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City Council Races Taking Shape, Highlighting Divisions

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This episode of Dig This, a visual podcast produced with our media partners RETN and VCAM, looks at the City Council races taking shape that will be decided on Town Meeting Day in March. Burlington’s 12-member City Council includes eight ward seats and four district seats. Each district is made up of two wards. The district and ward seats are up for re-election in alternating years. On Town Meeting Day this year, voters will choose councilors for the four district seats.

Contests in three of the four districts highlight a growing divide in city politics between a voting bloc led by Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, and a group of activists and organizers known as the Coalition for a Livable City.

The two groups have clashed repeatedly over development policy in Burlington, most recently over a proposed redevelopment of the Town Center Mall. Coalition members forced a vote on new zoning that would allow the necessary height for the project.

The mayor won a hard-fought campaign to pass the new zoning and a related tax increment financing bond that will pay for public improvements associated with the project.

Now members of the coalition are running for seats on the City Council. Genese Grill, one of the coalition’s leaders, is taking on Progressive City Council President Jane Knodell in the Central District, which is made up of Wards 2 and 3. Grill is running as an independent.

That prompted the mayor to call on Democrats to nominate Knodell, who has supported the downtown redevelopment, as their candidate for the Central District.

In the Southern District, Wards 5 and 6, Coalition for a Livable City member Charles Simpson is taking on incumbent Democrat Joan Shannon. Simpson received the Progressive nomination.

In the Eastern District, Wards 1 and 8, there’s an open seat, because incumbent Progressive Selene Colburn is not seeking re-election after being elected to the House of Representatives in November.

In that district, former Burlington Progressive Party Chair Charles Winkleman is facing off with Democratic nominee Richard Deane. Deane is the chair of the Burlington Business Association and a supporter of the mall redevelopment project. Winkleman is an outspoken opponent.

The North District, Wards 4 and 7, is the lone district where a competitive race has yet to take shape. Incumbent independent Dave Hartnett received the Democratic nomination, and Progressives chose not to nominate a North District candidate.

No Republican candidates for council have emerged on the public stage.

Produced by Media Factory partners VTDigger, RETN, and VCAM.

Episode Number: 
Original Airdate: 
Monday, January 23, 2017