More Work to Be Done, Weinberger Says in State of the City Address | Off Message

More Work to Be Done, Weinberger Says in State of the City Address


Mayor Miro Weinberger, as city attorney Eileen Blackwood looks on. - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger, as city attorney Eileen Blackwood looks on.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger took the first moments of his third term to announce new initiatives around equity and civic engagement — two topics that came up repeatedly during the campaign.

In his State of the City address Monday, Weinberger vowed to help non-English speakers more easily access city services, make housing more affordable and review the role of the city's Neighborhood Planning Assemblies. The efforts will "make our community more equitable, sustainable and welcoming," he said.

The announcements appeared to be a response to Weinberger's election opponents, independent candidates Carina Driscoll and Infinite Culcleasure. On the campaign trail, both criticized Weinberger's lack of transparency and argued that he worked to benefit the business community rather than the neediest Burlingtonians.

"The events of the last year, including the elections here on Town Meeting Day a month ago, have made plain our community's work towards a more just future is not done," acknowledged Weinberger, who earned 48 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for Driscoll and 16 percent for Culcleasure.

The mayor declared that the state of the city is "very strong," but emphasized that work remained to be done.

He set forward five initiatives for the coming year: collecting data on city equity initiatives, increasing access to childcare in Burlington, working to become a net-zero energy city, strengthening public engagement and addressing the opioid epidemic.

Weinberger highlighted his work expanding the growth of housing during his first six years in office, and touted his work facilitating the sale of Burlington Telecom.

He also told the story of Sean Blake, 27, who died of an opioid overdose last year. In the coming year, the city would prioritize making buprenorphine more easily accessible by offering the addiction medication at the Howard Center and in the University of Vermont Medical Center emergency room. "Nowhere is our work more urgent and nowhere is there more at stake," he said of the city's efforts to address the opioid crisis.

Gov. Phil Scott turned out for the event, as did state Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) and former Burlington mayors Peter Clavelle and Frank Cain.
Burlington city councilors are sworn in. - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Burlington city councilors are sworn in.
Weinberger repeatedly returned to themes of equity and ensuring equal opportunity and access in the city. He said he has asked city departments to measure and track their progress on equity and diversity measures.

The mayor also vowed to move forward on the Burlington Early Learning Initiative, an effort he started to expand childcare openings for young children. The mayor has been working on the program for five years, with few tangible results, as Seven Days reported last week. But, Weinberger assured, "it is starting to make an impact on the ground."

Following Weinberger's address, the city council elected Ward 4 Councilor Kurt Wright, the body's only Republican member, its president. He replaces Jane Knodell (P-Central District).

Also sworn in were the eight city councilors elected on Town Meeting Day. Seven were incumbents; the only newcomer is Brian Pine (P-Ward 3), who earned the Old North End seat after Progressive Sara Moore decided not to seek another term.