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Vote for Carina!

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 Carina-Driscoll-headshot-600x750the 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.





Give Local, Give Often

It’s Giving Tuesday In the post-Trumpian era of disbelief, worry, and downright fear of the pending hurt that could fall upon some of our most vulnerable members of society, many of us are wondering where to put our money that will most directly help the people in our community, and our state.

This time of year, and especially with this election, many of us are looking to support truly  local agencies who are helping members of our community: ALL members of our community.

With the help of a friend, I’m posting this list of local organizations who are helping support those who are most in need this season, especially with a GOP-led Congress and … well … whatever it is that is taking up residence in the “White” House.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and feel free to add more in the comments and I’ll try to get them on the list as fast as I can.

AALV helps new Americans from all parts of the world (not solely Africa, although this is how they began) gain independence in their new communities through a range of integration services to help them smoothly transition to living and working in Vermont. (AALV is always looking for donations of winter clothing for adults and kids, as well)

Black Lives Matter Vermont is a growing network of individuals, families and businesses invested in the liberation of Black Vermonters, and the deactivation of systemic racism endured by all people of color in our state.

Boys and Girls Club of Burlington, King Street Youth Center, and Sara Holbrook Center all serve children in specific neighborhoods in Burlington and work with many refugee and immigrant families.

Champlain Area NAACP works to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Champlain Community Services provides essential supports to people with intellectual disabilities and autism, building a community where everyone participates and belongs. They offer coordinated one-to-one supported employment, home & shared living, school-to-career transition, and community supports throughout Northwestern Vermont. They  also promote and coordinate self-advocacy activities, and offer crisis (24 hour on-call response) and respite (staffing and coordination of additional hours).

Children’s Literacy Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire a love of reading and writing among children up to age 12 throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. Since 1998, CLiF has served more than 180,000 low-income, at-risk, and rural children in 400 communities across every region of the Twin States.

HOPE Works  is dedicated to ending all forms of sexual violence, and provides crisis counseling and advocacy for those whose lives have been affected by sexual violence. Their education outreach work strives to change attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate and condone the cycle of violence.

Huertas (a project of UVM Extension’s Bridges to Health program) builds gardens and distributes seeds and plant starts to Latino/a migrant farmworkers living in rural Vermont. Farmworkers face food insecurity at a higher rate than the general population of Vermont and have particular challenges in accessing fresh, local, and culturally familiar foods.

Humane Society of Chittenden County is a private, independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no city, state or federal funding and is not affiliated with any national organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States. They rely on local donations and program fees in their mission to foster compassionate treatment of animals and to prevent animal suffering.

The Nongame Wildlife Fund helps protect and restore Vermont’s endangered wildlife for future generations to enjoy. More than 100 wildlife species in Vermont are at risk including bald eagles, lynx and bats,

ONE Good Deed Fund believes that acts of kindness toward others are what build community. Often someone is inspired to help others and yet doesn’t have the resources to make it happen, so the fund provides financial support to make those good deeds a reality. This fund primarily serves the Old North End neighborhood of Burlington. 

Open Door Clinic of Middlebury brings healthcare to the uninsured and underinsured, including 270 Latin American migrant farmworkers each year.

Outright Vermont builds safe, healthy, and supportive environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth ages 13-22.

Peace and Justice Center works on the interconnected issues of economic and racial justice, peace, and human rights through education, advocacy, training, non-violent activism and community organizing.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England – If you use the donate link on this page, 100% will go to our local chapter headquartered in Colchester.

Pride Center of Vermont advances the community, health, and safety of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Vermonters.

Rights and Democracy Vermont is dedicated to building a popular movement to advance human rights and a real democracy. They work in partnership with community groups, progressive unions, faith communities, organizations fighting for human and civil rights, and environmental and climate action groups in order to transform Vermont and its communities.

Solidarity Healing GoFundMe – Help local clinical mental health counselor Vicki Garrison open a private practice that provides culturally competent, racially informed, and empowering mental health counseling for people of color.

Spectrum Youth and Family Services serves young adults ages 14-24. About 30-40% of youth who use their Drop-In and housing are LGBTQ, while Spectrum’s Multicultural Youth Program works specifically with youth of color, including refugees and immigrants.

Steps to End Domestic Violence‘s mission is to assist in the transition to a safe, independent life for all those who have been affected physically, sexually, emotionally, or economically by domestic abuse and to promote a culture that fosters justice, equity and safety.

Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom is a grassroots organization that works to ensure women have the right to control what happens to their health and bodies, this includes access to abortion.

Vermont CARES is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life of HIV-positive individuals, create compassionate communities, and prevent the spread of HIV by educating our youth and community on general.

Vermont People with AIDS Coalition serves is a community of peers who seek to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS through mutual support and empowerment, exchange of information, and advocacy.

Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program supports refugees who are relocated to our community. VRRP is currently accepting donations for basic such as mattresses, coats and winter boots for adults and children. People can either donate money and earmark it for winter gear or donate their gently used coats or boots to VRRP. [We hope to post a full list of needed goods to this blog. Stay tuned!]

Here is the link to the items that are needed: welcome-kit-and-kaboodle-two-pager

Vermont Worker’s Center is a democratic, member-run organization dedicated to organizing for the human rights of the people in Vermont. Founded in 1998, members have fought for livable wages, healthcare for all, and more here in Vermont and beyond.

Vermont Works for Women helps women and girls recognize their potential and explore, pursue, and excel in work that leads to economic independence. They have three strands of programming: Moving women into employment success; investing in girls, the next generation; and, advocating for large-scale culture change for women & girls.

#NCHIMBY (No Corporate Handouts in My Back Yard)

There’s a lot of spin out there from boosters of the downtown redevelopment and the tax scheme to siphon $22 million of the public’s tax money and hand it over to a Wall Street developer.

Despite spending thousands on a well-paid lobbying firm with almost zero ties to Burlington to come up with fake sloganeering and fake supporters, there’s little that can be done to spin a taxpayer ripoff masquerading as a TIF masquerading as a “unity” project masquerading as a last gasp to save a “dying” downtown.

Setting aside the problematic zoning issues, poorly managed public engagement, this is why voting for the TIF is a bad idea. It’s because voters are being asked to:

• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer to do work that we as a community said must be done (reconnecting streets, among other items) in order to build in the downtown core.

• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer and wait 20 to 30 years to reap the reward of additional taxes while developer Don Sinex will most certainly be reaping profits for himself from day one.

• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer, and as such taking needed money from funding education, or bonds to improve the safety and energy efficiency of our schools.

• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer who is only making the minimal investment in truly affordable housing, while expecting to charge high(er) market rents for other apartments (doing nothing to stem the rising cost of housing).

• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer who is going to be privatizing more of downtown, and making minimal truly public spaces accessible to all residents.

Good grief. And, people thought Burlington Telecom was a bad deal – at least it ended up being a public benefit that could pay for itself and has been credited with creating good-paying jobs ( and an emergent tech sector in the Queen City.

To reiterate above, though: boosters of this Wall Street development conveniently omit the fact that the TIF makes it such that our tax rates won’t truly benefit until 20 OR MORE YEARS FROM NOW when the TIF expires and any new monies go to the city or school coffers. That’s right – 20-PLUS YEARS. Not next year, or even in five years – but almost a generation away! By then inflationary costs will likely chew up any perceived benefit we’re told about today.

And, while the money might not be directly helping Burlington schools, floating this TIF funding and the $50 million bond will only make it harder for the schools to ask taxpayers to fund long overdue classroom and building improvements in the coming years. That, too, will have a ripple effect that will negatively affect the next generation of Burlington students.

You can call it what you will, but this is a corporate welfare—using our tax money for one person’s private gain with an incremental, if nonexistent, gain for us, the chumps who forked over millions in our taxes for someone else to make money on while we sit there, hands in pockets, waiting on a reward. If Sinex were asked to fund these required improvements himself, then we could see a more immediate impact on our city’s coffers and we could use the new revenue to make improvements throughout the city and lessen the burden on homeowners to pay back the other bonds we’re being asked to approve.

If you’re not fond of corporate welfare or putting corporate interests before those of the community—then it’s simple. Vote NO against the TIF on the November ballot.

We need to step back, truly examine our city’s infrastructure needs for both city and schools, and then determine  what needs public funding and what can be leveraged from the private sector.

We face too many challenges as a city right now to be doing this in such a piecemeal, knee-jerk fashion.

If you’re interested in an additional take on the TIF, check out this previous post.

Hey Burlington – Let’s Have a Tea Party, Shall We?

Hey Burlington – did you know that one of the Tea Party’s rising stars is right here in Burlington? And, he not only sits on the school board but is hoping to get elected to the House, too?

You didn’t? Well … guess what. It’s true.

First off: Free speech is a great thing in this country; it’s even protected under the Constitution. But as with most rights, with said freedom comes responsibility AND accountability.

Scot Shumski likes to claim he has no connection to the Tea Party or American Majority, but an apparent alter ego Twitter account of @SlappyWhyte does it for him. Clever, eh? Not really – especially he, er Slappy, starts DELETING them when he gets wind that people might hold him “accountable.”  How Nixonian! As we all know, it’s never the “crime” that gets a pol in trouble, it’s the cover-up after the fact that angers voters.

Below are some choice screen shots, as well as a downloadable spreadsheet that shows you ALL of the tweets he’s deleted.

You see, the point is that whenever the issue of Tea Party connections and influence arise, Shumski feigns ignorance. And, people shouldn’t read too much (wink, wink) into the fact that he rakes in thousands of dollars from Tea Party Sugar Mama Lenore Broughton (who supports the privatization of public education) and was trained by American Majority, a Koch Brothers-connected group that travels the country training people to get on, and take over, school boards and then wreak havoc.

Check out this headline and story from the American Majority blog: “Liberal School Board Flipped in Wisconsin”. Ah, nullifying collective bargaining agreements. Ronnie Reagan would be so, so proud.

As an aside — Broughton’s bag man Tayt Brooks is American Majority’s state director and he loves him some Tea Party in the librul bastion of Burlington. Take his recent headline: “American Majority-Trained Scot Shumski becomes prominent School Board Voice”. Brooks is clearly basking in the glow of Shumski’s meteoric rise.

Too bad for Brooks that Shumski isn’t willing to return the favor and tout his American Majority training and Tea Party bonafides in his campaign literature (ditto Kevin Garrison, and David Kirk who comprise the Tea Party Triumverate).

Though, on American Majority’s blog, Shumski did thank them for his March victory.

But in real life, Shumski flatly denies any undue influence and calls American Majority nonpartisan. Nonpartisan, perhaps, but from the links above it’s clear they have an agenda.

“American Majority is a nonpartisan organization and cannot advocate political positions,” wrote Shumski on Oct. 3. “I have never given money to a Tea Party organization, held membership in a Tea Party organization, identified myself with the Tea Party moniker.”

Perhaps not as Scot Shumski, but his alter ego is happy to promote Tea Party principles and positions and even attended the American Majority candidate training, too, as you’ll see below, and believes Tea Party principles should be the core of any GOP candidate’s platform. Perhaps Slappy should remind Shumski.

You see, the problem with weasel politicians is in this day and age is that if you’re not careful (and Slappy got a little sloppy as you’ll see in a minute) you can have your digital footprints pretty well mapped out and traced back to your doorstep.

In fact, you can go to this site and type in @slappywhyte. The epicenter of Slappy’s tweets originate awfully close to Scot’s real-life house and “home office.” Here’s a pic for you in case the site doesn’t load, or Slappy turns off geolocation:

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 11.14.24 AM Continue reading