Louras and Allaire talk mayoral duties
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of weekly stories on the mayoral race in Rutland. Each will focus on a different issue.
By Gordon Dritschilo
Rutland’s mayoral candidates start off on the same page regarding the role of the office.
Mayor Christopher Louras and his challenger, Board of Aldermen President David Allaire, both begin by citing the city charter’s definition of mayor as chief executive officer.
“He is responsible for all employees’ execution of their duties,” Allaire said. “He is responsible for making sure all city ordinances and laws are enforced. I believe the buck stops at his desk for all city matters.”
Louras noted that unless specific duties are given to other boards of individuals, the mayor “runs the whole show.” He then goes on to list some of the duties apportioned to places other than the mayor’s office.
“The charter is clear that the police commission manages the police department,” he said. “The Development Review Board, by charter, issues permits for zoning.”
Each also noted roles the mayor has that are less about authority and more about duty.
“I believe he or she is the face of the city,” Allaire said. “More times often than not, he is the spokesman for the city. More important, he or she is also the voice of the people.”
This, Allaire said, requires the mayor to maintain a close connection to his constituents.
Louras said the mayor has to interact with other governing bodies in the city, guiding them without necessarily telling them what to do. The police commission has authority over the police department, Louras said, but the mayor needs to work with the chief and the commission on strategies for law enforcement within the city because an effective strategy will require the involvement of other city departments.
So, when and how should the mayor use his unofficial influence. Both candidates said “it depends,” but offered different examples when pressed.
“If the DRB were to put conditions on the development of a property that would prevent it from ever being developed, the mayor should step in and say, ‘Come on, let’s modify our position so we can put a vacant property back on the rolls,’” Louras said. “The mayor should only step up reflecting broader policy and planning.”
Allaire said the call for the removal of then-Police Chief Anthony Bossi would have been a key time to apply mayoral influence.
“My opponent has said, by city charter, it was not his position to advocate for the firing of the chief,” he said, countering that be believes the chief executive is responsible to see that all subordinates’ duties are carried out. “I don’t call that meddling.”
Louras quickly came up with an example of where mayoral influence doesn’t belong: roads.
“The engineers, the professional engineers, know best how to get the most bang for the buck out of road budget dollars and the politicians should not choose what roads get paved,” he said, adding this doesn’t mean he is completely hands off, but he does need to be convinced as to the process used in the decision making. “Show me what you’ve done and justify it.”
Allaire’s hypothetical scenario involved a substantially increased school budget.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a place for (the mayor) to get involved officially, but he can voice an opinion unofficially if he feels (the budget) is going to be to the detriment of the city,” he said.