Louras and Allaire spar over public safety in TV debate
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | February 22,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Moderator John Valente, center, explains the ground rules for Thursday night’s mayoral debate on PEG-TV between incumbent Mayor Christopher Louras, left, and Alderman David Allaire.
Much of the Rutland mayoral debate Thursday night involved incumbent Christopher Louras listing what he is doing and challenger David Allaire saying it should have been done sooner.
The debate at the PEG-TV studio touched on infrastructure, economic development and recreation, but kept coming back to public safety — the issue Allaire has built his campaign around and which will be his top priority if he can unseat Louras.
“I think we’re facing a crisis,” the Board of Aldermen president said. “Any future economic development depends on getting crime and the drug problems under control.”
Allaire said he intends to aggressively pursue drug dealers, coordinate law enforcement resources at the state, local and federal levels and insist the state help open a methadone clinic in Rutland.
Louras described a multi-pronged approach, starting with the neighborhood stabilization program, which he said was tied into the police department’s community intervention team.
The latter initiative brings together the police, the Department of Corrections, the Agency of Human Services, the city’s building and zoning office, and state and local prosecutors to share resources and information.
All those agencies will work together, the mayor said, guided by computer models that will direct resources to the city’s crime hotspots.
“Now we have a proactive strategy in place that I built,” Louras said.
Not soon enough, Allaire said.
“Why have these initiatives happened in the last six months?” he said. “What happened in the last six years?”
Allaire claimed that if he had been mayor, a number of those measures would have been in place well before.
“Years ago, we were working in a reactive manner,” Louras said. “It’s the old crawl-walk-run strategy. You can’t start at a full sprint.”
Part of learning to walk, the mayor said, was developing the relationship between city government and the police department.
“We’re going from walking now to running ... instituting a strategy that could only be put into place after we had the right guy in there — Chief Baker,” he said.
Louras also said a housing needs assessment gave the city a lot of what it needed to launch the present strategy.
Both men laid claim to at least some of the credit for bringing on James Baker as police chief.
Louras said he and Police Commission Chairman Larry Jensen “put the bum rush” on Baker while Allaire mentioned serving on the search committee that hired him.
Allaire said nothing against the policing strategy Louras was championing — which he referred to as Baker’s strategy rather than the mayor’s — but said aggressive, short-term enforcement actions could complement it. He particularly mentioned the recent drug sweep in Bennington County as the sort of action that needed to happen in Rutland.
The Rutland area has been subject to such sweeps — though they have resulted in fewer arrests than the Bennington County one — and Louras said there would be more in the future.