Town Meeting Day

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Burlington Candidates Disclose Fundraising Totals

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 4:34 PM

Campaign signs outside a polling station - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Campaign signs outside a polling station
No other candidate came close to raising as much money as Mayor Miro Weinberger leading up to the March 3 election. Still, several Burlington City Council candidates raked in large amounts of money for their races.

Candidates and parties submitted their campaign finance disclosure reports with the Vermont Secretary of State Tuesday.

The highest roller — incumbent Democrat Weinberger — brought in $109,172 and handily won the mayor's race with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Despite being in a less-competitive race, the mayor matched the fundraising prowess he exhibited during his first campaign in 2012. Recent contributors include restaurateur and Green Mountain Care Board chair Al Gobeille ($500) and his wife, Kim Gobeille ($500); Paul Lekstutis, a consultant in renewable energy ($1,000); and Charlotte Ancel, general counsel for Green Mountain Power ($500). The mayor has spent $95,484.

Weinberger's challengers trailed him on fundraising from start to finish. Progressive Steve Goodkind, who got 22 percent of the vote, took in $10,870 and spent $11,120. Independent Greg Guma (6.6 percent of the vote) collected $14,540 and Libertarian Loyal Ploof (2 percent) raised $530, $500 of which came from the Vermont Libertarian Party.  

In the Ward 3 city council race, Democrat Sarah McCall drew $8,756 in an unsuccessful race against Progressive Sara Giannoni, who raised only $3,063. Both were first-time candidates.  

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Burlington Democrats Likely to Lose City Council Presidency

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 3:34 PM

Jane Knodell addresses a gathering of Progressives on Town Meeting Day at Magnolia Bistro. - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Jane Knodell addresses a gathering of Progressives on Town Meeting Day at Magnolia Bistro.
Non-Democrats now hold sway on the Burlington City Council, and that means they'll likely pick the next council president.

Councilor Joan Shannon, a Democrat, has played that role since 2012. But her party lost council seats on Town Meeting Day. On the new council, Democrats will occupy five of 12 seats.

Councilors on the other side of the aisle are angling to replace her. Four Progressives and two Progressive-affiliated councilors won seats last Tuesday. Republican Councilor Kurt Wright plans to side with the non-D's on this vote.

The most likely pick: Progressive Councilor Jane Knodell, who's served as council president in the past.

"I am considering it," Knodell said in an interview Wednesday. Knodell, an economics professor at the University of Vermont, said she's assessing whether she has enough time to take on the role, and is having conversations with her fellow non-Democrats. She also noted, "I'm not the only person considering it among the non-D side of the table."

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Moody's Upgrades Burlington's Credit Rating

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 1:12 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger at the polls Tuesday - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger at the polls Tuesday
It's been a pretty good 24 hours for Mayor Miro Weinberger. Last night, he was standing in front of a crowd of ecstatic Democrats, reveling in his definitive ride to a second term. This morning, he announced that Moody's Investors Service has upgraded Burlington's credit rating.

Burlington's rating began to slip in July 2010, and this marks the first time it's been upgraded since. It's also the first time in 10 years that the city has been given a positive rating outlook.

The upgrade, which allows the city to borrow at lower interest rates, is a crowning achievement for the mayor. He made financial cleanup the cornerstone of his first term and touted his accomplishment throughout the campaign. In a statement, Weinberger said, "While we still have a lot of hard work left to fully restore the city’s financial standing, today’s upgrade represents meaningful progress. I can’t think of a better way to start the next three years.”

Among the positive developments that Moody's cited when explaining its decision: the resolution of the Burlington Telecom lawsuit brought by Citibank; the $9 million fiscal stability bond that voters approved in March 2013 to refinance the city's debt; and the clean 2014 audit. 

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Landslide: Weinberger Trounces Challengers to Win a Second Term

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 10:06 PM

Miro Weinberger shortly after winning a second term - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Miro Weinberger shortly after winning a second term
Miro Weinberger handily won a second term as mayor of Burlington with roughly 68 percent of the vote.

The Democrat defeated three opponents. Progressive Steve Goodkind got 22 percent of the vote, independent Greg Guma had 6.6 percent and Libertarian Loyal Ploof trailed with 2 percent, according to unofficial results. 

Weinberger strode onto the stage at Nectar’s and delivered an exuberant victory speech under the green and red glow of spotlights. Practically yelling into the microphone, he began, “Today the engaged people of Burlington have sent a strong message that we are on the right path.”

The mayor, who ran on the campaign slogan “Moving Forward,” pledged to make Burlington more affordable, walkable, "bikeable" and livable.

Afterwards, during an interview with reporters, Weinberger said, “What I commit to people is we’ll bring the same thoughtful, careful, deliberate, focused approach to these challenges as we brought to the challenges of last three years.”

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Burlington Voters Approve School Budget

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 8:53 PM

Burlington voters overwhelmingly approved a $68.6 million school budget for Fiscal Year 2016. 

The budget, which passed 4,774-2,459, represents a 1.75 percent increase in spending over last year — a much more modest uptick than voters have seen in recent years.

That will equate to an estimated 2.35 percent tax increase for Burlington residents. 

The smooth outcome this year stands in stark contrast to Town Meeting Day 2014, when voters soundly rejected the school budget. (They later ended up approving a higher budget after the school board discovered a deficit that needed to be remedied.)

The board is concluding a rocky year in which it wrestled with multiple fiscal challenges and turnover in the district’s leadership. Tuesday’s vote could be considered a vote of confidence in its members, who have repeatedly pledged to rein in spending and improve their stewardship of the budget.

Two school board incumbents lost their seats.

Scott Shumski was tossed off the board, losing to Mark Barlow, 1,355-1,566.

Incumbent Brian Cina retained his seat, besting fellow incumbent Charlie Giannoni 613-530, and incumbent David Kirk narrowly held onto his seat, beating Helen Hossley 675-626.

In Ward 4, Anne Judson bested Arthur Vento 966-426 to claim an open seat on the board.

Correction 3/5/2015: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of incumbent school board members who lost their seats. 

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Burlington Rejects Voting, City Service By Non-Citizens

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 8:41 PM

  • Sue Norton
Burlington voters today rejected a ballot measure to give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections.

Pushed by several Progressive city councilors, the idea slowly gained steam last year in city hall. The mayor and most other city councilors gradually went from skeptical to supportive.

But they failed to win over Burlington voters: The measure failed 58 percent to 42 percent.

Burlington voters also rejected by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent a change that would have allowed non-citizens to serve as department heads and on city boards. 

Leading up to Town Meeting Day, outspoken critics made their opposition known during spirited Front Porch Forum debates and at neighborhood planning assembly meetings. Some worried that the measure would dilute the value of citizenship.

Even if the voting initiative had passed, it was unlikely non-citizens would have made it to the polls anytime soon. The Vermont legislature would have needed to sign off on the proposal, and supporters acknowledged that it could have been a tough sell in the state capitol. 

The initiative that would have allowed non-citizens to serve as department heads or city officials would not have required legislative approval.

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Winooski Voters Approve Joining Suit to Oppose F-35

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 7:29 PM

Winooski voters today approved a referendum article opposing the Pentagon's decision to base F-35 fighter jets at nearby Burlington International Airport in 2020.

By a 572-475 vote, residents backed the non-binding referendum, which asked whether the city should join a lawsuit in which anti-F-35 activists are seeking to prevent the planes from coming to Vermont.

The plaintiffs, who include four Winooski residents, claim the military failed to perform required environmental reviews before deciding to place the jets in Burlington. Activists had fought for years to block the planes, citing the noise levels caused by their takeoffs and landings. The F-35 noise zone will affect 6,600 local residents, including many in the Onion City.

The article was strictly advisory. The city council has the authority to compel the city to join the ongoing litigation, which is being heard in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

No other communities are parties in the lawsuit, which is still in its early stages and could take years to resolve. James Dumont, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told Seven Days last month that he hoped Winooski would sign up. Dumont said he would not necessarily seek to have the city make a financial contribution to the case.

Seth Leonard, who won the mayor's race, said of the referendum, "Now, we go back and do our legal homework."

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Seth Leonard Wins Winooski Mayoral Race by Big Margin

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 7:17 PM

Seth Leonard - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Seth Leonard
Seth Leonard, a Winooski resident for four years, was elected the city's mayor today, beating defense attorney Bill Norful 627-408, according to preliminary results.

Leonard, 32, campaigned as a uniter who could bring together Winooski's diverse groups — young professionals, refugees and families who have called the Onion City home for generations. An Indiana native, Leonard moved to Winooski in 2011. He served on the city council for the past two years, and said he helped to stabilize the city's finances while in office. 

Leonard said he had spent more than 12 hours outside today at the polls today greeting voters.

“I think people want to look toward the future in Winooski,” Leonard said in an interview. “People are excited about engaging in a planning process.”

His first goal, Leonard said, will be getting two new city councilors — Robert Millar and Nicole Mace — up to speed, and “addressing financial pressures.”

“I’m disappointed, but either one of us would be a great mayor for Winooski,” Norful, 61, said in an interview. “There was a lot of intelligent discussion and debate. We had two good choices. [Seth] is a very good person.”

During his campaign, Norful said he would prioritize revamping the park in the city's downtown traffic circle and would find ways to increase home ownership in the rental-dominated city. A Winooski native, Norful served as mayor from 1991 to 1999.

Norful said turnout today was lower than he expected: He had assumed around 1,300 voters would show up.

It was the seventh time Norful has stood for election. He has won four times, and lost three times.

“You never know with elections,” Norful said. “I’ve won some I thought I would lose, and lost some I thought I would win.”
  • Oliver Parini
  • Bill Norful

The mayor is the city's de facto spokesperson and head of the five-member Winooski City Council, empowered to set the agenda for council meetings and to serve as the council's liaison to the city manager. The position pays $1,700 annually.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's All That Stuff on the Burlington Ballot?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 5:32 PM

Burlington's mayoral candidates at a recent debate - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Burlington's mayoral candidates at a recent debate
Dear Burlington voters:

If you are planning to show up at the polls next Tuesday, fill in a few bubbles, and then jet, you might want to budget a little more time. This year's Town Meeting Day ballot is 1,300 words long. In addition to picking your mayor, city councilors, school board members and inspectors of elections, you’ll be asked to answer eight questions. And chances are you haven’t heard about half of them. For your convenience, Seven Days has annotated a sample ballot with some pointers.

Let your mouse hover over the ballot to see stars. Click on them and you'll get explanations of the questions — and links to our Town Meeting Day stories.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Weinberger Campaign Raises More Than $100,000

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 9:28 PM

The candidates, from left to right: Loyal Ploof, Greg Guma, Steve Goodkind and Miro Weinberger - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • The candidates, from left to right: Loyal Ploof, Greg Guma, Steve Goodkind and Miro Weinberger
In terms of cash, the race for mayor of Burlington is anything but close. Incumbent Miro Weinberger continues to rake it in while his three opponents remain far, far behind.

The Democratic incumbent has raised $103,562, collecting $10,505 in February alone. Steve Goodkind, the Progressive candidate, has raised $6,262. Greg Guma, who is running as an independent, said he's raised roughly $12,000. (His campaign finance report shows a slightly different amount — Guma said his treasurer was having computer problems when submitting it.)

The Vermont Secretary of State's online database had no report for Libertarian Loyal Ploof as of Monday evening, suggesting he hadn't hit the required $500 threshold.  

The mayor has received donations from 260 people, and most of his money comes from donors who gave $100 or more. He's spent $84,702 so far, including $7,184 on media buys. (Weinberger's campaign finance reports show lower fundraising and spending totals because they exclude money he raised prior to August 2013.) 

His opponents have spent all — or more — of the money they've raised. Goodkind has spent $5,451, while Guma said he has spent $13,742. 

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