The fruit and vegetables will be flying at Monday night's meeting of the Burlington City Council. In what should be the biggest political food fight of the modern era, Progressives, Democrats and Republicans will select the best medicine for the growling tummies of the Queen City. A new food market is coming to downtown Burlington, but what kind?
Meat and potatoes or politically correct organic vegetables? A six-pack of Bud or a bottle of carrot juice? Tofu or tenderloin?
To some folks, the member-owned world the Onion River Coop represents is just one more tentacle of the world communist conspiracy. To others, the modern microwavable, all-American menu offered by Mac's Market represents the tentacles of Corporate America and its hormone-induced, genetically engineered product line bent on achieving domination of the world's digestive tract.
Hey, can we just get along here?
Yours truly was a member of that subset of the Burlap population that depended on the gritty old Price Chopper for sustenance. Whatever takes its place has got to at least cover that store's offerings. But what if the new store had all that and more? What if the new store is one that delights downtown’s senior citizens as well as low-income working folks, college kids and middle aged hippies?
Come Monday, expect Republican City Councilor Matt Gardy (Ward 4) to be leading the charge against Onion River Co-op getting the nod, while backing the selection of Mac’s Market. Mad Matt smells a supermarket Mad Matt smells a supermarket conspiracy and acknowledges "the appearance of a set-up." He blames the administration of Progressive Mayor Peter Clavelle for not acting quickly enough, and he says the four Progs on the council who are co-op members will each have to make “a personal decision” about abstaining from the big food-fight vote.
Democratic City Councilor Andy Montroll (Ward 6) insists "a broad range of people" were represented on the supermarket search committee. "The process worked," he says adamantly. And acknowledging "there is no broad-based consensus of which way to go," Montroll told Seven Days Tuesday, "I'm not ready yet to stake out a position.”
He has until Monday night. No rush.
Mayor Moonie has been taking all the heat on the supermarket issue, and some of the heat has been stoked by fellow Progressives. Levi Sanders was positively eloquent at Monday’s public hearing in illuminating the shortcomings of the city’s search process. Sanders the Younger politely condemned the lack of low-income representation on the committee and the omission of folks who don’t have cars — the very people who were cast adrift when the Price Chopper closed.
“It’s time to let the average person make a decision,” said Levi.
What a refreshing idea!
“People are going to beat the hell out of the process,” responded Mayor Clavelle, “but at the end of the day, the challenge is is to bring a supermarket to downtown that's going to offer a good selection at affordable prices in a place where people feel comfortable."
Screaming broccoli, Batman, that can't be too hard to accomplish. Can it?
Media Notes — So what do you think? It's been over a week now and tongues are wagging over the new format at WCAX-TV — "Vermont's Own." And we've got to say, so far, the dynamic duo of co-anchors Marselis Parsons and Sera Congi is not getting favorable reviews. It's not a matter of "poor chemistry" between Marsillyiss, the dour, stiff, weather-beaten 55-year-old news director/anchor-man, and Sweet Sera, the sparkling 27-year-old up-and-corner with charisma popping out of every pore. It's a matter of no chemistry. The repartee is stilted. Watching Marsillyiss try to be glib with a woman half his age is painful. (Though word from Ch. 3 is they're receiving nothing but favorable comments. Go figure.)
Time will surely tell, but if WCAX were to tighten the six o'clock newscast up a bit, Roger Garrity, the late-night news anchor, would be a much better fit with Sweet Sera. Roger Dodger's got an electric style that pumps out more adrenalin in one newscast than Parsons can muster in a week's worth.
Ch. 3 downplays any suggestion that the format changes are in any way, shape or form related to the arrival on Vermont's television screens of the slick, new news operation at WVNY, the local ABC affiliate. As Ch. 3's general manager, Peter Martin, puts it, "Eighty percent of our audience has access to cable and satellite, and through them see a wide range of programs, including news services. There is, I believe, a standard in terms of production values which viewers expect us to meet." According to Prince Peter, our local CBS affiliate will "remain a content-driven news operation. But we've spent the last year or two thinking about how we might improve the presentation of chat content. The changes reflect our thinking."
Presumably the thinking will continue.
By the way, congratulations to Glover native and Castleton grad Darren Perron who moves up the TV ladder to replace Congi as the weekend anchor. Time to make room for the talented members of the younger generation. But let's be crystal clear — we fully support a commitment to keeping middle-aged journalists working in the Green Mountains.
Meanwhile over at WPTZ, our NBC affiliate, the changes continue as new owner Hearst-Argyle grabs the reins. As reported earlier, News Director Steward Ledbetter took a demotion to Vermont bureau chief, and that meant one too many reporters working out of Ch. 5’s Colchester office. So?
So, they dumped the Canadian!
Tim Sargeant of Montreal, had been with WPTZ for one year as a reporter on the Vermont beat, and doing a pretty darn good job, too. However, his work visa was up October 1 and management decided they would not pursue a renewal. You might say he’s currently on the waiver wire.
Election 2000 — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ruth Dwyer of Thetford has tapped into the political currents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to land the catch she hopes will guide her campaign ship across the finish line first in November 2000. Campaign manager Kathleen Summers has worked in the trenches on Beacon Hill and most recently ran the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Republican Matt Amorello in Massachusetts' fifth congressional district. Ms. Summers, a 34-year-old Massachusetts native and graduate of Providence College, is the granddaughter of American League umpire Bill Summers and daughter of NASCAR driver George Summers.
"The only thing I ever wanted to do was be in politics," she told Seven Days. Welcome to Vermont!
Kathleen certainly is taking on a big challenge. Some would say monumental. The pundits generally consider Ruthless Ruth's 42 percent showing last year to have been her peak. But in politics the future is always the great unknown.
"To know Ruth is to love her," says the new campaign manager, who visited the Dwyer farm before taking the job. "To see her among her goats and puppies and to see how she loves the land," Summers said, was enough to know this was her candidate for 2000.
Goats and puppies, eh?
Kinder and gentler sounds like the way to go.