I want to express my appreciation for the aldermen who voted against putting a nonbinding resolution about the Raider mascot on the ballot. Contrary to what another alderman stated, this would not be a harmless vote.
It was made appallingly clear to me just days into my first term as a state representative how poor of an image Rutland has statewide. This is a hangover from refugee resettlement when the loudest, angriest voices received more than their fair share of press attention and were allowed to speak for Rutland to an undeserved degree.
And this hurts us. Rutland City has faced population decline for years. It is hard to attract new business and encourage existing businesses to expand when there is already a shortage of skilled labor. The only way to grow our Grand List and decrease our tax burden is to increase the number of working-age families. This challenge becomes even more onerous when Rutland has the reputation for being an unwelcoming community — whether that reputation is deserved or not (and I certainly believe it is not deserved) is beside the point.
In the past few years, Rutland City and our neighboring municipalities have seen new families move into our communities. The ongoing marketing efforts many Rutland County communities have invested in, as well as our local “red carpet concierge” service for visiting families, is bearing fruit. But this hard work presenting our city as the great place it is to live, work and raise a family, would have been damaged by the Board of Aldermen putting this question on the ballot.
Changing a school mascot is a contentious issue. The reaction in Rutland is not unique to Rutland. The decision was contentious for their community when the South Burlington School Board changed their mascot a few years ago. Maine passed a bill banning Native American high school mascots and in researching the bill they passed, it was obvious there were many community members who were opposed to the change in mascots this caused to their local schools.
But having a municipal body, the city Board of Aldermen, intrude into the jurisdiction of a local school board is unprecedented as far as I am aware. This is a school board matter on a local level or could be addressed on the state level as was done in Maine. For our local municipal board to attempt to impose themselves and push back on the changing of a mascot that Indigenous groups testified was hurtful to them, sends (intentional or not) a negative message about our community — one that would hurt us as we attempt to grow and strengthen our community.
So it was with a sigh of relief I listened to this week’s aldermanic vote. There are existing opportunities for people who are unhappy with the mascot change to have their concerns addressed via our local school board. The Board of Aldermen forcing a nonbinding question onto the March ballot was never a good option for our community.
William Notte lives in Rutland City.