A Review Of Vermont’s Town Meeting Day

Mar 7, 2018

A number of local officials were elected and ballot questions decided across Vermont on Tuesday. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley looks at some of the results.

Local officials were elected on Town Meeting Day across Vermont.  Barre and Montpelier will have new mayors.  In Barre incumbent Mayor Tom Lauzon decided not to run and voters chose Lucas Herring to lead the city.  In Montpelier Anne Watson ran unopposed to replace outgoing mayor John Hollar.   Middlebury College Professor of Political Science Bert Johnson says in general, it was a typical Town Meeting Day.  “There are certain matters of interest. Bennington decided not to go forward with a mayoral form of government. Some places are voting on mayor and Bennington was voting whether to have a mayor or not and they decided not! And then the other thing that I was mildly surprised by is the F-35 vote in Burlington which went against the F-35 despite the F-35’s endorsement by a number of prominent elected officials. So that was a bit of a surprise. But by and large a fairly typical Town Meeting Day.”

Burlington had seven ballot questions in addition to the selection of city officials. One nonbinding question asked city officials to request the cancelation of the basing of fighter jets at the Burlington International Airport.   Although he did not support the measure, which passed 55-45 percent, reelected Mayor Miro Weinberger says he will review options. "Particularly with some of the new information and new reporting that's been done in recent weeks I think it's something we do need to do is really look at all this additional information and look at the concerns that have been raised and confirm that we still feel good about the direction we're going.”

Seven Days Burlington political reporter Katie Jickling notes another significant ballot item resulted in seven of eight northwest Vermont communities approving the formation of a regional dispatch center.  “This vote was basically an initial step for these cities to move forward and look at what a regional dispatch would look like. They haven't yet decided on the specifics of the measure.”

A key item of business in towns across Vermont is school budget votes.  With 140 districts reporting, 96 percent of budgets were approved.  Vermont Superintendents Association Executive Director Jeff Francis finds it noteworthy that only five budgets were defeated on Town Meeting Day.  “The proposed budgets actually show tax rate increases well below that was projected. I think it's also a strong possibility that the work that is occurring in Vermont around Act 46 which is intended to unify some districts in an effort to get better scale for managing resources was a factor.”

On Town Meeting Day 12 municipalities, including Berlin, East Montpelier, Plainfield, Williamstown and Barre City, approved the formation of Central Vermont Internet to create a high-speed community internet service provider.