Distressed by recent catastrophic events unfolding across the country relating to human rights, justice, and equality, Bob Harnish, a long-time resident of Pittsford, decided to do something. His concern led him to Al Wakefield, a former businessman in the Rutland area, who shared similar distress and felt a need to do something “hands-on.”
Together, the pair began crafting an overarching statement that would build on Vermont’s agreed upon uniqueness, its long-standing reputation for being a leader in addressing injustices, and ensure that events occurring in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, and other states do not happen here. They realized that, at the same time, such a statement could attract people with myriad skills and traditions to Vermont to live, work, and raise families.
They found that statement in the Declaration of Inclusion, first adopted by the Town of Franklin in 2020.
Intent of the Declaration of Inclusion
The intent of the Declaration of Inclusion is to indicate and reinforce the message to all visitors, residents, and those thinking about or planning to come and stay, that:
- Vermont is a welcoming community
- Vermont invites all to bring their families and friends, as well as their talents and skills
- Vermont is a community of people who will treat them fairly, provide encouragement and support for their interests
- Vermont will bring the full resources of the state, cities, and towns to ensure their well-being and security
More specifically, the goal of the Declaration is to:
- Highlight the fact that we as Vermonters are not fully aware of the systemic racism that is present in our majority “white” society
- Raise consciousness about the importance of diversity, the positive effect that diversity can have on our economy, and on equity and justice
- Emphasize the importance of preparing our youth to live and prosper in the more diverse society in which we all will soon be living
- Tell the world at large that Vermont welcomes all people to our state, which is struggling to maintain its population and its ability to fund basic programs for its citizens
- Attract people with myriad skills and traditions to Vermont to live, work, and raise families in a state that values and encourages diversity in its population
- Focus attention on examining employee manuals, police protocols, and hiring practices to promote fairness and equity in applying legislation, ordinances, etc., within our towns and the state as a whole
- Employ best practices in coaching municipal and state employees, including police, to value and respect all citizens
Evidence of Commitment
- Town Level
Inclusion in the town’s website, employee manuals, police protocols, newsletters, economic development marketing materials, etc.
- State Level
Inclusion in major addresses by leading state officials, printed materials used to welcome visitors, policies and operating procedures, external communications, public relations pieces, etc.
- Organizational Level
Inclusion in policies, operating procedures, and similar documents used by labor unions, law enforcement agencies, and academic institutions throughout the state.
To have each Vermont municipality adopt and implement a Declaration of Inclusion. Adopt means formal approval by the municipality’s governing body. Implement means the development of plans, programs and the initiation of actions which support and advance both the intent and the spirit of the Declaration. Some ideas are found in the Resources Section of: vtdeclarationofinclusion.org.
For more specific information, guidance and assistance please consult the following: Vermont Office of Racial Equity and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.