People & Places

Move to make Rutland charter gender-neutral spurs debate

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.”

Rutland City Hall
Rutland City Hall. File photo by Anne Galloway
“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.

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Alan J. Keays

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  • Gary Murdock

    PC runamuk. Saddens me to see this dribble coming out of Rutland, but at the same time it shows their efforts to attract “young people” to the region must be bearing fruit.

    • Pam Ladds

      If there are young people in your life why would you want your daughters or granddaughters to grow up hearing “men” all the time and thinking that their career path could not be down the same road. Language matters. it is not “dribble” it is important

      • Gary Murdock

        A quick review of a dictionary list the following as a few of the many definitions of man:
        The human race
        Any living or extinct hominid
        Individual person
        Please join me at the public library, we’ll review thousands of publications that are now deemed offensive, and tell me what’s next. I stand by original comment.

  • Pam Ladds

    “The Board of Aldermen at a meeting Monday night approved moving forward with the proposal, but not without one board member voicing his dissent.” I am glad to see that some of the AlderMEN got it! Even if the male dissenter didn’t. Language matters and if girls and women are to assume their places in our collective future cleaning up male based verbiage matters. If children hear only male-identified language then they assume that females are not valued or wanted! I hope all other Cities start to look at their charters and do the same clean-up.

  • Jason Brisson

    Nothing more gender neutral than sewage–everybody poops. Perhaps the great men and women of Rutland can find common ground in working to replace their aging and antiquated municipal sewage system, that dumps CSO raw sewage into Lake Champlain’s tributaries. Their fellow Vermonters sure would appreciate it!

    • Steve Baker

      That’s a Real Problem that takes hard work and forethought. All the rest of this is window dressing.

    • wendywilton

      Rutland is not the worst offender of combined sewer overflows. Every system, including Burlington (most recently had a big one) and every major community in the state has these events with a heavy rainstorm. Our WWTP is constantly being upgraded. Unless the state wants to commit hundreds of millions on new technology, all the communities with a WWTP can really do is minimize the overflows in such events.

  • rosemariejackowski

    How can anyone be offended by words that contain “man”. After all, this is a nation that refers to slaughtered humans as “collateral damage”. That should offend all of us.

    • Pam Ladds

      You are missing the point Rosemarie. Referring to a Council Member as council man is not useful.And discourages young women from getting involved. The glass ceiling is real and it starts really young. Why not open up the playing field?

      • rosemariejackowski

        Of course ‘the playing field’ should be open to all. BUT the over-emphasis on Identity Politics and political correctness is counter-productive. There are many more important issues right now.