Burlington City Council Breaks Deadlock, Elects Shannon President | Off Message

Burlington City Council Breaks Deadlock, Elects Shannon President



One week and six votes later, the Burlington City Council broke a deadlock Monday night and reelected Ward 5 Democrat Joan Shannon council president.

Shannon's selection came after her sole opponent, Ward 6 independent Karen Paul, pulled out of the race, saying a continued stalemate "is not in the best interest of the city." It also came after Shannon and her fellow Democrats promised to share power with the council's non-Democrats and cede to them the presidency next year if another tie occurs.

"I very much appreciate the spirit of compromise of this council," Shannon said after Paul ended her candidacy. "It really says that we're all trying our very best to work in the interest of the city of Burlington, to get to the business of the city and to not delay any further."

(Pictured: Shannon, second from back left, speaks with Councilor Kevin Worden; Paul, back right, speaks with Councilor Norm Blais.)

Councilor Jane Knodell, a Ward 2 Progressive who shifted her support from Paul to Shannon Monday night echoed the sentiment.

"I think that the compromise that we've come up with is very fair," Knodell told her fellow councilors. "We're sharing it. If we end up here next year, we're gonna share it."

Monday's accord was reached one week after the council first sought to elect a president during its annual reorganization meeting. That night ended after each of three votes ended in an impasse between the council's seven Democrats, who supported Shannon, and its seven non-Democrats, who supported Paul.

Despite rumors of a deal, this Monday's meeting looked no more promising at first. Chief Administrative Officer Paul Sisson, serving as interim council president, presided over two more votes — and each time seven hands rose for Shannon and seven for Paul. 

But after a 10-minute recess, during which Shannon (pictured at center) conferenced with Paul's supporters, a resolution was announced.

Reading from a prepared statement, Paul thanked her supporters and family and said she would pull her name from the running.

"The interests of this city are greater than any one of us or this body. These interests must be placed above all else. We cannot continue along the present path we are on," she said. "Sometimes one person must step aside in order to effect that interest. For that reason, I will be withdrawing my name from consideration for council president. We will move forward."

With that, Councilor Dave Hartnett (D-Ward 4) suggested to his colleagues that they outline the terms of the deal they reached.

"A lot of times people think... this is done privately with all kinds of deals done," he said. "So I think it's important that we're very transparent about what transpired here in the last week or so."

(Pictured: Paul withdrawing from the race.)

To that end, Shannon disclosed that her party had promised to surrender the council presidency in a year if next March's council elections result in another 7-7 tie. In the meantime, she promised to empower the council's Progressives, independents and lone Republican.

"There are seven Democrats and seven non-Democrats and that should be reflected in committee assignments and chairs," she said.

After Shannon was unanimously elected during a sixth vote, the council acted on that spirit of inclusion by selecting Knodell, Ward 7 Republican Paul Decelles and Ward 1 independent Sharon Bushor to serve on the powerful Board of Finance. They'll be joined by two Democrats: Shannon and Mayor Miro Weinberger.

Hartnett, who is considered more conservative than his fellow Democrats, said that Decelles' appointment to the Board of Finance — despite his being the only Republican on the council — was important.

"For the first time here in two years of serving on the council, I felt good that, you know, we can put party politics aside and do the right thing for the city," Hartnett said. "I just want to make clear that I do think the message from this council in the coming year and from this administration is that we will work together to get things done no matter what party you're from. And I think that's important."