To The Daily Sun,
(Editor's note: The following letter was written before Judge James O'Neill issued his Wednesday ruling denying a request to force the executive committee of the Belknap County Convention to meet on Friday, Sept. 26 to consider requests by the Belknap County Commission for the transfer of sums from some budget categories to others.)
The county commissioners tell us we are facing a crisis in the county because of an urgent need to transfer funds from various line items to other lines. The cry is that a "shut down" is at hand. The Laconia Daily Sun has run a headline that, "Emergency budget transfer needed to sustain county operations." In fact, the commissioners are reported to have said on Sept. 18 that if something is not done immediately "staffing issues, particularly at the nursing home, would arise within a week."
By Sept. 23, the "crisis" had grown. The commissioners were in court telling the judge that numerous county department are facing cuts that could require the transfer of nursing home residents and jail inmates to other facilities.
The "crisis" was first brought to the attention of the convention via a letter dated Sept. 18 to Rep. Frank Tilton, chairman of the executive committee of the county convention. It is that committee that is empowered to approve requests by the commissioners to move budgeted money from one line item to another. Apparently no "crisis" existed on Sept. 15 when the executive committee met to review the budget and "to consider any transfer requests from the commissioners." The letter mentioned above said that two commissioners and the administrator had conflicts, but apparently the third commissioner chose not to attend. The county finance officer, who normally attends the meeting, was absent. Importantly, transfer requests must be in writing but do not require the presence of any actual person to present the request. Thus, all that was necessary to make a transfer request on the 15th was to put the details of what was being requested and why in writing and submit it. No such written transfer request was submitted. If there was in fact a real crisis, it was either then unknown or being kept secret.
As background to the instant "crisis," it should be noted that despite the explicit language of the controlling state statute to the contrary, the commissioners have for the last two years been arguing that they have the power to move money from one line item to another without convention consent so long as the move is within the same county department. So under their previously claimed authority, the commissioners could, without convention approval, move money from any nursing home line item to any other nursing home line item. And for the last year and a half, this is what they have been doing over the continuing objections of the convention. Finally, the convention filed a lawsuit to stop the practice.
On Aug. 28, Judge O'Neill ruled in that suit that the practice of the commissioners had to stop pending the outcome of the case because the practice was so contrary to the "overall statutory scheme governing county convention authority" as to make an outcome in the case favoring the convention highly likely.
Sometime earlier in August, a regular meeting of the executive committee had been scheduled for Sept. 15. In early September, apparently around the 4th, it was communicated to the executive committee that neither the commissioners nor the county administrator would be attending that meeting.
As could be expected after the court's ruling, there were conversations about the need for a meeting to discuss transfers. In these conversations no details were provided by the commissioners and no urgency was suggested. In fact, the county administrator is quoted in the Sept. 22 edition of The Laconia Daily Sun as saying, "there has been a crisis coming since the judge issued his order, but did we call in a panic earlier? No." In other words, we kept the "crisis" a secret until we announced it on the 18th. So the fact of a crisis and its alleged particulars did not come to light until the public announcement of the commissioners at their Sept. 18 meeting that county operations were within days of being threatened.
When the facts are examined, one is left with three possible explanations of the "crisis."
The first possibility is that the commissioners have known since Aug. 28 that they would need money moved, but chose to keep quiet about it to produce the appearance of crisis and perhaps in an effort to make Judge O'Neill question the wisdom of his prior ruling.
Second, and most unlikely, they didn't realize they had an immediate crisis until shortly before they announced it at their Sept. 18 meeting. Under this scenario, the commissioners would have acquired knowledge of the pending budget "crisis" somehow between the 16th and 18th of September. If this is the case, it speaks loudly of the competence, or lack there of, in the administration of county business.
The third possibility is that there is no crisis at all. The hearing before Judge O'Neill on Sept. 23 exposes the "crisis" as having been fabricated for strategic reasons. The commissioners argued that they could not wait for the transfer issue to be resolved at the Sept. 29 meeting of the executive committee. The "crisis" was simply too big and too immediate. The attorney representing the commissioners certified to the court that "the county now finds itself in an emergency situation, wherein several county departments are over-expended without the ability to provide vital county services." To remedy this so-called "crisis", the commissioners initially asked the court for an order allowing them to transfer $617,872.20. When the court questioned the amount that had been represented as immediately needed, a recess was declared. After conferring with the commissioners, their attorney reduced the amount that was immediately needed down to $455,500.
The two numbers that were requested Tuesday by the commissioners say a lot about the credibility of their position. One way to roughly gauge the reasonableness of the amount of a seven-day transfer request is to compare it on a per day basis with the per day break down of the total budget. The total Belknap County budget is $25,596,863, which produces a per diem number of a little over $70,000.
The commissioners first requested number that contemplated an expenditure of $88,000 per day. Thus clearly a number not based on the seven day "crisis" that the commissioners were trying to sell.
Apparently someone got out a calculator during recess. The new number produces a seven day per diem of approximately $65,000. Thus unlike the first number, this one is at least theoretically possible.
However, it also lacks any semblance of credibility. For transfers of that amount of money to be necessary would mean that almost 93 percent of the total appropriated money is now on a line inconsistent with current operations. It is difficult to believe that one could get a projected one-year budget so out of line with actual operations even if one tried.
Because of this, I am confident that the representation made to the court that a transfer of $455,500 is essential to continued county operation was untrue.
While I don't know how the court will rule on the so-called "crisis," I believe that it is clear that the so-called "crisis" was pre-planned, kept secret to the last minute and then sprung on both the executive committee and the court on short notice. Moreover, the amount of transfer money represented as immediately necessary totally lacks credibility. And to think that we, the taxpayers of Belknap County, are paying the high priced lawyers from Exeter to assist the commissioners in their game.
Going forward, it is my hope that this sort of game-playing will end. Certainly to make county employees, nursing home residents and jail inmates pawns in such a power play is inexcusable.
As you look at what has happened and evaluate the conduct of the commissioners, ask yourself one simple question: If there was a truly urgent problem on the horizon, why did the commissioners not make a timely and detailed transfer request to the executive committee?
Hopefully, we will soon see a day where cooperative effort replaces "gotcha games" in the governance of our county.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:41
To The Daily Sun,
I'm supporting state Sen. Andrew Hosmer in this election because he's been a strong advocate for education and he works tirelessly for the people in our community.
As a mother of two public school children, I would like to see them receive a great education so that they have the opportunity to achieve success.
If New Hampshire is to have a strong economy it must support education from kindergarten through technical school and college. Whether it's our public schools, charter schools, the Huot Technical Center, Lakes Region Community College or New Hampshire's University system, Sen. Hosmer is a strong, committed advocate for teachers, parents and students. He was a leader in the fight to freeze tuitions in New Hampshire. Because of his work higher education is now more accessible and affordable.
If you believe a robust economy needs strong schools and a well-educated workforce, please join me in supporting Andrew Hosmer on Nov. 4.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:32
To The Daily Sun,
With all the lies and deception being disseminated by the right, it's hard to distinguish fact from fiction — could this be their strategy? It's unfortunate, but deceit and lies have become a staple of American politics.
In Saturday's Sun, I was alarmed to read Mr. Young's letter declaring that "Obama Forcing New Gun Buyers to Declare Their Race and Ethnicity." Apparently Young is regurgitating the right-wing outlets' claim that the Obama administration is using the standard form for the federal gun background checks to engage in racial profiling and to find out who has guns because the form asks about race and ethnicity.
Young fails to tell us that the form (Form 4473) has asked for this information since 2001 — eight years prior to President Obama's inauguration. The form asks buyers for information such as name, height, weight, date of birth, and race and ethnicity. The form was revised in 2012, but still asks the standard questions, including race and ethnicity. The form has asked for this information since at least 2001, and the identifying information is destroyed within hours of a background check being processed.
The claim that the Obama administration is racially profiling and tracking gun owners has been touted by Fox Nation, where commentators are badly misleading about the history of the gathering of this information. In addition to the race and ethnicity question appearing on the previous version of the form, the questions have been included for at least the past 13 years.
Anyone in the least bit interested in the truth, rather than hate and rancor, could have done the research and uncovered this obviously misleading news story. It appears that Young unquestioningly accepted conservative deceptive reporting, thus calling into question his ability to make unimpaired commentary on other matters.
Years ago, two national figures, Robert F. Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, moved to the state of New York for the sole purpose of pursuing political office — conservative Republicans were outraged. We now have the same scenario unfolding here in New Hampshire with the candidacy of Scott Brown, but because he has an (R) after his name, Mr. Young doesn't seem to mind.
What could be Brown's rational for moving to New Hampshire other than being motivated by mere electoral opportunism. He is not running to represent the people (and by people, I mean all people) of New Hampshire. He is running to represent the political agenda of the Republican Party. Considering that he ran twice in three years for the Senate from Massachusetts, and also considered running for governor there, it will be tough to run away from the notion that this is just a continued, calculated move by him to get back into public office.
L. J. Siden
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:28
What should we do about immigration policy? It's a question many are asking, and some useful perspective comes from an article in Foreign Affairs by British-born, California-based historian Gregory Clark, unhelpfully titled, "The American Dream Is an Illusion."
The dream to which Clark refers is the idea, promoted by Emma Lazarus's poem at the Statue of Liberty, that this is "a country of opportunity for all, a country that invites in the world's tired, its poor and its huddled masses."
The problem, says Clark, is that upward mobility is something of a myth, in America and elsewhere. In his recent book, "The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility," he shows that advantages that some families have over others — in social position, genetic endowment, traditions of literacy and numeracy — tend to be passed on, not inevitably from parent to child, but persistently and to a considerable extent to descendants for seven and 10 generations.
Clark charts the prevalence of last names in high-status occupations and positions over generations. After the 1066 Conquest, Englishmen with Norman surnames appeared disproportionately to population at Oxford and Cambridge in 1170 and in Parliament in 1259. They continue to do so, to a lesser extent, today.
He finds the same phenomenon in Sweden, Chile, Japan, China and (especially) caste-bound India. Upward and downward mobility exist, but usually at a glacial pace.
An exception, as he notes, is America in the period from 1892, when the Ellis Island immigration station opened, until mass immigration was ended by World War I in 1914 and restrictive legislation in 1924. Ellis Islanders and their descendants rose rapidly up the educational and economic ladder.
The opening of Ellis Island coincided with a shift of immigration from Northwestern Europe to Southern and Eastern Europe. These people were not just seeking economic opportunity. Rather, as I argued in my 2013 book, "Shaping Our Nation," they were second-caste residents of multi-ethnic states — Jews from the Czarist and Austro-Hungarian empires, Poles from those nations and Germany, Czechs and Slovaks, Slovenes and Serbs from Austria-Hungary and the Balkans, Southern Italians from a recently unified northern-dominated Kingdom of Italy.
For these second-caste citizens, America's prime attraction was the principle of equal citizenship. As George Washington told the elders of the Touro Synagogue, toleration in America was not a favor from the majority, but a recognition that "all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship."
As Clark notes, there was a lot of upward mobility among these groups — most spectacularly among Jews, but also among Italians, Poles and other minorities who exceeded national income averages by the 1950s. It was matched during these years also by the cumulative but slower upward mobility of Irish Catholics who arrived between the 1840s and 1890s.
The Ellis Islanders, blocked from upward mobility at home, brought to America advantages of genetic endowment and cultural tradition — nature and nurture — which enabled them to move upward unusually rapidly.
Asian immigrants seem to be moving upward similarly today. But not the group the Census Bureau calls Hispanics. In my 2001 book, "The New Americans," I predicted that Hispanics would move upward, much as Italians had a century before. That was overoptimistic. There has been little or no upward mobility among third- and fourth-generation Hispanics.
Why the difference? One reason is that current Hispanic immigrants seem to be characterized by economic need rather than second-class status. Immigrants from Mexico and illegal immigrants (mostly from Mexico) are particularly downscale.
The second reason is that the America that welcomes them is no longer a nation with equal citizenship for all, but a nation that shunts them into a special supposedly privileged but also stigmatized minority group. Anomalously, racial quotas and preferences benefit those never discriminated against in the United States.
Some preferences have hurt more than helped. Steering mortgages to non-creditworthy Hispanics produced foreclosures and personal tragedies — and a financial crisis. As author Michael Gonzalez notes, Hispanic advancement has been minimal in California with its high welfare spending and taxes. Hispanics have done better in low-welfare, low-tax, high-economic-growth Texas.
There's an obvious lesson here for immigration policy. Immigration can promote social mobility, but not always. The United States got high-skill immigrants in the Ellis Island period largely by happenstance. Today, Canada and Australia profit from upward mobility because their immigration laws admit only those with high skills. If we want similar results, we should follow their lead.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:22
To The Daily Sun,
Industrial wind developers are accustomed to problem neighbors that wish to keep towering turbines out of their backyards.
Wind promoters have and will continue to mischaracteriz our community as fear mongers and NIMBYs, when in fact our community is the exact opposite — we've embraced five renewable power plants to date. Oh, don't forget, Northern Pass will be cutting though our community as well.
Can one community support nine energy facilities within a 15-mile radius? What will that look like? How will that impact our community? Why are ski resorts not interested in year-round wind revenues? Why don't schools, prisons or state lands have wind turbines?
Developers are accustomed to opponents not being very influential — rather they see opponents as only capable of stirring up local opposition based on fears and lies. Our community does not fit that profile. We continue to ask important questions ... with no answers.
It is rumored that developers fear our community opposition so much — they've lobbied harder with Gov. Maggie Hassan. Last week Gov. Hassan nominated Sen. Bob Odell and state Rep. Amanda Merrill to sit on the first public committee in charge of permitting Northern Pass and any future wind farms projects in the state.
These two nominations tell me that our community has been enormously successful. It was our grass-roots community focus. It was our aggressively unified community voice. It was our community fundraisers and pot luck dinners. It was our voting record. That's what stopped additional wind development in our community.
Our community is full of self-proclaimed environmentalists, and we're all working hard to protect our local environment. Developers are clearly targeting our ridge lines, and we all know there's no recreating our forests in our lifetime.
We are simple folk. We know right from wrong and we know where the power is destined — southern states. Simply put, developers should have just announced from the beginning that they are going to destroy our landscapes, erect 100 500-foot-tall turbines and charge us to connect and ship this electricity to southern states. Why are southern states outsourcing their renewable energy tax credits?
A new question rumbling in our foothills: How can a state senator be appointed to a public committee before officially retiring from his Senate seat? Will Sen. Bob Odell resign his from his Senate seat prior to his Oct. 1 appointment? Or can he hold two seats at the same time? Two paid seats?
With the increased number of renewable energy projects proposed for New Hampshire in the coming years, the SEC finds itself stretched and we see the need for appointing a fair and balanced public committee.
But, there's a chill in the air and it has nothing to do with the temperature outside. There's a chill on our land values, a chill on our home sales and a chill up and down the spines of New Hampshire residents as they consider if anyone is looking out for them.
Are we being represented, or shafted?
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 September 2014 11:18