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Recap of Vermont Town Meeting Day voting

Vermont Town Meeting Day graphic
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Tuesday was Town Meeting Day. Vermonters across the state made decisions on local ballot items, candidates and school budgets.

Traditionally the first Tuesday in March finds Vermonters in town halls hashing out the issues before voting. But the state legislature has allowed localities to change from floor meetings to using only paper ballots during the pandemic, which most towns did.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns issued a preview of ballot highlights this year. Public Policy Director Karen Horn says it appears that statewide participation was high.

“A lot of ballots were handed in before the actual day of Town Meeting. And so that plus the people who came in and voted on the Town Meeting Day made for some pretty good participation that pleased town clerks around the state. There were 40 meetings that were held in person. All those in person meetings were pretty well attended. So that’s the good news there also.”

This Town Meeting Day 41 municipalities asked voters if they should allow retail cannabis operations. Horn is most intrigued by those results.

“Thus far about 25 towns have said yes to opting in which means that they will allow retail cannabis establishments in their towns. To date five towns said no to that. But when you put the 25 together with 30-some that voted last year to allow retail cannabis that’s getting to be a significant number.”

Middlebury College Professor of Political Science Bert Johnson says the highlights of this year’s voting are the cannabis questions and the results in the state’s largest city – Burlington.

“There were other communities that had contested races. In the Middlebury area there were some school board races that were contested. But I do think in Burlington there’s more attention because it’s a larger community and because there have been some conflicts, to put it mildly, between the mayor and the city council. So I think the selection played into those conflicts and could give you a sense of what those conflicts are going to be like going forward.”

Progressives have controlled the Burlington City Council and 8 of 12 seats were up for election on Tuesday. Preliminary results show Progressives maintained their control. Four Progressives, three Democrats and one Independent won seats. With two district seats that were not up for election this year, the six Progressives will maintain control.

Burlington Progressive Party Executive Director Josh Wronski said they worked hard to counter what he said were negative messages from the city administration.

“We really focused on issues of housing affordability, continuing towards like real police transformation. We did focus on creating more affordable housing. There’s a really bad property tax reassessment. Addressing climate change locally through things like weatherization we talked a lot about that. You know all of these issues I think were really on the forefront of Burlington voters’ minds.”

Independent incumbent Ali Dieng is currently leading in the Ward 7 results by two votes. Democratic challenger Aleczander Stitch told VTDigger that he plans to ask for a hand recount.

Burlington voters approved four of five ballot questions including the school budget and a proposed charter change to end the city’s authority to regulate sex workers. They rejected an increase to the 2023 tax rate.

Colchester, Manchester and Vergennes residents approved water, wastewater or sewer projects. In Barre, Jake Hemmerick won the mayoral race over Rich Morey by 101 votes.

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