Rutland challenged to include women on city marketing panel

Rutland

Downtown Rutland. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sfoskett

RUTLAND — Vanessa Robertson, a former member of Rutland’s Board of Aldermen, said that a committee formed to market the city lacks representation from an important constituency: women.

“After looking at committee assignments I realized there was a major issue in regards to the marketing committee,” Robertson told the board during the public comment portion of the meeting Monday night.

“The marketing committee is made up of only three people, and all of which are men,” Robertson said. “It concerns me that there are absolutely no women on this committee. It seems to me that you would want someone to represent the 51 percent of society.”

Robertson talked of the $100,000 commitment the city has contributed to a $200,000 regional marketing effort currently underway, which involves several other communities, businesses and organizations.

She said with the city being the largest single contributor to the initiative, the city’s marketing committee will have a great deal of influence.

“I hope to see an alderwoman added to this committee,” Robertson said, “not only because it is a large investment, but because women, such as myself, deserve representation on a committee that markets the city.”

The city’s marketing committee includes three members of the Board of Aldermen: Christopher Ettori, the committee’s chairman, and Timothy Cook and Ed Larson.

No board members spoke after Robertson made her comments. However, as the meeting drew to a close, board President Sharon Davis, who appoints members to committees of the board, did address the issue.

Davis said any member of the Board of Aldermen can attend any meeting of its committees.

“You may not be voting, but you certainly have a voice,” Davis said.

There are four women on the 11-member Board of Aldermen. The marketing committee is the only board panel that does not have a woman on it.

Davis said that when she sets up a committee, she doesn’t look at people’s gender, but instead their experience and interest they have expressed about a particular topic or area of city government.

“As a woman … I’m comfortable with that,” Davis told the board. “We work as a unit. We work as a team, and we’ve got a lot work to do to move this city forward.”

Lisa Ryan, a board member, then asked if that meant no women would be added to the marketing committee. Davis replied that the marketing committee’s makeup would not be changing.

After the meeting, Robertson said she was disappointed no women would be added to the marketing panel. Most city committees, she said, are made up of five board members, so adding two to the marketing committee, including at least one woman, would not make it any larger than most city panels.

“It’s a very easy fix to add women to this committee,” Robertson said.

Robertson is the youngest person ever elected to the board, at age 21. She served one year and did not seek re-election in March because she will be attending the University of New Hampshire School of Law in the fall.

In other business Monday night, the board unanimously approved with no debate the use of $200,000 from the city’s Zamias fund to help offset costs associated with a nearly $1 million project to create a Center Street Marketplace in a downtown alley. The Zamias fund is money the city receives in impact fees from the developers of the Diamond Run Mall in Rutland Town.

Alderman Larson also asked that the board conduct a review of the city charter to make it gender-neutral. In many places, he said, the charter contains the word “he” when referring to positions, such as the police chief. The board unanimously approved sending the matter to its Charter and Ordinance Committee to conduct that review.

Alan J. Keays

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