On August 24, 2016

Rutland First hopes to inform elected officials, public on new information learned about refugee program

RUTLAND—Rutland First, Rutland’s grassroots organization is hosting a public event on Monday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. at Rutland Free Library to meet with Rutland area elected officials and to discuss regional issues related to refugee resettlement. The group sees the meeting as an opportunity to “provide a balanced view of this situation with regard to economic and social issues, potential cost and tax increases, and security concerns,” according to a news release, Monday, Aug. 22.
Despite its claim to the contrary, Rutland First has been criticized by many leaders and organizations in the Rutland area for being an anti-refugee organization that seeks to spread doubt and fear rather than facts.
“Rutland First has done a great deal of research on this topic and we have information that is critical to elected officials at the local, state and federal level. So far, our elected officials have only been given very minimal and biased information from the Mayor or Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP). We are trying to solve that vacuum of transparency with what we know,” said Matt Howland, spokesperson for the citizen group. “To date, the Mayor, VRRP, USCRI and The Department of State have refused to share any of the material in the application that was submitted in our names,” Howland added.
The group is pitching the event as “Everything we have been able to find out about Refugee Resettlement but the Mayor and others refuse to tell you.”
The City of Rutland expects the Department of State to make a decision on funding a refugee resettlement sometime in September. Many area citizens and officials, including the City’s Board of Aldermen, have requested a copy of the application for funding sent to the US Department of State several times but the request has been rebuffed by VRRP, the VT Agency of Human Services and the Department of State despite the requests were made under Freedom of Information Act Request.
Rutland First will also provide an opportunity at the event for members of the public to sign letters that will be sent to public officials to request the funding be deferred until more is known about the project, the application and a plan is in place that the community has been given the opportunity to fully understand.

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