With less than two weeks remaining before Progressives pick a candidate, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss said this morning he would not seek a third term in March.
Kiss, who is a Progressive, made the announcement on WVMT-AM's Charlie, Ernie and Lisa program, which hosts the mayor each month for a chat with listeners.
Host Charlie Papillo didn't make it easy for the anxious news media. He opened with: "I want to jump right in with the question on everyone's mind: Bob how was your Thanksgiving vacation?"
Turkey and all the trimmings, Kiss said.
Then, the moment of truth: "Is there an announcement you'd like to make?" asked Papillo.
"I will not be running for reelection," said Kiss.
Papillo noted that he and other political observers — including myself in Fair Game — believed the mayor was sending signals he would run.
"I don't think anything has changed," said Kiss. "All the things that need to be done are as much the reasons to go forward as they are to step aside. I think I've done good work in my administration and from a personal perspective for me it'a good time to leave."
As Kiss noted in last week's Fair Game, he would like to see a few city projects to completion: redevelopment of the Moran Plant; construction of the Champlain Parkway; and a final solution for Burlington Telecom's multimillion-dollar shortfall.
"I think a lot of people will benefit from these projects and whomever is mayor will be able to see them through to completion," Kiss told Seven Days in an interview last night.
Despite the barrage of public criticism, a lack of political support and the budgetary challenges facing the city, Kiss noted on this morning's radio show,"I still enjoy the job."
Of course, the growing lack of Progressive support for Kiss may have contributed to the mayor's change of heart. As I noted in Fair Game last week, the party took the step of putting "No Candidate" on their caucus mayoral ballot.
No subtle hint there.
For months, Progressives have been quietly trying to talk Kiss out of running again and to announce the news well in advance of their annual nominating caucus. No such luck. Kiss was reticent to give up the option of running again when he believed Burlington was in good financial shape, at least compared to other cities.
Burlington Progressives were quick to wash their hands of Kiss.
Less than an hour after the mayor's announcement, Elijah Bergman, vice chairman of the city Progressive Party, issued a rather stinging statement via email. "Today, Mayor Bob Kiss announced that he would not be seeking a third term," it read. "Based on conversations I have had with many Progressives, I do not believe he would have won the Progressive nomination if he had sought a third term."
Not even a "Thanks for your service." Or, "We look forward to gathering at our citywide caucus on December 11 to chart our future."
Kiss told Seven Days the next mayor will likely face additional budget challenges as federal and state support for the city budget dwindles.
"There's a lot of work in the job and probably more in the coming years as we lose benefits from the feds and state due to budget cuts," said Kiss. "I never believed I could do this forever."
Kiss noted that Peter Clavelle ran the city for 15 years, while Bernie Sanders was mayor for eight years. Kiss will have racked up six years, though I'm sure plenty of citizens feel like it's been an eternity thanks to some of the fiscal debacles that have embroiled the city for the past three years — namely Burlington Telecom, the pension fund and the Burlington International Airport parking garage.
The question remains: Will the Progressives nominate Democrat Tim Ashe for mayor? Chances are good they'll do so if he wins the Democratic caucus on December 11, and maybe even if he doesn't. The Progressives will meet less than two hours after the Democrats hold their "Caucus Conclusion" at Memorial Auditorium.
Ashe (pictured on the right) has already said he wouldn't accept the Progressive nomination if he fails to win the Democratic nod. If he wins the Democratic caucus, however, he would accept the Progressive nomination. That makes sense, given he's done the same thing twice as a state senate candidate — and won.
Weinberger (pictured above on the left), on the other hand, has said he wouldn't accept the Progressive nomination. Some of Weinberger's criticisms of the Kiss administration have sounded like a condemnation of all things Progressive — something Weinberger disputes.
Will Kiss' decision have an impact on the race? Not likely. I think the only person who, up until this morning, thought he still had a chance at winning a third term — or would even be a viable candidate — was Kiss himself.
File photo of Bob Kiss by Jordan Silverman