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June 11, 2010

Petition Calls on Mayor to Fire Embattled Aide

IMG_1068 A petition being circulated in Burlington asks that a simple question be put to a vote this November: "Shall the City of Burlington advise Mayor Kiss to remove CAO Jonathan Leopold?"

Spearheading the petition is Ward 4 resident Loyal Ploof, a former school board member who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2006. He's been active in ward neighborhood planning assemblies in the Old North End and New North End.

Ploof said he was inspired to launch the petition drive after the mayor ignored two separate city council votes to either put Leopold on leave or fire him.

“The people’s voice was taken when the mayor decided to reappoint Leopold even though the council didn’t approve, and I want to give them a voice again,” said Ploof. "By ignoring the votes of the council, he took away our power, and I'm hoping this vote will bring the power back to us."

The referendum, like the city council votes, would be advisory and not binding. Which means the mayor could ignore any citizen vote as easily as he has ignored council votes regarding Leopold.

Last fall, the city council voted 8-6 to suspend Leopold with pay while state officials conducted an investigation into how $17 million in taxpayer funds was provided to Burlington Telecom. Both the city's charter and BT's certificate of public good required any funds borrowed from taxpayers to be repaid within 60 days.

Mayor Kiss vetoed the council's rebuke of Leopold, and the council could not muster up the necessary ninth vote to override his veto.

Then, on Monday night, the council voted 10-4 against reappointing Leopold to another year at his post. But the vote has little practical effect, as the mayor can reappoint department heads without the council's consent.

Kiss told councilors Monday night that it was due to the CAO's "hard work" that the city was in good financial shape overall.

Ploof circulated the petition at the Ward 2 and 3 Neighborhood Planning Assembly Thursday night, where he picked up a handful of signatures. He’s presenting the petition to the New North End NPAs in Wards 4 and 7 on Tuesday night, and next month will attend other ward NPA meetings.

He plans to create a political action committee that will gather the 1600 signatures needed to get the question on the November ballot. The committee will be called Take Action Burlington.

"The trust of the voters has been eroded by this administration," said Ploof. "There is just no confidence in them at all by the voters, and that needs to change."

From the look of the picture he needs only 1595 more signatures.

Honestly, how can anyone take this newspaper or Shay Totten seriously when you print a story about Loyal Ploof?

This is infinitely less interesting than any of Ploof's appearances at City Council meetings. Just another excuse to remind us that Kiss doesn't have to fire Leopold if he doesn't want to. Yeah, we get it.

With Kevin Kelley's love letter to Jonathan Leopold he says he has created a four million dollar rainy day fund full of magic beans. What kind of a [email protected]it is this moron.

The Kiss administration has raised our taxes for roads and now refuses to spend the money to actually fix the GD roads.

Leopold has ankled the city with a 17.4million dollar liar loan to BT.
This guy has got to go Bob Kiss is a fool.
If the city council had any stones they would eliminate the CAO position altogether and create a new position with rules that they control.
7days and the Freep do nothing to beat these A-holes into submission, come August when it hits the fan and your pocketbooks you will be whistling a different tune and not making fun of the issue with ploof and company. The Credit rating is shot for the entire state.

BTW Shay, the BFP didn't "miss" the story about Burlington's Kiplinger's mention. In fact, they ran an entire story on it, while 7D just mentioned it in the context of taking yet another shot at them in your column, and briefly in an addendum to the food column (?)

Given that the press conference apparently gave you nothing to add to the story, it seems that their failure to attend was a good use of resources.

This administration disregarded State Law as well as the will and intent of the voters pertaining to the approval of BT to begin with, why would this criminal enterprise be shamed into acting on some dopey non-binding referendum?

Hey Jimmy that wasn't the only thing talked about at the news conference according to a news release.
The BFP needs to get their heads out of their asses!

Brad, please link to other mentions of that news conference in 7D. Just showing up is pointless if it doesn't give you anything to write about.

Here you go Jimmy,

http://www.ci.burlington.vt.us/docs/2096.pdf

Brad, slow down and try reading my comment again. I asked for links to other mentions of that news conference in 7D, which stands for "7 Days," the site you're reading right now. More specifically, information that could not have been gathered through sources unavailable elsewhere.

Totten apparently feels that the BFP was somehow remiss in not attending this press conference, but I see no evidence that it provided him anything to write about, which means that not attending was actually a good choice.

Jimmy the BFP not attending was not a choice. With only two people working it's hard to get and news covered.
BFP last weeks news today!

Two employees, huh? Pretty impressive that their web traffic is consistently four times that of 7D then.

Jimmy that makes sense since BFP is a daily and 7days is a weekly. One would think that the BFP should have 7 times that of 7D.
Can't have everything I guess.

I guess some people think the BFP news is timely, since they're apparently visiting the site every day. They did do an entire article on Burlington/Kiplinger's after all, and well before 7D even mentioned it.

BFP content = 7D listings & personals. Both drive traffic 24/7. And I'm pretty sure that if the BFP only had one chance a week to report the news, they wouldn't waste a couple of column inches pointing out that the (ahem) competition didn't show up at a content-free presser.

"As a result, the Freeps missed some good exchanges between the media, Mayor Bob Kiss and Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold about Burlington Telecom’s finances."

...which apparently you don't want to tell us about.

I have to believe that you don't have an editor, because if you did they'd tell you to excise yet another ridiculous shot at the BFP over the same issue. Their story was informative and covered details that 7D hasn't, and you still can't tell us what happened at that presser that was so interesting.

@Jimmy: Sorry for the long delay in responding to your queries about the press conference.

For starters, their "story" was rewritten press release.

And, yes, I have editors and they are never shy with feedback. Feel free to email them with your concerns.

As I noted last week, the press conference wasn't just about the one award. I listed a few other recent accolades that have been reported elsewhere and the Freeps has overlooked or not reported.

The Moody's rating upgrade was one bit of "news", which I reported in last week's column, and both WPTZ and WCAX had separate stories on either the city's finances and the city's unemployment rate — all gleaned from the back-and-forth I mentioned.

1. The "rewritten press release" had far more information than your mention, and your mention had nothing theirs didn't, so I'm not sure what the issue is with their piece. In fact, you told us almost nothing about the Kiplinger's piece, and Alice Levitt said "What won Burlington a place in the Top 10? Its sustainable food community," implying that that was the sole factor, which is just obviously untrue to anyone who actually read the article. Is sparse and inaccurate reporting better than a "rewritten press release"?

2. Your report that Moody's has "reinstated" Burlington's credit rating is highly misleading, to be charitable. It currently shows Aa3 because of a recalibration that Moody's undertook in April and May. Per Moody's: "market participants should not view the recalibration of municipal ratings as rating upgrades, but rather as recalibration of the ratings to a different scale." You can clearly see this as a "change of scale" annotation on Burlington's page.

Now did Leopold tell you any of this, or did he tell you that the rating had been upgraded? Did he actually *say* that borrowing costs would be lower, the above statement from Moody's notwithstanding, or did you just assume that to be the case? Did you bother to go to Moody's website to verify what Leopold told you?

He did say it was part of an overall review of municipal bond ratings, and I did check with the Moody's site to verify that, in fact, the bond rating had been restored, but didn't see the annotation that gave the more nuanced response. Thanks for the added info.

Not that I'm a fan of the Free Press. Quite the contrary. But there does seem to be a pattern here of the smaller weekly regularly going out of its way to "dis" the larger daily. What's up with that? Freyne also couldn't resist regularly taking shots at the Free Press, and now it continues? And I don't recall the Free Press ever responding in kind. It seems to be a very one-sided pattern of slams. Is this conduct driven by insecurity?

The BFP and 7D do entirely different things, and are both read (at least by me) by local news junkies for different reasons. Sure the BFP could be better. A lot better. Way better. But that is for me to decide. I don't need 7D to pump itself up by dissing the daily and telling me how I should feel about the BFP. It's not like 7D is "better." Don't kid yourself; it's not better. It's *different*, not better. It's got its own problems. Like ideologically-filtered reporting. Different is not better. Different for its own sake is not even necessarily good. Different is just different.

Example: BFP reporting on the BT scandal has been much better than 7D's.

"I don't recall the Free Press ever responding in kind."

If they were ever so inclined, Totten just gave them the perfect story.

What big story came out of that presser that BFP was so incredibly irresponsible in blowing off? Good news for BT, Burlington's credit rating has been upgraded, meaning that it will cost less to borrow money! Except that not one part of that sentence is true.

The Moody's recalibration simply relabeled an A2 rating an Aa3 rating. By Moody's own statement, this change in designation is meaningless.

Worse yet, this mistake was completely avoidable. Let's see, no press release from Moody's, not even a press release from Burlington, both of whom ALWAYS issue press releases when ratings are upgraded or downgraded. That might have been your first clue.

I ask again: did Leopold actually say that "it won't cost taxpayers extra to borrow money," or did you just assume that? Do you now understand that the credit rating has not been "restored"? Do you think that it might be time for a mea culpa to the BFP, given that all that made its way from this magical presser to 7D was a single story that was completely erroneous?

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