Red Dawn In Vermont? The Real Results Of Bernie Sanders As Mayor
Politico points out that some were fearful when a socialist became mayor of Burlington, Vermont:
On March 4, 1981, red dawn broke over the Green Mountains.
“‘Everyone’s scared.’ Socialist elected mayor of Vermont’s largest city,” blared the UPI headline over an article that began, “Self-described socialist Bernard Sanders… has invited the city’s business and political leaders to join him in creating ‘a rebirth of the human spirit.’ ” Readers could have been forgiven for concluding that some Pol Pot in Birkenstocks had just established a beachhead in Burlington, Vermont.When Bernie Sanders won by 10 votes in a four-way mayoral race, Ronald Reagan had just entered the White House, the Cold War was in full swing, and people were seriously freaked out. “You would’ve thought that Trotsky had come to Burlington,” said Sanders’ confidant and one-time roommate, Richard Sugarman.
But now, 34 years later, as Sanders launches a campaign for the presidency, many of the radical solutions he imposed — free arts and culture for the masses, local-first economic development, wresting money from rich nonprofits, and, most shockingly, communal land for affordable housing — have become mainstays of the American municipal governance playbook.
Such policies “would be unexceptional today,” said UCLA urban planning professor Randall Crane, noting that urban policy in general has become broader and more creative in the decades that followed, as more people returned to city neighborhoods.
In 1988, toward the end of Sanders’ four-term tenure — long after a local Democratic leader predicted the movement that swept Sanders into office would be gone in a decade — the U.S. Conference of Mayors named Burlington the most livable city in the country with a population of under 100,000 (in a tie). Then Sanders’ director of community and economic development succeeded him in the mayor’s office and Inc. Magazine named Burlington the best city in the Northeast for a growing business.
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