Burlington Progressives failed to unseat Mayor Miro Weinberger on Town Meeting Day, but voters delivered a resounding endorsement of the ballot measures the party’s candidates had championed.
Charter change proposals to limit evictions, resurrect ranked-choice voting and allow the city to tax properties heated by fossil fuels all advanced with more than 60 percent of votes, unofficial results show.
City residents also opted into a retail cannabis market by an overwhelming margin, paving the way for legal weed sales to begin there in fall of 2022.
Progressive-led campaigns to ban no-cause evictions and restore ranked-choice voting for city council races each passed by wide margins. The contested measures performed slightly better than a Weinberger-endorsed charter change to claim municipal authority to impose fees on heating systems that run on fossil fuels. That measure passed with 61 percent of votes.
The charter changes must be approved by state legislators and the governor before taking effect.
“I feel like we’re part of something really special right now that’s happening in Burlington, and something really historic,” City Councilor Jack Hanson (P-East District) said during a virtual event once results were in.
Despite City Council President Max Tracy’s narrow loss in his quest to unseat Weinberger, Progressives were buoyed by key policy victories.
In endorsing ranked-choice voting, voters reversed a 2010 decision to repeal the system that had helped Progressives take the mayor’s office in 2006. The change on Tuesday’s ballot only applies to city council races and would allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference. It passed with 64 percent of the vote.
The eviction measure won 63 percent of voters despite organized, at times cynical, opposition from landlord interests. Weinberger did not take a public position on the question.
The margin of victory left its proponents feeling energized about their organizing power and more confident that state lawmakers would sign off on the change.
“This will show us tenants across Burlington what we can do when we band together,” said Christie Delphia of the Burlington Tenants Union. “This should be taken as a message to Miro Weinberger that he needs to get up and do something about the housing in Burlington, because what we’re living in is unacceptable.”
Tom Proctor, campaign director for the Just Cause Coalition and partner of Progressive Councilor Zoraya Hightower (P-Ward 1), said the election showed that residents, nearly two-thirds of whom are renters, “massively favor” more tenant protections. He added that aggressive campaign tactics used by landlords, including printing signs suggesting just-cause evictions would hurt people of color, may have backfired.
“I think their dirty campaign tactics and scaremongering really turned off the people of Burlington,” he said.
The energy regulation change sets the stage for future policy debates on how to use the newfound authority, should state officials grant it.
Burlington voters also opted to expand the airport commission, while their neighbors in Winooski voted by a 2-1 margin to urge Vermont to halt the training flights of the ear-ringing F-35 fighter jets. Winooski voters also opted into retail weed.