Progressive Councilor Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, is set to become the next Burlington City Council president at the council’s Organization Day next Monday.
Tracy already has the support of a majority of the council, with the six-member Progressive caucus and newly independent Councilor Ali Dieng, I-Ward 7, supporting Tracy.
The City Council president’s responsibilities include setting the agenda for council meetings, moderating meetings and assigning councilors to committees. Tracy will replace current City Council President Kurt Wright, R-Ward 4, who did not run for re-election this year.
The Progressives picked up two seats on Town Meeting Day, giving them six seats on the council. Dieng, who previously caucused with the Progressives, announced he was becoming an independent shortly after the election. Five Democrats will be on the council.
Tracy said that he was looking forward to a new challenge after eight years on the council, especially as the city works to respond to the coronavirus crisis. He is the longest-serving Progressive councilor on the council.
“I see it as a new challenge, especially in this particular moment, of serving as a bridge between the City Council and the administration in a very challenging moment,” he said.
Tracy said he would aim to be fair to all on the council and help the new councilors adjust to their roles. Progressives Zoraya Hightower, P-Ward 1, Jane Stromberg, P-Ward 8, and Democrat Sarah Carpenter, D-Ward 4, were elected on Town Meeting Day earlier this month.
Tracy said he was also looking to elevate the council as a more equal partner with Mayor Miro Weinberger in the development of policy.
“That means making sure that the council gets information as soon as possible and has a chance to digest that information before being asked to make a decision,” Tracy said.
Progressive Councilor Brian Pine, P-Ward 3, said the entire Progressive caucus is supporting Tracy.
“I believe he will approach it with a level-headedness, a fairness, and a commitment to the council being a strong governing body and an equal branch of government, to work closely with the administration to ensure a level of transparency, accountability, and a level of information sharing with the council,” Pine said.
Pine said he believes Tracy will ensure all councilors are treated fairly.
“Max will take the job of council president for what it is, he is president of the entire council, not just the Progressive caucus,” Pine said.
Tracy will push for the council to have a more substantial level of input in municipal decision-making, Pine said.
“One of the things Max has said he is committed to is ensuring the council is brought into conversations, the council is consulted and brought into major conversations at perhaps an earlier stage,” Pine said.
Dieng said Tracy was the only councilor to express interest in the role. He described Tracy as a hard worker who would strive for balance between the Democratic mayor and the council.
“I think he has been someone who really tried to hold the administration accountable to their actions,” Dieng said. “He can push on things the council really wants to do.”
Democratic Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South District, said that the Democratic caucus had not discussed the council president position.
But Shannon said she believes Tracy has the votes to get elected council president, and no other councilors have expressed interest or tried to line up votes for the role.
“We have a long history of council presidents acting in a nonpartisan way, and it’s always been important to the council that the council president treats everyone fairly,” she said. “I think Max has been on the council long enough to know that.”
Shannon said that she has served on a committee that Tracy chairs, the charter change committee, and said he had been fair in that role.
“I expect he’ll do a fine job as council president,” she said.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order that govern council meetings, the council president needs to pass the gavel to another councilor, who would then moderate the discussion, to participate in the debate.
Shannon, a former City Council president, said that this can be frustrating for councilors used to participating in the council’s debates.
“It curbs your ability to weigh in on debate, and that’s according to Robert’s Rules, it’s not a debatable point,” Shannon said. “The fact Max has a different opinion than I have in many things, I don’t think is necessarily going to be an issue.”
Tracy said he was looking forward to moving into the facilitation role.
“I think that the precedent has been that the council president really tries to take a step back from the debate, and I think that is important to make sure that all sides in a debate are able to be heard,” he said.
Missing out on the latest scoop? Sign up here to get a weekly email with all of VTDigger's reporting on politics. And in case you can't get enough of the Statehouse, sign up for Final Reading for a rundown on the day's news in the Legislature.