Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras faces stiff opposition from well-known challenger for the city’s top job. While the campaign has been relatively quiet, public safety and the city’s drug problem have emerged as a top issues in a race that will be decided on Town Meeting Day.
Louras and his challenger David Allaire both grew up in Rutland. The two men worked together as city aldermen and as state representatives in Montpelier. Allaire says the two are even related by marriage.
But while both men are well-respected in Rutland, Allaire says their approach to public safety differs and he says the mayor should have focused on Rutland’s crime problem sooner.
"I think the problem has been festering for too long," says Allaire. "As time went by it became clear to me that not only was the situation deteriorating around the city, but we were having significant problems over at the police department – mostly stemming from a lack of leadership."
Allaire, a 57-year-old advertising salesman, who’s headed Rutland’s Board of Aldermen for 7 years, says he was calling for the ouster of then Police Chief Anthony Bossi 3 years ago.
"And unfortunately," says Allaire,"that didn’t happen and so the problems became worse over there which in turn made the problems worse on the streets of the city."
But Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras says it’s not the mayor’s place to fire the police chief. By charter, he says that’s the job of the Police Commission. And the 52-year old mayor stands behind his record as he seeks a fourth term.
"As far back as 2008, we were putting strategies in place to affect the drugs and crime associated with the drugs," says Louras. "I went to the leaders in Montpelier and was able to secure $50,000 for a drug interdiction officer."
Louras says he got Senator Leahy to visit Rutland and helped secure $1.2 million federal dollars for drug interdiction and treatment in the state.
But Louras points to Rutland’s new police chief, efforts to address blighted property and improve quality of life in the hardest hit neighborhoods as part of his long term approach to public safety.
"And it’s critical that we keep that strategy in place," he says.
Voters weigh in on Tuesday.
There’s also a mayors race in the city of Vergennes. City Alderman William Benton is facing off against former city mayor April Jin. Current Mayor Michael Daniels is not seeking re-election.
And in Winooski Mayor Mike O’Brien is running unopposed for re-election. And that’s also the case in Newport, Mayor Paul Monette is also seeking re-election, with no challenger.