Writer, Activist Considers Burlington Mayoral Bid | Off Message

Writer, Activist Considers Burlington Mayoral Bid


  • Courtesy: Greg Guma
  • Greg Guma
Burlington writer and activist Greg Guma says he's considering challenging Mayor Miro Weinberger in next March's election. 

"I'm not happy with what I've seen in the past three years," Guma says. "There's a rush to redevelopment. There's a move away from the kinds of balance and progressive vision we had for 30 years."

In an email and blog post Wednesday, Guma said he plans to hold a meeting with supporters in two weeks to assess whether there's sufficient enthusiasm for a challenge to the first-term Democrat. If he runs, Guma would join a growing list of contenders, which includes former Department of Public Works chief Steve Goodkind and could include Libertarian Loyal Ploof

"I'm available if there's sufficient energy," Guma says.

The Maple Street resident has a long history in alternative media. He has served as editor of the Vermont Vanguard Press, co-founder of the Vermont Guardian and executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, which owns Berkeley-based Pacifica Radio. During Weinberger's first run for mayor, in 2012, Guma covered the race for VTDigger.org. 

This wouldn't be the writer's first dip into electoral politics. Guma announced he would run for mayor in 1981, but he dropped out after fellow activist Bernie Sanders entered the race. Instead, he ran for the board of aldermen that year — and again in 1989. Both times, he says, he lost the election, but picked up 42 percent of the vote.

"If I could do the same citywide in this race, I could be the next mayor," he says.

According to Guma, Weinberger is "a talented manager" but, "He's far too close with the developer class and not in touch with all the problems facing the city."

"He's making the steamrollers run on time, but that's not the only thing that's important," Guma says. "The question is, in what direction are they running?"

In a written statement Thursday morning, Weinberger kept the focus on his own record. 

"Whether or not Mr. Guma decides to enter the race, I appreciate his engagement and perspective on city issues. Since taking office, we have been focused on three things: fixing the city's badly damaged finances, getting the city moving again, and restoring trust in City Hall. While this work is not done, we have been able to make major progress toward each of these goals because we have relentlessly sought ideas and support from every corner of our community," the mayor said. "I look forward to a vigorous debate in the months ahead about where we want to go next as a community and am confident that voters will demonstrate in March that democracy in Burlington is alive and well."   

Guma is equally dismissive of Goodkind, who served in the Sanders administration and shares Guma's progressive politics. Goodkind retired last year after 32 years in city government.

"Steve is a good manager, but being a good manager or a good bureaucrat is not the same as being a good political leader," Guma says. "He's not running for head of the DPW."

Reached Wednesday evening, Goodkind declined to comment on a possible Guma bid. He said he's focused on gathering signatures to appear on the ballot next Town Meeting Day. 

"If I get my signatures I'm running," Goodkind said. 

If he jumps into the race, Guma says, he will fight the privatization of Burlington Telecom, work to make housing more affordable and empower the city's neighborhood planning assemblies.

Despite his liberal politics, Guma says he likely won't seek the nomination of the Vermont Progressive Party. Instead, he would probably run as an independent. Goodkind, who served under two Progressive mayors, hasn't said whether he'll seek the party's imprimatur. 

Says Guma, "I don't think the Progressives represent a substantial difference in a lot of the development priorities of the city."

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