By Alice Dubenetsky
BURLINGTON – If the voters and taxpayers in Burlington are seeking a change from decades of progressive governance that has left
the city’s coffers in ruins, it’s credit rating damaged and it’s credibility and honesty called into question, Republican Mayoral Candidate Kurt Wright is offering a different, bi-partisan, course.
At November 3rd press conference Wright introduced the bi-partisan campaign team who will assist him in his mayoral race. John Ewing, a Democrat who is a member of the Burlington Parks and Recreation Commission, and Charlie Smith, a Republican who was Secretary of Administration under Governor Douglas will serve as co-chairs of the Wright for Mayor Campaign team. Democratic City Counselor Dave Hartnett was named as Wright’s campaign manager and spokesman.
Hartnett said that he is happy to join Wright’s campaign team and is looking forward to working on a strong grassroots campaign. “As you can see by the people here today we come from all sorts of backgrounds and political affiliations, but we do share one important belief and that’s that we know that Kurt Wright is the best person who can lead our vibrant city forward.”
“The city has serious problems requiring an able and experienced leader, ” said Ewing. “Kurt Wright’s long service on the City Council demonstrates that he is the most qualified to be mayor. Having a thorough understanding of the issues I have watched him work very effectively across party lines. For these and similar reason it is my pleasure to serve as co-chair of his campaign to be Mayor of Burlington.”
“Kurt Wright is the only candidate for mayor to present a concrete, specific plan to fix the very large financial problems in the city of Burlington,” said Smith. “We need a mayor with experience, skill in bringing people together, and unflinching honesty about the big issues if we are to put Burlington back on a sound financial footing. Kurt Wright is that leader.”
Wright raised eyebrows several weeks ago when he proposed the sale of Burlington Electric Department to solve the city’s fiscal problems, including a $48 million pension shortfall and the notorious $17 million shortage from the Burlington Telecom scandal. Wright, having researched and spoken to people familiar with electric utilities, estimates that the sale could raise up to $100 million for the city – enough to pay off the unauthorized loan to BT and fund the pension plan shortfall, with enough left over to address other city needs. Wright suggested that perhaps some of the funds could be directed toward capital improvements in Burlington schools, and repairs to the Burlington Bike Bath, which he called “one of the crown jewels of the city” in a recent Burlington Free Press submission.
The plan has drawn criticism from his Democrat mayoral opponents, Mayor Bob Kiss, and other members of the community, including Barbara Grimes, the general manager of BED. Grimes said she estimates the value of BED to be roughly $50 million. However, Wright stands by his estimate, and points out that the value of the sale is linked to the cash flow generated by BED and to future gains by a potential buyer.
Wright says his campaign stands in contrast to the other candidates, as well as Mayor Kiss, who have to date offered no credible solution to Burlington’s $65 million shortfall and it’s downgraded credit rating, or to restoring fiscal stability without large tax increases.