A new push is underway in Vermont, to help make it a more equitable place to live — emphasizing progress at the local level.
Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, and Xusana Davis, Vermont’s executive director of racial equity, celebrated the launch of IDEAL Vermont Tuesday. Standing for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Action and Leadership, IDEAL is a push to advance racial equity and other forms of equity.
Communities that sign on will have access to a resource library, technical guidance, and can apply for small grants as they work to improve equity in areas such as local education or zoning policies.
“The small and everyday ways in which inequity shows up at the local level, that’s the needle that we’re trying to move,” Davis explained. “And when it moves, it moves in such small increments, you may not necessarily see it in the big picture, but one of the things that’s really unique about Vermont is that there’s a big focus on community and on civic engagement at the local level, and so those effects are really felt locally.”
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IDEAL Vermont is funded with $220,000 in state money for two years, supplemented with funds from the Vermont Community Foundation, the Vermont Office of Racial Equity noted. The first 14 cities and towns to sign onto the movement are Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, Essex, Fairfax, Hardwick, Hartford, Hinesburg, Orange, St. Albans, South Burlington, Richmond, Tinmouth and Winooski, the state said.
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According to 2021 data from the U.S. Census, Vermont is the second-whitest state in the country, behind only Maine. However, the population of racial minorities in Vermont is increasing, the data showed.
IDEAL Vermont also has support from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT), the Vermont Council on Rural Development, the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion and Abundant Sun, the Scott administration said.
At the press conference announcing the launch of IDEAL, Gov. Scott also responded to the horror this weekend inside a Colorado LGBTQ nightclub. Initial charges show the accused gunman is suspected of being motivated by bias when he allegedly killed five people and injured others.
“We just need to step back and tone down the rhetoric,” Scott said, calling for more compassion for marginalized groups, and for a commitment to creating safe environments and to ending hate-based violence. “Listening is the most important thing, and being more sensitive to what others are feeling, how they’re feeling, and making sure they feel included.”