IDEAL VT Kickoff 1.jpg

Jonathan Phipps, equity coordinator for the SVSU, speaks at the IDEAL Vermont kickoff. 

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced a new coalition to help increase racial equity in the state.

At his weekly news conference, the governor outlined IDEAL Vermont, a new effort that stands for inclusion, diversity, equity, action and leadership.

The coalition was created to help municipalities increase racial equity at the local level, said Scott. It began last month, with 14 communities joining from the get-go, including Bennington and Brattleboro.

It’s a local and grassroots approach to equity, the governor said. The coalition’s purpose is “to take concrete steps to a Vermont that is more equitable, more diverse, more welcoming and ultimately more inclusive.”

IDEAL’s website states, “IDEAL Vermont was created to bridge the efforts of individual towns and counties across the state to build cohesion, motivation and success.” IDEAL will be guided by a team of state agencies to help local leaders advance equity in their local communities.

IDEAL and the Office of Racial Equity will help communities do the “reflective and introspective work,” said Xusana Davis, the State of Vermont’s Executive Director of Racial Equity. The coalition also provides the space for the various municipalities to speak about what is and isn’t working in regards to racial equity.

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The coalition will also collect and vet information that adheres to the goal of equity so the information is easier for the municipalities to access. The communities will also have access to grants that offer supplemental support to their equity efforts, said Davis.

IDEAL will help each municipality with its specific needs at the local level. These needs could include issues with red-lining, zoning and education. These are all examples of areas of potential injustice at the local level and, while the state can help, they should be tackled locally, said Davis.

“Vermont is an eclectic and unique place, and we need to see that reflected in” the coalition, said Davis. The municipalities need to invest in projects that improve equity, like making community activities and programs more accessible.

IDEAL is funded by $220,000 from the state and supplemented by funds from the Vermont Community Foundation that are available to the municipalities.

Asked if the equity initiative would ever spread to other marginalized communities like the LGBTQIA+ community, especially in light of the shooting in Colorado, Scott said, “We can always do better, but we’re moving in the right direction.”