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33 posts categorized "2012 Burlington Mayor's Race" Feed

February 23, 2012

Burlington's Decidedly Un-arty Mayoral Candidates Speechify About the Arts

-1The last time I sat in the audience at Burlington's FlynnSpace, I was riveted by Jane Comfort's wild and inventive dancers (including one in a Superman suit) as they brought Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie to life.

This afternoon's FlynnSpace offering was considerably less inspiring.

Mayoral candidates Miro Weinberger, Wanda Hines and Kurt Wright gathered for a "conversation on the arts" sponsored by the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington City Arts and the South End Arts and Business Association. It was the only event on the campaign trail, Miro said, that was devoted to the arts.

So what did I learn?

Here's where I admit this was my first Burlington mayoral debate. My first mayoral anything. (I live in Winooski, OK?) In fact, I don't think I've ever seen Miro, Kurt or Wanda in person. I'm much more familiar with the caricatures in the Marc Nadel illustrations we've been using since the race began.

So here's the takeaway: All three are pretty satisfied with the art community's "status quo," and nobody wants (or would admit to wanting) to slash the city's art funding (duh). Miro's really into development and boosting the creative economy on a larger scale. Kurt repeatedly invoked his decision last year to redirect money from the city council account, rather than pit the city's art against its library budgets. Wanda spent most of the hour and a half shifting the questions back to the audience ("I want to hear what you want") and reminiscing about a collage she made in 1975.

Continue reading "Burlington's Decidedly Un-arty Mayoral Candidates Speechify About the Arts" »

February 22, 2012

Dems Accuse Wright of "Borrowing" Campaign Plan... But From Whom?

-1The Vermont Democratic Party on Wednesday accused Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright of “borrowing language” in a recent campaign plan from the Washington state attorney general.

In a press release, the party takes Wright to task for failing to offer Burlington voters specific proposals and says a 22-page government transparency plan the Wright campaign released yesterday “falls short.” Then it pulls the pin on this choice hand grenade:

“While most of the plan still utilizes the vague platitudes that have been a hallmark of Wright’s three campaigns for mayor, the beginning of his plan looks pretty familiar: borrowing language directly from the website of Republican Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Washington.”

As evidence, the party cites the following sentence from page four of Wright’s “A.C.T.I.O.N.” plan:

“Government accountability means that officials both elected and unelected, have a duty to explain their decisions and actions to the public.”

Then it pulls this from Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s website:

“Government accountability means that public officials — elected and un-elected — have an obligation to explain their decisions and actions to the citizens.” 

The release ends with a quotation from party chairman Jake Perkinson saying, “I think it is a shame that barely two weeks before voters go to the polls, Kurt released a plan long on platitudes, including those borrowed from his fellow Republicans, and short on solutions.”

According to John Ewing, a co-chair of the Wright campaign, the party’s allegation of borrowing is “obviously incorrect.”

“If they’re talking about the definition of transparency, that’s the classic description you’d find anywhere. I’m positive that what they claimed is incorrect,” he said. “I think the party is overreacting because it’s an issue that they would prefer to be out front on instead of Kurt.”

Continue reading "Dems Accuse Wright of "Borrowing" Campaign Plan... But From Whom?" »

February 21, 2012

Wright for Progs? Brennan Backs Republican Mayoral Candidate

WrightWithout a candidate of their own to succeed outgoing Mayor Bob Kiss, Burlington Progressives have been mum about whom they might support in next month’s mayor’s race.

But tomorrow, for the first time, a Progressive officeholder will formally endorse one of the candidates. And it might not be who you’d expect.

Progressive City Councilor Vince Brennan, who represents Ward 3, plans to throw his support behind Republican candidate Kurt Wright, with whom he serves on the council.

“The city is in need of a leader that will be able to guide us through the back side of these tough economic times — a leader that is seasoned in the atmosphere of Burlington politics,” Brennan said in a statement to Seven Days. “That is why I will be endorsing Kurt Wright for mayor.”

Brennan’s endorsement may carry some significance, in that it bolsters Wright’s central campaign argument: that he is the one candidate able to rise above party politics and unite the city. It also poses problems for Democratic candidate Miro Weinberger, who has been working to consolidate the support of Progressive voters since his narrow caucus victory over Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P), a darling of Burlington’s Prog crowd.

The Progressive Party has not formally endorsed any of the contenders, though it has continued to dangle the possibility ever since deciding not to field a candidate of its own. Party leaders met separately with Wright, Weinberger and independent candidate Wanda Hines a week ago in order to grill them on Progressive priorities. After the meeting, the party issued a statement saying, “In the coming days and weeks our steering committee will discuss the possibility of an endorsement,” adding that the party would primarily focus on electing its own candidates to the city council.

Wright’s campaign was enthusiastic about Brennan’s nod.

Continue reading "Wright for Progs? Brennan Backs Republican Mayoral Candidate" »

February 16, 2012

Seven Days Burlington Mayoral Debate ... and Drinking Game

Missed out on the deluge of Burlington mayoral debates over the past few weeks? Never fear! We’re throwing our own this afternoon — and it’s going to be a good one.

Here are the detes: Today, Thursday, at 5 p.m. at City Hall Auditorium.

Mayor graphicWe’ll have an all-star cast of characters grilling the aspiring mayors. Those include moderator Jess Wilson of Channel 17, which is cosponsoring the debate, as well as panelists Kristin Carlson of WCAX, Kirk Carapezza of Vermont Public Radio and our very own political columnist Andy Bromage.

We’ll also be live-streaming the debate on our website and taking questions via our Facebook page and Twitter (#btvmayor). You can read our coverage of the race thus far here.

If you're watching from home, or a bar, grab a flask or a beer and play our handy Burlington Mayoral Debate Drinking Game. Because, hey, it’s five o’clock somewhere! Like Burlington, for instance, when our debate starts…

Here are the rules. Take a swig every time:

Continue reading "Seven Days Burlington Mayoral Debate ... and Drinking Game" »

The Transparency Pander: Burlington Mayoral Candidates Go All In On Open Goverment

When you’re running for public office, you have to strike a bit of a balance. You want to let voters know where you stand, but you don’t want to make promises you can’t — or won’t — keep.

These things matter because you might just get elected — and then people may well remember those pesky promises you made.

So it was interesting to see just how far Democrat Miro Weinberger and Republican Kurt Wright were willing to go in order to out-transparent one another Tuesday night at a Burlington Free Press mayoral debate on government transparency. [Independent candidate Wanda Hines canceled at the last minute for personal reasons.]

Mayor graphicThe dynamic mayoral duo’s message? We won’t ever hide anything from anyone. Especially the press. Not ever. We promise.

The Free Press has, admirably, made government transparency a central focus of their coverage. They assigned veteran reporter Mike Donoghue to a bit of a Freedom of Information Act beat, and they’ve editorialized on the subject ad nauseam. They even won a Society of Professional Journalists award last summer for what the SJP called a “three-year campaign for open government" — and it looks like Vermont candidates and officeholders are getting the message.

So when Weinberger and Wright showed up to the daily's debate Tuesday night, they were armed and ready to pander. After Wright was unable to name more than two of the nine reasons public boards can go into executive session, Weinberger piped up like an eager schoolboy who’d done all the homework teacher assigned.

“I was hoping I was going to get to fill in for Kurt after— I’ve got the nine reasons right here!” he giddily proclaimed.

Continue reading "The Transparency Pander: Burlington Mayoral Candidates Go All In On Open Goverment" »

February 15, 2012

Media a No-Show at Weinberger's Economic Development Press Conference

Mayors RaceIf a mayoral candidate holds a press conference, and no press shows up, does he make a sound?

He does if he's Democrat Miro Weinberger, who found himself literally audience-less Wednesday at the unveiling of his big economic development plan. Weinberger gathered a half-dozen supporters around him at Burlington's Union Station to explain how, as mayor, he would "get Burlington moving again" and "reduce taxpayer burdens."

MIroBut not a single reporter bothered to show up. To be fair, I wasn't going to show up either. I was busy finishing the question list for tomorrow night's Seven Days/Channel 17 candidates' forum at Contois Auditorium. I had walked to Burlington Bay Cafe for a ginger ale and was headed back to the office when Weinberger campaign spokesman Mike Kanarick flagged me down and roped me in.

Inside Union Station, Weinberger mingled as he waited for stragglers to arrive. No one did, so the show went on with an audience of one: me.

Now granted, Weinberger holds a lot of press conferences and sometimes they cover stuff he's talked about before. But economic development seems pretty important. Maybe today was just a busy news day. Or just maybe, as the mayor's race slogs toward a March 6 finale, campaign coverage fatigue is finally setting in.


So what's Weinberger's big idea for jump starting Burlington's economy? Like all things Weinberger, it comes with a lot of bullet points.

Continue reading "Media a No-Show at Weinberger's Economic Development Press Conference" »

Q&A With Sen. Bernie Sanders

Bernie InterviewU.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was in town Monday morning to face business leaders at a Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce breakfast.  Then he high-tailed it over to his Burlington office for a press conference on transportation funding and his campaign to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that ushered in the spending orgy consuming the GOP presidential race.

After that — and before hopping a noon plane back to Washington, D.C. — he carved out 20 minutes to sit down with Seven Days for a wide-ranging interview that touched on Vermont Yankee, Burlington's mayoral politics and whether Vermont needs a state-level "Buffett Rule."

Sanders also talked about super PACs — President Obama's decision to embrace them and the circumstances under which he might do the same — which was the subject of this week's Fair Game column, "A Bernie Sanders Super PAC?"

The following are edited excerpts from the conversation.

SEVEN DAYS: You've proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. What is the actual pasth to passage for that proposal? How certain or uncertain is it?

Continue reading "Q&A With Sen. Bernie Sanders" »

February 13, 2012

A Signature Issue: Did Wright Help Hines Get on the Ballot?

Burlmayor12 copyA story written by VTDigger’s Greg Guma about Burlington Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright’s “unusual political alliance” had the chattering classes, well, chattering over the weekend. Better that than the Grammys and "Downton Abbey," I suppose.

The most provocative portion of the piece is a suggestion that the Wright campaign — via campaign manager David Hartnett — helped independent candidate Wanda Hines get on the ballot:

Hines and Hartnett are also friends. They first crossed paths at Burlington High School decades ago and have stayed in touch. In January, Hartnett helped Hines obtain enough signatures to get her name on the ballot by putting her petitions out near the cash register at his business, according to a witness.

That nugget was sandwiched between two other compelling observations: that Hines could serve as a spoiler in the race — potentially helping Wright win the election — and that Wright last week publicly offered Hines a job if he was elected.

Taken together, the inference was clear: Wright’s campaign helped Hines get on the ballot to bolster his own chances, and Hines’ reward would be a plum post in his administration.

Problem is, that’s not the whole story.

Continue reading "A Signature Issue: Did Wright Help Hines Get on the Ballot?" »

February 10, 2012

Wright Calls Republican Presidential Primary "an Embarrassment"

-1When Burlington residents head to the polls on March 6 to pick their next mayor, they'll also be voting in another election: the presidential primary.

At a public forum Thursday night in the city's Old North End, one resident asked the three mayoral candidates whom they would support for president — but two of them didn't want to divulge their preferences.

"I think that's kind of an invasion of privacy. I mean, we don't go kiss and tell in any other circumstance," said independent candidate Wanda Hines, drawing hoots of approval. "You know, I'm not going to tell you who I'm going in the booth to vote for city council or board commissioner or anything else. So I will pass on that, thank you. It's my right."

Miro Weinberger, the Democratic candidate, was more forthcoming.

"I'm happy to say I'm a proud supporter of Barack Obama and will be happily voting for him again," he said.

Republican Kurt Wright, whose party may still be debating their presidential pick when Vermont's primary rolls around, appeared unenthused by his options.

"I'm going to actually take Wanda's stance in that," he said. "I'm going to focus on Burlington issues, and I really am not supporting anybody right now and don't know who I'm going to support. I'm not certainly happy with what I'm hearing out of the Republican primary now. I think it's an embarrassment. But I'm going to stick to Burlington issues. I think that we need to focus on Burlington."

February 08, 2012

Need a Job? Run for Mayor

-1Out of work? Looking for a job in Burlington City Hall? If a recent promise made by Republican mayoral candidate Kurt Wright holds any water, your best bet might be to run against him.

During a forum on multiculturalism and equity on Saturday, Wright said that if he is elected mayor, fellow candidate Wanda Hines, “will have a key role in the administration.”

Wright was responding to a question about how he would increase cultural awareness within city hall and bring more diversity to local government.

He prefaced his response by saying Hines, an independent, has “as good a chance of winning this race” as Democratic candidate Miro Weinberger or himself.

“But should I win, Wanda will have a key role in the administration. I think Wanda does a great job now and I would want Wanda to be an integral part of the administration. Having said that, again, I know Wanda is planning on being the one in charge—"

“Yes I am,” Wanda interjected.

“And, again, she has as good a chance as anyone,” Wright continued. “But a person like Wanda, and there are lots of other people — some people right here in the audience — who would do a great job, so we would be reaching out to those people.”

Asked Wednesday on WVMT’s “Charlie and Ernie and Lisa in the Morning” show whether she would take a job in a Wright administration, Hines said yes.

“I would accept a position in a Kurt Wright administration,” she said. “I would accept a position — any position — where I can continue to contribute to my community. Yes, I would. People, you know, paint Kurt as this bad guy. I don’t think Kurt is a bad guy. I mean, I understand where Kurt is coming from and I think we need to do a better job of agreeing to disagree and, again, accepting people.”

Reached later in the day, Hines had changed her tune.

Continue reading "Need a Job? Run for Mayor" »

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