I still believe in Rutland

  [Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 5/19/11] 

The dust has settled and, now on the other side of what for some was a referendum on Rutland’s future, we must collectively ask ourselves where we go from here. But while the clear and obvious direction is forward, these last few weeks have revealed that perhaps we need to make a better effort getting there together, or at the very least of agreeing on what road forward we will take.

Since the disappointing result of May 10’s no vote on the Giorgetti bond — by now, it should be no surprise where my support was placed — there has been some discussion about the two Rutlands that exist. Words like “divide” and “schism” have been tossed around to describe what could be seen as competing visions for the city.

But are these visions in opposition? Broadly speaking, I did not interpret the “Vote No” camp as being anti-recreation or anti-community. At its most articulate and civil, the “no” argument highlighted a sincere concern that perhaps now was not the best time to make such an investment.

And despite the City and the Rec Department’s best efforts to explain the project in terms of a necessary and affordable infrastructure and economic development investment, that message failed to resonate amidst the current tense economic climate.

But does that qualify as a schism or a referendum on what direction we should be going in? I would argue that, with very few exceptions, most people in this city are supportive of any effort intended at improving Rutland’s quality of life and local economy.

The debate, then, lies in how we go about doing that. One line that came out of the recent back and forth has been that we need to create jobs in Rutland — a desperate plea that is echoing nationwide. But how does one create a job? It’s no easier here in Rutland than it is in Washington.

While organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, REDC, the Downtown Partnership and even the City are often looked to as the entities that wield awesome job-creating powers, even they can only do so much. They can develop incentives like revolving loans or grants programs to entice businesses to settle here; they can facilitate with getting a business off the ground, making it easier to open its doors; but they can’t will businesses or jobs into existence.

What you need to do is set the table — build a community that attracts business, a community that attracts people. And that takes a holistic approach — businesses, culture, recreation, housing, roads — it all needs to come together, and everyone needs to be working together to that end, public and private alike.

Groups like the Creative Economy has been essential in this arena. Through their various projects, they are helping to create just that environment. To be sure, the CE is not in the job creation business, however, its efforts are helping to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Like nothing before, the Creative Economy has succeeded in connecting disparate yet equally motivated pockets of energetic citizens from throughout the community. The power of the CE is that it is grassroots — its volunteers and it’s wide open to anyone looking to get involved.

While May 10 could be seen as yet another illustration of the deep divide in Rutland, I disagree. I believe it has given us an opportunity. Right now, people are plugged in — they are engaged and energized. How do we capitalize on that?

Rather than dig in our heels in separate camps, now is the time to set aside the vitriol, check the us vs. them attitudes and dispense with unproductive rhetoric like “out-of-towners” and “disgusting crumbs.”

There’s room at the table and everyone is invited to share their vision for a better Rutland.

I still believe in Rutland. Do you?

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