The Vermont Cynic

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Who will represent you?

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Noise pollution, deadbeat landlords, affordable housing — students must soon choose who will be their voice on these issues and more in Burlington.

In the East District, senior Carmen Scoles (D) is facing off against current Ward 1 City Councilor Selene Colburn (P).

In the Ward 8 race, Brock Gibian (D) is running against former student Adam Roof (I).

The Ward 1 city council seat is also open, with Sharon Foley Bushor (I) running unopposed.

Ward 8 was created to balance representation in the city, said Joseph Speidel, director of Local Government and Community Relations at the University.

“I think it really came down to trying to balance representation across the city, making sure ‘one person, one vote’ was what was happening across all of the wards,” Speidel said.

For SGA Senator Tyler Davis, a Ward 8’s steering committee member, the issue is student representation. They make up roughly one-fourth of Burlington’s population, yet never have “proportionate” representation, he said.

“If you do believe in equal representation, then we do deserve some weight,” he said. “Ward 8 gives the potential to do that, if we do get enough students registered to put someone in that position.”

The city councilors that are elected will be in a position to handle the “toxic” relationship between students and residents, said senior Joel Kasnetz, Scoles’ campaign manager.

“The only [way] people know their neighbors is through a noise violation, through the Burlington Police,” Kasnetz said.

Leadership in Ward 8 has the possibility of bridging the gap between the students and city government, said SGA President Aya AL-Namee.

“This Ward and these elections will be a good way for students to speak to residents and address issues in a one-on-one setting,” AL-Namee said.

At the end of the day, Davis said having a student presence in Burlington politics goes a long way toward aiding these relations.

“The worst thing that will happen is having a bunch of non-students speaking about student issues without a student being there,” he said. “Then, it becomes a lot of resentment and things not talked about.”

Voter registration in Burlington closes on Feb. 25 and elections take place March 3.

Editor’s note: In a previous version of this article, a paraphrased quote from Joe Speidel inaccurately identified student misrepresentation as the cause behind the ward 8 redistricting process. The redistricting process was meant to ensure that all residents had equal representation based on the number of city councilors and the number of residents in areas across the city, not specifically students. 

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Who will represent you?