This summer, we’ve been treated to lamentations by official Burlington — and wildly outlandish claims from rural conservatives — about the onslaught of violent crime that threatens the peace and tranquility of the Queen City (group A) or has turned Burlington into a lawless hellhole (group B).
Well, the ACLU of Vermont is calling bullshit. In a thorough and well-researched letter to Mayor Miro, ACLU-VT’s general counsel Jay Diaz demolishes the lamentations and presents a strong case for the idea that actually, Burlington is a lot safer than it was a few years ago despite the shrinkage in the Police Department.
Man, the facts can be so inconvenient, can’t they?
The letter is well worth reading in its entirety, but here are some highlights.
Here in Vermont, we don’t have a lot of over-the-top, Bull Connor-style racism. What we do have in unfortunate abundance is white obliviousness, born (in part) of infrequent interactions with people outside narrow racial, ethnic, social and economic boundaries.
That includes yours truly, and I freely acknowledge the limitations of my own insight. I’m sure I have economy-sized blind spots. But at least I’m just a blogger. The stakes are a lot higher when people in positions of leadership betray their cluelessness.
So, in the same week when a Georgia sheriff’s officer made a complete ass of himself in saying that a white guy who’d killed eight people, six of them Asian women, was “having a bad day,” we’ve got two examples of the same phenomenon right here in Vermont.
First, I think you can guess, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s own goal on police oversight. Second, town officials in Manchester dog-whistling a state program for the homeless.
If you’re only going to read one piece on Weinberger’s blunder, make it state Sen. Kesha Ram’s op-ed on Weinberger and white neutrality. But since she wrote that piece, further developments have made the picture look even worse.
The latest twist in the story of Brandon del Pozo’s Twitter trolling has got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in politics. Not the most impactful, not the most scandalous, not the most significant — just the stupidest.
For those just joining us, del Pozo resignedas Burlington’s police chief last December after it was revealed that he used a burner Twitter account to criticize pesky police critic Charles WInkleman. At the time, Mayor Miro Weinberger denied all knowledge of del Pozo’s astoundingly petty tweets.
Sheesh. And if you read the entire article, you’ll realize that this isn’t the first time Weinberger has kicked this particular ball into his own goal. Quite the contrary; he’s had, to put it charitably, a tangential relationship with the truth.
It’s just sooooooo stupid. And it might just end Weinberger’s political career.
One has to assume that Miro Weinberger knew exactly what he was doing when he spent a goodly chunk of his Sunday speech attacking the Progressive Party. I mean, he spent most of his time building a case for his party and his re-election, but he had to know that the attack would dominate the news coverage — and would outrage the Progs.
His address was delivered to the city Democratic Party’s online caucus, which unsurprisingly gave him the party nomination in his bid for a fourth term. In the speech, Weinberger custom-crafted a concept of the Democratic Party writ large, a concept I find unconvincing.
Over and over again, he talked of data, science, and expertise as the foundations of his mayoralty. He recalled the ardent baseball fandom of his youth, which was sharpened by the sabermetric revolution launched by Bill James in the 1980s. It convinced him, he said, that “good analysis and the right experts can have a tremendous impact… and generate life-improving results.” Such as four Red Sox championships, presumably.
So, when he became mayor in 2009, he was “determined to make decisions based on evidence, not conventional wisdom.” He outlined a couple examples of evidence-based policymaking, and then tied it to the city’s response to the coronavirus, for which he claimed “one of the best records of any American city.”
Okay, well, he also governs one of America’s smallest cities in a sparsely populated state largely spared in the first wave, but whatever.
And this led directly into Weinberger’s attack on the Progressive Party.
By all rights, Miro Weinberger’s bid for re-election as mayor of Burlington ought to be in deep trouble. During his current term, he has overseen the continual failure of the CityPlace redevelopment, embarrassing leadership shuffles in the Police Department, and a summer of protests over cops accused of excessive force.
Not to mention the arrival of ROOOARRR sorry, the arrival of the RRRROOOOARRRR dammit, the F-35’s RRRROOOOOOAAARRRR screaming across the skies RRRRRROOOOOOOAAAARRRRRRR oh c’mon, of the Queen City.
(Yes, that’s a Thomas Pynchon shoutout. Mandatory reading for the mid-70s college intellectual dudebro.)
There’s also the inevitable Incumbent Fatigue that eventually afflicts administrations, both internally and in public perception. (Vermont Governors usually get at least six years in office if they seek it, but rarely more than eight. Miro’s approaching nine right now.)
And did I mention that Miro won re-election with only 48 percent of the vote last time around?
He still won, because two progressive challengers split the remainder.
And wouldn’t you know it, that seems the most likely scenario again this year. It’s certainly Weinberger’s best hope for success.
It’s a dismally familiar scenario for this observer, who’s watched Purity Wars divide progressive parties and movements for something like 50 years. And I’m sorry, but I usually fall on the pragmatic side of this.
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?
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.