Burlington election: School budget passes, Democrat wins Ward 1, IRV goes down

Editor’s note: Greg, Lauren and Felix are students in Kevin Kelley’s journalism class at St. Michael’s College.

Burlington voters overwhelmingly pass 4.1 percent school budget increase

By Greg Bejian

Voters approved a 4.1 percent increase in the school budget for fiscal year 2011.

Critics of the proposal argued that budget increases put too much pressure on taxpayers, but Superintendent of Schools, Jeanne Collins, said the new budget is vital to the future of public education in Burlington. “We were aware of that criticism when we were developing the budget and we planned around it; but after cuts were made, we still needed an increase,” she said.

Collins said the city’s schools made painful decisions in this budgeting cycle. “We suffered large teacher reductions and had to let go of a number of administrative and program support staff positions,” she said.

The rising cost of transportation, athletics, supplies, and employee benefits led to the increased expenses. “Eighty-five percent of our budget goes directly to student services,” Collins noted. “An area in which we try to make as few cuts as possible.”

The final tally was 4,230-2,856. Support for the budget was overwhelming in every area of the city except Ward 7, where voting results were 584-777.

Jake Perkinson, who supported the budget, said paying taxes for schools is fundamental. “[Increased taxes] are a burden, but that’s the cost of living in a society,” he said. “You still have to pay taxes for roads and snow plowing even if you don’t drive a car.”

Democrat Ed Adrian wins Ward 1

By Lauren Chaves

Two UVM fraternity brothers, Mike Dougherty and Ed Adrian, came together under the banner of Burlington politics to race against each other for the ward 1 City Council seat on Election Day. Adrian came out on top with a 75 percent majority.

Adrian and his contender, Miles Dougherty, stood side by side outside of Mater Christi Elementary School, holding signs and campaigning for the last few hours before the polls were closed.

Adrian, a Democrat, has been serving Ward 1 for three years. Adrian has been outspoken in his views on Burlington Telecom, and he voted to suspend Jonathon Leopold, Chief Administrator Officer of the city, Jonathan Leopold, during the length of the investigation into the utility’s use of $17 million in city funds.

After his re-election, Adrian asked Kiss to resign on live television. He lamented, “I doubt he will resign, but I hope he understands people are frustrated.”

Dougherty, a Progressive, is currently a manager at Cheese n’Crust Souperstar. Dougherty was a supporter of Burlington Telecom, but he said that it is now “endangering taxpayers” and he says the utility should seek a community-based private partner.

Dougherty’s campaign primarily focused on using the internet and media to reach out to the public.

IRV pulled down by city’s two most conservative wards

By Felix Swierski

Voters narrowly repealed Instant Runoff Voting, 3972-3669, on Election Day. IRV is a tiered balloting system in which voters can rate candidates in a three-way race; the system was first used in the 2006 mayoral election and became controversial last year when Mayor Bob Kiss won a second term by a small majority of votes.

The city of Burlington will now return to the old system in which a candidate only need to 40 percent of the vote to win. If no candidate receives 40 percent, the top two candidates with the most votes would face a runoff election, however this turn of events has never occurred.

Supporters of IRV have voiced concern about a runoff election, and the potential cost to taxpayers.

Mark Larson, a Vermont state representative and IRV supporter, said a runoff election is more likely under the 40 percent rule. “Creating a bogus system where folks can get elected with less than 50 percent is really a step backwards and that’s what we’ll continue to say regardless of the outcome tonight.”

Sam Osborne, one of the chairs of the Repeal IRV Group, said, “There has never been a runoff election in Burlington, so we do not know what the cost will be. Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does it designate that you should budget for democracy.”

Under the repealed IRV system, candidates are ranked in terms of preference. If a candidate initially receives 50 percent of the vote, they win automatically. If no candidate receives the initial 50 percent needed to win, the rest of the votes are allocated based on the list of preferences of the voters.

“I think that whoever gets the most votes should win, otherwise it’s not fair to any one person,” said Lesanne Vincent, a Ward 7 resident. “The IRV system is not democratic.”

The 2009 election, in which Bob Kiss was elected mayor, may have played a pivotal role in Tuesday’s repeal of the IRV system. In the election, Kiss received only 29 percent of the vote, but ultimately won against Republican Kurt Wright under the rules of the IRV system. Many voters were unhappy with the results.

“I think they (voters) are saying, if you don’t like what they mayor is doing, vote against IRV,” said Larson. “It would be unfortunate for us to take a step backwards as an attempt to do a protest vote against the current mayor.”

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