Vermont League of Cities and Towns
Equity Committee Meeting
Monday, April 19, 2021
Members Present: Co-chair Dom Cloud, Al Voegele, Brian Carroll, Danielle Owczarski (representing Ellen Kaye), Deborah Wright, Elaine Wang, Marguerite Ladd, Nathaniel Miller, Peter Lynch, Phoebe Townsend
Others Present: VLCT staff Abigail Friedman, Karen Horn and Ted Brady
Members Absent: Co-chair Rachel Eden, Karin Durfee, Sasha Thayer, Todd Odit, Ellen Kaye, Tyeastia Green
All attended via GoToMeeting
Agenda Item #1: Call to order by the Chair. Co-chair Dom Cloud called the meeting to order at 1:05 p.m.
Agenda Item #2: Additions and deletions to the agenda. No additions or deletions were made.
Agenda Item #3: Approval of the March 8, 2021, minutes. Member Al Voegele motioned to accept the minutes, Member Brian Carrol seconded. Minutes were adopted unanimously.
Agenda Item #4: Introduction of all members and staff in attendance. Co-chair Dom Cloud introduced himself and VLCT Executive Director Ted Brady introduced himself to the committee.
Agenda Item #5: Committee name discussion. Ted Brady explained that the committee was referred to as the Equity Committee by the VLCT Board and staff. Ted inquired if that name was adequate for the purpose of the committee, and asked whether “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” or “Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” was more appropriate. Member Phoebe Townsend suggested eliminating the term “diversity” noting that Burlington was using “Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.” Member Elaine Wang noted that only two of the committee’s five members with lived experience were present, and recommended tabling the discussion until more members could weigh in. Co-Chair Cloud moved the agenda forward without action on the committee’s name.
Agenda Item #6: Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) Grant and Work Plan. VLCT Executive Director Ted Brady shared that VLCT had received a $50,000 grant “To support the increase in resources and understanding for Vermont communities around equity, inclusion, and racial justice through VLCT’s workplan and equity committee priorities.” Ted shared that this funding was part of a strategy from VCF to also invest in similar efforts at theVermont Superintendents Association, the Vermont Principals Association, and the Vermont Schoolboards Association. Those organizations are further along in their work and are pooling their grants to hire professional staff. Ted explained that the Board had directed him to use this funding to engage Nikki Fuller and Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant to help the committee and VLCT undertake equity work.
Agenda Item #7: Consultant presentation. Ted shared the consultant proposal from Nikki Fuller and Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant and provided a page-by-page overview. He said the proposal likely has a larger scope than $50,000 will afford and highlighted five key outcomes for the consultant’s work:
- Assisting the Equity Committee in building and implementing its action plan.
- Providing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training to all VLCT employees and board members.
- Developing an overall DEI policy statement for VLCT and our members. Providing staff assistance to the committee in developing this statement.
- Developing a companion set of policies and practices for the League, if necessary.
- Advising on the design and creation of a delivery mechanism for DEI training and resources for VLCT members.
Committee discussion followed that focused on the appropriate scope of the work (including how much internal work at VLCT vs external work for members should be done), whether the work should include additional work with the equity committee, and requests that before taking action, VLCT should consult with the committee members of color not present to get their feedback. Member Al Voegele asked what contact VLCT had had with Xusana Davis in the Governor’s office. Ted explained that prior to his joining VLCT as the Executive Director, he understood that Maura Carroll connected with Xusana,Davis to discuss her scope of work – which includes community level work. However, it is either parallel or complementary to work at the local level – and doesn’t appear to be focused on municipal leadership and municipal tools.
Member Elaine Wang encouraged the committee to take no action until committee members of color could respond. Co-chair Cloud shared that some of the pressure to act was coming from the consultant. Member Pheobe Townsend shared that she hoped the consultant’s scope of work would also include training for the Equity Committee so it can be more effective,. She also encouraged the committee to consider developing affinity groups for people of color and LGBTQ municipal officials. Member Al Voegele encouraged the contractor to also look at what type of laws prevent municipalities from implementing hiring practices that recruit BIPOC candidates. Member Elaine Wang stated she believed the most important part of the work is to provide resources to communities – such as the equity lens tool Barre City recently adopted. She stated training was not enough. In addition, she stated that the committee should focus on retaining diverse residents – as recruiting along doesn’t work if people move out. Member Deborah Wright encouraged the committee to learn how to talk about these issues so that members don’t talk over them. Member Brian Carrol encouraged the committee to work on transformative solutions. Member Al Voegele asked about census data that shows the BIPOC populations of Vermont communities. Member Wang said that there is American Community Survey data for larger cities, but the smaller cities rely on decennial census data.Co-chair Cloud moved, and Member Deborah Wright seconded, that VLCT should hire the consultants to execute the workplan outlined, including asking the consultant to work with the
Equity Committee on equity literacy issues, ensuring the committee does the groundwork to understand and discuss the issues they are tasked with, and proceed only after consulting with members of the Equity Committee who are people of color who could not attend. The motion was agreed to unanimously.
Agenda Item #8: Other Business. Members Elaine Wang and Brian Carroll asked the Executive Director to follow up with members who do not respond regarding availability for future board meetings and request RSVPs. Ted stated he could do so for future meetings.
Co-chair Cloud stated that Member Pheobe Townshend had requested that the City of Winooski’s new Director of Equity, Yasamin Gordon, be appointed to the Equity Committee.
Member Townshend shared that Ms Gordon will start working on May 10, and the position is in part working to implement the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Working Communities Challenge project in Winooski. Ted Brady stated that he would research past board meeting minutes to determine if the committee could welcome Ms. Gordon without formal Board action or if the Board needed to appoint her to the Committee.
Member Al Voegele moved to adjourn, Member Peter Lynch seconded. The meeting adjourned at 2:03 p.m.
VLCT Executive Director