City Dems question candidates
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | February 28,2013
Rutland candidates for aldermen were questioned on water treatment, security cameras and the value of police officers walking the beat during a forum Wednesday.
Nine of the 12 candidates for six seats made it to the event sponsored by the Rutland City Democrats at the Rutland Free Library. Alderman David Wallstrom and challengers Sherri Durgin-Campbell and Paul Black were absent.
Audience members submitted questions, and moderator Cheryl Hooker said the first four dealt with a potential change in the disinfectant used in city water.
The city charter gives the public works commissioner sole authority over the water system. Asked why they took four questions on a subject over which the Board of Aldermen lacked authority, organizer Mike Austin said, “That’s a good point,” and had a word with Hooker, who then tried to move on from the subject. However, several candidates said they wanted to weigh in.
Alderman Thomas DePoy said that while the board did not have authority over the water system, it was responsible for “final oversight.” Ed Larson said whether it has authority or not, the board has a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the citizens who elected them.
Alderman Charles Romeo noted that the board approves the mayor’s appointments, but said the board should rely on experts like the DPW commissioner.
“I get nervous when politicians start making scientific decisions,” he said.
Melinda Humphrey said it was right of the commissioner to put the issue before city voters last year, when a $5.5 million bond for a new filtration system was rejected. Diane Alberts said the subject had become an “unnecessarily emotional issue.”
“I’d like to see some of the emotion taken away from it so we can look at the science,” she said.
None of the candidates came out in favor of using chloramine in city water.
In response to a question about clearing graffiti from the city, DePoy recalled friends getting caught in such activities having to paint a retirement home and clean off a water tower. He suggested the court diversion program might apply such penalties.
Larson said had he been caught as a vandal, his father would have taken him “out to the woodshed.” Romeo suggested encouraging volunteer cleanup efforts.
John Mattison recalled police officers walking the beat in Rutland neighborhoods during his youth, suggesting that as an antidote. That subject happened to be the next question. While there was broad support for police walking the beat, there was little support for forcing them to live in the city — Romeo said he believed there was a court decision saying the city could not issue such a mandate, anyway.
Dan White said he had long been a proponent of foot patrols. Like Mattison, Alberts said police officers walking the beat would get to know the people in the neighborhoods and establish rapports. Larson said foot patrols were useful during the day — and “essential” downtown — but that mobility becomes important at night.
Larson said he proposed the use of surveillance cameras in the city years ago, and said that they did not all have to be live because dummy cameras can serve as a deterrent. He went on to say that a homicide in the downtown shopping plaza might have been prevented had there been a security camera in Depot Park.
Nobody at the event spoke against using security cameras in the city, but some were clearly lukewarm on the idea. Humphrey called it “really tricky” and said it would have to be put to a public vote. Alderman Jon Kiernan said he would entertain the idea but would want to form an opinion based on a full review of the facts.
John Cassarino said he could support cameras if they were strategically placed. Alberts said they could be useful in the city’s more troubled areas.
“If I’m walking down the street, I’m not feeling infringed upon if someone sees me walking down the street,” Alberts said.
Romeo said it would raise a number of questions, such as where they should go and whether they would be monitored live.