BURLINGTON — The local Progressive Party made waves on Town Meeting Day as Progressive candidates won two city council seats out of four up for election.
The Central District race saw 19-year incumbent Jane Knodell, an independent, lose her seat to the Progressive challenger. She ran against Democrat Jared Carter and Progressive Perri Freeman, but it was Freeman who won the evening with 54 percent of the vote. Knodell came in second with 37 percent.
Freeman, 27, has lived in the city for three years and has worked in community organizations including Rights & Democracy and the Vermont Workers’ Center. She also served on the Neighborhood Planning Assembly for Wards 2 and 3.
“The campaigns were so respectful, everyone put their best foot forward,” Freeman said in a Channel 17 interview following her victory. “We hit an incredible amount of doors and talked to as many people as possible.”
She added that climate action, affordability, a liveable wage, transparency and accessibility are all priorities now that she won the backing from voters.
For the East District, Progressive Jack Hanson defeated incumbent Democrat Richard Deane with 61 percent of the vote. Deane, the only other challenger, won 39 percent. Hanson has stated that affordability and climate change are two of his priorities for the council.
In the South District, incumbent Democrat Joan Shannon retained her seat with 66 percent of the vote. She defeated independent Paco DeFrancis and Progressive Mohamed Jafar. The latter ran into some campaign trouble when controversial Twitter posts emerged from 2015.
The open North District seat saw a battle between Democrat Franklin Paulino, independent Ericka Bundy Redic and independent Kienan Christianson. Paulino won with 53 percent of the vote, and Christianson was runner-up at 44 percent.
Republican City Council President Kurt Wright had endorsed Paulino and campaigned door-to-door with him, while Dave Hartnett, the incumbent, dropped out of the race to focus on family needs.
In all, early Twitter reactions noted that Burlington will continue to be under Progressive control for the foreseeable future.
Big night for Burlington Progressives — Perri Freeman and Jack Hanson are elected to the #btvcc . Democrats Franklin Paulino wins in the North District and Joan Shannon wins in the South District. #VTPoli
— Aidan Quigley (@QuigleyAidan) March 6, 2019
Ali Dieng, D/P-Ward 7, whose seat was not up for grabs Tuesday, talked about the jump in progressive representation.
“It’s a win for the Progressives who are bringing in new young voices who would like to see the city thrive,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, 84 percent of voters cast ballots to advise city council to ban single-use plastic bags from stores. Brattleboro had implemented a similar ban in their stores since July 1.
Shannon said she helped put the plastic bag item on the ballot.
“We had tried a few years ago and I got a lot of pushback from the grocers who said our customers need these bags,” she said in a Channel 17 interview.
The idea behind the ban is that plastic bags are not biodegradable and are piling up in landfills. Critics argue the ban is an inconvenience as the bags serve many purposes after a trip from the store.
Stores in Brattleboro have started selling reusable bags in an effort to get people on board. Penalties for continuing with plastic bags in Brattleboro include $50 for the second violation and $100 for each subsequent violation afterward.
Paper bags are under scrutiny as well. Some stores such as Market 32 have charged a 5-to-10 cent fee for paper bags, which according to environmentalists also carry a manufacturing cost and do not breakdown easily.
The advisory for Burlington does not just include plastic bags; it also recommends banning straws, stirrers, and Styrofoam containers.