Monday, February 2, 2009

Article for the Free Press on The Burlington, VT Mayoral Race

I was gearing up for a great political fiesta in Burlington this March. Four people running, four different parties, four different schools of thought, four different backgrounds...Well it's a month away and what a disappointment.

The best that our challengers can offer is that our incumbent mayor "lacks 'vision'". Our City of Burlington, most livable, most healthy, best this, best that...and this is what is being offered by the people that want to run it?! I have my disagreements with Mayor Kiss, no doubt, but more importantly I am able to engage with him and he with me and I don't think I am an isolated case.

This is what the scenario looks like to me.

We have a Democrat running who has been a "lifer" on the Burlington City council and who's best offering is that people are asking him "what's Bob doing"? That's a platform to run for Mayor? I don't think so. I think it shows a lack of substance and ideas. I don't disagree that this is what Mr. Democrat is hearing but I like my politicians like my kids, seen but not heard. Washington politics has infected us, there is no longer doubt in my mind, we have become a place where grandstanding and talk for the sake of talk takes precedent over substance and action.

Kurt Wright is not the right choice for Burlington and indicts himself with his own words: "On issue after issue, there is a total vacuum, a total void in leadership", Wright says. Wright is the president of the City Council, the other arm of City Government. If there is a "total vacuum, a total void" then there are TWO people to look at first and one of them is Wright. Wright's ambition has always his biggest flaw. To say "In times like these we should be doing so much more - developing senior housing...crafting a plan for the waterfront beyond the Moran plant..." shows, to me, a total lack of understanding of the position of Mayor and the condition of the City when Kiss won the Mayoral race three years ago. To charge that there can be more done is about the weakest argument one could make and the easiest as well. Of course more could be done, more can always be done, there is nothing of substance in stating it. Wright continues "nothing gets done...because we have a Mayor who is disengaged". FUNNY! As a downtown business owner I know for a fact that the Mayor is not "disengaged". In fact I have sat in his office, gotten email responses directly from him, and found him to be genuine in his beliefs and his concern for the people who live and work in the city. Mayor Kiss doesn't have the answers, nor should he or any politician - it's not the politicians job to have the answers but he is not "disengaged" as Wright says. And finally, only because Wright - the anti-Kiss - offers so much ammunition, he says "“the council doesn’t even know where (Kiss) stands. The council is left to grapple with an issue and then scratch our heads later and wonder what the mayor’s position is on it.” FUNNY! And I always thought it was the Council's objective to "grapple". I though that's what democracy was about. Does President Wright and the Council need a Mayoral sanction before going forward? Can they not operate independently? If I were a City Council President I would spend more time presenting my position instead of wondering about someone else s. Sounds to me like the one lacking leadership skills isn't Kiss.

Dan Smith, rookie "independent", said "“I had someone say to me, ‘We’re a dynamic community that is absolutely petrified of change.’ This is a time for fresh ideas,”. FUNNY! There is no such thing as a "dynamic community...petrified of change". Those two ideas cannot exist together, in fact they are polar opposites. These words, along with the whole "fresh ideas"! cliche represent the worst in politics and, again, a lack of substance and ideas.

I do not agree with all the things that Mayor Kiss has represented in his three years, especially the fact that he feels (along with both Montroll and Wright) that Government has a place in private business affairs when no law has been broken - BURTON. This is troubling to me as a Burlington Business owner and I have told Mayor Kiss so. He responded directly to me explaining his position. We do not agree but we did engage.

I challenge the Mayor to open up to the fundamental concept that we must allow people, individuals to be free to make their own choices within the scope of the law and that any violation or intrusion into that right has corrosive effects on our freedom and I point to our current state of affairs as an example of the effects of too much governement intervention in private life.

However in a whirled of corrupt politicians, out of touch legislators, huge money, pomp and circumstance, hot air and blowhards just talking with no action all around us I find our Mayoral situation utterly refreshing and repulsive. Refreshing because Kiss is someone who cares and doesn't sell the fact that he cares. Repulsive because his opponents are trying to use that against him. I am fairly certain that Bob Kiss's last three years have been like the restaurant analogy about service: you rarely notice it when it's good but always when it's bad. The quote from Kiss that wraps it all up for me..."As I look at all the candidates, I’m not speculating about my ability to do the work,” he said. “I’ve done the work.”

We will never agree on all things, nor would we want to and with that in mind I want someone quiet and serious and caring. I want someone more concerned with the job than the talk. I don't want more government in my face, more politicians screaming how right they are. I don't want blowhards and people talking about "fresh ideas", there are no "fresh ideas" give me specifics if you think you have ideas, don't talk in cliches and generalizations, don't complain about the work of another as your primary reason for running. "Lack of 'vision'"? Honestly! It's not 'vision' that accomplishes change in the's hard work, 'vision' is part of television for a reason. I don't want speculators. Give me someone that's done the work, the real work, give me someone who doesn't buy in to politics as usual, give me a quiet, serious worker who is open to communication and we can work out our differences.

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