Tag Archives: Miro Weinberger

Repeat After Me: The Coverup is Worse Than the Crime (UPDATED)

Those were the days, my friend…

Brandon del Pozo has bowed to the inevitable, and resigned as Burlington’s police chief. His departure came a mere four days after he admitted to Seven Days’ Courtney Lamdin that he had used an anonymous Twitter account to troll frequent City Hall critic Charles Winkleman.

Still, a whole bunch of questions remain unanswered. But they can all be boiled down to a single multidimensional query:

Why did it take so long?

The original deed — creating a fake Twitter handle to bash a critic, and deleting it almost immediately — would have been a bad look. But a fireable offense? That’s questionable. I think del Pozo would have survived.

Instead, here’s what happened. Del Pozo posted the tweets on July 4. Winkleman took notice, and vented his suspicions to Lamdin. She approached del Pozo on July 23, and he repeatedly denied any involvement. He lied “nearly a dozen times,” as Lamdin reported.

Five days later, del Pozo came clean to Weinberger. The mayor put the chief on medical leave and took away his gun, badge and city-issued cellphone. And told him to stay off social media. (The leave was publicly announced on August 2.)

Del Pozo returned to the job on September 15. And still, nothing about the twitter account and the lies to Seven Days’ city hall reporter. Weinberger kept it under his hat, thinking maybe, I don’t know, it’ll all just go away?

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Way Down In The Hole

[Not Exactly As Illustrated]

Brookfield Asset Management, the alleged developer of Burlington’s infamous hole in the ground, continues to be frustratingly vague about its plans and its timeline for actually building something on the former site of the Burlington Town Center. And folks, this could turn out to be the defining issue in the March 2021 city elections, when incumbent Mayor Miro Weinberger is expected to seek a third term.

And, to craft the ultimate in mixed metaphors, that hole may become a millstone around his neck.

Demolition of the old mall began nearly two years ago. Original developer Don Sinex began boasting of big plans for the site way back in 2014. He tapped out earlier this year, and Brookfield stepped into the void.

(Sorry.)

(Although Sinex’s grand vision for Burlington CityPlace can, for shits and giggles, still be seen on its splashy website. Maybe cityplaceburlington.com been declared a historic monument or summat.)

City leaders are pressing Brookfield for some measure of certainty about its plans. Brookfield has failed to miss planning benchmarks since it took over the property. It presented sketches of a site plan to for the site to city council last month, but many crucial details remain to be filled in.

Weinberger, who was a loud and vocal supporter of Sinex and has now, a little more cautiously, tossed his hat into the Brookfield ring, is sounding a little antsy. Seven Days:

“We are looking for them to do more, quickly, to prove … that, in the end, it’s going to succeed,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said. “We are looking for some further confirmation on that.”

Good luck with that, Mr. Mayor. And good luck running for re-election if the hole is still a hole in early 2021. Which is not terribly farfetched; every step on a project of this scope is going to take time, especially in a micromanaging community like Burlington.

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A timely outbreak of morality that might just pay off

This is a good week to be a Vermonter. While Donald Trump and many of his followers are acting like sore winners and planning the conservative transformation of our national government, expressions of tolerance are springing up all over official Vermont.

They’re doing the right thing at a critical moment. I’m often cynical about Vermont exceptionalism*, but it’s times like this that remind me that it can, indeed, be a special place.

*Having once, ahem, entitled a post “Kill Vermont Exceptionalism.”

Also, hey, bonus: if we become known as a haven against intolerance, our economy and our population may get a needed boost thanks to an influx of people who experience fear or intolerance in other states.

In no particular order:

— Governor Shumiln and Governor-elect Phil Scott issue a joint statement “of concern and defiance in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.” Full credit to Scott for taking a stand against intolerance and in support of “refugee groups, health centers, immigrant rights activists and schools.”

“We/I thought it was important to show, whether it was the current governor or the incoming governor, Democrat or Republican, that we’re unified on the issue of protecting civil rights,” Scott said.

Couldn’t ask for more than that. Plus, it’s one sign that he wants to govern from the center and be a Governor for all Vermonters. It’s only one, but it’s a good one.

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Freeway Vermont, Two-Lane Vermont

Something struck me in last night’s election returns. Specifically, the two-seat switch from R to D in the state senate, the Republicans losing their last remaining seats in Chittenden and Washington Counties.

Those two seats had been held for years by moderate Republicans Diane Snelling and Bill Doyle. In the absence of those popular stalwarts, it’s hard to see the R’s being competitive in Chittenden or Washington anytime soon. Meanwhile, the VTGOP strengthened its grip in Franklin and Rutland Counties, which used to be prime D/R battlegrounds.

I see a clear political topography emerging. There’s Freeway Vermont, which stretches along I-89 from northern Chittenden County to White River Junction, and along I-91 from Thetford or thereabouts all the way to the Massachusetts border. That’s solid Democratic territory, with Republicans struggling to even recruit candidates, let alone win.

Then there’s Two-Lane Vermont, the back roads and small towns plus a few cities that have been, to a large extent, left behind by the tide of progress. Rutland is the prime example. I include St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, and Barre in that number.

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Matt Dunne gets a major boost

I suppose they couldn’t change the timetable, but two of Vermont’s biggest unions picked a bad time to release their endorsements for governor and lieutenant governor. They were revealed on Tuesday, when practically all eyes were turned toward the last round of presidential primaries — and the few remaining eyes were focused on Governor Shumlin’s veto of S.230 and the legislative effort to rewrite the bill or override the veto.

But let’s not allow the nods to vanish into the mists of history just yet, because they are likely to carry great weight in our new, improved, low-turnout August primary.

The Vermont State Employees Association and the Vermont Labor Council AFL-CIO both opted for Matt Dunne for governor, and David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor. Last week, the VSEA’s legislative committee recommended Galbraith to its members, but the board of trustees went with Dunne after taking a straw poll among the union membership.

In both races, the unions opted for the person least associated with the Shumlin administration and the Democratic legislative caucuses. I guess that’s not surprising, given VSEA’s very contentious relationship with the administration. Just think of it as another of Shumlin’s little gifts to the Democrats who would succeed him.

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Deadbeat Donald

It’s a minor thing compared to the egregious offensiveness of his entire campaign, but Donald Trump has once again proved to be a deadbeat. He has failed to pay an $8,500 bill issued by the City of Burlington for police and fire overtime costs related to Trump’s January rally in the Flynn Center.

You remember, the one where his campaign issued thousands and thousands of extra tickets, thus ensuring a law-enforcement quagmire and setting the stage for potential violent confrontation?

Well, he hasn’t paid up, and the city has decided “it would not be cost effective” to pursue the matter.

[Mayor Miro Weinberger] reiterated that Trump’s “failure to cooperate” with local law enforcement and lack of communication with the public and ticketholders put “undue strain on the City’s police and “unnecessarily hurt downtown businesses.”

Paying the invoice, Weinberger said, “remains the right and honorable thing for Mr. Trump to do.”

Well, sure, but there’s no point in waiting for Donald Trump to do “the right and honorable thing.” He has a long record of doing otherwise.

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BTV throws a technology pickle party

Throughout its history, information technology has been a man’s world. You’d think the most modern of industries would have relatively enlightened attitudes, but not so.

Disappointing. Maddening. But you’d think that the (allegedly) most enlightened of high-tech wannabes, Burlington, would actively promote the role of women in high tech. It is, after all, the Queen City, yo.

Uh…

Well…

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is trying to revitalize BTV Ignite, the two-year-old initiative to turn the city’s high-speed Internet infrastructure into an economic engine. He’s appointed a new Executive Director; more on that in a moment. There’s also a new Board of Directors, and guess what?

The BTV Ignite Board of Directors (not exactly as illustrated)

The BTV Ignite Board of Directors (not exactly as illustrated)

They’re all men.

Stephen, Dan, Neale, Charles, Peter, Jonathan, and Tom.

Well hey, at least they’ll be able to tell dirty jokes and hold board meetings in the sauna.

Jesus Christ, Miro. Did you even think about this? Couldn’t you have found a token woman, at the very least?

Or maybe ask Neale Lunderville to wear heels?

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The best darn Plan B in state politics (UPDATED)

Update: I don’t know how this escaped my notice (and that of the entire Vermont political media), but WCAX-TV beat me to the punch by about six weeks. See addendum below.

The Democratic race for governor is a three-way (at least) tossup, with no one willing to lay odds on a single contender. The Republican race, on the other hand, appears to pose a stark contrast: if Lt. Gov. Phil Scott runs, he would enter the 2016 gubernatorial race as the favorite. If he doesn’t run, the VTGOP will be left with an unappetizing choice of steam-table leftovers. Or maybe Bruce Lisman, the canned succotash of the Republican buffet.

However… another name is being bandied about the political rumor mill, and it’s one hell of a good one.

Neale Lunderville.

Let me make it clear, he’s not running for governor. He’s not even running for running for governor. If Phil Scott does run, he’ll have Lunderville’s wholehearted support. Or so I hear.

But if Scott chooses not to run? Lunderville could be a formidable candidate. He’s got solid Republican credentials from his service in the Douglas administration. He knows how to run a campaign, dealing the dirt so His Nibs could sail above it all. And, thanks to the generosity of our Democratic leaders, Lunderville has steel-plated credibility as a bipartisan fixer.

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Police Chief Superspy: Is this what Burlington needed?

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has announced his choice for new police chief: Brandon del Pozo, a veteran of 18 years with the New York City Police Department. He has, as they say, risen rapidly through the NYPD ranks; his current post is Commanding Officer in the Strategic Initiatives Office.

Hmm. The most famous NYPD “strategic initiative” I know of is its free-range intelligence unit, which routinely ignores jurisdictional boundaries in its search for potential terrorists. According to a 2011 report on NPR, NYPD Intelligence has “teams of undercover officers… who basically just troll ethnic neighborhoods. …They also have informants known as mosque crawlers” who serve as “the eyes and ears of the police department inside the mosques.”

The latter, notes NPR, would “seem to violate the federal privacy act.” It further notes that the unit is “creative in ways that come right up against the line of what the federal government or other police departments either can do, or feel comfortable doing.”

The expansionist NYPD even has an intell office in the Middle East, which seems like quite a stretch for a city police force.

Wait a minute, Mr. del Pozo himself claims credit for that.

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Burlington Mayoral Race Cools Down

(In honor of the hackneyed campaign headline, “_________ Race Heats Up,” the favorite of unimaginative headline writers desperate to gin up a little reader interest. And yes, the Free Press deployed it during the campaign for mayor of Burlington, which was never, ever, ever close.)

Well, if there’s any widespread revolt over Miro Weinberger’s alleged secret plot to pave the open spaces and fill the city with skyscrapers, it sure didn’t show itself on Town Meeting Day. Weinberger won a second term with 68% of the vote; the two challengers beating the anti-development drum managed less than 30%.

So, Monday Morning Quarterback, what does it mean? Glad you asked.

The accusations against Weinberger didn’t stick because (1) anti-development sentiment in Burlington represents a loud minority; most residents, I think, would like to see reasonable growth, (2) Weinberger consistently presented a reasonable approach and hasn’t given the voters any big reason to mistrust him, and (3) by all appearances, he ran the city competently in his first term. And after the Bob Kiss Experience, voters were happy to see simple managerial competence.

Corollary to point 3: the Burlington Progs are still suffering from the aftereffects of the Kiss Experience. Especially when their candidate is a hippie-lookin’ holdover from past Progressive administrations. It’ll take them a while longer to win back the trust of Queen City voters.

The Progs’ candidate, Steve Goodkind, refused to admit that Weinberger might actually be popular, heaven forfend; he credited the mayor’s “great machine.” By which he presumably meant Weinberger’s massive fundraising advantage.

That certainly didn’t hurt, but if we’ve learned anything from recent gubernatorial elections, it’s that Money Can’t Buy You Love. If there was widespread disaffection with Weinberger, the voters would have scrambled to the nearest available Scott Milne, no matter how underfunded or dubiously qualified. It’s tough to argue with 68% support.

On the other hand, there’s the City Council vote, which saw the Democrats lose ground and the Progs gain, probably leading to a Progressive council president. Was this a mixed verdict by the voters?

Yes and no, but mostly unclear. If the voters were convinced by the anti-development argument, it seems to me that they would have concentrated their ire on Weinberger. Also, and more saliently, the council results are tough to interpret because of the massive overhaul of ward boundaries. You’d really have to do a deep analysis of the vote, comparing it to previous elections.

One example: a new ward was created in student-dominated precincts. Students, as they are wont to do, stayed away in droves. (Overall turnout was 25%, but in Ward 8 it was under 10%.) As a result, Prog-leaning independent Adam Roof beat the Democrat despite getting less than 200 votes. That total would have earned him a brutal defeat in any other ward.

So the Progs had an unearned edge in Ward 8. I have no idea if that’s true across the city because I’m not a deep-numbers guy. I’ll leave that task to the experts.

The result does leave Weinberger facing a divided City Council with the Progressives likely enjoying a narrow organizational majority. He’ll have to work with the Progs and independents, which could mean a slightly more measured approach to development.

Of course, I’m not convinced that Weinberger ever had a secret plan to pave Burlington. By all indications, he wants to pursue a measured approach anyway. For the crowd that thinks “developer” is a dirty word, his intentions will always be suspect. But that crowd suffered a pretty thorough defeat in Burlington yesterday.