Updated:Town Meeting Day Pep Talk

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.

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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.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

9 thoughts on “Updated:Town Meeting Day Pep Talk

  1. Sue. If you’ve seen one local political machine you’ve seen them all. And yes the apathy is maddening but partly why I choose to remain uninvolved therefore rendering myself semi-apathetic. I personally have nothing to do with my local politics but follow the rest like a continuing drama – my version of a soap opera.

    Bellows Falls, Rutland, Middlebury are the juicy ones but I also watch Springfield & Brattleboro closely. Like St Albans, Chester in southern VT just lost its hard-fought fight with predatory Dollar General. I feel bad for those folks there are two dollar stores a few miles away & Chester is a small nice town.

    Our municipal employees & selectboard – are a club & we aint in “the club”. They treat everyone but the very few well-heeled & business owners including each other like the unwashed. I have lived all over VT & it was never like this.

    They do everything together & treat our town like their own personal sandbox moving things around & doing just as they please. Complete with cadillac benefits packages & very healthy paychecks with incremental increases we will support these snobbish jackasses & families to their grave.

    There are a few good guys we band with when necessary — I support their (our) causes whenever a situation arises & we have had amazing successes but some have required costly litigation. I’m grateful for those with the funds who choose to use them on bhalf of their fellow citizenry but yes Sure it’s a hard row to hoe & maddeningly frustrating which is why I have become reclusive in these matters for the most part.

  2. Population: 6,392 (2010 Census)

    Registered Voters: 4,332 (2010 VT Secretary of State)

    67% of Saint Albans City residents are registered to vote.

    In 2010, 1,982 St. Albans City residents voted in that year’s non-Presidential election. That represented 46% of registered voters, or slightly less than the statewide average of 54% for the 2010 election.

    What makes you think that this year’s election will turn out “Seven or eight hundred, at best” in Saint Albans City? That prediction is less than half the number who turned out in 2010.

    On a related note, I’ve read about last September’s parking bond vote in Saint Albans City now on a couple of posts. It appears that vote turned out a total of 729 voters, or 16.8% of registered voters. The 559 voter who voted for the bond represent 76% of those who voted. Conversely, roughly 24% of those who showed up voted against the measure. Even considering the low voter turnout of this bond vote, the totals do appear to represent a “landslide” victory for proponents, to me. Claiming it doesn’t seems silly, and the use of “only about 8% of the population supporting the measure” (it’s actually 8.7%) is undercut by the fact that “only” about 2.6% of the population appeared interested enough to show up to vote against the measure.

    While I wholeheartedly support the call for participatory democracy in this thread, I don’t believe the way to create the change you seek is by distorting facts, throwing in the towel, or by writing in your own name or your neighbors. If the state of your community is as you perceive it to be and there are enough people who agree with your assessment, there must be someone in the eligible population who could be recruited to represent your point of view.

  3. and a constant reminder of the fact that we all have a voice & if we do not use that voice we all lose that voice whether we agree with it or not. A light in our world of darkness has been extinguished if it is not heard at the very least at the ballot box. I took my youngest right into the booth with me. She is the most politically active of them all (as a single parent off & on throughout their childhood it would not have been practical to bring them with me say nothing about into the voting booth). Her husband is a selectboard member & somewhat politically connected (on a small scale). She smiles & waves.

    Your WalMart campaign had an influence on me. I once shopped there b/c other choices ar not as convenient. There are those around me who are not ‘activist’ they shop where they want & I do not preach my gospel of social justice (but use other venues to make voice heard) as I do not wish to be defined by politics, I accept them as they are.

    My husband shops @ MalMart so I was going in but not making many purchases. I do everything possible to head him off @ the pass to make the purchases elsewhere. A few months ago I watched a video of tiny piglets held by their tiny tails in one hand & castrated with a knife the other. It was heartbreaking to hear there mournful squeals of pain. A list was shown of all merchants who had stopped purchasing from inhumane producers (how they do this is mystifying) but MalMart refuses. I told my husband I would be going to KMart & he could go to MalMart w/o me. This on top of their other high crimes was the straw. He’s good with it. Thanks Sue.

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