Live Updates And Photos: Town Meeting Day 2017
Vermonters are taking to town halls and school gymnasiums to vote on local measures and choose candidates, and VPR is tracking decisions throughout the state.
Bookmark this page and stay with us throughout the afternoon and evening. Live broadcast updates will begin at 7 p.m.
Update 10:15 p.m. That’s a wrap on our Town Meeting coverage this evening. We’ll have follow-up reports on VPR and VPR.net Wednesday morning.
Update 10:11 p.m. Updating the list of towns that took up a resolution urging that presidential candidate be required to disclose their tax returns, organizer Bill Butler says it was approved in Williston, Jericho, Bolton, Richmond, Worcester, E. Montpelier, Marshfield, Middlesex and Peacham and defeated in Underhill.
Update 9:56 p.m. Incumbent South Burlington City Council member Pat Nowak defeated challenger James Leas, 1,811 to 1,512. Leas has been an outspoken critic of plans to bring the F-35 to the Air Guard facility at the airport. In an email, Leas says despite the loss, the support he received is an encouraging sign that voters are interested in using South Burlington’s taxing authority to induce the City of Burlington, which owns the airport, to reduce the noise caused by the military jets.
Update 9:53 p.m. An article in to impose a local option tax in Barre has been defeated by 44 votes.
Update 9:23 p.m. Cabot voters decided to keep Town Meeting on a Tuesday after considering moving it to Saturday morning or Monday evening. Wilmington made a similar decision, after a resident proposed moving the town's decisions to paper ballot in order to increase participation.
Update 9:08 p.m. In contested Burlington City Council races, incumbent City Council President Jane Knodell narrowly won reelection over independent challenger Genese Grill, 760-679. Democrat Richard Deane defeated Progressive Charles Winkleman in a race for an open seat on the council, and incumbent Democrat Joan Simpson defeated two challengers.
Vergennes’ incumbent mayor has lost his reelection bid, according VPR’s Melody Bodette. Bill Benton lost a close race to former mayor Mike Daniels.
Update 8:51 p.m. For those planning to drive through the village of Swanton in the future: Coin drops were approved in a close Town Meeting vote, according to Northwest Access TV.
Marshfield Town Clerk Bobbie Brimblecombe says turnout for Town Meeting was the lowest in memory, with about 11 percent of registered voters attending. In an email, Brimblecombe says the most time was spent debating the sanctuary town article. She says, “The article was amended to make a policy 'advising' rather than 'directing' town employees, and to make the policy consistent with directions from the Attorney General's office.”
Update 8:43 p.m. Burlington voters have approved all ballot items, including a $19 million school bond, an increase in councilor pay and a resolution recommending that state lawmakers increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Update 8:02 p.m. The late writer David Budbill has been declared “The People’s Poet of Vermont” by voters in Montpelier. The tribute to Budbill, who died last September, passed on a 1,820-246 vote.
Update 8:01 p.m. All ballots have been rendered void in Plymouth, where two individuals running in contested races were also working at the town’s polling station. Select board member Ross Tonkin tells VPR that voting was stopped in early afternoon after the town spoke with the office of the Secretary of State. Tonkin says officials were advised that any vote could be challenged and decided to shut down the voting. The town will have to hold a new vote. [This entry was updated on 3/8/17 to further clarify that Plymouth officials made the decision to stop the voting.]
Among the issues that was to be determined by today’s voting was whether to join the Windsor Central Supervisory Union under Act 46.
Update 7:44 p.m. St. Albans voters have approved an $18 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade.
And VPR's Howard Weiss-Tisman reports that Brattleboro has overwhelmingly supported a non-binding resolution to ban plastic bags. (Update: The vote count is 1034 to 317.) It’s up to the select board now to write an ordinance on the matter.
Update 7:26 p.m. The Rutland Herald is reporting that incumbent Mayor Christoper Louras has been unseated by challenger David Allaire, who took 51.85 percent of the vote. The race was seen by some as a referendum on the controversial refugee resettlement plan that Louras set in motion last year.
Update 6:18 p.m. Montgomery residents have voted to do away with their board of auditors, in an effort to professionalize its functions. Instead, the town will use certified public accountants. Montgomery also passed a resolution urging “residents to zealously defend the State's sovereignty and the Constitution of the State of Vermont and United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Update 5:14 p.m. East Montpelier voters have approved a resolution "welcoming immigrants in the community and asking the Town to direct its employees not to inquire into any resident’s immigration status or religious affiliation as part of their official duties,” according to Select Board member Carl Etnier. Etnier wrote in an email to VPR that town officials will now talk to Vermont State Police “to discuss its implications for their work in town.”
Update 5:10 p.m. The resolution supporting a requirement that presidential candidates disclose their tax returns has also also passed in Worcester, Marshfield and E. Montpelier, according to organizer Bill Butler. Butler says the resolution was voted down in Underhill.
Update 4:44 p.m. More “sanctuary town” resolutions have been approved. According to the Times-Argus newspaper, they passed in Berlin, Plainfield, Marshfield and East Montpelier. Gov. Phil Scott voted with the "nays" in a floor vote in Berlin.
According to outgoing Select Board Chair Bram Towbin, Plainfield’s vote was was 67 to 13. Towbin writes to VPR in an email:
“There were a number of passionate speeches. One from a town resident who is Canadian talking about the plight of immigrants - there were others who also spoke to the injustice and coming of tyranny if we don't stand up - there were others who PASSIONATELY spoke against the measure - one woman wondered why we needed to rush things and put the town in danger when there are no substantial consequences - i.e. the town does not PRESENTLY have a peace office. Anther [sic] Veteran felt the measure was a slap in the face to all those in uniform who fight to protect our borders - he also spoke about threats from outsiders who are not vetted and they lack of economic contribution from immigrants - he believed they take more than they contribute.”
Update 4:31 p.m. Improving Town Meeting participation has long been a topic of discussion, which is why some towns have moved meetings to weekends and evenings, or transitioned to Australian ballot to give more voters the opportunity to take part. In Fairfield, Dustin Tanner says turnout was “terrible,” with 13 percent of the town’s registered voters turning out.
Update 4:25 p.m. Wilmington voters have rejected a proposal to move from their traditional floor meeting to making decisions by Australian ballot. VPR’s Howard Weiss-Tisman says the idea went down in a lopsided vote.
Update 4:18 p.m. On Monday night, Bennington voters passed a non-binding resolution in support of undocumented immigrants and refugees. According to the Bennington Banner, the original resolution put to voters declared Bennington “a safe sanctuary” and stated that, “town, state, county and federal officials shall not in any way support or enforce any profiling, discrimination or other conduct with follows the referenced executive order in practice or in theory." But after discussion the section was removed and the wording changed to read, in part, “our town shall be a welcoming community for all peoples including undocumented persons, immigrants, and refugees."
Update 4:00 p.m. Kelly Salasin, who has been busy tweeting from Marlboro’s marathon Town Meeting session, says, after six-plus hours, “participatory democracy is petering out.” Salasin says voters have passed an article proclaiming the second Monday of October Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.
Update 3:55 p.m. Seven Days reporter Terri Hallenbeck says Morrisville voters approved a resolution declaring their community “respects diversity and welcomes immigrants and refugees."
Richmond passed a similar resolution, according to Seven Days' Molly Walsh.
Update 3:31 p.m. Seven Days’ Katie Jickling reports that Hartland voters have rejected a Sanctuary Town resolution, 163-49.
Update 3:28 p.m. Town meeting agendas often reflect issues that are unique to their communities. In Braintree, there was thoughtful discussion about a World War I memorial that voters ultimately decided should be moved from its present location at the side of Route 12A across the street to a spot next to the town hall.
According to the Valley Reporter, Duxbury voters approved an article authorizing the town to elect a dog catcher.
Update 3:19 p.m. A non-binding resolution opposing a large planned community development was approved in the four Central Vermont towns that took it up. The resolution was directed at plans by a Utah man who has been purchasing thousands of acres of property to build a community of 20,000 people called New Vistas. Local residents have raised concerns about the impact on the area’s rural way of life and infrastructure. They’ve also been critical of developer and engineer David Hall for failing to consider his development’s impact on their communities and respond to their concerns.
VPR's Rebecca Sananes reports that the New Vistas resolution was passed in Sharon (100-16), Tunbridge (165-4), Royalton (123-16) and Strafford (voice vote).
Update 2:58 p.m. A number of communities are considering resolutions declaring themselves “Sanctuary Towns” in light of Trump administration policies. In Calais, voters approved Article 17, which read, “ Shall the Town of Calais be a Town of Sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers and not participate in Federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants?”
In Marlboro, resident Kelly Salasin says voters approved a non-binding “Declaration of Inclusivity” which supports “the civil rights of all people without regard to race, religion, gender or economic status…”
Update 2:26 p.m. A number of Vermont communities are considering non-binding resolutions in support of a requiring presidential candidates to publicly disclose their federal tax returns — a response to President Trump’s failure to do so. VPR’s Kathleen Masterson reports the resolution passed at Jericho’s Tuesday morning floor meeting. Williston approved a similar resolution Monday night. It’s not clear how many towns are taking up the issue.
Bill Butler of Jericho, who has been spearheading the drive to put the resolution before voters, says it also passed in Richmond, Bolton and Williston.