RUTLAND — An initiative to change the city’s charter to make it gender-neutral led to a debate over whether it’s something the city can afford to spend time on.
The Board of Aldermen at a meeting Monday night approved moving forward with the proposal, but not without one board member voicing his dissent.
Alderman Tom DePoy said that while he could support such a proposal in the future, now was not the time. He said City Attorney Matt Bloomer already has a lot on his plate, and the city is seeking an outside legal firm to help him. Adding something else for the city attorney to do right now, the alderman said, would create an “undue burden.”
“It’s silly. It’s a waste of time,” DePoy said.
Alderman Ed Larson, who proposed in April that the city review its charter to make it gender-neutral, disagreed.
He said having the city attorney review proposed changes won’t take much time, and it doesn’t have to be done immediately. It would not go before voters, Larson added, until Town Meeting Day in March.
“It’s very simplistic. It’s something our city attorney can go through in five minutes,” he said. “This is not a difficult, expensive situation.”
In several places, Larson said when he first proposed the review, the charter contains the word “he” when referring to positions, such as the police chief.
Alderman William Notte said Larson has already reviewed the charter and suggested where changes can be made.
“Having the city attorney look at this is just a matter of dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s,” Notte said. “If you want a city government that everyone participates in, it has to appear to be open to all. These are very simple changes that show how inclusive Rutland CIty government already is.”
Notte added that such changes are long overdue.
“The charter is a creature of our times. These are much more inclusive times,” he said. “It’s very much a document of the ’20s and ’30s.”
The board’s Charter and Ordinance Committee met earlier this month and agreed to move forward with the proposed changes.
Larson proposed about seven places in the charter that would need to be changed from “he” to either “they” or “he/she,” according to the minutes of that committee meeting.
The full Board of Aldermen on Monday night voted to send those proposed changes to the city attorney for review. DePoy cast the lone vote in opposition.
Any changes to the charter, the city’s governing document, will ultimately require approval of city voters and the Legislature.