The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont

By Steven Soifer | Go to book overview

clear tendency to concentrate power and limit access to internal decision-making processes to an inner circle of advisors, most of them men. Those labeled as outsiders, for whatever reasons, have a difficult time getting a fair hearing by the mayor or his close advisors. And Sanders, who is known for being independent, often makes decisions with little or no input from the people around him. This may be an admirable trait in some circumstances, but it certainly is an impediment to developing a nonreformist reform strategy toward a democratic-socialist society. As many people as possible must be included in both internal and external decision-making processes if we are to move away from the hierarchical, authoritarian, and centralized models of society that are inimical to the long-term interests of the vast majority of people.

Sanders's commitment to democratic socialism stands at odds with his decision-making process--and it is this inability to put into practice his beliefs that is so disappointing to many progressives. As has so often been stated by the women's movement, "the personal is the political." Consequently, the quality of individual actions, whether in interpersonal relationships or in public office, influences the movement toward a new society.


CONCLUSION

While Sanders did much during his four terms as mayor to increase general citizen participation in Burlington politics, he also acted to alienate a number of progressives in the community--and even in his own administration--through his personal style of politics. Ironically, many of those that one would expect to be the mayor's closest allies turn out to be Sanders's harshest critics.

There is no doubt that the general citizenry of Burlington is more involved in local government and the political process than perhaps at any time in the past. All of the electoral data examined clearly indicate this. And many special interest groups that had a difficult time gaining access to previous administrations--such as tenants, low- to moderate-income neighborhood groups, artists, youths, and others--were supported in one way or another by the Sanders administration. In general, those who often have trouble having their interests represented by city hall, that is, poor and working- class people, were much more fairly treated by Mayor Sanders. This isn't surprising, as this group forms the backbone of his political support.

However, as we shall see in more detail in Chapters 8 and 9, other interest groups, such as women and the peace movement, did not have

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The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Historical Background and Theoretical Framework on Socialist Municipalities 1
  • 2 - Burlington, Bernard Sanders, and the Progressive Coalition 13
  • 3 - Local Government and City Finances in Burlington 39
  • Conclusion 60
  • 4 - Development and Growth Issues and the Sanders Administration 61
  • Conclusion 88
  • 5 - Citizen Participation, Democracy, and the Neighborhoods 91
  • Conclusion 117
  • 6 - The Question of Ownership Under Municipal Socialism 119
  • Conclusion 141
  • 7 - Taxes and the Redistribution of Wealth 142
  • Conclusion 171
  • 8 - Quality-Of-Life Issues and the Sanders Administration 174
  • Conclusion 204
  • 9 - Central America: Sanders and the Peace Movement 206
  • Conclusion 222
  • 10 - Conclusion 224
  • 11 - Epilogue 238
  • Notes 243
  • Selected Bibliography 273
  • Index 275
  • About the Author 287
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