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13 posts categorized "tmdvt09"

March 06, 2009

Wright Wants Recount in Burlington Mayor's Race

Republican Kurt Wright informed city officials verbally this morning that he wants a recount in the Burlington mayor's race, largely to ensure that the city's instant-runoff voting system worked properly.

"I don't expect this to change the outcome of this race, but I do believe that we should take the opportunity to feel comfortable about the process and the system," said Wright.

On election eve, Wright was ahead of Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss in the first two instant runoff rounds, but lost in the third — and final — round after the other candidates' second, third and fourth place rankings were tabulated. For a complete, ward-by-ward breakdown of the mayor's race, click Download 2009BurlingtonMayorIRVbyward (PDF file).

Wright said he'll send an official letter by midday. The recount will take place either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of next week. 

The recount will be conducted by the Board of Civil Authority, which is comprised of the 14-member City Council and the Mayor, said Jonathan Leopold, the city's chief administrative officer. Because Mayor Bob Kiss, Wright, the city council president, and Democratic councilor Andy Montroll were candidates in the race, they will not be allowed to take part in the recount.

Wright said he was ready to move on and not ask for a recount. However, Wright said he was overwhelmed with emails, phone calls, and well-wishers stopping him on the street — all urging him to ask for the recount.

"This is only the second election that this system has been in place, and I think some people still don't understand how it is that the candidate who got the most first place votes in the first round and then the second round can then lose in the third round."

Wright said he's already extending his apologies to fellow councilors, who will be the ones charged with overseeing the recount.

"This is not about me and I do not expect to be elected, however if there was some egregious error and I’m elected, great," Wright said with a chuckle. 

Wright said he has been urged to lead a citizen petition effort to dump IRV as the way to elect the mayor, but has rebuffed such calls.

"The citizens voted for IRV and if they choose to get rid of it, that process should be citizen-driven, too, and not encouraged by me," he said.

The IRV recount would be completed by hand, and the process would involve a sorting process of creating separate piles for each candidates' first-place votes, and then subsequently look at the eliminated candidates' second, third, fourth, and fifth place selections and adding them to the piles of the two candidates with the most votes, said Leopold.

Since it's already known that Kiss and Wright will have the most first-place votes, it should be easy to quickly sort through the votes of the other three candidates and recount the stacks, Leopold said.

The only costs incurred by the city would be the staff time devoted to setting things up for the BCA, which Leopold said would be minimal. Councilors would not be paid separately as it is part of their duties as councilors, for which they receive an annual stipend of $3000. The count itself could take as many as six hours to complete, Leopold estimated.

IRV supporters say the system worked just as it was designed — to have a series of instant runoffs until the candidate with the most support crossed the 50-percent threshold.

Here's how it broke down election eve: In the first round, Wright had 2951 (33%) votes to Kiss' 2585 (29%) and Montroll's 2063 (23%), and in the second round Wright had 3294 (37%) to Kiss' 2981 (34%) and Montroll's 2554 (29%) after Independent Dan Smith and Green Party candidate James Simpson's votes were eliminated and their second preferences divvied up among the other three candidates. In the final round, Montroll was eliminated and 1332 of his preferences went to Kiss, while 767 went to Wright. That put Kiss on top with 4313 (51.5%) and Wright with 4061 (48%).

Interestingly enough, Kiss had compiled more votes than Wright after votes had been counted in six of the city's seven wards. It was Wright's strong showing in Ward 7 that put him over the top. His strong showing in the other New North End ward — Ward 4 — allowed him to make up the deficit in other parts of the city. In fact, both Kiss and Montroll bested Wright in the city's other five wards.

UPDATE: Mayor Bob Kiss is out of town and unavailable for comment, said spokesman Joe Reinert. "He feels the numbers don't suggest the need for a recount," said Reinert. "All this will do is cost city time and city money, but its certainly his prerogative to make the request."

Reinert added that the way the results have been portrayed by some is false: "This was not a one-lap race, or a two-lap race, it was a three-lap race and as such all that matters is who was ahead after three laps. I don't think its been helpful for people to say that Kurt was 'winning' after the first around because that doesn't exactly describe the way it works. There may be other ways to understand the how the IRV system works, but it doesn't necessarily require a recount."

March 04, 2009

TMD: Vermont Yankee (Morning Update)

 (Note to Readers: This post updates the number of towns that approved / rejected the Vermont Yankee resolution yesterday)

Thirty-three municipalities have passed a resolution asking lawmakers to deny approval of the continued operation of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant after 2012.

The resolution that petitioners placed on town meeting day warnings for about 40 municipalities around the state also requires that lawmakers hold Entergy Corporation, the owner of the plant, fully responsible for the cost of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

One town, Topsham, rejected the resolution; Walden and Grafton tabled it; and Bolton, Glover and Wardsboro stripped out two portions of the proposal.

Entergy, the New Orleans-based company that purchased Yankee in 2002, has permission to operate the 37-year-old reactor until 2012. It is seeking a new license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep the plant running through 2032. Yankee’s continued operation for that additional 20-year period is also subject to legislative approval.

The resolution was designed to push lawmakers to shut the plant down. While the town votes are non-binding, they are, as the editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer put it, “the closest thing to a statewide referendum we will see” on the issue.

The plant, located on the banks of the Connecticut River in Vernon, has been plagued with safety problems over the last few years including leaky valves, missing fuel rods and the collapse of a cooling tower cell.  

Spokesmen for the plant, Larry Smith and Rob Williams, said last week that Entergy officials would not be present for the town meetings where the resolution is under consideration. On Monday, Smith reiterated the company’s stance on the issue: “We’re concentrating on what we do best, which is making 30 percent of Vermont’s electricity.”

The following towns passed the resolution on Tuesday: Brattleboro, Brookline, Calais, Charleston, Charlotte, Corinth, Dummerston, Duxbury, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Halifax, Hinesburg, Holland, Lincoln, Marlboro, Marshfield, Middlesex, Newfane, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Shrewsbury, Townshend, Warren, Westfield, Westminster, Windham, Woodbury and Worcester.

In most towns, the resolution was presented in three parts: The first asks the legislature to recognize that Vermont Yankee accounts for 2 percent of New England’s power supply and that the electricity the plant generates can be replaced with renewable energy sources, energy conservation and excess power already available in the regional market; the second asks lawmakers to deny approval of the plant’s continued operation beyond March 2012; and the third holds Entergy responsible for the clean up of VY after it is shut down.

The towns of Bolton, Glover and Wardsboro rejected the first two portions of the resolution, but passed the third unanimously, according to Dan Dewalt the organizer for Replace VY, the group behind the grassroots petition drive.
Topsham defeated the resolution 36-34, and Walden tabled it.
In Worcester, the majority of voters passed the resolution after two supporters made brief comments. No one spoke in support of Vermont Yankee at the meeting.

Peter Sterling, who helped to put the issue on the Worcester town warning, said, “There’s no place to put the waste. I felt we should tell the legislature to shut it down and find a new form of energy.”

In a voice vote from the floor of the Doty Memorial School gym, the majority of the roughly 100 Worcester residents boomed out a resounding, simultaneous yea. The nays were, by comparison, a murmured afterthought.

The scene was similar in East Montpelier, according to Rep. Tony Klein, who is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. More than 200 people attended town meeting and the issue was passed on a voice vote, he said.

Five hours into a meeting that was largely consumed by intense wrangling over the school budget, Woodbury voters wearily took up the resolution at the end of their town meeting warning. The first motion would have passed over the article altogether. Several residents argued that the resolution wasn’t appropriate, that it was an issue legislators should decide. The motion was quickly defeated, and even more heated discussion ensued. Retta Dunlap proposed an amendment to strike the first two provisions of the article and simply ask Entergy to pay for decommissioning costs.

Mike McGlynn didn’t think this was a good idea; he argued that rates will go up if the corporation is required to pay for clean up.

David Morse made his case more broadly. “I think we need 128 more plants, not one less. The article says we’re going to get replacement power from renewables. I think it’s somewhat disingenuous to say that when we spent 20 years pulling out all of the dams, and we won’t put up windmills.”

Dunlap, too, bemoaned the state’s lack of planning. “I look at this,” Dunlap said. “And I say this is reactive, not proactive. They should have put in a new reactor.”

Woodbury eventually passed the resolution in a voice vote.

In Middlesex, only the decommissioning clause of the resolution survived at first.  After this stripped-down version was rejected, voters passed the original language, Klein said.

The downside of SafeStor, in which the plant could sit idle for 60 years until Entergy’s decommissioning account builds up to pay for cleaning up the site, hit home for Middlesex voters, Klein said.. The plant is valuable, not only because of its substation, power lines and important connections to the New England grid, but also because it is a source of property tax revenue, jobs and electricity, according to Klein. To let it sit idle for so long, isn’t tenable; he envisions eventual reuse of at least part of the site.

“It was reassuring to me that at least on the decommissioning point we’re following the will of the people,” Klein said.

“I think on some level it’s (the resolution) a pretty powerful message,” Klein continued. “These towns are sprinkled all around the state. It may indicate a mood that Vermonters are in about the plant. Part of the problem is the company that runs the plant. People don’t have much faith in (it). I know I don’t. (It doesn’t) have a good track record as far as I’m concerned."

March 03, 2009

TMD: Woodbury School Budget

(Ed note: This is another dispatch from reporter Anne Galloway)

A school budget increase of 8.7 percent for the 2009-2010 school year threw Woodbury voters in a tizzy on Town Meeting Day, and not only because that number exceeded the allowable increase of 3.9 percent, forcing the school board to present two budgets to voters as required under Act 82.

Woodbury was one of roughly a dozen towns statewide that had to present two budgets to voters.

The numbers weighed heavily on the crowd of more than 140 voters who came to town meeting, but what was really giving members of the audience heartburn was the notion that they might not be able to afford to keep their K-6 school in the middle of this Washington County town going much longer.

The school board cut a library position, eliminated the custodian and held a meeting to discuss dropping bus service altogether (though this last measure didn’t make into the budget put before voters on Tuesday). Some of the factors pushing costs up include a spike in special education expenses, low student enrollment (the school has about 50 students), maintenance for a two-story old brick school building and a $50,000 deficit carried forward from last year.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Woodbury, which was once a receiving town under Act 68, is now a sending town. Last year, taxpayers sent $100,000 to the state.  

After nearly five hours of deliberation, many motions and amendments, Woodbury residents passed both budgets – the $844,248 that fell under the state maximum inflationary rate passed, 84-62, and the additional amount, $56,362 passed, 78-54.

Voters here also set aside $7500 for a study of the town’s long-term options. Some of ideas that were tossed around included deeper cuts in school spending, tuitioning out students and starting a private school. None of these options sat well with voters, and it likely had nothing to do with the hot dogs that were served for lunch.

—  Anne Galloway

TMD: Vermont Yankee Update (Final)

(Ed. note: This is the final dispatch from reporter Anne Galloway on today's votes related to the relicensure and decommissioning of Vermont Yankee).

So far, 25 municipalities have passed a resolution asking lawmakers to deny approval of the continued operation of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant after 2012.

The resolution that petitioners placed on town meeting day warnings for about 40 municipalities around the state also requires that lawmakers hold Entergy Corporation, the owner of the plant, fully responsible for the cost of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

One town, Topsham, rejected the resolution; Walden tabled it; and Bolton stripped out two portions of the proposal.

Entergy, the New Orleans-based company that purchased Yankee in 2002, has permission to operate the 37-year-old reactor until 2012. It is seeking a new license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep the plant running through 2032. Yankee’s continued operation for that additional 20-year period is also subject to legislative approval.

While the town votes are non-binding, they are, as the editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer put it, “the closest thing to a statewide referendum we will see” on the issue.

The plant, located on the banks of the Connecticut River in Vernon, has been plagued with safety problems over the last few years including leaky valves, missing fuel rods and the collapse of a cooling tower cell.  

Spokesmen for the plant, Larry Smith and Rob Williams, said last week that Entergy officials would not be present for the town meetings where the resolution is under consideration. Yesterday, Smith reiterated the company’s stance on the issue: “We’re concentrating on what we do best, which is making 30 percent of Vermont’s electricity.”

The following towns passed the resolution today: Brookline, Calais, Charleston, Charlotte, Corinth, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Halifax, Hinesburg, Holland, Marshfield, Middlesex, Newfane, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Townshend, Warren, Westfield, Westminster, Windham, Woodbury and Worcester.

In most towns, the resolution was presented in three parts: The first asks the legislature to recognize that Vermont Yankee accounts for 2 percent of New England’s power supply and that the electricity the plant generates can be replaced with renewable energy sources, energy conservation and excess power already available in the regional market; the second asks lawmakers to deny approval of the plant’s continued operation beyond March 2012; and the third holds Entergy responsible for the clean up of VY after it is shut down.

The town of Bolton rejected the first two portions of the resolution, but passed the third unanimously, according to Dan Dewalt the organizer for Replace VY, the group behind the grassroots petition drive.

Topsham defeated the resolution 36-34, and Walden tabled it.

In Worcester, the majority of voters passed the resolution after two supporters made brief comments. No one spoke in support of Vermont Yankee at the meeting.

Peter Sterling, who helped to put the issue on the Worcester town warning, said, “There’s no place to put the waste. I felt we should tell the legislature to shut it down and find a new form of energy.”

In a voice vote from the floor of the Doty Memorial School gym, the majority of the roughly 100 Worcester residents boomed out a resounding, simultaneous yea. The nays were, by comparison, a murmured afterthought.

The scene was similar in East Montpelier, according to Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier), who is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. More than 200 people attended town meeting and the issue was passed on a voice vote, he said.

Five hours into a meeting that was largely consumed by intense wrangling over the school budget, Woodbury voters wearily took up the resolution at the end of their town meeting warning. The first motion would have passed over the article altogether. Several residents argued that the resolution wasn’t appropriate, that it was an issue legislators should decide. The motion was quickly defeated, and even more heated discussion ensued. Retta Dunlap proposed an amendment to strike the first two provisions of the article and simply ask Entergy to pay for decommissioning costs.      

Mike McGlynn didn’t think this was a good idea; he argued that rates will go up if the corporation is required to pay for clean up.

David Morse made his case more broadly. “I think we need 128 more plants, not one less. The article says we’re going to get replacement power from renewables. I think it’s somewhat disingenuous to say that when we spent 20 years pulling out all of the dams, and we won’t put up windmills.”

Dunlap, too, bemoaned the state’s lack of planning. “I look at this,” Dunlap said. “And I say this is reactive, not proactive. They should have put in a new reactor.”

In Middlesex, only the decommissioning clause of the resolution survived at first.  After this stripped-down version was rejected, voters passed the original language, Klein said.

The downside of SafeStor in which the plant could sit idle for 60 years until Entergy’s decommissioning account builds up to pay for cleaning up the site, hit home for Middlesex voters, Klein said. The plant is valuable, not only because of its substation, power lines and important connections to the New England grid, but also because it is a source of property tax revenue, jobs and electricity, according to Klein. To let it sit idle for so long, isn’t tenable; he envisions eventual reuse of at least part of the site.

 “It was reassuring to me that at least on the decommissioning point we’re following the will of the people,” Klein said.

“I think on some level it’s (the resolution) a pretty powerful message,” Klein continued These towns are sprinkled all around the state. It may indicate a mood that Vermonters are in about the plant. Part of the problem is the company that runs the plant. People don’t have much faith in (it). I know I don’t. (It doesn’t) have a good track record as far as I’m concerned.”

TMD: Vermont Yankee Update

So far, 24 municipalities have passed a resolution asking lawmakers to reject recertification of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant after its operating license expires in 2012.

The resolution that petitioners placed on town meeting day warnings for about 40 municipalities around the state also required that lawmakers hold Entergy Corporation, the owner of the plant, fully responsible for the cost of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

One town, Topsham, rejected the resolution; Walden tabled it and Bolton stripped out two portions of the proposal.

Entergy, the New Orleans-based company that purchased Yankee in 2002, has permission to operate the 37-year-old reactor until 2012. It is seeking a new license to continue operating the plant until 2032. The legislature must decide, under state law, whether to approve a certificate of public good for the plant’s license extension. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission would grant the 20-year license to Entergy. The town votes are non-binding, but they are, as the editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer put it, “the closest thing to a statewide referendum we will see” on the issue.

The plant, located on the banks of the Connecticut River in Vernon, has been plagued with safety problems over the last few years including leaky valves, missing fuel rods and the collapse of a cooling tower cell.  

Spokesmen for the plant, Larry Smith and Rob Williams, said last week that Entergy officials would not be present for the town meetings where the resolution is under consideration. Yesterday, Smith reiterated the company’s stance on the issue: “We’re concentrating on what we do best, which is making 30 percent of Vermont’s electricity.”

The following towns passed the resolution today: Brookline, Calais, Charleston, Charlotte, Corinth, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Halifax, Hinesburg, Holland, Marshfield, Newfane, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Townshend, Warren, Westfield, Westminster, Windham, Woodbury and Worcester.

In most towns, the resolution was presented in three parts: The first asks the legislature to recognize that Vermont Yankee accounts for 2 percent of New England’s power supply and that the electricity the plant generates can be replaced with renewable energy sources, energy conservation and excess power already available in the regional market; the second asks lawmakers to deny approval of the plant’s continued operation beyond March 2012; and the third holds Entergy responsible for the clean up of VY after it is shut down.

The town of Bolton rejected the first two portions of the resolution, but passed the third unanimously, according to Dan Dewalt the organizer for Replace VY, the group behind the grassroots petition drive.
In Worcester, the majority of voters passed the resolution after supporters made two brief comments. No one spoke up in support of Vermont Yankee at the meeting.

Peter Sterling, who helped to put the issue on the Worcester town warning, said, “There’s no place to put the waste. I felt we should tell the legislature to shut it down and find a new form of energy.”

In a voice vote from the floor of the Doty Memorial School gym, the majority of the roughly 100 Worcester residents boomed out a resounding, simultaneous yea. The nays were, by comparison, a murmured afterthought.

Topsham, on the other hand, defeated the resolution 36-34, and Walden tabled the issue and ultimately decided not to vote on it.

Full town meeting day results and a more in-depth look at what Vermonters said about the resolution at town meeting will be posted later tonight.

TMD: Preliminary Vermont Yankee Roundup

Radioactive_2_2 [Ed. Note: This just in from Seven Days correspondent Anne Galloway...]

So far, 20 municipalities have passed a resolution demanding that the legislature refuse to approve continued operation of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant beyond its scheduled end date of 2012.
The nonbinding resolution that petitioners placed on town meeting day warnings in about 40 towns around the state also required that lawmakers hold Entergy Corporation, the owner of the plant, fully responsible for the cost of shutting down Vermont Yankee.

The Vernon-based plant has been plagued with safety problems (including the dramatic collapse of a cooling tower several years ago). The 38-year-old facility’s license to operate expires in 2012. The plant supplies 30 percent of Vermont’s power, according to VY officials. Entergy, which purchased the VY in 2002, is seeking a new license to continue operating the plant until 2032.  

These towns have passed the resolution so far: Brookline, Calais, Charleston, Charlotte, Corinth, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Hinesburg, Holland, Newfane, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Townshend, Warren, Westfield, Westminster, Woodbury and Worcester.

In most towns, the resolution was presented in three parts: The first asks the legislature to recognize that Vermont Yankee accounts for 2 percent of New England’s power supply and that the electricity the plant generates can be replaced with renewable energy sources, energy conservation and excess power already available in the regional market; the second asks lawmakers to deny approval of the plant’s continued operation beyond March 2012; and the third holds Entergy responsible for the clean up of VY after it is shut down.

The town of Bolton rejected the first two portions of the resolution, but passed the third unanimously, according to Dan Dewalt the organizer for Replace VY, the group behind the grassroots petition drive.
Full town meeting day results and a more in-depth look at what Vermonters said about the resolution at town meeting will be posted later tonight.

-- Anne Galloway

TMD: Rutland Residents Mum at Info Meeting

Today's Rutland Herald has a story covering proceedings at last night's pre-town-meeting informational forum. Or rather, the lack of them.

According to Herald staffer Stephanie Peters: "A Monday night public hearing on the city's Town Meeting Day ballot drew a handful of residents, but none who actually wanted to comment or ask questions about items appearing on the ballot."

Of course, Rutland voters are still turning out to vote. For a quick primer on the city's TMD issues, consult its election page, this Herald story on a recent mayoral debate or this February 25 Vermont Public Radio dispatch.


TMD: Wasilla

Vermont isn't the only state with an iconoclastic rural mystique. Remember Alaska? That's where former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin lives. Here is actor Chris Schneider reading what is reportedly a town meeting transcript from Wasilla, Alaska, where Palin used to be mayor.

TMD: Stowe-away

IMG_2309 I drove to Stowe this morning to observe a real live town meeting. The sky over I-89 was clear and cold. Commentators from WDEV were talking town meeting on my car radio.

When I arrived at Stowe High School just after 9 a.m., the parking lot was full. Free muffins everywhere. More than 200 people in the auditorium.

A moderator called the meeting to order. First on the town meeting agenda was a proposed $9,355,964 operational budget. Were there any questions?

"Did you say no increase in property taxes?" a guy in the front asked incredulously. "I don't believe that."

Stowe selectboard member Heidi Scheuermann, who is also a Republican representative in the Vermont House, explained the particulars of the budget. I had a hard time following.

Discussion turned to municipal employees' salaries, health care, the prospect of a new hockey rink, potential windfalls from the federal stimulus package. Several folks in the audience tapped on laptops. Others glanced at newspapers or carried on quiet side conversations. I thought it odd how they were simultaneously attentive and preoccupied.

Just after 10, a woman stood up and proposed removing some capital improvement funds from this year's budget. The motion was put up for discussion. Grassroots democracy in action?

Heidi Scheuermann raised her hand. She said she understood the woman's frustration, but that the proposed budget calculations reflect a careful planning process. Eliminating the money now, she said, would be "detrimental in the long run."

A man in the audience raised his hand. Scheuermann is right, he suggested. "At a time like this, planning is exactly what we need."

I left before the matter was settled. Out in the hallway, two women were standing by the muffins. "I don't know what they're talking about in there," one said. "It's all very confusing."

As of this writing, it's still unclear what — if anything — Stowe voters will decide to do with their 1839 former church. An editorial in the February 19 Stowe Reporter urged that the structure be saved, not demolished.

TMD: BurlingtonPol Endorses Bob Kiss

I just read Haik's endorsement on his blog and thought it was worth sharing.

Another must-read from BurlingtonPol: Haik interviews Burlington mayoral candidate James Simpson.

Here's the most telling exchange from that interview:

HB: And what part of the city do you live in?

JS: I live in downtown Burlington.

HB: OK

JS: Yup. Up on the north end.

HB: So like in Ward Three?

JS: I don't actually know what ward it's in.


Find our interviews with Mr. Simpson here.

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