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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ward 5: Past, Present and Future?

Went for a little stroll down Memory Lane last night - attended the Ward 5 Neighborhood Planning Assembly in the People’s Republic of Burlington - the South End. Current candidates for city council, Democratic Incumbent Joan Shannon and Green Party long shot Rene Kaczka-Valliere faced off. All of 15 warm bodies in attendance at Public Works on Pine Street.

Kuninsm The memory part is of the political figures that emerged from Ward 5 soil in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Very fertile soil for the Vermont Democratic Party

Folks like Madeleine Kunin (right). A journalist (Burlington Free Press), who became a wife and mother who became a state representative who became a lieutenant governor who became a governor and later became the American Ambassador to Switzerland!

And yes, yours truly did put in four colorful months on the Fifth Floor in Montpeculiar as Queen Madeleine's royal spokesman (1989-90).

Dean_5th_floor_1 Howard Dean. A medical doctor (once my doctor), who became a husband and father and a state rep who then became a lieutenant governor who became a governor who became chairman of the Democratic National Committee!

Who’s next?

Democratic City Councilor Joan Shannon?

Wife, mother and business person (long-torso swimwear is her stock and trade.)  Shannon (below, at last night's WARD 5 NPA), proudly takes credit for “spearheading the initiative of banning smoking in bars.” That effort, which began in the Queen City of Burlington, noted Shannon, “provided the impetus and political will for Montpelier to follow.”

Hear, hear!

Ward_5_22707_1 The River Shannon is likewise not shy about taking some credit for promoting Instant Run-off Voting in Burlington - a process that went smoothly in its inaugural run in 2006. Just ask Mayor Bob the Prog, eh?

Councilor Shannon’s the thoughtful and thorough type and has demonstrated political backbone on more than one occasion. She insists, however, she’s not interested in statewide politics.

“My passion,” said Shannon, “is what’s best for Ward 5, not my political career.”

Didn’t Madeleine and Howard used to say that, too?

Rene the Green (to Shannon’s left), is a social worker at the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging. He spoke to the NPA about homelessness in Burlington and school kids shuffling between couches, the “Hunt-Edmunds Shuffle,” he called it. And he highlighted the issue of "men’s violence against women." More than 50 percent of  homicides in Vermont, he said, are the result of domestic violence.

The Democrat and the Green were asked how they would "grade" the tall, quiet, incumbent mayor Vermont's largest city currently has - whatshisname?

Mayor_kiss_3 Oh, yes, Bob Kiss (at left, where else?). Born a Wisconsin Badger, Kiss was a Vermont state rep who became Burlap's mayor in 2006, Progressive Bob faces reelection in two years - March 2009.

Grade-wise, Rene gave Mayor Kiss a “B.”

Not bad.

Joan wasn’t so easy on him. Shannon gave the Progressive a “C-minus.”

“There’s room for improvement,” said Joan of Lakeside. Mayor Kiss has had some problems with “process,” she said, and shortcomings in the "communications area." Asked for an example she cited several, including da’ Mayor’s attempt to slide through the sale of city land in the Intervale on the Council’s “Consent Agenda,” thereby avoiding public discussion and open debate. (The matter did get a public airing and the sale was approved by a council majority.)

Shannon did, however, have nothing but praise for the the good work of Kiss-appointee, CityJonathan_leopold Treasurer Jonathan Leopold (right).  Leopold, you'll recall, was the bright, personable bow-tied treasurer who was the financial anchor and financial whiz of Mayor Bernie Sanders' mayoral reign back in the 1980s. The socialist mayor screamed a lot, but he also recognized talent and brains when he saw it. Bernie's no dummy.

However, Leopold did not get on smoothly with Bernie's successor in the corner office - Peter Clavelle.  Their personal styles simply clashed rarther than clicked. Clavelle brought in Brendan Kelleher, ex-Winooski City Manager, to oversee Burlington's bottom line.

But with Clavelle gone, Jonathan's back as the Money Man, Back at home in Burlington City Hall - though he doesn't wear the bow-ties much anymore - and Kiss the Quiet Man is lucky to have him.

"In that area," said Shannon, referring to fiscal management,  "the [Kiss] administration has done well."


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I just wanted to add that Joan Shannon walked away with the "debate", hands down. Thanks for covering the story.

One candidate offered a few neat little observations about vast social injustice with out getting even remotely specific about what to do about these problems...

The other, Shannon, displayed a great expertise in understanding the nuts and bolts process of running the city.

I would have liked to see both candidates take a bit more of a lead on the issue of reducing the impact of the automobile on the city…but, Burlington being Burlington…the other citizens in the room managed to get the subject on the table anyway…

Things like that happen in this city.


While their personal styles may be quite different, Clavelle and Leopold actually "clashed" when both sought the Progressive Coalition nomination for mayor in 1989. Clavelle won the nomination handily and went on to become Burlington's longest serving mayor.


Just read the 7 days piece where this Shannon Person is trying to resusitate this perverse outdoor smoking ban. That is one thing that has pissed me of about Burlington, is this social engineering nonsense that people on the council seem to get carried away with. This is rubbish, Joan. Let it go.

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