Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Weinberger Outlines Vision For Burlington That Embraces Immigration, Public Investment

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger at podium in April 2017.
Taylor Dobbs
VPR File
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger began his 2017 State of the City speech Monday with a direct criticism of President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration.

Mayor Miro Weinberger's 2017 State of the City speech touched on hiring more police and firefighters, a new "form-based" development code for the city to promote development, a regional emergency services dispatch center and the city's continuing efforts to reduce opiate addiction.

Weinberger, a Democrat who has served as mayor since 2012, also called for a funding surge to the city’s streets and sidewalks, as well as the Burlington Housing Trust Fund, and proposed new investments in greenhouse gas reduction measures.

Weinberger began his speech with a direct criticism of President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration. He told the story of a Sudanese couple, Salah and Samya, now living in Burlington.

“Salah began life in Sudan, moved to Libya for his safety when he was very young, and then was forced to flee again when the war began. He spent three years in terrible conditions in an Egyptian camp before being admitted to the U.S. as a refugee and arriving in Burlington three and a half years ago with no family and no English,” Weinberger said. “Now, Salah is fluent, works at Revision Eyewear and has created a wonderful home in the Old North End.”

Weinbeger said Salah’s wife was nearly unable to join him in Burlington because of Trump’s executive orders on immigration; Samya came to the United States in February after federal courts struck down the orders.

Weinberger said Trump’s policies will have a “profound impact on Burlington.” He said about 300 new Americans moved to Burlington annually over the past 30 years.

“Immigration has made us much more diverse and culturally rich, and has been a part of Chittenden County’s economic success,” he said.

Weinberger cited the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, saying the program expects just 15 refugees to settle in Burlington by October, a time period during which there are usually 175 people resettled through the program. He said Vermont is better off because of its history of welcoming immigrants and refugees, and the Trump administration threatens that.

“We will fight – we must fight – to re-light the beacon and once again make America a welcoming shore,” Weinberger said to applause.

The rest of Weinberger’s speech outlined a number of plans, centered around public investment in infrastructure and public safety. Those include:

  • Hiring three new police officers in July, followed by two more by Fiscal Year 2019. “For years, we’ve asked our officers to do more and more as they have responded to the dual crises of an opioid epidemic and a failing mental health system,” Weinberger said. “They have performed impressively, but it is time to get them they help they deserve.”
  • A 12-officer specialized mental health response team within the Burlington Police Department.
  • Hiring three new firefighters. Weinberger said the majority of the cost would be covered by savings in overtime that currently covers staffing needs in the fire department.
  • A new regional emergency services dispatch system, which Weinbeger said could reduce 911 response times by an average of 90 seconds in Burlington and the surrounding area.
  • Doubling street repaving and tripling sidewalk repaving during the 2017 construction season.
  • Increasing funding for the Burlington Housing Trust Fund to “almost twice its historic level.”
  • Introducing electric buses and new electric vehicle charging stations.

Read the full transcript from Mayor Weinberger's address.

Much of Weinberger’s agenda will require approval from the city council, and his address didn’t make it immediately clear how all of the funding increases would be paid for.

“Completing our ambitious agenda will be challenging,” Weinberger said at the close of his speech. “However, this is what we do in Burlington. We have a long history of municipal activism that has resulted in us punching far above the weight class of a small city of 42,000 people. And when we deliver on this agenda – which we will – Burlington will be a safer, more vibrant, more affordable and more sustainable city for all who live, work and visit this beautiful place.”

Burlington’s city council unanimously reelected Councilor Jane Knodell as council president after the speech, just after newly elected East District City Councilor Richard Deane was sworn in, along with the other councilors reelected in March. Deane filled the vacancy left by Progressive Selene Colburn, who was elected state representative in November.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
Latest Stories