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Guma Attack Ad Crossed The Line, Councilor Says

Taylor Dobbs
VPR News
Burlington mayoral candidate Greg Guma, pictured here at a January event, removed a video from YouTube after taking criticism for its violent images.

Burlington mayoral candidate Greg Guma has removed an attack ad from YouTube after the president of the city council said it “has no place in Burlington or Vermont politics.”

The ad, viewed by VPR before it was removed, relied heavily on photos with superimposed images to make Guma’s argument that Burlington is being over-developed by incumbent Mayor Miro Weinberger.

Guma’s stance is not the controversial part. Jumping off of the idea that there’s apparently the possibility of the national chain Target opening a store in Burlington, Guma’s ad showed a picture of Weinberger as the target logo hovering over his face before the sound of a gunshot plays and the image cut to an aerial photo of the city of Burlington.

“Mr. Guma’s ad is offensive and inappropriate and has no place in our community,” said Weinberger campaign manager Jen Kaulius in an emailed statement.

Guma defended the ad, though he said violent images are a problem in the media.

“Violent images are a problem,” he said. “I don’t think that this was meant as anything except to exaggerate, and obviously there’s not going to be a high-rise hotel on the waterfront either, or any of those other objects” that appeared superimposed on photos in the video.

“I think the ad was clearly exaggerating and satirical,” he said.

Guma also called into question the character of City Council President Joan Shannon, who sent out a press release condemning the ad, and the mayor and his chief of staff, Mike Kanarick.

“Even though Joan Shannon and Miro Weinberger and Mike Kanarick have not had the bravery to call me up to speak to me directly,” he said, “I will respond and adapt and respond to them, and let’s continue discussing what’s really important.”

"Putting a target on anyone's head followed by the sound of a shot is something we all should be speaking up against." - City Council President Joan Shannon

Shannon said in her release about the video that the way Guma presented the message was inappropriate.

“Putting a target on anyone’s head followed by the sound of a shot is something we all should be speaking up against, no matter our views on the mayor or development,” she wrote.

Guma said he is making changes to the ad, and may take the mayor’s image out of it all together.

“If people have that concern, I’m happy to adapt,” Guma said. “I think at this point, it’s really just a political argument between me and the other campaign about the question of growth. The mayor has a different view of it than I do.”

Update 5:33 p.m. An earlier version of this post mischaracterized City Council President Joan Shannon's views on Weinberger's development goals. That phrasing has been removed.

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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