Burlington's elected officials are in the process of re-shaping the Queen City's political landscape. Federal law-- known as one person, one vote-- requires a city's wards to have approximately the same population. But Burlington's have been out of balance since the 2010 census and unadjusted since 1993.
In a tight vote Monday night, the City Council voted to add an eighth ward, while subtracting two of the 14 councilors. The majority saw the plan as a compromise.
Democrat Norm Blais found himself in the minority.
"I think that invariably there's going to be that tension between the two classes of city councilors," said Blais, D-Burlington City Council.
Under the plan, each of the eight wards will be represented by a councilor. The plan also pairs wards together to create four precincts-- each with its own councilor.
Proponents say it allows the city to keep political lines around natural voting blocks.
Blais argued for slightly moving existing boundaries and calls the proposal a complex solution to a simple problem.
"I think it's very cumbersome and really doesn't address the primary, underlying problem," Blais said.
"It was an interesting debate, glad that they came down the way they did," said Jim Holway, Ward 4 NPA.
Holway raised transparency concerns throughout the redistricting process. He agrees with the compromise, but says he isn't completely sold on some of the elements.
Residents will vote on the plan during Town Meeting Day and state legislators can nix the proposal.
"To me, the real tragedy of what we voted on last night is that it could stay in place forever," Blais said.
If the changes are ultimately adopted, they'll play a major factor in shaping at least the next decade of Burlington politics.
Less complex, standard overhaul proposals for ward boundary changes failed to gain much support. A plan to move to eight wards and 16 councilors was an exception, but Mayor Miro Weinberger threatened to use his veto power as he says the Council is already too large.
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