On Sunday, almost every land line in Burlington will get a pre-recorded call from Mayor Miro Weinberger urging them to vote yes on three ballot items next Tuesday, and inviting them to participate in a "telephone town hall" about the initiatives.
Seven months into his administration, Weinberger is making a strong push for approval of plans that define the direction in which he wants to take the city and that will act as a gauge of his political standing. Weinberger and his supporters have scheduled a rally for passage on Sunday evening at Club Metronome with the Dave Grippo Funk Band and DJ Craig Mitchell providing the tunes.
So who's bankrolling the Partnership for Burlington's Future?
Winston "Chip" Hart Sr., the group's treasurer, says fewer than 20 contributors have donated the $17,000 — and Hart says Weinberger was instrumental in marshaling the money.
In its October 15 campaign report with the Vermont secretary of state's office, the Partnership for Burlington's Future lists $6000 in contributions from eight sources. Hart gave $1000, while retired bank president John Ewing, the partnership's chairman, kicked in $500. Local real estate executive Yves Bradley gave $500, as did Nick & Morrissey Development and Catamount/Howard II, the firm that seeks to build a hotel on a Main Street block west of the Flynn Center. The Burlington Business Association donated $1000 to the effort to win approval of the ballot items.
A pair of $1000 contributions are listed as having come from Misty Meadow Farms, Inc., and Grandview Farms, Inc. These are both real-estate businesses, not agricultural enterprises, headed by lawyer and developer Billy Mauer. He does business from offices in Burlington and Montreal.
Hart reports that the partnership has raised another $11,000 since its mid-October filing. A final disclosure is required to be filed nine days after the November 6 election.
Weinberger estimates the robocall costs around $3000. The technologically sophisticated system — used routinely by members of Congress, but rarely by politicians on the local level — will enable those answering the robocall to potentially ask questions of the mayor regarding the ballot items.
By pushing a number of their key pads, Burlington residents can join a queue where their questions will be screened by volunteer workers and passed on to Weinberger who will then respond to the queue members as a group. When the robocall goes to an answering machine, a message is automatically left inviting the phone's user to dial a number where questions can be left for an eventual call-back response.