Wednesday, February 25, 2015

WCAX Airs Candidate Profile: "Let's Protect the City"

Greg Guma says Burlington is facing a turning point and it's prompted him to run as an independent for mayor. "I see myself as a community builder and a progressive manager," Guma said.

He says he's committed to building a strong Queen City, but has a vision quite different from incumbent Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, who Guma says is rushing development. "Let's deliberate more about these things. Let's protect the city. Let's use the offices of the city to protect the city from gentrification," Guma said.

Guma has been working in Burlington for decades. His activism started in the 1970s, and since, he's twice ran unsuccessfully for City Council. Now he's asking voters to hand him the keys to the city. "I decided to run because I became very concerned about the pace and direction of where we're going," Guma said.

His campaign slogan-- "Preservation and Change"-- was based around his ideas about development. "Preserve traditions, preserve resources, preserve the things that we know work, and make this city the magnet and attractive place that it is, but change certain aspects of the way we make decisions and do business," Guma said.

He says he'll achieve that motto by focusing on improving affordability by raising the minimum wage. Guma also plans to fund Neighborhood Planning Associations to empower residents across the city. And he wants to preserve open spaces by building a coalition of environmental groups to protect them. He says Weinberger, on the other hand, is handing the city over to tourists.

"In terms of his overall vision, it really has more to do with attracting tourists and making Burlington a four-season resort," Guma said. The last candidate to enter the race, Guma is using popular social media spots like Reddit and BlogSpot to get that message across.

"You can do many things, you can build many things, but because you can, doesn't mean you should," he said. That's a statement that Guma's opponents say is antidevelopment. It's an allegation he denies, saying he's best equipped to lead the Queen City to a more prosperous future built on preserving rich tradition and changing the status quo in City Hall.

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Election Countdown: Guma on the air (and on the issues)

On Tuesday morning, in the studio with Kristen Tripodi, producer and reporter with Local 44 WFFF & Local 22 WVNY. Four minutes and even more issues...

This week the campaign also sent an educational flyer about the choices facing Burlington to every local household, and is spreading the word with social media. Almost 200 lawn signs have been placed; if you want one of the remaining signs for outside your home, call 802-540-2596, or email

Here's page 3 of our flyer, summarizing Greg's proposals and looking closer at issues like Saving Burlington Telecom, Protecting Neighborhoods, Preventing F-36 Basing, and Reforming the City's Commissions.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Campaign Files Finance Report: Close to $12,000 Goal

In reports filed on Feb. 23 with the Vermont Secretary of State, the Campaign Committee Treasurer for Greg Guma’s mayoral campaign reported $11,965 in contributions since the campaign began on Jan. 26, and $13, 742.32 to date in expenditures. All funds were raised in the three week period between Feb. 2 and Feb. 23.

The reports also shows that the main expenses of the campaign to date have been print ads, printing and citywide distribution of campaign literature, and airing of a campaign ad on WPTZ.  Most of the early contributions came from Guma’s family and friends, including $1,000 from his mother, Olga Guma, who lives in Mesa, AZ; $940 from Robin Lloyd, former partner an professional colleague, to pay for the first print ad of the campaign; and $325 from his son, Jesse Guma, a film producer.
Page 2 of our flyer on the issues
Guma contributed $1,490 and loaned the campaign funds to cover early expenses in anticipation of contributions. Other large contributors include Rob Williams, a teacher and editor of 2VR; Phinn Sonin, local entrepreneur and producer of the annual Spielpalast review; Mannie Leoni, architect and activist in the open space movement; campaign Treasurer Mark Montalban and Rebecca Roy; Charles McClintock, retired postal worker and a former Guma student; Matt Cropp, a coop activist and local historian; and Marcia Marshall, a close friend and political ally who worked with Guma to launch the Citizens Party in 1980. Other contributors include Paul Schnabel, Genese Grill, Danila Dinan, Laura Dame, and Nora Jacobson.
In addition to placing print ads, the campaign has posted online ads to Front Porch Forum and Facebook, distributed lawn signs, and mounted an energetic social media campaign. On Monday, Guma answered questions on Reddit for several hours, receiving 100 comments and rating 93% positive. On Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. he will appear live on Fox Local 22 & 44 (Channel 9 on local cable) for an interview. At 2:30 p.m. the same day he’ll join the other candidates for a discussion of town-gown relations at Champlain College.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Live TV Debate Defines Burlington's Choice

Closing Arguments: There will be a few more mayoral forums next week, but this Channel 17 and Seven Days Debate, hosted live at City Hall last Thursday, covered most of the big questions before local voters. You missed it? We're not surprised. People have lives -- and jobs. But you can still catch it on local Cable TV today and tomorrow. Here are the times: Today - Saturday, Feb. 21, at 8 pm; or Sunday, Feb. 22, 1 am, 7 am and 1 pm. Or just watch it here right now (You can enlarge the screen, bottom right). The election is March 3; polls are open 7 am to 7 pm. If you need to register, request an absentee ballot, get a ride to the polls, or want to volunteer, please contact us at (802) 540-2596.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Reimagine Burlington

New Spot To Be Released Tonight; Campaign raises $12,000, Sets $18,000 Goal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 2/17/15 – Tonight at 10 p.m. the Greg Guma for Mayor campaign will release a second video spot. Called “Reimagine Burlington,” it uses animation to explain Greg’s vision for the city. It will initially be available on the Internet, and possibly as a broadcast television spot next week.

To date, the campaign has raised almost $12,000 and expects to receive at least $6,000 more before the end of the month. To date, approximately $7,500 has been spent, with $6,300 more approved by the committee so far for expenses in the coming weeks. As required by state law, the campaign treasurer will soon file a formal report with the state.

The voiceover text for the new spot says:

"Imagine a city where people power means more than money and local needs beat outside interests. On March 3 Burlington has a choice -- give in to developers or reclaim the city and work together for a sustainable future.

"Greg Guma wants to open the doors of City Hall. He'll fight for affordability, fairness, and responsible growth. He'll fund neighborhood projects, explain choices in plain English, and push for more voices in decisions that matter.

"Greg Guma for Mayor. Reimagine Burlington."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Reforming Burlington's Commission System

Below is a campaign-related excerpt from Greg Guma's 1989 book, The People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution, about Vermont politics in the 1970s and 1980s. It describes the roots of his position on reforming commissions and increasing neighborhood engagement.
Greg on protecting neighborhoods, reforming commission representation, and expanding democracy today: “Burlington has been known as a place where issues are openly and thoroughly discussed. But neighborhood planning assemblies have be marginalized and debate has been sidetracked. We can do better. Funding for NPA-selected projects will expand participation and increase accountability. I support the NPA Steering Committee request for $5,000 per NPA. We need more democracy, not less."
"Representation is far from equal on Burlington's commissions, which supervise departments and services. This leaves some neighborhoods with less access. As government becomes more complex, we should work to reduce inequality in power and access as well as wealth. Let’s consider reforms like electing some commissioners."

In the age of early progressive Mayor James Burke, Burlington’s form of government – a weak mayor, city council and several appointed commissions – was typical and sufficient. Within limited bureaucracies, appointed bodies often handled special municipal functions. By the 1960s, however, political scientists were calling this structure obsolete. In Burlington’s system, wrote Vermont historians Andrew and Edith Nuquist, “responsibility is so diffuse that there is frequent paralysis when effective action is called for.”

The city nevertheless resisted the popular national trend toward unified city administration and increased executive authority. Party machines still supplied the necessary leadership. But even before Bernie Sanders’ election, this arrangement – in which a dominant party exercises power through a diffuse structure – tended to separate authority from responsibility. In the 1980s, faced with complex challenges, political realignment, and intensified demands for both efficiency and democracy, Burlington’s system of government looked even more archaic.
Sanders realized after his election that Republicans and Democrats intended to maintain their control over the government machinery by freezing progressives out of the appointment process, much as Gordon Paquette and the old Republicrats had done in the late 1950s. Thus, he launched an attack on the so-called “commission form of government.” At first, he and other Sanderistas wished they could simply abolish the appointed boards and commissions. But that was even less likely than it was workable, and so a campaign gradually developed to reform the system.

At first, the Council majority objected vociferously to criticisms of the “commission system." Commissions were the essence of democracy, “the ultimate in citizen participation,” they claimed, and in criticizing them, the Sanderistas were masking their own bid to impose a dangerous form of one-man rule. This was already an issue in the 1983 mayoral race. But later that year, status quote advocates, including William Aswad and Antonio Pomerleau, faced proponents of change such as Peter Clavelle and myself in a United Way-sponsored debate on access and accountability. And in December 1983 it was Frederick Bailey, chairman of the Republican City Committee, who proposed the appointment of a Citizens’ Panel to study the growing problem.

Five months more passed before the Council appointed the panel. They instructed its members to “study the strengths and weaknesses of Burlington’s Commission Form of Government” and make a report by October 1984. Little did the volunteers – who had been selected by all three of the city’s political factions – suspect how enormous a task they had taken on. Their research took a full year longer than had originally been projected.

Even a small city is a complex organism. Taking its charge seriously, the panel decided to conduct surveys as well as hearings and interviews. Panel members often chuckled over the fact that although they represented warring political factions, the level of cooperation among themselves was surprisingly high. Almost from the first, they agreed that some things indeed needed to be changed.
By November 1984, the surveys were in the mail and the panel was ready to hold a series of hearings. Paquette and Sanders gave their views, along with other members of the current and past administrations. For Paquette, commissions were the “most honest form” of government, while Sanders wanted the Mayor and Council to have “ultimate responsibility.” Liberal Democrats called for “management changes,” while Peter Clavelle charged that under the current system, “no one runs the city.”

With the resignation of panel chair Joan Beauchemin, a Progressive who had spent several years fighting the system over the Southern Connector, I assumed responsibility for coordinating the next phase of the study: making sense of the overwhelming amount of data that had begun to pour in. Meeting more and more often, we engaged in a six-month dialogue that ultimately led to the most comprehensive review of the city’s government in a century.
Current Representation

Our report, released in November 1985, represented a consensus among the panel members on all but the two most controversial issues. Three members could not agree with the majority that the mayor ought to hire and remove department heads or that members of eight important city commissions should be elected. Yet all of us did concur that the city charter needed a comprehensive review, that an administrative committee should be set up to coordinate all departments, and that the responsiveness of government ought to be increased through a formal complaint process, an ombudsman, and new provisions for initiative and recall. “The panel fell short of calling for a radical restructuring,” reported the Burlington Free Press, but it concluded that the office of mayor “ought to be strengthened and the commission form of government made more democratic.”

Sanders, who had once hoped to eliminate the commissioners, was satisfied with the panel’s results. “There is no question,” he wrote to Sue Burton, who assumed the panel chair in March 1985, “but that this report will have a significant impact on future debate regarding the structure of Burlington’s city government. I would be very surprised if, as a result of your report, some very specific charter changes were not brought forward…in the near future.”

But this was not to be. Intellectual consensus and political reality are two very different things; we had concluded that the system wasn’t working, but we hadn’t offered the cure that either side wanted. No one faction had “won” the debate over structure. Progressives, who had finally begun to take seats on key commissions – even dominating some – no longer had as great an incentive to eliminate them. Republicans, who had looked for an endorsement of the status quo, were certainly not going to support an increase in mayoral power while Sanders was in office.

The report of the Citizens’ Panel, a product of over 18 months of hard work, therefore went into the city’s bureaucratic “black hole.” Three years later, when someone asked the city clerk’s office for a copy of the document, staff members had no idea where or what it was.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Armed and Dangerous: The Gun Control Debate

Due to the complaints concerning the use of a gun sound effect in the early version of my recent TV spot on development in Burlington, I want to clearly state my position on guns and their regulation. First of all, I agree that the sound effect was unnecessary and inappropriate, and also distracted attention from the ad's message about growth. I apologize to any who were offended. In responding personally to those who didn't like the ad, however, I learned that some of the critics are strong second amendment advocates who oppose any gun regulation. I disagree. I have long advocated strong gun regulation. The following is an essay on the overall topic that I researched and published in 2013. To see the original, go to Armed and Dangerous: Truth-Out.

Twenty years ago, in a letter to The Washington Post, Gun Owners of America Director Larry Pratt made the argument that the only thing separating Americans from the oppressed peoples of China and the Baltic States was their access to weapons. “When the police have all the guns,” he wrote, “brutal attacks against defenseless citizens will become as common here as in other oppressed regimes. This is why gun owners oppose the banning of so-called assault rifles.”

     Does this sound familiar? It should. The same argument is being made today by that organization and other pro-gun groups. The only way to prevent a police state, which many people claim is in the works -- in secret, is to allow the wide and unregulated distribution of all sorts of weapons.

     This logic, which assumes that any regulation is the first step toward confiscation, represents the paranoid and individualist mentality that for decades has dominated debate about gun violence in the US. We are free, the argument goes, only as long as we can defend ourselves with guns not only against criminals but also against the law and the State.

     A related argument is that the federal government should not be allowed to regulate guns; this is a matter best left to states. And if a state wants to do nothing, perhaps because the gun lobby can defeat candidates who back even modern reforms, or because the crime rate isn’t soaring or no mass shootings have recently occurred, people in neighboring states must simply spend more money to crack down on crime and violence. It’s simply the price of freedom.

    Such arguments are based on the notion that government should not meddle in the affairs of individuals. Guns are not the problem, opponents add, it’s people – in other words, human nature. But most homicides in the US are committed with guns; in other words, people with guns kill more people than those without them. There are 270 million privately owned firearms in this country. Use by children has increased in recent years, as has the stockpiling of exotic weapons by extreme groups and criminal organizations.

     Considering this context, it seems reasonable to ask what is more threatening to freedom and security, unrestrained gun ownership or some government oversight? The arguments against regulation tend to fall into three categories: 1) the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected, 2) gun control won’t reduce violence in society, and 3) gun laws are a serious threat to freedom.

    Do these assertions hold up to scrutiny?

Arms and the Law
The roots of US ideas about the relationship between weapons and society go back to the Florentine political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, who noted that military service should be the responsibility of every citizen, but soldiering the professional of none. Basing his ideas on the Roman suspicion of professional soldiers, he concluded that military force should only be used to assure the common good. This idea of citizens bearing arms in defense of the State, to avoid the potential tyranny of a standing army, was translated by the authors of the Bill of Rights into the Second Amendments and helps to explain its unusual wording:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

   Many libertarians have interpreted this sentence to mean that individuals are guaranteed the right to possess firearms for their personal defense or for any other use they choose. What this fails to acknowledge is the meaning of citizenship as it was understood two centuries ago. In the 18th century, citizenship directly involved militia service for men, which was part of the commitment to the greater public good. An armed citizenry did not mean an armed population. In fact, even then it was clearly understood that access to weapons was a communal rather than an individual right.

   This dynamic was made clear in various declarations of rights predating the Bill of Rights. For example, Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, adopted on June 12, 1776, said that a well-regulated militia, trained to arm, was the safe defense of a free State. That and subsequent variations adopted by other states made it clear that the idea was trained citizens, organized in militias, providing for a common defense. The word “people” refers to this collective role, contrasting a militia to a standing army.

      Article 17 of Vermont’s Declaration of Rights, adopted in 1777, followed this logic by proclaiming:
    “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the State; and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military ought to be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.”

    Vermont’s Article 9, which dealt with the matter of conscientious objection to military service, made it clear that “bearing arms” meant military service. It said that no one could be compelled to carry or use a gun, even though rights also involved personal service. The solution was that those who chose not to serve would pay an appropriate sum on money. Bearing arms was directly linked to the collective responsibility for defense.

    Several states specifically said that criminals or people involved in rebellion could be disarmed. In other words, the security of society took precedence over an individual’s right to have weapons. Thus, when early Americans spoke or an armed citizenry’s role in preserving freedom, they were talking about a militia linked to the classical idea of citizenship. There is no record of anyone arguing, during the passage of the Bill of Rights, that individuals had a right to bear arms outside the ranks of a militia. On the contrary, that provoked fear for the stability of the new Republic.

    The great constitutional commentator of the period, Justice Joseph Story, noted that what the Second Amendment actually guaranteed was a “well-regulated militia.” The fear was that without one the country might be vulnerable to invasion, domestic insurrection, or a military takeover by some ruler. We needed a militia, Story said, because it was impractical to keep people armed without some organization.

    The fear of a militarized society or a federal government monopoly on force is not, by definition, a form of paranoia. On the other hand, it is an overreach to claim that individuals have a fundamental right to protect themselves by stockpiling weapons. For those who want a counter-force to our national military, the direction to look is greater autonomy of organized local or state militias, not the right of people to become self-appointed guardians or vigilantes.

Legal Precedents

Despite the endless repetition of claims that individuals have a constitutional right to be armed, this is not consistent with the weight of legal opinion. In fact, a series of US Supreme Court cases have made the situation quite clear. In U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), the Court ruled that the right “of bearing arms for a lawful purpose is not a right granted by the Constitution.” Ten years later, in Presser v. Illinois, the Court noted that although states have the right to form militias, they are also free to regulate the circumstances under which citizens can carry weapons. This view was upheld in an 1894 case, Miller v. Texas.
   In 1939, federal gun regulations established by the National Firearms Act of 1934 were challenged.  The decision in that case was unanimous. The federal government has the right, the Court ruled, to regulate the transportation and possession of firearms, and individuals only have a right to be armed in connection with military service. In 1980, Justice Harry Blackmun commented that this case represented the Courts’ basic thinking on gun control.
    On June 8, 1981, the Village of Morton Grove, Illinois passed an ordinance banning the possession of handguns, except by police, prison officials, members of the military, recognized collectors and those who needed them for their work. Predictably, the National Rifle Association challenged the law. Both the Federal District Court and a Federal Appeals Court rejected their argument, saying that there is no individual right to bear arms, the ordinance was reasonable, and the right to have weapons applies only to well-regulated militias. 
    The US Supreme Court refused to even hear the case.

Guns and Crime
Sentiment in favor on some form of gun control fluctuates, but has tended to grow for decades. In 1968, 71 percent were in favor, peaking at more than 90 percent in 1981. In one Gallop Poll the Brady Bill won 95 percent support. Most people obviously see some connection between the availability of firearms and the rate of crimes involving guns, and a variety of studies support these views. Nevertheless, opponents insist that stronger laws won’t have an impact.
    Interstate trafficking of weapons is an enormous problem, undercutting the argument sometimes heard that the only reason for gun control is a high murder rate in a specific state. This provincial argument ignores interdependence, our responsibility to our neighbors, and basic facts. The only effective way to control the black market for guns, through gun shows and private sales, is a national registry of all purchasers, along with tracing and prosecution of the interstate traffickers. This does not involve rounding up handguns, but it does mean acknowledging that the situation is out of control and that saving lives takes priority over protecting a form of free enterprise that has turned monstrous. 
    Leaving the matter in the hands of individual communities or states may sound appropriately populous. But it avoids the issue. In 2011 guns were involved in more than 32,000 US deaths, 11,100 of them murders, as well as thousands of rapes, hundreds of thousands of robberies, and about a half million assaults. The vast majority of people convicted of violent crimes obtained their weapons either at a gun shows or on the black market. That suggests, of course, that background checks alone will not make a huge dent in the problem. But a reduction of twenty percent would significant; perhaps one less child killed every day and fewer rapes and murders. 
    Many crimes involving guns are impulsive, suggesting that a waiting period could help in some cases.  Of course, the underlying causes of violence and crime must also be addressed. But for those among the 20 percent who might be saved by modest reforms that would be more meaningful than any statistic or slogan.
    The NRA is fond of saying that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s a tidy little argument but let’s get real: people with guns can kill people far more effortlessly than people with knives, deadly fighting skills or poison. The FBI has assembled evidence on whether stricter laws make a difference. For example, after Massachusetts passed a law requiring a mandatory jail sentence for carrying a handgun without a license murders involving handguns dropped by almost 50 percent. Robberies went down 35 percent.  After South Carolina tightened its handgun purchase requirement in the 1990s, the murder rate dropped 28 percent. 
    Registration and background checks are no panacea. However, they do keep weapons out of the hands of some criminals, addicts and kids. They can also reduce the number of murder and suicides that result from being able to buy a gun in state of rage or depression. Drivers licenses and automobile registration do not prevent all auto accidents – but they help. To drive a car, a potentially dangerous vehicle, we agree that people need to be properly trained and meet minimum standards.  Similar requirements, in the form of gun safety programs and practical tests for the owners of lethal weapons, would be a step toward national sanity.
Weapons and Freedom
    No freedom is absolute. Even in the most decentralized and self-managed society, people must accept some social responsibilities and limits in exchange for liberty. 
    Ideally, in a free society citizens participate directly in making the rules governing their social contract.But even Michael Bakunin, an anarchist philosopher who took the practice of liberty to a place some might consider extreme, did not ignore than importance of social responsibility. Human beings can only fulfill their free individuality by complementing it through all the individuals around them, he argued. Bakunin was contemptuous of the type of individualism that asserts the well-being on one person or group to the detriment of others.
    “Total isolation is intellectual, moral and material death.” he wrote.
    When a disturbed teenager or disgruntled adult commits mass murder it has nothing to do with liberty. People obviously do not have the right to abuse or destroy the lives and liberties of others. Yet, when the issue is guns, many Americans essentially argue that the freedom to be armed is more important that the right to be safe. Actually, many say that being armed is the only way to be safe, and therefore any restriction on the access to weapons is a profound threat to freedom.
    Allowing the government to take any step, argue the opponents of gun regulation, is the beginning of tyranny. From this vantage point government is the enemy. It would be naive to argument that the government always uses its power wisely. The political system cries out for change, if not transformation, if we are ever to have a society that promotes real equality, justice, respect for diversity, and self-management. Yet achieving this, empowering people and making step-by-step progress, requires an appeal to hope rather than fear. Arguing that the only way to be free is to oppose and resist government, in other words knee-jerk rejection, plays into the hands of the most reactionary forces in society.
    Suspicion of centralized power was clearly a concern of those who created the country. It is still justified and relevant. But the form that most threatens freedom in the 21st century is the power of powerful, unaccountable institutions, most of them private, that can influence elections and shaped government policies. Many of these same interests aggressively argue that freedom means “freedom from government.” Such appeals are a convenient way to prevent intrusions into the private “right” to profit and pollute at the expense of the general health and well-being – to exploit in the name of freedom.
    In the 1970s a Trilateral Commission study candidly concluded that a central objective of corporate planning in the coming era would be to lower expectations. People needed to be convinced to expect less, to accept a reduced standard of living and stop demanding that government solve all their problems.  Reagan was not a Trilateralist, but he was an effective spokesman for the same position. The Clinton administration, although committed rhetorically to “activist” government, embraced a similar social and economic agenda.
    The bottom line is this: Effective regulation, combined with a comprehensive national database and a training program for gun users, would establish over time that less access to guns leads to less violent crime. This has been the case in Europe and some US states. Success would help shatter the myth that government is the problem, and that people are better off armed to the teeth and on their own.
    The debate over guns is not about restricting rights. That’s the cover story, an assumption promoted by the gun lobby to shape public perceptions. It’s not even about “control,” any more than the fight for affordable housing is secretly a fight for rent control. The goal is security, freedom from the fear and anxiety sweeping across this over-armed society.
    A well-regulated militia is a altruistic idea, certainly preferable to the military-industrial complex. But almost 300 million guns in private hands is – pardon the expression – overkill. 
    In Switzerland, most adult between 20 and 30 males become members of a militia. They receive training, rifles and ammunition from the government that are kept in homes. However, handguns are tightly controlled and anyone who wants one must have a background check and obtain a permit.
    In 2010 there were 40 Swiss homicides involving firearms, for a rate of 0.70 per 100,000. The US rate was 3.6, or five times as high.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Campaign Airs Television and Print Ads on Weinberger and Development; Schedule of Upcoming Debates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- A new television ad developed by the Greg Guma for Mayor campaign with the candidate's son, Jesse Lloyd Guma, began to air during local newscasts Thursday, Feb. 12. The contract was signed Wednesday with WPTZ for the 30 second spot to run during the morning and evening news, as well during Meet the Press on Sunday.

Guma has made protecting Burlington from gentrification a major emphasis of his campaign. The ad uses humor, animation, audio and visual effects, and an ominous voiceover reminiscent of Republican "attack" ads to make one of the candidate's points -- "we can't just build our way out of problems."  It ends with the candidate's green tree logo and the tag line: Take the target off Burlington's back.

The ad was released on YouTube last week. Here is a link: Take the target off Burlington's BackIt has been edited to comply with campaign regulations. 
The son of Guma and peace activist and feminist Robin Lloyd, Jesse Guma is a partner in Grand Street Media, a media production company that makes documentaries, promotional films, commercials, and the successful web series Maximum Warrior.

Guma also ran a second print ad this week in the popular weekly Seven Days, contrasting what it calls "Weinberger's Unwelcome Proposals" with his own "Innovation Solutions. The Campaign Committee meets this Sunday to decide how contributions should be spent for the remaining three weeks before election day. To date, about $6,000 has been received, $4,000 spent, and $10,000 pledged. Email for meeting details.

During a debate at the Burlington Free Press on Wednesday with the newspaper's editorial board, Guma and Weinberger locked horns over the mayor's charge that critics of his plans and approach are anti-development. According to coverage by the Free Press: 
Seven Days/Matthew Thorsen
Guma fired back with criticism about the mayor's previous career as real estate developer and the fact that many local real estate developers have donated money to Weinberger's campaign, according to public records.

To say that somebody is anti-growth simply because they want to question the pace or the process is a factually inaccurate statement, Guma said.

"The question is not whether we grow or not. The question is how much, how tall, how fast," Guma said. "What is the balance between the things we want to improve and the things we want to preserve? Now, I have not yet used the phrase in this debate developer Mayor Miro Weinberger who has received thousands of dollars from developers in his war chest, you know I could have said that. But If you will agree to stop describing each question we raise about the nature of the planning process as anti-growth and anti-development, I will agree not to bring up your war chest again." 
New Contrast Ad
Remaining airtimes for the TV ad this week include: Feb. 13, during the 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. news; Feb. 15, during the 6 a.m. news, 9 a.m. Meet the Press, and 11 p.m. news.
The Guma campaign began on Jan. 27. Future plans include a citywide literature drop and a party/fundraiser near the end of the month. Next week's events include the WPTZ debate and the Ward 5 NPA on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and the Seven Days/CCTV Debate at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at City Hall.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AARP Debate: The Road to Responsible Growth

On Feb. 10, the four mayoral candidates discussed livability, development, transportation and other issues at the Unitarian Church. Below are the opening and closing statements by Greg Guma.

From left: Loyal Ploof, Greg Guma, Steve Goodkind and Miro Weinberger


Thanks. It’s great to be here. I’ve worked and lived in Burlington for decades. And I’m running because we need to change the pace and direction we’re going and growing.

“Then you must be anti-development, anti-business?” No. I‘ve owned and run businesses. I’ve also run the largest progressive media enterprise in the country.

What we need is Responsible growth that protects us from gentrification, that keeps the city livable. Recently I’ve worked with the Open Space movement. As Mayor I’ll convene conservation groups and others to save as much open land as possible.

On the other hand, I’ll be tougher with UVM about taking more responsibility for housing its students. I’ll also restore NPA funding for neighborhood projects and start a process of reforming the commission system.

And I’ll lead when it counts -- to reduce greenhouse emissions, keep BT local, increase wages, prevent F-35 basing, and get the City Council to set standards for partnerships. That’s part of what I think Burlington needs.


What is the job? Just a good manager who keeps the books straight, the ledger black and the doors wide for investors? You could see it that way.
But that isn’t leading. That sounds more like a CEO… and the city isn’t a business or a building project. It’s a community, interdependent, with finite resources. It can’t expand without limits or serve just one value.
How much to grow and for whose benefit. Another Mayor, Peter Clavelle, asked those questions. Now we have to answer them.
That’s why I’m saying we can’t build our way out of problems. We need to engage people, not make government less approachable, and we need solutions that balance efficiency with democracy and growth with fairness.
Preservation and change. Preserve our traditions, our values, our resources – natural and human -- but change the way we do business.
I’m asking for your support to help me do that for the place I love. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Campaign Podcasts Guma Press Event

If you missed our press conference last Friday at The Radiator (WOMM-FM) inside Burlington College, now you can hear it anytime, as much -- or little -- as you want. With members of the media and public on hand, Greg Guma offered reactions to the first mayoral debates, discussed campaign finances and upcoming ads, and took questions on housing, small business and Burlington Telecom. Enjoy. To listen, click on the Pop-out option that appears top right and open with your audio program or app.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Champlain Parkway: Burlington's Road to Nowhere

An Early History

By Greg Guma, excerpted from The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution, Greg’s 1989 book about Vermont politics in the 1970s and 1980s. This excerpt concerning the Champlain Parkway is released to provide more historical context for the Feb. 10 AARP Forum on livability at the Unitarian Church. To find out more about the Parkway's complex history: The Mayor and the Connector, published in 2012 by
In the grand scheme of Vermont transportation planning, it was to be just a short hop – a “connection” between the Interstate highway and the downtown business district -- and its purpose was to ease access for shoppers. When it was designed in the early 1970s, it had been projected to cost a mere $11 million, and the state and federal governments promised to pick up 90 percent of the cost.
But the Southern Connector (now known as the Champlain Parkway) turned out to be a much more complicated and expensive roadway than anyone imagined. By the late 1980s, the price tag had reached $50 million. The environmental problems that were associated with running cars and trucks over a former toxic dump, discovered under the route of the road, seemed critical. Even with a modified design, neighborhoods were expected to be cut off from the waterfront. And access plans still failed to satisfy the concerns of nearby home and business owners.
Yet over the years it had become an inevitability, and a political non-issue. In the 1980s, for the business community, it was an essential ingredient for continued downtown “vitality,” one that would keep Burlington commercially competitive. For Mayor Sanders, its construction would be one of a long list of accomplishments, an “attractive parkway” that would relieve traffic jams on smaller roads. Though many things changed after Sanders became mayor, whether to build the Connector was not one of them.
When Sanders first ran for mayor in 1981, he expressed solid opposition to the so-called boulevard. His allies on the issue were neighborhood residents; his opponents were virtually all the local powers that be. Fidelity Mutual, owner of the urban renewal area in the heart of downtown, warned that prospects for completion of its $100 million project would be bleak until “the bulldozers were moving in the South End.” The City’s Planning Commission, Regional Planning Commission, Chamber of Commerce, State Transportation Department, Governor Snelling, and Lt. Gov. Madeleine Kunin were all in favor of it.
Why were the power brokers so adamant? Back in 1976, Peg Garland, chairwoman of the Burlington Planning Commission, had explained the reasons in a confidential memo to Mayor Paquette. “So many of the projects developing in downtown Burlington are contingent on proper access to the city,” she wrote. Already worried that construction might not even begin until 1980, she counseled, “Gordon, I don’t believe our city can wait that long for this vital link. We must take bold action, and you are in the driver’s seat.”
Just how bold their actions were did not become known until years later, when city documents revealed that there had been a virtual conspiracy to complete the project. At least one state senator, Thomas Crowley, and City Clerk Frank Wagner had apparently been prepared to bend the rules in order to push the pet project through.
Their problem was the state legislature, which had passed a law stating that local communities requesting highway money for roads had to secure their local share within 18 months of making an application. But the late 1970s weren’t an ideal time to ask for money from Burlington voters. Opponents of the Connector were raising questions, and a bond vote would likely have been turned down.
To avoid that problem, Wagner wrote a letter to state officials in 1977: A bond vote had already been passed, he told them, so the 18-month requirement had been met. For several years, no one noticed his misstatement. Not until 1981, after Sanders arrived in City Hall, was the letter discovered, along with the city’s failure to secure funds in time. Wagner resigned and a lawsuit followed.
A bond vote was finally held in 1979. After he was elected, Sanders tried seriously to alter the design and route, but he couldn’t affect the plans. As the city’s chief fiscal officer, however, he looked at the tax base and, like his predecessor, concluded that the Connector was a necessary “incentive” for future commercial investors. Ultimately, he capitulated. He later said he “took pride” in having found a solution – a connector with slightly improved access for residents – that satisfied everyone. Following his lead, many Progressives came to embrace the standard view: the Connector would make the city competitive with suburbia.
Why were so many well-placed people so adamant about the Connector for so long? Back in the 1960s, a waterfront highway, or some variation that would divert traffic and make Burlington more accessible to visitors, looked wonderful on paper. The project was considered necessary to insure Burlington’s commercial competitiveness within the region. In those days, conventional wisdom said that growth would continue indefinitely. Factors such as environmental costs and neighborhood objections were secondary to the expected economic benefits.
Another reason was that vested interests supported the project. Some were land speculators; others, like General Electric, wished to ease their own traffic problems – at public expense. Various designers, construction firms, and developers had stakes. If the Connector wasn’t built, many of those who had invested in it stood to lose.
And still another was simply short-sightedness. People were tired of traffic jams ion the South End, and the Connector seemed a simple solution. Sacrificing one small part of the city, went this logic, would make it possible to drive in and out of downtown somewhat faster.
A final reason was pride. City and state leaders had been fighting for the project as a “sign of commitment” for too many years to simply give up. Millions had been spend on surveys, designers, land purchases, court fights, hearings, and more designers – all before the bulldozers began to move.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Guma Campaign to Release First Video Ad at Midnight; Focus Shifts to Weinberger's Plans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 2/6/15 – At Midnight tonight, the Guma for Mayor Campaign will release its first video ad of the campaign on YouTube. Titled “Take the Target off Burlington’s Back,” the 36-second Fox News-style "attack" talks about redevelopment and the need to balance preservation and change in a satirical, over-the top style with animation and local images. The ad was produced by Grand Street Media, a Manhattan-based production company co-managed by Guma’s 37-year-old son, Jesse Lloyd Guma. It was previewed on WPTZ tonight.

On Wednesday Guma released a print ad, and will have a new one focusing on Weinberger’s record and plans next week. Today at a press conference broadcast on WOMM-FM, a low power radio station that covers most of Burlington, he challenged Weinberger to reveal his plans for the city before the election, and pointed to projects like a new waterfront hotel and south end arts complex, as well as zoning amendments that would allow developers to build in any neighborhood, including multiple buildings and duplexes. If amendments ZA 15-1 and 2 go into effect, says the candidate, looking at adverse impacts will no longer even be considered during the initial permit process.

After the press conference, talking with WPTZ 
“Mixed use is fine, in the right places,” Guma said. “But it’s not right for every neighborhood, especially the cultural district and enterprise zone in the south end."

The ad is the first of several Guma wants to release. A second is in production.

On Thursday night, Guma received a warm reception at the Ward 6 NPA forum, while Goodkind was criticized from the audience and Weinberger had to defend a report that suggests parking fees be considered in residential areas.

The campaign has raised more than $5,000 in the last six days, much of which will be used on literature and distribution, and is actively seeking more contributors. A preliminary budget and campaign fundraising goal will be announced next week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


On Friday, Feb. 6, at 11 a.m., Greg Guma will hold his first press conference of the campaign at Burlington College in the WOMM-FM studio. The focus will be on the reasons why Mayor Weinberger should be replaced. The event will be aired live and streamed as a segment of The Howie Rose Variety Show.

The other mayoral candidates have been invited to appear on the show during the campaign. Libertarian candidate Loyal Ploof will be interviewed Friday at 1 p.m., after Guma's press conference.
Tonight Guma participates in a second mayoral forum, this one presented by the Ward 6 Neighborhood Planning Assembly at the Greek Orthodox Church, 600 South Willard Street.
WOMM-FM, a low power radio station, was launched by Big Heavy World and the Peace and Justice Center. It moved from College Street to Burlington College last fall. The Howie Rose Variety Show is  a weekly program that has been on the air in Burlington since 2001, first on WRUV and now on WOMM.  Guma has appeared as a guest on the show in the past.

The campaign has established a bank account, appointed its treasurer, launched a website, and raised $5,000 since last Sunday, or $1,000 per day. Decisions about the campaign budget are underway. The current priorities include citywide literature distribution, print ads (already begun), a limited number of lawn signs, web ads, buttons, and a local fundraising event later in the month. A preliminary campaign budget will be revealed next week.

While the campaign does not plan to match Mayor Weinberger's war chest, it believes that the race can be won with considerably less money, and that four citywide literature drops and the purchase of too much TV ad time could backfire on the mayor.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Guma Picks Campaign Treasurer, Announces Friday Press Conference, Launches Ad Buys

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 2/4/15 -- On Tuesday, Mark Montalban, a special education teacher who has lived in Burlington for three decades, accepted the role of Treasurer of the Guma for Mayor campaign. Today the first campaign ad appears in the weekly, Seven Days, and on Friday, Feb. 6, at 11 a.m., a press conference with the candidate will be held at the WOMM-FM studio and office of Big Heavy World, located in Burlington College.
Background graphic: Waterfront tree cut down in November.
Montalban and Guma have known each other since 1985, when Montalban and others moved to Burlington to launch a vegetarian restaurant on North Street, adjacent to Maverick Bookstore and Gallery, a small business launched by Guma that year.

The new ad contrasts the positions of Guma and Progressive candidate Steve Goodkind on basing of F-35s at the Burlington International Airport. Future ads and releases will focus on the reasons Guma thinks that Mayor Miro Weinberger should be replaced.

On this website, launched Tuesday, an opinion poll asks for responses to the question: What is the top reason to replaced the mayor? Choices offered include: too cozy with developers, avoiding the important issues, anything goes building boom, and lack of transparency. Visitors are urged to register their vote.

To date, the following invitations to public forums and debates have been received and accepted: Feb. 5, Ward 6 NPA, 7-9 pm; Feb. 10, AARP Debate, UU church, 6:30 pm; Feb. 11, Burlington Free Press forum, noon, streaming live; Feb. 12, Ward 2/3 NPA; TBA; Feb. 18, Ward 5 NPA, Champlain Elementary, 6:30 ; Feb. 19, CCTV/SD Forum at City Hall.

"I'm looking forward to Thursday at the Ward 6 NPA," Guma said. "I've been attending Ward 6 NPAs at the Greek Orthodox Church for decades, and ran for the City Council in the ward twice, in 1981 and 1989." 

In 1981, Guma was nominated by the Democratic Party and Citizens Party, whose City Committee he chaired at the time. He was endorsed in that race by Bernie Sanders and Phil Hoff. He received both the Progressive and Democratic nod in 1989, and was backed in that race by Mayor Peter Clavelle and Howard Dean, who was Lt. Governor at the time.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Saving Open Space: Land Sale Points to Need for Partnership in the Public Interest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Although the sale of 27.5 acres of Burlington College land to developer Eric Farrell forecloses the possibility of preserving all the former Catholic Diocese property as a neighborhood park, the fact that the college continues to own about 6 acres, as well as the Orphanage building, provides Burlington with another opportunity to find a balance between development and open space.

The former Orphanage, now Burlington College.
Photo by Greg
As I said at the Save Open Space Summit on Jan. 21, we need a partnership in the public interest between conservation groups, local education institutions, private capital and local government – led by engaged public officials -- to save the college, find compatible projects and land uses, and keep most of the remaining land open. The Conservation Board has already expressed an interest, and the mayor himself has voiced a willingness to preserve “key attributes,” including a garden and some forest. I urge him to promptly call the stakeholders together. We can still do much better than a one acre path to the shore.

Local leaders can have a positive impact. Two Members of the City Council also sit on the Burlington College Board of Trustees. Although bound by confidentiality on certain matters, that does not prevent them from briefing the Council and the public. This should happen now, so that residents and BC students know what lies ahead for the school. Preserving and growing this 42 year-old college, a valuable alternative to traditional higher education, is not just a private matter. And it ought to be a public priority.  

The recommendations in the Declaration of Open Space being circulated locally can help to guide the way. It asks the Mayor and City Council to honor the city’s Municipal Development Plan, Climate Action Plan and Open Space Protection Plan by initiating a broad community discussion about the future of the remaining land – including NPAs, the Conservation Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission. I support this, and also their recommendation to use the Conservation Fund and work with land trusts and others to keep the remaining land within the public domain.

Burlington: Unfortunate Positions & Unwelcome Proposals - from F-35s to Fast-Track Redevelopment

The statement below looks at the difference between Independent Candidate Greg Guma and Progressive Candidate Steve Goodkind on the controversial plan to base F-35s at the Burlington Airport. Greg also differs with Steve on his proposal to call in auditors on Burlington Telecom, pick a fight with the feds about the final stage of Pine Street road improvement, and push for more departmental consolidation when we really need more transparency and participation.

But those differences pale in comparison to Greg's reaction to Mayor Weinberger's many unwelcome proposals. We already know, for example, that the mayor is promoting an “anything goes” housing boom. It's "build, baby, build!" – any place in the city, up to 8 stories high. Meanwhile, he stands on the sidelines while the city’s few remaining open spaces are over-developed -- that is, when he isn't making stealth deals for a waterfront hotel and other major projects he declines to discuss until after the election. His proposals and policies will triple the city's retail space, replace working families and local artists with wealthier newcomers, and turn the city into a resort town. 

To do this, he's speculating with public funds in the form of Tax Incremental Financing bonds geared to the plans of his developer friends, while trivializing democracy by replacing transparency with press conferences and the engineering of consent.

But before addressing these problems and others in depth, here is Greg's statement on the F-35s and Steve Goodkind's troubling (shifting) and unfortunate position.

Wimping Out on the F-35s

Until weeks ago, Steve Goodkind didn’t have an opinion. When asked about F-35 basing at the Progressive Caucus in December, he claimed that he wasn’t familiar with the issue, yet also asserted that he would have found a better way to resolve it. Easy enough to say. A few weeks later, when asked about the jets again, he said the fight was over. Here’s something on which he and the mayor apparently agree – they both say the matter is settled and we should just move on.  

Is Steve wrong? Absolutely, both on the facts and on the politics.

Greg Guma's Position: Last July a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court to ensure that this basing decision really meets environmental and legal standards. The plaintiffs are hundreds of area residents and the Stop F-35 Coalition. It’s just one of several strategies being pursued. Burlington should join that lawsuit and, as Winooski has considered, allocate modest funding to help with the legal defense. If elected, I will recommend $10,000 to start and ask the City Council to reconsider the issue, with a full and balanced public debate. If residents want to place an advisory vote on the local ballot, I can’t control the City Council, but I will actively try to persuade them. And if they decline, I’ll support a petition drive for an advisory vote.

This is not just about money – or even about noise and jobs, as important as these are in the overall equation. It’s also about the most expensive boondoggle in US military history.  The F-35 is a prime example of how militarism corrupts the entire political process.

Sen. Patrick Leahy supports the jet because it will create some temporary jobs building an engine. He and others also warn that, if we don’t let the federal government have what it wants, they might close the National Guard base. This possibility is remote, and there is no evidence. But if that is true, the Pentagon’s decision becomes more like an occupation or a public seizure that will turn parts of South Burlington, Burlington and Winooski into sacrifice areas – virtually uninhabitable neighborhoods sacrificed in the name of national security. In any case, this federal overreach should be resisted.

This fight is far from over. After the federal government built the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Vermonters didn’t just roll over or walk away. We fought on for decades. And we constantly heard objections about jobs, the economy, how we were unreasonable idealists who wanted us all to live in the dark. We were ridiculed and told we couldn’t win. Today the plant is closed!

Let’s not suffer through decades with another federally-imposed mistake.


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