At the most recent (Rutland City) Board of Aldermen meeting, Board President Sharon Davis made a point of calling out aldermen for “talking to people she said they shouldn’t” (Oct. 8 Rutland Herald article “President takes board to task”). While she didn’t say my name publicly, it is general public knowledge Bill Dydo and I planned to meet last week over coffee. Given she felt the need to make opaque references to the meeting as if it was some clandestine operation, it is only proper, in order to provide a sense of transparency, I share with the public my objectives, my perspective and a summary of the conversation.
Almost two weeks ago, I posted a RH article on my public Facebook page regarding the issues with bond money being held up because of a court case contesting parts of the March election due to Mayor Allaire’s delay in making the annual report public until after that election. That article was based on the mayor’s public statement regarding Bill Dydo’s role in the lawsuit. Dydo commented on my Facebook post and asked if we could talk. To be clear, I will always agree to meet with anyone who reaches out.
In this instance specifically, I was interested in talking with him for three reasons. First, if there was any chance that me simply talking with him would encourage the release of the bonds from the lawsuit and thus help the city move forward on necessary and immediate infrastructure problems, I needed to do that.
Second, I attend a number of social service meetings and housing meetings, including RRA, Continuum of Care and Project VISION subcommittees. One of the issues that has come up a number of times is that the condition of some of the apartments of some landlords in Rutland City has a negative impact on our community’s overall health and unfairly challenges certain groups of people from living a full and productive life; and some landlords overcharge the most vulnerable because these folks cannot adequately advocate for themselves. Given the fire on his South Main Street property and what was reported in the paper, I wanted to ask him about this.
And third, I wanted to hear more about how City Hall works and doesn’t work for people. I wanted to see where there were issues that might need to be looked at and where there are successes we should build on to promote economic development.
Before I met with him, I had talked to at least five aldermen, including President Davis, heard their opinions and shared my reasons for meeting. I also did my research. I went to Building & Zoning and the treasurer’s office to gather information about his properties and how it all fits together. I also sought out the city attorney to hear his opinion and to ask him very specifically if I was putting the city at risk. I did my due diligence in preparation for the meeting in an open and inclusive manner.
During our two-hour conversation, I heard from Bill about his challenges with the city. I heard his frustration with the processes in city hall. I heard how he thought the system didn’t work for him and how he thought it could work better. I also talked to him about his properties and the stories I had heard from people who worked with his former tenants. I listened to the stories of the similarities and differences he has experienced with other communities. And I opened up a line of communication with someone I did not know and heard experiences I was not aware of.
After my conversation, I was left with many new questions that I need to get answers to in order to help support and strengthen our community. Are new processes needed in city hall to help investors invest in our community? What guidance is out there for investors? What housing standards do we need to make sure all citizens have a chance at a promising future? How do we effectively and consistently ensure landlords are meeting those standards? How do we support landlords when they have tenants who take advantage of them? How does City Hall provide high quality customer service across departments?
As I continue to learn from those around me and from those I haven’t met yet, I will gather more questions and try to find new opportunities to see if Rutland City can make some marked improvements to help our community truly be the best place to live, work and play. This is the benefit of communicating with others with an open mind — to try and learn something new and different that can bring a new perspective to an old or unknown problem. I look forward to helping make these improvements.
Christopher Ettori lives in Rutland and is a member of the city Board of Aldermen.