Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) stepdaughter Carina Driscoll is considering a bid for the Burlington mayorship.
The former state legislator and Burlington city councilor would be the first candidate to publicly announce, aside from Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat who confirmed on Friday that he'll seek a third term in office. Queen City voters will elect a mayor at Town Meeting Day in March 2018.
Driscoll, a 43-year-old South End resident, said she hasn't decided for certain whether she would throw her hat in the ring. But she said she has been meeting with Burlington organizations and individuals to test the waters.
Several people have approached her about running for mayor, both recently and in the past. "This is the first time I’ve seriously considered it," Driscoll said.
She said she has not set a deadline for a decision and she has not yet decided whether she would run as a Progressive or an independent.
Driscoll's platform — if she runs, she clarified — would be centered on the need for increased citizen engagement in city government. "People are feeling frustrated that the agenda of the city is determined by a small group of people — the mayor and the council," Driscoll said.
Burlingtonians want to have a greater voice in determining the direction of city government, beyond just publicly commenting on decisions that have already been made, she said.
She would focus on building affordable housing, increasing affordable space for artists and businesses in the South End, and preventing gentrification across the city.
In the meantime, Driscoll said she is helping lead an "organically forming" group of those who want more say in city affairs. The group has been meeting regularly, but has no name, official platform or designated leader as of yet, she said.
The central question, Driscoll said, is "how can we most effectively change the dynamic of the public process in the city of Burlington?" For Driscoll, that could be leading a grassroots effort through this emerging coalition, running for city council in Ward 5 against Democrat Chip Mason, or running for mayor, she said.
Driscoll, a mother of two, is no political novice. She served as a Progressive legislator from 2000 to 2002. From 2003 to 2004 she served on the Burlington city council, but stepped down ahead of the birth of her first child. Driscoll has also served on the Burlington School Board.
She founded and continues to work at the Vermont Woodworking School in Fairfax. She also volunteered on Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, she said.
If elected mayor, Driscoll would follow in the footsteps of her stepfather, who served as Burlington's mayor from 1981 to 1989.
Driscoll said she voted for Weinberger in 2012 and then served for a year in his administration as the assistant to the mayor for transparency, open government and mayoral initiatives.
Weinberger has been "very successful" in putting the city on firm financial footing, Driscoll said, but Burlington's needs have changed. "We need to survey what we need from City Hall," she said. Those needs are not reflected in "the priorities of our mayor."
Weinberger defended his work, pointing to his record of promoting growth in the housing market, investing in infrastructure, pushing through development projects, and improving the city's finances. "I've gotten a lot done, but there's much more I'd like to do for the people of Burlington if they support me in this role," he said.