Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger Won't Seek Reelection | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger Won't Seek Reelection


Published September 28, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.

Mayor Miro Weinberger flanked by family on Thursday - COURTNEY LAMDIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtney Lamdin ©️ Seven Days
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger flanked by family on Thursday
Updated at 5:36 p.m.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger will not seek reelection next year, ending one of the longest tenures at the helm of Vermont's biggest city.

Weinberger, a four-term Democrat, announced his decision during a press conference on Thursday at Burlington City Arts Studios — the same place he kicked off his first-ever mayoral campaign in 2011.

The standing room event drew department heads past and present, friends and supporters. Former mayor Peter Clavelle was there, as was University of Vermont Medical Center president Stephen Leffler and CityPlace Burlington developers Dave Farrington and Scott Ireland.

Weinberger, who isn’t always at ease in front of television cameras, seemed relaxed and almost relieved to announce his decision, which he called one of the most difficult in his life. Standing at a lectern with his parents, wife and two daughters at his side, Weinberger said “this is the right time” to step away.

“I take great joy and have incredible pride in the work of this administration,” he said, adding, “I want to say thank you to the people of Burlington.”

With no incumbent at the top of the ticket for the first time in more than a decade, election season promises to be competitive. Democrats, who effectively have a majority on the city council, will be eager to keep the mayor's seat on Town Meeting Day in March. Progressives, meantime, will look to wrest back some of the power they've lost in recent elections.
The politicking has already begun. Just as the press conference wrapped up, Burlington Progs sent out a press release congratulating Weinberger — and pledging to defeat his party on Town Meeting Day.  Vermont Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P-Burlington) who leads the House Progressive Caucus, posted on X that she’s “seriously considering running.”

“I’ve watched my community struggle to address complex challenges and leadership fail to rethink our approach,” she wrote. “We need to address our community safety, housing, and opioid crisis together and now.”

When Weinberger took office in 2012, he was the first Democrat elected to the mayor’s seat in 31 years. A former housing developer and political neophyte, Weinberger won over voters who had grown disenchanted with city Progressives after the party’s figurehead, then-mayor Bob Kiss, diverted city funds to bail out the failing Burlington Telecom.

The city’s credit rating was in the toilet. But over his tenure, Weinberger has raised the rating by six steps, saving taxpayers an estimated $24 million, according to a city report released last week. He also built up cash reserves, which would later help the city weather unexpected costs during the pandemic.

His leadership during the early days of the pandemic earned praise. Weinberger reassigned a handful of city staff to helm a new COVID-19 Resource and Recovery Center, which helped Burlingtonians access free meals and childcare, among other needs. Another group of city staff distributed hundreds of hand-sewn face masks.

Weinberger also has an impressive list of infrastructure projects under his belt, including a renovation of City Hall Park and upgrades to the bike path. Most recently, he helped kick-start construction on the long-stalled Champlain Parkway. This summer, he successfully ushered in a zoning change that will allow housing to be built on what are now empty parking lots in the South End.
Weinberger will be leaving on his own terms, with his party driving city policy decisions — a stark turnaround from just three years ago.

At that time, Progressives controlled the city council, and, with three of their Democratic colleagues, held a now-infamous vote to reduce the police force through attrition. Several months later, in March 2021, Weinberger barely held onto his job, winning the mayoral election by 129 votes over then-council president Max Tracy, a Progressive.

His 43 percent vote share was the second time he’d won without earning more than 50 percent of the vote. The first was in 2018, when he won a three-way race with 48 percent of votes.

Growing concerns about public safety seemed to turn the tide in Weinberger’s favor. As police officers started to leave in droves and certain crimes began to rise, he blamed the spike on the cop-cutting vote and urged the council to hire more officers.

It worked. In March of this year, voters shot down a measure that would have formed a new police oversight board, and Progressives lost their plurality on the council. Weinberger leveraged the new dynamic to appoint Jon Murad as permanent police chief, a post Murad had previously been denied under Prog rule.
But Weinberger has also been criticized for his handling of public safety matters, particularly management of the police department. In late 2019, Weinberger admitted he knew that former police chief Brandon del Pozo had used an anonymous Twitter account to troll a private citizen — and didn't tell the city council. And it took the mayor four months to tell councilors about a complaint filed against Murad by an emergency room doctor, who alleged that the chief had threatened to arrest him while he was treating a gunshot wound victim in 2022.

Racial justice advocates have also come after Weinberger. In 2020, protestors hosted a sit-in on the mayor's lawn to demand three police officers be fired for using excessive force against young Black men — and that the mayor lose his job, too. That summer, activists spent about a month camped out in Battery Park.
Weinberger also had a public spat with Tyeastia Green, the first and now-former director of the city's office of Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging, whom he removed from overseeing a study of the police department — then reinstated. Green left the city in early 2022, but their feud continued this year after Weinberger called for a financial review of the department's Juneteenth events. The audit found no evidence of fraud, and Green's supporters converged on city hall last month to defend her work.

At the press conference, Weinberger thanked city employees, nonprofit leaders and business people that he’s worked with over the years. He said one of the things he’ll miss most are his weekly coffee chats at The Bagel Cafe & Deli in the New North End, estimating he’s held close to 500 of them during his tenure.

Weinberger said he’s unsure about his next steps but also hinted that his political ambitions may not be over. He said he remains concerned about the drug crisis, housing shortage and rising rates of homelessness, and that “those issues won’t fix themselves.

“I do think they're gonna take strong leadership to put us on a new trajectory,” he said. “I am definitely going to explore whether there's some way for me to have an impact.”

Weinberger, whose term will end in April 2024, will leave office having served the longest consecutive mayoral term in city history. Only former mayor Peter Clavelle served longer, but over two separate terms.

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