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TOWN MEETING '84/HARD TRAVELIN' WITH WOODY GUTHRIE

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... the vermont

I
n 198J Bernie Sanders squeaked to ~
power promising change. Three
years later, the residents of Burling.
ton have gotten what they've asked
for The Sanders Administration has
revamped city government Its record
of financial prudence, rejuvenating the
Old North End and recruiting new busi-
ness ventures through its new Commu-
nity and Economic Development Office,
is virtually a revolution for a dry gov.
ernment fomlerly lazy, uncreative. and
most of all. unresponsive tocommuniry
activists.
If you listen to the fears emanating
from Ory Hall, Town Meetin!! Day on
Tuesday. March 6, could change all that
"What people must understand," 5a}"
Sanders. " is if there is not support for
the Board of Aldermen, none of lourl
initiatives would get through. Ifwe 10'""
veto power. we lose S O percent" ofthe
power of the administration. "Fifty per·
cent of what we lare able tol accom·
plish will be gone."
111e Progressive Coalition, a tightly
knit group of Sanders supporte,.", is
doing L"Vcl)1hingin its power t o make
sure that doesn't happen.
J ust asthe Sanders Administration has
streamlined city government, bringing
•t up to the modem age, so the Pro·
gressive Coalition is updating the carn·
paign process. Certainly inthe era bdilre
Sanders stunned the Democ ..dtic ciry
powerbrokers, aldermanic candidates
VERMONT'S STATliWIDE WEEKLY
I N: P
Will progressives have
the same impact on the
School Board that
they've had on the
Board of Aldermen?
BY STEPHEN WARD
1
"" engaging tales about edu-
cation are heing written before
Burlington voters go to the polls
Tuesda\'.
The'first is a multi-media ad-
venture story told by SCh<XIIofficials
and School Board incumbents, The plot
involves a school district that lacks
enough revenues and astingy state leg;..
I,ltllre that refuses to help. Onl~ city
residents can san: the schools, provided
thev bear asuhstantlaltax increase. This
ex':iting story - with teachers and pro-
g... .m1S hanging in !hebalance - has been
illustrated with billboards in school-
lard" slide-and-tape shows inshopping
malls, and last-minute newsletters.
The second story being written is a
sequel of sorts. a continuation of the
quest filr an open ciry government. This
plot has the sameailing schools but also
aband of independent candidates who
areattempting tothrow open the dOOl'5
of the School Board and bring in the
public and new ideas.
Voters shoukI know!hat the two sto-
ries arereaUyone: !heschools' financial
plight isIaqr:Iy responsible filr klur iode-
(X"lldcnt candidates joining nine Demo-
crats and Republicans in races filr seven
board sealS . •
WhIle all 13 candidatrs prokss ron-
cern for !he schools' financial well-
being. the independents all agree that
the probIcm lJ leS deepen "Obviously,
that manypeople becoming inovlved in
the election says something iswrong."
S3)~Ward 4 Independent candidate
Hamet Smith. ''1be priorities have got-
ten all messed up."
IUr now, !hefitlil prioriry of Superin-
tendent Luther H. Gutknecht and School
Board Chairman J oseph Bauer is clear
"There's no question that the mXII
hudget needs !he3l,.centlncre-dse," says
Bauer "This Is not a fill budget."
Specifically, voters are heing asked to
accept !heincrease and bring the school
tax rate up to 54.27 per SI ,()()Oin prop-
crt)' valuation. The schools \\~lUld thus
get an additional 5819,414 to cover a
19l14-85bud(jet of 5I 1.4S million.
If!helaX bike is rejected, Gutknecht
resees drastic cuts in programs and
'lC\)crs, because nearly 80percent of
department's budget ispayroU,
'l1te independents bqjrudging\y ac-
cept thenCl'd fur the tax Inl'teaSe. SIeve
Hamilton, nmning in Ward 1 ~
8auc:J ; sayshis suppon fi>r it is"quaIiIicd.
(;MM.... _ ~ I . .
In the only working
three-party system in the
country, Burlington's
Progressive Coalition
is at a turning point.
BY JOSHUA MAMIS
often ran unopposed, and in virtua1ly
every ward the Democratic candidate
was assured of victory. Campaign man-
agers may not have been unheard of,
but in most cases they were certainly
unneccesary,
Ineach of the last three elections, !he
coalition of Sanders supporters has
grown increasingly more skilled at wag-
ing ellCctive campaigns. This }'Car they
have progressed even further, adding a
computer to their arsenal, a paid cam-
paign coordinaroc and haveeven shelled
out S<>40 to apolitical consultant
All of which, perhaps, only stresses
the importance of this election to carry-
ing out the S anders agenda.
A
: the campaign enters the final
days, what has been arelatively
calm, polite affiIir has quickly
turned into aseries of attacks
and innuendo, mostly from
the Democrats.
The rumors started Ia.st week. Was
the Pn>gres.siveOlalition recei\ing fund-
ing fromJ ane lUnda and lhm Hayden's
California-based Campaign IUr Eco-
nomic Democracy and the radical Hay-
mar1<etPeople's Fund? Spokespeople fOr
both organizations \'ehemently deny
even the possibilit)'. Isthe " Progressi\'C
C..oalition" monikker ameans of skirting
some restrictions on es"tablished politi-
cal parties? If so. any such loopholes
don't appear to have been taken advan-
tage of.
Dennis Morrissem•.owner of arestau-
rant on Church Street and fi,rmer lib-
erty Union campaigner, had to wdge
a legal hattie to earn the right to go
door-to-door at the Universiry of \tr-
mont dorms in his wdrd.
The Pnlgt'esSives, too, have made their
share of charges.Was adehate sponsored
by the Universiry of \trmont student
n"""Paper biased agains't the Progres-
sive candidates from Wards 1,2 and 6
because one of the questioners had dis-
tributed campaign literature for Ward 6
Republican candidate Ted Riehle?
And perhaps a recent accusation by
the Democrats may be the most ellCc-
ti\'Cof all: Did incumbent Citizens Pdrt),
Alderman Rik Musty, from the residen-
tial Ward I, ignore zoning require-
ments byoperating apublishing business
out of his home on Brookes Avenue'
Such questions have become the
fOcus of acampaign where smart politi-
cians can no longer alfurd to attack the
M~r personally. He's simply too pop-
ular In fact, at many of the forums held
in the dosing weeks of the campaign,
including aseries of debates broadcast
on cable television, the candidates-
including Democrats - have seemed to
CotdifJ.. _ JMce 10
ALDEIIMEN:
e-.... "....tr-IMP1
COmpete with each other over taking
credit for many Sanders initiatives.
Alan Dalton, for instance, the blind
D<.'I11OCt3tic candidate opposing 5.1J 1den;.
supponcd Zoe Breiner in Ward 2 look
cn::dit for O\cN.·eing lhe housing i~spec.
liOnpmgrJ m "" aheallh commissioncr.
Oallon negleCled 10 memion thaI Ihe
lIeallh Commi",ion was only crealed
laM March and Ihat Ihc inspection
pRlgr:un.longa pan ofcitygo\'l:mmem
under Democraric supen'ision, only
bec-ame eflective under the tutelage of
Sanders.
And vinually all of the candidates are
pledging cooperation with the fre-
quently embattled mayor.
Sanders, however. says he has heard
that song before, "Iwo weeks before"
the election last year, he says, Demo.
cr:ltsan~)«-'publican, started supponing
h,s admlrustmllon. Bm when they are
elected, hecharges, " Ihey go right back
to opposong c'VCrymajor initiative."
Then there is the famous " fiveblind
mic~" accusat i on. The Democrats, pri-
manly spurred by consen'J tive Ward 5
incumbent J im Bums. attack the n"'l0r's
supporters on the board asbeing blindly
obcdicnr to an autocraric mayor. All
of the Dernocrarlc candidales - Burns
J ames Rowell, Be\erll' Wool, Manin Fitz:
palnck and Bob Dc'\ost - havelemlheir
suppon to the mawr, but usuall" with
the proviso "when it isin the inten,st of
the city."
But Gary DeCarolis, the Progressive
Q
Independent incumbent from Ward 3,
finds .such charges misleading.
"We have two Ph.D's, a Master's, and
two college graduates and they make us
out like little robots." says DeCarolis,
who is facing achallenge from old-time
Ward 3 Democrat Frank Palm. "It's a
collective process, and nu one person,
including Bernie Sanders, controls any
one issue. It's a low blow ... a good
example of the bankruptcy of the party."
TI,e mayor responds to the charges
by claiming that his adrrunistration, with
the coalition of aldermen, have accom-
plished more in three years than its
predecessors had in many years. "What
they are arguing about." saysSanders.t'is
that they don't follow my lead, we work
out our policy joimly ... and we fight fur
i t ."
'[he Mayor accused the other factions
of springing initiatives on the Board
without first discussing it with other
members. "We work things out seri-
ously," s:I}'S the Mayor. "We do more
thinking than that."
B
ut there are legitimate and im-
portant campaign issues. Will
Skelton, the Republican incum-
bent from Ward 4, frequently
talks about Burlington'S sewer
crisis and lack of police protection.
"Everytime we get aheavy melt," says
Skelton. who owns a store on Church
Street, "the ')'Stem overall cannot han-
dle the volume." The sewage treatment
plants, he says, "can't handle the prob-
lem as fur as treatment, and [we] end
up dumping raw sewage into the mouth
of the Winooski river.
"We have to stop dumping sewage
into Lake Champlain," he says. "The
problem is the lake isn't getting any bet-
ter, and that's where we get our drink-
ing miter from."
Skelton also sa}~he believes we need
more policemen on the beat. and claims
added patrolmen could be funded
through the general fund by "reallo-
eating" money from ., unessential ser-
vices." which, he charges, " are costing
us tens of hundreds of thousands of
dollars."
Specific areas he would consider
cutting! He cited a day care progr:trn
recently approved for the ground floor
of Memorial Auditorium, the M"}ur's
Youth Office and the Mayor's Arts Coun-
cil. "Are we going to make people feel
comfortable about living in Burlington
by showing first run movies, or by giv·
ing people security?" asked the Repub·
lican.
Most of Skelton's platform is echoed
by the two other Republican hopefuls -
Ted Riehle, the former state legislator
fromWard 6; and Samuel Levin, runrung
fur the other vacant scat in Ward 4.
The Democrats, much to many pro'
gressives' dismay, are also responding to
this election with ideas of their own.
They've made a campaign issue out of
their version of a bike path -" a nine-
mile park," Ward 3Democrat Palmcalls
it - which the Sanders admirustration
opposes.
"Supporting the 52 million bike path
is outlandish," says DeCarolis, Palm's
opponent "Tbe PlanningCommission has
hired engineers, given us hard costs and
is looking for fedeml and selic money.
We can come up with options. TIle)'
are trying to say 'We're pro-bike p:'lh
and }uu're not.' It's apolitical wedge."
Still, the question re·focuscs discus'
10-,IWIOII./I. 1984/ THE VERMONT VANGUARDPRESS


sion of the waterfront. The Democrats
call the Alden Waterfront Corp's plan a
"sell-out," charging that the shoreline is
land that belongs to a"public trust" and
that the Sanders administration is J et-
ting developers have their way with the
citizens' land. The Progressives counter,
of course, that it was the Democrats
who endorsed Tony Pomerleau's previ-
ous plan of erecting multi-story condo-
mi ni ums i n t he same space.
It's ironic that the Democrats have
seized on the waterfront as "their" issue
for it was Bernie Sanders' opposition'
to the earlier - and Democratically
backed - plan that brought himtopower.
And the Democrats do havesome seri-
ous concerns. fur instance: What about
the traffic in and out of the area, ques-
tioned Palm at one of the Cox Cable
debates, wondering how the develop-
ment, as planned, would affect Lake
Champlain Transit's ferry business.
But virtually all the candidates agree
that the development of the waterfront
will be a major windfall for the city of
Burlington.
They also seem to agree - the Demo-
crats more than the Republicans - that
alternatives to the property tax should
be found. However, those who oppose
the Sanders administration argue, such
alternatives should be 'fair" and "legal."
So when the argument turns to the
excavation feeproposal currently under
discussion by the Board of Aldermen,
Republicans and Democrats agree with
the concept, and argue simply that the
fee is too high, and too much money
will come out of ratepayers' pockets.
fur the Progressive Coalition, though,
the proposal is its third attempt to re-
lieve the pressure on the property tax-
payers' shoulders, which would also have
atrickle-down effect on the city's renters.
And so fur each proposal - the gross-
receipts tax and the utility right-of-way
fee - have met with stonewalled re-
sistance from the opposing party's board
members. No action has yet been taken
bythe board on the excavation feeplan.
In fact, many Democrats and Republi-
cans seeking seats next Tuesday, did
advocate raising property taxes further
in order to address city problems such
as police protection, the poor sewers,
and, of course, the streets and schools.
Both a school tax and street repair tax
are on the Town Meeting Day ballot.
Republican Skelton, perhaps, expres-
ses that viewpoint most succinctly. In
the future, he says, "it's going to cost us
more to enjoy the services weuse today.
I prefer the property tax because it has a
circuit-breaker built into it," he says,
citing the state's Property Tax Relief
Program. Skelton supports raising the
property tax for increased revenues, he
says, because "right now it's one of the
only legal ways we have to do it."
No issue beller symbolizes the P ro-
gressive Coalition's'drive for a majority
on the board than the concept of find-
Illgalternatives to the property tax. It is
the one major area where Progressives
havesti II made no headway, apart from
the new tipping fees at the landfill
(whIch did not require aldermanic
approval).
"If we had just one of those tax
p'lOpos.1.Is,"saysthe Ward 3 incumbent,
we'd be in a lot beller shape."
It is the so-called "Sanderisms," says
DeCarolis, who have consistently come
up Withnew ideas: the LandTrust, which
would help renters buy the houses they
And George Thabault looks Iikc he
could be the perfect candidate to pull
off the upset.
J im Burns iscampaigning On"rrying
to prevent Bernie anders from gelling
an extra seat," says Thabaulr, who
works at Gardens fur All, only a few
blocks from where he Ii\es on South
Winooski Avenue. "It's a lillie bit of a
slap at the voters. IHe's sayingthe voters]
can't see the candidates and what they
stand f o r ."
Bums sees the election as similar to
his race against Beauchemin - as a refer-
endum on the Southern Connector
highway.
"If they send a Southern Connector
opponent to the board," argues Burns,
"this mal' be seen as a message to the
state" that the City does not want the
road."And the city will get stuck With a
million dollar" debt.
Thabault, a Southern Connector op-
ponent, also sees housing and zoning
regulations asamajor issue inhis ward.
"Burlington has a limited amount of
developable space," says Thabault, "and
in the South End we need this industrial-
commercial zone. We need a base .of
employers and employees. A key issue
in the future of Burlington is which
kind of housing arc we going to have?
"Almost anything you build will get
rented," Thabault continues, "so the
sruff J OU build must be of utmost quality.
The ciry's new Champlain Apartments
are an affront to the people." Thabault
blames the Boardof Aldermen asowners
of the land for the development. The
city "could havestipulated what kind of
development they wanted."
Thibault claims he has a1wJ jsopposed
the project, and even cited it as one
issue where hewould havevoted against
the Mayor - who favored the plan - had
he been on the board. Burns, though.
charges that his opponent wrote him
two letters at the time "congratulating"
him on his handling of the project.
Thabault says that he objected to the
Old Champlain School deseloprnenr. and
believes the city would have instructed
the developer to better meet the needs
of the community.
''What he's talking about is the new
Champlain School. As I recall, I apprec-
iated his efforts and seeing him prevent
the School Department fromselling the
land," says Thabault.
Bums also S3)s, "When J OU look at
Ward 5 as far as housing goes, we've
done a pretty credible job," citing the
King Street area, a pre-Sanders project,
and the recent Bobbin Mill, Champlain
School and Golden Place projects.
Thabauit, who considered vying
with Burns in the Democratic caucus,
istreading carefully where allegiance to
the Mayor is concerned in the rela-
tively conservative ward. The mayor.
thinks "there isathird party brewing in
Burlington," says 111abault, disagreeing.
"Why create another party to pelpet-
uate those myths? It's wasted energy.
"Other people Will work with the
Ma)Qr on an issue to issue basis," S<IYS
111.1bault,but he says he Will be an alder-
man ''who will push lOrsolutions toour
problems, that will back the administm-
tion, who will say 'Yes, the administm-
tion isn't perfect but I want to suppon
it.'
"The ultimate goal," hesays, istoelcct
"people who are Willing to shed the
party label, work out ideas and get things
done. The city istoo small lOr labels." •
Independent lfilrcl6 candidate Dennis Monisseall took /(J the UVM cam/Jus,
and raised 52,180 for his campaign.
livein if the building isfor sale, coopera-
tive housing ventures, reappraisal, and
the tax initiatives.
"That's on the edge," he says. "Frank
Palmisn't coming up with anything new
We're the change people. The differ-
ence is we're all incumbents. We're run-
ning to keep support and build on it."
Though few will admit it, this elec-
tion is a major indication of just how
popular the Sanders adrnmistranon and
i t s initiatives ar e.
With all the know-how and energy
behind this campaign, the Progressive
Coalition has a lot to lose. If all the
ingredients - the computer, which en-
ables the Progressives to keep in touch
Withvoters who have supponed Sanders
and his coalition-endorsed candidates
in the past, that keeps track of those
whom they register to vote, and who
they supply With absentee ballots; the
paid campaign coordinator; the con-
sultant; and the incredibly hard work of
- each of the candidates - doesn't add
up to a new Progressive seat on the
Board, it could signal a loss of popular
support for Sanders. And even If sup-
porter enthusiasm has waned, as some
campaign-watchers h!Ive noted, the can-
didates are not taking this election
lightly.
has also been discreetly helping DeCar-
olis, according to Progressives, specif-
icallybyfunneling names to himofthose
in need of absentee ballots.
Perhaps most telling of all next 'fues-
day will be the outcome of the conresr
in Ward 5. Democratic candidate J im
Bums, a t wo -t er m i ncumbent and mo st
voC'J I opponent to the mayor, is seek-
ing reelection against a popular home-
town candidate named George Thabault.
Ward 5, in the south end of the city
bordering on the lake, is affected by
virtually all the major issues of this
campaign: 111ewaterfront development
hasimplications for the KingStreet area,
housing and zoning are major concerns
of the residents, mostly homeowners;
the Southern Connector goes right
through the ward; and the toxic barge
canal sits right in the middle of it all.
Burns, coiner of the oft-quoted "five
blind mice" charge, is seen by the pro-
gressives asone blind mouse, obstinately
opposing every major Sanders initiative.
In 1982 he sneaked bySouthern Connec-
tor opponent J oan Beauchemin in an
overflowing caucus, held asmall lead in
a three-way race on election day, then
soundly defeated Beauchemin in a run-
off. After the returns came in, in which
Sanders picked up three scats on the
board and gained veto power, Burns
promised that he would, in the future,
be more conciliatory to the Sanders
forces,
Burns, though, doesn't see himself as
the "ogre" he's made out to be. "If you
start looking at some of my ideas and
proposals," he says, ''I'm nOl the obstruc-
tionist some p~'OpJ e would have you
believe.
"I'm not lOr or against the Sanders
administmtion," argues Bums. "In the
past four years, with hundreds of initia-
tives from the Sanders administmtion,
I'vevoted for a number of them."
But Durns has voted only marginally
Withdle Sanders coalition - mrelyon any
"major" initiatives - and is seen as the
last bastion of the Democl"dtic old guard.
Ifthe progressives can defeat Burns next
Tuesday, it would be a major victory for
the Independem mayor.
M
ost observers ~re paying
close attention to Wards 3
and 5.ln 3,pointsout UVM
Political Science Professor
, Garrison Nelson, Fl"dnk~m
has the support of aunited Democl"J tic
party - a party so split in the past the
ward has often been referred to as "the
Bloody Third."
Andthough the Demoemtic party may
be united, there are still remnants of
contlict from that em. State Representa-
tive Sadie White, a lifelong Democmt
but IOrmer Independent alderman from
Ward 3, is supporting Palmover DeCar-
olis. As aboard member White was one
of only two representati\es sympathetic
to Sanders in his first jear as mayor.
Lookscan be deceiving though. White,
listed as treasurer of Pdlm's campaign,
1 ' H / J ' VERMONT VANGUARD PKFSS / MARC/ 1 4-1 7, 1984- 1
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