Winooski is one of the most racially diverse municipalities in Vermont and contains one of the only majority-minority school districts in the state. Winooskians take pride in this, but as shown by a 2022 Equity Audit, we have work to do to on inclusion and equity.
Contact: Elaine Wang, City Manager: 802 655 6410 / email@example.com
The City of Winooski and the Winooski School District contracted with Opportunity Consulting to conduct an equity audit, explore areas where experiences in the City and WSD are inequitable, and find the opportunities to adopt equity-focused policies and practices to address these inequities. Opportunities Consulting presented its official findings to Winooski City Council on Monday, April 18, 2022.
Winooski Commission for Inclusion and Belonging
The Inclusion and Belonging Commission acts as an advisory group for the City Council with a focus on equitable policies and best practices for inclusion. The commissioners also serve as Equity Ambassadors to each of the City's established commissions to bring more voices and perspectives to the decision-making table in Winooski, and give updates on our shared equity-related goals. In addition, this commission advises the City Council on implementing the Strategic Vision areas and goals related to equity as outlined in the Master Plan. The City of Winooski aims to appoint members that are as diverse as our community. Given the policy role in advising the Council, a commitment to principles and best practices of equity and inclusion are paramount.
In 2019, Winooski City Council established a Charter Commission charged with “examining options to present Winooski voters with a charter change that would enable non-citizen residents to vote in Winooski municipal elections, protect Winooski voter information, align the School and City’s charters, and consider additional governance changes identified by the Council, staff, and public. As part of this process, the Commission is charged with conducting public outreach to the community through public information sessions, forums, and direct outreach.”
On July 27, 2020, the Charter Commission approved a series of Charter change recommendations to present to the City Council. On August 3rd and August 18, 2020, the City Council considered these recommendations. On August 18th, the City Council voted to present the following charter change recommendations to the public for consideration at a special city meeting to be held in conjunction with the November 2020 General Election. The City considered charter amendments that:
- Allow all legal residents of the City (including those who are not U.S. citizens) to vote in City and school elections and meetings, provide certain protections to the voter checklists maintained by the City Clerk, and to make other conforming amendments.
- Permit voters to adopt Charter amendments that have been approved by the Vermont Legislature for other municipalities.
- Conform the Charter to state law requirements for signing petitions.
- Remove language referring to volunteer firefighters.
- Permit the City Manager to give to the staff person performing human resource functions the title of “Human Resource Director”.
- Amend the provision relating to the tax assessment of commercial properties to conform to current practice.
- Modify the Oath of Office language to eliminate religious references.
On November 3rd, Winooski Voters approved all 3 Charter Change Ballot questions, eventually resulting in Vermont House Bill H.227.
On June 23, 2021, the Vermont House of Representatives voted to override Governor Phil Scott’s June 1 veto of H.227, making All-Resident voting in Winooski possible.
Women & People of Inclusion Employee Mentoring Program
The purpose of the City of Winooski Women & People of Inclusion mentoring program is to provide a system of support, and guidance for folx within historically marginalized populations who are engaging in municipal work. This program is open to any person within the municipal workforce who identifies as cis and trans women, as well as non-binary people who are comfortable in women-centered spaces and may also be a part of any historically marginalized racial group. The program's focus is to develop and create pathways for people who have experienced systemic oppression, to rise into positions of leadership within municipal government.
We are piloting this program with folx who either have already been a part of our workforce or are newly hired as city employees. After one year of the pilot program, the City aims to increase participation and will begin with the recruitment of interns, AmeriCorps members, and youth workers. Our aim is in supporting leadership education & opportunities for promotions into new positions as mentees gain experience. This program will foster information sharing and improve coaching, leadership, and interpersonal skills for both the mentee and mentor.
- The pilot program was made possible by grant funding through the Vermont Women's Fund.
- Click here to download the full program details.
Timeline of Equity Work
- City staff complete unconscious bias training with Abundant Sun
- Leadership Team training on structural racism within health service provision and housing with Dr. Mercedes Avila
- Welcoming Yasamin Gordon, Winooski's Equity Director
- Equity Initiatives adopted into Winooski City Council Policies and Priorities
- Hired Opportunity Consulting, began Equity Audit in partnership with Winooski School District
- Development of All Resident Voting education and outreach plan, continued local partnerships to address COVID-19 pandemic needs within marginalized communities
- Equity Audit Completed, adoption of The Winooski Commission for Inclusion & Belonging charter
- After serving the City for one year, Equity Director resigns in June, indicating unsustainability of the job responsibilities.
- Multi-session Professional Development Series for Staff Leadership Team and City Council, in Partnership with EJH Futures Inc.
- The staff Leadership Team is working through the Equity Framework developed by the former Equity Director, embedding equity into all aspects of the organization. Re-hire of the Equity Director position pending significant process in these efforts.