Featured, Local News

Inclusion organization rejects Killington version

By Curt Peterson

Killington Select Board members signed and submitted a version of the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion to its sponsoring organization on Nov. 14.

The Mountain Times asked Al Wakefield, co-founder of VTdeclarationofinclusion.org, his reaction to the submission at the time.

“The Declaration is intended to be a conspicuous, cogent and explicit indication of the town’s invitation to come and stay … in its most simplistic interpretation. The reluctance to candidly adopt and implement a Declaration in concert with this thinking certainly raises questions as to both spirit and intent,”  Wakefield wrote in response. “We will be discussing this next week. In the meantime, we are holding off on listing Killington.”

Wakefield and Bob Harnish, both from Mendon, and Norm Cohen are the organization’s founders.

Harnish emailed Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth on Dec.1 to let him know that Killington’s version would not be accepted.

“Here are specific reasons why Killington will not be listed as an adopting town: The general tenor of the discussion was negative and guarded; Marginalized groups were not enumerated; There was  no commitment to review the town’s  policies, hiring practices, police  protocols, etc. for bias,” he wrote.

Andy Salamon and Hagenbarth had led a committee of volunteers with the goal of recommending amendments resolving perceived conflicts regarding board authority and enforcement.

The Killington committee had modeled its amended declaration after the one Mendon had approved. Mendon had signed the declaration and is listed as an adopter.

The accepted Mendon version: “The Town of Mendon condemns racism and discrimination in all of its forms and commits to fair and equal treatment of everyone in our community. Our town strives to provide safety, security and protection to all of its citizens. The Town of Mendon has and will continue to be a place where individuals can live freely and express their opinions.”

Killington’s proposed Declaration says: “The Town of Killington condemns racism and discrimination in all its forms and commits to fair and equal treatment of everyone in our community. Our town strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all citizens and visitors. The Town of Killington continues to adhere to its existing Employment and Harassment Policy as it pertains to all town municipal employees.”

According to Wakefield, Harnish’s first point was the game-changer. He said all three committee members sat through the Mendon deliberations and felt the selectmen’s intent to comply with the spirit of the declaration was evident.

However, he said the Killington board discussion seemed to be resistant to “the spirit and intent of inclusion,”  and did not mention taking action.

“Implementation is low-hanging fruit,” Wakefield said.

He explained an adopting town assumes no specific obligations beyond displaying the declaration on its website, in economic marketing, employee manuals, police protocols and any newsletters, and to consider it when enacting any future ordinances.
Killington selectman Chris Karr told the Mountain Times he thought the amendment process had gone well — committee of volunteers had presented an edited version of the original Declaration, and the Select Board had approved its adoption  — democracy in action. “If we misunderstood the intent of the declaration,” Karr said, “I feel bad. But the committee did its job.”

Selectman Jim Haff said the town will continue to be inclusive regardless of its status as “listed” or not.

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