Town Meeting Day Central to Burlington Politics

For nearly 200 years, Town Meeting Day has been a recognized Vermont holiday in its 237 towns and nine cities. On the second Tuesday in March, state offices, schools and many businesses are closed as citizens gather for town meeting. For the city of Burlington, Town Meeting Day gives community members a chance to vote in local elections. “Burlington, because of its size, has a somewhat different process on Town Meeting Day,” said Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle. “Of course, we still have our lively discussions and debate forums preceding it, but on this day-we vote.” While the population of Burlington prevents a comprehensive town meeting on various local issues, like other cities, Burlington’s citizens vote on the town budget and elect city council members. Students at UVM have an opportunity to participate in politics, as well. “Anyone who considers themself to be a resident of Burlington, even if he/she otherwise live out-of-state, has a chance to become involved,” said Clavelle. “Students are encouraged to become involved and engaged in community affairs.” Christopher Ettori, Vice President of the College Democrats and a senior at UVM, agrees. “Voting is one of the most important things a student can do. They don’t think it makes a difference – but it really does. The decisions can and do affect students very directly.” One example Ettori notes is a fairly recent housing ordinance which prohibits more than four unrelated tenants to live in the same household. “If students had become more involved, and made their voice heard, things might be different today.” Within the past decade or so, town meeting has shown a decline in active contribution to local politics. Many people recognize they have a day off, but do not attend the meeting. “People don’t participate as much anymore and it’s unfortunate,” said Tony Gierzynski, political science professor at UVM. “There are a number of battles and voting makes a big difference. I know it sounds kinda clich?? to vote, but the fact is, it’s true – voting has a big impact.”