Scott defends removal of anti-BLM graffiti, but concedes problem

Also says pension solution unlikely this year

By Guy Page

July 17, 2020 – At his press conference today, Gov. Phil Scott defended state highway workers’ removal of anti-BLM graffiti, but agreed his administration needs to resolve the BLM-related graffiti question.

Vermont Daily asked the governor: “The Chester Telegraph reported last week that state highway workers removed roadway graffiti saying ‘BLM is Racist.’ Given your administration’s direction to not remove graffiti that is not profane or grotesque or unsafe to traffic [a June 19 directive in support of pro-BLM messaging], are you concerned that VTrans may now be selectively eliminating graffiti speech based on the content of the message?”

Gov. Scott responded by asking, ‘are you saying ‘BLM is Racist’ isn’t racist?” Vermont Daily rejoined that some people do see racism in some BLM statements, but the question is whether the State of Vermont should be deciding what’s acceptable messaging. After adding the directive was meant to address “inflammatory” graffiti [although that word isn’t in the VTrans published directives about graffiti removal], Scott said, “Your point is well taken. We wanted to alleviate some of the tension….we took this path forward to tamp this down a bit.” But the administration will need to address the problem, he said. “This isn’t over. This is something we will have to have some dialogue and discussion about.”

After the press conference, Vermont Daily received an email from Press Secretary Rebecca Kelley that included the following: “The Governor has said many times he supports the sentiment and statement “Black Lives Matter” and the goals of a movement that increases racial equity. He has never commented on an organization that shares that name. You will be lying to your readers and viewers if you suggest otherwise.”

Gov. Scott also said it is unlikely his administration, the State Treasurer, and the Legislature will collaborate this year on a solution to the unfunded liability in the Vermont state pension system, estimated at $4.5 billion and rising. “It’s too early at this point,” he said. The Legislature will have its hands full with other issues this year, and the November elections will determine who will hold the key executive and legislative seats in the coming year. 

Pro-BLM graffiti (as seen in Jamaica, VT above in June) is not to be removed by Vermont highway workers, but anti-BLM graffit was removed earlier this month in the same town. Photo credit VTrans.