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Diversity And Equity Position In City Government Approved By Burlington Councilors

Burlington City Hall
Burlington City Hall

The Burlington City Council has approved the creation of a new position to guide the city’s racial diversity work.
In 2012, Burlington officials created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee that crafted a strategic plan with the following goals: the elimination of race-based disparities in all city departments and across the greater Burlington community and to promote the inclusion and engagement of the entire community.

Now, a resolution considered by the Burlington City Council would create a committee to explore the establishment of a new commission.  It would also create a senior position within city hall to guide city leaders and departments on diversity and inclusion.  Ward 7 Democrat/Progressive Ali Dieng says the two components are critical.  “Around this work nobody has a crystal ball. We all trying to figure it out. And I think having someone who would monitor progress and who also will be reporting to the mayor directly as well as the council as we move forward. We face many challenges. But we have learned that diversity in our community is one of our greatest strengths. We cannot take this diversity for granted.  We must work diligently to ensure that everyone regardless of race, religion, gender identity, age, ability, or country of origin is fully included in the fabric of our community.”

While the reading of the full resolution had been waived, Ward 3 Progressive Brian Pine read the resolved clauses of the resolution. He noted that the city school district has often taken the lead on diversity and sets the example for the city.  “They have devoted staff. They have a committee standing committee of the school board that is perhaps called the Diversity, Equity Inclusion Committee I think. I just want to point that out and say that I think we have a lot of work to do but it’s really important that we not shy away from a topic that makes folks sometimes uncomfortable. And I think that’s really important to just be upfront about that, name it and focus on the result that we’re trying to get.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the resolution was the result of a collaborative process that has been in the works since the strategic plan was formed in 2014.  “That plan focused us as an administration as a city on some areas that may not have gotten the attention without that work.  I think in particular some of the work the police department has done, being much better about reaching out to various communities particularly communities of color. We have moved the ball a little bit in terms of overall city hiring and diversifying our workforce. And more. I think this is the right step.”

Weinberger, a Democrat, added this is an important time for the city to move forward with the diversity resolution.  “This is such a tumultuous, interesting, scary time in some ways to be in this country. There’s so many concerning and unprecedentedly terrible things, shocking things, that we see our federal government doing. I also sense somehow simultaneously with that a real reckoning in important areas including racial justice. And every institution in America needs to be part of that. Certainly the city of Burlington needs to be a part of that.”

The resolution passed unanimously on a voice vote.

The City Council’s Institutions/Human Resources Committee must develop a job description by September 23rd and fill the position by January 1, 2020.

Audio from the Burlington City Council meeting is courtesy of Channel 17 Town Meeting television.