Mayor&Rsquo;S Office

August 2020: Our response to the pandemic, CityPlace Burlington, racial justice


Vermont again has among the lowest numbers in the country for daily new cases of the coronavirus, infection rate, positive test rate, and other key metrics.

The sustained community success suppressing the virus is a remarkable, life-saving achievement. We did this together by first “Flattening the Curve” by mid-April, and now we have successfully “Boxed In” the virus and contained Vermont outbreaks for more than two months.

I say this not to suggest our mission is accomplished. We have months of hard work and continued risk ahead of us, and know that there are many examples around the country and the world demonstrating how fragile coronavirus containment can be. Rather, I say it to inspire ongoing vigilance and confidence that we can do what needs to be done to get through this pandemic together.

The City will continue to do its part. Every day, your City team fights to keep the virus contained. We help set up pop-up testing sites, support the basic needs of residents in COVID quarantine, negotiate with the State and colleges to ensure there is a strong testing, tracing, and isolation plan in place for the return of students, collaborate with the Burlington School District to support their safe re-opening, continue to staff the COVID-19 Resource and Recovery Center (RRC) that has responded to over 1,500 individual requests since the pandemic began, and much more. I wake up every morning with the pandemic as my top priority, receive multiple emergency briefings a week, and continue to secure and deploy substantial emergency resources to keep the Burlington’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts robust and focused on the most vulnerable.

Our success to date, however, has hinged on collective action, and will only continue if all of us continue to do our parts as members of organizations and communities, heads of households, and individuals.

To help you do your part we have assembled considerable coronavirus resources on the City website: The site includes recordings of my regular conversations with Dr. Stephen Leffler of the UVM Medical Center, the latest numbers for Chittenden County, and details of the relief efforts that we’ve launched through the RRC.

CityPlace Burlington

In July, I directed our attorneys to issue a letter of default to the developer of CityPlace Burlington for their failure to perform under the development agreement with the City. After two years of promises from Brookfield that they were committed to completing the transformational redevelopment of the former mall into a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood, it became clear that they were attempting to abandon the project with their commitments unfulfilled. It is unacceptable to me that one of the largest companies in the world is not making good on their promises to the people of Burlington. We are giving the developers a short period of time to propose an acceptable route forward. If that does not happen quickly we will move forward with aggressive legal action to hold Brookfield accountable for their failures, bad faith, and fraud. You can read more about our recent actions on the City website.

During this period of uncertainty with this important downtown project, I want residents to know three things. First, taxpayers have been protected from the developer’s failures and will continue to be protected going forward, because we negotiated an agreement that has the developers paying for the City’s project costs. Second, with the failing mall building removed (at the developer’s expense) and the future reconnected St. Paul and Pine streets now on the City’s official map, we are much closer to the planBTV vision of a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood in this part of the City than we were before the building came down. Third, as I hope you have seen over the last eight years, I don’t give up: as with all of the major challenges we have faced together – from the BT lawsuit, the redevelopment of the northern waterfront, the opioid overdose crisis, and now the coronavirus pandemic – I will work hard and fight for Burlingtonians every day until the vision the community voted for in 2016 is realized.

Declaration of Racism as a Public Health Emergency

The coronavirus has laid bare a terrible and longstanding truth: Black and brown Americans experience far worse health outcomes than their white neighbors do, for a broad array of reasons that are driven by deeply embedded, structural racism. This is why, in July, I worked with the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and more than 30 Chittenden County organizations to declare racism a public health emergency, announce immediate actions to address it, and commit to ongoing joint action to eliminate race-based health disparities and eradicate systemic racism in Chittenden County.

To make progress, we will need to address all of the social determinants of individual and public health, from health care, to housing, education, economic opportunity, and more. We have now assembled a coalition of many of the most impactful employers, service providers, housing institutions, schools, and other key partners, with more continuing to sign on to address this emergency in their work. I am deeply and personally committed to making progress on racial justice here in Burlington, and know that this is the kind of coalition through which we can make lasting change. You can read more about this declaration and immediate actions on the City website.

Talk to you soon,