symbolic, really...

Regarding Rep. Zuckermans comments.
David please correct me if I am wrong but according to election results of 2005, 7315 voters voted on the IRV question. In 2010, 7641 voters voted on the question.
I feel your comment on far fewer votes than in past elections is inaccurate.
Thanks, Dale

Zuckerman: "With respect to IRV. I think that a lot of folks are trying to discern exactly what the vote meant. Since it was used as a referendum on the mayor, but only lost by 300 votes (out of far fewer votes than were cast in past elections to implement it), I think it is not so clear as Jay and others would like to paint it. If the same question were to be asked in the fall when far more people vote, I suspect (but do not know) that it would have failed...quite possibly by a far larger margin, and we would not be having this discussion."

Huh? I was going to make the same comment that Dale made. Dave, sorry but you are factually wrong. Dead wrong. More voters turned out for this vote, which RESCINED IRV, than turned out for the 2005 vote that APPROVED it.

If the vote to approve IRV in 2005 was "legitimate," then this vote to rescind it was even MORE legitimate.

Can't have it both ways.

IRV was tried. For two elections. The results of the experiment were found to be perverse. It has now been rejected.

Move on.

I can support the idea of upping the runoff threshhold to 50%, but it's time to let the failed IRV experiment rest in peace.

Yeah. Plus you owe me $20 Dave! (Just kidding. I know you didn't accept the bet.)

Rep. Zuckerman. 24 hours plus and no response from you.
Please correct me if my comments were incorrect.
We do not pay mileage on this blog. sorry that I have a life and job.

I did not state anything about the past election that you refer to. Although the numbers are interesting. My comment was to what might have happened with higher turnout. I do believe that if the question were to be asked this fall (which I doubt it will) that it would fare better. That is an opinion, not a fact. The issues around BT ought to be resolved by then (one way or the other...who knows yet).

IRV is not perfect, but the discussion of perverse outcome is fascinating to me. While IRV showed that voters can support various candidates, the old plurality system creates far more perverse outcomes. Folks vote for their second choice all the time thus creating a "majority" or "plurality" candidate when the real makeup of the electorate is far more complicated than the two most "viable" candidates.

I will admit, we did not run the best campaign to counter the simplistic, but effective slogan for those that wanted repeal. But then again, sadly, slogan politics is what we live and die on. Life and policy are more complicated.

Using it as a referendum on Bob was also simplistic, but effective. I suppose we ought to use simplistic solutions for healthcare, war and other topics. Why let facts get in the way.

As for those that put "legitimate" into quotes, I ask, where in my posting did I say that? If you are going to write in response to my posting, then please reference my words, opinions and facts, not those stated by others. I do not need words put into my mouth.

I would be pleased to see the threshold move to 50%. In our town it would be great to see such an election (or many). Lets see how quickly it leads to run-off elections so we can see the drop in turnout. We could then see how folks like Kurt and others portray the winners totals, will the percentages be out of the original "first round" totals as they oddly applied the math during their simplistic campaign? Or will they make it the majority of those casting ballots in the second or "run-off" round, as they were unwilling to do with IRV?

Dale, I respect our differences of opinion. I am disappointed that you choose to take a cheap shot. I was the legislator willing to expose a really messed up compensation system. One with allowances (not reimbursements), one that "pays" people more the farther they are from their workplace, or those that rent apartments and get overnight allowances far above the costs of the apartments, as opposed to equally across the board.

Thank you for the questions. Again, my thoughts about the future are opinion. The circumstances of the past (2005, 2006, 2009) are and will be different from the future. It is often the circumstances that lead to the conclusions for the voters in the moment. I am sorry if my opinion got confused with fact.

David -- Dale was asking you to support your statement that IRV, "only lost by 300 votes (out of far fewer votes than were cast in past elections to implement it)".

It appears that this assertion is not accurate.

Still no answer to my original question concerning your comment of out of far fewer votes than were cast in past elections to implement it.
For the record I have a life and job also.

Gee Mr. Zuckerman,

I guess that explains a lot. Now I understand. Your politcal family lives a very righteous life, in fact righteousness is the currency of all that you offer. Surely you must know that righteousness is often perceived as arrogance, pomposity, and paternalism. This is what you and others so unattractive to most left leaning folks who are not quite yet ready to drink the kool-aid.

This attitude that you backpack around your travels really turns people off. It becomes personal, sorry.

Lastly, your actions on the State expense sheet chits is completely unethical. Ask an ethicist. I did.

Zuckerman: "the old plurality system creates far more perverse outcomes."

Really? Not in Burlington. Name a time in Burlington under the old system when the Mayor was universally perceived to be illegitimate.

None. Not Sanders. Not Clavelle. Not Brownell. Not Clavelle again.

Obviously, not everyone liked all of the above. But everyone agreed they were the legitimately-elected mayors.

The first time people think the Mayor isn't legitimate? KISS. Under IRV.

And they're right.

In other words, IRV was a solution to a non-existent problem.

Unless, of course, the "problem" was that the Progs feared that without IRV, they might not maintain their hold on the Mayor's office after Clavelle.

Dear Non-Representative Zuckerman,
You should stop posting and resign your post. No matter your views on this situation you STEAL from the state coffers. You outright lie and steal taxpayers money. Way to represent them! You don't deserve to be reading a blog with fellow citizens who shouldn't be convicted felony embezzlers.

Oh, and for the record, farmers everywhere are struggling, but most find honest ways to deal with the situation.

Dale, I stand corrected. Thank you. My apology.

As I stated in my LTE in SevenDays, and as legislative council will attest, the mileage is an allowance, not a reimbursement. Again...I agree, it is a messed up system. However, the claims that I have broken the law, are incorrect. Again, the reason I was interested in speaking with the media about pay at all was because I wanted to expose what a screwed up system it is. If one actually looks at the compensation package of all the legislators for 2009, I am the fourth lowest compensated in Chittenden county because, in fact, I took zero overnight allowances, and therefore saved taxpayers money in the "allowance" method that we are compensated.

As for my comment that I have a job and life, it was simply stating my situation, it was not a comment on anyone else. It so happens that my job is out doors, in the greenhouse, etc. So I do not read or post on some days when I am out there. Then, I simply do not go to every blog every day/evening to post or read. I do read, post and reply more than most any other politician out there. The idea is to try to have a dialogue about whatever issue is of the day. I would hope that we could have productive conversations.

I am curious (if anyone has the time) to find out what the voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters was in 2009 compared with 2005?


"I am curious (if anyone has the time) to find out what the voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters was in 2009 compared with 2005?"

That last comment is, at best, a deflection. You tried to make the argument that this decision of the voters to reject IRV somehow wasn't very legitimate because it was a lower voter turnout than the election in 2005 to establish IRV. But you got skunked on the facts. So now you're babbling about turnout as a "percentage of registered voters"? Come on. That comes off as desperate and silly. Do you seriously have reason to believe that the number of registered voters in Burlington went up so far between 2005 and 2009 that the "percentage" of the voter turnout in 2005 was significantly higher than it was in 2009? In fact, Burlington may have actually *lost* voter-age population in those years. Give it a rest. IRV was tried and rejected. If anything, the election in 2009 was more legitimate not only because it was a larger absolute number, but also because it was based on 2 elections cycles' worth of actual experience with IRV before it was rejected. Burlington knew exactly what it was doing when it rejected IRV. Move on. even curiosity is rejected.

I do believe quite a few people registered to vote for the recent presidential election (fall 2008). So there could be quite a change. I am simply curious what it is.

I do not think that 300 votes is a mandate (nor did I think that Bob's reelection in 2009 was a mandate).

I do not see things in such black and white terms. I continuously look to learn. The more facts and information I can gather the better. And, as I stated above, when I am given facts that show I was incorrect, I reflect on that too.

With respect to IRV, I do happen to think that there was a lot of missrepresentation with respect to how it works/worked. It was also used (partially) as a referendum on an individual (when it is bigger than the individual). It "only" lost by 300 votes or 4% which is not a landslide no matter what election it is.

It has now also been used by councilor Adrian, who was a typical "have it both ways" politician on this issue. Coming out for it (tepidly), citing many reasons to be opposed to it (some playing into politics more than policy), and then blaming the Mayor for its loss (when stronger support from folks like him could have helped its passage).

The reality is that all of this is more complicated than simple slogans, or simple conclusions. In general issues (political or not) are more complicated than soundbites. None of us has the perfect answers, but we do all have strong opinions (often backed by facts...for all sides) that we bring to the table. Obviously, soundbites work quite well (for all sides). But my hope would be (probably foolishly) that most citizens would work towards positive solutions to the complex problems rather than simply stoning each other as was done 2000 years ago.

Thanks for the apology, I certainly understand how it is to be wrong on facts. Been their done that and will certainly do it again.

What's legislative council? Is that anything like legislative counsel?

Since the "allowance" is calculated based on mileage, and you admitted that you collected it despite driving zero miles, I doubt any competent COUNSEL would back you up on that.

"It only lost by 300 votes or 4% which is not a landslide no matter what election it is."

The "Zuckerman system" - winner must receive 50%, and the difference must be greater than 4% (or other arbitrary number to be determined post-election)

BTW, your boy Bobby failed this criteria in 2009, even counting IRV pseudo-votes

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