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Criticism Flies In Burlington Mayor's Race

Taylor Dobbs
The race for the Burlington mayor's office is underway, and development policies are proving to be a key issue.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger faces three challengers in his reelection campaign, and he and his two most prominent opponents are quickly resorting to negative campaign tactics.

But unlike in last year’s gubernatorial race and most campaign battles, the big fights for the Burlington mayor’s office are on the political left, and two challengers seek to defeat Weinberger by appealing to Burlington’s Progressive base.

“All in all, [Progressive Candidate Steve] Goodkind’s first policy proposal should be understood as an indication that Goodkind would return Burlington to the failed leadership and careless attitude of the past,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger in a statement responding to Goodkind’s opposition to the mayor’s proposed Champlain Parkway project.

In addition to the Progressive former Public Works director, Weinberger faces a challenge from Greg Guma, a writer and activist pitching himself as the candidate for “Preservation & Change.”

While Guma’s anti-development stance seems to line up well with Goodkind’s  -- both criticize Weinberger for the development boom in Burlington in the past two years --  Guma has decided to “focus next week on what he calls Steve Goodkind’s ‘series of unfortunate proposals’ for Burlington,” according to a release.

"With Steve as the Progressive candidate, it's hard to know what the word means anymore,” Guma said in a press release. “For Steve, it seems to mean lawsuits, audits, consolidated power, and less-than-bold stands on matters like the F-35.

"With Steve [Goodkind] as the Progressive candidate, it's hard to know what the word means anymore." - Greg Guma

Guma’s explicit stand against the F-35 has earned him support among those who advocated against the U.S. Air Force’s decision to base the next-generation fighter jets at Burlington International Airport. He suggests dedicating city resources to help with a lausuit filed in U.S. District Court “to ensure that this basing decision really meets environmental and legal standards.”

Goodkind, for his part, is focused on a pair of issues more explicitly within the city government’s control. His public statements have been highly critical of Weinberger’s pro-development work centered on Burlington’s South End, including the “Champlain Parkway” – a road that would connect Interstate 189 to Pine Street.

In an earlier interview, Goodkind said he initially wasn't running with the hope of winning, but support from Progressives now have him thinking otherwise.

"I greatly underestimated the discontent there was in the city with many of the things the mayor is doing,' he said.

"I greatly underestimated the discontent there was in the city with many of the things the mayor [Miro Weinberger] is doing." - Steve Goodkind

Goodkind is also focused on the mayor’s plans for Burlington Telecom. Weinberger is credited with bringing  the city-owned fiber and TV network back from the brink of closure after financial mismanagement under a previous administration.

Weinberger’s plan got Burlington Telecom out of a lawsuit that threatened its existence and put it on a path toward private sale. Critics – including Goodkind – say a private sale would make it impossible for Burlington Telecom to fulfill its community-minded mission as well as it could under city control.

From the right, Weinberger has just one challenger: Libertarian Loyal Ploof. His pitch to voters is lower taxes and shrinking the public visibility of government in Burlington.

Ploof has specifically targeted the city council’s recent Church Street ordinances: a 24/7 smoking ban on the pedestrian street, and a trespass ordinance that allows authorities to ban individuals from the public street.

“Shrinking the size of our government down is one of the first things I want to do: Removing the smoking ban, trespass ordinance, and the unconstitutional gun ban,” Ploof said in a release announcing his nomination by the Burlington Libertarian Party.

The “gun ban” as Ploof called it is a charter change ordinance passed by Burlington City Council in 2013 that would not outright ban guns in the city, but did call for new regulations on firearms, including banning them from any establishment where liquor is served.

Those measures aren’t currently enacted, as they would require the charter change to be approved by the state Legislature.

Weinberger, for his part, hasn’t spent much time publicly addressing criticisms from Guma or Ploof, but issued a strongly-worded statement in response to Steve Goodkind’s opposition to the Champlain Parkway. He’s also slammed Goodkind for his involvement with city government during the financial mismanagement of the previous administration.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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