Responses to VLCT’s first-ever virtual Town Fair, from both attendees and presenters, have been overwhelmingly positive! Most sessions were video-recorded and will be available to watch for six months. To view them, registered attendees should log into their Whova account and then navigate to any session in the agenda. For help, the dashboard login link, or to register and create an account, visit vlct.org/TFhelp. Following are samplings from three sessions.
Just or Bust: How Racial Equity is Critical to the Future of Vermont Towns. “Today it is my honor to depress you into action!” said Xusana Davis, Executive Director of Racial Equity of the State of Vermont, as she began explaining why racial equity is crucial in Vermont. “As we think about the future of our towns in Vermont, it’s important that we recognize what those towns will look like,” she said. “Are we serving our populations well enough considering the multicultural and ethnic differences and challenges and benefits?” Davis noted that Vermont's population remains 94 percent white even though the state is near the multicultural cities of Boston and Montréal. After showing how one economic practice from the mid-twentieth century, redlining, has affected the ability of generations of people of color to make their way in modern America, Davis differentiated between equality – treating everyone the same despite their different needs and circumstances – and equity – treating people fairly by taking into account systemic and individual privilege and bias. She has already helped some Vermont municipalities start fostering diverse communities, and she is eager to share her insights and ideas with others.
Stronger Together: Building Local Resilience in Turbulent Times. Vince Williams, Union City, Georgia, Mayor and NLC Second Vice President, began his keynote address with a warning: “Our country is at a crossroads; we are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the racial protests that we are seeing across this country.” But then, his message segued into one of hope. “As local leaders, resiliency has become our new mantra,” he said. “And it’s this elasticity and adaptability that have allowed many of us to readily respond to the multiple challenges that we have faced in such a short time.” He reminded us that even during this pandemic there is “an opportunity for us to rethink and re-imagine many of our traditions and systems.” Williams was inspired by Vermont’s history as one of the first states to prohibit slavery and our overwhelming support for the Civil Rights Movement.
Responding to COVID-19 – Lessons Learned and Best Practices Going Forward. Vermont Emergency Management Engagement Section Chief Emily Harris characterized emergency management as a chain of linked resources, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the top down to a municipality’s local incident command. Because COVID-19 is a FEMA-declared disaster, funds are available from the U.S. government to pay for eligible expenses. “All disasters start and end locally,” she said, meaning that each town should be responsible for determining its ability to respond to an emergency. In fact, Vermont law requires every town to have an emergency management director. Harris then listed steps Vermont municipal officials can take now in order to prepare for a future surge in COVID-19 cases.
We extend our sincere thanks to People’s United Bank and Vermont Blue Advantage for being our first Gold Corporate sponsors. We also thank our Town Fair sponsors: Northeast Delta Dental; Vermont Bond Bank; CAI Technologies; Stitzel, Page & Fletcher; Vermont Dept. of Taxes – PVR; Community Bank; Green Lantern Solar; Mascoma Bank; Minuteman Press; MVP Health Care; TD Bank; White + Burke Real Estate Advisors: and VC3.