Burlington, Vermont, Harbinger of Change?

Photograph Source: Dour Kerr – CC BY 2.0

Burlington, Vermont saw its second snowfall of the 2020-2021 winter on January 2, 2021. The five-inch covering wasn’t much by Vermont standards and it certainly didn’t stop the city from functioning. In fact, it can even be seen as a welcome diversion in these days of quarantine and COVID-19. It did remind me of another snowfall a couple decades ago, though. That was also in Burlington. It was only a few days before the city’s mayoral election and the race was close between the Progressive candidate Peter Clavelle and the GOP incumbent Peter Brownell. Brownell’s failure to clean the streets and sidewalks of snow that day except in Burlington’s wealthier neighborhoods (including where he lived) caused his defeat. It was my introduction to snow politics.

There’s another mayoral election this March in Burlington. It will be forty years since Bernie Sanders won his first term as Burlington’s mayor in 1981. Similar to the dynamics of that year, the current Democratic mayor has proven to be a friend of developers and financiers. His network of associates and advisors is the 2020 version of a good old boys’ network. In other words, it’s not just made up of heterosexual men. His opposition includes a thirty-something Progressive and independent candidate Ali Dieng. It wasn’t more than a couple days after the Progressive candidate Max Tracy received the nomination of the Progressive Party for Burlington’s mayoral race that the local CBS affiliate WCAX-TV (known for its conservative leanings) ran a segment portraying him as too radical. Interspersing their commentary with images from local Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests, the story featured sound bites from liberal city council member Jane Knodell and the consistently conservative GOP politician Kurt Wright. The implication was that Tracy is a far-left radical whose politics are not what Burlington needs in these times...

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com

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