On March 3, there will be local elections throughout Vermont. Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, is one of the more third-party-friendly places in the nation. It has instant runoff voting for local elections, a Progressive Party mayor, and in one city council race this year either an independent or a Green is guaranteed to win. Burlington residents will be voting on a few city council seats and their mayor.
The Burlington Free Press has been doing a good job of reporting on the election. This piece is an update on the race for mayor, which includes incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss, Green James Simpson, independent Dan Smith, and a candidate from each of the two major parties:
The candidates for Burlington’s next mayor have entered the final stretch of their campaigns. With just more than a week before the election, Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss, Democrat Andy Montroll, independent Dan Smith and Republican Kurt Wright debated for two hours Sunday afternoon at the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington.
A crowd of about 50 people listened to the candidates rehash their stances on issues facing the city.
• While his challengers promised a better Burlington, Kiss maintained all was well in the Queen City.
“What we have is a city that meets the needs of its people,” Kiss said. All of the city’s departments have a “high level of performance.”
The challengers, however, demanded more. The city was “coasting along,” though Burlingtonians are by nature “doers” and not “coasters,” Montroll said. The city has a stagnant grand list, and businesses downtown are closing, Wright said. The city needs vision in a time of crisis, Smith said.
• In a round of rebuttals, Wright said a candidate did not have to be an independent to reach across party lines. Smith, who has run as an outsider to partisan politics, took Wright’s statement as a jab.
Wright insisted he was not jabbing Smith, but simply trying to dispel the assumption that only independents could appeal to people of different political persuasions.
“Though I am a Republican, I am running an independent-based campaign,” Wright said, citing Democrats and independents who supported his run for office. Wright said his City Council experience would help him work with a council losing many long-time councilors.
Smith said his belief in fiscal responsibility, combined with his liberal and progressive values, would help him unite people.
Another piece of news from the race for mayor is that Vermont’s independent Senator Bernie Sanders has endorsed incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss. Sanders was very involved with the Progressive Party at its founding in 1999, although he has never actually been a member of the party. In the Senate, he caucuses with Democrats and considers himself a socialist.
FOX News and Burlington Free Press also covered the fact that instant runoff voting will be used in this election. The Free Press was much more detailed, and is an interesting look at how an alternative voting system works in the real world:
Proponents argue that the system allows voters to detail their preferences, and a single ballot produces a majority result that saves the expense of a second election.
Detractors say some voters — those who don’t understand the ballot or who don’t rank their choices — are effectively disenfranchised.
In Burlington, 51 of Gierzynski’s students interviewed 1,096 voters emerging from polls in all seven wards.
The resulting UVM report found that while that first election using instant runoff voting “appeared to go very well,” with about 80 percent of the voters ranking two or more candidates, the results of the exit poll raised two concerns: class inequity and a “partisan divide.”
The Burlington Free Press also ran pieces on all of the candidates running for city council. The only two third party candidates who seem to have a piece on them (some didn’t return a questionaire) are the Progressive and Green candidates in Ward 3:
• Age: 32
• Family status: Partner David Kreindler, 3 sons.
• Length of time living in ward: 4 years
• Education: BA, health care policy & social movements
• Occupation: Project Coordinator, Office of Primary Care, UVM
• Public service, civic engagement or political experience: School commissioner, 5 years (served from Ward 5 & Ward 3); PTO member; Wards 2 and 3 NPA Development Block Grant Award Committee; mayor’s task force on after-school care; Advisory committee, EEE pre-school program for the first inter-state K-12 school district in the country (Rivendell); former foster parent.
• Candidate’s statement: I will bring practical and effective leadership to the City Council. As your school commissioner for the last 5 years I have gained extensive experience in crafting budgets, negotiating contracts with 7 bargaining units, developing policy, and working productively with other elected officials from across the city and the political spectrum. I have worked hard to ensure that our community’s voice has been heard. When Barnes and Wheeler were threatened with closure, I worked with hundreds of Old North End neighbors to keep them open. Likewise, I joined with Ward 3 residents, other Burlington taxpayers and workers to establish a livable wage for all school employees.
I envision a Burlington that offers safe, affordable housing for everyone and provides cost effective City services without placing unreasonable burdens on property tax payers. I will approach every issue from the perspective of working families, asking: how does this impact the cost of City services and how could it be done more efficiently?
I want Burlington to achieve even greater energy independence while reducing our environmental impact, saving energy dollars for households and businesses and creating “green collar” jobs. I envision a Burlington where businesses are able to start-up, grow and innovate while providing living wage jobs and reducing our community’s carbon footprint. By advocating for job training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging green economy – especially for people from disadvantaged groups – we will fight both poverty and pollution at the same time.
I will bring my experience, critical thinking, and leadership to the City Council and I will ensure that the people of Ward 3 are heard in City Hall. Please contact me if you would like to vote by mail, need to register to vote or if you have questions or concerns. www.marrisacaldwell.org (802) 578-7325
• Green Party
• Age: 44
• Family status:Single
• Time living in ward: 16 years
• Public service, civic engagement or political experience: Former NPA member; Chairman, Burlington Green Party
• Candidate’s statement: Ekberg’s statement was deemed unsuitable for publication in the Free Press.