City Hall Reporter's Notebook: Dead fish and drag queens edition
This week, it was Alderman Thomas DePoy’s turn to surprise me.
Usually, when the Board of Aldermen comes to an agenda item involving an executive session, the board pushes it to the end of the meeting.
This week, when they came to an item regarding potential litigation in the middle of the meeting, DePoy moved to go into executive session right then. The board approved, but narrowly.
It looked (and not just to me — Alderman Gary Donahue and Mayor Christopher Louras both said they had the same impression) like DePoy and the members voting with him were hoping that by closing the doors mid-session, they might drive off one Cam Johnston, a resident who had asked a number of pointed questions and drawn stern warnings from Board President David Allaire about derailing the meeting.
Not at all, said DePoy.
“I knew Mr. Johnston wasn’t going anywhere,” DePoy said. “Mr. Johnston doesn’t bother me. He actually has a lot of good points.”
No, DePoy said, he wanted to do the executive session straight away because he wanted to get to the subject immediately. The subject, and DePoy’s reaction, merit their own section, so...
Back in the running
The board came out of executive session and voted to authorize the mayor to solicit bids for professional services (including but not limited to scientific experts) in the city’s appeal of the new state stormwater standards.
Mayor Louras has said the regulations aimed at Moon Brook could cost the city and private landowners in the tens of millions without actually affecting the brook’s habitability to fish.
“This is literally an issue that, if it’s allowed to pass, will kill the city,” DePoy said. “I can’t let that happen.”
The last time I had spoken to DePoy, he told me he was probably not going to run for another term on the board. That had changed by Friday.
“I don’t think I’m back toward leaning toward running,” he said. “I think we can consider it a ‘Yes, I am running,’ at this point.”
That segues very nicely into a section I had already planned to do on...
Why the fish are dying
At the opening of the meeting, resident Michel Messier questioned the administration’s claim that the problem with Moon Brook was the water heating up in Combination Pond, making it too warm to serve as a fish habitat, and asked for evidence “including any and all autopsies of trout.”
There are no autopsies, according to Public Works Commissioner Evan Pilachowski, just math.
For a brook to be a cold water fishery, Pilachowski said, temperature must always remain below 75.2 degrees, must not spend more than eight hours in a single day above 68 degrees and must never reach a high of 68 on three or more consecutive days.
When the city monitored temperatures in 2007, Moon Brook consistently met the standards above Combination Pond and failed to meet them for one reason or another on 94 days downstream of the pond.
The number comes from New Mexico’s Surface Water Quality Bureau, which Pilachowski said had the most explicit temperature-based standards the city could find dealing with brook trout.
What a drag
The year is 2013. Vermont has gay marriage and RuPaul is a national media figure. Heck, Boy George was a thing 30 years ago and “Some Like it Hot” goes back by more than 50.
So why did I look at the opening exhibit at the Chaffee Art Center’s new downtown space — a collection of black and white photos of drag queens — and wonder if it wasn’t a little cutting edge for Rutland?
You don’t see any nudity in the pictures. You don’t see guys making out. You just see guys dressing up as women. Still, when I attended the reception there on New Year’s, I felt like I had to ask gallery coordinator Kristen Partesi if the exhibit was deliberately chosen so there would be something provocative for the first show at the new space.
“It was all just fate,” she said of the timing.
And there was no fear the show might be a bit too out there for our town?
“I think we need to let the Rutland County audience determine that,” said Margaret Barros, the new executive director. “I’m hoping the space will get feedback, the show will get feedback.”
Barros went on to talk about art as having the goal of starting conversations.
Barbara Carris was somewhat less patient with the question, replying with “What do you want, more paintings of landscapes?”
The Charter and Ordinance Committee meets at 5:30 tonight to discuss the proposed vacant property ordinance.
The Development Review Board has a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the plan to remove the Welcome Center from Main Street Park.
And since the calendar is so light this week, I’m gonna plug something on Sunday. Grace Congregational Church will hold a “Jazz Sunday Celebration” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, featuring the Onion River Jazz Band, during its 10 a.m. service. The band will play jazz arrangements of hymns and African-American gospel, followed by a more conventional jazz show in Fellowship Hall.