Burlington vote a referendum on city council power balance

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:09 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - With Town Meeting Day voting already underway, the balance of power is up for grabs in Burlington. Eight of 12 City Council seats are on the line and just a swing of a single seat could determine whether Democrats or Progressives dictate policy in the year ahead.

More than 2,400 residents have already cast their votes in the Burlington election. Progressives currently hold half of the 12 seats on the council, allowing them to block the mayor in key areas, including public safety and who should serve as the city’s next police chief.

“I think that there’s going to be a lot of single-issue voters, more than we’ve ever seen before,” said Kurt Wright, a former council president. He says he’s among those who believe issues surrounding the police department could be pivotal in city council races. “Because of the council’s actions -- that have really damaged public safety and hurt our police department that we had -- that was really a good police department. But it’s been damaged by the current city council.”

Burlington political watchers are closely looking at three wards where the outcome could change the balance of power -- Wards 1, 7, and 8.

Progressives say maintaining their seats on the council will make sure the city government is not controlled by a single party. “We really want to maintain that balance so the administration has to work with Progressives and Independents on the City Council to move the city forward -- that’s really, really, key. We haven’t seen that in the past but we really want to be able to engage in that co-governance,” said Josh Wronski, executive director of the Vermont Progressive Party.

Democrats say they believe they won’t be losing any seats. “The goal -- whether it’s in wards 7,1, or 8 is to elect folks with a Democratic label. But equally as important if not more importantly, with a commitment to collaborate, with a commitment to work with all different perspectives and not be advocates or activists for single issues,” said Burlington Democratic Party Chair Adam Roof.

If you still haven’t mailed in your ballot, the city encourages citizens to drop off in a designated ballot drop-off box, bring their ballots to city hall, or vote in-person on town meeting day next Tuesday.

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