I want to start with an acknowledgment of the shooting Saturday night of 3 Palestinian college students visiting for Thanksgiving, and state just how distressing this is for the victims and families involved and how chilling it is on our entire community. As a community we need to condemn violence and especially hate motivated crimes. I thank our first responders including the EMTs who offered immediate medical care and our police officers who kept them safe while they did so, and to those involved in the ongoing investigation to hold the perpetrator accountable.
Our prayers are with the victims and families who are suffering the most at this time. I also want to remind everyone in our community, that we do not fight hate with hate. We fight hate with justice. And justice comes from having a strong and trusted law enforcement system.
On Sunday, we published our public safety plan on our website. This is a plan that has been a collaborative effort with input from professionals in human services, housing, city government, law enforcement, and many other perspectives.
I announced my candidacy for mayor because I believe we can make Burlington the most livable, equitable, and vibrant city in America. As a community, we have the human resources, the natural resources, and the will to accomplish this vision. After 20 years serving as a City Councilor and 3 years as Council President, I am ready to lead this effort.
Burlington, like so many places in our country, is experiencing a rise in drug addiction, a crisis of mental health, an increase in crime, and as we saw Saturday night, increasing polarization, hate, and gun violence. These crises are made worse by a lack of adequate housing and social services, and a diminished police force. All of this has weakened the social and economic fabric of our community. But with every challenge comes great opportunity for new systems and a new vision. Together we will rise to these challenges!
As a community, I believe we have shared vision of a vibrant, safe community where diverse opinions, cultures, and backgrounds are valued. A community where our most vulnerable residents are truly seen and programs and policies work to address their needs equitably. Our community should be one where families, workers, students, and visitors alike can enjoy the best of Burlington without fear or concern for their safety.
And yes, we must now face our unprecedented challenges made worse by the City Council vote to reduce the Burlington Police force by 30% which I vocally opposed. This decision was made without regard to the collateral impacts, without an evidence-based plan to maintain public safety, and failing to make up for the loss of enforcement and investigative capacity. I am proud to have not only voted against this proposal, but also provided an alternative to it, which is a key distinction of my candidacy.
Our Plan recognizes that Burlington can and should do better. Importantly, this plan is based on our shared goals and will improve public safety for all our neighbors. We are asking for an All Hands On Deck approach because we know that only together can we create the Burlington that we all want.
As mayor, I will focus on four areas to improve public safety in our community:
Deterrence and Prevention.
All of the above include key elements of accountability and care. This plan recognizes that people are not getting the help they need. At the same time, it acknowledges that accountability is essential, and our community can no longer tolerate gun violence, open drug use and drug dealing, graffiti, car theft, bike theft, retail theft, and other harmful behaviors in our parks, in our neighborhoods, and in our downtown.
We must restore strong public expectations of safety throughout Burlington for our residents, for those experiencing homelessness, for our local businesses supporting local jobs, for our non-profit organizations and for service providers seeking to help our community. We also must recognize that our economic future is tied to our ability to maintain public safety and reverse the negative perceptions about our city.
We can and will do better! My top priority will be to tackle these four primary issues, Deterrence, Treatment, Housing, and Justice with the tools and resources available to city government. But city government can’t do it alone. I will also partner with and call on the community at-large, leaders in the Statehouse, and our congressional delegation to help. The time to act on these issues is now, and our community cannot wait. As I continue to listen to our community, I commit to building feedback, data, and new information into this plan every step of the way.
In closing I would like thank the Burlington Police Officers Association for their endorsement and putting their trust in me as the next Mayor of Burlington.