Rutland, VT mayoral contest focuses on candidates who could best heal rift over refugees
Posted by Ann Corcoran on March 5, 2017
One of the things I came to see in my travels around America last summer is that mayors in many cities with refugees, or about to get refugees, seemed to be quietly (so as not to tip off citizen critics) working behind the scenes for the federal pro-refugee resettlement contractors, and/or the businesses looking for cheap migrant labor. I often referred to those mayors as having been “captured.”
Rutland, VT represents one such city.
It got so heated in Rutland, that the subject of refugees is the key issue that will determine if city voters return Mayor Christopher Louras to his seat at city hall.
From Burlington Free Press (hat tip: Joanne):
MONTPELIER – The mayor of Rutland, seeking his sixth two-year term Tuesday on Town Meeting Day, would like to focus his race against three challengers on his response to the issues facing the city, including drug use and joblessness, but his plan to bring up to 100 Syrian refugees to the city overshadows everything.
I’ve always wondered, why Syrians? Why not any of the usual refugee ethnic groups that the US State Department brings in. Did someone or some group specifically want Syrian Muslims (almost 99% of the Syrians we admit are Muslims) in Rutland? The same is happening in Charleston, WV, they want just Syrians. Why?
I digress! Back to the story…
Louras is being challenged on Town Meeting Day by City Councilor David Allaire, who ran against Louras in the last two elections; Michael Coppinger, the executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, which promotes the community; and resident Kam Johnston, who is also running for the Board of Aldermen, school board and city assessor.
Both Allaire and Coppinger say a change in leadership is needed to heal a city that has been divided by Louras’ plans to bring up to 100 Syrian refugees to the community this year, and possibly more in years to come. They say it wasn’t the plan for the refugees, but the way Louras rolled out the program, announcing it last April without having sought input from the public and city officials.
When he announced his candidacy in December, Allaire said the issue was not with the city taking in refugees, but the secrecy of the program .
One of the many reforms the Trump team must make is to get the secrecy out of the discussions by the US State Department, in collusion with federal refugee contractors, to target certain towns and cities as new resettlement sites.