Driscoll to challenge Weinberger for Burlington mayor

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) "I'm going for it," Carina Driscoll said.

Carina Driscoll/File

She's going for the city's top seat. Driscoll wants to be Burlington's next mayor and to unseat the current mayor, Democrat Miro Weinberger.

"Things are not feeling great in Burlington," Driscoll said. "Now what we need to do is unite."

She points to the divisiveness over Burlington Telecom. She says there was a lack of transparency during the process that led the City Council to ultimately vote to sell it to Schurz and ZRF instead of Keep BT Local, which she supported.

Driscoll is also critical of the mayor, saying plans were dropped to redevelop the Moran Plant on the city's waterfront. She worries it's too pricey to tear it down. She's short on ideas on what to do with the property right now. Instead, she's looking for ideas, collaboration from the public and private sector.

Driscoll is somewhat more definitive on the now-closed Memorial Auditorium. She'd like to see it redeveloped, parts of it leased and parts of it used for city business if economically feasible.

"Meanwhile, windows are broken and graffiti is appearing and pieces are falling off the outside of the building. And it's the first thing you see when you come down the hill on Main Street," Driscoll said.

Driscoll supports Burlington City Place-- the redevelopment of the downtown mall. Demolition is already underway there. It's a project pushed by Mayor Weinberger.

Driscoll acknowledges that Weinberger-- a former boss-- got the city on good financial footing.

"I respect Miro. I worked for Miro. I think he has done a good job on the things we elected him to do," Driscoll said. "As we look forward, I think Burlington needs new leadership. And I'm ready to be that person."

Driscoll sat on the school board, served a year on Burlington's City Council and one term in the state Legislature. She's been a Democrat and a Progressive. But now she's an independent, as is her famous stepfather, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Driscoll says she welcomes his support as a parent but won't ask for his political help.

"Bernie and I both believe this is something I should do on my own," Driscoll said. "I will not seek Bernie's endorsement and will not use friends of Bernie Sanders or any of his fundraising resources to support my campaign."

Shortly after her announcement, we asked the senator about it.

"I'm not talking about that," he said.

But Monday afternoon, the senator issued a statement saying in part, "today is Carina's day and her words and her ideas should be the focus, not anyone else's."

So, how is the mayor reacting? Mayor Miro Weinberger tells us he welcomes the competition and it gives Burlingtonians a choice when they head to the polls.

Weinberger says he looks forward to talking about what kind of leadership the city needs.

One thing the mayor's critics say is that he is not listening to all voices in the city. Weinberger says his record shows otherwise.

"When we have taken initiatives or programs to the voters of Burlington, they have endorsed the direction that we are trying to go-- often, by large margin. So, I think I see that as evidence that we have been listening and we are in touch with the people of Burlington," Weinberger said.

The mayor points to his success with the Burlington Telecom sale and mall redevelopment project.

He says if he is re-elected, Memorial Auditorium and other projects will move to the front burner.

And there is a third candidate in the race, too, another independent named Infinitive Culcleausure.

The election for Burlington mayor is on Town Meeting Day, March, 6.