I was told that I should run for Mayor to ensure Burlington, Vermont becomes America’s best small city. What do you think #Burlington, #VT
Ali is a natural leader and problem solver. He always has been. He sees challenges in a community and doesn’t just observe nor does he complain. He begins the hard work of solving problems, of thinking of creative solutions and overcoming barriers. He did this in Africa in his work organizing youth workers, in the Burlington School District through the founding of Parent University, and as a City Councilor on a variety of community issues. He brings a unique combination of visionary thinking, concrete problem solving skills and a dedication to strengthening the community and striving toward equity to each challenge he works to address. He is not daunted by these challenges but energized by the opportunity to make real and positive change for Burlington.
Ali knows our community, including those most underserved and disenfranchised. He has worked tirelessly throughout his life and his career for justice to bring the voice of the underrepresented to the forefront. He has himself been the underserved, the disenfranchised and he knows what it feels like to not be listened to, to be underestimated, to be discounted. Rather than becoming discouraged, these experiences have only galvanized him more to work for justice – to empower underserved people and communities in Burlington to engage and be heard and be part of discussions and decisions for our city.
I have never met anyone who has worked as hard as Ali has, someone as eager to learn, and someone as committed to making a positive difference. He had so little growing up, his journey has been long and difficult, and yet he still has such energy for continuing to do more, with so many more ideas to pursue and problems to solve. His life and his work is a testament to his strength and resolve to build community, strive for inclusivity, and get things done that truly move us forward.
Ali is smart. He grew up speaking three different languages from an early age. He came to the U.S. not knowing English and now is able to easily debate and discuss some of our city’s most complex issues at council meetings, in media interviews, and in community forums. His mind is always full speed ahead with ideas and opportunities to consider.
While Ali has many great qualities and skills, he doesn’t approach any of his work with a focus on himself alone. He is a collaborator in everything he does. He absolutely believes that we can accomplish our best work and greatest goals as a team, and he will bring smart and dedicated people to his team in the city, people with the same values of justice and equity, and people willing to put politics aside to work together for the common good.
There is no doubt that Ali would face many significant and challenging issues upon becoming mayor. But I have absolutely no doubt that he would rise to that challenge with flying colors. He has what it takes – the character, the charisma, the skill, the work ethic, the passion and dedication that would ensure Burlington, Vermont becomes America’s best small city.
This memorandum is intended to answer questions regarding open burning and outside fires in the City of Burlington. As a reminder, Burlington Code of Ordinances Chapter 13-3 prohibits fires as a means of fire prevention in our community since 1977. The primary hazard here is ignition of structures or vegetation by direct fire spread or flying brands and embers. This section of the ordinances cross-references BCO Chapter 21-17, which falls under the City Health Officer and prohibits nuisance smoke generation. Fires are prohibited in City Parks properties by BCO Chapter 22-10 (except in the established campsite fire areas at the North Beach Campground, which are approved locations).
This moment has been a long time coming.
In 2018, several young black men suffered due to the unnecessary use of force by Burlington police officers. As elected officials we were not aware of these incidents until eight months after the incidents occurred and inappropriate discipline had already been applied by the former chief of police and members of the Police Commission. There have been multiple attempts to bring about justice for these past incidents without any concrete positive results. Some important questions arose from what happened that I have been grappling with: Why did both the mayor and city attorney choose to hold back critical public safety information from the council and the community? What have we done to bring some level of justice and fairness to those decision making processes? And now, what is an alternative that could bring consensus to the protestors demands? What is the role of the community and the rule of law?
Under our city’s charter, the chief of police has the authority to hire or fire police officers subject to an appeal to the police commission. The city council has the authority to approve or disapprove of the mayor’s choice for a police chief. While the council cannot hire or fire a police officer, the council could have provided some level of justice long ago by using the power of their vote for the chief of police.
Did anyone on the council have the courage to stand up around the re-appointment of the former chief of police in 2019? I did. The mayor’s proposal was to vote for his full slate of department heads. I asked that we vote separately for the police chief, but other city councilors were against a separate vote.
The council had the opportunity to request the termination of the officers. There were options before the COVID emergency when the city had the financial means. The officers could have been terminated and offered severance. This would have required us to have the courage for a lengthy legal fight for justice. Progressives and Democrats on the city council made it clear they did not want to go that route and they did not want to vote against the re-appointment of the police chief.
Following this spring’s death of George Floyd and the revival of national Black Lives Matter protests, I proposed the following amendment to the Racial Justice Alliance’s resolution in June: “Due to the unsafe feeling of our community about the continued service of officers Jason Bellavance and Joseph Corrow on the Burlington Police Department as foot patrols, the City Council strongly requests for acting Police Chief Murad to transfer the two officers listed above to the Burlington Airport to continue their service as Police Officers of Burlington.” Acting Chief Murad and the city’s attorney declared this was not possible. I was quite surprised and disappointed to learn later (at a special city council meeting on 9/8) that it was actually possible, as one of the officers has now been transferred to the airport.
This September I asked the mayor a simple question: What is being done by your administration about the protests and protests’ demands? The mayor’s response was to share only in the council’s executive session. The simple answer was nothing was being done, despite two weeks of camping out by courageous young protestors putting their safety on the line.
It is time to face the fact that our local government as a whole is not performing well and that there are few prospects of improvement when it comes to equity and justice. All that we are experiencing as a community right now could have been prevented by acting rightfully at the right time. These protests and all they stand for are only amplifying my call for justice made for so long now.
Justice has already been denied by the local government. However, this is not the time to quit in the fight for social change and social justice. It is hard work to bring people together; the process is messy and takes a long time. I will not quit and nobody should, especially now. Protestors, please listen to my perspective as a black person. Take the energy and passion you have for justice and channel it from protest into organizing. It is time to organize for the long-term systemic change we need to create a just and equitable Burlington.
In these times of deep political discord, anger and confusion along with rising hatred and sometimes silence in response, we can each individually grow, learn from our mistakes, take responsibility for our judgment, and hold each other accountable while also striving to do better for the sake of future generations.
The killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the momentum for change that has followed has moved the needle in the right direction by allowing us as human beings to take the time to reflect on our actions, then work to dismantle the systems of inequity and provide opportunities for everyone. Recently in my city we have perhaps inaccurately framed the discussion of change that is needed in our community. It seems as if the discussion is framed as either ‘pro-police’ or ‘anti-police.’ It is unfortunate that we are not really talking about the much needed deep culture change we need in our local police department. It is unfortunate that we still do not have the level of reparation needed for those who have been victimized by our safety institutions. It is unfortunate that we still cannot let go of those in our police department not serving us well due to the systems of protection we collectively allowed to prevail unchecked for so long.
The atrocities we have been witnessing around the nation are heartbreaking, with black people being killed and shot at in broad daylight at the hands of police, and in some cases, in front of their children and families. Before we even wiped away our tears from the death of George Floyd, more black people were killed. The latest name on that long list is Jacob Blake, shot several times in the back as he opened the door of a parked car in Wisconsin. So many lives lost, families devastated and communities terrorized. We must say, Black Lives Matter. Some might say, well, Wisconsin is not Vermont, Minneapolis is not Burlington. But the elements of racism are here, and again, in Burlington, Black Lives Matter.
At the same time as we grieve and protest and call for action, I am also inviting everyone in my community to bring respect and collaboration to this conversation. I recently saw a post that included a sign placed in front of the police department building with incredibly vulgar and violent language directed at the police. I condemn such messages of hatred toward the men and women serving in our safety institutions. What message are we sending to children when they read signs like that? We absolutely do need systemic change in our policy department. But also, police officers are people; they are our neighbors, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, and they are human beings that chose this profession to serve and protect. Are all police officers good people? No. Just as all people of all professions are not all good people. But my point is, we are much better than this, much better than this hateful language, and much better than the us-versus-them, all-or-nothing approach of pro- or anti-police.
We have come a long way as a community. We can peacefully protest. We can disagree while being respectful. We can assertively call for change. And we can make progress. Let’s work together to build the police department and the fair, inclusive Burlington that we all want and need. Let’s do it together.
Mr. Ali Dieng
Burlington Ward 7 City Councilor
The New North End City Councilors Paulino, Carpenter and Dieng have been in communication with members of the Burlington Walk/Bike Council & Local Motion, an organization working to build quality of life by encouraging walking and biking, about their proposal to the City of Burlington that is primarily intended to achieve two objectives: to provide safe transportation for populations who rely on GMT buses, and to create the spaces needed for people and businesses to resume economic activity.
The proposal is specific to some major city streets including North Ave., seeking to implement better bike lane protection during the massive public health emergency. Full Proposal HERE.
Below you will find the North Ave. proposal: “Install protection for bike lanes on North Avenue where space permits. While we acknowledge that infrastructure improvements on North Avenue have been met with controversy in the past, the Red Line has the highest ridership of all of GMT’s routes, and is thus a priority corridor for bike infrastructure, especially given the crowding issues on the Greenway. Installing protection along North Avenue will also reduce illegal speeding and thereby improve safety and quality of life for all users—people driving, people walking, and people rolling—and would not require any changes to the traffic pattern.”
While we recognize that the upgrade of bike lane infrastructure could be a hot topic in our neighborhood, as your councilors, we wanted to simply hear thoughts from residents of the New North End before the proposal is discussed at the full Burlington City Council so that we can have a unified voice bringing your thoughts to the discussion. Please note that no action has been taken or even discussed at the council at this point. We just would like to simply hear from you about it.
Here is the process:
Have a presentation from Jonathan Weber, a representative from Walk /Bike Council, Local Motion (also a resident of the New North End) to explain the proposal in detail.
Have residents ask clarifying questions to Mr. Jonathan and provide your thoughts and perspectives.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 2nd from 6:30- 8:30 pm via Zoom. Here is the link to participate: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81282610586?pwd=QUxhTldTQzFaazhJbjFwOTRzUUNkUT09
If the link does not work on FPF, please log in to zoom and use Meeting ID: 812 8261 0586 Password: 199541
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We hope that you will join us for this input gathering process ready to learn and share your perspective on this matter.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact your New North End City Councilors:
District City Councilor, Franklin Paulino: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 4 City Councilor, Sarah Carpenter: email@example.com
Ward 7 City Councilor, Ali Dieng: firstname.lastname@example.org