Tuesday was Town Meeting Day and Vermont voters had a number of local ballot items to decide. In the state’s largest city, there will be changes on the Burlington City Council after two incumbents lost their reelection bids.
Burlington city councilors in eight wards were up for election. Three ran unopposed: Ward 3 Progressive Brian Pine, Ward 6 Democrat Karen Paul, and Ward 7 Independent/Progressive Ali Dieng. In Ward 4 Democrat Sarah Carpenter won after incumbent Republican Kurt Wright announced he would not run because of a job conflict. But he placed second after a write-in campaign was mounted in the three-way race. Ward 2 Progressive Max Tracy and Ward 5 Democrat Chip Mason won reelection.
But Ward 1 Independent incumbent Sharon Foley Bushor lost to Progressive Zoraya Hightower and Ward 8 incumbent Democrat Adam Roof lost to Progressive Jane Stromberg.
The results mean Progressives will be in control of the city council. Vermont Progressive Party Executive Director Josh Wronski says they’ve been recruiting candidates for several election cycles and calls this result historic. “We haven’t won this many seats on the city council possibly ever and certainly not in the last you know two decades. Just the quality of the candidates that we were able to put forward. These are mostly young people in their early twenties and early thirties who really want to see a future that puts the needs of working class people and the planet first and have not seen that happening with the current administration. You know we want to go and see a new direction in Burlington. So I’m excited for what it means in terms of us being able to move a Progressive agenda forward on the City Council.”
Across the state voters decided local elections, school budgets and bond issues. Middlebury College Professor of Political Science Bert Johnson says there weren’t any surprises. “One thing that I would point out about this year’s Town Meeting is how focused many communities were on infrastructure spending. That was true of South Burlington but it was also true of a lot of communities around the state, Middlebury and other places, central and southern Vermont. Thinking about things like water systems, new buildings need to be constructed. A lot of discussion about bonding for such expenditures. And in a lot of cases the requests for spending were approved but I do note that there were times at which large increases in expenditures for various items were viewed with at least some suspicion and in the case of South Burlington outright rejected.”
South Burlington voters overwhelmingly rejected not only the school budget but a $209 million bond proposal to build a new middle and high school. Again, Johnson. “What clearly just happened was that voters just got sticker shock at that price. And so the community needs to rethink the way it’s campaigning for these kinds of initiatives and explaining to voters that this kind of thing is necessary. In Burlington itself Burlington’s going through some expenditures on the school here, on the high school, but nowhere near the amount that was asked for in South Burlington.”
In Burlington all of the ballot questions passed. When Burlington’s new council is sworn in on April 6th there will be six Progressives, five Democrats, an Independent who caucuses with the Progressives, and no Republicans on the panel.