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22 posts categorized "Town Meeting Day 2009"

July 30, 2010

One of Two Progressives Resigns from Burlington City Council

Marrisa And then there was one. Progressive City Councilor Marrisa Caldwell has resigned her Burlington City Council seat effective this weekend, citing "personal reasons."

Her resignation leaves Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P-Ward 3) as the sole Progressive on the city's 14-member council. Democrats hold seven seats, the Republicans three, and there are two independents.

This marks the fewest Progressives on the council since 1982, one year after Bernie Sanders was first elected mayor.

Because her resignation occurs so far in advance of the March elections, the city will hold a special election to replace her on the council.

If the Democrats manage to win Caldwell's seat, they would have an outright majority on the council — a first since the mid-1980s.

When pressed, Caldwell wouldn't provide any more details about her resignation. "Personal reasons are personal reasons," she informed Seven Days via email.

Continue reading "One of Two Progressives Resigns from Burlington City Council" »

December 29, 2009

Burlington Residents Seek Repeal of Instant Runoff Voting

IRVphoto A group of Burlington residents have garnered the necessary 1654 signatures to put a simple question to voters: Should Burlington revert to its old way of electing its mayor?

Instant runoff voting (IRV) — which allows voters to rank candidates as a way to choose a winner on election day rather than holding costly separate runoff elections – was perhaps the most controversial element in a five-way race for mayor in March.

If there is no majority winner (50-plus percent) after all first-place ballots are counted, candidates who statistically can't win are eliminated, and their second-place votes are distributed among the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until someone with 50 percent of the vote emerges.

If IRV is repealed, then the next election for mayor will revert to the old system: A simple plurality (40 percent) wins the day. If no one has 40 percent on election night, then a special runoff between the top two candidates will be held 30 days later.

A multipartisan group calling itself "One Person, One Vote" held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in a City Hall conference room to declare that IRV was a convoluted system that frustrated voters and may have depressed voter turnout.

"I was an early supporter of IRV," said Democrat John Ewing. "But I've been disappointed in the way it has worked. I think it has proven itself to be a disservice to the voters. I think it's extremely convoluted and that voters don't understand how it works."

If that's true, it would be a slight turnaround from a poll conducted in 2006 — the first year IRV was used in Burlington to elect a mayor.

Continue reading "Burlington Residents Seek Repeal of Instant Runoff Voting" »

March 10, 2009

Burlington IRV Recount Begins... and Ends

The count is on!

Burlington's Board of Civil Authority — city councilors and three specially-designated ward election officials — kicked off what could be a three-day hand recount of all ballots cast Town Meeting Day in the race for mayor.

The board began counting around 7 p.m., and are expected to keep counting tonight until at least 10 p.m. They are counting two wards at a time, beginning tonight with Wards 1 & 2. (UPDATE: Wright called off the recount halfway through, according to John Briggs of the Burlington Free Press.)

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The recount was requested Friday by Republican Kurt Wright after he narrowly lost to Progressive Bob Kiss during last Tuesday's mayoral election. In Burlington, voters select mayors through instant-runoff voting — a system that allows voters to rank their candidates.

By charter, the Board of Civil Authority is the 14-member city council and the mayor presiding as its chairman. But, since two councilors — Wright and Democrat Andy Montroll — ran for mayor, as did Kiss, the city had to seat three election clerks to ensure enough board members were onhand to count ballots. Those three additional members are Lee Gilbert, Rosaire Longe, and Eliza Nelson.

Fewer than two dozen residents gathered in Contois Auditorium to observe the recount.

To recap, here's how the vote broke down election night: 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.

The recount process is as follows: Each ward will be reviewed separately, but the board will be divided in two larger teams so they can recount two wards simultaneously, each overseen by a different chief election official. One area would be watched over by Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold, and the other by Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Ben Pacy.

In addition, each mayoral candidate has tapped observers to watch over the process. However, they would not be allowed to touch ballots, said Leopold.

Before they can start counting, each ballot bag must be verified by its tag. Those tags were put in place by election officials Tuesday night. Then, two teams of three people will begin sorting ballots by their first-place vote. After that, the board will break up into pairs and then count the ballots — putting a rubber band around each stack of 50. They will then be able to compare the results against the machine tally.

After that, the same process will be sorted for second- and third-place votes until they exhaust the votes in each ward. This would ensure that only one ward's ballots are opened each time, rather than counting each ward by round, said Leopold.

Another approach was rejected by the board, which was to count votes, by ward, across the city by round. This would have entailed opening, and reopening, ballot bags.

If there is deviation from the counted vote, the board can review the voter checklist itself.

While doing the hand recount, there will also be a review of ballots to ensure "voter intent" in cases where it may not be obvious.

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

Third Time’s the Charm

(Note to readers: This item was posted as an addendum to the online version of my column, but I post it here to hopefully spark some dialogue about the night's results).

In the end, the Progressives needed a little help from another party to hold on to the Queen City mayor’s seat. As he did three years ago, Progressive Bob Kiss won the day by picking up the second-place votes of his third-place rival.

In 2006, when the race went to an instant runoff, Kiss benefited from Republican Kevin Curley’s second-place votes to stay ahead of Democrat Hinda Miller. In 2009, it was the second-place votes of Democrat Andy Montroll that secured Kiss’ reelection. It’s a little surprising that so many Dems chose Kiss, especially since Montroll and a top Kiss aide, Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold, had been involved in a political imbroglio involving Montroll’s legal work with a perceived competitor to Burlington Telecom.

Kiss said the key to his victory was the same as it was three years ago. “I ran a campaign based on winning 50 percent plus one of the vote,” said Kiss, barely audible as his supporters cheered for him at Sweetwaters. He said that while Democrats and Progressive have their differences, “The Democratic Party has a broad spectrum, and I’m not surprised that I was able to pick up some of Andy’s second-place votes. I had a lot of supporters who are Democrats.”

The big story of the night was not just Kiss’ win, but Republican Kurt Wright’s defeat. He led Kiss in both the first and second instant-runoff rounds, but lost convincingly in the third.

Wright said he is mulling a recount request, which he has to make within 48 hours.

“I wouldn’t be asking for a recount simply thinking that it will overturn the election results,” said Wright. “But, I think it may serve voters to better understand how a candidate who wasn’t ‘first’ in the first two rounds could end up being the winner.”

Aside from that, Wright said his strong showing proved that a Republican can come close in the liberal bastion of Burlington.

“The race didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but I’m happy with how we ran our campaign,” Wright said during a post-election party at The Rusty Scuffer.

Despite the loss, Montroll said he, too, was pleased with how he ran his race, and is looking forward to devoting more time to his family and law practice.

“We raised a lot of good issues and received a lot of support,” Montroll said before a crowd of jubilant Dems at Nectar’s.

Montroll said a full recount may not be in order, but a closer look at the results may ease the minds of voters. “I think IRV has worked, but it may be time to take another look at it,” he said.

The IRV process inspired head scratching among poll watchers of all persuasions — except the Progressives, of course, who welcomed the outcome. Mild-mannered Kiss says he believes IRV is serving the city well, and not just because it’s helped him win the election twice.

Predicting he would “prevail” even in a traditional run-off election against Kurt Wright, Kiss said, “I think people do understand how IRV works and support it.”

IRV defenders should start dusting off their arguments. How well they respond to the questions and criticisms that arise from this dramatic mayoral contest will likely decide IRV’s fate going forward.

The Anatomy of a Race — So, what did it for Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss? About as low-key as an incumbent can be, he seemed to be merely “standing” for reelection rather than “running” for his life. But, in the end, he proved that nice guys sometimes do finish first.

Simply stated, none of his challengers was able to stick Kiss with a debilitating political issue. In 1993, when voters ousted Progressive Peter Clavelle, they did so because of anger over an ill-timed tax increase anger as well as the city’s decision to offer domestic partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees.

Nothing like that emerged in this race. The school budget ended up passing by a healthy margin, even in this tough economic climate. It’s also hard to unseat incumbents in Vermont — just look at the governor’s office — if the only assaults opponents can muster are on the candidate’s “leadership” and “vision.”

The low voter turnout indicates that a lot of people simply tuned out the race, or weren’t enthused by it. The exception? Supporters of Dan Smith. a newbie to city politics who sought to energize young professionals and students — a tough electoral row to hoe. His fourth-place showing — with only 1300 votes — was disappointing. But he was in a race with three strong party-based candidates.

“I wouldn’t have run this campaign any differently,” Smith said outside of Red Square, where his supporters gathered Tuesday night. “We got a lot of support across the city, and I think our message, and how we engaged the young professionals, is something I hope will keep people focused and active on finding that common cause across party lines to make the city better.”

City Council Rundown — As I predicted in “Fair Game” last week, Democrats picked up votes on the Burlington City Council. They gained one seat for sure. A run-off election in Ward 7 will determine whether they end up with two.

What does that mean? Not since the mid-1980s have there been so many Democrats on the council, which gives them almost outright control of the 14-member governing body.

Nancy Kaplan bested Republican Eleanor Briggs Kenworthy in Ward 4. They were vying for the seat vacated by Republican Wright.

In Ward 7, Democrat Eli Lesser-Goldsmith and Republican Vince Dober were separated by only a handful of votes, necessitating a run-off election.

The Progressives held onto their council seats in Ward 2 and Ward 3. Newcomer Emma Mulvaney-Stanak crushed her Democratic challenger Nicole Pelletier. Both were running to fill the seat being vacated by Prog Jane Knodell.

Progressive Marrisa Caldwell held off a spirited challenge from Democrat David Cain, a newcomer to city politics. That seat had been held by Progressive Tim Ashe, who opted not to run for reelection. Cain came within less than 40 votes of Caldwell, and is definitely a face to watch in city politics.

Democrats in Ward 5 and Ward 6 — Joan Shannon and Mary Kehoe respectively — won easily, as did Independent Sharon Bushor in Ward 1.

Another change worth noting is that the new city council will be gender balanced. There will be seven women and seven men overseeing the Queen City.

For Bushor, the idea of seven, women on the council was welcome news. “I don’t know if it will mean anything in terms of policy changes, but it will definitely be a positive image for young women to see and hopefully inspire.”

She couldn’t recall a time when that many women — especially from across the political spectrum — were on the council.

As to who might emerge as the next city council president — Republican Wright’s successor? It’s anyone’s guess. Progressive Clarence Davis has said he is interested in running, and Wright thinks he’d be a good choice.

Of course the Democrats, who now dominate the council, may have something to say about that.

Finally, for all those readers and campaign workers who lambasted me for my election predictions, which I posted on Blurt last Friday, I only have this to say: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!

Yeah, I called it. Well, except Ward 4. Seven out of eight ain’t bad.

And, oh yeah, thanks to the Burlington Telecom wifi connection at City Hall and all the hard work of the Seven Days election-night news coverage — we broke the news of Kiss' reelection to the state, as well as the outcome of the Winoosk mayoral election. Yeah us!

Got a news tip? Email Shay at shay@sevendaysvt.com

Click here to follow Shay on Twitter.

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

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