It was with profound disappointment I learned the Board of Aldermen sent a motion to enshrine the Raider name in our city charter to committee for discussion. Nothing positive will come of this decision.
Under Vermont state law, any charter change passed by a municipality still does not become law unless it is approved by the state Legislature. While there are almost no guarantees in politics, I can absolutely guarantee the Vermont Legislature will never vote to approve this.
In the past few years, the Legislature has shown a commitment to social justice issues. This commitment will continue into the next session and many future sessions. With this determination to make Vermont a fairer and more equitable state, there is simply zero possibility the Legislature will vote to give Raiders permanence by adding it to our city charter.
The National Congress of American Indians has spoken out against Rutland’s use of the Raider name and imagery and noted the harm such use does to Native American communities, especially children. Indigenous tribes in Vermont have also spoken out against our continued use of Raiders. No legitimate Native American groups or Vermont tribes have offered support for keeping it. While there are local supporters of keeping the name, the majority of the state view Raiders as a racist name; the state Legislature recognizes this and this proposed charter change will die at the State House.
And that isn’t unprecedented. During my time as alderman, Rutland City sent three charter changes to the Legislature, all of which were approved locally with a wide majority of support, and all of which were never taken up for discussion at the legislative level. These attempted charter changes were pinned to a committee wall and died there when the session ended. This proposed charter change would have the same fate.
So what is the result of sending this to committee? It reinforces the negative reputation Rutland has as an unwelcoming community that we have been working to overcome for years. It sends the message Rutland City aldermen are willing to ignore the voices of marginalized communities. This hurts our ability to attract new families and businesses and build a stronger community. It makes us look like an undesirable exception in a welcoming state. It hurts us.
Rutland City has made great strides to show we are moving forward — that we are a welcoming, open community. The I Love Rutland efforts for Pride Month are an excellent example of a step in the right direction. It is unfortunate that a handful of aldermen, who would rather fight a culture war than tend to the city’s best interests, can trip us up again and again and again.
William Notte lives in Rutland City.