I felt it was vitally important to let Rutland City residents know where I stand on this issue. For background, while I attended Mt. Saint Joseph Academy, my mother and three siblings attended Rutland High School. From the beginning, I have been disturbed by how this issue has been handled — particularly in how the discussion and decision-making process has largely excluded city residents and taxpayers, lacked transparency and openness, been fast-tracked by those advocating for the name and logo change and, unfortunately, has bred division within our community.
Regardless of my own personal opinion or preference on the name change, I am first and foremost a proponent of a fair and inclusive process. To be clear, I don’t oppose changing the Raider name and logo in the future, if that is what our community decides it wants to do. However, I do feel strongly that this specific decision making process should have included greater public input and involvement so that at the very least city taxpayers could feel that their voices were truly heard on the issue before a decision was made.
The key to creating positive change is to introduce such ideas to the community, engage all interested citizens in constructive discussion and debate, and ultimately reach consensus, compromise or an outcome that a majority of individuals can support, understand or feel they had a chance to weigh in on. This breeds collaboration, understanding and ultimately a more united, stronger community. While this can take a great deal of time and effort, it is essential to ensuring that a community is able to have respectful debate, and create real progress on key issues. Ultimately, thorough public discourse is paramount, and this did not happen with the Raider name and logo change.
I recognize the authority of the school board to make such a sweeping decision, but the question is why, given the weight of the issue, has the public largely been excluded from the conversation, and during a pandemic no less. Has there been any polling done to gauge public opinion? Has there been a study on exactly how much money it will cost the taxpayers of Rutland to make this change? Is potentially spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new logo and name a top priority for a city that already needs to rein in spending and lower taxes?
Most importantly, why didn’t Mayor Allaire or the Board of Aldermen want the issue on the ballot? The ballot item would simply be a way for taxpayers to have a voice and weigh in on how their tax money should be spent, and whether or not they would like to change an important cultural item like the Raider name and logo. The fact is Alderman Ettori voted “No,” choosing to silence Rutland residents, and Mayor Allaire effectively did the same thing through inaction. While the mayor claims to support saving the Raider name, his actions show otherwise. When it came time to take action and use the clearly defined authority of the mayor to make an appeal to the board based on “the public good,” he chose to do nothing. Mayor Allaire owes the City of Rutland an explanation for why he didn’t do everything within his power to give Rutlanders a vote and a voice on this important issue. (This lack of action by Mayor Allaire was covered in depth by VT Digger on Nov. 17, 2020).
Had Mayor Allaire made this request, Board President Whitcomb would have had to vote to break the tie, which very well could have resulted in the Raider name change going on the ballot on March 2.
What is indisputable is that he chose to deny a voice to all of the citizens of Rutland City on this important issue. This was an opportunity for leadership, to stand up for the residents of Rutland City and give them a voice, and to prevent division and distrust in the community and our elected officials.
If elected, Rutland City residents can be assured that I will always work to give them a voice on key issues and will always advocate for fair, transparent community decision-making processes that allow the City of Rutland to move forward, together.
Matthew Godnick Seager, Rutland City mayoral candidate