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Steve Goodkind Gains Confidence As Burlington's Mayoral Race Progresses

Taylor Dobbs
Progressive mayoral candidate Steve Goodkind says he started his campaign on principle, but now he thinks he can win and become Burlington's mayor.

On Town Meeting Day in March, voters in Burlington will decide who will be the next mayor of the Vermont's largest city.

Progressive Steve Goodkind is challenging Democratic incumbent Miro Weinberger. Goodkind has been a long-time progressive. He also worked for the city of Burlington for decades; he served as the city's public works director for years. He says that after he retired, happily, a year and a half ago, he had no intention of running.

"When it turned out that no one was running against the mayor, I had been involved with some issues with Burlington Telecom, and I knew a lot of issues. And I just thought that if no one's going to run, I have enough of a public recognition in Burlington that I should run and at least get the issues out there," Goodkind said. "It wasn't about winning."

But as Goodkind's campaign has gotten underway, he says he now thinks it's a winnable campaign. "I greatly underestimated the discontent there was in the city with many of the things the mayor is doing. And I think that I am a person much more in touch with what people are thinking. I think I have the experience and I think I really can be an excellent mayor of this city."

Burlington Telecom

One of the challenges Weinberger has had to deal with is the fallout of Burlington Telecom's financial and legal issues. Goodkind said he thinks there's more smoke than fire there. He said the settlement with CitiFinancial "isn't so bad."  

"I greatly underestimated the discontent there was in the city with many of the things [Mayor Miro Weinberger] is doing. And I think that I am a person much more in touch with what people are thinking. I think I have the experience." - Progressive candidate Steve Goodkind

But he's concerned that the next step might involve a sale to a group called Bluewater. "I don't think there's any prospect of the city taxpayers ever getting their money back if the mayor stays on the course he's on with that. I would do it a lot differently. The mayor did not want to retain Burlington Telecom. He may say different now, but he's done everything he can to see that it gets sold. If it is sold, the city taxpayers will get little or nothing back on their $17 million. If you just do the math, it doesn't work," Goodkind said. "The way to get our resources back, our money back, is to keep the system, use it as an asset, over time grow it, and we will get our money back and we'll be able to control the system."

Development and Affordable Housing

Goodkind has criticized the mayor for being too focused on development. He says over the last 30 years, the city has become a desirable place to live and it's a hot market.

"I don't think Burlington is suffering right now from a lack of development. I haven't heard anyone come up to me and say that development is not progressing at a reasonable pace. It's hot. I'd much rather see it continue to be what I'd call an organic type development, many small projects working on their own," Goodkind said. "I think this mayor is just so ... he's just so pro-development. I think we can let it take care of itself in that way. The one development I would look for is affordable housing, and he thinks that the way to deal with that is to let there be more market-rate housing be built in Burlington, perhaps even subsidized by the city and that will somehow help the lower end of the market, which I think is nonsense."

"We have to keep up our efforts to provide the incentives for affordable housing to be built, whether that's inclusionary zoning or just projects themselves, and that's the only way that seems to be available. If we work with our partners in the non-profit area we can develop affordable housing that is perpetual, not just affordable for a brief period of time," he said.

Southern Connector

As public works director, Goodkind has been involved for years with the long-planned roadway, that would connect the city's south end with Interstate 189. He would not like to see the project continue as it is currently envisioned, which takes it from the end of 189, up to Home Avenue, through Lakeside Avenue and Pine Street.

"I think that plan is not a good plan. The plan that we thought we were going to be able to build would take us from Pine Street, through the rail yard to Battery Street, avoiding the King Street, Maple Street neighborhood. It's not happening, and if we build this road that way, I think it's going to cause great harm to that neighborhood. I think the road has potential to isolate the Lakeside neighborhood."

Goodkind would rather see the last 150 feet of the so-called "road to nowhere" at the end of Interstate 189 finished to connect it to existing roads and simply open it. "At that point, most of the truck traffic that's going down Home and Flynn and some of the others can take that road, solves the truck problem. And that has been the big gripe with many, many people." Goodkind estimates it would take $5-10 million.

Wednesday on Morning Edition, we'll hear from Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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