BURLINGTON, Vt. – On Monday, Mayor Miro Weinberger delivered his annual State of the City Address, focusing on pandemic recovery, racial equity, public safety and other key issues.
It was the third consecutive address that dealt primarily with the pandemic and Burlington’s eventual recovery.
“The extraordinary demands of the past two years have left all of us weary and impatient for some sense of normalcy to return,” Weinberger said. “And yet, at the same time, this moment continues to demand a lot of all of us.”
Weinberger said recovery efforts will be the primary focus for 2022, and it’s a job that will call on some of the same resources used by the city to weather the early days of the pandemic.
“In those early days, I formed a small team, headed by our Church Street Marketplace Director Kara Alnasrawi, to communicate with, support and assist the business community,” Weinberger said. “Instead of just being focused on Church Street, I asked Kara to take responsibility for supporting all of the City’s businesses through the crisis. The budget that I bring to you in June will formalize the small ad hoc economic recovery team we have had for the last two years into a new City Department.”
That department will also work to ensure Burlington’s children can recover from the pandemic by continuing the work of opening up availability at child care centers.
Weinberger said Burlington’s older children will need help too.
“As amazing as it is that the School District was able to transform the old Macy’s building into a downtown high school in a matter of months, Burlington students need and deserve a permanent, 21st Century high school,” Weinberger said.
There was also a focus on racial justice in the Queen City. Weinberger promised to maintain the same level of funding for the Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Department (REIB) as the city looks for opportunities to trim the 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 homeownership rates, and mount a sustained, multi-partner effort to eradicate racial disparities across the social determinants of health,” Weinberger said.
When it comes to public safety, Weinberger made a push to reinvigorate the Burlington Police Department as staffing levels continue to drop well below levels from just a few years ago.
“To that end, Chief [Jon] 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,” Weinberger said. “This plan will include targeted financial incentives, investments in recruitment capacity, and a revitalized effort to recruit from local communities that are not currently well-represented in the department.”
After the mayor’s remarks, the Burlington City Council voted unanimously to elect Democratic Councilor Karen Paul as its next President.