Pubdate: Tue, 25 Mar 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Alan J. Keays


Mark Miller didn't testify Monday before the U.S.  Senate Judiciary
Committee at a hearing held in  Rutland.

But his T-shirt did.

"Keep Rutland Beautiful/Keep Out The Drug Dealers,"  read the words
emblazoned across his chest and printed  on his white and green
short-sleeved shirt.

Miller took time off Monday from work at his business,  Marble Valley
Reprographics, to attend the hearing.

The Rutland resident wasn't alone.

However, his early arrival allowed him to sit in the  front row among 
the standing-room-only crowd of more  than 200 people gathered in the 
Franklin Center for the  Senate hearing, "The Rise of Drug-Related 
Violent Crime  in Rural America: Finding Solutions to a Growing  Problem."

A string of recent drug-related shootings in Rutland  prompted Patrick
Leahy, D-Vt., committee chairman, to  hold the hearing in the city.
Arlen Specter, R-Pa, the  panel's ranking Republican, also attended
the hearing  Monday, sitting alongside Leahy.

Seven people, including city and state leaders,  testified for about
90 minutes about the problems and  the search for solution in
combating illegal drugs on  the streets of Rutland and across Vermont.

"I see a lot of community activism in this room, which  is a tribute
to Rutland," Specter said toward the end  of the hearing.

Then he looked out to Miller, seated in the front row  to the right of
those providing testimony.

"I like the T-shirt the fella out there has," Specter  said before
reading the message on Miller's shirt to  the crowd, "Keep Rutland
Beautiful/Keep Out The Drug  Dealers."

"Maybe we can get you one," someone from the crowd told  the
Pennsylvania senator.

Miller, during a hearing break, said he recently had  about 50 of the
T-shirts made.

"I made a bunch of them and ordered them because I feel  very strongly
that this problem needs to be addressed  in the city, and it needs to
be addressed from a  grass-roots level," he said.

"The last bunch of violence that has come through  Rutland, a lot of
it associated with drugs, has just  got me very enraged," Miller
added. "I knew that  someone in the community had to start getting
people in  the community fired up."

Miller, 52, and the father of two teenage children,  said he is
planning a "citizen rally" and a march  starting at 10 a.m. Saturday
in downtown Depot Park.

"I sent out a lot of e-mails to my friends, I contacted  a lot of the
church organizations by email. I'm  hopefully relying on word of
mouth," he said. "By  gathering 25 or 35 people downtown I think shows
the  rest of the city we really care."

Miller praised the efforts of city police and other  city leaders in
trying to address the problem, but he  said it was going to make more,
a community-wide  effort.

"It's really got to be me, the guy living next door to  me, and you
and your kids saying, 'We don't want these  people doing this in our
town any more,'" he said.

Miller said it was important to encourage residents to  watch out for
each other, to make more frequent calls  to police tip lines, and to
take part in Rutland United  Neighborhoods, which formed in 2001 to
help fight crime  and illegal drug use in the city.

RUN holds neighborhood meetings to address concerns and  coordinate
activities with police, allowing residents  to share ideas and seek
solutions to common concerns.

The crime that prompted RUN's formation took place in  November 2000
when Terry King, 53, of North Clarendon,  was abducted and later
killed in a carjacking that took  place in the downtown Rutland
Shopping Plaza by two men  who police said were fleeing a double homicide.

Donald R. Fell was later convicted of federal capital  crimes in
King's slaying and is now on death row in  Indiana. The other suspect
in the case killed himself  in prison before trial.

"(RUN's) got to be rejuvenated, I believe, but I think  there is a lot
of interest in the area and I think it  can get done," Miller said
Monday. "I think it's time  for us to stand up again as citizens."

Miller then said he was glad his T-shirt caught  Specter's eye.

"I left my business this morning to see if I could get  this message
across," Miller said. "If I brought some  extra I would give (Specter)

Rutland City Mayor Christopher Louras said following  the hearing
Monday that he didn't see Miller's T-shirt,  but he agreed with the
sentiments printed on it, "Keep  Rutland Beautiful/Keep Out The Drug

"I think that's why we're all here today," the mayor  said. "If you
want to put the whole hearing into a few  words, that's the message."
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