Mayor&Rsquo;S Office

Happy New Year! The City's work in 2020 + looking ahead

December 31, 2020


2020 has been a historically challenging year. We have lost too many of our loved ones too soon, and too many of us are suffering through terrible economic stress and uncertainty.

At the same time, as we head into 2021, I continue to believe that we will emerge from this crisis a stronger, healthier, and more just community.

Already, our collective response to the pandemic has resulted in improved two-way communications between City government and Burlington’s BIPOC residents, the community’s first-ever year-round low-barrier residence where people experiencing homelessness can find shelter, major new investments in renewable energy and weatherization, and much more.

As we close out 2020, I’d like to share a few reflections about three broad areas of City focus: 1) responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2) working for racial justice, and 3) making progress on our other key goals.

Our response to the Covid-19 pandemic

In 2020, we remade City government in order to support Burlingtonians through both the public health and economic crises of Covid-19. From the very beginning, we studied the lessons of the 1918 influenza and concluded that local actions matter in a pandemic, and resolved to act accordingly.

As such, the City of Burlington was an early leader in the shutdown of bars and restaurants before St. Patrick’s Day, and in creating a mandatory mask ordinance. We created an internal Covid-19 Analytics Team to prioritize data and science in our response, build a public Covid-19 dashboard to track local metrics, and monitor for Covid-19 RNA at our three wastewater treatment plants. We launched the City’s Covid-19 Resource and Recovery Center (RRC) to deploy relief funds, support people in quarantine, and respond to more than 2,000 individual requests for help. We recognized the value of mask wearing early on and launched an initiative to produce and distribute more than 25,000 free, high-quality, reusable face masks, first to essential workers and by mid-May to any Burlingtonian who wanted one. City employees, meanwhile, have worked the front lines of the pandemic doing jobs never asked of them before, assisting at pop-up testing facilities, transporting potentially infected residents in ambulances, joining the State’s contact tracing team, and more.

Throughout, we have worked to ensure that our response to the pandemic has been equitable. We’ve done that by working to secure both short-term and long-term Covid-safe shelter for people experiencing homelessness. We also developed an eight-point plan to ensure a racially just recovery, and hired individuals who are part of local BIPOC communities to improve two-way communications. We advocated for interpreters at testing sites and prioritized BIPOC-owned businesses in our recovery aid. We’ve also worked throughout to keep Burlingtonians informed, releasing 90 updates including regular briefings, newsletters, and Telephone Town Hall meetings.

In all of this work the City team has tried to reflect and channel the commitment of the Burlington community to keep each other safe. I hope that every resident that has regularly worn their mask, avoided crowds, and followed the Governor’s gatherings order feels pride and a sense of accomplishment that Burlington has had one of the country’s lowest cumulative infection rates of any metropolitan area since the beginning of this pandemic. 

Let’s take confidence from this record even as we face perhaps the toughest month of the pandemic to start 2021, and stay vigilant until the arriving vaccines bring this historic public health emergency to an end. Learn more about our response to Covid-19 this year on the City website:

Working for racial justice

This year, I was proud to appoint the City’s first-ever Director of Racial Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (REIB), Tyeastia Green. Since Tyeastia started on the job in early April, she has created new capacity in the City to break down barriers of institutional racism and implicit bias. Then, at the end of May, the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked a national movement and crystallized how much work remains for our country and our city to truly achieve racial justice.

Since then, the City has taken a number of actions. These include that, in June, I delivered a budget to the City Council that – even in a tremendously challenging budget year and thanks to all of the work we’ve done together to restore the City’s fiscal health – created a new, $1 million fund to invest in racial justice, and an additional $250,000 for police transformation. In July, the City worked with 30-plus Chittenden County organizations to declare racism a public health emergency, and we are in the final stages of hiring a new City employee to help coordinate action to eliminate race-based health disparities. In September, I hired YMCA CEO Kyle Dodson to take the new, temporary position of Director of Police Transformation.

I am deeply and personally committed to both racial justice and building a new community consensus around policing in Burlington. We have much more to do, and I look forward to continuing this work in 2021.

Continued progress on other key City goals

Even as City government focused on the pandemic and racial justice in 2020, we also continued to advance other key goals. In our response to the climate emergency, BED’s Green Stimulus Package redirected hundreds of thousands of dollars in existing efficiency funds to initiatives like lowering energy bills for renters and supporting weatherization, and we had another encouraging year of progress toward our ambitious Net Zero Energy goal. We passed critical policy reforms designed to make housing in Burlington more affordable and available, and continued work on others. We continued our historic reinvestment in Burlington’s roads, sidewalks, and water resources. And we advanced important City projects – including the re-opening of the rehabilitated and improved Bike Path from Perkins Pier to Oakledge Park, re-opening a transformed City Hall Park, and breaking ground on a project to restore public access to the long-abandoned Moran Plant on our waterfront.

I’m looking forward to all that our Burlington community will do together in 2021, and I wish you and your families a happy and healthy New Year.



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