I Heart Rutland: Falling in love with Rutland
By Abby Brodowski
Commentary | December 05,2013
Frankly, I married into this town. When I first settled in Vermont in 2004, I despised Rutland and never imagined falling in love, purchasing a house, paying taxes, and rearing a child within city limits. There was no culture, no adventure, and certainly not any eligible bachelors. I looked at the problems — obvious drugs and mental illness, dumpy apartment buildings, porn-loving cops — and identified a place that did not offer a safe haven for left-leaning, college educated, artistic intellectuals. Wouldn’t it be better to move to Burlington or back home to Pittsburgh where I grew up?
Pittsburgh, Pa., a place once known as the third-dirtiest city in the world, went through an unprecedented Rust-Belt revival in the mid-2000s. They elected a mayor in his mid-20s, turned the buses to biodiesel, provided free wireless Internet downtown, built bike paths, and invested in medical technologies and education. Pittsburgh did not look backwards, gambled, and won a Stanley Cup and two Super Bowls in the process.
The Burgh proved that cities have the ability to change for the better, but only if the residents and leadership invest in solutions that create a dynamic future. Pittsburgh did not try to re-create the steel industry, and Rutland cannot look backward for tomorrow’s solutions.
However, I didn’t go back home, because as I mentioned, I married into this town and when you marry a Brodowski, you learn something about being stubborn. I met John through mutual friends in his apartment on Grant Avenue, and he took me on adventures. We’ve walked all of the railroad tracks around the city. He proposed on the abandoned bridge behind Rutland Plywood. While we both could envision ourselves in other places, we dug in and decided that we prefer our lives in Rutland. I became stubborn, and that stubbornness is a commonality among the folks who live here that could leave and raise their families elsewhere, yet choose not to.
Rutland has gifts, and people living here have to be stubborn about loving it for itself, not as an offshoot of Burlington or Brattleboro, much like Pittsburgh in no way rides sidecar to Cleveland. Bring in the performing arts from Castleton. Donate to the Wonderfeet. Buy your iPods from Small Dog. Sign up for an NRG community solar panel agreement. Shop at Raw Honey. The Energy Innovation Center is better than an empty moldy building. The Young Professionals Mixers are fun (gasp!) and the Giorgetti/Pine Hill complex attached to the bike path is downright revolutionary for the physical health of an entire community.
We finally have choices, and we can actively choose a better city, or we can gripe about the one that isn’t. We can listen to the dirty detractors, or we can defend our town as the working person’s laid-back small city with lovely architecture that it is. The choice is ours. If the question is whether or not Rutland can be a better place, then the simple answer is yes, although the honest answer is more accurately, “Yes, but only if we choose to make it so.”
Abby Brodowski is a teacher at West Rutland High School and a resident of Rutland City.