“It’s time for a change…real change.” That was Bernie Sanders’ slogan in his 1981 campaign for Burlington Mayor. The race had begun as a long shot, but Sanders had turned his shoestring operation into a real challenge. Nevertheless, even on Election Day, March 3, 1981, the incumbent and his Democratic old guard still predicted a decisive victory. After all, Ronald Reagan had been elected President only four months before. Sanders was no threat, they assumed, nothing more than an upstart leftist with a gift for attracting media attention.
Sanders wanted open government, he said, and new development priorities. He opposed an upscale Waterfront project and an Interstate access road to downtown.
He supported Rent Control. “Burlington is not for sale,” he proclaimed. “I am extremely concerned about the current trend of urban development. If present trends continue, the City of Burlington will be converted into an area in which only the wealthy and upper-middle class will be able to afford to live.”