Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

22 posts categorized "Town Meeting Day 2009" Feed

March 03, 2009

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.


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.

TMD: Old North End, Burlington

Mater Christi South I stopped by three polling places in Burlington's Old North End this morning between 8 and 9:15 a.m., to see what was going on. Not much, it seems. I kept feeling like I had just missed the first rush of the day — maybe people tend to vote in the afternoon and early evening on Town Meeting Day, or maybe it's just that March turnout is normally so much lower than what we all experienced during the presidential election last November.

My first stop was Mater Christi, where I filled out my white and pink ballots for the mayoral race and the ballot initiatives. There were about 7 or 8 poll workers, but I think only about 3 other voters were inside.  On my way out, I noticed State Representative Kesha Ram (Chittenden 3-04) — she was asking two poll workers whether she was allowed to come in and distribute legislative bulletins. At first there was some confusion, because the poll workers were saying, "But there are no legislative elections today. . ." They got it straightened out that she just wanted to distribute info to constituents, though, and she brought some into the hallway.

Also in the hall, Rep. Dave Zuckerman had placed a stack of his own legislative updates along with a pile of State Senator Bill Doyle's official 2009 Town Meeting Day surveys. Doyle has been conducting the unscientific survey for 41 years — it's pretty much a Town Meeting Day institution. It attempts to take the temperature of Vermonters on 10 different subjects; this year's topics range from whether people support same-sex marriage to whether Vermont's an affordable place to live. I took one, but I plan to mail mine in — I know it's optional to list personal info, but something about having my e-mail and address sitting with my opinions in an open, unmonitored box kind of creeped me out.

Hockeysticksign Outside, I saw that a resident on the west side of Mansfield Street had attached a poster supporting the school board budget onto a kid's hockey stick. Probably a practical decision, but the resulting image was pretty compelling, too.

I hung around outside Wheeler for a full 10 minutes, but no Ward 2 voters exited while I was standing there. I'd wanted to ask folks what they think of IRV and who they think will win the mayoral race, but the only people outside were holding campaign signs, and I thought they'd be a tad biased.

A woman carrying a Dan Smith sign at one of the entrances to Barnes was talking with another campaigner from a different mayoral camp — I heard them say they guessed about 150 people had come to Barnes to vote, from when the polls opened at 7 a.m. until about 9 a.m. That seemed like a low number to me, given the number of voters in the ward, but maybe it's normal for Town Meeting Day. The second campaigner said, "Yeah, I've seen them, but they all come in through the back way, so they won't have to talk to us!" As close to the school as he could legally be, Ward 3 City Council candidate Steve Ekberg was carrying a big Green Party sign with his name on the other side — no grisly images this time, though. And I think there are no kids in school today anyway, since they're on winter break until tomorrow.

Hopefully more people have started turning up at the polling places, now that it's lunch hour — I don't know whether anyone in Burlington has actually planned to take today off, but if you're registered to vote, there's a mayoral ballot with your name on it out there!

TMD: "The Best Show in Town"

This 5-minute video from Steve Delaney and the Vermont Public Radio team explores the Town Meeting Day tradition. Watch it to see what TMD is like in the rest of Vermont, outside of Chittenden County. Nice job, VPR.

Memo to Winooski: This could be us! Maybe we could get the restaurants of Little Asia to cater lunch.

TMD: The Fur is Flying in Guildhall!

Or so says a commenter on Vermont Public Radio's website.

VPR is asking readers to share the goings-on in their towns today. They've only gotten 3 comments so far, but the second one, from "ellewilson" is a goodie.

I know it might be difficult to imagine that tiny Guildhall, Vermont (Essex County) might have controversy, but [at] this year's Town Meeting, we do!

The hot issue centers, interestingly enough, on the Public Library and Masonic Hall here in our village. Unfortunately, this privately owned Library has been languishing for decades. This year, the Guildhall Selectboard decided it was time to stop continuing to appropriate taxpayer dollars to it without some accountability and some real services. For years, it has only been open for one hour a week, at the most three hours when a volunteer is available.

But amazingly, the Library trustees don't want an increase in funding, and they don't want to increase hours, and they don't want to show the Town any kind of financial statement.

Read more here, and add your own experiences. I hope VPR follows up on this one. Incidentally, ellewilson reports that there are only 268 people in Guildhall.

Town Meeting Day 2009

JB for School Board Hey, it's Town Meeting Day! Did you vote yet?

I've always wanted to live in one of those towns that has an actual town meeting, where residents meet and discuss whether to buy a new fire truck, and where the moderator has an encyclopedic knowledge of Robert's Rules of Order.

But I live in Winooski. No town meeting for me. I voted at the senior center just before 8 a.m. Said "Hi" to the candidates waving their signs in the freezing cold. Was greeted by name by Penny Manning, the city hall office manager. That familiarity almost makes up for the absence of a room full of ornery Winooski-ites. Almost.

Now I'm at my desk, ready to deliver the day's results as they come in. Seven Days will have reports throughout the day from writers who are visiting polling places and town meetings around the state, including Burlington — staffer Meghan Dewald took this photo this morning in front of Lawrence Barnes elementary school. Is Jason Baker a student there? We can't say for sure.

We'll also have a live blog starting at 3 p.m. to discuss election results. And both Shay Totten and Ken Picard will be appearing on Channel 17, CCTV, to discuss Burlington's election results.

We'll be adding our reports to the #tmdvt Twitter feed, along with the Burlington Free Press, VPR and other local media outlets. Burlington programmer/web guy Bradley Holt has set up this promising aggregation site to collect all of the Town Meeting Day content on the social web. I'm looking forward to seeing how that works.

Long live democracy!

March 01, 2009

Westminster Votes to Dump Vermont Yankee

Radioactive_2_2 Perhaps it's their proximity to a potential nuclear ground zero, but at this weekend's town meeting, the residents of Westminster "fired the first salvo for a Nuclear Free Vermont After 2012," according to Dan Dewalt, who's leading the Town Meeting Day campaign to stop the relicensing of Vermont Yankee in 2012.

"In a nearly unanimous vote, residents at the Westminster town meeting on Saturday, Feb. 28 called for Vermont to set its sights on a sustainable energy future and asked the legislature to not support the idea of extending the operating license of Vermont Yankee for twenty more years. The vote also asked the legislature to ensure that the decommissioning fund, which currently has barely one third of themoney necessary, be fully funded by the plant's owner, Entergy Nuclear.

Ben Mitchell, speaking to the resolution, raised concerns about the mounting stores of nuclear waste on the banks of the Connecticut River, pointing out what he saw as environmental hazards that would be exacerbated by inadequate, long-term storage solutions.

According to reports from those attending, there was only one lone voice that didn't agree with the sentiment of the nearly one hundred people present."

For more on the campaign, check out the group's website here.

February 27, 2009

Burlington Election Predictions

In Montpelier yesterday, while the day's news was all about the Democratic budget framework for dealing with the state's fiscal crisis, more people in the lunchroom wanted to talk about who might win the Queen City election.

I have a few thoughts on how the vote may go down Tuesday night, and I'll share them below. A disclaimer: I hate to call these predictions, because it would infer I have some form of arcane analytical tool at my disposal — internal polls, tea leaves, or the secret messages left by underpants gnomes. No such luck.

Consider what I'm about to offer you as guesses, pure and simple. Because when it comes down to it, voters tend to have minds of their own when they get into the ballot box. Go figure.

This week's "Fair Game" column looked at the historical possibility that the Democrats could get either working majority (seven Democrats) or an outright majority (at least eight seats) on the 14-member city council. If by luck they nab the mayor's office, too, it'll be quite a turnaround since the Progressive revolution of the early 80s.

I do believe the Dems will pick up one council seat, most likely in Ward 7 with Eli-Lesser Goldsmith although former councilor Ellie Blais (a Democrat turned independent) could also win. Either way, the Democrats gain an advantage here. The closeness of this race could also force a run-off.

I think the Progs are safe in Ward 2 with newcomer Emma Mulvaney-Stanak vying for the seat left vacant by outgoing Prog Jane Knodell. Her Democratic challenger Nicole Pelletier got a late start and that will hurt her chances in the end. The Progressives' get out the vote (GOTV) effort is strong in this ward and bodes well for Mulvaney-Stanak.

Marrisa Caldwell is also likely to hold on to outgoing councilor Tim Ashe's seat in Ward 3. As a school commissioner in the ward, she has a base of support already and is a known elected quantity. Her Democratic challenger, Democrat David Cain, is making a stronger effort than their previous candidates and will make a strong showing. He's definitely a face to watch.

In Ward 4, Republican Eleanor Briggs Kenworthy is likely to hold onto this GOP seat being vacated by  Kurt Wright, who is running for mayor. Her Democratic challenger is Nancy Kaplan.

Democrats in Wards 5 & 6 — Joan Shannon and Mary Kehoe respectively — are facing challenges from the Green Party. Shannon is running for reelection in Ward 6, and Kehoe is vying for the seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Montroll, who is running for mayor. Both should win easily.

In Ward 1, incumbent Sharon Bushor is also facing opposition from the Green Party, but no one from a major party. She's well-liked and has a strong base of support. She'll win easily.

Now, if you look at this possible mix of councilors one other important aspect of the new council comes clear — there could be seven, possibly eight, women on the council. I'll start looking back at past councils, but I think this could easily be the most women on the council at one time.

Politically, this would be a council that leans Democratic (or has a Democratic majority), which could spell trouble for some department heads. As I heard from a few politicos yesterday, Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold, and other Kiss appointees, could find for some rough sledding come confirmation time, no matter who is mayor-elect come Wednesday morning.

But, it may all depend on who is the next mayor. So, let's cut to the chase.

Here are the candidates: Incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss, Republican Wright, Democrat Montroll, Independent Dan Smith, and Green James Simpson.

Here is one scenario of Tuesday night's outcome:

Continue reading "Burlington Election Predictions" »

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684