One of the most traditional forms of democratic government is occurring in Vermont today. It is Town Meeting Day and voters are choosing local officials, determining budgets and policies and weighing in on resolutions.
There is no statewide resolution on ballots or scheduled for floor discussion during town hall meetings this year, but there are resolutions in several communities. Middlebury College Professor of Political Science Bert Johnson says most communities are focused on routine business. “Bennington is deciding on whether to adopt a mayor form of government, which would be a big switch. Several dozen communities are voting on an advisory resolution having to do with climate change. So there are issues here and there but no big statewide story. Budget items are certainly a matter of concern for all communities, school budgets particularly.”
A climate change resolution will be discussed at meetings in 36 towns across Vermont. 350Vermont Field Organizer Jaiel Pulskamp says the intent is to spur action in the state legislature. “Our main point was that the town would urge the state of Vermont to create firm interim goals to meet the 90 percent by 50 renewable energy goals. It's not codified in statute and so we want something more legally binding that the state will have to follow.”
This will be the 52nd year that John McClaughry has moderated the Town of Kirby’s Town Meeting. He expects considerable discussion over school redistricting. “Kirby is one of the many towns caught up in our Act 46 restructuring of the public school system.”
Eight northwest Vermont communities will decide whether to form a regional dispatch center with a centralized 911 call center. Burlington Police Chief Brandon Del Pozo recently explained to the Burlington City Council why he believes it’s needed. “It's time that we build a professional system that does two things: get citizens the help that they need immediately without relying on a rural system to do it and number two when my cops need help or any cop in this region needs help I want them to get it right away and right now that's not going to happen.”
This week, opponents, including dispatchers, posted a video to the web outlining their position. “An incredibly large majority of dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics oppose this proposal. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Committee has not addressed how the regional center would function. They are asking you to vote on an idea and not a plan.”
There has been considerable focus on the Burlington mayoral race. Incumbent Democrat Miro Weinberger faces independent candidates Infinite Culcleasure and Carina Driscoll. Weinberger recently said while optimistic about winning a third three-year term, he is aggressively campaigning. “Pretty much every Town Meeting Day and sometimes in the fall as well I'm out there you know listening to voters and hearing where people want to go and every time we've gone to the voters for last six years the voters have shown that they like the direction of the city. And so I'm optimistic that's still the case. At the same time we don't take anything for granted.”
At one of the last debates, challenger Carina Driscoll emphasized the theme of her campaign: that the city is ready for change. “It's time to pivot to a people's vision for Burlington. City Hall is catering to private interests instead of working for the people who live here. We know that only sustainable development will create a resilient economy and bring the cost of living in our city down. It's time for a vision for the city created by and for the people who live here.”
Burlington residents will also weigh in on a resolution asking if the city should request the cancellation of the basing of the F-35 fighter jets at the National Guard base at the Burlington International Airport.
Polls across Vermont close at 7 p.m.