Kiss To Step Down Amid Financial Woes, Eyes Political Future

11/30/11 5:50PM By Ross Sneyd
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AP/Toby Talbot
Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss won't seek reelection. Kiss has been criticized for the financial problems facing the municipally owned telecom provider, Burlington Telecom.
(Host) Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss won't seek re-election. The Progressive mayor is stepping down in the midst of several ongoing controversies in the state's largest city. But as VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, Kiss may try to return to the state Legislature.

(Sneyd) Mayor Kiss has had a tough year.

There's a $50 million gap in the city's pension fund, and lingering problems with the municipally owned Burlington Telecom phone and Internet provider still haven't been resolved.

But Kiss says he had to consider if six years as mayor was long enough or whether he needed another three.

(Kiss) "I think that people have to think about that, how long they serve. Ultimately what I decided for me the best course was to serve out this term and move on to other things."

(Sneyd) Kiss says those other things may include a run for state Senate, possibly as early as next fall.

(Kiss) "It's not out of the question. There might even be some changes by 2012 in terms of reapportionment. Who knows. That's one of the other discussions that we'll be working on into the summer."

(Sneyd) The Legislature will have to draw up new legislative districts this winter. And one of the options is to dramatically realign the six-member Senate district that includes Burlington.

For his final four months in office, Kiss will continue to push redevelopment of the old Moran electric generating plant on the Lake Champlain waterfront. He'll push for the construction of the Champlain Parkway, a highway in the city's south end, and the completion of a climate change policy.

Kiss thinks a new mayor will continue to pursue all of those.

(Kiss) "It's really not just a vision of me as mayor. I think they've become plans for the city that make a lot of sense in terms of economic development and the future of the city. So I don't feel that these plans are sort of orphaned with my administration, at all."

(Sneyd) Overarching everything else, Kiss admits, is fixing the finances of Burlington Telecom. Kiss is also sanguine about that political minefield.

He says he doesn't think a new administration will have any option other than straightening out the municipally owned telephone and Internet utility and taking advantage of its sophisticated fiber optic network.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

(Host) Burlington voters will choose a new mayor on the first Tuesday in March. First, political parties have to choose candidates.

Democrats caucus on December 11th to choose between two finalists. Progressives meet later the same day, although the party hasn't focused on a candidate, yet.

And city councilor and state Representative Kurt Wright is the only Republican running so far.

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