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Burlington, Vermont’s new city council holds organizational meeting and mayor delivers State of the City address

Burlington City Hall in early evening (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington City Hall in early evening (file)

The Burlington, Vermont City Council held its organizational meeting Monday evening. New councilors were sworn in and the mayor delivered his State of the City address.

Eight of the 12 councilors on the Burlington City Council were elected or re-elected on Town Meeting Day March 3rd. Among the first orders of business on Monday was their swearing in by fourth-term Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger.

"I would like to invite the eight newly elected city councilors to come stand out here and we will swear you all in together," the mayor said. "Raise your right hand and repeat after me: Under the pains and penalties of perjury I, state your name, do solemnly swear and affirm that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of city councilor to the best of my judgement and ability according to law. Congratulations."

Weinberger then stepped to the podium to deliver his State of the City Address. It was the first in person in two years.

“The last two years have set us back in many critical areas," Weinberger said. "We’re going to have to earn our way back to the general prosperity much of this community was experiencing before the pandemic.”

Weinberger focused his speech on economic recovery, infrastructure, children and families, racial justice and equity, the climate emergency, housing and public safety.

To aid economic recovery he said it is time to make permanent an initiative to help businesses that began during the pandemic.

“The budget that I bring to you in June will formalize the small ad hoc economic recovery team we’ve had for the last two years into a new city department," the mayor said. "And that new department will continue providing critical direct business support.”

The city’s Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging office recently lost its director and several employees. Weinberger committed to keeping the department funded at 2022 levels despite expected cuts in the upcoming city budget.

“With these resources and a rebuilt team, we will continue to reshape the municipal government of Burlington as an anti-racist organization, invest and innovate to eliminate the racial disparities in home ownership rates, and mount a sustained, multi-partner effort to eradicate racial disparities across the social determinants of health," said Weinberger.

Regarding public safety, the mayor said there are two actions he will request the City Council to approve.

“Chief Murad and I will come to the council in the next month with a rebuilding plan to return the department to the staffing levels we need," the mayor explained. "Second, we must continue to build the Community Support Liaison program. This three-person team is working very well and it should be expanded further.”

Weinberger concluded by saying Burlington is doing necessary work despite challenges.

“Despite the incredible challenges of the past two years the State of our City remains strong and it is getting stronger every day as we work to recover from the pandemic’s setbacks," he said.

Following the address the council elected a new president. Past president Progressive Max Tracy did not run for re-election. Democrat Karen Paul was the only nominee and was unanimously approved by her fellow councilors.

“Each of us are absolutely at our very best when there is mutual respect," Paul said. "We can disagree and we all know that we will disagree. We can be respectful at the same time. I will do my very best to value each of your voices. I will do my best to exhibit fairness. I am looking forward to a productive year as I know all of you are and continue to improve our beloved city.”

Progressives hold a plurality of six seats on the 12 member Burlington City Council.