Vermonters participated in an annual tradition Tuesday, discussing and voting on community issues on Town Meeting Day. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reviews some of the key results.
In Vermont’s largest city, Burlington incumbent Mayor Miro Weinberger won re-election to a second two-year term over three opponents with 68 percent of the vote. “This always was going to be an election about the last three years and how people felt about it. I think the strong turnout and the strong result is an indication that people basically feel we have been on the right path for the last three years. We have come through a challenging time through hard work and focus on getting the basics of city government right. And people want to see more of that.”
This was the first city council election in Burlington since redistricting. While the Democratic mayor won in a landslide, council Democrats lost their majority. When the new 12-member council convenes on the first Monday in April there will be four Democrats, four Progressives, one Republican and three independents. Current Council President Ward 5 Democrat Joan Shannan says the new council has moved to the left. “It’s interesting because when you look at the ballot issues, you know the votes on citizen voting rights, that was to the right of the current council. In order to pass the ballot measures that’s a city wide referendum. So while the council moved to the left, I’m not sure that all the voters moved to the left as a whole.”
In Rutland, Mayor Christopher Louras will return for a fifth two-year term after beating two opponents. He says Rutland is in the midst of a transformative revitalization effort that voters support. “Rutland is not the same place it was three years ago. There’s a whole different feel. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of vibrancy in downtown. The change over the last several years has been palpable. The voters, the community, decided that they want to continue with the strategy that has created this vibrancy and revitalization. This is an affirmation that the community working together collaboratively to overcome our obstacles really has embraced the strategy and are delighted with the direction of the city.”
Many school officials were nervous as Town Meeting Day voters decided budgets. Last year a record 37 were defeated, but this year the number is substantially lower. Vermont School Boards Association Executive Director Stephen Dale reports that of those that have reported results, only 19 had been defeated. “As we look at the pattern of budget defeats they are largely focused on particular local issues. For the most part, local school district budgets have come in very reasonably. From the state perspective the general assembly has been very focused on issues related to property taxes and education spending. I think Vermont’s voters didn’t feel like they needed to send a message to Montpelier this year because I think the message was conveyed last year and was heard.”
The average school budget proposal increased 2.95 percent; 61 districts proposed smaller budgets than the previous year.