It’s likely not a shock to anyone, but I’m supporting Carina Driscoll for Mayor of Burlington.
I went into this campaign with my eyes wide open and in full support of Carina because I’ve worked alongside her when it wasn’t fashionable for some community leaders to support Burlington schools (looking at you Miro), or support keeping Burlington Telecom a public utility, and watched her bring folks together – including immigrant and New American families – after the November 2016 election for a potluck meal and gathering at H.O. Wheeler in the Old North End.
Beyond that: Carina offers a clear vision for Burlington’s future and has the proven leadership and management skills to pull it off. Best of all, it involves all of the people who live here. It’s refreshing to see a candidate who believes that power resides with the people, not private interests or self-selected cliques.
Beyond that: She’s smart, thoughtful, thorough, and deeply cares about the city she grew up in and has served as a school board member, a city councilor, and legislator – let alone as a mom and a business owner. In other words, she’s got the skills, vision, leadership, compassion, and heart to not just hit the ground running – but inspire others to get this city back on track.
She, like many of us, has a sense of shared outrage over watching decades of investments in public assets be sold off to the highest bidder. To watch public input – a hallmark of Burlington’s identity as a community – be jettisoned in deference to paid planners, consultants, and outside developers.
I’ve watched the current mayor erode trust in the public, public engagement, and turn to a select few to make decisions … for us, not with us. I’m also tired of hearing this notion that going back to a more inclusive process is somehow a “failed past.” Does the mayor and his supporters not realize that the success they tout today came as the result of decades of Burlington citizens, business leaders, and public servants working together to build a resilient, sustainable community? Perfect? No, but open to adaptation and responsive to change. Today, we’re closer to becoming the amusement park version of ourselves, rather than truly moving forward.
Besides, when I hear the current mayor’s slogan “Moving Forward” I have to ask: Who’s being left behind?
The local economy that was developed over the past three decades is what helped keep gentrification at bay, but in the past six years we’ve seen serious erosion in the core principles that development and new business should first benefit those who live here, not just private investors.
Many of us watched with horror as Burlington Telecom rebound financially – thanks to those of us who stuck with it as much as the folks who work there – only to see it sold to the highest bidder and we get bupkis. We’ll net $2 million – far shy of the $17 million owed to us – and our money will be siphoned off to a right-wing media company in Indiana.
Many of us also watched Memorial Auditorium primed for a vulture capitalist masquerading as a “civic center” for the University of Vermont, and potentially turning over the whole “super block” turned over to private investors. After some of us pushed a petition urging the council make an RFP process open to the public, followed by an incredible response from the city’s NPA’s, the Mayor has almost come around to see it how the people see it, but I don’t trust him. He only came around after the NPAs met and Carina made a campaign issue of it. I’m not convinced that he truly does care about keeping Memorial a public, civic space. Or would follow suit if re-elected.
I watched the creative local business and arts folks behind New Moran have their dream of a bustling building on the waterfront – that would serve local folks! – crushed by the Mayor and CEDO for a reason that I still can’t figure out. The Mayor kept changing the terms of the deal until he yanked the TIF money away from the project, which would have forced the project owners to pony up another $3 million or so just to get the doors open. Why? No one’s been held account for that imperial behavior, nor has there been a public explanation.
I may differ with her on some finer points around the downtown mall redevelopment, but she has been rightly critical of the Mayor’s poor negotiating skills. Tossing TIF money at Don Sinex is a waste of money – the developer should be making those improvements, not taxpayers, especially since the schools will be robbed of that money for 20 years. I doubt the current mayor will hold Sinex’s feet to the fire around meeting the terms of the community benefits agreement, or inclusionary zoning. We’ve already rolled over.
Finally, like Carina, I have been truly dismayed by the lack of support for our schools coming out of City Hall. Siphoning money from the schools with the PILOT fund and not replacing the money in any way or being more creative to ensure that money supports our kids. The initiatives coming out of the mayor’s office now are too little, too late, and don’t really impact the bottom line of our schools. I know Carina will make this a priority for the city, and we should all be rallying around our schools.
She has the ability to bring together folks from different backgrounds, beliefs, and to work together on common goals and vision. Getting the endorsement of the Coalition for a Livable City and the Burlington Free Press? Those are some disparate camps, folks. Not to mention Rights & Democracy and Our Revolution members, as well as AFSCME Local 1343 Council 93, who represent hundreds of city and school workers, and the National Nurses Union.
My support for Carina isn’t half-hearted or strategic, but based on the honest belief that she is the best person to lead our city right now at a time of rising inequality and lack of affordability. She’s not afraid to tackle these big topics, or to take on big challenges (like running against a popular incumbent), and our city needs a bit of bold right now and someone who will stand up for us.
Join me in voting for Carina on Tuesday, March 6th.