It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
This week five-term Rutland, Vermont Mayor Christopher Louras lost his reelection bid after a year-long scandal related to the importation of refugees.
Starting in late 2015, Louras schemed for six months with his state’s private refugee contractor (the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, or VRRP for short) to initiate a refugee resettlement program in his city. He did this without alerting either the city’s board of aldermen or the citizens themselves. Only when the deal was sealed did he announce that Rutland would be taking in 100 unvettable Syrian refugees in the fall of 2016.
A hundred may not seem like a lot in Boston or New York City, but it is significant in Rutland which had a population of 16,495 as of 2010. Rutland, by the way, is about 65 miles north of the Massachusetts state line and around 20 miles east of the New York state line.Louras was beaten handily.
Dr. Tim Cook, a five-tour Middle East war veteran and highly-regarded local physician, went on Fox Business on Jan. 4 to summarize the case he had been making against the refugee resettlement plan that Louras had fancifully claimed would bring in big bucks to Rutland:
To me this is like people in Rutland are drowning. And the mayor is like a lifeguard, but instead of going in and [saving] the citizens, he’s looking along the beach to see who else he can throw else into the riptide. It makes no sense to many of us how you take a poor community, introduce even more poor people, and somehow come out of that with an economic boom.
(Cook returned to Fox Biz yesterday to reiterate those points and discuss the election outcome. View the video by clicking here.)
Needless to say, when Cook and others told the truth about the Louras scheme, city residents were justifiably outraged.
Apart from their specific concerns about Middle Eastern migrants who may sympathize with jihadists — or even be jihadists themselves — people were taken aback by the mayor’s secret maneuvering and flagrant disrespect for the board of aldermen, which by law must be included in any such proposal, along, of course, with the citizenry.
“What’s the big deal?” they asked. “Only 100 Syrians,” they said.
But this was only part of the plan.
The larger concern was the brand new refugee resettlement office planned for Rutland. Resettlement contractors – called “Voluntary Agencies” or VOLAGs – are paid by the head to resettle refugees (and there is nothing “voluntary” about them). Once centers are established, they can only survive by annually bringing in at least as many refugees as the prior year. Call it a kind of zero-based budgeting as applied to the refugee resettlement process. The result is an endless flow of bussed-in outsiders that increasingly overwhelms city services. Moreover, once a refugee community is established, the resettlement contractors urge them to apply for relatives, who can then be resettled anywhere within a 100-mile radius. These contractors drool at the prospect of all that federal money.
A group named Rutland First quickly organized under the leadership of Dr. Cook. Cook reasonably observed that Rutland had enough of its own problems with high unemployment, shuttered businesses, and drug addiction and shouldn’t be taking on more problems. He correctly pointed out that the few months of federal government subsidy provided to refugees is not an economic revival plan.
A pro-refugee activist group quickly created a Facebook page titled Rutland Welcomes. It was an obvious astroturf campaign. While the site bragged 1,200 members, only 200 were local residents, but the media hyped the seeming success of the group as proof that Rutland wanted refugees and that Rutland First was a fringe group of a few bigoted local malcontents.
At the invitation of Rutland First, I traveled to that city twice, in May and September, to give presentations on refugee resettlement. In the September event, I joined Department of Homeland Security whistleblower Phil Haney. (Editor’s note: Haney is co-author of the book, See Something, Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad.) These presentations revealed the true dimensions of the refugee resettlement program and why, in its current configuration, it is a very bad thing for America.
In addition to terrorism and vetting concerns, state and local governments bear the significant costs of refugee resettlement. This includes the state’s share of multiple welfare programs, which refugees use at astronomical rates, and the huge impact on public schools. Manchester, New Hampshire, for example, contends with students speaking 82 different languages, according to Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas. Lewiston, Maine’s public school English Language Learners budget has increased 4,000 percent since 2000. About 25 percent of Lewiston’s 5,000 public school students speak 24 languages, but not English.
These problems are being replicated all over the country.
In Oakland County, Michigan, one elementary school with 100 students was forced to take 200 more in one semester, with no additional resources provided to handle this tripling in the student body. Amarillo, Texas was given 600 refugee children and told to make them more or less fluent in English in one year — an obvious impossibility. Tutors cost them $1,300 per student per month. The federal government provided $100 per student per year. Yet the VOLAGs claim state and local governments bear no costs of refugee resettlement!
I attended a Rutland alderman’s meeting at which VRRP and its parent organization, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), were questioned by aldermen and citizens about how and why they plotted behind closed doors with the mayor. USCRI’s director, Lavinia Limon, was supposed to attend, but she claimed she had received death threats. Doubtless this was totally contrived, but to make it look serious, Louras had a huge number of police show up and line the conference room to, you know, protect the contractors from the domestic terrorists who disguised themselves as elderly city residents.
Given my turn at the lectern, I repeatedly demanded to know how VOLAGs could continually swamp cities with refugees despite relentless pleas from local leaders to end the madness. USCRI has been doing this in Manchester for decades, as I described above. It’s the reason for Manchester’s failing public schools, but Mayor Gatsas’s repeated requests have fallen on deaf ears. When they refused to answer, alderman board president William Notte, (who had been taken in on the deal along with Louras), finally spit out, “They don’t have to answer you.” The audience booed.
The aldermen later demanded a ruling on the legality of Louras’s unilateral action, because it violated the city charter to be left out of such momentous decisions. The mayor turned to his good friend, the city attorney. No need telling you what he decided. We found out, of course, that the mayor’s landlord cronies would directly benefit from the new tenants paid for by the government.
Gee, what a surprise.
Then the board of aldermen voted on a Rutland First petition signed by 1,200 Rutland citizens to put the program to a public referendum. There are 11 aldermen on the board. Six voted for the referendum but seven (or two-thirds) were needed. Board president Notte didn’t vote, so even though they had a majority, the good guys lost.
Meanwhile, Mayor Louras received hero treatment nationwide with fawning press coverage from the New York Times, Boston Globe, NBC News, NPR, NBC, CNN and others. He toured surrounding states where he was received like some kind of prophet.
Dr. Cook was also on CNN, Fox News Channel, and a few other TV outlets. Fox was fair; the others, not so much. Shortly after his CNN appearance, doctor rating websites were swarmed with numerous derogatory reviews. Here is one from Healthgrades.com:
David Roth in Rutland Vermont | Jan 30, 2017
Dr. Cook has a terrible bedside manner. He is abrupt and cold. He doesn’t seem to be thorough as [sic] acts as if he wants to get you done and out of his office. I would never recommend this man.
Dr. Cook is a lifelong Rutland resident and widely respected doctor. He knows every person he has ever treated. When he saw this review he posted the following response:
“I have never actually seen this patient. There is no patient of this name who has ever been seen in my practice.”
It is worth noting that every other review on that site gives the doctor five stars — the maximum. Yet other rating sites had similar types of reviews from “patients” Dr. Cook had never seen — all after the CNN interview aired.
Of course, this is typical of the Left’s tactics. We all got attacked as “Islamophobes. The Rutland Herald ran three articles attacking me personally without reporting any of the endless facts I cite (three articles that I know of — there may have been more). I wrote three op-eds in reply, which the newspaper refused to publish, despite repeated promises to the contrary. The Herald and others constantly relied on the claims of the Southern Poverty Law Center as supposed proof of my “Islamophobia.” Conservatives who follow this kind of thing have long recognized that the SPLC is a wealthy, tax-exempt, Alinskyite hate group that makes its living by vilifying those who oppose the Left’s agenda.
The resettlement plan had been moving forward despite opposition, but in light of President Trump’s immigration executive order, only two Syrian families have been resettled in Rutland and the entire program’s future is in doubt.
On Tuesday, Mayor Louras found out just how many of Rutland’s residents disliked being called “bigots” for opposing his irresponsible plan. He lost the election by a margin of almost 20 percent. Louras faced off against Dave Allaire, a 19-year veteran alderman and local businessman who objected to the way the refugee issue was being handled. In a four-way race, Allaire bested Louras and took a majority of all those who voted. Cook ran for a slot on the city board and won as well, despite the nationwide positive press coverage for Louras and his resettlement plan. We the People spoke:
|Rutland, Vermont Mayoral Election|
|March 7, 2017|
|Candidate||# Votes||% Votes|
Forgive me for spiking the football. It is so rare to see one of these unscrupulous, serially dishonest politicians get his comeuppance, and this is one office-holder who richly deserved it.