The Board of Aldermen adopted a “declaration of inclusion” on Monday.
The board unanimously approved the resolution, which “condemns racism and discrimination of any type and welcomes all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability” and dedicates the town to being “a place where individuals can live freely and express their opinions.”
Robert Harnish, who led the group who brought the resolution to the board, described seeing old news footage aired after the death of Congressman John Lewis and realizing he hadn’t really participated in the Civil Rights movement. He said he had already begun reading up on the subject when the murder of George Floyd kicked off a wave of national unrest.
He said he heard about the declaration being adopted in another town and brought it to the Pittsford Select Board, which adopted it unanimously. Since then, he said, six more towns have adopted it. He said Rutland would be the first city in Vermont to do so and that projecting a welcoming image could benefit the city economically.
That point was echoed by Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director Lyle Jepson, who said the Aldermen adopting the resolution would dovetail with work undertaking by his organization, whose board recently voted unanimously to launch an effort combating systemic racism in the local community.
“We are disturbed, quite frankly, by recent national and local events related to racism,” he said. “We can no longer keep silent.”
Jepson said the regional marketing initiative relies on the community being welcoming.
“We’ve got a social and moral obligation to lead,” he said.
Rutland Young Professionals President Kim Rupe said that organization backed the resolution as well.
A motion was initially made to authorize Board President Matthew Whitcomb to sign on behalf of the board, but Alderman Sam Gorruso amended it to have the entire board and the mayor sign on.
“I wouldn’t mind my name being signed to this,” he said.
Mayor David Allaire said he would be happy to sign as well.
There was no other discussion.