I’ve just downloaded the tally sheet from the St. Albans City vote last night. As I more-or-less predicted, the total number of voters was 678.
We still have a long way to go in getting people to cast protest votes; but I was very pleased to note that there were eighteen write-in votes against Mayor Liz Gamache. Both sitting Council members were defeated, rendering at least something of a “no-confidence” verdict against the City Council as a whole; and we now have a female Council member for the first time in nine years.
For now, I’m pretty content with the outcome.
It’s interesting that civic nerves seem a little raw, not just in St. Albans, but in major cities and towns all over Vermont; from Burlington to St. J; Montpelier to Rutland.
‘Tis the season to get out and vote, so I have a couple of my own thoughts to share.
In St. Albans, Mayor Gamache and the City Council have poorly represented the interests of the community in a number of recent decisions, and I go to the polls with that in mind.
There certainly is an excellent choice in Ward 3, where a highly qualified female candidate has emerged, offering the opportunity to finally break the gender lock that men have held on the City Council for far too long; but in Ward 4, where I vote, I find myself between a rock and a hard place.
The incumbent, Jeff Young, has joined the rest of the Council in disrespecting the public process and suspending its rules. I refer, of course to the issue concerning the fate of the J. Gregory Smith Homestead house.
This past year, I have been profoundly disappointed in my alderman’s inability to appreciate that this is not merely a question of whether or not an historic building can be saved; it is a question of whether or not the developers of that project have received inappropriate favors from the City and not been held to the same rules as bind ordinary citizens.
Unfortunately, his challenger represents further entrenchment of the culture of cronyism that drives the City agenda. “No sale,” say I to both candidates.
If you, too, feel that you cannot support the only names offered on your ballot, you still have a choice to write-in your own name or that of a trusted neighbor. Taken together, all of those ballots, represent a vote of non-confidence against “business as usual,” which will send a powerful message to your Town Hall. I cannot support either candidate in my ward (4); nevertheless, I will not fail to vote for someone whom I can depend upon to respect the process.
St. Albans City has a population of roughly 7,000 individuals and a voter turn-out of… what? Seven or eight hundred, at best?
The parking garage bond vote last September totaled 559 “for” and 170 “against.” The City Manager characterized this as a “landslide” victory; but with only about 8% of the population supporting the measure, you’ve got to ask yourself what the other 90% really thought about the issue.
A lot of people have simply given up on getting rid of cronyism and backroom deal-making; so they don’t even bother coming out to vote anymore. But reform will never happen without citizen participation at the ballot box.
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to throw in the towel; but be assured that all of the special interest movers and shapers, whose advantages depend on keeping their man or woman in City Hall, will be making sure that their supporters get to the polls.
Let’s make sure to get our protest votes in there to be counted as well!
The only way you can truly become disenfranchised is if you choose not to participate at all.