Burlington Backs the Blue… and the Blue

I don’t know if Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger smokes cigars. But if he does, he may have lit up a celebratory Arturo Fuente Opus X last night after the city election results came in. It may have been his best political day since maybe December 7, 2020, the day that Councilor Ali Dieng launched his bid for mayor. Dieng’s entry opened the way for a split in the anti-Miro vote, giving him an extremely narrow victory over Progressive Max Tracy.

Thus endeth the history lesson. Point is, everything came up Miro last night. His Democratic Party netted one seat to gain a plurality on City Council, and the voters resoundingly defeated the Progressive-backed ballot question on establishing an independent police oversight commission. The new Council will feature six Democrats, four Progressives and two Independents — one of whom, Mark Barlow, won the endorsement of city Dems. If you count Barlow as a Dem vote, Weinberger will have a Council majority behind him for the first time in his 11 years as mayor.

For the Progressives, last night was a disaster. The police board question lost by almost a two-to-one margin, while the party scored a single win against three losses in contested races for Council.

The Progressives failed to retake the UVM-centered Ward 8, as Dem Hannah King took 55% of the vote to defeat her Prog opponent. They lost a seat in the East District, and failed to make even the tiniest dent in the political armor of the Progs’ least favorite Democrat, Councilor Joan Shannon, who absolutely swamped her Progressive and independent challengers.

So, why? Three takeaways for me.

— The voters decisively rejected the Progressives’ skepticism about the Burlington Police Department. The Progs’ alleged effort to “defund the police” — i.e. enact a cut in the BPD budget — hangs like an albatross around their necks. A rise in shooting incidents sparked fear in the hearts of Burlingtonians and made the Progressive Party seem out of touch.

Myself, I don’t agree with the anti-defund backlash. “Defunding” is an exaggerated and misleading way to describe the effort in Burlington, and the city remains a pretty darn safe place to live. Also, adding more police or “unleashing” them doesn’t necessarily result in lower crime rates. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

— The Progs have acquired the image of a group that values ideology over policy. When people have questions about their city’s safety and economic health, galaxy brain takes a back seat to getting stuff done.

(There are real questions about how good Weinberger is at getting stuff done, but he looks like the practical adult in a roomful of misbehaving children.)

— Turnover, turnover, turnover. Two Progressive councilors, Ali House and Jack Hanson, both resigned last September. Tracy, after nearly winning the mayoralty in 2021, left city politics. The party cashiered veteran Progressive councilors Jane Knodell and Sharon Bushor, which underlined their “ideology over policy” image. They’ve been bleeding councilors and replacing them with newer and younger faces. Familiarity counts for a lot in local politics.

Even their lone victory involved turnover. Outgoing Councilor Perri Freeman opted not to run for re-election; fellow Prog Melo Grant had no trouble holding the Central District seat. The Progs have become a revolving door, offering the voters little to no stability. And yeah, stability counts in local politics as well.

Burlington is unquestionably the Progressive Party’s home base. It’s lost ground in other areas where it used to win elections, at least occasionally. This election ought to be a wake-up call for the Progs. They can’t afford to lose the Queen City.


1 thought on “Burlington Backs the Blue… and the Blue

  1. Ron Jacobs

    With all the coming and going in the party, the Progs appear to many voters as not dependable. If officeholders keep resigning or deciding not to run again, the party will lose more than just a seat or two.


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