A pair of residents asked the Board of Aldermen when they are going to do bias training.
Heather Juliussen-Stevenson put the question before the board Monday.
“This is such an easy thing to do,” she said. “It’s important because we don’t know everything and it’s amazing when we start to look into issues ... there are innuendoes and nuances in conversations we don’t even know are going on.”
Bias became an issue for the board back in July when Alderman Paul Clifford made a Facbook post that several — including fellow Aldermen — decried as racist. Clifford apologized. Clifford was not at the meeting Monday — Davis said before the board convened that he was sick.
In August, following the allegedly racially motivated mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, several community members urged the board to act on racial issues in the city.
The board voted to have the General Committee discuss bias training for city officials. Under former mayor Christopher Louras’ administration, bias training was mandatory for department heads and employees in certain departments, and money was included in one year’s budget for Aldermen who so chose to undergo the training, but it is not clear if any aldermanic trainings take place.
In late August, Committee Chairman Scott Tommola warned a meeting on the subject for Sept. 4, but promptly canceled it when he was informed it conflicted with a Pension Board meeting. Tommola, who was silent during the discussion Monday, said at the time he would reach out to the city clerk about rescheduling, but no new date had been warned as of Monday.
City resident Glen Reed, who works for the Vermont Center for Independent Living, seconded Juliussen-Stevenson, saying such training helps people see how they react to members of different groups. Juliussen-Stevenson said the board needs to lead on the issue.
“We need our role models to show the rest of the community what we should be doing,” she said.
Alderwoman Melinda Humphrey said she had planned to bring this issue up at the end of the meeting along with an unrelated piece of unfinished business — a referral regarding outside counseling fees for the city attorney’s office. Humphrey said if committee meetings are not held on either prior to the beginning of budget season in November, they risk being put off until next year.
The board took no action on either issue Monday — Davis said that it was up to the committee chairpeople to schedule committee meetings.