By Cristina Kumka
RUTLAND — The following information regarding the positions of Rutland mayoral candidates Incumbent Chris Louras, Dave Allaire and Kam Johnston came directly from the election season’s first mayoral debate held at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland Feb. 18.
What makes a healthy community?
Dave Allaire, longtime Rutland Board of Aldermen president, said Feb.18, that city spending is unchecked and there’s a need for a specific economic development plan to grow jobs in Rutland. He said there are two many properties for sale within the city limits and more needs to be done.
Kam Johnston, a Northwest neighborhood land owner, said he will take the common man approach and supports increased passenger rail service to Rutland.
“I give the mayor credit… he changed the culture of Rutland. but needs more fiscal restraint,” said Johnston, who frequently appeals taxes on his properties.
Johnston believes the aldermen have not cut the budget as they should and asked voters to “test me out for two years.” He suggested blocking off Center Street and Merchants Row and turning it into a walking corridor.
“People are terrified to walk downtown,” Johnston said.
Mayor Chris Louras said “this election is about the future and who is in the best position to move us forward. We have reinvented ourselves as the center of innovation that’s a statewide model for revitalization.”
Louras pointed to city changes while he has been at the helm — a reported quarter drop in crime, downtown vacancies reduced and a neighborhood grant for the northwest neighborhood for $1.25 million. Louras also touted the city’s 12-month farmer’s market, the Paramount theatre and bike path.
How would you foster economic growth in the city of Rutland?
Louras said the city needs to continue to embrace manufacturing like GE and make sure they have the tools they need to partner with colleges to flow employees to GE, support small family-owned businesses in agriculture, and energy innovation and environmental technology, “which is going to be the future of the state.”
Louras also said he supports natural gas and gas islands as the way to new economic development.
Allaire said the public deserves a firm economic development plan. “Over the last few years, there has not be a economic development plan out of the mayor’s office. There needs to be leadership. We need to think outside the box. We need to start thinking regionally.”
Allaire said he has a four-point plan that involves getting people together at city hall and regionally.
Johnston said the best way to get economic growth is to partner with Rutland Town, support commercial development and the fairgrounds, allowing them to do events like car racing.