Asking Mayor Weinberger for a moral budget

The Racial Justice Alliance is working at the State and City levels on legislative and structural approaches to address systemic racism in Vermont. One of the things that we are working on is #OperationPhoenix.  This is a Burlington plan to “transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.”

Last Monday we sent this letter to Mayor Weinberger, the City Council and the Police Commission and that night turned out over 250 supporters at the Board of Finance meeting for public comments. We intensified the pressure with 150 folks commenting at the Police Commission meeting the following day and many returned to the Board of Finance Meeting on Wednesday. Some of this is indicated (not very well) in some in the media this week.

We agreed to a meeting on Thursday and discussed (see #OperationPhoenix) our demands with the Mayor. Though his offers fell sort of our demands, the Mayor did put forward a number of commitments and requested additional time to consider more.

  1. The administration would declare racism a City-wide health crisis
  2. The police department would remain at a level of 93 uniformed officers
  3. Departmental adjustments would facilitate a Equal Opportunity-like function
  4. Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging would be staffed to operational capacity
  5. The Cultural Empowerment demand would be accommodated at 20 Allen St.
  6. A follow-up meeting would be scheduled for sometime Saturday (yesterday)

The Mayor has yet to follow up with us.  We are now discovering that he is reaching out to numerous people of color (and others) across that state, requesting that they review and support “his plan.” This age-old divisive tactic of white folks with political and economic power is incredibly predictable. We all know that it is designed to create distraction and trigger infighting amongst Black and brown folks.  Our division always creates the opportunity for those that wield power to do less and at the end of the day black and brown people suffer.  The Mayor’s behavior is both deceptive and divisive and his decision to reach out to the broader communities of color (and beyond) at this time is strategic but disingenuous.  The Mayor is desperately in need of a black and brown audience that he can say gave him license to go down the path that he desires – not the one that we demand!

We’re asking the Mayor for a moral budget.  We entered discussions with him in good faith and a willingness to negotiate a reasonable resolution. If he is unwilling to act in earnest, we ask that you reject his budget proposal.  We ask you that you urge him to keep his commitments and finish the work that he started with us that we may arrive at an option that best benefits the city of Burlington and holds true to the mission of  #OperationPhoenix: to transform the lives of Black and brown people by investing in their lives, holding space for their culture, providing them opportunity and ensuring the equity they deserve to thrive.

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