I’ve chatted with a lot of you recently who were having a hard time making a decision about who to vote for in this year’s contested elections. So here’s how I suggest you vote:
Lol jk. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. What I’m going to do is:
Remind you of one more resource you can share with your friends and family as you encourage them to come out and vote on April 9 (or vote using an Absentee Ballot at the Town Clerk’s office during normal business hours before then)
Remind you what you’re voting for
Explain in a new and different way why you don’t have to be turned off at the idea of getting involved in local government
Ready? Here goes.
Learn About Your Candidates
I know you and all your friends, loved ones, and casual acquaintances have already read through the Buzz profiles and the BEC Candidate Guide. The BNEWS Election Center has even more information about the candidates running for town election, including 1:1 interviews with our Select Board candidates, Mike Espejo and Nick Priest, a forum with Planning Board candidates Brenda Rappaport and Barbara L’Heureux, and debates with the Board of Health candidates [Ed Weiner (Incumbent), Gayle DaMore, and Janice Cohen] and the School Committee candidates [Christine Monaco (Incumbent), Melissa Massardo, and Jeremy Brooks]. There are also written questionnaires!
What’s on the Ballot?
You can see a Sample Ballot right here on our Town Clerk’s website. Each April, we vote for some seats on each of the elected Boards in town. Here’s a quick rundown of what the Boards do, who is running, and how many seats are available.
The moderator is responsible for ensuring Town Meeting is carried out in a fair, impartial manner. This seat holds a one-year term.
Bill Beyer (Incumbent) is running uncontested.
This is the executive branch of the town, responsible for (among other things) executing the budget set forth at May Town Meeting each year. This seat holds a three-year term.
Nick Priest (Incumbent) and Mike Espejo are running for two seats. Two candidates for two seats means this race is also uncontested.
Board of Assessors
The Assessor’s Office is responsible for valuing property in town and administering real-estate and excise tax bills and abatements. This seat carries a three-year term.
Catherine O’Neil (Incumbent) is running uncontested for one seat.
The School Committee is responsible for hiring of the Superintendent, and for setting policy and budget for the schools. School Committee seats are for a three-year term.
Christine Monaco (Incumbent), Melissa Massardo, and Jeremy Brooks are running for two seats. This race is contested.
This group governs and sets policies for the Library. This seat carries a three-year term.
Robert Neufeld (Incumbent) is running unopposed, and there is an additional seat available.
The Planning Board works to ensure the residents’ vision for the future of Burlington is carried out in the projects that are undertaken in the town. Terms are five years.
Brenda Rappaport and Barbara L’Heureux are running for two seats, making this election uncontested. An additional seat is expected to open, assuming Mike Espejo is elected to Select Board (which is highly likely, since as I mentioned his race is uncontested). So, if you know someone who would be an excellent candidate for Planning Board, please reach out to the Planning Department.
Board of Health
Committed to promoting the public health of our town, a seat on this Board carries a 3-year term.
Ed Weiner (Incumbent), Gayle DaMore, and Janice Cohen are running for two seats, making this another contested race.
Our constables are charged with serving notices such as demands, warrants, and citations. This is a three-year seat.
Dennis Otis and Bill Pepicelli are running for two seats.
This body manages affordable housing developments and provides housing assistance to those who need it. A seat on the Housing Authority is for one year.
Currently there is NOBODY running for the one available seat.
The Recreation Commission is charged with setting the vision for recreation in Burlington. A seat on this Commission is for three years.
Stephen Nelson is running unopposed for a single seat.
Town Meeting is the only thing on the ballot that is location-based. When you go vote, you’ll get a ballot specific to your precinct, so after you vote for town-wide positions, you can vote on the Town Meeting candidates in your precinct only. Unfortunately, only the Precinct 6 race is contested this year. There are open seats in Precinct 1 (1), 5 (2), and 7 (4).
Why You Need to Vote
What are your priorities for the town? Do you want your taxes to be lower, or the school day to be longer? Do you want to stop stormwater from flowing down the hill and right into your basement? Do you want the town to invest more in long-term amenities? Are you concerned about the chemicals found in our water?
The officials we elect to represent us are our neighbors and our friends - and they’re also the ones making these decisions on our behalf. A vote on election day is a vote for your priorities. Getting to know the candidates and what they stand for doesn’t have to be an exercise in red versus blue or conservative versus liberal. We all have priorities for ourselves, our family, and our town’s future, and they don’t necessarily fall along the fault lines of national politics. In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard one candidate say a single thing about national politics or their political party in all my conversations with them.
To make an educated decision all you need to do is know your priorities and figure out which candidate aligns best with them.
A Note on Uncontested Races and Empty Seats
Okay, it’s not a good look to have so many uncontested races and empty seats. We’ve done a really good job being apathetic and cultivating that apathy over years and decades. A lot of people over the last year-plus that I’ve been doing this work have told me a version of “people are lazy,” “people don’t care,” or “people don’t know anything about local government,” sometimes all in the same breath. But then … crickets.
Apathy can’t be the end of the sentence. It’s one thing to get exasperated about the apathy of the voting block. It’s quite another to mobilize and motivate people. That’s what I try to do here, and what I’ll continue doing after the election is over as people begin thinking about what’s on the ballot for next year and how they can contribute. Next April, my dream is to see contested races across the ballot - from Moderator all the way to Precinct 7 Town Meeting.
So, as you inform yourself on all the candidates, I urge you begin thinking about how you can take the next step in the years to come, as well.
That’s all for today. Have a beautiful Saturday, friends.
Voter turn out has several reasons why based on my own questions. So who votes? Young people, seniors, middle age, residents that live in their own property, residents who rent or residents that don’t vote based on where they come from? Having lived here since 1949 the same question comes up almost every year since then. The percentages may change based on contested seats has been shown as a fact. Maybe there is a way to get answers to many questions and still make people feel they are not being controlled by their response and maintain their privacy. Good luck in getting answers. Thanks for your attitude Nicci.