A town or city adopting a Declaration of Inclusion is making a statement to its citizens and to others that this is a town that believes in treating everyone fairly, recognizing that “everyone” does not look or act alike, that we expect our municipal government to abolish any language in ordinances, hiring practices and police protocols that favor the white majority or diminish the rights of others.
A town or city may not necessarily be reacting to a prior incident or situation but, in most cases, will just be doing what is right and fair for all citizens – present and future.
A welcoming town thrives because it encourages diversity, which brings new vitality to the economy and increased tax revenue.
As you are preparing to present the Declaration of Inclusion to your town or group, you might consider some of the reasons and suggestions below and put these thoughts into your own words...
- I believe that this town has always treated people respectfully and fairly so we should say it with a forceful statement. By stating it, it then becomes a message that we welcome all people and we thrive when we have a diverse population.
- Think of the Irish, Italians, and Poles who came here to work in the marble and granite industries and the important heritage they brought with them. Vermont would not be the culturally rich state it is without these immigrants and many more. These people all brought skills, ambitions, religious traditions, interesting food, unique customs, and so much more.
- The United States as a whole is the most diverse country on earth and the most successful by almost any measure. And, it is no coincidence that Burlington and Chittenden county have the most dynamic economy in Vermont, as well as the most diverse population. Diversity brings creativity that leads to solutions and a richer life for all.
- Historically Vermont has been, and still is, one of the least diverse states, but our children will be living in a more diverse community of people in this country. Let’s prepare our children by encouraging and promoting diversity in our town and schools, encouraging them to be comfortable with people of all backgrounds and beliefs so they can survive and thrive in the world.
- We all want our cities and towns (and our state) to grow in a healthy way, to increase our tax base, and fund our schools and roads. To make this happen we need to welcome all people.
- We need to reach out, proactively, to the world at large, with the message that WE WELCOME ANYONE who wants to live and work and add richness to our state. Currently, the population in Vermont is static or declining with low fertility rates and young people leaving the state. The remaining population is aging and putting a strain on underfunded state resources.
- With remote work becoming well accepted, people are moving to Vermont, bringing with them jobs, new skills, and capabilities. They embody the way our world will look in 10 to 20 years and their presence may inspire other talented folks to move to our town and state. These new residents will be remodeling homes and building new ones, their tax dollars paying for better-funded services. With a more vibrant and interesting economy, more of our young people will want to stay, work, and raise their families in Vermont.
- A Declaration of Inclusion is another tool in the “toolbox” of those responsible for the town’s economic development, that is, their toolbox of reasons why someone should locate a business here, perhaps choosing our town (or state) over another.
- A Declaration such as this would mark the town and its leaders as a forward-thinking community of people, stepping out in front for what we know is right and deeply rooted in the values that America and Vermont say they champion.
- We all have heard that America is a “melting pot” of people from all over the world; America has always welcomed diverse people and embraced their cultures, languages, foods, customs, religions, and traditions. This is nothing new. Let’s continue the tradition. Let’s take this small but affirmative step toward the American ideal as stated in our precious Constitution.
Add your own thoughts to these reasons and end by urging adoption of the Declaration of Inclusion or something similar and making it an integral part of the guiding principles of the town. Be prepared to provide copies of the Declaration to Select Board members, town managers, and others.
The following information is intended for use by those who are interested in learning more about this initiative as well as providing thoughts for Select Board members, Town Managers and Administrators, and Legislators who wish to lead this initiative in their respective community.
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, and
- Vermont will bring the full resources of the State, its cities, and towns to ensure their well-being and security.
Reasons to Adopt The Declaration:
A Declaration such as this would mark the town and its leaders as a forward-thinking community of people, stepping out in front for what we know is right and deeply rooted in the values that America and Vermont say they champion.
We all learned early in our schooling that America assimilates people from all over the world. America has always welcomed diverse people and embraced their cultures, languages, foods, customs, and religions. This is nothing new. The Statue of Liberty is our monument to this sacred tradition. Let's take this small but affirmative step to continue this most meaningful piece of our heritage.
Thoughts on Selectboard Leadership:
Select Board members are recognized by their towns for their leadership skills and are respected for their good judgment.
Acting on a Declaration of Inclusion is the type of Select Board action that is expected by the voters.
The role of the Select Board is changing. It is no longer limited to budgets, law enforcement, and maintaining infrastructure.
Select Boards are now called upon to affirmatively and aggressively institute and promote policies and programs which support economic growth.
By adopting a Declaration of Inclusion, a Select Board sends a powerful, positive, forward-thinking message for the town and aligns it with other towns that are seeking healthy growth.
By adopting the Declaration of Inclusion the Select Board joins the statewide effort to encourage businesses, talented individuals, and investors to come to Vermont and specifically to your town.
By adopting the Declaration of Inclusion the town signals its agreement with the Governor’s Proclamation of Inclusion.
The goal of the Declaration of Inclusion is to increase diversity, abolish racism, and have our towns, their employees, and policies manifest respect for the dignity of all people. This is the obligation of our largely white population and we will benefit and grow from it.
Municipal leaders and law enforcement officials must engage effectively with community members on the subject of systemic racism, racial justice, public safety, and law enforcement. They need to lead the public in conversation on these and other issues important to an increasingly diverse population.
There are many state organizations ready to help, including The Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont League of Cities and Towns, the Vermont Office of Racial Equity, the Vermont Equity Caucus, and Vermont Council on Rural Development.
In cooperation with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the state of Vermont’s Office of Racial Equity, the Vermont Community Foundation is seeking proposals from Vermont villages, towns, and cities that close the opportunity gap by supporting local efforts to foster inclusion and belonging for people of all races and backgrounds.
This program will award grants of up to $10,000 for a 18-month project period.
Eligible applicants are Vermont cities, towns, and villages. Nonprofit organizations or community groups doing work on behalf of and in coordination with a city, town, or village may apply if a letter of support from the municipal partner is included.
All applicants to programs at the Vermont Community Foundation must meet these guidelines.
Learn More: vermontcf.org/inclusive