Big wins for Burlington Dems; voters strike down police oversight charter change

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 8:37 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 10:29 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Big wins for Democrats in Burlington on Town Meeting Day.

The Queen City had a jam-packed ballot with eight questions-- one of the longest ballots in recent memory. Six of those questions were charter changes. There were also five council races.

Democrats won all races except one, which was Progressive Melo Grant in the central district.

And Democrats also succeeded with the police oversight charter change being voted down. The Progressive-backed and citizen-led charter change which would have established a community oversight board of the police department, allowing citizens to investigate and dole out punishment to police officers who break the rules, a power that now lies with the chief.

Democrats launched a big push in recent months encouraging voters to vote no.

“Burlington voters delivered a decisive outcome by defeating a charter change that would have left us more divided and farther away from these goals than ever, and by delivering a new Democratic majority to the City Council,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Democratic councilors have backed a measure in the City Council promising to expand police oversight if this measure fails.

Progressives are now hoping that they will follow through with that.

“Raising those issues is going to cause real action to take place on the city level. We’ve heard from Democratic city councilors that they are ready to move forward with expanded oversight on the police commission level, so that’s really positive news. So I think we are actually going to end up getting some really good things out of that,” said Josh Wronski, the chair of the Vermont Progressive Party.

Another citizen-led, Progressive-backed charter change allowing residents to bring ordinances straight to the ballot also failed.

When it comes to the City Council, Democrats are celebrating what they are calling the first council majority with a Democratic mayor in 40 years.

“This new consensus is going to allow us to accelerate our efforts to rebuild the police department, to restore the levels of public safety that Burlingtonians expect and deserve, to ensure that Burlington remains the vibrant, welcoming place for all that it has long been,” Weinberger said.

Technically, the Dems do not have a majority currently, but north district council winner Mark Barlow is an independent who ran with the Democratic endorsement and also committed to caucusing with the Democrats as well. So, the Dems are counting him in.

The Progressive chair says they’ll have to continue to work hard for policies they support.

“We’ll likely have less of an ability to stop some of the worst things coming out of the mayor’s office but we are still going to fight hard and we are still going to work across the aisle to pass the things that we care about and we look forward to doing that work,” Wronski said.

All other questions on the ballot were passed, including ranked choice voting, all-resident voting, the school budget, a carbon fee for buildings not using renewable energy and redistricting.

Burlington unofficial results-Candidates

Burlington unofficial results-Questions

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