Burlington Progressives keep seats on City Council; 4 of 5 ballot measures pass
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It looks like the Burlington City Council will largely stick with the status quo. Progressives held onto six seats this Town Meeting Day. Meanwhile, voters approved four of the city’s five ballot measures.
Progressives were able to win the wards they already held, meaning that there will still be six Progressives, making up half the 12-member council.
The mayor’s office says there will likely be a recount in Ward 7, but that will be between incumbent Ali Dieng, an independent, and Aleczander Stith, a Democrat.
Without a majority, Progressives cannot pass through agendas that they want with only Progressive votes, however, they can block other measures proposed by councilors or by Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger. Most recently this occurred when Burlington Acting Police Chief Jon Murad’s nomination to become the permanent chief failed to come through after all six Progressives voted against it.
Vermont Progressive Party Executive Director Josh Wronski says he hopes the mayor’s office will work with the Progressives, who will continue to be a presence on the council.
“We’re here to stay the issues we’re fighting for are here to stay. We are not going anywhere. The Burlington voters just sent us back after two years of governance, so we’re going to keep doing what we’re are doing and we hope the mayor will join us,” Wronski said.
After the election results, Mayor Weinberger pointed to races where he believes Democrats gained ground in terms of the ratio of votes as opposed to other years, such as in Ward 5 where Ben Traverse won.
Weinberger says nearly the entire time he’s been mayor, he has had to work across the aisle.
“Certainly I think the message from voters tonight is that they are concerned with the direction the council is going in. We saw some very big shifts in the ways we’ve seen these races go in recent years. I hope that leads to more collaboration, more negotiation, more finding a way through and finding a way to get things done,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.
Burlington also had several ballot measures, including TIF district funding for a revamped Main Street, a general obligation bond to help buy firetrucks and fix streets, the school budget, and a charter change to take archaic language around sex change out of the charter. Those four ballot measures all passed.
The only ballot item that did not pass was a proposed increase in Burlington’s municipal tax rate.
The city was asking for a 4-cent increase in the tax rate which would have generated $2.2 million in revenue to help close a $7 million projected gap in the general fund.
The mayor says the gap is largely the result of increased costs due to inflation and the pandemic, something the Vermont League of Cities and Towns says was a common theme across the state.
Weinberger says he suspects the defeat is tied to lingering resentment from last year’s reappraisal which resulted in large tax increases for some hundreds of homeowners.
Now, his administration will look to make cuts to balance the budget.
“We will work hard, we’ll find a way to ensure that our highest priorities get the funding they need. We’ll be smart about the areas we do make cuts in. I can’t give you a lot of details on where we are going to land tonight, we’ve got four more months until we’ve got to finalize that budget,” Weinberger said.
Weinberger did say that he believes this could be the toughest operating budget that he’s dealt with over his 10 years as mayor. However, he says the yes votes on other ballot items will lead to significant upgrades to the city.
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