By Richard Reardon | October 16,2013
I am a resident who has spent the majority of my life here in Rutland, and I have a somewhat guarded optimism that Rutland can be a better place to live, work, and recreate.
As a young child growing up in this city, I was not faced with the kinds of challenges that our city’s residents face today. Life was bucolic and pastoral, with rare occurrences of issues related to drug sales and addictions, burglaries, and other local crime. Our car doors and front doors were innocently and purposely unlocked, and we played in neighborhoods well after dark, without fear of abduction or harm.
Times have changed; we are now dealing with technological and societal advances that have, concurrently, complicated and simplified our lives. I am not one of those who believes that “life was easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits,” but I recognize that changes in our lifestyles have also created a “faster” world where life itself seems to be happening at breakneck speed.
The question really is: “How do we embrace the change that has happened over the years and use that change to build the social and physical infrastructure that will make our city a desirable place in which to live and prosper?”
For a declining city to make a comeback, actions must be taken to improve the quality of life in the community, making it a more palatable place to live and work. A recent research report sponsored, in part, by the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (Weinstein & Partridge, 2011) identified eight growth strategies found to improve struggling communities. They are:
Providing good public services.
Lowering the crime rates, pollution and other undesirables.
Improving parks and natural resources.
Assuring a supportive business environment.
Investing in infrastructure and transportation.
Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
Investing in education and job training.
Assuring efficient and transparent government.
In reviewing this list, it is encouraging to know that we are on the right track with many of these strategies.
We have the benefit of residing in a pristine geographic environment, and recent improvements with bike paths and trails at Pine Hill Park demonstrate the city’s support in preserving our natural environment. We can brag about having access to some of the best mountain biking, running, hiking, walking and snowshoeing in the country.
The Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce is working diligently to improve business relationships with the city. Their efforts in improving the permit process, health care, tax and fiscal policy, transportation, and workforce development will pay great dividends in the future.
I also believe that our schools are some of the best in a state identified as one of the best in the country for the educational opportunities it provides.
So, where does that leave us? We must address our crime rate and drug infestation problems and the lack of transparency with our local leaders. I believe we have made some initial strides in the first area, with neighborhood meetings and task forces that have emanated from recent tragedies and events over the past year or so.
The latest, Project VISION, appears to be well positioned to make a substantive difference in our city. Chief Baker has stated on several occasions that this must be a collective effort, as no one agency or advocacy group can tackle such a systemic problem.
We must also assure that our local leaders are transparent and have our best interests at heart. We have made very few gains in this area, and there do not appear to be any task forces or grass-roots efforts looming to address this issue.
Once we, collectively, tackle the drug, crime, and governance issues, I believe we will be well on our way to being able to call ourselves a desirable city in which to live.
Richard Reardon, Ph.D., is the director of education at Castleton State College.