Where Burlington mayoral candidates stand on racial justice
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - 2020 was a historic year for racial justice and the start of progress to right the wrongs of the past. Burlington saw its own wave of demonstrations at the end of last summer, causing racial justice to be a top priority for Burlington’s next mayor. Our Dom Amato reports on how the candidates plan to continue these conversations and take action.
“We can’t think of racism as something that is someone else’s problem. It’s something we have work to do here in Burlington,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.
Weinberger called protests over the summer one of his hardest experiences in office.
He says investing in racial justice is a top priority, declaring racism a public health crisis in Burlington and allocating $1 million toward racial justice goals. The city also became one of the first in the country to establish a reparations task force to make amends for slavery.
Weinberger says he is deeply committed to these issues as he raises two young daughters of color.
“I want to be able to look back on my time as mayor as a period in which we made the community in Burlington a better place for them,” he said.
Independent Ali Dieng is the only Black man on the ballot for mayor. He says it’s important to have Black, Indigenous and people of color or BIPOC folks in the driver’s seat to address racism.
“Most of the time, people do not understand what Black Lives Matter means. They don’t understand what racism is. They do not understand how it makes us feel,” Dieng said.
He criticized the City Council for being too reactionary to public outcry over the city’s police department and says he will be more proactive in focusing on racial justice.
“People who are fighting the fight, do not know what it is,” he said.
Dieng wants people of color to have more opportunities and input in city decisions, and create more meaningful change.
“They know exactly what they need to see done. Instead of just maybe college students who think that, yeah, Black Lives Matter, and having signs on your front lawn, that’s not enough,” he said.
City Council President Max Tracy helped lead the charge, pushing for changes throughout the summer to uproot systemic racism and says the fight is not over.
Reporter Dom Amato: Do you think Burlington is a racist city?
Max Tracy: I think that we live in a culture that is deeply impacted by white supremacy, as well as racism, and that comes across in a variety of ways.
If elected, the Progressive says he would help bridge the racial wealth gap by expanding BIPOC business, land and home ownership. He wants to implement citywide translation services and form a racial equity commission to root out systemic racism across city government and Burlington institutions.
“It has to be a continuous focus,” Tracy said. “We can’t just set aside diversity work as its own separate siloed-off category. We have to be constantly bringing in that anti-racist focus into our work as a city.”
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