Mayor Weinberger responds to critics over racial justice priorities

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 12:37 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:57 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is responding to critics of his State of the City address who say he placed too much emphasis on racial justice issues.

“My job is to be the mayor for all Burlingtonians, not just the people who voted for me and that’s the way I approach it every day,” Weinberger said.

Some believe the mayor’s speech on Monday didn’t specifically address all of the issues and concerns of the people who voted for him. Kurt Wright, the former Republican council president, said he was disappointed in the speech, saying the mayor didn’t adequately address public safety concerns and how the city will use federal COVID dollars.

“I knew it would be hard for some people to hear. I hope the more we talk about it the more we engage this, we can get to a place where we realize that really everyone benefits when we root out systemic racism,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Some of his pitches include expanding the city’s Department of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, increasing Black homeownership and a commitment to finding common ground on administering police discipline.

“Speaking those words out loud in a formal State of the City holds him accountable to those words and I think he is very well aware, and I am very well aware, that we do just that,” said Tyestia Green, the director of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.

Green is looking forward to seeing the ideas come to life, especially the announcement of a city-sponsored Juneteenth celebration. It’s set to include dozens of bands, entertainers and speakers across the city, as well as free food and moving museums to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S.

“I think that bringing a lot of the community together, regardless of race, to celebrate the independence and the freedom of Black people in this country from bondage and who have been held in bondage for hundreds of years, that’s what this day is for,” Green said.

The mayor says the work ahead won’t be easy but that he remains committed to a more racially just community.

“I take every commitment that I make -- I know that I am going to be held accountable to it. Certainly, something that we focus the whole State of the City on, there’s going to be a lot of scrutiny and follow-up. Just like every promise that I make, I will work hard to make good on that,” Weinberger said.

The city is also going to be using a racial equity toolkit which includes a worksheet that department heads must answer every time they make a new policy, practice, initiative or budget item to make sure equity is achieved with their decisions.

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