BURLINGTON, Vt. – In the Queen City, a new focus on equity has started conversations in the community about how to level the playing field in healthcare, education and law enforcement.
On Tuesday, Justice For All Vermont held a community forum on the subject, with several city officials including Police Chief Brandon del Pozo and Mayor Miro Weinberger. Both were on hand to listen, and Chief del Pozo acknowledged the role his department plays in the dialogue.
“The way we police the city has a big effect on the feeling of equity in the city,” Chief del Pozo said. “It’s not always perfect, but we do take it very seriously so as an employer and as the police, I think we’re right at the center of equity issues.”
The forum comes several months after Burlington released the 2018 Equity Report, which examines demographics, economic well-being, housing, education, public safety and health in the Queen City.
It included a long list of recommendations, including housing reforms, youth programming reform, and further analysis of the city’s workforce. The report found that just 7 percent of city employees are people of color.
Mark Hughes, executive director of Justice For All Vermont, said creating an environment where minorities can thrive is key.
“One of our best hopes is to grow our population in this state,” Hughes said. “With a 1.4 percent black population, guess who needs to come? The better question is, who’s going to need to stay?”
Growing Vermont’s population has been a major goal for Gov. Phil Scott’s administration, as has creating equity in government. In June, Gov. Scott signed Act 9, which established a director of racial equality that will combat systemic bias across state government.
Human Resources Commissioner Beth Fastiggi explained how these two goals are intertwined.
“We need more people, and if we’re going to attract people to move into the state or stay in Vermont, we need to have a state where people want to live, work and move to, and that means welcoming all people to the State of Vermont,” Fastiggi said.