Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stan Rosenberg Legislative Reports on Beacon Hill State House-Senate politics for Hampshire & Franklin Counties in Western Massachusetts

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From: "Tom Mitchell"
To: tumitch@sprynet.com
Subject: The Rosenberg Report - Vol. 59
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 12:20:56 -0400
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The Rosenberg Report, Vol. LIX, May 29, 2008

Hello!

The Senate completed it's work on the $28 billion fiscal '09 budget last week and there are some good things in it. For example, we provide increases in such areas as local aid and education aid, we commit $250,000 to the restoration of the National Heritage Species Act program, we continue our commitment to health care reform, and we allocate $23 million for the salary reserve for human service workers. And, even though we stand on the brink of a recession, we increase higher education funding and implement a number of initiatives to minimize spikes in student charges during tough financial times, including tuition retention and the Endowment Incentive Fund, which provides a state match of $1 for every $2 raised privately, and we increase by $5 million the MassGrants program for needs-based financial aid. This reverses the disgraceful historical trend of slashing higher education during recessions and adopts many of the proposals outlined in the Senate Higher Education Task Force report I co-wrote a few years ago with Senator Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell), Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We also add almost $300 million in new revenue to the budget thanks to the closing of corporate tax loopholes and combined reporting, initiatives I have been advocating for years. But make no mistake, we still had to deal with a $1.3 billion deficit, so there will be some pain in the budget as well.

But the pain of a $1.3 billion deficit is nothing compared to the unbearable agony we would endure if the ballot question to eliminate the income tax passes in November.

That's right, this November voters in Massachusetts will be asked, again, if they want to eliminate the income tax, a move that would wipe out 60 percent of state revenues and leave the Legislature no choice but to decimate state services and raise fees to unspeakable levels. In horror movies it's the monster you don't see that is often the scariest. Well, this particular monster is slouching toward us in full view, and, from my perspective, it's plenty scary.

I realize that a lot of my constituents believe, and rightly so, that the idea of eliminating the income tax is, how shall I put it, ill-advised. But we can't be complacent. We have to work, and work harder than ever, to remind people that taxes is not a four-letter word, that taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civil, and civilized, society, that the taxes we pay today are necessary investments in the quality of our common future and in the future of our children.

And if that isn't enough to motivate you, just remember that in 2002, the first time the end the income tax initiative appeared on the ballot, it got 45 percent of the vote.

Are you with me?

"Stan"

May Focus

Stan's Budget Amendments

Here is a list of some of the more significant amendments I successfully included in the Senate's version of the '09 budget. For complete coverage of the Senate budget, follow these links:

Senate Budget Amendments
http://www.mass.gov/legis/09budget/senate/fy09amendments.htm

Senate Budget
http://www.mass.gov/legis/08budget/senate/index.htm

Education Reserve Fund Rescued

The Senate Ways and Means Committee had recommended eliminating this account, but I was successful in my effort to rescue it and actually increase it by $2 million over the House version. Now the Senate's budget includes $5.5 million for the Foundation Reserve Fund, an account that helps school districts meet unanticipated expenses.

In addition to the $5.5 million, my amendment also expands the reach of the fund, known as “pothole money” because it helps schools fill holes in their budgets caused by unanticipated costs. I also pushed to include last year’s additional language which helped to prioritize rural regional schools with declining enrollments, the so called RED Circuit Breaker language. This year I am making additional changes to the program that will give additional priority to districts that are facing transitional costs associated with switching to the state’s Group Insurance Commission plan. Although all of these districts anticipate significant cost savings as a result of transitioning to the Group Insurance Commission, there are significant one time costs associated with making the transition. Districts needed funding to assist with both buy-out of their existing programs and bridge coverage until the GIC picked up coverage for their members.

I’m pleased that my colleagues appreciate just how important this account can be for schools in distress, for rural schools, like many in Franklin County , that are seeing a drop in student population, and for those districts that are opting in to the GIC, a move state government is encouraging. Keeping this account is simply the right thing to do, and I’m glad the Senate has done it.

Tax Credit for Dairy Farmers

The Senate approved an amendment based on the work I did on the Dairy Farm Revitalization Task Force with State Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) that would promote and improve the dairy farm industry in Massachusetts. I also give credit to State Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) for his role in helping the amendment pass the Senate.

The amendment approved by the Senate would:

Ø Implement an income tax credit for dairy farmers when milk prices fall below the costs of production. This tax credit is based on a similar provision in South Carolina , which provides relief in years when the wholesale price of milk, which is set by the federal government, is below local production costs. The Department of Agricultural Resources would be charged with developing regulations to ensure that the cost of the tax credit to the state ranged from zero in years when milk prices are sufficient to cover Massachusetts farmers’ production expenses (as they were in 2007) to no more than $4 million.

The dairy industry has many benefits for the Commonwealth, from milk production and preserving open space to contributing to the health of other farms that depend on it. There’s a lot at stake here and we need to be aggressive about implementing our plans to safeguard this industry. I am pleased with the spirit of partnership and sense of urgency that has guided this process so far. I’m looking forward to continuing the effort to have the remainder of the dairy farm bill passed into law.

Hampshire County Regional Lockup

I am pleased that once again my Senate colleagues have signed onto to the plan to contribute $250,000 for the Hampshire County Regional Lockup for fiscal ’09.

The money, which is also included in the House of Representatives’ budget, represents the state’s share of the funding plan negotiated by local legislators, police chiefs and community officials last year. The state money, which represents more than half the operating budget of facility, combined with contributions from the cities and towns in Hampshire County and the police departments at the Five Colleges, will keep the lockup operational through fiscal year ’09.

This is a stable funding mechanism that couldn’t have been achieved without the cooperation of state and local government officials, including Sheriff Garvey. The original plan for the lockup was that the state would build it and the communities would run it. That proved untenable, but this partnership stabilizes the situation and sets the Hampshire county facility up as model for the state.

Wendell Emergency Grant

$150,000 to help the town of Wendell to meet expenses from damage caused by a severe storm last year.

Franklin County Supervised Visitation Program

$140,000 earmark for the Franklin County Supervised Visitation Program. Without this support the program would likely have closed. Instead, by the end of the fiscal year, more than 40 at risk families will have received services. We have also eliminated the waiting list, which is particularly important in situations where violence is a factor. Long waits for service in the past have resulted in unsafe conditions for children.

Lake Wyola

$150,000 for the town of Shutesbury for the state's share of repairing the dam at Lake Wyola.

Still Fighting

There were three amendments that I didn't get into the Senate budget, but will continue to fight for when the budget goes to the House-Senate Conference Committee. Those are:

Ø $100,000 for historic Hadley Hall in Hadley
Ø $30,000 for erosion protection at Center Cemetery in Gill
Ø $25,000 for Casa Latina in Northampton

Noteworthy

Senate '09 Budget Summary

The approximately $28.085 billion budget makes targeted investments in core initiatives that focus on health care, education, and public safety.

With an economic outlook that continues to decline, the Senate worked to focus on areas that will have the most impact on the lives of Massachusetts residents. These investments include:

Ø $33 million to implement health care cost saving measures, such as electronic medical records and access to primary care;
Ø $6.5 million investment to focus on the treatment and prevention of substance abuse;
Ø $21.3 million for Community Policing Grants, and $4 million in Municipal Police Grants to put more police on the street;
Ø $3.5 million for youth violence prevention grants –a Senate initiative first included in the FY08 budget;
Ø $13 million for the Shannon anti-gang violence grants – the first time the Shannon grants have been included in the operating budget;
Ø An 8.1 percent increase in housing programs, to help low-income families afford to stay in their communities, and includes $10 million to work toward ending homelessness in the Commonwealth;
Ø $20 million for the community first initiative, which will to allow seniors to choose to receive care without leaving their communities,
Ø $57.5 million for the funding for the prescription advantage program;
Ø $12 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program to help cover the growing need for food assistance.
Ø $5 million to expand universal pre-kindergarten;
Ø $17.5 million for Extended Learning Time allowing for an additional 3,000 students to expand their school day or year in FY 2009;
Ø $5 million for the early education rate reserve to provide salary to child care professionals;
Ø $21.6 million for the METCO program.

The Senate has also continued its commitment to Massachusetts ’ 351 cities and towns, making an early agreement with the House of Representatives to provide a significant increase in local aid, even in the face of a huge deficit. This increase includes $223 million more in Chapter 70 education funding, fulfilling year three of the 5-year reform plan. The Legislature also committed to level funding the full $935 million municipalities receive from lottery sales despite a $124 million shortfall.

The Senate budget also creates the E lderly and Disabled Person’s Tax Relief Outreach Program, a program that I strongly supported. This program would assist elderly and disabled residents of the commonwealth in obtaining information about available options designed to provide limited relief from state and local taxes. Administered by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the commissioner of the Department of Revenue, the program would:

Ø create and distribute literature outlining all tax relief programs for the elderly and disabled, including those providing relief from state and local taxes and describing the benefits and eligibility criteria for each option;
Ø organize presentations and workshops to better facilitate the awareness and education of elderly and disabled persons in the tax-related issues that concern them, what relief is available to them and the application process for such relief programs; and
Ø create and maintain a statewide toll free telephone number staffed by individuals qualified to inform and advise interested and potentially eligible persons about available options designed to provide limited relief from state and local taxes.

During the debate, the Senate approved my proposal to further study the options and impacts of expanded gaming. The Senate also agreed to an amendment that would change the name of the Department of Mental Retardation to the Department of Developmental Services.

The Senate and House of Representatives will now negotiate a compromise budget. The 2009 fiscal year begins July 1st.

Massachusetts Family Networks

A vital program that provides family support services was rescued by the Senate after $5.4 million was added to the state budget. The Massachusetts Family Network program supports families with young children, prenatal through three years of age. The Senate recognized that the Family Network has established an important place in the lives of young families and we want to make certain that it continues. The Family Network program provides a variety of high quality family support services and programs that are free of charge including access to family centers, home visits; child development information; health and developmental screenings; family literacy activities; and training to enhance parenting skills to enhance their children’s development.

Tax Fairness

On May 6th, the Senate approved legislation to modernize and simplify the Commonwealth’s corporate tax structure.

The Senate proposal adopts the “check-the-box” reform to prevent corporations from claiming one status for Massachusetts taxes and another for federal and other-state taxes. It also adopts “combined reporting” to prevent multi-state businesses from moving their Massachusetts income to affiliates in lower-tax areas.

These reforms will bring the Commonwealth in line with its competitor states, making Massachusetts the last in the nation to adopt “check-the-box” and the 23rd state to implement combined reporting.

The bill will now go back to the House for further action.

Landmark Oceans Management Bill

On May 22nd, the Senate took final action on its landmark “oceans bill” that will allow Massachusetts to establish a management plan for its territorial waters and ensure a public voice in future ocean development projects. The House of Representatives concurred on the Senate’s action, which means the bill is headed to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk and expected to become law.

The House version of the bill differed slightly from the Senate’s, but compromise legislation was hammered out and emerged from conference committee earlier this month.

This is a significant piece of legislation for the Commonwealth that provides safeguards for the health and oversight of our oceans and specific guidelines for development projects. Just as we have well-established laws for the use of our land, it’s about time that we have a framework and process in place to protect one of the Commonwealth’s greatest assets.

The compromise bill is a balanced, comprehensive piece of legislation that represents the best interests of both the Senate and the House. The highlights of the compromise bill include:

Ø The use of an ocean management plan incorporating the best available scientific understandings of marine and ocean resources, mapping, monitoring, and other data.
Ø Under the authority of the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the management plan would be developed by a 16-member commission, which will include state agency representatives, legislators, municipal officials, and environmental, fishing and industry stakeholders.
Ø The final plan will guide how state environmental agencies interpret, monitor and enforce the environmental laws of the Commonwealth and set a standard framework to judge future ocean development proposals for state-owned waters which encompass approximately three nautical miles from the coastline.
Ø The legislation permits the development of appropriately-scaled renewable energy sources in areas identified in, and in a manner consistent with, the ocean management plan.

The legislation also provides safeguards for the treatment of fisheries, recognizing the central role that commercial and recreational fishing plays in our economy.

The bill sets up an ocean science advisory council of marine scientists, non-profits, government agencies and fishing interests to assist the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in analyzing Massachusetts ’ ocean resources.

Roundup

State Grants

Got a bunch this month, so hang on!

Agricultural Marketing Grants

On May 20th, the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) announced that nearly $300,000 in grant funding will be disbursed to 36 organizations, including eight in my district, for innovative marketing proposals that promote local agriculture under the 2008 Massachusetts Agricultural Marketing Grants program.

The Agricultural Marketing Grants are awarded to projects that promote and enhance the Commonwealth’s agricultural industry. This year’s awardees include organizations that seek to promote long-term viability and vibrancy of the Massachusetts agricultural community through education, new marketing techniques, and promotion of "buy local" initiatives.

In selecting awardees, the DAR looked for projects that met at least one of the following criteria: promotes Massachusetts agriculture; educates consumers about Massachusetts agriculture or products; increases the economic potential of the state’s farming industry; or offers technical marketing assistance to one or more agricultural entities. The department gave special consideration to proposals aimed at contributing to the development of new or alternative agricultural products or pursuits, increasing opportunities for direct sales, and enhancing opportunities for farmer and public participation in Massachusetts agricultural fairs.

A list of this year’s recipients in my district and a description of their proposals is below. My congratulations to these organizations, and to everyone who contributes to the success of "buy local" efforts.

Organization: American Farmland Trust
Town: Northampton
Project: Municipal Resource Guide For Agriculture
Grant Amount: $8,787.00
Project Description: A comprehensive resource guide to provide Agricultural Commissions and local officials with the tools needed to make their communities farm-friendly

Organization: Three County Fair
Town: Northampton
Project: Three County Fair Marketing and Signage
Grant Amount: $3,500.00
Project Description: Internet advertising to promote the market to young people

Organization: Belchertown Farmers’ Market and More
Town: Belchertown
Project: Marketing the Market
Grant Amount: $2,000.00
Project Description: To continue the growth of the Farmers’ Market though developing marketing material and creating a financial structure for the Market.

Organization: The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
Town: Hatfield
Project: Concerned Citizens of Mason Square Farmers’ Market
Grant Amount: $10,450.00
Project Description: To expand a farmers’ market in Mason Square Springfield , a disadvantaged inner-city neighborhood that has significantly high rates of hunger and food insecurity.

Organization: Massachusetts Woodlands Cooperative
Town: South Deerfield
Project: Collaborative Print / Radio / Internet and Agricultural Fair Marketing for Small Agricultural Enterprises
Grant Amount: $13,000.00
Project Description: To develop an integrated marketing strategy; expand the website to include individualized web pages that describe agricultural products and services available from Coop. Members; provide access to the website for coop members so that they can update their pages; advertise in regional media and at an agricultural fair; gather data of web site visitors and Coop sales

Organization: Greenfield Farmers’ Market
Town: Greenfield
Project: Marketing a Hidden Gem in Franklin County: The Greenfield Farmers’ Market
Grant Amount: $12,860.00
Project Description: Develop a comprehensive marketing plan that includes development of an identity and message, marketing tools, promotional campaign, outreach and education. In addition, the market will be enhanced as a “destination” by featuring live music and cooking demonstrations

Organization: Massachusetts Farm Wineries and Growers’ Association
Town: South Deerfield
Project: Strategic Marketing Plan
Grant Amount: $19,350.00
Project Description: Participation in Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism Annual meeting, develop a public relations program to promote wineries, participation at the Boston Wine Expo in 2009, participate in culinary and restaurant shows, develop materials to assist wineries in the regulatory process.

Organization: Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
Town: South Deerfield
Project: Capturing on-line consumer interest in for Massachusetts Agriculture
Grant Amount: $8,000.00
Project Description: To create an on-line farm products guide to help farmers’ develop their e-business marketing tools and websites by creating a mechanism to drive consumers directly to the pages of local farms.

Transportation Routing Software Grants

On May 20th, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education awarded a statewide total of $400,000 in transportation routing software grants to serve approximately 140,00 students. Here are the grants that were awarded in my district:

Ø Belchertown Public Schools: $16,694
Ø Mohawk Regional School: $10,199

Commonwealth Solar

On May 8th, North Star Farms in Northfield received a $225,750 award from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative's Commonwealth Solar for the installation of solar panels. Commonwealth Solar is available to homeowners, businesses, non-profits, and municipal customers located in investor owned utility areas of the Commonwealth. Awards will be made approximately twice per month while funding is available. The award is in the form of a rebate from the state’s Renewable Energy Trust and the Alternative Compliance Payment funds that the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources has collected under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard program.

Mass. Technology Collaborative

On April 29th, the Mass. Technology Collaborative made the following grants from its Renewable Energy Trust Fund:
Ø The Southworth Paper Company of Turners Falls was awarded a $38,000 grant to investigate the feasibility of replacing and modernizing the old turbine/generator set.
Ø Erving Paper Mills, Inc., subsidiary of Erving Industries, in Erving, will use a $125,000 design and construction grant to prepare a schematic design of a renewable CHP solution that best satisfies its energy requirements, delivers the most favorable financial savings and establishes the greatest sustainable energy plan.
Ø Mapleline Farm, High Lawn Farm, and Shaw Farm will use a $225,000 design and construction grant to install an anaerobic digester and gen-set. REC’s, carbon credits, and bedding from a mixture of manure and organic waste will be utilized by all three farms; this demonstration project will be a replicable model for smaller-scale distributed generation on Massachusetts dairy farms. Dairies with on-site processing have unique energy and waste disposal needs that, when matched with appropriate digester technology, can result in energy production greater than conventional digesters. This project will also include the capacity to add organic waste which will boost biogas and electricity production, while providing a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to landfill disposal of organic waste. Compared to other types of renewable technologies, digesters have the added benefits of significant GHG reductions through methane capture, improved dairy waste management with air and water quality benefits, and the production of bedding for cows. This project will demonstrate successful technology for the small to mid-size farms in GDEP, which are representative of the Commonwealth’s dairy industry.
Ø Greenfield Community College will use a $9,500 grant to install solar panels

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lifelong illnesses feared for children in Katrina trailers - FEMA and CDC criticized on delay in moving tenants.

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"Lifelong illnesses feared for children in Katrina trailers: FEMA and CDC criticized on delay in moving tenants"
By John Moreno Gonzales, Associated Press, May 28, 2008

BAY ST. LOUIS, MISS. - The anguish of Hurricane Katrina should have ended for Gina Bouffanie and her daughter when they left their FEMA trailer. But with each hospital visit and each labored breath her child takes, the young mother fears it has just begun.

"It's just the sickness. I can't get rid of it. It just keeps coming back," said Bouffanie, 27, who was pregnant with her now 15-month-old daughter, Lexi, while living in the trailer. "I'm just like, Oh God, I wish like this would stop.' If I had known it would get her sick, I wouldn't have stayed in the trailer for so long."

The girl, diagnosed with severe asthma, must inhale medicine from a breathing device.

Doctors cannot conclusively link her asthma to the trailer. But they fear she is among tens of thousands of youngsters who may face lifelong health problems because the temporary housing supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency contained formaldehyde fumes up to five times the safe level.

The chemical, used in interior glue, was detected in many of the 143,000 trailers sent to the Gulf Coast in 2006. But a push to get residents out of them, spearheaded by FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not begin until this past February.

Members of Congress and CDC insiders say the agencies' delay in recognizing the danger is being compounded by studies that will be virtually useless and the lack of a plan to treat children as they grow.

"It's tragic that when people most need the protection, they are actually going from one disaster to a health disaster that might be considered worse," said Christopher De Rosa, assistant director for toxicology and risk assessment at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC. "Given the longer-term implications of exposure that went on for a significant period of time, people should be followed through time for possible effects."

Formaldehyde is classified as a probable carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance, by the Environmental Protection Agency. There is no way to measure formaldehyde in the bloodstream. Respiratory problems are an early sign of exposure.

Young children are at particular risk. Thousands who lived in trailers will be in the prime of life in the 10 to 15 years doctors believe it takes cancer to develop.

FEMA and CDC reports so far have drawn criticism.

A CDC study released May 8 examined records of 144 Mississippi children, some of whom lived in trailers and others who did not. But the study was confined to children who had at least one doctor's visit for respiratory illness before Katrina.

It was largely inconclusive, finding children who went to doctors before the August 2005 storm were still visiting them two years after.

A bigger, five-year CDC study will include up to 5,000 children in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas, and CDC officials said it should begin next year. But members of Congress point to the decade or longer it could take for cancer to develop and say a five-year look is inadequate.

"Monitoring the health of a few thousand children over the course of a few years is a step in the right direction, but we need commitment," said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi.

Thompson has introduced legislation to force FEMA and CDC to provide health exams for trailer residents who believe formaldehyde made them ill.

The bill is similar to $108 million legislation for workers who labored at the World Trade Center site.

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www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/05/28/lifelong_illnesses_feared_for_children_in_katrina_trailers/
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Tens of thousands of people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast in 2005 are still living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (DANNY JOHNSTON/ASSOCIATED PRESS/ FILE 2007)
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"Report details trailer woes: Wood products emitting fumes in FEMA units"
By Maggie Fox, Reuters, July 3, 2008

WASHINGTON - Pressed-wood products such as particle board are the main source of irritating formaldehyde fumes in trailers being used to house disaster victims, according to a US government report released yesterday.

Such temporary housing should be designed with better ventilation, the report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests, and current health and safety standards may not be enough to protect people.

"Even though construction materials meet standards . . . you have to be a little bit careful about how you use those construction materials," said Glen Nowak, CDC spokesman. "You could end up fostering high levels of formaldehyde."

Tens of thousands of people displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast in 2005 are still living in such trailers, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending hundreds more to people displaced by Midwestern flooding.

James Kaplan, FEMA spokesman, said the mobile homes being sent to people displaced by flooding had been tested for formaldehyde levels.

The CDC contracted with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California to cut open several trailers and measure concentrations of formaldehyde and other irritating chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds.

"We refer to it internally as the chain saw study," Nowak said. "We went beyond formaldehyde and looked at levels of other volatile organic compounds. Were there certain parts of the trailer - walls, ceiling, floors, cabinets - that made a greater contribution to the levels of formaldehyde in these trailers?"

Not surprisingly, the scientists found that processed-wood products such as particleboard and plywood were the main source of formaldehyde. They did not find other chemicals at significant levels.

Formaldehyde, used to manufacture many building materials, can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High exposure levels may cause cancer.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development identified particleboard and plywood as two of the largest sources of formaldehyde emissions in 1985 and set standards for manufactured homes to limit them.

Nowak said all the relevant agencies would meet to discuss what to do.

"It has implications for FEMA as FEMA looks at emergency housing," Nowak said. "One of the factors they need to consider is indoor air quality and the construction materials used in the ventilation systems."

An earlier CDC study showed the average level of formaldehyde in trailers and mobile homes was about 77 parts per billion, a level high enough to increase the odds of cancer and respiratory diseases.

The Manufactured Housing Institute said gypsum board was now used in 95 percent of walls and ceilings in manufactured housing.

Michael McGeehin, director of CDC's Division of Environmental Health Hazards, said the findings applied only to trailers distributed by FEMA in the Gulf Coast region.

"However, taken together, the two studies indicate that manufacturers of travel trailers and the government agencies that influence their design should consider using construction materials that emit lower levels of formaldehyde as well as designs that increase outside air ventilation," McGeehin said in a statement.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans a hearing on the issue next Wednesday.

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www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2008/07/03/report_details_trailer_woes/
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"FEMA seeks immunity from suits over trailers"
By Michael Kunzelman, Associated Press, July 24, 2008

NEW ORLEANS - The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked a federal judge yesterday for immunity from lawsuits over potentially dangerous fumes in government-issued trailers that have housed tens of thousands of Gulf Coast hurricane victims.

Lawyers for victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita accuse FEMA of negligence for sheltering them in trailers with elevated levels of formaldehyde, a preservative used in construction materials that can cause health problems.

But a government lawyer told US District Judge Kurt Engelhardt that the FEMA's decisions in responding to a disaster, including its use of travel trailers after Katrina, are legally protected from "judicial second-guessing."

"It is what the legislative branch is supposed to second guess, and they are doing that," Department of Justice attorney Henry Miller said, referring to a series of congressional hearings on formaldehyde concerns.

Plaintiffs lawyer Gerald Meunier said FEMA can be held liable for providing hurricane victims with trailers that didn't meet federal safety standards and weren't designed to be long-term housing.

"Some of these people are still living in these trailers almost three years later," Meunier said.

Engelhardt took FEMA's request for immunity under advisement.

The judge is presiding over several consolidated cases filed against the federal government and the companies that supplied FEMA with tens of thousands of trailers after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, and Rita struck about a month later.

The lawsuits accuse trailer makers of providing FEMA with shoddily built units in a rush to meet the agency's demand for emergency housing. Plaintiffs also say FEMA ignored concerns about formaldehyde levels in trailers for months after Katrina.

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"FEMA fuel storage threatening water: Underground tanks require inspection"
The Associated Press, Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government owns hundreds of underground fuel tanks — many designed for emergencies back in the Cold War — that need to be inspected for leaks of hazardous substances that could be making local water undrinkable.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has known since at least the 1990s that tanks under its supervision around the country could be leaking fuel into soil and groundwater, according to Associated Press interviews and research.

The agency knows of at least 150 underground tanks that need to be inspected for leaks, according to spokeswoman Debbie Wing. FEMA also is trying to determine by September whether an additional 124 tanks are underground or above ground and whether they are leaking.

There has been no documentation of reported leaks or harm to communities from the FEMA tanks, Wing said, although former agency officials and congressional testimony suggest that the federal tanks have long been seen as a problem.

Many of these tanks were built to store 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel and placed around the country at the height of the Cold War back in the 1960s to fuel electric generators that could sustain emergency broadcasts by radio stations in case of a nuclear attack or other catastrophe. Made of steel, the tanks inevitably rust over time and allow fuel to escape.

Steel tanks left in the ground for decades rot like Swiss cheese, said Pat Coyne, director of business development for Environmental Data Resources Inc. Coyne said a joke in the industry is: "What percentage of steel tanks leak? 100 percent!"

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the government insisted on better-made tanks. The underground tanks of today must have safety measures including leak detection and an extra shell made with material resistant to gasoline, diesel and ethanol, Coyne said.

The FEMA tanks are part of a larger problem. More than 500,000 leaking storage tanks — most of which are filled with fuel and oil — are buried across the country, according to Environmental Data Resources, based in Milford, Conn. That's about half of all the underground tanks in the country, the consulting company says. Those tanks are owned privately or by local, state and federal agencies.

Because they're underground, leaking tanks can go undetected for years. If diesel leaks into drinking water, affected people could be at a higher risk of cancer, kidney damage and nervous system disorders, said Rochelle Cardinale, one of the lead coordinators for underground tank cleanup in Iowa. A gallon of fuel can contaminate 1 million gallons of water.

FEMA says the hundreds of federal tanks have not always been its responsibility. The Federal Communications Commission also has had oversight, although FCC spokesman Clyde Ensslin said the commission believed FEMA was responsible for monitoring and maintaining the tanks. FEMA said it spent $8 million in the 1990s removing and repairing some of them.

FEMA now acknowledges that it is the agency responsible for all of the tanks in question.

But Senate testimony from 1992 suggests FEMA has long tried to avoid having to deal with the tanks.

"For years FEMA resisted acknowledging the problem or seeking funds for remediation," former FEMA union president Leo Bosner said in 1992 before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

He said then there were more than 2,000 underground oil storage tanks that FEMA had paid for or acquired over the years. But FEMA came out with a legal opinion that year concluding that it wasn't responsible for the tanks.

Congress eventually decided it didn't matter which agency owned the tanks — FEMA would fund tank inspection, removal and replacement, said Bill Cumming, who at the time ran FEMA's ethics program.

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"FEMA: Government wasted cash on contracts"
The Associated Press, Thursday, September 11, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government wasted millions of dollars on four no-bid contracts it handed out for Hurricane Katrina work, including paying $20 million for a camp for evacuees that was never inspected and proved to be unusable, investigators say.

A report by the Homeland Security Department's office of inspector general, obtained yesterday by The Associated Press, is the latest to detail mismanagement in the multibillion-dollar Katrina hurricane recovery effort, which investigators have said wasted at least $1 billion.

The review examined temporary housing contracts awarded without competition to Shaw Group Inc., Bechtel Group Inc., CH2M Hill Companies Ltd. and Fluor Corp. in the days immediately before and after the August 2005 storm that smashed into the U.S. Gulf Coast.

It found that FEMA wasted at least $45.9 million on the four contracts, which together were initially worth $400 million. FEMA subsequently raised the total amounts for the four contracts twice, both times without competition, to $2 billion and then $3 billion.

FEMA did not always properly review the invoices submitted by the four companies, exposing taxpayers to significant waste and fraud, investigators wrote. In many cases, the agency also issued open-ended contract instructions for months without clear guidelines on what work needed to be done and the appropriate charges.

"We question how FEMA determined that the amounts invoiced were allowable and reasonable," the IG report states, warning that its review was limited in scope, so additional waste and fraud might yet to be found.

Responding, FEMA said it generally agreed with the IG report and would further investigate the $45.9 million in questioned costs and recoup the money as necessary. FEMA said it has taken several steps to improve its disaster response since the 2005 storm, such as requiring a standard invoice form and better tracking inventory.

The agency also noted that the four no-bid contracts were rebid on a competitive basis in August 2006. The contracts were subsequently awarded to six companies, including Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill and Fluor, which received the original no-bid agreements.

"As FEMA works toward refining its programs, the office of inspector general's independent analysis of program performance greatly benefits our ability to continuously improve our activities," wrote Marko Bourne, director of FEMA's office of policy and program analysis.

According to the report, FEMA tasked Fluor with arranging a "base camp" to house up to 300,000 Katrina evacuees as the hurricane neared the Gulf Coast. FEMA's request required Fluor to conduct a site inspection before ordering tents, but Fluor did not do so and FEMA subsequently found the site to be unusable.

Still, Fluor charged FEMA $20 million for the tents, which FEMA paid. The IG said that figure included $8.7 million to cancel the lease and for other questionable expenses despite Fluor's failure to perform its obligations. The report questioned FEMA's decision to pay the $8.7 million without further review.

Other findings:

. Fluor did not always notify FEMA when it conducted emergency maintenance as required, such as replacing air-conditioning units, refrigerators and propane tanks. Fluor said it received approval from FEMA to perform the emergency work without notice, but no evidence exists that FEMA authorized it.

. FEMA lacked a real-time inventory system to ensure that property attained and maintained by the four contractors, such as trailers, was properly accounted for.

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"Ex-FEMA worker gets 5 years in fraud"
December 6, 2008

WASHINGTON - A former FEMA worker who stole the identities of disaster victims to go on shopping sprees, which a federal judge called "low down," was sentenced yesterday to more than five years in federal prison.

Robert G. Davis, 44, of the District of Columbia, got 64 months in prison from US District Judge Reggie Walton, and was ordered to pay $48,765.80 in restitution.

He pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

"I made a mistake by doing this. I'm extremely sorry," David said.

But an angry Walton said Davis deserved the sentence because he preyed on people who were already devastated by natural disasters.

"Rather than trying to help these people, you hurt them even more," said Walton, describing it as akin to kicking a homeless person. "That's low down. It really is."

Davis stole the identities of over 200 people while working at several mortgage companies and with natural disaster victims while at the Federal Emergency Management Agency from December 2003 to November 2007. About 30 of those people had given their information to FEMA as part of their applications for disaster relief.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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"Bush comments on Katrina sound sour in New Orleans"
Associated Press, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - President George W. Bush can defend the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina. But to Gertrude LeBlanc, the view from her home in the city's Lower 9th Ward is all the evidence she needs to believe it was a failure.

A row of concrete foundations is all that's left where her neighbors' houses once stood.

"Bush didn't give a damn what we got," said the 73-year-old, who says she rebuilt her bright yellow house with the neat yard with help from a church group and the "little bit" in federal aid she got from the state-run program meant to help hurricane-affected homeowners, Road Home.

"To me, black folks weren't handled right, but we can't worry about it. We have to do the best we can."

When Bush leaves office next week, New Orleans will still show the scars of Hurricane Katrina, which slammed ashore on Aug. 29, 2005. LeBlanc's neighborhood is still largely uninhabited, with weeds tall around some decrepit houses and roads cracked and warped. In some neighborhoods, apartment buildings and businesses are empty. Some houses still bear the haunting markings left by search teams in the frantic aftermath of the storm.

Bush, in some of his last comments before leaving office, said Monday at a news conference that he stood behind the federal government's response to Katrina, even though he admitted once again that some things could have been done differently and acknowledged there's still more work to do. Those words stung for people still living in the aftermath of the storm, still waiting for neighbors to come home.

"More people need to have their own home there," Bush said. "But the systems are in place to continue the reconstruction in New Orleans. You know, people said, 'Well, the federal response was slow.' Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed."

The comment drew an at-times exasperated response from residents like LeBlanc and government leaders, some of whom believe federal bureaucracy is still choking recovery efforts.

"Clearly there were mistakes made at every level of government, and I and other Louisiana leaders have accepted responsibility for our own," Sen. Mary Landrieu said. "But no state is equipped to respond to a catastrophe of this magnitude, and for this reason, federal law specifically tasks the federal government to step up. It did not, and the president's failure to account for that responsibility more than three years later is terribly disappointing."

Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the Democrat in office when the storm hit, said state and local officials and volunteers played a major role in the rescue effort.

"President Bush is totally wrong about the federal response," said Blanco, who didn't seek re-election after her image was battered following the state's response to both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "It was absolutely too slow in those early, critical days."

Residents here have levied criticism at every level of government since the storm, not just the White House. After levees failed during Katrina, an estimated 80 percent of New Orleans was under water. The surrounding area and parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast were essentially wiped out. A massive military presence didn't arrive until days after the storm, and the storm is blamed in the death of more than 1,600 people across Louisiana and Mississippi.

A tug-of-war between federal, state and local government has persisted in the years since. State and local officials have complained about red tape tied to aid programs, and Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that a backlog of infrastructure project worksheets under appeal or in dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency "continues to hinder the recovery efforts of our communities that cannot finish rebuilding their schools and police and fire stations."

Residents who've returned have dealt with red tape, too, and in New Orleans, there are also issues of crime and a still-rebuilding health care system.

Since the 2005 hurricanes, the Bush administration said the federal government has set aside more than $126 billion for rebuilding and recovery. And progress is being made, including in rebuilding the levee system that protects New Orleans.

The federal government "has been a good partner in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, and we appreciate the efforts of both the Bush administration and the Congress in the wake of the worst natural disaster in America's history," Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, said.

Bush's hurricane recovery chief, retired Maj. Gen. Doug O'Dell, said last month he believed the federal government had provided ample resources to Louisiana and Mississippi to do the needed work, and the signs of those resources are showing now.

But some still aren't convinced. "It's getting to the point it's almost like a forgotten cause," said the Rev. Terrence Ranson, who believes Bush hasn't lived up to the promises of a rebuilding he made during a speech from empty Jackson Square weeks after Katrina.

Melanie Ehrlich, a resident and frequent critic of the state-run Road Home program, said that residents, not government at any level, have rebuilt the city.

"They've done this in spite of a response by the federal government that has been too slow and much more concerned about bureaucratic rules that did not fit with this historic disaster," she said.

The Katrina response "is still a national disgrace, and New Orleans, in many places, still looks like a war-torn city."

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In this Aug. 19, 2008 file photo, Florida emergency management Craig Fugate, left, accompanied by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, briefs reporters in Tallahassee, Fla. Fugate is President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File).
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"Obama picks Florida's Fugate to head FEMA"
By EILEEN SULLIVAN and BRENT KALLESTAD, Associated Press Writers, news.yahoo.com, March 4, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Wednesday (March 4, 2009) tapped Florida emergency manager Craig Fugate to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, turning to a Republican appointee who has steered the Southern state through numerous hurricanes since 2001.

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said he plans to nominate Fugate who will help the administration "improve our preparedness, response and recovery efforts."

Obama said Fugate will travel with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to the Gulf Coast on Thursday to meet with local officials still struggling to recover from 2005 hurricanes.

Fugate, who faces Senate confirmation once he is nominated, has been director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management since 2001, chosen by former Gov. Jeb Bush. He was retained by current Gov. Charlie Crist. Both governors are Republicans.

Before that, Fugate was the agency's assistant director for more than four years.

Fugate has been praised for helping guide Florida through several devastating hurricanes in the past decade. He was criticized in 2005 for not distributing enough ice, water and other supplies immediately after Hurricane Wilma. Fugate had warned residents before the storm that they should have enough supplies for three days after it passed, but many did not and that overstressed the system.

Napolitano called Fugate one of the most experienced emergency managers in the country.

"The work he's accomplished in Florida serves as a model for other states," Napolitano said in a statement. "He will be a tremendous asset to FEMA and it's employees."

After Hurricane Katrina, Fugate said there was too much focus on blaming the federal government for the botched response. He said in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press that it was the state's responsibility to prepare for such disasters, and the state should only turn to the federal government for help when the disaster is larger than the state can handle on its own.

Fugate's department was held up as a national model after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He said then that the state had been preparing extensively for the threat of terrorism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and had done exercises for several possibilities, including cruise missile attacks.

Obama's decision to name Fugate drew praise from Florida lawmakers and the International Association of Emergency Managers, which represents local emergency managers around the country.

Since Hurricane Katrina, when FEMA arrived both late and unprepared, the agency has been under intense public scrutiny and Congress passed a law requiring the head of FEMA to have emergency management experience.

During Katrina, the agency couldn't track supplies or get those it had to the right place. FEMA was unable to provide then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other top federal officials with accurate or timely information from the area hit by Katrina, particularly about inhumane conditions confronting victims who sought shelter at New Orleans' Superdome and convention center.

FEMA's past administrator, R. David Paulison, who came on shortly after Katrina, said Fugate is the right choice for the job. "There are few people around the world that have the type of disaster experience that Craig Fugate has," Paulison said.

Paulison said Fugate's biggest immediate challenges are how to house catastrophic disaster victims who are displaced from their homes and how to make the long-term recovery process more efficient.

Thousands of victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are still living in temporary housing 3 1/2 years after the storms. Katrina was blamed for more than 1,600 deaths and $41 billion in property damage.

Paulison predicted that Fugate will be shocked when confronted by the federal bureaucracy when he takes over FEMA.

"The bureaucracy up there is tremendous," Paulison said of the federal government. "It can be very frustrating to get things done."

Fugate has been critical of the Homeland Security Department over the years. In a 2006 letter to a high-ranking homeland official, Fugate slammed the department's review of hurricane preparedness exercises for Florida's region. "The products are wonderful in terms of color enhancement, texture, physical craftmanship, etc.," Fugate wrote, sarcastically. But, he said, the reviews did not reflect the work Florida had done to respond to Hurricane Katrina.
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Associated Press Writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report. Kallestad reported from Tallahassee, Fla.
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"FEMA nominee promises to improve agency response"
By EILEEN SULLIVAN, The Associated Press, Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's pick to head FEMA promised senators Wednesday that he would hold the disaster relief agency to a much higher standard than it displayed in the wake of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes.

Craig Fugate and John Morton _ Obama's choice to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement _ cruised through their Senate hearings Wednesday and appeared on a fast track for confirmation.

FEMA was widely criticized for its botched response to Katrina when the federal government showed up late and unprepared. Since then, the question has been: Is the FEMA response better than it was in 2005? The answer has been yes, though no disaster has been nearly as catastrophic as Katrina.

"Although the media may use the failures of Katrina and Rita as a standard of measurement for judging the effectiveness of government, this standard does not, in my opinion, meet our sworn commitment to the American people," Fugate said in written testimony.

Fugate previously served as head of emergency management in Florida where he worked for two Republican governors. In that position, he oversaw a staff of 138. If confirmed to head FEMA, he would oversee more than 3,500 employees.

Fugate has been praised for helping guide Florida through several devastating hurricanes in the past decade. He was criticized in 2005 for not distributing enough ice, water and other supplies immediately after Hurricane Wilma. Fugate had warned residents before the storm that they should have enough supplies for three days after it passed, but many did not, and that overstressed the system.

During questioning by senators, Morton said one of his top priorities would be immigrant detention policies and improving how they are treated while in U.S. custody.

"The power of detention is a very important power," Morton said. But he said the agency needs to "take a hard look" at whether the people who are being detained have committed crimes or pose a flight risk.

Morton is currently a senior official at the Justice Department. Throughout his career he has worked on immigration enforcement cases, both as a trial attorney at the now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service and as an assistant U.S. attorney.

Echoing what Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been saying, Morton said going after the employers who hire illegal workers would be the agency's focus under his leadership. He said he is concerned that during the Bush administration there was "an imbalance" between the number of employers prosecuted and the number of workers prosecuted. In 2008, the agency brought criminal charges against 135 employers and 968 workers.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, said he hoped the nominees would be confirmed as early as next week. Lieberman is a Connecticut independent who organized with Senate Democrats.

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"FEMA unveils its new disaster trailer"
By Associated Press, May 15, 2009

EMMITSBURG, Md. - A fleet of newly designed mobile homes was rolled out here yesterday by federal officials to replace the much-criticized travel trailers used after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The new mobile homes - six models were designed - were built as part of a $400 million federal program overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The new models were being toured by FEMA officials. The trailers have been tested and meet FEMA standards for safe formaldehyde levels.

After Katrina, 1 million people lost their homes in Louisiana and Mississippi. FEMA sent thousands of mobile homes into the region only to learn later of high levels of formaldehyde, a preservative used in building materials that can lead to breathing problems and is also believed to cause cancer.

Residents of FEMA-issued trailers reported frequent headaches, nosebleeds, and other ailments.

There is no industry standard for the amount of formaldehyde allowed in travel trailers. The government sets standards for indoor air quality for materials used to build mobile homes, but not for travel trailers.

Government tests in 2007 found an average of 77 parts formaldehyde per billion parts of air in FEMA trailers issued after the 2005 hurricanes. FEMA's standard for the new trailers is 16 parts formaldehyde or less per billion parts of air.

By FEMA's count, 2,570 trailers and mobile homes are still being used in Louisiana and 1,500 in Mississippi to house victimes of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

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A recent GAO report concluded that FEMA has not clarified multiple agencies' roles in large-scale disasters. (David J. Phillip -- Associated Press)
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"GAO Cites FEMA Preparedness Gaps: Agency Making Progress, Report Says"
By Steve Vogel, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, June 8, 2009

Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to clarify the responsibilities of different agencies that would respond to such disasters, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.

One result is that FEMA lacks assurances that the agencies have improved preparedness since the deadly hurricane in August 2005 exposed numerous flaws in the nation's readiness for large-scale catastrophes.

Among the gaps revealed by the disaster were confusion about the roles of federal, state and local officials; limitations in the help provided to those with special needs, such as nursing home residents; and problems providing food, water and other goods to victims.

Legislation passed by Congress in October 2006 in the aftermath of Katrina charged FEMA with responsibility for developing and implementing a national preparedness system that would ensure the mistakes are not repeated.

The GAO report, which was released last month, finds that while FEMA has made progress in developing such a system, it lacks a plan for assessing improvements.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, said in its response to the GAO report that it generally concurs with the recommendations and is already taking steps to improve.

But the department said that because FEMA lacks authority over other federal agencies and departments or state and local governments, it is unfair to expect the agency to compel compliance with the national preparedness system.

"There is . . . a concern that in a number of areas the report suggests that DHS/FEMA should hold other federal agencies and departments or state, local or tribal governments, accountable for compliance with program requirements," Jerald E. Levine, director of the DHS office responsible for working with GAO, wrote in the response.

The GAO conceded that FEMA lacks authority to compel other agencies to act but said FEMA should nonetheless "instill a shared sense of responsibility and accountability on the part of all stakeholders for the successful development and implementation of the national preparedness system."

The report noted that although the post-Katrina legislation requires FEMA to track corrective actions taken in response to training exercises, it has not done so effectively.

"Without such information, federal agencies cannot be held accountable for implementing corrective actions that aim to improve preparedness," the report said, adding that the problem is not new. A report from the White House in February 2006 said that DHS should ensure that all federal and state entities carry out remedial actions in a timely manner, according to the GAO.

FEMA has not coordinated with other federal departments and agencies to define how improvements will be monitored, according to the report. Based in part on the GAO inquiry, FEMA officials agreed in February that a program management plan should be established, the report added.

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"Jury: FEMA Trailer Didn't Expose Family To Fumes"
By The Associated Press, September 24, 2009

A federal jury on Thursday rejected a New Orleans family's claims that the government-issued trailer they lived in after Hurricane Katrina was defective and exposed them to dangerous fumes.

A jury of five men and three women decided that a trailer made by Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and occupied by Alana Alexander and her 12-year-old son, Christopher Cooper, was not "unreasonably dangerous" in its construction.

The jury also concluded that Fluor Enterprises Inc., which had a contract to install FEMA trailers, wasn't negligent in doing so. The federal government wasn't a defendant in this first of several "bellwether" trials.

After eight days of testimony, the jury heard closing arguments in the case against Gulf Stream Coach and Fluor Enterprises.

Alexander and Christopher lived in a FEMA trailer for 19 months after Hurricane Katrina damaged their home in August 2005.

Alexander's lawyers claimed elevated levels of formaldehyde in the family's trailer aggravated Cooper's asthma and increased his risk of getting cancer. Formaldehyde, a chemical commonly found in construction materials, can cause breathing problems and has been classified as a carcinogen.

Plaintiffs' attorneys accused Gulf Stream and other trailer makers of using shoddy materials and methods in a rush to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency's unprecedented demand for temporary shelters after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Gulf Stream denied its trailer jeopardized the health of Alexander and her family. Andrew Weinstock, a lawyer for the Nappanee, Ind.-based company, said FEMA had purchased thousands of trailers from Gulf Stream since 1992 without receiving any formaldehyde complaints until 2006.

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"FEMA's sale of Katrina trailers sparks criticism"
By Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post (Online) A01; March 13, 2010

In a giant auction, the federal government has agreed to sell for pennies on the dollar most of the 120,000 formaldehyde-tainted trailers it bought nearly five years ago for Hurricane Katrina victims. But the sale of the units, perhaps the most visible symbol of the government's bungled response to the hurricane, has triggered a new round of charges that it is endangering future buyers for years to come.

Consumer advocates and environmentalists are outraged that the government resold products it deemed unsafe to live in, saying warning stickers attached to the units will not keep people from misusing them.

Besides formaldehyde, units might be plagued by mold, mildew and propane gas leaks, FEMA acknowledged.

"Proceed with caution, extreme caution, if you are tempted to respond to what appears to be an attractive offer for a travel trailer or manufactured home," Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote in a consumer alert. He and others cautioned that the FEMA units could be resold many times, including over the Internet, and that unscrupulous sellers could remove warning labels or withhold information about the dangers.

This year, for example, building inspectors in Missouri discovered damaged FEMA units sold as scrap in a Fenton, Mo., mobile home park. The units were billed as housing even though their paperwork specified they were not to be occupied.

"What if Toyota ordered a recall, then simply put a sticker on its vehicles saying they were unfit to drive before reselling them?" said Becky Gillette, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club in Mississippi, which helped uncover the formaldehyde problem. "There's a double standard for the government."

The sale of the units will be completed by April 3, pending an antitrust review by the Justice Department, which has rarely reversed government auctions. In the meantime, the sale has drawn criticism from lawmakers upset about the loss of taxpayer dollars and from industry groups that say the fire sale is hurting their business.

FEMA officials defended the sale, noting that Congress has complained that the government has spent $220 million over three years to store vacant units. Wholesale buyers from the auction must sign contracts attesting that trailers will not be used, sold or advertised as housing, they said, and that trailers will carry a sticker saying, "Not to be used for housing."

Officials said that although formaldehyde could still be present in some units, they would be safe for occasional recreational use rather than round-the-clock living. They also say that, because most units are in such poor condition, people will not choose to live in them.

"I'm certainly hopeful we're approaching the end of the story for the Katrina units, which we have been maintaining in the hundreds and thousands of units, at the expense of taxpayers," said FEMA Associate Deputy Administrator David Garratt. "I'm hopeful we can reduce the inventory of units which we can no longer use, and actively maintain the units we can use in actual disasters."

But Marty Horine, a retired teacher from Clinton, Mo., cannot relate to FEMA's decision to resell flawed units. In summer 2007, days before congressional hearings publicized the formaldehyde problems, Horine paid about $6,000 for a 32-foot Gulfstream Cavalier FEMA trailer for her son to live in. Now she doesn't want him in it, but she worries that selling it "would be nothing but being mean to the next person."

"This is like history repeating itself," Horine said. "People are all going to buy them, move into them and then start getting sick."

FEMA's sale of nearly 93,000 towable trailers and more than 9,300 pad-mounted mobile homes drew high bids totaling $133 million, or about 7 cents on the dollar compared with what the government paid. The units were bundled into 11 huge lots and sold on Jan. 29 to bidders, whose identities have not been announced.

The decision to sell them in bulk, critics said, will glut a depressed market and keep them from being sold to individuals or donated to public agencies who could use them for storage or office space. It was also a bad business deal, some said, benefiting middlemen rather than the government.

"Taxpayers only lose in this scenario," said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), who on Friday called for congressional hearings into the auction.

The sale marks a fittingly contentious end to the federal government's ill-fated effort to house hurricane victims.

After Katrina displaced 770,000 Gulf Coast residents, the federal government embarked on what watchdog groups dubbed a "hurricane of waste." Lacking plans and contracting experts, FEMA spent $2.7 billion on 145,000 trailers and mobile homes. Many of the mobile homes, it turned out, could not be placed near the coast, under FEMA's own rules.

The agency rushed production of the trailers, with few safety specifications. Then, over nearly two years, FEMA officials suppressed internal warnings that there were health problems among 300,000 trailer occupants -- what lawmakers later called an "official policy of premeditated ignorance" -- before declaring that trailers should be abandoned in early 2008.

When they finally conducted tests, officials found formaldehyde levels in trailers five times greater than the average in most modern homes, and in some cases 40 times greater.

Formaldehyde, an industrial chemical widely used in wood, housing products and many other applications, including treatment for some clothing, can cause nasal cancer and worsens respiratory problems, studies show.

The mass sale came four weeks after a federal judge lifted a ban on the sale of some trailers, which are part of litigation brought by 40,000 former Katrina occupants against FEMA and the manufacturers.

FEMA officials "are shoveling the whole thing under the carpet to make it go away," said Scott E. Pepperman, executive director of the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property.

For the future, FEMA has set tight formaldehyde limits on new trailers it buys and overhauled disaster contracts to strengthen quality control.

But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still have not issued a contract for a long-promised study of the health effects on children who lived in trailers; no binding safety standards for formaldehyde in housing have been set; and FEMA is still fleshing out how it would manage housing in a future Katrina-scale catastrophe.

Aaron Mortrud, general manager of Greenlawn Homes of Columbus, Ohio, said the family-owned commercial real estate company was FEMA's single high bidder, offering $27 million for just more than 15,000 units stored in Hope, Ark. -- or $1,830 on average.

Formaldehyde in trailers is a "non-topic" among consumers, he said, adding that responsible sellers have all the required paperwork and disclosures. Buyers "don't ask about it any more than they do with cars or brand-new pairs of pants they wear," Mortrud said.

He said the low price reflects the poor quality of trailers. However, the bulk lots include more valuable manufactured homes, which have few contamination problems and are particularly sought by strapped families.

He has already lined up buyers for virtually all units -- retailers that he said could probably resell mobile homes for $15,000 to $21,000, or about a tenfold markup. That price is still cheap compared with new, $45,000 mobile home models that Mortrud sees.

The windfall will keep him from laying off 30 workers. "For us and probably for many, many other people," Mortrud said, "it's the difference between staying in business and not being in business."

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"Katrina victims still are without permanent homes"
Associated Press, February 16, 2011

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly 30,000 Hurricane Katrina victims were forced to live in a succession of five or more places after the storm hit, Census data released Monday showed, and about the same number said their permanent living situation was still in flux.

It was the latest Census data release to fill in the gaps about what has happened to the region since floodwalls and levees protecting the city broke, causing massive flooding and killing more than 1,600 people after the storm hit Aug. 29, 2005.

About four out of every five residents said they evacuated the city for at least a couple of weeks and had to relocate about two times. Also, 83 percent said they stayed in a house or apartment at least once during their displacement and about 31 percent said they stayed in a hotel, motel, or cruise ship.

The new data, based on surveys of 6,000 housing units in the second half of 2009, looked at the larger metropolitan area of New Orleans, made up of about 1.1 million people.

The new figures provide solid numbers to what has been a rich, but largely anecdotal, narrative of the Katrina displacement, said Allison Plyer, deputy director of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, a nonprofit analyzing the Katrina recovery.

“No one has been able to track the folks who have been displaced,’’ she said. “It’s been quite a mystery.’’

Earlier this month, Census data showed that New Orleans is a much smaller city than it was before Katrina and much of the loss in population was among blacks who have been unwilling or unable to return. In 2000, there were about 323,000 blacks in New Orleans compared with about 206,870 in 2010.

Another big hit was to the number of children under 18, which dropped by 56,193, or 43 percent, since 2000.

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6 years later, Katrina victims fight FEMA debts
cbsnews.com - December 28, 2011

(AP) NEW ORLEANS — When the Federal Emergency Management Agency mailed out 83,000 debt notices this year to victims of Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 storms, one of the letters showed up in David Bellinger's mailbox. Bellinger, who is blind, needed a friend to read it and break the news that FEMA wants him to pay back more than $3,200 in federal aid he received after Katrina.

"I nearly had a stroke," recalls the 63-year-old, who moved to Atlanta after the storm wrecked his New Orleans home. "I'm totally blind. I subsist entirely on a Social Security disability check. If I have to pay this money back, it would pretty much wipe out all the savings I have."

Many other Gulf Coast hurricane victims are in the same position, angry and frustrated at the prospect of repaying money they spent years ago as they tried to rebuild their lives.

FEMA is seeking to recover more than $385 million it says was improperly paid to victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The debts, which average about $4,622 per recipient, represent slightly less than 5 percent of the roughly $8 billion that FEMA distributed after the storms. At least some of the overpayments were due to FEMA employees' own mistakes, ranging from clerical errors to failing to interview applicants, according to congressional testimony.

But the agency says it is required by law to make an effort to recover improper payments, even if the recipient wasn't at fault. Last week, however, Congress approved legislation that would allow FEMA to waive many of the debts. President Barack Obama signed the measure — part of a $1 trillion spending package — into law last Friday.

FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said the agency is reviewing the law's provisions and developing a plan to implement them. It remains to be seen how many recipients of FEMA money could benefit from the change.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who sponsored the provision, said disaster victims shouldn't be punished because FEMA was "dysfunctional."

"They have significantly improved the process," Landrieu said. "This is very unlikely to happen again."

Racusen said the agency has implemented "strong protections" to avoid making improper payments, reducing its error rate from about 14 percent after Katrina to less than 1 percent for more recent disasters.

"We have also worked to significantly improve the recoupment process so that it is more understandable and provides due process for both disaster survivors and taxpayers," she said in a statement.

FEMA's collection efforts aren't limited to the 2005 storms. The agency has mailed out more than 6,000 debt letters to survivors of other recent disasters, including floods.

Approximately 2,500 recipients, including 930 victims of the 2005 hurricanes, have appealed their debt notices. FEMA says about 30 percent of those appeals successfully erased at least some of the debt. Recipients also can ask for a waiver due to economic hardship.

"It is important for any individual who has received a recoupment notice to know that these letters are the start of a conversation with FEMA, not the end," Racusen said.

This isn't the first time Bellinger has tangled with FEMA over funds he received to pay for renting an apartment in Atlanta. He was a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit over the agency's decision to end housing subsidies for storm victims and its efforts to recover alleged overpayments. FEMA later paid more than $2.6 million to settle the claims.

That case had also delayed the debt collection process that Bellinger and other storm victims are now facing. Before the settlement, a federal judge in New Orleans ordered FEMA to suspend the effort in 2007 while it drew up new guidelines for the recoupment process. FEMA reinstituted the process earlier this year.

"What a way to celebrate Christmas, knowing I've got another FEMA battle on my hands," Bellinger said last week.

After Bellinger moved to Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development covered some but not all of his rent. He says he relied on FEMA's aid to make up the difference. FEMA claims he received a duplication of benefits, but Bellinger said the agency is mistaken.

"The fault is theirs, not mine, and they have to suffer the consequences," he said. "I submitted everything they required. As far as I know, I did nothing wrong."

Lubertha Haskin, a Gulfport, Miss., resident who turned 80 on Dec. 27, received about $8,000 from FEMA to repair some of Katrina's damage to her home and replace belongings. In October, FEMA sent her a debt letter that said her insurer had covered the same costs, a claim Haskin denies.

Haskin said she hadn't heard from the agency in five years and never suspected she could have to pay back the money.

"I was knocked for a loop," she said. "I don't have that kind of money. I have a lot of doctor's bills and other bills to pay."

Law firms and legal aid groups have volunteered to help Haskin, Bellinger and many others challenge FEMA's recoupment efforts.

"It's really unfair that the government waited this long to come after this lady," said Haskin's lawyer, Beau Cole. "They didn't deliberately do it, but the effect is the same."

The New Orleans office of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, which offers free legal aid, has fielded more than 100 calls since September from people who want to challenge their FEMA recoupment letter. Rowena Jones, a lawyer for the group, said she hasn't seen the appeals process yield any "actual results."

"Our clients just don't seem to be getting a fair opportunity to contest the notices and get a hearing on it," she said.

The provision signed into law last week allows FEMA to completely waive the debt for somebody who earns less than $90,000 a year if the money was mistakenly awarded due to an error by FEMA. A debt involving fraud cannot be waived. Racusen said FEMA is "committed to applying the law to the fullest extent possible."

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the recoupment process is flawed. Many debt letters have been returned as "undeliverable," meaning some people moved and don't even know they owe money, he said.

"Most of these individuals went through a lot of trauma," Thompson said. "For our government to all of a sudden say, 'We made a mistake, you owe us money,' that's not how it should be done."

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Manchester, NH's, Gravy Trains; Also, We need better than Frank Guinta, Volume 2.

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www.topix.com/city/manchester-nh/
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Mayor Frank Guinta
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http://cities.wikia.com/wiki/ManchesterNH
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MANCHESTER's Gravy Trains:

www.unionleader.com/uploads/media-items/2008/May/52608citysalaries.pdf

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www.unionleader.com/uploads/media-items/2008/May/52708schoolsalaries.pdf

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"City teacher salaries called average"
By JOHN WHITSON, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
May 27, 2008

MANCHESTER – Marilyn Butler is one of two teachers paid at the city school district's top scale.

She earns more than $65,000 teaching social studies at McLaughlin Middle School.

Butler said she knows some citizen taxpayers bemoan that income at budget time, citing idle summer months and extended time off at holidays.

But she's not about to apologize.

With 18 years of seniority and advanced degrees, the former lawyer has the ability to earn more money in a different field.

Butler says she stays because she enjoys the challenge of teaching adolescents.

Time off
According to the district calendar, from the start of school last fall through this summer, Manchester teachers have seven holidays, 19 vacation days during the school year and 45 days over the summer.

Teachers union President Scott McGilvray doesn't downplay the chief perk of his profession. But he's quick to point out that nearly all his colleagues use time off to supplement salaries and pay household bills.

Those summer months, he said, are far from idle.

"I would say a high majority of teachers have a second job," said McGilvray. "This is my 19th year, and this is my 19th year with a second job."

When he started teaching, McGilvray said he earned stipends for coaching football, winter track, spring track and as a student council adviser. "Three nights a week I bartended, and that's not untypical," he said.

Butler knows she could make a lot more money as an attorney -- she was a practicing lawyer for five years.

"I would never go back," she said. "(Money) would have been the only thing that kept me there, and it wouldn't have been enough."

Helping young teens make their way to adulthood, she said, is challenging, unpredictable and full of rewards.

"It's fun. I really do enjoy the classroom," said Butler. "It's sort of like inventing something new every day."

Comparing paychecks
Most water, police, fire and airport workers have a paycheck-friendly contractual right that teachers do not: overtime.

Sixty-three members of the city's police and fire departments made at least $90,000 in calendar 2007, adding to their bottom line with overtime and private detail work.

Teacher salaries in Manchester mirrored the state average of $48,310 in 2007-08.

That's still about $4,500 higher than the average non-government worker makes in Manchester.

A state Department of Employment Security survey put that figure at $43,784 in 2006, and an economist there doesn't think it's moved much since.

DES is completing an employer survey to define the average benefits, such as health insurance and vacation, that area workers enjoy.

DES economist Ben Amsden said that, in general, private sector workers lag, especially during uncertain economic times.

"Workers in the public sector have more of a defined benefit versus a 401(k)," said Amsden, referring to employer-funded pensions. "Clearly," he said, "the cost of benefits is becoming a concern for employers."

Higher education
Starting pay for Manchester teachers in 2008-09 will be $31,793 -- with a $1,113 signing bonus. Not including stipends for extra work such as coaching, the salary range tops out at $65,335.

People who look longingly teachers' time off tend to overlook a financial burden, especially at the start, that comes with the job: college loans.

"Teachers are one of the few jobs in the city that require a minimum of a bachelor's degree," said McGilvray, the Manchester Education Association president.

New Hampshire also requires teachers to renew their license certification every three years by taking 75 hours of professional development, such as graduate courses or teacher workshops.

This school year, Manchester budgeted $60,000 to reimburse those costs.

That money is allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis, and administrators acknowledge it's not nearly enough for more than 1,300 teachers.

All-day workshops run about $300, so that's another pocketbook hit that teachers must absorb just to keep their jobs, said McGilvray.

Administrator pay
The school district does have higher-paid employees.

When Thomas Brennan takes over as superintendent July 1, he will become the city's second-best paid worker at $155,000. Only Airport Director Mark Brewer, at $192,658, tops him.

Three other school district employees will top $100,000 in 2008-09.

Assistant Superintendent Henry Aliberti, who last week took a job outside the district, was slated to make $108,132; Assistant Superintendent Karen Burkush's salary is $105,291, and West High Principal MaryEllen McGorry is at $100,320.

The city's other three high school principals, organized as their own Teamsters Union local, and their salaries for 2008-09 are: Central's John Rist, $96,802; Memorial's Arthur Adamakos, $93,174; School of Technology's Karen White, $85,927.

Pay scales are based on longevity and academic degrees. McGorry, like Butler, came to the district after working as a lawyer for several years.

The city employs 30 assistant principals whose pay ranges from $70,357 to $86,929. Ten psychologists top out at $72,918 per year.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

This is nothing about teachers time off and blah, blah, blah that is posted. I agree that teachers should be paid/compensated for their work. I would not want the job (of course that is why I am not a teacher). But of course, lets not forget that this is the same school district that has not made AYP, and I put that on the teachers and administration. If I don't do my job I am not employed no matter what, just keep that in mind when we talk about all the "work" the teachers do there is something to measure their "work" against and so far they are missing the mark!!!
- Rick, Manchester

I am a product of the Manchester School district and have done just fine. If parents are involved in their childs education they will get a good education. Many parents do do their part when it comes to educating their children.

But the financial part of this that I think gets to most people are the benefits packages. The healthcare, pensions etc.
In the private sector most employers require there employees to contribute to healthcare costs, some only pay health insurance for the employee only. If ythe employee wants to cover their family they must pay for them.

Pensions are for the most part rare and 401-Ks are the standard today. Again the employee contributes and has some control over their own money. The costs of these 2 benefits are increasing much faster than the rate of inflation. If the city was a private entity it would go out of business, but its not so taxes are the answer. I have no problem with any of the salaries. I think its time for the city employees to contribute to their benefit packages.
- Bob, Manchester, NH

The fact that we can all type a comment in English on this website, means some teachers did their job and taught us how to write... and for that, I am thankful to all the teachers! Teaching, like many professions, is a very tough profession... It takes a special type of person. Plus teaching salaries are not *that* high... especially with today's cost of living factored in. Not to mention the extras teachers buy for their classrooms, because these items were not in the budget. If teachers are not satisfied with their salaries, they can always move into a new profession that offers more money and incentives, and that's how we unfortunately do lose many good teachers. Salaries need to be competative no matter what field, and the market should reflect this. It's ironic how we complain about teacher's salaries (paid by tax dollars), but other things our tax dollars pay for don't get scrutinized as much.
- Kim, Manchester

Average pay is $48k, top step is $65k... I don't think this is a lot of money to be paying educators. Most could easily earn more elsewhere with their education level.
- Pete, New Boston

The bigger question here is why do 159 teachers each make $60,878 and 224 teachers make $57,079? Are you telling me that the 159 at $60k are all the same? The 224 at $57 are not as good as the 159 but otherwise exactly the same as each other? Certainly some of the teachers in each group are better than their salary peers. Oh wait, I forgot, we don’t get to pay the quality teachers what they’re worth. We are forced to pay all the teachers the same salary based solely on how long they have been teachers (burnout notwithstanding). It’s time for a merit pay system that rewards the good teachers (enticing them to stay) and weeds out the dead wood, just like any well run business.
- Stan, Weare

I think I'd last about a week trying to be a teacher. After that the classroom would be out of control. Some idiot parent would probably call me to complain that their kid's illegible paper didn't get a good enought grade. The principal would take the parent's side over me, then I'd scold some punk kid for text messaging while I was trying to teach the lesson. He'd tell me to go stick it, I'd lose my cool and ring his neck. Then I'd get arrested. I'd serve my sentence then go out and find a real job.
- Frank, Franklin

i would like to comment on Min's remarks on what Ms. McGorry drives. She does not own, lease or drive a hummer. Please get your facts straight if you are going to bash Ms. Mcgorry.

I know this for a fact, she is my sister and I know what she drives. She is a great principal and she treats these kids as if they were her own. It is a shame you can't see this.

J. Dimick
- JOAN DIMICK, MANCHESTER

Perfect answer!!! Let some of these idiots actually try to teach a class! It's not as easy as they think! Perhaps if they complete their GED, get a Bachelors and Masters degrees after they spend six figures and seven years to get the required educational certification, then they could teach today's kids. But until then, keep your trap shut and waste your time screwing up your own kid. Stay away from mine.
- Frank, Manchester

Please all the teachers on here posting just keep your mouth shut, aren't you supposed to be in a classroom or something. Why are you so defensive? As a product of the Manchester school system and a grad of Central class of 2000 I will tell you first hand that the Manchester school system above the elementary level k-6 is a joke! Yes there are great teachers in the schools and there are also teachers going through the motions..call me a liar. Its not all the teachers fault, are schools are so overcrowded its awfull. I remember sharing books ,and not enough desks for all the students to start the school year not a great atmosphere to learn in. Teachers stop your moaning I don't want to hear that you work extra hours grading papers, none of you would trade your job. Having the option of having a second job is another great perk!! Not many other profs. have that perk. Oh you have to recertify every 3 years, thats awfull..but I still know you wouldn't trade your job for any other so STOP COMPLAINING!!!! Have a good summer se ya in the fall!
- Chad Roland, Manchester

I attended Manchester schools from third grade to graduation. In my years in the Manchester school system I met many teachers who went above the call of duty to help and even push students to achieve their highest potential.

Yes teacher salaries may seem high to some of you but as others have mentioned teachers work doesnt end when they leave the school at 2:45. They have to grade papers, plan lessons at home, others stay after school several days a week to offer extra help to their students.

Teachers also use money from their own pockets for some classroom supplies and other things.

I remember one summer going into Vista Foods on Valley St and seeing my science teacher bagging groceries.
- Travis, Brooklyn, NY

Spend a day with a classroom of middle school students first.

Get assessed by kids who complete a state test where they draw pictures because they know that it doesn't mean anything to "THEM".
- Leah, Manchester

What a bunch of crybabies.

Teachers cannot win. When the economy is great and they fall behind the income curve for jobs which require a degree noone steps up and makes up the difference. When the economy is bad we get morons who believe they are getting ripped off by paying teachers fairly. These people work nigts and weekends volunteering, correcting students work and preparing lessons.

Those of you who complain about "the education my kids are receiving" need to visit a classroom. Teachers today have to deal with language barriers, parents who do not helpor discipline their kids for their habits at school and tired and hungry students who lag behind because of their home life. This isn't your parents school atmosphere of decades ago when teachers could concentrate on the art of educating. Todays teachers have to start as surrogate parents, psychologists and referees every day before the learning can begin.

I am happy that our city employees make livable, middle class wages.

It's easy to sit at your computer screen and complain about the police, teachers and firefighters when you have no real world knowledge of what they put up with day in and day out.

Better to be thought a fool and keep your mouths shut than to speak and prove it.
- Jules, Manchester

Look folks, teachers are definitely underpaid for what is expected from them and what they have to put up with. My sister is a teacher in Florida. She makes decent money but nothing close to what I would consider overpaid. She HAS to put in extra hours at NO extra pay, she takes money out of her own pocket to buy supplies. And she has to put up with Jane's and John's who have no respect and could care less about those who want to learn. If people out there think teachers are overpaid, I challenge them to go into a classroom and teach. There are some out there that would say no problem, but those are the people with NO CLUE.
- Jim, Manchester

Aaron, your right - I wouldn't be complaining at all if someone wanted to pay me $65K to teach 7th grade Social Studies. The rest of your post is blah blah blah hogwash (expected) but you do hit on that one good point.
- Bill, Bradford

Teachers pay I dont think is the issue here. I think there are a few bigger issues. 1. The concept that time spent is worth more than quality. Teacher should be graded by performance, extra work etc-like the real world-if I have a slacker employee-they are gone. 2. School focus, our children dont have a chance in society if they are missing two things-english(communication) and math(problem solving). Everything else hinges off of those two items and they have to be rock solid all other things are secondary. Our money and time should be focused there and only when we are confident those are strong invest on the other items. 3. We focus way to much on administration, cut back on management and let the teach control more, disapline more-have each parent and child sign a contract with the school holding them accountable for the rules and what will happen. 4. As parents we need to stop blaming teachers and the system for poor education-and do something about it-you are the biggest role model in your childs life-and if you blame others what are you teaching your kids. Hold yourself accountable first and then make them make a change.
- ed, warner

Nobody seems to complain when a private sector employee makes a similar salary. Teachers are like all other employees. They fight to keep their benefits and decent salaries. Those of you complaining about it wouldn't complain if it were you in the teachers shoes. All government employees should be well paid because they have to put up with ungrateful government employee bashing citizens who don't want government employees paid well enough to live on. I've seen some teachers' salaries, and those salaries can be pathetically low despite the fact that they have to deal with some of you people on top of that.
- Aaron, Manchester NH

I love hearing all you ignorant people bash teachers and their pay. Teachers need to be compensated because it is EXPENSIVE to become a teacher. Teachers have to go to COLLEGE which costs $$$$$$$. Teachers need to jump thru hoops very 3 years to keep their certifications. People sound as if its easy to be in a classroom. It is not. Any of you mopes complaining, I emplore you to sign up to become a substitute teacher for a week, and see how well you do. Until then, shut the falling umbrella.
- joe, manchester

I work 2 jobs just to be able to keep up with my property tax in Manchester.
The hardworking residents of my neighborhood cant get any sleep at night the because our streets have been overrun by prostitutes, drunks, crack addicts and drug dealers.
When we need the Manchester Police to step in, all we get for help from the Manchester Police department are Police officers catching quick snoozes in patrol cars, Police Officers chatting away on their cell phones and Officers cruising around the blocks and neighborhood over and over without undertaking any active or proactive actions to stop the drug dealings and crack houses from business.
Please Manchester Police if you guys are going to make that much money could you please at least put in a decent effort into your work.

I will rather see the City scrap the Police department and put all that wasted tax payers money into the School system because the Manchester Police department has been a complete failure to my neighborhood of Manchester.
- Davis Williams, Manchester

If its so easy and great being a teacher, why don’t you become one? Then we can read what you make and tell you that you are not worth it. This whole thing is shameful. What do the people at the Union Leader make for putting out a third rate paper? I hope they are purchased soon. Maybe we can get some real news.
- Kate, Manchester

Rebecca, If you think most people are only working an average of 42 hours per week (2200/52), you are delusional.

I would kill to work only an average of 42 hours per week over the course of a year.

Paul, you look at teachers pay over the course of a year. It isn't rocket science, it doesn't matter on which days they are getting paid and which days they are not getting paid. You simply look at how much they are paid to do the job (or not do the job!).
- Brian, Dover

In all my life, I've never met a poor teacher.
- Beth, Manchester

The salaries are just fine by me for the Teachers... The higher the degree and number of years they have dedicated should be well compensated, considering their CEU's are required and that helps keep them up-to-date with new techniques and changes.

As far as their time-off is concerned, they arent always lounging around with a martini in hand (unless they do bartending LOL)... some of them do have second jobs, some do extra curriculars with students, and of course, preparing the next lesson, or preparing for a new school year where we are a couple weeks away from summer time...
- Melanie, Manchester

i am so tired of hearing anyone, especially city and state employees complaining about their salary. you know what the job pays when you apply, so please don't cry to taxpayers about how underpaid you are. and ms. butler, i respect your education; however, if you're a teacher what gives you the right to expect tax payers to pay you as if you are a lawyer? 65,000 to teach social studies to middle school students is criminal. and as far as overtime goes, teachers have 9 weeks in the summer to supplement their income if they choose!
also, it makes me wonder if fireman and police officers are working all that overtime, are they getting enough rest to be alert when they're working their regular shift. maybe the overtime and detail pay should be cut and we hire more police and fire personnel with those funds...
- rcn, manchester

After yesterday's news - more slamming. Try adding all the education up for the people who earn the highest salaries. You are talking about undergraduate and graduate work that totals six figures. Not one teacher earns what they invested in their own education.
Teachers work all the time regardless of the allotted time in the classroom. They experience authentic learning and bring it back to the students that they are educating.
- joco, manchester,nh

Gary, I agree with you 100%.
- Maria, Manchester

To those out there who are knocking the teachers, just remember they get paid for 183 days. Those summer days off and weeks in December, February and April are WITHOUT pay. Granted the pay for the 183 days is spread out over 26 pay periods it is still 183 days.
- Paul, Manchester

To Butler and McGorry, I personally feel that the prior academic degrees should take into consideration the pay received, however, if they chose to become attorneys prior to becoming principals, that should not impact their pay by such a significant amount. I've seen the Hummer that McGorry drives and only a previous attorney would be so cocky to pull into the reserved parking lot at West in a Hummer w/ her $100k salary. I know a lot of teachers who become teachers for the sole reason of summers off and extended time off during the school year to be with their children. I send my children to Catholic schools because the teachers are there not there for the pay, because it is significantly less than the public school teachers, but the teachers enjoy what they do. They make a lot of sacrifices and one of them is their pay. They could conceivably go into public education for the pay, but chose to stay in the Catholic School system. I also know a number of public school teachers who send their children to private/Catholic schools. If they truly felt confident with the public schools, then why don't they send their own children there.
- mln, manchester

My mother was a teacher, and she worked well into the night each and every night correcting papers and tests and so on. She also was still in her classroom two weeks after school let out, and two to three weeks before school began, so for the most part teachers do not have 9 weeks off during the summer. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours she spent working while not getting paid for it, so to all the negative comments quit putting teachers down, or why not go teach your self instead of being jealous.
- Jim, Temple, NH

Why practice law when you can make 'over $65K' teaching middle school kids the mentally straining discipline of Social Studies? I can't blame McLaughlin at all.....in fact, just the opposite. It makes me wonder why I am not applying with the school district in my town. I'd like to make $65K for a part time job too. I guess I'm holding out for the Sun Screen expense account.
- Mike, Concord

Considering the quality of the education my son is getting in the Manchester school district I assumed the teacher pay was much lower.
- Gary, Manchester

I taught high school for several years in my twenties. I regularly logged over 2200 hours per school year when I added in prep, grading, and extra-curricular activities. For those of you with less than stellar math skills, that's still more than most folks work working year round. Also, many of the student's holidays were inservice days for us.
- Rebecca, Claremont

Yeh, Mike in Goffstown. How about you get an education and go teach? Then you can get the 9 weeks vacation with no Blackberry attached to you on your time off.
- John Boleston, Epping

Average? I think they do pretty well considering summers and weekends off. My question is what 64k for a music teacher when there is also a different music teacher making 24k. Perhaps we could clone the 24k teacher twice to make a double music teacher for 48k and save the city 16k?
- Jim, Manchester

Mike, you need a union. Instead of dragging everyone else down, try building yourself and everyone else up!. Still, I doubt that you will get to the level of the average CEO who makes as much in a day as you do in a year (that's what it means when they earn 360 times as much as the average worker), but it would be a start.
- Robert, Deerfield

"Average" as it's used in the beginning of this article sounds almost disparaging. Isn't it OK to have average teacher salaries versus too low? Too high may make for happy teachers, but unhappy taxpayers. Otherwise, I think the article is fairly written for a somewhat contentious issue.
- Matt, Merrimack

Wow talk about perks!!! My god no one in the world gets all that vacation time and holidays. I'm not knocking the teachers ,good for them they have a good thing going. But please union boss Scott M. having the oppurtunity to work a second job to supplement their income is the biggest perk of all, how many people have that option!?
- Ryan, Manchester

Unbelievable. All that time, and all of that higher education; and they can't make $140,000,000 work for them? Deplorable.
- Mark, Manchester

9 weeks vacation !

AND, don't forget the alloted 'sick days'

I get two weeks and have a Blackberry attached at my hip for those 10 days off a year !
- Mike, Goffstown

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►Click here for a full list of Manchester school district salaries (.pdf format)
►Payday: Which Manchester city employees get the most? (71)
►Click here for a full list of Manchester city employee salaries (.pdf format)
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"Payday: Which Manchester city employees get the most?"
By JOHN WHITSON, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Monday, May. 26, 2008

MANCHESTER – Thirty-eight city employees earned more than $100,000 in calendar 2007. Another four school district workers will hit that mark in fiscal 2009.

Using the latest comprehensive lists available shows that being a municipal worker who earns a six-figure income is becoming more common.

While $100,000 may not be the benchmark status symbol it was roughly a generation ago, it still more than doubles the average, non-government, worker's wages in Manchester.

And the city is approaching its first $200,000 paycheck, as Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Director Mark Brewer, hired in January, pulls down $192,658. Brewer is now the city's highest-paid employee, replacing interim Airport Director Michael Farren, who retired late last year. Farren tops the 2007 list at $178,084.

Working off those 2007 numbers, former Fire Chief Joseph Kane came in a close second with a severance package that pushed his earnings to $173,867.

►Click here for a list of city employee salaries (.pdf format).


When he starts work July 1, incoming Schools Superintendent Thomas Brennan will become Manchester's second-highest paid worker at $155,000.

Sticking to the 2007 figures for city workers, police Capt. Richard Valenti followed Ferren and Kane, making $138,104. Recently retired Public Works Director Frank Thomas made $137,618 and City Solicitor Thomas Clark made $130,988 to round out the city's top five earners.

The next five highest-paid city employees were police Capt. Richard Tracy, $123,771; police Capt. Gerald Lessard, $123,723; new DPW Director Kevin Sheppard, $123,056; police emergency communications supervisor Steven Olson, $121,882; and fire Capt. Kris Soderberg, $121,506.

Half of the 38 $100,000-earners were in the Police Department, four in the Fire Department, four at the airport, two at public works, two in finance, two at water works, two in housing and one each in three other departments.

Another 59 city employees made between $90,000 and $99,999 in 2007, with 27 of them from police, 13 from fire, four at the airport, two in the school district and one each in 13 other departments.

Kane's pay was so high because it included his severance. The former fire chief's base pay was $118,790, but that was padded by a cash-out of unused vacation and sick time.

"The severance we've paid is amazing," said Dawna Rooks, the city's compensation manager.

Manchester paid $1.3 million in severance in fiscal 2007, and Rooks said this fiscal year will come in much higher.

The fiscal 2008 figure will include Kane and former department heads who have retired such as Police Chief John Jaskolka, Planning Director Robert MacKenzie, City Clerk Leo Bernier, Human Resources Director Virginia Lamberton and Ferren, the former assistant airport director.

Each of those former employees, except Bernier, was paid more than $100,000 in their last year of work. Bernier came in at $99,830.

The average weekly paycheck for a private industry worker in Manchester was $842 in 2006, the latest numbers available from the state's Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau.

That 2006 figure equates to an annual wage of $43,784, and state economist Ben Amsden said it's a safe bet that non-government wages in the city haven't changed much in two years.

"I would venture to guess they're fairly similar," said Amsden, who counts that as a positive when looking beyond city and state borders.

"New Hampshire is managing to steer a steady (economic) course," he said.

The benefits package for each city employee -- health, dental, FICA, retirement -- is an additional cost to the city and equates to roughly 35 percent of each employee's gross pay, said Rooks.

With 46 people earning at least $90,000 in 2007, the police department easily leads the city in high-end wages.

Every member of the department, except deputy chiefs and the chief, is eligible for overtime.

Detail work is also a large source of income. Those wages don't come from taxpayer dollars, but do factor into an employee's retirement that is based on an employee's three highest-earning years, said Rooks.

Several police captains, lieutenants and sergeants topped the $100,000 mark in 2007. Two officers also put in the hours to make that much.

Kenneth Sprague was the top earning officer in the department in 2007 at $105,683. Officer Terrence McKenzie made $100,699.

Sprague, a 17-year veteran, padded his $61,318 salary with roughly $8,000 in overtime and $36,000 in details.

McKenzie, a 21-year veteran, made a $63,169 salary and about $37,500 in overtime and details.

Coming tomorrow: Manchester School District salaries.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Wonder how many privtate detail jobs are funded by projects for the city? What's the percent? The gravy train has to stop.
- mark, mancherster

Nancy in Nashua you said "I can work 50-55 hours ea week and dont make a penny more than I do when I work 40. "

If you can work 50-55 hours and don't make a penny more than if you worked 40 hours. I have a simple solution for you...ONLY WORK 40 HOURS!!!!! OR GET A NEW JOB AND STOP YOUR CRYING.
- Steve, Manchester, NH

Is this what the Union Leader considers news? You newspaper reporters should be ashamed of yourselves. I thought that your job was to report news, not invent news. Think about that and try to give your paying customers something worthy to read in the future.
If you decide not to give the readers something to worthy, then at least make your articles complete and accurate. Even my children are forced to write the truth when they turn in reports to their teachers.
- Ralph, Manchester

My son is a Police Officer for the City of Manchester. I paid for the four years of his college. He came out with his Criminal Justice degree. You can't just fill out an application! He has a sense of duty, he works hard and the only thing I ask is for him to stay safe. Yes they get the decent pay. But you cannot place a monetary value on this. I honestly don't think most of you who have written in have a clue as to what is involved in their daily performance of a Police Officers job. I still say to put their life on the line - they do not get paid enough! If you wish just ask the wife of a deceased officer what he or she was worth!
- Jim Brown, Hooksett NH

Why are the Canine handlers paid by the city of Manchester when the officers that patrol the airport are from Londonderry. Thats the only question I have.
- Michael, Salem

Nancy, if you aren't getting paid for overtime, then you either need to talk to the labor board, get a new job, or both.
- Jeff, Manchester

We were being told of teacher layoffs and programs being canceled if we do not increase the budget. Then why is the school district adding a new position Asst. Supt-Secretary at $108,000????

Thanks Union Leader for publishing the salaries
- Tom, manchester

For those critics out there who are jealous about police and fire salaries. My understanding is that nationwide there is a shortage of police officers. Feel free to apply for a current opening anywhere in this profession and see if you are qualified. If you are qualified then next take the job and see if you can hack it.
If you are not willing to do this then SHUT YOUR MOUTHES concentrate on improving your own lives without calling us to solve your problems.
- sf, manchester

You people are so jealous. 100,000 Does mean its their base pay. It included all their benefits, medical, 401k and everything. Any of the 100,000K earner had chosen to go work for a private industry, they wouldve earned much much more. Basically, they took a pay cyt to work for the government and help the community and get bitched at by you people
- Stu Pidass, Manchester

Wow, I want to be a cop. It's all about the money, and not about helping a soul....
- BNK, Hooksett, NH

Wow...I dare you to say that to Mrs. Briggs face.
- DG, Manchester

Joe S - Manchester: details are not legalized extoriton, they are legalized prostitution. The city/town MAKES MONEY by having officers on details because they charge the contractor MORE than they pay the officer and then keep the difference.
- John, Plaistow

Police average $40/hr in overtime. My auto mechanic charges $70/hr straight time, my plumber charged $60 just to show up, then charged an hourly rate. My childs doctor charged $50. fee for a Saturday visit. Seems like the public is getting a policeman at a bargain rate.
- John M, Goffstown

This has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with union membership. Where do I sign up to be a union hack?
- Tom, Hooksett

First let me say I support our Police and Firefighters. They should get a great wage for all they do and it should be UP Front and not in the Pension end. That is what is killing all State and local governments. Look at truck drivers, they have a High mortality and Higher INJURY rate. They work up to 80 hour weeks, holidays, birthdays, away from home and so on. Try driving a loaded Big Rig in an Ice storm on our New England roads, just as Dangerous. They have a High divorce rate as well. Most do not make as much as Police Officers without the detail work. Some do. But most get paid up front, save with 401 K's and the like. Some get union Pensions but most go on Social Security. But in short no local town or state is paying a large pension for them or multiple people. Yes Pay them very well up front, give them health insurance and all the benefits needed. But it is time to change the pension system and put all of us on an even playing field. By the way I work 7 12 hour days because I have my own business, no pension plan there. And I have been shot at, shot, blown up, dealt with dead bodies and anything else you can think of FOR A LOT LESS THAN THE LOWEST PAID POLICE OFFICER. And just like them I knew it was part of the deal when I signed up. They know it too.
- Vince Milano, Epping NH

To all of you who say" The city doesn't pay, it's the company that hires them, that pays" Now if I have this correct, PSNH hires 2 police officers to work there details for them at lets say at a very modest rate of 50.00 per hour x 2=100 for a 8 hour shift 800.00. Now who do you think pays that 800 bucks. WE ALL DO it's called rate increase. Take for instance the recent construction work being done on Candia Road. Last week I spotted 4 police officers and 2 civilian flag people, 2 officers talking to an on duty police officer sitting in his cruiser, running of course, and 2 flag people. All for 1 truck. Not bad for a huh? 6 people for 1 truck, and the kick.. Only 1 flag person really working.
- George Wilkinson, Manchester NH

Ralph Long, can you please find where John Adams wrote that public servants should live in poverty because people like you are jealous and don't feel that they should make a good living? If you could point that out to the rest of us, that would be great thank you.
- Brad, Hooksett, NH

I agree teachers need to get paid more, they pay for a 4 year college that can easily run about 60,000 dollars total
- Jim, Sutton

Tony, Goffstown and anon, manch
What are your badge #s?? Obviously you or someone close must be one of these earners??? And don't tell me "Someone" on their 70th hour (like you said) of the week can do just as good a job as a fresh new able bodied person.??????
- E M, Manchester

If the Manchester police and fire pensions are anything close to my pension here in CT (I'm a career fire lieutenant) a few facts have been omitted. First we don't pay into social security and thus don't get to collect social security upon retirement, so our pension is it. And secondly, we pay into our pension fund (and a good size percentage too) so it isn't as if the town is just giving us our pensions. So if the polce pensions include extra duty pay, than they are probably paying a percentage of it into the pension fund. At one point, until the economy turned, our pension fund was close to being self sufficient and our town was paying in very little.
- Scott, Windsor,CT

Simply put if you are jealous, then the trade is simple:

You'll have a life expectancy about 15 years less than the general population, you'll have one of the statistacally highest divorce, and heart disease rates, Also there is research that suggests working nights increases your chances of cancer.

You have to be willing to put your life on the line for that extra money, accept that if your shift ends at 11pm you might get ordered to work until 7 am...then go to court and be expected back at 3pm (you don't have a say).

You'll have to work holidays,nights, anniversaries, childrens b-days, get publicly ridiculed for every decision you make and your "too high salary", spit on, punched, kicked, exposed to disease, you'll need to be comfortable with inspecting dead bodies and witnessing autopsies, running toward the sound of gunfire and into burning buildings, and every possible negative aspect of life.

So if you think you have what it takes to become a professional police officer....applications welcome. They are now at the lowest point in years.
- Mike, Manchester

Police details are just a legalized form of extortion. Everyone knows it but no one will ever do anything about it.
- Joe S, Manchester

What also wasn't mentioned in this article is the fact that around 5 dollars per detail hour worked by the officer goes to the city. So not only is the city having more police coverage with officers working details, but they are also making money off of it. As far as Nancy from Nashua is concerned, there are labor laws out there...look them up. If being a fireman or a police officer is so great, take the test and see how it goes. How much money would it take for you to get spit at, punched kicked, shot at, bitten or stuck with a dirty needle? I'm going to guess that 42k a year is not enough.
- Ryan, Manchester

Well, there are sure to be a lot of police officers coming on here to defend their overinflated salaries. Yes, they recieve base pay. Yes, they recieve over time. Yes, they work private details. In the end, while the private details are paid by the private companies, the city still has to dole out a lot of money as a contribution to the officers retirement. So, while police officers can say that the private detail work is not paid by the city, in the end it really is. So, the local police officer retires based on the earners top 3 pay years. they work a ton of details to pad their salary and in the end, they retire at the higher amount. Not bad. Next time we hear a police officer say that they chose police work to serve the community, lets also ask them about the money they earn
- MIke, Manchester

Steven in Concord- The UL is not publishing a "less than accurate article". What is not correct about the published ridiculous salaries? I have'nt seen any post saying something was incorrect. Oh- I think your upset that they did not publish the "justification" for such ridiculous pay. You feel that its important that everyone knows who paid each % of the ridiculous amount. That does not matter- it still adds up to the same ridiculous number. The math is the same no matter where the numbers come from- and it all ends up in the same pocketbook.

I can work 50-55 hours ea week and dont make a penny more than I do when I work 40. The offices must get paid every hour over 40--- how nice! Maybe some mandatory professional OT should be mandated- like no paid overtime until 45 hours per week.

Im with Chris and will send my application into the police department next week! I figure Im ahead of some "former" officers who think math is different so long as the numbers come from different places.
- nancy, nashua

To DG in Manchester,
Somthing I just recently found out about the Manchester Police dept. From what I know, the retirement pensions for the police dept. is based on a certain number of years that they had earned the most money. What is happening is the more senior officers that are making the most money are pulling details for PSNH, etc. That money is added to their earnings for the year which boosts their earnings for the top years. Then their pensions are increased even though the original money earned is coming from PSNH. The taxpayers are paying for their inflated pensions even though the original money earned was coming from PSNH. Also, who do you think pays for the police details for these companies? The people who use electricity. Everyone! So we are paying for the details that they do, and we are paying for their pensions when they retire. I have no problem paying for the details that they pull, but we should not be responsible for the increase in their pensions.
- J.R., manchester

MJW,

Several of the attorneys in the solicitor's office are paid with a combination of city and county funds. They are district court prosecutors who handle domestic violence charges.
- L.B.M., Manchester

thank you UL for continuing to make public employees the scapegoats when it comes the need to cut costs. These people work their tails off serving the residents of their communities. You put these honest people up to ridicule and bad mouthing from folks who have no idea what they do - only to compare their salaries with what the individual reading the article makes. Then wait for the scathing commentaries with no context. I am so glad I don't work for the State of NH. You (UL) and Foster's Daily Democrat are among the lowest of the low when it comes to fostering discontect and innuendo.
- sandy, thornton

How about this....Exxon Mobil CEO Gets $21.7 Million Pay Package After Record Year, Comcast CEO's pay falls - to $20.8 million? Manny Ramirez is paid $19mil per year, David Ortiz $18mil per year, JD Drew $14mil per year, Jason Varitek $10mil per year. Why is this all considered acceptable? I'm amazed at how jealous people get when they look at other people's salary. Here's a simple solution...start applying yourself and you too can earn the salaries of your local police officers. I'm sure a majority of the "mouths" here who are criticizing the pay are unable to qualify for ANY job where they would earch $90K a year, so why not whine about it?
- Joe S., Manchester

Can somebody please show me a municipal job or a private job that allows the amount of OT that the police and fire are allowed to get? I would work 70 hrs a week with 30 of those hours being at time and a half if it was allowed! Every other City department and private company would not pay that! And oh yeah remember Manchester...the teacher's get paid to much! PLEASE! Wonder why the retirement system is going broke? Retire out at $100,000 + after only working 20 years!
- Kathy, Raymond

Happy Memorial Day to all of you enjoying your three day weekend while those Police Officers you are bashing are out patroling your streets and responding to your complaints about your neighbors bbq getting out of hand, or the Domestic Disturbance next door to you. How quickly you forget who works every holiday, weekend, and night to protect you so you can enjoy these days. Oh yeah, how about working on their Birthdays, their kids birthdays, and their spouses birthdays because they can't take the day off to enjoy them with their family. The next time you go to court to fight you speeding ticket, look at the Police Officer who is having a hard time staying awake becuase he just worked the midnight shift and hasn't slept yet because he "has to" go to court, or the other Officers who were up all night with their sick children. The small amount we are paid for overtime does not make up for the above things we miss every year to keep you safe because you are to scared, or just don't want to get involved. These Officer work because they have to, not because they want to. DS Merrimack, NH
- DS, Merrimack

What a bunch of cry babies. It's real easy to slam the police sitting back in your arm chair enjoying a cold beer on a beautiful holiday week-end. If the job is so appealling get off your A#%* and apply. Why doesn't the Useless Leader publish the salaries of ALL their employees, I'm sure that would be very interesting.
- Paul, Weare

Al those who criticize the police officers for their "high" salaries, I suggest you put on the badge and put your life on the line everyday. Maybe you would have a different perspective.

Much of the income shown here comes from details that are not coming out of you the taxpayers pockets, it comes from the people paying for the detail. It would have been more accurate for the UL to break down their pay by actual salary + detail monies.
- Mark, Raymond

Public servents that get paid that much, you have to be kidding me! Any new contracts should be negative and o/t and details should not be added to their pensions. We're going broke and out representatives are selling us out, it can't continue. Let's stand up for our rights - do what President John Adams would have done.
- Ralph Long, Manchester, nh

Fred,

4 of the top 80 are women, just pointing that out.
- mike, manchester

to - DG, from..Manchester..
If the taxpayers don't pay for the detail work---why should that figure be included in his/her retirement... -
- Jim, Manchester

Wow, I want to be a cop. It's all about the money, and not about helping a soul....
- BNK, Hooksett, NH

Fred in Amherst, don't speak too soon, the last line of the article states, "Coming tomorrow.... School District salaries" .

Kudos Police and Fire, you earn every cent!
- DF, Candia

Those officers earn deserve every last damn penny they get. They put THIER lives on the line to keep YOUR butt safe. Show some respect.

For what it is worth, I make a whopping $24,000 teaching in a private school. I would love to make $90K+. It is just not in the cards for me. But I would never begrudge someone for making that much money.
- KS, Goffstown

Life in the public sector....You devote your life to a community and you have your salary published and your daily activities scrutinized. Why? Because the taxpayers pay their salary! Forget the big picture where we all contribute and it all comes back to us. In fact, I guess it's true...we must be paying the salaries of the private sector too!
Nobody ever thinks about the whole picture. Maybe if everyone was scrutinized and had their salary published they would actually get it.
Now, here are some of the things that the UL missed. How about years of schooling and service next to those names? I for one thank every employee in Manchester with the exception of the ones who are voted in and don't pay their taxes for eighteen months - whoops, that was only one person.
- joco, manchester,nh

The police officers of the MPD are overpaid. After seeing these salaries I don't ever want to hear that the police need a raise for the work they are doing in Manchester. Half the police force is getting more money than the mayor, that doesn't make sense to me. Nevermind 60-70 hours a week, his job is 24/7.

Furthermore, how does the City Solicitor's Office get anyone to work there with the ridiculously low pay? I thought being an attorney was suppose to be lucrative, seems from this list of salaries that future attorneys should save the $100K+ in law school loans and get a degree in criminal justice.

I bet this list causes a lot of problems around some city offices.
- MJW, Manchester, NH

Here's an interesting stat: exactly 2 of the top 88 people on the list are women.
- Fred, Amherst

Anybody still think slashing the school budget is the best way to avoid a tax hike??
- Fred, Amherst

Scott, can you tell me who ultimately pays the police to stand around at a road construction site? Would it perhaps be the road construction company that is required to pay for these details? Who pays for the work that the road construction company does? That would be the taxpayers. So you see, the taxpayers do pay for the detail work that officers earn ridiculous amounts of money for doing. I would accept half of what an officer earns to do the same thing. I'm very qualified at standing around. Where do I apply?
- James, Dover

Did any of you critics read the part that said that the police officers had to work the extra hours standing in the road at no taxpayer expense? Besides if any of you critics were willing to put in the same amount of hours as these officers you could also make similar salaries. The difference is that in you chosen professions (if you have one) the cost of you overtime would be passed on to the consumer.
- Scott, Manchester

I just forwarded my resume to the city of Manchester. No, seriously, I really did. For me the clincher was when I got to page 15 and salaries were still in excess of $60,000. Wish me luck.
- Chris, Nashua

As a former police officer, I hate this time of year because the UL usually makes a point to not explain how these salaries usually work. Here's a breakdown. Manchester residents pay Police Officers their salary. The salary is around $42K a year for a new patrolman and $58K for a 15-20 year patrolman (some can make a little more with an education incentive.) The OT cost is mostly related to court overtime, which is generated through making arrests, issuing citations, etc. There is alos overtime associated with serious crimes such as homicides, shootings, home invasions, robberies, etc. There is usually very little overtime handed down to fill overtime on the streets for the police officers to work. An exception might be during the summer months when vacations are in full-swing. Now, to say fill an overtime slot with more policemen will not work. For every police officer that is hired, the cost w/insuarnce, salary and uniforms is around $60K per year. So, 8-10 more police officers is $480K - 600K onto the budget. It's cheaper to fill an occasional overtime slot than it is to fill the actual position. As for details, many police officers do not work them. Don't criticize all of them for what's published here. The UL does not report all of the facts here. A lot (almost 1/3) of the police salaries posted here are in fact detail pay. These guys making these numbers are working 65-75 hours a week, not the simple 40 hour work week. The detail work is paid by private companies, bar owners, and event coordinators such as events at the Verizon Center. These police officers are not assigned to these duties in lieu of working the streets patrolling your neighborhood. This is ALL in addition to their 40-hour work week, where they patrol the city streets. The UL points to the police department with 46 employees above $90K a year, how about the remaining 250e employees. Why not post their salaries? I suspect because it will not be controversial and their story wouldn't hold merit. Maybe explain that many of those high salaries are deputy chiefs, captains and lieutenants, who all have significant seniority within the department, which means higher salaries, overtime costs, etc. The UL is famed for reporting less than accurate articles. Simply amazing!
- Steven, Concord

This is written as if people are making too much money. People deserve to make good money if they work hard for it. Why does it have to be made into a public issue? What should be written about is the sad salaries our teachers make. And others who work just as hard. Lets write about that and make public what they are paid. Thats is where the sadness lies!
- Karen, Merrimack

Sounds to me like the people posting on here are a little bit jealous of these salaries. Give me a break, I don't make nearly close to 100k in the private sector, but why should I be upset or jealous over these salaries? This is their jobs, their livlihoods, we all made choices to work where we do, why should we be critical because other people are fairing better than you or I??? And "waste of tax payer dollars" is not an acceptable answer, thank you.
- Eric, Manchester, NH

Let's try a little perspective for those who are critical. Manny Ramirez, a guy who gets to play with a ball for a living is paid approx $20 million per year. Some are concerned about these employees earning approx. $100k per year. You should realize that it will take these police officers, educators, and fire fighters 200 years of work to earn what Manny makes in a partial year. Two Hundred Years! These are the people who save lives without hesitation, educate our children, and yes saved my father's life from a heart attack. They are not paid enough. Next time you dial 911 how much is it worth to you? Keep up the good work folks.
- Mark Gray, Bow

To Peter, who is surprised by the low pay of school nurses: as a RN in Manchester, I know the school nurses' salary looks low compared to others. But nurses who don't have to work any weekends, nights, holidays, snow days, forced overtime, and get the summers off can't really be compared to the rest of us. And to those of you questioning the pay scale of the policemen & firemen, remember that they, like nurses, also work those night shifts, holidays, weekends, etc. Think about them the next time you're enjoying a family barbeque on a long holiday weekend, or going to bed safe in your comfortable home at midnight. They earn every penny.
- Kathy, Manchester

E.M. in Manchester, each additional employee comes at a large cost, thats why its cheaper to pay overtime.

Most comments here are against paying overtime. I bet few of the complainers have ever had a job situation where they could increase their earnings by working more than 40 hours a week. Its not easy and those capable of doing it should be rewarded.
- Tony, Goffstown

I'd like to see a match of where the top earners live with payscale. How many actually live, and spend any of this money in Lawrence .. ooops.. I mean Manchester? Stories like this are the reason so many are leaving Manchester. I, for one, will probably move to a move sensible town in the next year.
- Thomas, Manchester, NH

I don't have a problem with people making over $100,000. I also don't have a problem with the police getting paid detail work, as long as it is equitable, and not some 'favorites' getting all the details. Also, let them actually police during detail. All this detail pay should be like 'extra' income and not figured into their retirement income.

However, like EJ states, if all of these directors and leaders are making that kind of money, they should be worth it. That, is what I am not seeing in this city. spending is out of control just to spend money, we are not investing in the city. These leaders need to look into the future

Lastly, why is severance being paid to people to retire. Severance should be strictly for those who are terminated without cause, ie layoff.
- Greg, Manchester

All year long I have been defending the police and fire departments, saying that these guys deserve every red cent. Little did I know what kind of money these guys are raking in. These numbers are ridiculous. Why are some of these guys making so much? Why is Jersey Frank making so much less than alot of the people ranked below him?
- John, Manchester

A few years ago I would agree with many of these comments. In todays economy, 80K is not much to write home about, especially when it's for putting your life on the line everyday, such as firefighters and police do.

I wonder why there isn't a volunteer system in NH for the police as there is with fire departments. At least for handling more routine things like traffic duty...
- DM, Hampton

Just another case of comments from ignorant people who have no clue about the responsibilities of these city employees. Overtime is a necessity when the departments are understaffed. I'm sure these people would have liked to spend more time with their families. If you don't like the salaries..........get off your butt and change jobs. Go back to school if necessary!
- Frank, Manchester

Do any of the lunatic fringe know how to read?

The city did NOT pay the total of those salaries. Most of the overtime paid to the police officers is funded by private industry who use the services. The tax rate is not affected at all.

For those of you who think that the police and fire departments do not earn their money, all we have to do is think back to the deaths of Officer Briggs and Firefighter Anderson to realize the risks taken to warrant their pay. Take a look at what teachers, police and fire earn for salaries in surrounding communities and you will see that our community does NOT overpay for these vital services.

It's time to stop with the knee-jerk reactions and start thinking before one speaks. These types of articles are merely a Union Leader ploy to stir the pot without adequate explanation.
- Julia, Manchester

I have nothing but the utmost respect for what our firefighters and police officers do on a daily basis. I just find it hard to swallow that the police officers can make up to 50% of their salary on details alone. What we need is a private company that trains individuals to work details directing traffic during city projects that aren't paid as much. Just think how much more money would be spent on "details" if we had a police officer patrolling the Mall of New Hampshire.
How can this be... "Detail work is also a large source of income. Those wages don't come from taxpayer dollars." Who funds the details for the city projects?
- mjm, manchester

Again, I missed the memo where all government workers were supposed to take a vow of poverty. First of all, I bet a lot of the overtime for police was paid by the private sector and then paid to the officers by the city for event detail etc. Bet you didn't think of that. Also, when will you people get it through your heads that these are competitive salaries the city needs to pay to get talented people. Would you rather have say, an airport director who makes half as much, but costs the city a lot more in the end because he isn't as good and makes mistakes?

Hey EJ, I think we should come down to your work and do the same. Prove to your bosses you are worth what you make, and if you cant, donate your check to charity. The idea doesn't sound so great does it?
- Greg, Manchester

The taxpayers do not pay for extra details! The companies that hire them pay for their services. If you see an officer with PSNH, PSNH is paying for him/her. Don't confuse that with taxpayers money.
- DG, Manchester

You don't need any deputy police chiefs working on weekends. Why do you need THREE deputies the rest of the week? Dump all three. That money would put several patrolmen on the street where they are needed.
- Bill Howard, Exeter

The mayor is on page 7? There are 6 pages of people making more than the mayor?
- Sue, Manchester

The extra from details is not all paid with taxes, some of it is paid by the people requesting the detail. Secondly, the people making over 100K are all at the top of their profession (chiefs, and 17+ year veterans). It is not like a new police recruit is making 100K when he gets out of the academy. Moreover, these people do not set their salary, second, they work for it by doing detail work, third if you (people) have time to complain then you are spending too much time whining and not enough time working, fourth, if you want a higher paying job, work for it. I was a teacher making 50K after 7 years and a Masters degree. I went back to school and am now making way more with the potential to make even more then I ever would have as a teacher. My pay stunk, and I did somehting about it. I wanted to be one of those in the story (making >100K) and worked for it instead of complaining about it.
- chris, bedford

You people who are writing that police and fire officials are making too much should be ashamed of yourselves, these people work hard day and night. As far as I'm concerned they don't make enough money. When you people need them and they help you I bet your tune will change then.
- steve, Manchester

Police and Fire are front line, but, they and all City Departments should have the newspaper or TV do an inverstigative report in Manchester-Concord & Nashua. Rampant cronyism, politics, etc. Pity the poor worker at the bottom of the food chain, unless they can play the game regardless of qualifications, they will stay at the bottom. Bad joke at taxpapers expense and too many related to newspapers so no indepth investigation or audit it will never get done.
- Paul, Manchester

I have a great deal of respect for our police and fire fighters (as I do for rank & file teachers), but seeing officers and firefighters pulling in over $80K seems a bit too much. Not they don't work for it, but it does seem like a lot. I am also very surprised to read how little the school nurses make compared to their counterparts in hospitals & clinical settings. Good nurses are gettting harder to find. I even noticed one of the school nurses is a Guinta.
- Peter Johanssen, Manchester, NH

If I were a Manchester Police Officer I'm sure I'd love racking up the OT to gain over 100k a year. Still, with the budget problems now I think the city needs to look at other ways to limit this spending. This many city employees making above 100k isn't sustainable, unless raising taxes 10-15% doesn't bother anyone.
- Larry, Manchester

28 Police officers earning over 95K. And people wonder why we have problems with ever increasing tax and budget concers within the city? To top this off, many residents aren't pleased with the quality of service we are getting for this investment.
- Jim, Manchester, NH

Half of the 38 $100,000-earners were in the Police Department, four in the Fire Department, four at the airport, two at public works, two in finance, two at water works, two in housing and one each in three other departments.

Another 59 city employees made between $90,000 and $99,999 in 2007, with 27 of them from police, 13 from fire, four at the airport, two in the school district and one each in 13 other departments.

So basically there are 100 people making (100K) $100,000.00 a year on the City payroll. Right? Thats (10Million)$10,000,000.00 a year for their services?? Can you show me what they or each individual has done or accomplished to warrant these pay scales??? Please publish this and the accomplishments of these city employees.Thank You. If they really earned it give them a bonus, take it out of those who haven't. If none have or can prove they have donate their next check to charity. Then see if they go earn it if they can!!!!!!!!!!!
- E J, Manchester

"Half of the 38 $100,000-earners were in the Police Department" Perfect example of wasted tax payers money. Nothing against the Police Department but 19-20 police officers on overtime mean we could have had 9-10 more Police Officers on regular time instead of over worked tired officers getting extra pay when fresh new officers could have been on the job???? That means 10 extra Policemen at no extra cost. Wow?? That can't make any CENTS?? Oops I mean sense??? Did I miss something??? No overtime saves $$$$$ and could keep fresh not overworked officers on the job!!! But money is tight in this tough economy?????????
- E M, Manchester

How is it that Linda Quinn LOST $216.53 in total salary? That doesn't make sense!
- Linda B, Manchester

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"Schools may need to cut $3.6m more"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
May 28, 2008

MANCHESTER – School officials who have already discussed the possibility of axing all extra-curricular activities, reducing kindergarten to a half day and laying off some administrators would have to take their scissors back out of the drawer if the aldermen approve a proposed $140 million budget for city schools, aldermen were told last night.

Roughly $3.6 million in additional cuts would be necessary under the mayor's budget proposal. Those cuts would lengthen a list of more than 30 cost-cutting measures proposed by school administrators last month.

"I don't know where on Earth they're going to find (the money)," Alderman Russ Ouellette said.

The potential for further trauma was raised earlier this month when the school board chose not to dole out pink-slips to any teachers before the May 10 contractual deadline. Administrators had previously estimated the district would need to lay off 80 teachers to save nearly $3.6 million.

School board members said teachers were too important to let go. Last night, Alderman Mark Roy said he agreed with their logic.

"I don't think we should ever lay off teachers," he said.

The discussion in City Hall last night was the first to address the school district's finances since the aldermen approved a $120 million city budget. Aldermen have until June 10 to settle on a separate budget for the school district.

Board members are in a difficult position. As it stands, any increase to the mayor's recommendation of $140 million would result in a tax increase.

No decisions were made last night, though a few ideas were proffered. At one point, Alderman Ted Gatsas suggested the district could reassign Hooksett students from Central High School to West High School. West, he noted, is expected to lose about 450 students over the next two years as Bedford continues its phased withdrawal from the district.

"I'm just trying to throw out opportunities," Gatsas said.

Teachers at West have previously said the school was long overcrowded and continues to have little available space. Responding to Gatsas last night, Acting Superintendent Henry Aliberti said, "It's something we can have a conversation about."

Aldermen are still waiting for the school board to weigh in on another Gatsas-penned proposal, a retirement package for city teachers. The teachers union has expressed some reservations about the plan's viability. District Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis said she plans to discuss the idea with officials from the state retirement system later this week.

School officials in March put forward what Aliberti called a "progressive" budget proposal, requesting enough money to launch an academy at West High, replace old computers and hire 10 new full-time employees.

Trimming the budget to meet Mayor Frank Guinta's recommendation would require the district to cut many programs and lay off about two dozen administrators and district staffers, the school board has said.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

If you think housing values are falling now, wait until you see what a school district in shambles does to them. (Oh, at least our taxes will drop then.)

Tom, as far as people being "overpaid, hacks", etc, if you don't like your lot in life, do something to better yourself.

Badmouthing those who had the initiative to get an education to land better paying jobs with more responsibility serves no purpose (unless it makes you feel better.)
- Rick, Manchester, NH

Overstaffed? We are NOT overstaffed. Come and see some of the cases we have in these schools. These are your children. Perhaps if they came to school with fewer head issues, we could get down to the business of teaching and perhaps have fewer staff members, but that is not possible--not possible when you have children with knives attacking other children and children with "sensory" issues or drug related issues.
- MT, Manchester

Let's face it: Manchester, as a city, needs a big economic overhaul and re-structuring. I'm not just talking about the school district (even though they aren't a city department) but the whole damn thing.
Also, looking at education v. experience and how it pays... i think teachers would benefit monetarily if they became a city department. What would a first year teacher make next year? $31,000, similarly, what would a first year engineer make next year?

Also, tom: who are these "overpaid, underworked hacks"? teachers? police? fireman? politicians? I'm crossing my fingers big time, hoping you say 'politicians.'
- Hogan, Manchester

They don't need to lay off teachers because they LOSE about 50 to retirement per year.

Those are (mostly) not replaced unless it's a critical area.

That was stated last night and should be noted.
- Leah, Manchester

People come on here and call the employees of the school district hacks. The employees of the school district work hard to provide the best education to the students of Manchester. THe 140 million budget provided by Guinta was unrealistic to begin with and provided way too many cuts of services within the school system. If the aldermen give the schools Guinta's numbers then we are going to see a school system drop dramatically and, the city also runs the risk of having the schools lose their accreditation. If people want to save money on the backs of the schools and the education system in Manchester then Manchester is in for some really tough times.
- Mike, Manchester

When is "enough is enough"! After reading what these folks are paid over the last couple of days, any taxpayer should be choleric. Now they want MORE? $100,000 per year police, and fire. $100,000 per year administrators. And the average Joe is hardly able to purchase gasoline. No vacation for the average Manchester family because they can't afford to travel. And what is going to happen in November when no one can afford heating oil? Will someone, somewhere, somehow put a stop to this madness. Tell these overpaid, underworked, hacks that the party is OVER!
- tom, manchester,nh

For Alderman Roy to say we should never lay off teachers is absurd. I can't see how all of the Bedford High students have left and we aren't somehow overstaffed.

I am thankful that Mayor Guinta is pushing the issue of finding ways to cut spending because I really can't afford another tax increase in the economy.
- Sue, Manchester

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"Plans afoot to fight city hall?"
By JOHN WHITSON, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Tuesday, May. 27, 2008

MANCHESTER – The city teachers union is gearing up to fight an effort by aldermen to change the school district into a city department.

A public hearing on the concept will take place next month.

The hearing is a required step in the process of getting the question before voters as a referendum on the November election ballot.

City voters have already approved the measure once -- in 2001 -- but that vote was challenged and overturned by the state Supreme Court.

In 2003, the state Legislature passed into law a measure that enables Manchester to make the charter change, but the city has not again tested the idea's appeal.

Until now.

At the Board of Mayor and Aldermen's direction, City Clerk Carol Johnson will set up a meeting with school district officials, followed by a public hearing in late June.

"I will probably attempt to schedule them pretty much back to back, sometime before the end of school," she said recently.

Mayor Frank Guinta, who also chairs the school board, stops just short of endorsing the structural switch.

"In my view, this will be on the ballot," said Guinta. "I think it's a change that should be very seriously considered by the public."

Scott McGilvray, president of the city teachers union, said he isn't taking a position -- yet. "What I'd like to do now is become educated about the issue," he said.

That belies the tone of a recent National Education Association-N.H. e-mail, urging Manchester teachers attend a strategy session to "save the school district."

"... This most recent effort by the mayor and aldermen poses a particularly dangerous threat to the quality of public education in Manchester," reads the e-mail from McGilvray and Jonathan Chait, a director at NEA-N.H.

The e-mail continues: "It is very important that we convince the Board of Mayor and Aldermen not to proceed to a referendum on this issue. This will require a concerted effort by all people who care about the quality of public education in this city... We must stop the mayor and aldermen now."

Repeated attempts to reach Chait for comment were unsuccessful.

McGilvray said the May 14 session drew mostly union officers and focused on researching the issue.

As a city department, the school board would retain autonomy over how it spends allotted tax dollars, said Guinta, but aldermen would have more input throughout the budget process.

Consolidation could go hand in hand with collaboration, said the mayor, citing human resources, legal and other professional service positions at both City Hall and school administration offices.

Ward 2 Alderman Ted Gatsas pushed for the public hearing months ago and endorses bringing the school district under City Hall's tent.

He said aldermen tend to take the heat when tax bills come out, so they may as well get in the kitchen.

"We are the taxing body," said Gatsas. "We get blamed if taxes go up and we get blamed if we don't fund something."

Several school officials said they'd also like to change the status quo, but they'd prefer to see a clean break from city-side politics.

"Consideration might be given to giving the (school) district complete autonomy," said acting Superintendent Henry Aliberti, "issuing its own tax bill and being directly responsible to the citizens."

School board finance Chairman Doug Kruse agreed, saying the school board would then have to stand alone and be held accountable by voters for its budget decisions.

Aldermen, he said, have more than enough departments to scrutinize and are too far removed from school policy and finance issues to provide meaningful insight.

The issue will, unfortunately, turn into a turf battle and distraction, said Kruse.

"Every minute spent arguing about this is a minute we don't spend working on boosting student achievement," said Kruse. "We're going to put a lot of resources into this battle, and I'm not sure that makes a whole lot of sense."

Katherine Labanaris, the school board's vice chair, bristles at any implication that the district would benefit from aldermen's financial oversight.

"I don't understand the reasoning behind this because I think as a district we do a really good job with our budget," she said. "We have fewer people operating a larger budget than city side.

"We return money to the municipality every year, and we don't overspend our budget."

That, said state Rep. Will Infantine, lead sponsor of the 2003 legislation, is simply political "spin."

"I don't think they have been anywhere near as good as the city has in coming up with more efficient ways to do things," said the Manchester Republican.

He said residents wouldn't notice a big change in the way schools and the city function, but making the district a department would allow more general oversight.

Aldermen don't tell police what kind of bullets to buy or choose hose line for firefighters, said Infantine, and he doesn't foresee them picking out science books.

School board member Chris Herbert said aldermen have enough on their plate.

"The school board's membership is oriented toward the school district, and they don't have to worry about potholes," he said.

Herbert is skeptical that aldermen could devote the time to really understand the intricacies of school policy and do a good job.

"If they want the responsibility," he said, "they're welcome to it."

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Readers' COMMENTS:

The supreme court upheld the lower cours decision because the City of Manchester, on bad advice went forward with the charter change without going to Concord for the legislation allowing them to mkae the school district into a school department. Now that the special legislation was granted to allow the change, if it passes at the next election, the change will be upheld. Voters in Manchester should once again have the opportunity to vote to make one of the most dysfunctional school districts in the State a department of the City. Too much waste and obviously the change from a department to a district has been nothing short of a very bad experiment.
- joekelly, manchester

If the School Board were to become a seperate taxing entity, then I hope we will be able to vote for the Superintendent! I for one, don't really care to have another entity reaching into our pockets. Especially one that only has one agenda.
- Mark, Manchester

@Robert M Tarr, Manchester: Wrong. The current business model that the school district is operating under is broken. There are only 2 viable choices: 1) become a department of the city - where the superintendent (as the department head) would likely replace the mayor as the chair man of the school board, or 2) become a separate taxing entity.

Even acting Superintendent Henry Aliberti said that consideration might be given to the district to issue its own tax bill and being directly responsible to the citizens. To suggest this tells me that Mr. Aliberti believes that the business model of "hold out you hand for your allowance - and get a lecture or punishment for wanting more" is a setup for failure.

At this point, I don't care if the district became a department of the city or was allowed the ability to issue tax bills. I don't think it would affect the quality of the education (positively or negatively) that the students would receive. None of the issues that the residents have with the education of their children would go away any time soon - it would only put the funding issue to rest.
- David R, Manchester

What difference whether this happens or not. The city of Manchester is so corrupt at this point, nothing will fix it. Take a look at the salaries and benefits for the average city employee. These folks could not get one half this amount of money in the private sector. Heck, you have folks mowing lawns for $40,000 per year! Then the schools, take a look at the salaries and names of positions. Some of these folks don't do anything. As most any sane city resident is saying to himself: GET ME OUT OF HERE!
- TOM, manchester, nh

"The vote was challenged and overturned by the state Supreme Court" That message alone should be enough to say this a bad idea. You can't say an apple is an orange and visa versa. What needs to be done is the newly elected school board has to start governing the Manchester School District, not just sitting on their hands as they did in the past. Aldermen can worry about the city side of things. Not that they all do a good enough job at it. Sidewalks in disrepair, overtime at an all time high, government city employees making over 75k and don't pay full health care benefits. It goes on and on. Adding on the school district as a city department is fool hardy? I ask you; "How can a city department be In Need Of Improvement under NCLB, it can't". I for one as a voter say no to the idea. How about you?
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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City Hall: "Criticism went to heart of school budget issue"
The NH Union Leader, Sunday, Jun. 1, 2008

SAID Alderman Kelleigh Domaingue to us the other day, "I'll probably get crucified for saying this, but I think it was an irresponsible vote."

Domaingue was referring to a major decision the school board made last month, the effect of which was to prohibit the school district from laying off any teachers. What's important to note here is that Domaingue is hardly a cold-hearted conservative -- she's a Democrat and is herself a former school board member. It's also important to note that several other aldermen and Mayor Frank Guinta agree with her.

Their criticism goes right to the heart of a conflict that's about to erupt in City Hall. The question is, should the school board continue to manage the district's finances, or should that power be given to the aldermen?

The two boards can debate it all they want, but as of this moment, it's looking increasingly likely that the matter will be settled by the voters. Alderman Ted Gatsas is pushing to get the question on the November ballot. It looks as though he has the votes to do it.

The controversy over teacher layoffs has come into play because some officials see the school board's vote as proof that the board cannot be trusted with the district's purse strings. Board members knew full well the school budget was in line for a deep, painful cut this year, but because they refused to pink slip teachers before the May 10 contractual deadline, the odds are now much better that after-school programs and other offerings will get the ax.

School Board Vice Chair Katherine Labanaris doesn't see it that way. She says the board ought to be applauded for voting to protect teachers, whom she called the "keystone" of a good education.

"I know I have a bias," she said, "but I think I have a better insight into what's going on in our district than people who never go into the schools and don't understand the education process."

Though she says the question ought to be on the ballot, Domaingue says she is torn about the issue itself. On the one hand, she said, "I like the fact there would be increased accountability from the administration . . . I think that was lacking in this budget process, which brings us to where we are today.

"But I'm sure there are downsides," she said. "I'm personally worried about whether or not we can do it legally."

A referendum to turn the school district into a city department, as Gatsas' proposal would do, passed overwhelmingly in 2001 but was struck down by the state Supreme Court. The law was later changed to allow just such a move.

Alderman Mark Roy said he, too, has "mixed opinions" about the issue. Still, he said, "I would probably vote to put it on the ballot."

The aldermen's vote could take place as soon as June 10. That's the same day of a public hearing on the matter. Coincidentally, it's also the deadline for the aldermen to approve a school budget.


- - - - - -

DON'T FORGET TO TIP: They almost got away it.

City officials expected to clear about $160,000 on the sale of the old brick building that once housed the city's first high school. The New Hampshire Institute of Art paid $311,000 for the Lowell Street building last December, dividing the proceeds between the city and the Sargent Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell Amoskeag Industries.

In a letter to the mayor and aldermen, Amoskeag Industries President George Lagos said his company, which has "reverter rights" on the building, is entitled to 20 percent of the city's proceeds, or roughly $32,000.

Guinta said he expects the aldermen will agree to hand over the money. "It was probably nothing more than an oversight," the mayor said.


- - - - - -

DRUGS AND GUNS: Guinta and the city's new police chief, David Mara, made a trip to Concord last Thursday. Their mission: to convince the state Department of Safety to funnel more money to Manchester for undercover drug busts and anti-gang initiatives.

Guinta said he left the meeting feeling confident some money would be coming Manchester's way. But he said it may be another month or so before the city finds out how much it's getting.

"It's really hard to tell right now," he said.

The state has only $819,000 in a federal Streetsweeper grant to disburse this year, down from $1.5 million a few years ago, Guinta said. Manchester may get just a fraction of that sum.


- - - - - -

OPPOSING LIBERTY: There's some bold language on the official Web site of the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, the group behind the effort to put a spending cap on the city ballot this fall. Stuff about government tyranny, "greedy edu-crats," and "activist judges who are more interested in mandating spending than upholding the law."

Then there's this sentence, in the middle of the "About Us" page: "The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition recognizes the importance of personal liberties in the Granite State, and provides you with the information and resources to oppose them."

We're guessing that's not what they meant.


- - - - - -

YOU ARE FORGIVEN: The Parking Division's late-fee forgiveness program seems to be working.

In two weeks since the program started, Manchester has collected about $100,000 in parking fines, Parking Manager Brandy Stanley said. That's roughly double what the city typically reaps in a two-week stretch, she said.

"It's telling us that so far the program has been pretty successful," Stanley said.

Late fees will continue to be waived until July 15. By then, Stanley guessed, the city will likely have taken in between $200,000 and $250,000.

Of course, that's just a small chunk out of the $1.9 million the city was owed when Stanley pitched the program.


- - - - - -

BUT WILL IT WIN A WEBBY?: Work is very nearly complete on a total redesign of the city's Web site. Information Systems Director Jennie Angell said the new site is set to launch a week from today.


- - - - - -

100 YEARS AND STILL STANDING: Former Ward 5 aldermanic candidate Bob Tarr is trying to organize a birthday party for Dearborn Hall, the large and long-vacant brick building at 434 Lake Ave. in the Hollow. The building turns 100 this year.

"We're just trying to get the word out that the building needs to be preserved and saved," Tarr said.

Tarr is a member of a neighborhood watch group called Neighbors2Neighbors.

He said he hopes to see Dearborn Hall "restored to a community center, or something very nice."

The celebration would be in August, he said. Volunteers are wanted.
-
Read Scott Brooks' coverage of City Hall in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Reader's COMMENT:

Why in the world should the aldermen have more authority over the school district? In the end they make the final vote on the budget. This is all a consequence of poor planning and public employees become the victims of it. The ridicule handed out by people who claim to be proponents of democracy and followers of principles that this country is founded on have been overcome by the bullying practices of unethical preaching by people who really are not educated on the running of a community. It goes beyond your tax bills!
Don't underestimate the power of a small select group of people. You do not want the aldermen to have the final say on all that occurs in our city. The school board was voted in by the taxpayers of Manchester - let them do their job.
- joco, manchester,nh

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"New Horizons asks aldermen to reverse cuts"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008

MANCHESTER – The New Horizons shelter and food pantry is asking the aldermen to reverse a decision to cut $36,000 in aid for the homeless and hungry.

For years, the city's Welfare Department has paid the Manchester Street organization a monthly subsidy to house and feed the people it refers there. The subsidy was not included in the $120 million city budget approved two weeks ago.

"That's one of the things we're wrestling with: What do we do?" said Fred Robinson, the organization's executive director. "Do we cut the number of hours at the food pantry? Do we cut staff? ... Do we cut the nutritional value of the food we get?"

The organization's request goes before the aldermen tonight. The board meets at 7:30 p.m. in the aldermanic chambers.

Mayor Frank Guinta said in April he did not believe the $3,000-a-month subsidy to New Horizons had to be eliminated, suggesting the Welfare Department could comb its budget for other expenses to cut. His budget proposal shaved nearly $14,000 off the department's budget, a reduction the aldermen approved last month.

"Now that the budget's approved, it's in the hands of the Welfare Department," said Mark Laliberte, an aide to Guinta. "They're the ones who determine how to spend the money."

Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau said the cut to his department's budget was "ironic" because Guinta recently unveiled a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Manchester. Guinta's budget proposal set aside thousands of dollars in federal grants to help area non-profits build and operate low-income housing units. Among those organizations, New Horizons received $23,000.

The New Horizons subsidy was not the only expense cut from the Welfare Department's budget, Martineau said. To keep costs down, Martineau said he will be cutting back on food vouchers, medical prescriptions and rental assistance.

Meanwhile, he recently added two part-time security officers at an expense of $26,000. Martineau has said the officers are needed because some welfare recipients have acted belligerently around his staff.

Robinson said he does not expect to cut staff at New Horizons. Also, he said, "I don't envision us turning away anybody that comes for assistance."

The New Horizons food pantry gave out more than 16,000 bags of food to Manchester residents last year, according to the organization. The soup kitchen reportedly served more than 68,000 meals.

Robinson estimated the number of people looking for handouts has increased about 9 percent in the first half of this year. Meanwhile, he said, about 635 homeless people have stayed at the shelter.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Mike Porter wrote a very good piece on this Blog, and he should know what is going on over there because he is a former employee, and while I applaud Mike's passionate defense of the Welfare Department I disagree with Martineau that they need two security officers at 26,000.00. That is without question a complete waste of money; the money should be going to the Horizon. It is Martineau himself that brags to anyone that will listen how wonderful an administrator he has been, how much money he has given back to the City over the years. Well, now is the time to sharpen the pencil and make sure that PEOPLE are FED. Give me break about security officers at the welfare department. That is a bunch of baloney. Time for a change at the welfare department. How about this for a suggestion? Martineau, who is an elected commisssioner and has nothing to do with the real heavy lifting at the Welfare department (all the work is done by his deputy and staff) should give up his salary. That is the right thing to do, get rid of the useless position, save the money and feed the homeless. Another good idea that won't happen.
- joekelly, manchester

Beth - many of us do volunteer, not just you as you seem to assume. I am on the board of a non-profit in the city and this week alone I'm volunteering 3 nights at another organization.

I don't think anyone is complaining, it's more frustrating than anything. I can't afford to have my taxes go up any higher. If they do then I will most likely become a patron of New Horizons and what will that accomplish.

Also, New Horizons was not the only program from City Welfare that was cut. They do an incredible job but what about the others that do the same.
- Steve, Manchester

How about the taxpayer - whose budget is also being "cut" in the form of increased taxes? Who will assist with food, rent, medical or other expenses for the average taxpayer who just cannot afford it anymore?
- Sue, Manchester

JD Williams, did you fall off the turnip truck?! You're trying to tell us that those folks who use New Horizon also sell drugs on the streets of Manchester?

New Horizons helps all people from all walks of life. People who are down & out due to mental illness, old age, job layoff's, etc. New Horizons is a valuable asset to Manchester.

If any of you complaining had a heart or a soul, you'd get your mean butts off the recliner and go down there to volunteer! Stop complaing! Ugh!
- Beth, Manchester

George - try finding a job when you're living at the shelter...especially in this economy. Many people who live at the shelter do day labor through Labor Ready, which pays next-to-nothing. Finding a liveable wage in Manchester (where the cost of living is well above the national average) is not any easy task. Also, it takes resources (money!) to hire people to develop and implement a comprehensive case management program that would connect people with educational and training opportunities to improve job skills and, therefore, earning potential. Finally, don't assume that just because someone "looks" healthy means that they have the ability to hold down a job. Disabilities come in many shapes and sizes - many of which cannot be seen. What Manchester needs to do is invest in more permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless. Research shows these types of programs to have the best outcomes with this challenging population.
- Jennifer, Manchester

An across the board cut would be the fairest way to reduce thier budget. How about a 2% "pay cut" to ALL welfare recipients? I'll bet that would more than cover it. From what I have seen, the shelter does a very efficient job at helping feed the homeless and provide food to those in need from it's pantry. (I had a friend who confided in me that she needed to use the services once and swallowing her pride to do it was very hard-yet best for her daughter) To single out New Horizons for the shortfall is unfair and gives the impression that they are being used as a pawn for the city to succomb to giving them more. Well, going back to the city for "more" is unfair to the taxpayers.
- Brian G., Manchester

I am sick and tired of paying for people who suck the life from hard working people. There are a few who need the social assistance due to some mental problems beyond their control, but come on, it's getting ridiculous. I see the people leaving the soup kitchen in the morning and they congregate all day at Victory Park and do nothing, but litter the park. Most of them could get out and get a job like we taxpaying people who fill the welfare pockets with our sweat. Enough is enough, get out and work for your living!!!! It works, we do it every day.
- George Petronellis, Manchester

It is wonderful to help the homeless, the hungry and the poor in our community but we have to back up our social assistance with programs to get people back to work and off the street.
I live in the vicinity of the New Horizon and the organization does a wonderful job but it is a shame to see the same people selling drugs in our neighborhoods and the crack addicts from our neighborhood getting free food at lunch time when you drive by New Horizon on Manchester street. This free food is courtesy of the tax payers of this City and donations from the good people of New Hampshire.

It is time we attached alcohol and drug treatments programs plus a back to work program with the New Horizon so we could get people off the street and back to been productive members of our Society.

Give a man a fish and he eats for one day, teach a man how to fish and he eats for a life time.
- JD Williams, Manchester

First off, the Mayor proposed a budget for the welfare department that cut funds. There is very little in the Welfare budget that can be cut. Many of the costs in the department are fixed costs and the department operates on a bare bones budget to begin with. What people fail to realize is that the City Welfare office is never the first option but rather, the last possible option. City Welfare is not like the Federal Welfare system. City Welfare is an agency that provides emergency assistance to those in need. Before assistance can be provided, the client base must utilize all other forms of available assistance before the City Welfare department can assist. It is through creative caseworkers like the city has that other funds through other agencies are utilized first in an effort to hold down costs. The relationships the caseworkers for the city form are a key to providing the emergency assistance necessary while at the same time utilizing other sources available to the clients’, assistance that the clients’ may not have known about.
Before people go bashing Paul Martineau or the City Welfare Department, they need to look at the budget offered by Mayor Guinta and ultimately approved by the Board of Aldermen. What the Aldermen do know is that they can cut the welfare department as much as they want but in the end, if the department has to overspend on general assistance for items like food, rent, medical or other expenses, the city is mandated to fund whatever monies are expended. At this point, Commissioner Martineau had to make a choice and balance out the safety of his employees or assisting New Horizons. I think the choice to protect the caseworkers from potential violence is money well worth spending and Commissioner Martineau should be applauded for realizing the very difficult job the caseworkers have and the difficult environment they work in on a day to day basis; sometimes a dangerous environment.
- Mike Porter, Manchester

How pathetic. The homeless get cut, while we have $100,000 per year police/fire/metermaidboss .. I hope this news story gets picked up by the national press. Just to show what a corrupt, one party ruled city, Manchester is.
- tom, manchester,nh

In a past article; "Who's Got His Back" Mayor Guinta was seen saying; "Many Democratic candidates promised on the campaign trail to advocate for fiscal responsibility, a key phrase in his own reelection bid. "Every single one of them ran on a platform of tax relief," Guinta said. "I think we ought to hold everyone's feet to the fire." And to add on futher, Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau said at a 'Meet the Candidate' function in 2007 at the Maple Street American Legion; "Don't elect republicans because they will cut your jobs!". Guess we can clearly see what the aldermen and welfare commissioner are all about, can't we?? Take away from the homeless and those in need, introduce a 5% tax increase, cut the MTA budget and more. That is NOT fiscal responsibility, that is punishing those who live in Manchester and sending a message "Get out of OUR city!". Maybe we should send a message in 2009, you are now voted out of office. Who's with me?
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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School budget: "14 aldermen join mayor in backing cuts, tax hike"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
June 4, 2008

MANCHESTER – Fourteen aldermen and the mayor reached a rare consensus last night on a proposed school budget that raises taxes but protects after-school sports, full-day kindergarten and other programs that some believed were headed for extinction.

The proposal, which still requires a vote, takes the unprecedented step of giving the school district less money than it received last year. The proposed budget, $146 million, is $1.2 million short of last year's appropriation.

It also offered a rarely seen show of unity on a measure that promises to raise property taxes -- in this case, by 3.6 percent. Board members said they had hoped to avoid a tax hike but feared the damage to Manchester's schools would be too great.

"It's a budget that has the interest of the children at heart," said Alderman Ted Gatsas, who co-authored the proposal with Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez. "I think that's what we all work for."

The likelihood that the budget will pass now hinges on a joint meeting of the aldermen and school board, scheduled for tomorrow at 5 p.m. Gatsas and Lopez said they want the school board to agree to spend the money in accordance with the aldermen's recommendations, outlined for the first time last night.

That suggestion upset some school board members, who argued the city charter gives their board, and not the aldermen, the authority to manage the district's budget.

"They don't need a school board if they're going to do this," Committeeman Art Beaudry said. "They might as well eliminate our positions."

Members of the school board were still poring over the aldermen's proposal late last night. Several committeemen said they were grateful to see the total dollar figure of $146 million, which is $6 million more than Mayor Frank Guinta proposed in March.

"It's a lot better than I thought we would get," Committeeman Stephen Dolman said.

Guinta called the budget a fair compromise. He joined all 14 alvdermen in signing what Gatsas called a "contract" expressing the board's unanimous support for the proposal, including a list of jobs and programs it wants to see funded.

"No number is the magic number," Guinta said, "but I think we struck a balance."

The aldermen's proposal makes a note of 25 programs and initiatives that Gatsas and Lopez said they want covered in the budget. The list includes many of the items that might have been axed under Guinta's proposal, including sports, extra-curricular activities, school resource officers and elementary band and orchestra.

Gatsas and Lopez also urged the school board to keep employed the assistant principals who received pink slips this spring. The aldermen would, however, eliminate the assistant superintendent position that previously belonged to Henry Aliberti. Aliberti is currently the acting superintendent but has announced he will soon leave to take a job in another district.

Alderman Russ Ouellette, a former school board member, said the budget proposal allows the district to "tread water" for the next year. "They're still going to have to sharpen their pencils," he said, referring to his former colleagues on the school board. "They're still going to have to find ways of saving money."

Lopez conceded the proposal does not include about $2 million in employee salaries. That money will have to be made up elsewhere, he said.

Meanwhile, the aldermen said they will slash the price the district pays for its sports teams to use Gill Stadium, a proposal several school board members cheered last night. As a side effect, however, the city will lose an estimated $120,000 next year in revenue that was already included in the city budget approved two weeks ago. Lopez said he believes that money, too, can be made up elsewhere.

The budget's effect on taxpayers is projected to be an extra 63 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That translates into an increase of $157 on a home worth $250,000.

Guinta has previously said his goal this budget season was to keep taxes at their current rate. Yesterday, he said it was clear the aldermen who hashed out an alternative budget acted "in a very professional, very collegial and very business-like manner."

"We can broadly and generally agree that we're doing, I think, the best we can with limited resources," Guinta said.

-

Readers' COMMENTS:

Yes, thanks to the Aldermen and the Mayor for putting the screws to Manchester taxpayers once again.

How many pork projects like the cast-iron Rimmon Heights arches (with fiber optic lighting, mind you) are in the new budget? How many worthless expenditures like painting the side of the Graffiti Removal van *with graffiti* are in the new budget? You mean to tell me you couldn't call a moratorium on all non-essential spending?

Ridiculous.
- William Smith, Manchester, NH

Leah,
Bedford has every right to sue Manchester if they are not holding up their end of the contract with Bedford. Say I had a contract with you to supply oil for your home, but 3/4 of the way through the contract I decided that it's not profitable for me to continue providing it to you at the contracted price and I delivered only half the fuel, but charged you the rest of the contract price. Would you tell me that you would completely understand and allow me to do that, or would you sue me for the balance of the oil under the contract?

Manchester and Bedford have a contract which states what educational experience (for lack of a better term) is to be provided by Manchester to Bedford. Manchester cannot stop supplying portions of the contract just because it's going to hurt them financially. They need to either renegotiate, or complete the contract as stated. The bone you want to pick is with the person who wrote that contract that is now unfavorable to Manchester, not with the town of Bedford who accepted the contract and is paying the tuition stated in the contract.
- Jack, Manchester

I hope people do not blame the school district for the tax increase. If the BMA did not dip into the rain day money to fund the city side of the budget then the city would have had a tax increase too!!!
- Stacy, Manchester, NH

People of Manchester allow themselves to be deceived or worse, lie to themselves. For that they deserve the government they get. An analysis of costs shows that Manchester has very inexpensive schools and very expensive municipal government. You may not like them, but ignoring the facts only leads to poor government decision making and higher and higher taxes, due to poor decision making.
Why, when schools lost Bedford students, do they need more money than they got last year? There are many reasons, but here are the few I can think of offhand:
1. Starting next year, in order to graduate all high school students will be required to pass 10% more classes than in the past (22 credits instead of 20). Ten percent more classes increases costs.
2. Government regulations have added many requirements to schools. As an example: do you think the district employs more teachers of English, math, science or some other subject? You are wrong if you did not guess special education teachers. When the older of us went to school there were no special education teachers. For many of us there were special education teachers and they taught classes to students who needed their expertise. Today special education students are integrated into standard classes with a subject area teacher teaching the class. Special education teachers spend a lot of time completing government required paperwork, but do not teach classes. This has increased costs of schooling quite dramatically.
3. The state raised the drop out age to 18. Manchester has a 5.4% annual dropout rate. Costs increase to accommodate this new legislation.
4. The school district uses electricity, fuel to heat schools and provides healthcare benefits to its employees. As we all know, costs have skyrocketed.
One can argue whether each of these changes is right or wrong, good or bad, that’s debatable. What is not debatable is that they increase costs. This list is just a few of the many reasons costs increase.
As a taxpayer of Manchester I would like to see my taxes not change or go down. My costs have gone up so a tax increase hurts, but I also see some neighbors that make do with less than I do. I prefer not to, but I can cut back and will continue to. The school district has no neighbor (other school district) that gets by with as little money per student as they do. So I am not so sure they can cut enough spending to have any noticeable impact on my taxes. On the other hand, every other city and town in NH spends a smaller percentage of the taxes it raises on its municipal government than Manchester. Surely, much savings can be had there. How do other cities in New Hampshire do it?
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester

ohhh my god i cant believe what i am reading .. i cant believe the selfisness and ignorance in these post and to you sarah in manchester .. you obviously dont have kids and you also dont have a clue to what extra-curricular activities there are other then band .. there are reading classes and math classes and self help programs for kids with learning problems and most parents can barley afford to feed their kids... these programs are wonderful things.. and remember when you are older its these children that will be running this country .. so we need to eduacte them as much as we can
- tori ramirez, londonderry

Thank you BMA and School Board!!! This could have been handled months ago and saved a lot of stress, but I am thrilled with the decision. Another 2 or 3 hundred bucks a YEAR is going to save this city millions in the long run .... it is just a shame that most people do not realize this. Our biggest savings that just occured is saving millions in police overtime due to the thousands of kids on the street unsupervised after school. the second biggest savings that just occured, property taxes going up 15 to 20% to make up for the mass exodus of residents into a community that cares about the kids. I was one myself, I have already looked at several homes in Londonderry and Hudson areas so m kids can experience the ENTIRE childhood.

If you can't find a few hundred extra a year....then look at your own personal budget and only buy coffee outside of the home every other day instead of every day or quit smoking or go out to eat twice a week instead of 4 times a week. It can be done .... just give it a try. Example: Coffee 365 days a year equals roughly $730, so cut that in half and there you go $365 in savings...well what do you know....everything will be fine.
- Jeff K, Manchester

Taxpayers- if you want the services you need to expect a raise in taxes. The cost of everything is increasing. It's called inflation and it's not a new concept! The school district will be operating with a lower budget than last year- while expenses are rising. I think the Board of Mayor and Alderman made a responsible proposal! The increase means a $157 increase in taxes if you own a home evaluated at $250,000. No offense- if you can afford a $250,000 home- you can afford $157!
- Sarah D, Manchester, NH

Those of you who complain about crime in Manchester should realize that the more extra curricular activities available to kids, the less likely they are to be involved in criminal activities. So money spent on sports and music, etc., IS money spent on crime prevention. Sure the school district should look at ways to cut costs, but removing programs that keep kids occupied, engaged and learning, instead of hanging out bored on the steets, isn't helping the kids or the citizens of Manchester in the short term or long term.
- Lea, Manchester

Sarah,
You admit you have no children. My children are in the Manchester Public School system and I see on a daily basis how many corners these schools have to cut. Our school has had a paper shortage the last two years! Paper! Seems to me that might be an important item to a school.

If it wasn't for the parents who are involved (especially in PTO/PTA) many, many activities would not occur from the lack of money.

The principals and teachers have to struggle every year with their resources. There will never be enough money for our schools to survive. You complain about your taxes going up each year, but that is the reality that we live in, especially in our economy.

Playing a flute will not keep you safe, but for a kid that is borderline, having that attention and responsibility may make a huge difference. And I have seen that firsthand.

(You want more police officers? Did you check out last weeks publishing of city salaries? Well, based on all the overtime some officers receive you could hire quite a few more officers with that money. We could have more officers and less over-worked ones. But that isn't a popular idea because then the basis of their pensions wouldn't be as high.)

Now, I'm lucky because I have the time and the money to give extra to my children's school. Most parents do not and those are the ones that won't be able to play basketball if "we" didn't pay for it. I'm not happy about my taxes going up again either but it's not my kids fault.
- Nicole, Manchester

i would rather see a child learning to play an instrument or be in a choir, or playing baseball ect... after shool then running around the streets getting in trouble or causing trouble. kids that have nothing productive to do get in trouble. i agree with not cutting the programs but the tax hike is not great. people can't afford to dish out more $$.
why couldn't they have legalized gambling again????
- isabelle, manchester

im so proud to live in manchester.thank you to the 14 alderman and the mayor "whose seems to forget to pay his own taxes" for raising the taxes to help the teachers who dont want to be there as much as the kids do. teachers are there for the pay checks and the retirement. once again the hard working home owner has to suffer in tough times. so for the 14 alderman and fake frank walk with your heads high "like you did eveyone a favor" while most manchster home owners would like to stick your fat heads in the mudd!!!!
- kevin, manchester

So, that's it?

No more looking at the budget to try and trim the waste? No holding anyone accountable for a failing district? So much for being fiscally conservative and not getting bullied :)

Obviouslly there had to be a tax hike, but I really thought that department heads would have to be held accountable for once and really sit down and see what they didn't need (silly me)
- Maria, Manchester

I am so frustrated with this city. Crime is on the rise and instead of hiring more police officers to keep the residents of Manchester safe, we instead raise taxes to make sure that someone can play a flute after school? I don't have any children, but I sure do support the children of Manchester with my taxes. How about cutting some corners in school in order to make it more cost effective? I played sports in school and my parents paid for it. Why not make the parents pay for these extra-curricular activites? If they made the decision to have children, they should be responsible to fund their children's activities if they choose to participate in them. I wouldn't mind the 3.6% raise in my taxes if it went to a good cause like keeping this city safe. I don't think any child playing the flute is going to keep the criminals away.

I, for one, am going to do some serious reseach come November. I want to make sure that we have some fiscally intelligent people with the residents of Manchester in mind when they vote.

Wake up Manchester residents! We are going to end up paying more in taxes, which in turn, means more foreclosures. I can't wait to live in a cardboard box so that some person's child can play the tuba for a year and then decide it's not cool to be in band. Thanks Mayor and Aldermen!
- Sarah, Manchester, NH

First of all...wake up people... tax increases are often inevitable. The cost of everything is going up and Manchester departments do not spend unwisely.
2nd...this is politics at its best... The wise BMA..keeps a zero tax increase on the city side..what heroes...then tackles the school side with all the cries of doom and gloom....so TO SAVE THE CHILDREN...lets increase taxes 3.6% who can complain..the CHILDREN WILL ALL BE GOOD...
WHAT A SHOW...MCTV should receive an EMMY for the BMA show....
PEOPLE...if you dont want tax increases, be ready to absorb a cut in services... but heaven forbid the taxpayer have to deal with service cuts to save $$$.
- Frank, Manchester

If everyone in city government is happy, I'd better guard my wallet. Never is there uniform consensus on a tax break. How about a mayor and 14 aldermen in unanimity on a reduction in city taxes? To attract business, people, and risk-taking?

The die was cast on the city-side of the budget. Once Gatsas sided with the spenders, the tax increase was sealed. If Garrity and Pinard have been co-opted, then the current administration is no different than the one with Baines in the mayor's seat.

"It's a lot better than I thought we would get," Committeeman Stephen Dolman said. Raise taxes, but don't tell me to be happy about it.
- Steve, Manch

Once again, after all the talk, the taxpayers in Manchester get shafted. Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed.
Where are the efficiencies? The central billing? 3.6% does not sound like much until we all look at the other increases that the homeowner is dealing with. Water, sewer, all incresing. Fees, increasing. And even though it is June, I see stories in the UL about heating oil. Can someone tell me how I'm supposed to heat my home with $5 dollar per gallon oil? The fact is, Manchester is corrupt. The aldermen work for the special interest; the city employees. They have shown a total distain for the constituents who work, and pay the taxes. My guess? We will see more and more foreclosures, landlords will not be able to raise the rent, yet the cost of providing the housing will go through the roof. And all this while not one teacher loses a job, yet a high school is losing most of its students. No school department administrators lose their jobs, the school department still occupies offices in a high priced mill, nothing .. absolutely nothing has changed.
- Thom, Manchester, NH

Interesting analysis, Hank, considering BEDFORD where you live was one of the sending districts about to sue us, if these programs weren't continued.
- Leah, Manchester

Tax and Spend Aldermen and Frank.
Vote them all out.
See you in November at the poles.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester, NH

Hack domination in Manchester on display, what a surprise. This was a relatively easy thing to do in this budget cycle to keep taxes flat, and yet they still had to vote an increase. Wait until our economy gets worse and they are forced to make drastic suts to keep the city afloat. I pity the hard working homeowners of Manch.
- Hank, Bedford

Well it's not a perfect solution and after many aldermen ran on a platform of tax relief last year I guess we can see the truth now. The only thing that ways heavy on my mind is wanting the school district to become a city department again. I think this is a fool hardy move and maybe blocked by the DOE because the MANSD is in corrective action by the state. Guess we will have a say in November if it gets on the ballot to what the people of Manchester want? Only time will tell if we are moving forward or taking another step backwards.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

----------

"School board balks at 'contract'"
By JOHN WHITSON, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
June 5, 2008

MANCHESTER – A "contract" the school board will be asked to sign tonight won't legally bind spending decisions in 2008-09.

But members acknowledge that agreeing to, then breaking, the deal would probably draw political heat and ultimately harm the school district.

"It would be a promise to the aldermen," said school board Vice Chairman Katherine Labanaris. "They were very stern in their admonition that we do this, and if we did not do it, there would be repercussions next budget season. They wouldn't forget it."

Aldermen and Mayor Frank Guinta on Monday unanimously endorsed giving schools $146 million. That's $6 million more than the mayor originally proposed, but a $1.2 million cut from this year's school budget.

The deal, which hasn't been finalized with a vote, would bring city budget season to a close with a 3.6 percent property tax hike.

The $146 million will only be approved, however, if school board members sign a pledge that details spending to save a host of programs, including full-day kindergarten and sports.

"It's a good-faith agreement," said Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez. "You can't mandate them legally, but we would hope they would honor it when 14 aldermen and the mayor are in agreement."

Although it's far below their own $153.1 million budget proposal, several school board members said they're happy to see aldermen endorse spending beyond the mayor's proposal.

There's concern, however, that there are too many strings attached to the $146 million.

No one wants to eliminate sports or halve kindergarten time. But pledging to fully fund those and about 20 other items listed by aldermen would, some school board members say, restrict their ability to channel money to areas not on aldermen's radar.

"They're holding us hostage," said Ward 9 school board member Arthur Beaudry.

Retirements have created a need to hire high school math and biology teachers, he said, but honoring tonight's "contract" would make that all but impossible.

"They can't hold us to this agreement," said Beaudry. "This is not legally binding."

Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne agreed, saying his primary focus isn't on how school dollars are spent but on holding any tax increase below 4 percent.

"It's a good-faith situation," he said. "I don't micro-manage the school board's budget."

Doug Kruse, the school board's finance committee chairman, said both elected bodies should seize the moment.

Aldermen have taken time to scrutinize school spending while considering the needs of youngsters, he said, and that's a big improvement from past years.

"I look at this as a very positive step for the city," said Kruse. "This is a remarkable opportunity for us going forward to start working on the fiscal year 2010 budget."

Ward 2 Alderman Ted Gatsas said Monday night's agreement was simply an opportunity to show school board members and the public how "unified and passionate" aldermen are about specific areas of education spending.

Gatsas said aldermen have endured hours of criticism for spending cuts that were school administrators' response to Guinta's budget figure. If aldermen take heat for that, he said, they may as well specify what they would fund.

Ward 4 school board member Chris Herbert said people should remember that the number aldermen approved Monday night is still a budget cut for schools.

"It's not a positive," he said. "It's not as negative as it could have been."

Following aldermanic marching orders on spending is easy to agree to, said Herbert, but more difficult to carry out.

"I'll certainly agree to do the best I can," he said, "but that's all."

Yesterday, Labanaris was weighing whether to sign the deal. She was working with school administrators to see how the $146 million spending plan €" with strings attached €" would work.

"If we choose not to sign that contract, we'd get $140 million," said Labanaris. "It certainly marginalizes the board of school committee and its authority. This is really unprecedented."

--

Readers' COMMENTS:

Yeah, like the mayor and aldermen know how to run the school district better than the people who were elected to run the school district. That's funny! The mayor and aldermen should just stick to screwing up their part of the city budget, they're very good at that and that's more than enough for them.
- Frank, Manchester

Kruse-in general makes- me want to throw up. By the way, where is that Derek Myers guys who was going nuts on these UL blogs about no more tax increases? Guinta signed on to the 3.6% tax increase, where is tax-fighter Derek Myers now?
- joekelly, manchester

Year after year we hear the same thing from the school board, we need more money. The school board doesn't like the idea of signing any agreement. Why? Because that restricts the amount of money they can spend and means they will finally have to be accountable to someone. They cry all the time "it's for the children" but then they decided not to send out layoff notices to the teachers but instead attacked the after school programs. For someone who supposedly cares about the children, isn't it strange how they never considered cutting administrative jobs? Lets face it, they are protecting their own jobs and maintaining the beaurocracy. Our parents and their parents before them did quite well in school, and did it without the need for special education or bilingual teachers, yet we have so many of them today. Tests scores and grades were much higher in our parents day when compared to tests results and grades scores of students today. Throwing more money at the school system every year is not the total answer, we need accountibility. Accountibility from the parents and students, "yes discipline begins at home" accountibility from teachers "some are failing to teach, from administrators and from our city government.
- Rob, Manchester

The Board of Aldermen approve a lump sum budget to the school board but they do not have the right to tell the school board how to spend the money. What this really boils down to is that the Aldermen are upset at the school board for not authorizing the issuing of pink slips to city teaches. To pay the school board back, the Aldermen are now trying to flex their muscles by asking the school board to agree to a contract that is not enforceable. While the Aldermen may have their noses out of joint because they don’t like the way the school board went about their business, the school board can spend the money allotted to the school district in a manner the school board feels is right. The school board members probably know better where the money should be spent but the Aldermen are trying to publicly tie their hands behind their back. The bottom line is, we need to fund education in this city. Nobody wants a tax increase but money spent on education is money well spent.
- Mike Porter, Manchester

Mike,
My kindergarten students are reading and writing. They are also doing basic adding and subtracting. How can you say there are no benefits later on? Show me the research and perhaps I will be inclined to believe it. You have NO documentation. The earlier learning problems are caught, the greater the benefit.
- Jt, Manchester

Robert M. Tarr wrote: "(...the aldermen) ... don't let them (the school district) govern the way the DOE, federal government, and those who elected them say they should."

You've GOT to be kidding, right? The DOE? The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?? And if you haven't noticed, the local electorate IS speaking out about how we feel. Aside from the understandably self-preserving opinions of our city employees, the majority of the electorate says "ENOUGH!" The LAST entity to be emulated should be the federal government.

Until convincing EVIDENCE that all possible areas have been looked at for increasing efficiency, saving money, etc has been produced and that the priorities are in the right place, the people will not support a tax increase. They must convince us that they've done ALL that could be done and that it's not possible to do any more. Then we'll listen, because believe it or not, we want good schools, safe streets and other city services.

What they've (all city departments, not just the schools) done so far is ask for (demand) more money and then whine about it and create doomsday scenarios when the people insist on fiscal responsibility and accountability.

That's not good enough, and it borders on extortion.
- Ricooooo, Manchester

The BMA has now resorted to what is, for all intents and purposes, extortion of the school board members. . .sign this or else?

Nice games to play with the education of our children.
- Kay, Manchester, NH

Since our school board has already shown that they are not willing to make the difficult cuts needed (start with Admn.) and keep programs in place that the constituents want an agreement like this is necessary. Get a nice bump from what you should have got as long as you compromise. Personally, I hope they choose not to sign it.

Mr. Beaudry, you are my school board advocate; please, stick to your guns and say "this is our job and we'll effectively manage it".

Mr. Garrity, Art Beaudry is correct; it is thier job and responsibility. As my alderman, please just give them the $140M they deserve, and let them manage it.

Next year I hope they plan ahead for $139M!

Start managing the budget like it was your own money--you do not spend what you do not have and cannot afford.

I cannot wait until Manchester gets its spending cap we so desperately need.
- Brian G, Manchester

Congratulations Manchester. Your school system is fourth from the bottom in terms of the money spent per student out of 286 school districts in New Hampshire. Now in a rush to the bottom, you want to cut still more. Why not be the best at not spending money on your kids?
- Robert, Deerfield

Only students in the "inner city" schools get the benefit of all day kindergarten; does this list mean that now all students in Manchester will get that benefit?
- Maria, Manchester

The people responding to this article exhibit why budgeting is so difficult in Manchester.

1. Analyze the numbers and you will see that the Manchester School District is very economical, more so than just about all others in the state. Yet people think the opposite. If you got paid less than others but did more work, and your boss wanted you to take a pay cut, what would you think? That is what is being asked of the school district.
2. The school district posts on their web site hundreds of pages of details on spending.
3. Some compare private schools to public. Are they kidding or are they ignorant? Private schools select from a set of students that apply and are not required to comply with federal state and local education regulations: no child left behind, special education, etc. Nonetheless, Trinity’s tuition is $7335 per year, but $7440 for seniors (Trinity’s website). Manchester spends $7201 per high school student per year (see the state’s website). $7335 is great than $7201. Not less by thousands.

Robert in Deerfield sanely suggests – stop whining and get involved.

In addition, I suggest people learn, think then write. Most of the posts I read are obviously written by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Ignorance ultimately leads to increased taxes due to poor decision making. Citizens’ views shape aldermen’s votes. If the views are ignorant the votes are likely to be ignorant. Ignorance maybe bliss, but it is not economical.
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester

The majority of students in the Manchester School District, MSD, suffer unintended consequences of government regulation. Law and regulations specify stipulations for exceptional areas such as: a maximum number of special education students per special ed teacher, how a physically or mentally handicapped student must be served, etc. No like laws or regulations stipulate how standard services and classes the majority of students take are managed.

An adverse unintended consequence of these laws is that when MSD is faced with having to cut spending, they feel compelled to obey the law and will not cut from the aforementioned areas. Subsequently, standard classes and services offered to the majority of students get cut. In addition to the federal and state laws and regulations our aldermen are trying to introduce rules in the form of a contract on how many should be spent. What will the unintended consequences of such rules be?

Analysis of the current NECAP test scores (the scores used to determine that annual yearly progress is made as per No Child Left Behind) show that the special education students in Manchester are below average relative to the average special education students in New Hampshire by a smaller amount than the MSD non-special ed students are relative to the non-special ed student in the state. In other words, both could be better served, but the special ed students are better served than the non-special ed students. The fact that the district employs more special education teachers than they do English, math or science teachers is further proof of the regulations being complied with while the three R are not regulated.

I am not suggesting regulation should be added for standard classes, but that less regulation be encouraged. The aldermen are trying to instill more regulation.
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester

Tina,

Please look into what is required of accredited schools. Extra-curricular programs are an integral piece of that.

Also, I heard Vice-Chairperson Labanaris speak on an MCAM show. She sounded professional and commited to finding a way to work with this situation.
Let's remember this article shows one perspective.
- Leah, Manchester

Jt(Manch),
Um,actually some research shows that any marginal benefit kindergarten provides fades, in later grades.
It seems one can find "research" to support any positions today.
- Mike P., Manchester

Oil is priced at $4.70 this winter. Taxpayers did not get a raise. The Mayor should hold firm to his zero number.

The schools should be a city department. Their 'no layoffs' vote was highly irresponsible. They are subservient to the Aldermen and district can be dissolved by a simple vote. No New Hampshire law mandates towns to run a public school system.

New Superintendent Brennan serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. More power should be delegated to him much like Mara and Burkush enjoy in the Police and Fire departments. Complete control over personnel issues. Citizens can render their verdict on election day.
- Steve, Manch

Remarkable job, Aldermen & Mayor. You have managed to come up with a budget plan that angers everyone! The people who want no tax increase get a 3.6% hike, the people who want the schools adequately funded get a $1.2million cut and corresponding cuts in jobs & programs, the students get larger math & science classes and God knows what else, and the school board gets to be your hapless puppets on a very tight string. Most alarming: the State DOE gets to come in and take over the running of our District in Need of Improvement when the schools cannot make the necessary improvements with your allotted pittance and micro-management. Is this your idea of a joke on us, the voting public? We are not amused.
- Kathy, Manchester

I wonder where all the money is going. After school programs? How about if we let families be families again. If we keep raising taxes parents would have to work longer hours and not give time to their kids. How about if we let the parents take care of their own kids after school by not raising taxes this will give the opportunity for parents not to feel obligated to get a second job or work long hours to make up for the tax hikes. I really don't see what gets done around the city that we need so much money.

When you call because you need a police officer to help what does dispatch say. will get there as soon as possible, sure they will. How about all the holes in the city I guess eventually they might go away. All they worry about is money, how about if some of this people get a pay cut, that might keep the budget down. I wonder what the expenses really are in the city, if its not lunches for "meetings" or business trips.
- Daniel, Manchester

Um, kindergarten is not babysitting. Do your research before you making such ersatz comments.
- Jt, Manchester

Tina,

You are soooo wrong when it comes to babysitting full day kindergarteners. My oldest child went full day and learned so much more than if he would have went half day. I am thankful that my daughter will have the same opportunity to have a full day of EDUCATION that my son had. Why don't you go and visit a full day kindergarten class and see how
much teaching and learning is going on. Secondly, I am a teacher and we have a full day kindergarten at my school and there is NO BABYSITTING going on.
If there is a school that is babysitting kindergartners it' s probably because the teachers are parenting because the parents are not. I see it all the time. Lazy parents that don't want to parent!! It doesn't just happen in kindergarten, it happens in most of the elementary grades.
- Wendy, Manchester

Instead of this constant whining and harping, how about running for office, winning if your views are representative and then being put on the spot to actually solve these problems rather than tearing down the efforts of those self sacrificing public servants who are doing their best. The "all we have to do to fix everything is cut spending" rings hollow when pronounced by screen berets. Change that soft fantasy hat for an actual steel conbat helmet. Trade those wordy tirades for solutions.
- Robert, Deerfield

Well, looks like another year my classroom won't have shades on the windows. Maybe I can replace the desk that has fallen apart. Oops. After reading this, looks like I won't be able to. At least the West High Academies that the Mayor was pushing for last year will get funded! Oh, wait, neither will that.
- Bob, Lake Ave 03104

I am reminded of the saying "you can't make this stuff up". Our aldermen are worthless political hacks who can't make the tough choices, and now they want to pretend that they "showed them" with a document that has no legal authority. But the story isn't the document, it is the school board members who won't sign it, because they have no intention whatsoever of cutting spending, or curtailing the out of control school administration.
- tom, manchester,nh

I would like to know exactly how the school board is spending the money. I want to know where it's all going to and I honestly think that they're squandering it. My daughter's school newsletter came home yesterday. It contains a monthly wishlist of things that the school needs. I can totally understand requests for egg cartons, yogurt containers and other odds and ends to be used in art classes. I can even understand asking to borrow a special something or other that the school doesn't have because one of the classes is doing a special project and it will only ever be used once. I was absolutely flabbergasted that room darkening curtains for the nurse's office was on the top of the list, followed by the usual requests for paper towels, hand sanitizer and other cleaning materials. What are they doing with all the money that they are budgeted that the school nurse has to beg parents for room darkening curtains?
- Liz, Manchester

I do not want to pay more property taxes to fund babysitting programs such as full-day kindergaarten and after-school sports! The function of schools is to teach and not to parent. The city officials need to stop catering to the School Board's demand for more money. It is the only way this "want and spend" cycle will be broken!
- Tina, Manchester

Surely this is an illegal move by the aldermen. Just as it was to pass a budget in two parts, the city charter states this can't happen, yet the aldermen allowed it to happen. On May 6th, Alderman Osborne said; "He would be willing to support an 4 to 5 percent tax increase." Today, June 5th, he said; "hold any tax increase below 4 percent." Sure if they (aldermen) can continue to do illegal actions to keep the school district in its place. Just look at how the last school administrators were treated by the aldermen. Instead of folding and giving in, they moved on. Just like the aldermen want to do to the school district by making it a city department. Keep them under thumb and don't let them govern the way the DOE, federal government, and those who elected them say they should. To the school board members, fight this, take legal action against the city aldermen and call them out. Otherwise you risk hurting the future of the children and failing to do your part as an elected official by the people. Taxpayers and our childrens education comes first and foremost. Govern the right way or don't run for office next year. Don't give into pressures of the unjust.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

I am SO sick and tired of hearing the School Board complain about not getting enough money. This is INSANE! Private school in Manchester (Trinity High) costs thousands of dollars less per student when you compare it to how much the city spends per student in the public schools. Something is WRONG with this situation and throwing more money at it isn't the solution at all!
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, NH

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City Hall: "The sun will still rise in the east; it'll just cost more"
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Sunday, June 8th, 2008

THE SKY didn't fall.

Manchester teachers will still have jobs. Buses will continue to run. Sports teams will play, and students will still have extra curricular activities with which to busy themselves after school.

We won't speak for the taxpayers, who will have plenty to gripe about when they find a 3.7 percent increase in their tax bills later this year. But if the schools are your concern, this year's budget was about as good as you could have hoped for, all things considered.

"It's a lot better than I thought we would get," school board member Stephen Dolman said last week.

The fear, of course, was that the aldermen would approve Mayor Frank Guinta's recommendation of $140 million for Manchester's schools. Guinta, by the way, still maintains $140 million was workable. But getting there, he said, would have required the district to lay off up to 30 employees. That became an impossibility when the school board refused to pink-slip teachers last month.

"I don't agree with everything in this proposal," Guinta said of the newly approved school budget of $146 million. "I think the number could be lower. But in the interest of setting the district on the right track, I'm willing to work with the aldermen and school board to find reforms."

That said, the school board has until June 30 to decide which programs it can fund and which it will need to cut. And make no mistake: With a budget cut of $1.2 million, an estimated $1.7 million salary hole, increased teacher salaries and rising fuel costs, there will be cuts aplenty.

That may not be so great for a district that's fallen short of federal standards five years running. All we're saying is, it could have been worse.

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LAWSUIT NOT OFF TABLE: Bedford School Board Chairman David Sacks isn't promising he won't sue the Manchester school district now that its budget has been sorted out.

"We would want to see how the money gets fed into West High School," Sacks said. "That's where our seniors go. I think it would be presumptuous of us to do anything until we see what they do."

Sacks warned Manchester officials in April the board would consider filing a lawsuit if the city's school budget took a major hit. He argued the town's tuition agreement guarantees the quality of education in Manchester will not diminish.

"We're going to keep watching and monitoring," Sacks said last Thursday, after the budget was approved. "They may make this work. And if they make this work, that would be fantastic."

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THE CAMPAIGN THAT WASN'T: Guinta may well have figured there was little chance of making it through this budget season without a tax hike. And if he did make that assumption, could that explain why he decided not to run for governor?

"Not really," the mayor said.

No doubt, there were probably many good reasons for Guinta to stay out of the race. The prospect of losing to an incumbent governor with exceedingly high approval ratings comes to mind.

Still, it's hard to imagine a candidate Guinta railing against overspending in the State House at the same time the taxpayers in Manchester get slapped with a 3.7 percent tax increase.

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JOY-RIDING ON THE CITY'S DIME: Too many city employees have been using their city-owned vehicles for personal business, several aldermen said last week.

"I see it probably on a monthly basis," Alderman Mike Garrity said. "I've seen city vehicles at Hannaford, at the Verizon Wireless store."

Garrity said he plans to address the problem some time this summer. He hasn't yet decided what sort of measure he'll bring forward, but he did throw out a couple ideas: one, that some employees could have their cars taken away, and two, that employees caught abusing their privileges could lose a day's pay.

Alderman Bill Shea was similarly troubled by what he's seen. "Somehow or other, some teeth has to be put into this," he said.

Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard noted the city already reviewed its vehicle policies in 2005. "I'm sure the department heads take their responsibilities seriously," he said.

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SPINNING THEIR WHEELS: Meanwhile, the mayor is still riding around in an unmarked police car.

Guinta's old car, a late-'90s Buick LeSabre, was taken out of service earlier this year because of extensive mechanical problems. Garrity has been saying since March he has a donor willing to cough up a replacement, but the guy hasn't come forward yet, and apparently, right now, he's on vacation.

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THE SOLICITOR SPEAKS: City Solicitor Tom Clark says former Alderman At-Large Rich Girard is wrong about the recently adopted city budget.

Girard argued it was illegal for the aldermen to "knowingly and willfully" drive up the deficit in fiscal 2008 so they could save money in next year's budget. He cited several sections of the city charter that, according to his interpretation, prohibit that sort of maneuver.

Alderman Ted Gatsas, a co-author of the $120 million budget, took Girard's allegation to Clark for a review. In a May 30 letter, Clark said the maneuver was legal because "sufficient fund balances are available" and because the board is allowed to "take action 'as it deems necessary.'"

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TAKE ME TO THE RIVER: A funny thing happened the other day in the River District . . .

What's that? You didn't know we had a river district? Well, no one else does, either.

Manchester's economic development team -- the same folks who dreamed up the "Gaslight District" that no one seems to know about -- are now referring to the area between MerchantsAuto.com Stadium and the former Jac Pac buildings as the River District.

The "district" is bound by Granite Street, Queen City Avenue, south Elm Street and, of course, the Merrimack River. It includes the ballpark, Murphy's Taproom, a Dunkin' Donuts, and the bus depot. And eventually, when construction is complete, it will include the Elliot at River's Edge.

The term surprised Saki Gallos, who owns Theo's Restaurant. For years, he's been telling people his restaurant is in the "South Elm area."

"It sounds kind of fancy," he said of the new sobriquet. But he said he likes it.

"It's got a little kick to it," he said.

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NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT: That John Clayton sure is a funny guy. Incidentally, if you were thinking of calling us here in the newsroom and asking, "Can you hear me now?," don't bother. We've already heard that one.

For those who missed that reference, click here to read John Clayton's last column and scan down to the 14th paragraph. Then come back to this column and look at Scott's picture.

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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of City Hall in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

Scott Brooks is a funny guy - and I mean that. I appreciate your wit even when I don't agree with it. I enjoyed this read and here is what I think.....
Although it seems as if a storm has passed in the aldermanic chambers of Manchester there are a few things people need to remember.
1. There were other departments in the city who gained much more than the school district.
2. The school district hasn't completely lost everything, but there will be no new hires to replace retirees and teachers who resigned in fear of losing their jobs (and there were a few)
and there are still losses.
3. Now that the storm is over - let's learn how to create some damage control with some real future planning. I support public services in Manchester and don't mind paying my taxes when money tracked and fully utilized.
and last but not least.....
4. Bedford has a brand new high school that was voted for by the people of Bedford - time to put lawsuits on the shelf.
- joco, manchester, nh

Funny, I thought my restaurant was in the "Gaslight District." Now I'm in the River District, huh? Even though I'm three blocks from the river? I guess that makes more sense, since I don't think there are any gaslights anywhere near my place at all.

If it's OK I'll just keep telling people it's across from the Verizon Arena. Everybody knows where that is. Maybe the city could sell naming rights to offset our tax bills - "Fairpoint District" has a nice ring to it, too.
- Keith Murphy, Manchester

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"New math for city schools"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
June 10, 2008

MANCHESTER – The same old math problems will have a whole new look when the city's elementary schools reopen this fall.

The Manchester school district is making the switch to a new math curriculum for pre-schoolers and elementary students. Its new curriculum, known as Everyday Mathematics, will replace a program that has been used to educate city students for the past 16 years, administrators said.

"It is a very big paradigm shift in the way we teach and the way we learn," said Sheila Brisson, a member of the committee that recommended the new curriculum.

Brisson said Everyday Mathematics teaches students to be problem solvers and "critical thinkers." Students learn more than one way to find the right answer to a problem; they learn a "variety of strategies" to help them arrive at that answer, she said.

School board members voted overwhelmingly to approve the new method. Two members, Doug Kruse and John Avard, voted against the change. Both expressed their opposition in strong terms.

Kruse said Everyday Mathematics teaches students "crazy methods" to solve basic math problems. To make his point, he presented the board a math problem: 932 minus 356.

Most people, he said, would stack the two numbers in the traditional way and subtract vertically, from right to left. But with Everyday Mathematics, he said, a student might try to solve the problem backwards, adding when it would be simpler to subtract.

"In my opinion, this fuzzy math just doesn't add up," Kruse said.

Kruse also questioned the integrity of the committee's research, noting most of the studies the committee cited as proof of Everyday Mathematics' effectiveness were invalidated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Brisson said the committee examined 11 math programs and put in 1,300 "man hours" of work before it settled on a curriculum. She described Everyday Mathematics as "very comprehensive" and said it was the program that "most closely aligned" with state standards.

Roughly six in 10 school districts in New Hampshire already use Everyday Mathematics, Brisson said. "This is really going to help with our students who move from district to district," she said.

Mayor Frank Guinta conceded he "couldn't tell you if this is going to be successful" but argued the district's current teaching methods must change. The district has failed to make "adequate yearly progress" on state assessments for each of the past five years.

"Something has to change," Guinta said. "The current program is not working."

Avard said he has heard from people in other districts who have called the Everyday Mathematics curriculum a "nightmare."

"I think most parents are going to look at this, they're going to see something they don't understand, and they're not going to be able to help," he said.

Everyday Mathematics was developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project and is published by Wright Group/McGraw-Hill. Until now, Brisson said, Manchester schools have been using a program by Addison-Wesley.

It will cost the district a little more than $500,000 to implement the new curriculum next year, Brisson said. The cost includes teaching materials, textbooks, educational props and software.

Readers' COMMENTS:

Everything works off the basics. Math, reading and any other form of skill development. To introduce methods that confuse parents and children makes zero sense. The Manchester School district has enough trouble dealing with the vast diversity of the student body. To add this more critical thinking aspect will only cause the children of Manchester to fall further behind. Teach the basics while young and introduce the critical thinking process at the later stages of middle school and high school.
- Jay O, Manchester

The reason the old math does not seem to be working is that we have teachers and parents that can't teach properly(ROOT CAUSE). The new math will get worse in that now we will have more parents that are not familiar with this and will not be able to help the children at all. On top of this we will spend $500, 000 on something that has not been proven yet.
Any other bright ideas?
- John, Manchester

I completely agree that students need to be critical thinkers, but they need to master basic skills first. the "old way" of mat needed parental involvement as well. Working flach cards, memorizing math tables, takes work. A 45 minute lesson a day does not cut it. Students need reinforcement at home and parents need to be involved. When taking a review course for the SAT, GRA, CPA, I listened to lectures and worked on class problems, but most of the learning happend ON MY OWN. I had to put in hours of extra work and practice. the leanring didn't happen becasue I was in class. People need to know that teachers are guides to education only. the real learning takes place when left on theri own- to practice what they learned in school at home.
- CJ, Bedford

Thyerehasn'[t been a decent math program in our schoools for decades. Just watch a cashier in any store try to figure out what you owe if the register isn't working. Or watch a waiter or waitress try to compute the tax on your meal if the register isn't working. It's pathetic. They can't even do those things with a calculator, let alone a pencil and paper.
- Brian, Farmington

...."But with Everyday Math a student might try to solve the problem backwards, adding when it would be simpler to subtract...", in other words, inventing their own methods.
Inventing a new mthod is difficult. Most of us will never invent a new concept or algorithm, rather using concepts learned from others. Archimedes was a creative genius in physics, engineering and math. Eculid set the standard for mathematical rigor and clarity by his deductive formulation of geometry. Aristotle defined the laws of logic. They all did arithmetic. None of them invented the addition algorithm. That was invented hundreds of years after their deaths. Once concepts and methods become automatic, they seem simple and obvious. It is easy to forget how difficult cognitive innovation is. If Euclid couldn't/didn't invent the addition algorithm what makes you think our elementary school age kids can????
- Mary E., Manchester, NH

Good luck with Everyday Math. Expecting students to invent their own algorithms, become critical thinkers and problem solvers without basic skills is NOT a supportable assumption. It will NOT happen. To loosely paraphrase from an article by Wu (Basic Skills versus Conceptual Understanding) if Einstein had been born in the Stone Age, his genius might have alowed him to invent basic arithmetic. But being born at the endof the 19th centruy allowed him to use all of the techniques of advanced physics, Building on these techniques he created the theory of relativity. The same is true in math. Conceptual advances are invariably built on the bedrock of techniques. There is not conceptual understanding and problem solving skills on the one hand and basic skills on the other. Nor can one acquire the first without the second.
- Mary E., Manchester

"In my opinion, this fuzzy math just doesn't add up," Kruse said. (Quoted from above.) This from a guy who changed the pizza contract 3 times in 2 years to save the district $3,000 but almost got the district into a lawsuit for breach of contract when he contracted part of the pizza deal out to a "fuzzy pizza shop owner!!"

So what if the US Dept. of Ed invalidated some studies. The US Dept. of Ed was run by a guy (Roderick Paige) who used "fuzzy math" to fake his district's dropout rate in Houston, Texas. Same guy who helped craft No Child Left Behind, which uses "fuzzy math" to figure out which schools are failures! Anyone out there gotten one question wrong out of 20 and failed? Anyone got a 95 on a test and failed?
- Bob, Lake Ave 03104

Unfortunately, the schools are not assessed as they were before. There is a much higher emphasis on critical thinking skills, therefore, the old way does not work anymore.
- Mary, Manchester

I moved out of the Merrimack School District this past year and one of the reasons was because of the Everyday Mathematics. This program is very confusing.

The biggest part of the program that is going to hurt the students of Manchester is the program is also home based. Parents HAVE to help the children with math homework. There were times I spend 45 mins with my 3rd grader on his math homework and he is better at math than I am. My children are lucky I am an involved parent in their education. Depending on which elementary school the students go to will depend on parent help. Sad but true.
- Deb, Wilton

We use everyday math here, and as parents some of us find it more difficalt to help our children with there homework
because we don't understand the crazy way they are teching them to do simple math as we learned it. I think this is more confusing than helping.
- vickie, Hill

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"Aldermen expand business district"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2008

MANCHESTER – The business district covering much of downtown Manchester and the Millyard was expanded last night to include several blocks south of the Verizon Wireless Arena, a move that will most likely result in a tax increase for about 75 businesses.

Aldermen voted 6 to 5 last night to move the boundaries of the Central Business Service District. Businesses in the district pay an extra tax to keep the area free of litter and graffiti.

"I think people look at downtown as being just from Bridge Street down to Central Street, or maybe down to the Verizon," said Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, who advocated the expansion. "Now we have to reach out to the southern portion in order to build up businesses down there." Just how much money businesses in the district will have to pay is still up for debate. Several aldermen indicated they would like to lower the district's tax rate, a decision that would provide at least a modicum of relief for as many as 400 businesses in and around downtown Manchester.

The current tax rate is 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Taxes were the main point of contention in last night's discussion. Proponents of the expansion, including Lopez, had hoped to raise an extra $13,000 this year for Intown Manchester, the downtown advocacy group that takes its funding from the district's tax dollars. A measure that would have boosted Intown's budget by that amount needed eight votes to pass but received only six, with five opposing.

"I can't support increasing taxes at a time when people are hurting," said one opponent, Alderman Ted Gatsas.

Ultimately, the aldermen allowed last night's city budget deadline to pass without approving a dollar figure for Intown. Their exit guaranteed the group's budget would hold still at last year's appropriation of $244,000, the amount Mayor Frank Guinta recommended this spring.

The proposal to expand the district was pushed by developer Dick Anagnost. Anagnost is the president of Intown Manchester. He is also the developer responsible for the Elliot at River's Edge, the proposed $100 million medical, retail and residential complex that, because of the expansion, will now be included in the district.

The average tax impact for the 75 businesses that have been added to the district was expected to be $173 per year, assuming no change in the tax rate. It's uncertain whether all business owners in the area are aware they'll be required to pay the extra tax.

Stephanie Lewry, executive director of Intown Manchester, said her organization sent letters to those businesses at the end of May. She only received responses from 13 of them. Eight business owners were contacted by phone, she said.

Many of the businesses who did reply to Intown's inquiries were unfamiliar with the organization, she said.

"I think what we've learned from this is that it may be a little soon to be jumping the gun at expanding the district right now," Lewry said in an interview on Monday. "These people definitely need to be educated a lot more about what kind of change it would bring to the neighborhood."

Last night's vote extends the district's southern border from Auburn Street, near Murphy's Taproom, to Queen City Avenue. The district runs as far north as North Street.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Domenic - only commercial property owners in the downtown district pay the tax, nothing comes out of the pockets of other Manchester residents.

Stan - Intown is not an arm of the Chamber. It is a private non-profit that has been working hard for 13 years on a tiny budget that has only increased once (not including the vote last night) in all that time. I'd like to see other businesses operate that efficiently. The area won't improve itself, there has to be someone leading the effort. Have you ever heard the saying sometimes you have to spend a little to make a little?
- Sue, Bedford

The tax and spend alderman do it again.
adding more taxes to and area that has done well in the past. Now with the tax increase more problems will develop. Intown Manchester is just and arm on the wine drinking, clicky Chamber of Commerce. Down town was dead untill the taxpayers poured millions in to the area lead by the tax and spend alderman.
Manchester is being lead right down the wrong path.
Lower your taxes vote your current alderman out.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester, nh

Since the city is starting to focus on south Elm as the next growth spot, how about doing something about the manufacturing company across from the old Raxx Lounge? I don't know how many times I've driven past to see them tying up traffic by using Elm Street as their personal loading dock. It's embarrassing that the city allows this to happen on its most prominent thoroughfare.
- John, Manchester

I think it is wonderful that the boundaries have been expanded, However, with only a $12,000 increase that small amount of money is not even enough to pay the salary of one maintenance person to clean that area of the district. It also doesn't cover hiring any additional office staff who will now be servicing 75 additional businesses on top of the 900 already in the current district. City officials will need to keep this in mind for future funding of the organization.
- Sue, Bedford

Sounds to me that Intown needs to get out and tell people what they do or even better go out and show us what they do.
If they are getting $244,000 of taxpayers money, maybe they should be doing something because, I dont know what they do either.... do you?
- Domenic, Manchester

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"Mayor wants information on bus runs"
By GARRY RAYNO AND MARK HAYWARD, New Hampshire Union Leader
June 14, 2008

MANCHESTER – Mayor Frank Guinta yesterday said he wants to meet with state transportation officials to discuss the loss of the city's only bus station when Concord Coach in November shifts its Manchester-area commuter bus stop from downtown to a Londonderry highway exit.

Guinta said he found out several weeks ago that Concord Coach was moving out of the city-owned station at Canal and Granite streets. But as far as he knows, state officials never informed the city it will lose most of its daily bus runs to Boston.

"I'd like to see what their reasoning is," Guinta said yesterday. "Manchester is the largest city in the state. I think it's reasonable for it to have bus service to Boston."

Guinta said he'd like to see the 10 weekday round trips to Boston maintained to provide enough traffic to keep the city's bus station open.

In November, Concord Coach will shift its operations to the Park and Ride lot currently under construction at Exit 5 on Interstate 93 in November. The shift will affect dozens of people who board buses in downtown Manchester daily to commute to Boston as well as other travelers.

Officials with Concord Coach and its affiliate -- Boston Express -- yesterday said passenger boardings in Manchester have been declining for the last several years, while highway-side park-and-rides are experiencing watershed levels of ridership.

James Jalbert, a principal of Boston Express, blamed a lack of bus docks and affordable parking in downtown. Imagine, he said, Manchester airport without a parking garage; that's the situation at the downtown bus station.

"Manchester needs to look at developing a transportation center, but that's not on the radar screen right now," he said.

He said bus service will continue downtown after November, but he did not say how frequently or where the bus will stop.

"Clearly the center of Manchester will not have the same level of service it has now. How much (it will have), we don't know," Jalbert said. The issue is currently being reviewed, he said.

The loss of regular service drew dozens of comments from readers on UnionLeader.com yesterday.

Students, professionals and the disabled wrote that they depend on the bus service. Several said it was a factor in their decision to move to Manchester.

"At a time when more and more people are waking up to the idea of mass transit, service is cut from Manchester," wrote David.

"Concord (Coach) skipping out of downtown Manchester will deeply wound the city for years to come. The mayor and aldermen need to act now," wrote James.

Manchester Transit Authority plans to investigate the possibility of transporting city residents to the commuter buses, said David Smith, executive director of the MTA, the inner-city bus service.

"At this point, I don't have any idea where we'd get the money from," said Smith, whose agency will suffer a 24 percent cut in its city subsidy in the coming budget year.

Smith said MTA will start by surveying Concord Coach commuters.

The bus company's new stop will be at Exit 5 in Londonderry, where the state is building a park and ride lot that will include a 450-car lot, a bus terminal and maintenance garage.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has purchased 16 buses at $460,000 apiece for Boston Express to provide service from Exits 5, 4 and 2. The DOT has also entered into a three-year, $4.8 million contract to subsidize the Boston Express service.

Jalbert said Boston Express will offer hourly service to Boston beginning at 5 a.m. and continuing into the evening. Buses will leave every half-hour during peak commuting periods.

Meanwhile, a Manchester park-and-ride facility is on the state's 10-year road building plan, Guinta said.

It would provide opportunities for bus, automobile and future rail, he said. Initially, a park-and-ride was to be built at the site of the Merchantsauto.com stadium. An alternative location will have to be found along the downtown rail line, Guinta said.

The highway-side commuter facilities are part of the state's mitigation plan that won federal and state environmental approval for widening Interstate 93 from Manchester to the Massachusetts border.

They are intended to reduce the volume of vehicular traffic on the highway during construction and to reduce auto pollution over the long term by encouraging mass transit.

"Ultimately the consumer is going to win on this. Some people may not like it, but the objective here is to get cars off the roads. And sometimes you have to make changes to attract more people and the state recognizes that," Jalbert said.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

When will city and state officials get their heads out of the sand and move forward with a Manchester Park and Ride? They have known for years that there is limited parking at the manchester bus station. It's time to set aside some of the land along the river and instead of building more condos let's build a parking garage and new bus terminal. We have enough condo's already in Manchester, let's get the service's our residents want and need back to the city. Make and offer to buy the firestone property and the flower shop on Elm St. at the corner of Valley and put your access road for the developement in at the spot where the railroad tracks use to cross Elm St.
- John, Manchester

I agree with Melanie. Guinta knew about this "several weeks ago," but waited until the news made its way into the UL before he considered doing anything about it about it???

Thank you UL for getting the Mayor to pay attention to the issue!

Of course, given his track record, all Guinta is going to do is talk about it. Nothing is going to change. He loves to talk things to death until people forget about it rather than do anything to fix the situation.
- John, Manchester

Melanie I am with you, Guinta found out a couple of weeks ago and is now acting on it. The reason a lot of peole take the bus is to conserve energy. I hope someday the comunter rail is back in town.
- karen, manchester

"Our" Mayor knew several weeks ago that bus service from Manchester to Boston was going to be cut. WHAT TOOK HIM SO LONG TO REALIZE THAT THIS SITUATION NEEDED TO BE LOOKED INTO? This mayor is always telling us that he wants to save the citizens of Manchester money. He doesn't want to have to raise taxes. How much revenue will the tax payers have to make up for the loss of monies paid to the city for use of the Transportation Center by the bus company?
- Dave, Manchester

Mayor Frank,, you want to know why the bus company is moving out of Manchester? Its Roy, Gatsas, Sullivan, Roy, Osborne, Pinard, Shea, DeVries, Garrity, Smith, Ouellette, Domaingue, Lopez and O'Neil. They have collectively driven business to another town. What, you didn't think the private businesses observed the cops on cell phones, the school department that can't run its affairs, the overpaid do-nothings who work for Manchester? Wrong. Ask yourself; whould you invest in a city as corrupt as Manchester?
- Thom, Manchester, NH

The future is NOW why are we waiting for the future? What can the city and state do NOW. I renew my faith in our Mayor, He had a good city to work with, but yet it is not going forward,it is going backwards. Way to go Guinta. Manchester is losing again. Whats next? The MTA a joke it cant provide the service now,so how could it take on this challenge. Rates go up service goes down. What about all the route changes the MTA wants cutting services and times it goes to in the AM or PM. Peoples jobs and lives depend on mass transit, one person said in another blog (yesterday) get a job or get transportation, well for some the only option is the bus. I along with several individuals rely on the buss to Boston for educational purposes. Manchester has a a best limited college system and to advance a degree trips to Beantown schools are needed. Is thier a solution to this crisis, the answer may never come because all the state and city can say in the future. People need answers who will give them, when the new transit company say's "We cant run without more funding" everyone wants the goverments money but at what cost to the people that matter most.
- Robert w, Manchester

This statement sticks out like a sore-thumb!


"Guinta said he found out several weeks ago that Concord Coach was moving out of the city-owned station at Canal and Granite streets. But as far as he knows, state officials never informed the city it will lose most of its daily bus runs to Boston."


In one breath Guinta knew SEVERAL WEEKS AGO. The next breath, State officials didnt tell the city that it would lose most Boston runs...

Im sorry, this statement alone doesnt cut it for me. Clearly if Guinta knew ahead of time, as a matter of fact, several WEEKS ago, something should have been in the works then, and not last minute while he got caught with his political-pants down.
- Melanie, Manchester

If the DOT of NH can purchase buses at such a cost, then they should have a say at keeping the level of service up in the downtown area of Manchester. Or use some of the money from their contract with Boston Express to build a terminal that is accessable to those downtown. Ten years is too long to wait for something to happen, jobs will be lost, Manchester will see more and more revenue become less available as things like this happen. Then you will see Manchester return to as it was in the 1990's. "The state officials never informed the city it will lose most of its daily bus runs to Boston", THAT is the wrong approach. Time for our Mayor to act now and demand answers/results from the DOT and Boston Express.

- Robert M Tarr, Manchester, NH

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"Bus stop: Concord Coach to move out of city"
By BENJAMIN KEPPLE AND MARK HAYWARD, New Hampshire Union Leader
Friday, June 13, 2008
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Commuter Jamie Joyal of Manchester, right, leaves a Concord Coach Bus Lines bus along with driver Everett Blaise yesterday afternoon. (MARK HAYWARD)
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MANCHESTER – The number of bus trips between downtown Manchester and Boston will be cut drastically in November, when Concord Coach Lines Inc. moves its Manchester-area bus stop from downtown to a Londonderry highway exit, state and local officials acknowledged yesterday.

The change will affect dozens of people who pile onto buses each weekday morning in Manchester and commute to Boston.

"They determine the schedules; we have to go by that," said Manchester resident Jamie Joyal as he exited a bus last night from Boston. He said it will be inconvenient to drive back and forth to Londonderry every day.

"If we (have to) drive to Londonderry, I'll just go on I-93 to Boston," said Manchester resident Yan Peng, as he waited for his girlfriend at the bus terminal.

Concord Coach officials were not available yesterday for comment; company President Harry Blunt was on vacation. But local and state officials confirmed the change.

Concord Coach has given notice it intends to terminate its lease of the city's downtown bus terminal at the corner of Canal and Granite streets, said David Smith, executive director of the Manchester Transit Authority, which provides bus service within the city.

Concord Coach plans to vacate around the end of November, he said.

In November, an affiliate of Concord Coach -- Boston Express -- plans to begin operations at a massive bus terminal being built at the park-and-ride lot at Exit 5 off Interstate 93. The project includes a new terminal, a 450-car parking lot, and a bus maintenance and storage garage.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has purchased 16 buses at $460,000 apiece for Boston Express to provide service from exits 5, 4 and 2, said Christopher "Kit" Morgan, administrator of Rail and Transit for the state of New Hampshire. The DOT has also entered into a three-year, $4.8 million contract with Boston Express. The company will use most of the money to subsidize the commuter service, he said.

He said the state has asked Boston Express to schedule some stops in downtown Manchester. He hopes the company will provide three or four round trips, but stressed that a number has not been determined.

"It is a problem for Manchester. ... It's not ideal to lose that (downtown) service," Morgan said.

Morgan said it would be "somewhat counterproductive" to force Manchester commuters to drive to Londonderry in order to grab a commuter bus, whose purpose is to reduce air pollution and highway congestion.

Currently, Concord Coach operates 10 round trips from downtown to South Station in Boston each weekday; nine on weekends.

Smith said he wants to make sure that Manchester residents have access to Boston bus service, whether from the city terminal or elsewhere. A commuter-ticket package costs $69 for five round trips.

Everett Blais, the driver of the 5:30 p.m. bus out of Boston, said many passengers have been complaining about the relocation to Londonderry.

The 6 a.m. bus out of Manchester had about 45 passengers this morning, he said. The 55-seat bus is usually full when it leaves Boston in the afternoon; yesterday afternoon, four out of every five passengers exited in Londonderry, he said. The rest continued to Manchester.

"I know a lot of people, especially with the cost of gas, are using this to commute," said Jackie Biger.

Biger and her husband live on Pine Street. He walks to the bus station daily and commutes to his financial services job in Boston. She uses the family's only car to get to her library job in Amherst. The proximity to the bus station played a key factor in where they decided to live.

Now she doesn't know whether to move to Londonderry or buy a second car. "We will have to make some choices," Biger said. "I can't imagine we're the only ones who were affected by this."

Michael Viatze, who was dropping off a friend at the Manchester terminal yesterday, said he used to commute to Boston daily on the bus. He's lost his license, and a bus is the only way he can get to Boston. A taxi ride to Londonderry will cost more than a bus ticket, he said.

Smith said ridership from the downtown terminal has fallen over the past several years. One reason is the lack of free parking in the area, he said.

With the loss of Concord Coach, the future of the Manchester Transportation Center is uncertain. Concord Coach now only pays for the costs of operating the terminal.

"It's rent-free at this point," Smith said.

Concord Coach is one of three bus companies that use the Manchester Transit Center. The others -- Greyhound Lines and Peter Pan Bus Lines Inc. -- provide only a fraction of the number of runs of Concord Coach.

Smith said it would almost certainly prove a money-loser for the city to run it on its own.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Will Concord Bus Lines now change its motto from "Why Would Anyone Drive" to "Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines"?
- Cathy, Manchester

Mike in Londonderry, $460,000 is just about right for a new bus. Because the Federal Govt requires new buses to be equipt with better pollution control devices, and, the wheelchair lifts cost money and manufacturing cost are going up, $460 is right for a 56passenger bus with just reclining seats, maybe a 5 or 6 monitor video system and a rest room.

There are only 4 major bus builders, one in the US, one in Canada and the other two in Europe.

Your 10 yr old bus will cost you more to operate than a new one and you will have to replace the engine soon...another Fed Govt regulation.
- Domenic, Manchester

I am Legally Blind and do not drive. The bus situation will leave me virtually city bound. I depend on the bus to Boston to broaden my horizons both culturally, socially, and in my career. To get to Londonderry by taxi, will cost a fortune. Asking somone to drive me to Londonderry is a huge inconvenience for all parties.

The City of Manchestr, for all its size, has a less-than sutable public transportation system to begin with. Now the City is robbing me of opportunities for independence.

This situation is unacceptable. Macnhester wants to be a "big city", then it needs to act like one and step up to the plate and take care of its citizens.
- SJ Morin, Manchester, NH

I noted that Mike R of Bedford questions my pointing out the new light rail in Bayonne NJ being an example of good transportation. He apparently does not know that area of the state was filled with crumbling old factories high unemployment and poor housing. With the advent of the fixed light rail developers have seen an anchor for growth in that area so there has been a big investment creating a complete turn around in that section of the state. All ridrship is beyond any projections and more expansions are on the planning boards. They are embracing smart growth which focuses greater densities near fixed transportation centers and making areas more walkable. As for questioning what planet I live on unlike most I have used many of the public transportation systems around the US. I have also spent a lot of time working in areas of the country that were, 10 to 15 years ago , where New Hampshire is right now. The state of New Hampshire is allowing builders and developers to craft all the latest laws to override all local planning and zoning ordinances to build as much as they can on as small a foot print as they can. Get ready to see more sprawl than you ever thought you could see. Get ready to see "the only fix as widening roads" because it generates the most money for the biggest companies. It does not work because I spent 22 years living in Northern Virginia from the winter after the blizzard of 1978 to 2001. They widened the Capitol beltway from 2 lanes on each side to 6 lanes and traffic still does 10 to 20 MPH at rush hour. They added express buses that sit in the same traffic. They also long for the days when there was several railroad routes that were all torn up to put in more roads. The end result is they now build houses up to 20 per acre and they have an average school class size of 31 with double sessions , the 7th most polluted air in the country and the 2nd worst traffic jams.
- Don Armstrong, Henniker

I think this will put a wrench on Intown Manchester 's attempt to make Manchester a "destination city". Maybe Manchester's new tag-line should be: "Manchester, a city going nowhere."
- Lee Cowell, Manchester, NH

Re: commuter rail, there was one. I was in jr. high, maybe 1980. It ran empty nearly every day, but surely this would not be the case today. It ended after a major tragedy on Mitchell Street during a snowstorm in which a couple lost their lives and their son was seriously injured (I don't think it was ever determined why their car was on the tracks). Meanwhile, you *can* catch the train from Exeter to Boston, five times a day: check out downeaster.com. A true success story. I'm so glad not to live in Manchester anymore (although I can't say we have brilliant leadership here either... the Fort Rock Farm fiasco, along with the water quality scandals being just two examples...)
- Natalie, Exeter

Did I miss the reasoning from the bus company? Was it a decline in sales from Manchester - I can't understand why you would move the bus station further from a city who has many things that rely on the service/convenience- colleges, airport, minor league baseball, civic center, oh yea! gas prices.. to mention a few.. Doesn't seem logical .. Guinta- NOW is the time to open mouth - and make sense! Do right by the people who trust you to do so!
- Heidi, Manchester

I've been commuting on Concord Coach (Trailways) since 1992 when I moved to Manchester to take care of my mother who was ill. She since passed and I decided to remain in Manchester partly due to the convenience of the transportation system to and from my job in Boston. I bought a home in North Manchester, pay property taxes like any good citizen, and give a ride every morning to the bus station, to a lady who also works in Boston but doesn't own a car. I don't mind saying I'm not looking forward to driving to and from Londonderry or Nashua every morning, especially in winter weather. In my opinion Rte 293 was constructed by a blind amusment park lunatic!! It has more steeply banked S-curves (some close to 45 degrees!) with merging traffic right and left, than any well traveled highway ought to have: it's worse than a traffic circle! Try driving this road when it's covered in black ice, attempting to avoid the cowboys out there in their gas-guzzling, giant SUV's merging right and left, going 90 miles an hour trying to hit you and every hapless skunk or deer who has the misfortune to stumble onto the road in the wee hours of a snowy morning!! (My friend from NY says NH drivers are as bad or worse than drivers from his own state but I cannot attest to this.) I have LONGED for a commuter rail ... but have given up hope of ever seeing one in Southern NH because I'm convinced there is a political element in this State that doesn't want one here for whatever reason. There are many many really good ideas in these responses -- one can only hope that city government will take some of these ideas to heart, wake up and smell the coffee or Manchester will go down the tube. At a time when we are supposed to be conserving energy resources, developing a sense of community and expanding green living space, curtailing bus/public transportation is drastically counterproductive, to say the least. Perhaps this move is meant to be interpreted as the "first step" by our city government to create a sustainable environment for public welfare but I sure don't see it and it sure has the look of the reverse.
- Ellen, Manchester, NH

David in Manchester, if you were an "educated" younger guy, you'd not be in the middle of a job search(ie, unemployed for a while despite 5% unemployment!), and you'd have a car. I had a car and a job at 21 while attending college. What's your problem? Doesn't the fact that you need to use the bus suggest that you're not so successful, and perhaps need some more education?

And to others, the city OWES you NOTHING. Quit with the entitlement mentality! Solve your own problems, work out your own solutions! Nobody owes you a thing, least of all the taxpayers!
- David Goss, Manchesgter

460 grand for each bus ? What kind of commuter bus costs that much ? Heck, I'm here calculating for a new gig - 25G for a 10 year old used 47 pass commuter bus. A CDL license. Then 47 commuters at 69$ per week for a total of 13G per week ? Sounds like a good gig - anywhere I can park my new business ? I'll drive you all!
Seriously, I can't find a new bus that costs that much and doesn't have brazilian hardwood floors, sleep 12, gold plated bathroom hardware, a 64 plasma tv and expanding sides. What did they buy ?
- Mike, Londonderry

Way to go NH DOT !! No help for rail, but complete co-operation with bus companies, at the expense to people who have no cars. Until NH DOT is cleared of the old Leary-ites, this unfairness towards another form of transportation will continue. DOTs view: if it ain't on rubber tires it isn't any good. Good for who ?? Road builders ?
- JimL, Hooksett, NH

I was about to start using the bus service to Boston for my commute because the price of gas has gone up so much, but no way am I driving to Londonderry to make this happen.
Great news for the 23,000 residents of Londonderry. Horrible news for the 110,000 residents of Manchester.
Guinta needs to step up and remedy this situation.
- Martin, Manchester

I am Legally Blind and do not drive. This is an absolute disgrace. I am essentially CITY BOUND. My indepence will be severely impacted. It's easy enough to get a ride to the bus terminal where I can go to Boston - which has WONDERFUL public transportation. But now, to get to Londonderry by taxi will cost a FORTUNE (more than likely $30 ONE WAY). And it's a huge inconvenience to have someone drive me to Londonderry.

The City of Manchester OWES IT to their citizens to provide better transportation options. The Londonderry situation is just not acceptable.
- Sandra Morin, Manchester, NH

If the bus is funded with state dollars then what does the teflon Gov think of this? Oh thats right he won't issue an opinion until there is no bus service left.
- DFM, Salem, NH

Ugh. I liked having the option of a bus in manchester as it means I have two bus schedules to choose from when I arrive in South Station from NY. My mother is certainly not going to pick me up in Londonderry, it'll prob be easier for me to just stay on the bus til Concord...
- Veronica, Merrimack

What about the students? My son attends Southern NH University in Manchester. The bus from Manchesster to South Station was a lifesaver! It meant that along with his outrageous student loans that he didn't also need a car loan to get to and from school/home when he wanted to visit. Great idea! Let's get these kids into deeper debt before they even graduate!
- Pat, Braintree, MA

Maybe I was a little hard on city government in my first blog. But, isn’t it their jobs to create opportunities for businesses like Concord Coach. It’s a ‘win win’ situation. If parking at the station is the problem, we should be helping Concord Coach address the issue, not simply telling them, ”sorry about your luck.” Perhaps the city could look at buying a property south of Granite St or east of Elm St to build a city owned parking garage.Although rails would be great, face it we don’t have the money to do something so extravagant. It's an easy idea, expanding the city buses and having them stop at the new Londonderry station, but people are not going to come downtown as a layover. I think we should build more parking now, and develop a solid plan for rails in the future.
- DL, Manchester

Try this alternative, the City of Manchester goes into business. The idea use CITY busses, during peak travel times to transport people from the downtown depot, already existing, therefore no cost to taxpayers. To T station in Lowell, at a lesser price than Concord Bus lines to open a "Price War"!!! Work a deal with the Radison Hotel, who presently operate the large parking garage next to the Bus Depot. So that their parking fee will be included in the price of their ticket. The parking garage is usually empty during the week and therefore the Radison Hotel will probably jump at the idea to fill it up. They are, I believe, a for profit organization. Of course this all makes sense to me and therefore will never be implemented by Mike Lopez or George Smith, and their gang. Reason, then they will not have ammunition to raise the taxes on already tax burdened residents of Manchester. One example: People from Massachusetts might come up here to visit all their relatives from Lowell and Lawrence, and take in a Baseball game
- Russell, Manchester

A proposed slogan for those fancy banners the Intown group hangs off street lamps:

Downtown Manchester ... stagnant and avoidable.

When are people going to stop shooting themselves in the foot around here? The UL ran a nice piece on the development of a $400K urban loft on Elm -- the "element," if you will, that would buy such a place will never come to this "city" in numbers, because you still have to do everything by car around here. Thus, downtown isn't really urban, it's a glorified suburb, and one block off Elm in either direction it's an ugly suburb. Concentrate quality development, bring the busses and trains in, connect downtown to the airport, encourage construction of some nice residences so that people who work downtown will want to live there, too.
- John, Manchester

This is an absolute disgrace! I have just moved back to manchester after living in boston for 3 years. One of my biggest deciding factors was the cost of living here compared to there, and the ease of the commute with the bus. I do not own a car, and I walk to and from the station everyday. A londonderry terminal is not an option for me. And for all of those who say a bus from manch. to londonderry might solve this, keep in mind that the commuter pass from londonderry will most likely remain at $69, coupled with the cost of the "connector" from manchester to londonderry, would almost make it more cost effective and less time consuming to drive into Boston.

I've been defending the state of this city for some time now, but nothing has outraged me more then the happenings within the last few months. I can for one say that my higher salary income will now be spent in another community near Londonderry as soon as its feasible for me to move, which looks like it will be VERY soon!

SHAME on my hometown!
- Nathan, Manchester

Most propitious. At a time when more and more people are waking up to the idea of mass transit, service is cut from Manchester.

I'm in the middle of a job search right now, and due to the very fact that this bus route exists, I've been casting a wider net in the search, looking for positions in Boston in my field that simply do not exist here in New Hampshire.

As a life-long NH guy, I've resisted the temptation to move down to Boston, despite the abundance of opportunity, realizing instead that we need some educated younger folks to stick around to help make this state a better place to live. And by that I don't necessarily mean making it a more attractive place for people to move, but primarily to enable people who currently live here to remain living here, while maintaining a decent quality of life.

As far as I'm concerned, the bus was one of the best things that Manchester had going for it. This, to me, is nothing more than a shameless political act, and I do hope that there'll be sufficient outcry from NH citizens to come up with at least a second-rate solution, perhaps something akin to the one mentioned by RS below.
- David, Manchester

I see a pattern of people being concerned about a decline of Manchester after over a decade of rejuvenation. Manchester is a city- the largest in NH- and people choose to live and work here because of its amenities and access to everything- including Boston. This bus is more than just “bringing people to Boston.” It is an important amenity that impacts larger ideals of being green, addressing energy issues, and economic development. Find a way to keep the busses running this fall, and work towards a commuter rail.
- Craig, Manchester

So the State funds bus service? Just like the provide funds for C&J on the coast? And the state is not allowed to fund commuter rail?

Where is the sense in that?

I have a feeling that many of the people complaining here about the bus pullout are also those that complain that the State should not fund rail. Why are they not complaining that the State helps fund bus service? Should not that be self-sustaining, too?
- Art, Portsmouth

What a blow to the city of Manchester. I do not drive and have spent a fair share on bus travel to and from Boston. The morning & evening buses are always packed, so securing a seat early is a must. Now it seems I’ll have to leave my house in the wee hours to Londonderry? This move "might" be great for some, but not the overall picture of the Manchester area riders or not. This reminds me of what happened when MLB Ballparks moved out of downtowns to build larger parks etc it by highways. Now they are moving back and stimulating the whole area around. While bus riders might not be spending doing the same, the effect of foot traffic will be lost. Getting back to the bus station, having infrastructure of a steady transportation system can really help a downtowns and it turn over on shopping, food, large companies and tourism, etc. Concord Trailways skipping out of downtown Manchester will deeply wound the city for years to come. The Mayor and aldermen need to act NOW.
- James, Manchester

Another decision going in the wrong direction. They are trying to make Manchester to be this great city, but they are not providing public transportation between Manchester and Boston? Sounds like a poor decision to me!
- JGK, Manchester

How can the city of Manchester and the state of NH allow this?! I live in the north end of Manchester and depend on the Manchester bus to commute to my job in Boston. It is my ONLY commuting option between the 2 biggest cities of these neighboring states, and to say that I'm disappointed with this news is a tremendous understatement. NH DOT should force Boston Express to put at least 3 or 4 of their state-purchased buses into Manchester. "Manchester area" is a joke.
- Evan, Manchester

-RS, you seem to be the only thinking here and not reacting. Great Idea.

Now maybe we can get INTOWN Manchester to pay for it when they steal there dues from widening the Business District that is consuming the parking spots to begin with.

Note to City: Get on the ball come up with a solution.

-CHUCK, a few words for you, next decade! Do you think that Commuter Rail will get in anytime soon. We need a timely solution here!


At least for those that can get in a car they will have two choices to pick up a bus, Nashua (with Boston Express) and Londonderry! But we not really solving the problem,. reduce cars on the road, emissions and consumption.
- LJ, Manchester

I agree with Chuck - commuter rail. We need to start looking towards alternative modes of transportation that do not involve gas!

So much has been done to revitalize downtown Manchester. Let's keep moving forward! Don't take away things that attract people to downtown!
- Jenna, New York, NY

I have been taking the bus from Manchester to Boston now for almost two years. On most occasions, the bus is full or nearly full. There are a few other facts that have been left out of this article and by other posters. It does not cost $8.00 to park per day. It costs $16.00 a day to park in the Manchester parking garage adjacent to the terminal or $95.00 per month. It costs nothing to park in Londonderry. I have seen first hand what happened when the parking rates went up in Manchester, commuters left in droves and started to drive to Londonderry. Second, on the buses that make both the Londonderry and Manchester stops 80% of the people get on or get off at Londonderry. If you ask me, these two facts along with the fact that Concord Coach probably just wants a straight shot down I93 to Boston mostly contributed to this decision. This will have a very detrimental impact on the city. The majority of the commuters from Manchester to Boston make much higher than the average salary for the area. This will cause those high income earners to move further south, closer to the N. Londonderry, S. Londonderry,and Salem/Pelham terminals. The City of Manchester loses out and business loses even more. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the City and State did not negotiate to move the Manchester terminal to the airport and then make regular runs from Manchester to Boston's South Station. Commuters could ride into Boston and travelers from Boston looking to fly out of Manchester-Boston could ride back to NH on the return run. The buses would always be full and the line profitable.
- Michael, Manchester, NH

Sounds like a business opportunity to me! Someone start a company doing bus runs to Boston from downtown Manchester, maybe stopping at the airport before going to South Station. Even though gas prices would be high, I bet you would see a lot of people taking the bus instead of sitting in traffic on 93, burning gas needlessly.
- John, Northwood

My adult daughter does not drive and would not be able to just go to Londonderry for a Boston bus. I chose to live in Manchester because it offered more alternatives for nondrivers than other communities closer to my job. One of the key factors for settling in Manchester was the bus to Boston which enabled her to visit friends and go to medical appointments in Boston. Like the family on Pine Street, we bought within walking distance of the bus station. Leaving the biggest city in the state without connections to Boston will have equally bad impacts on the economy of Manchester overall.
- Sharon, Manchester

DL,
Before you begin blaming city government, remember that concord trailways is a privately owned business and can come and go if they please. The city only has so much power to "lobby" private companies to stay.

Of course its unfortunate that they are moving to Londonderry, which I believe to be a poor geographic decision in and of itself. I do know that many if not all elected officials in the city government are not pleased with this move, and I imagine there will be talk of alternative proposals in the near future.

I commuter rail from Boston would be a great idea, it'd be more efficient than the bus. If Worcester and get a comm. rail so should Manchester.
- Leon, Manchester

Doug Armstrong, did you really just point to New Jersey as a GOOD example of urban development? Did you really just do that? What strange planet do you live on? Not this one, obviously.
- Mike R., Bedford

This is a shocking leap backwards for the city and the state, not to mention a crushing blow for those who need to use public transportation.
- Hope Jordan, Canterbury, NH

Time to move out. This is such a clear sign of the incompetence of Manchester city government, and the overall decay of the city. Get out before its too late.
- bill, manchester, nh

I'm confused. Several years ago the trucking groups in NH sued the state to prevent it from spending any money on rail transportation saying the state constitution says road money can only be spent on roads. The courts agreed even though more than 50% of the road funds are in fact spent for non transportation items like courts and highway patrols. Now we find out we are in fact spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy busses and set up a bus transportation network. As noted by many of the readers it becomes an abandonment of Manchester as the buses just move elsewhere. This highlights the folly of being penny wise and pound foolish. Right now we quote it being years before any passenger rail will be brought onto the Nashua , Manchester , Concord route and that can only be done without any state funds. In much of the US the presence of a railroad station in cities has created a development of the downtown areas and generated many new businesses. In New Jersey the numbers are now over a billion dollars worth of development after the Bayonne light rail was activated. In Utah the governor thought it was a waste of tine until the trains started up. They are exceeding their original load projections by 150% and it is still growing. Several companies have decided to relocate next to them. In Boston the T wants to assign the air rights over it's Riverside yards and station and that will be about 40 acres open for development. At the U-Mass JFK library stop they will also sell the air rights for almost 5 acres over the stations there while the Bayside Expo will be torn down and a billion dollars worth of development will go into there in it's place.
- Don Armstrong, Henniker

RS, that is a good idea.

I think it's a shame that the biggest city in the state can't run a bus system that takes you to Boston and back. I've taken that bus on occassion. I don't think it will be a big deal for me to drive to Londonderry. But I feel bad for the folks who depend on the bus being in Manchester. Why is it Manchester government can't get their act together?
- Beth, Candia

I take the bus when i need to fly out of logan for international flights but if i have to get in my car and drive then why would i stop in londerry i'll keep going and get reimbursed.
- Joshua, Manchester

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation should not be providing funding to Concord Coach if it cuts back on service to and from Manchester. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation might want to run the buses themselves and allow companies to pay to advertise on the buses, in the buses, and on enclosed bus benches.

We should be making it easier for tourists from Boston especially those who do not drive to visit Manchester.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation may want to provide Manchester Transit Authority with shuttles to take people from downtown Manchester to Londonderry and back from Londonderry to downtown Manchester.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation should be providing more funding to the Manchester Transit Authority so that tourists and others may get around Manchester more easily at night and on Sundays.

There is a tourism forum on June 19 from 8 am to 10 am at PSNH Energy Park located at 780 Commercial St in Manchester dealing with the 10-year New Hampshire Tourism plan 2008-2018. It is being sponsored by the Department of Resources and Economic Development and the Division of Travel and Tourism Development.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester

One poster "gets it" .. "If the bus does not go to Manchester, Manchester should go to the bus...." RS, Londonderry.. This is not a negative, this is a positive. Let's get it together, and tell the MTA to stop crying and start fighting. In my opinion, the MTA is too much a government body, they need to get some free market fight. I even have a name for the MTA bus; The Manchester Commuter Connection! Come on .. can we do anything right in this city?
- tom, manchester,nh

This is pure stupidity on city government’s side. No wonder why the CT investors that were in the process of buying the Pandora Mill backed out. They did some research and realized that this city is stagnant. It’s one step forward for Concord Coach and one giant leap backward for Man-chester. Don’t they realize bus travel is surging allover? What about the foot traffic that the station provides to downtown businesses? This is a big blow to the future of downtown Manchester.
- DL, Manchester

The Union Leader did not touch on the subjust of all the other trips Concord Trailways handle, like the Northbound runs. My daughter goes to Plymouth State University. It is 12.50 for a 1way ticket. It cost me $50.00 to drive her there and get back home. If those runs move to Londonderry that actually would be easier.
- Lisa, Derry

I have taken the Downtown Manchester Bus to Boston at least a dozen times. The majority of the people taking the bus already drive there. Driving to Exit 5 will be no different, except they won't have to pay $8 to park!
- George, Manchester,nh

It all gets down to the fact nobody wants to do business in Manchester. The city's anti business enviroment and the difficulty dealing with the planning and building departments alone is reason to move a business out of town. Start calling your aldermen.
- Dave, Manchester

If the bus does not go to Manchester, Manchester should go to the bus. The Manchester Bus System can solve this by running a bus from downtown (and possibly elsewhere in Manchester) to the new commuter terminal in Londonderry.
- RS, Londonderry

Two words: Commuter Rail.
- Chuck, Nashua

Buses moving out of Manchester. Library hours may shrink. Schools underfunded. I know of at least 4 families with their homes for sale to move their children to better school districts. Is the largest city in our state to become an empty shell left for the arsonists and drug dealers only?
- KH, Manchester

I am deeply upset about this. My husband uses this bus line everyday to go to work and with the price of gas he will have to drive to nashua to take the bus. With having only one car it will make it very hard for us to go places during the day without a car cause it will be in nashua sitting there all day due to manchester not keeping the bus system running here.
- R, manchester

If I understand this correctly, more than $7.36 Million of our tax money is being used to bank roll a change that will:
• Force many commuters to drive just so they can take a bus;
• Drastically reduce the availability of public transportation to those who do not own an automobile; and,
• Severely curtail the only type of intercity public transportation available for Manchester.
There is something very wrong with this picture! Over the years Concord Coach has benefited greatly from support by our local, state, and federal governments, and (until now) has enjoyed a reputation as a good corporate citizen. This is NOT the way Concord Coach should be repaying the citizens for the support it has received.
- Nick Holmes, Dunbarton

What a blow to the downtown area! What a shame that the city government couldn't come up with a plan to keep a service going. I visit the downtown area often and many, many people use the bus to commute to boston or to concord. One family I know doesn't have a car and they use the bus to travel to Nashua because the children's eye doctor is located there. There are not many if any eye doctors in Manchester who take the Healthy Kids anymore. Guess the city government is really pushing people out of the city and telling people don't come to Manchester...Very sad day for all those who require this to go to work and support thier families.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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Nashua Telegraph
Saturday, June 14, 2008
"Bus service to N.H.’s largest city to end"

MANCHESTER (AP) – Bus service between Manchester and Boston will be cut significantly this fall when the biggest carrier stops serving the bus terminal in downtown Manchester.

The New Hampshire Union Leader says an affiliate of Concord Coach Lines Inc. will keep serving the state’s largest city, but from neighboring Londonderry. A new bus terminal is being built at a Park and Ride lot off Interstate 93 in that town just to the south.

Concord Coach operates 10 round trips from Manchester to South Station in Boston every weekday. State transportation official Christopher Morgan says he hopes the affiliated company – Boston Express – will run three or four round trips from downtown, but says the number has not been determined.

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"Guinta: City left out of loop on bus service"
By GARRY RAYNO AND JOHN WHITSON, New Hampshire Union Leader
June 19, 2008

MANCHESTER – Mayor Frank Guinta expects to meet with state Department of Transportation officials today to discuss what can be done to ensure a "meaningful level of (bus) service" between Manchester and Boston.

"It appears the DOT has left Manchester out of the discussion as it relates to public transportation policy in the southern region (of New Hampshire)," Guinta said yesterday.

But Transportation Commissioner George N. Campbell Jr., in an opinion column published in today's edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader (page A13), said DOT has always advocated for continued bus service between Manchester and Boston.

"As part of the negotiations with the service provider for the I-93 bus service, the NHDOT insisted that bus service be continued in downtown Manchester," Campbell wrote.

Concord Coach is pulling out of Manchester this fall when its lease expires at the downtown terminal.

Boston Express, an affiliated company, will be providing Boston-to-Manchester service. But company executives have said there will be less trips, with the 10 roundtrips per day slashed to as few as three.

The changes coincide with the development of a new, $7 million bus terminal and park-and-ride facility at I-93 Exit 5 in Londonderry, which Boston Express will service.

Tied to environmental mitigation on the I-93 widening project, the project is heavily subsidized by the state with federal funds. DOT bought 16 buses for Boston Express to use at a cost of $7.4 million.

While Boston Express isn't obligated by contract to provide service to Manchester, DOT's administrator of rail and transit, Christopher "Kit" Morgan, says the subsidy gives the state negotiating power.

"I think we can use that leverage," Morgan said. "Obviously, that's untested waters."

DOT's 2004 final environmental impact statement on the I-93 project, envisioning the Boston Express operation, said it would "expand on the current (commuter bus) services."

It also said DOT "intends to maintain commuter service from the downtown Manchester bus station," but didn't specify at what level.

"Expanded service," Morgan said, means residents of the city and surrounding towns will benefit from developing Exit 5 in Londonderry.

Mayor Guinta said Manchester is the state's largest city, geographically positioned to be a central piece of the public transit system.

Guinta said with the increased likelihood of expanded rail service in New Hampshire, the city has focused on a rail and bus facility with parking, but money in the state's 10-year highway improvement plan is unavailable until 2016.

He said he would like to discuss with DOT the possibility of making the money available sooner.

"It wasn't always that far out," said Morgan. "The original proposal was to use city property that is where the ballpark is now. Obviously, the ballpark was a bigger priority."

Campbell, in his column, said DOT believes the project is worthwhile and will work with the city to make it happen.

Written before Guinta's comments, Campbell's column doesn't address advancing the project timetable.

Guinta said along with DOT officials, he has invited former mayor and current District 4 Executive Councilor Raymond Wieczorek to today's meeting.

The Executive Council advises the governor on the highway improvement plan.

Guinta said he will meet with the owners of Boston Express, Harry Blunt and Jim Jalbert, sometime next week, but a specific time has not been set.

Guinta said he will convey how important it is for Manchester to retain the current level of bus service.

Jalbert and Blunt have said the lack of parking near the downtown city terminal is one of the chief reasons for reducing bus service. "We are very interested in playing a proactive role with the owners," Guinta said.

The idea of looking for viable park-and-ride property north of Londonderry on I-93 and within city limits was never pursued, Morgan said.

"I don't think there's any prohibition on it," said Morgan, referring to federal regulations on the widening project. "It honestly didn't come up in the meetings with cities and towns that there was a need for a park-and-ride north of the 293 split."

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Readers' COMMENTS:

The NH Division of Travel & Tourism Development asked people for feedback for the 10-Year NH Tourism Plan 2008-2018 today at PSNH Energy Park from 8 am to 10 am. You may fill out a survey dealing with your thoughts on tourism at http://www.visitnh.gov/tenyearplan

It was very informative and I spoke at it.

The more money we obtain from the rooms & meals tax from tourists the less money we need to obtain from New Hampshire residents. Tourism related jobs sometimes pay well. Tourists often buy products from retail stores. You should support tourism if you want to decrease the probability of a sales tax and/or income tax. Are you happy that property taxes keep soaring?

I hope the New Hampshire DOT and NH Division of Travel & Tourism Development wil make sure bus service between Boston and Manchester will increase so we will get more Boston area residents who do not drive cars to visit Manchester and other parts of New Hampshire.

I hope they will also improve bus service between Canada and many cities in New Hampshire so we are able to get more Canadians who do not drive cars to visit New Hampshire.

I hope NH DOT will provide funding for the Manchester Transit Authority so that it may be more tourist friendly and resident friendly by having evening hours, Sunday hours, and expanded coverage in Manchester, Bedford, Londonderry, Hooksett, and Goffstown. This will help people who fly into Manchester airport do things the day after they arrive in Manchester. This will also reduce air pollution.

NH DOT may want to make sure there are more bus trips between Manchester and Nashua, Manchester and Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth, and Manchester and Canada.

NH DOT may want to work with companies in Massachusetts, Maine, and Canada to have passenger rail that benefits tourists.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

Too bad the mayor alledgely was left out of the loop. However the commuters, who are directly affected by this, were left out too! The city could have offered stickers for free parking to commuters, but for some reason the city budget is run on parking meter fees-very sad. The building the bus/commuters use, is in deplorable shape, which is part of the argument that has never been addressed here. Like Londonderry, the bus company wants everything given to them free (there are no seats in the very expensive terminal 'cause the state and the bus company can't agree as to who is reponsible for them!). The people the feds/state/bus company are responsible to are getting completely screwed and all they can do is point fingers and blame each other.
- Bill, manchester

I have been using Concord Coach for years and commute to Boston everyday using this service.

First, one of the resons why there is a larger number of people using the Exit 4 bus stop is because for years the City of Manchester has refused to address the parking issue that surrounds the Manchester Bus Terminal. Many commuters that live in Manchester refuse to pay the $95.00 per month it costs to park in garage that is next door to the bus terminal. And street parking is almost non exisitent. Thus they choose to use the park & ride at exit 4 instead.

Secondly, and more importantly. The city of Manchester and by default the Mayor has to have known that this was an issue. It is beyond my comprehension to believe otherwise.

We commuters have known about this pending issue for years. However everytime we said anything to any Manchester elected official or to Concord Coach it fell on deaf ears. And, rest assured we have spoken up.

The city has refused to do anything. And Concord Coach is a monopoly and can do what they please. It is a no win situation for anyone who is caught in the middle.
- Brian, Manchester

Guinta is left out of the cities transportation issues... Makes me wonder what other important issues in our city our mayor is "unaware" of... Is this kind of leadership healthy for Manchester??
- WB, Manchester

I'm sure the city was left out of the loop.........just like he never recieved notice about his back taxes.
- Michael, manchester

This is yet another example of the State of NH government leaving Manchester out of the planning. I simply do not understand how and why this could be allowed to happen. Would the Mass. state government operate without including Boston in the planning for an important transportation project? Would Maine leave Portland out of their planning? No, they would not. But this happens all the time in NH.

Time and again the NHDOT and state government prove that they do not put top priority to the needs of the City of Manchester and the surrounding area. No wonder the city is years behind.

I wish someone would come forward and explain why this is happening. Are there groups or individuals working against Manchester to benefit other areas or, dare I say, the interests of the State of Mass.????

Also, why is the city government so hapless and clueless? This reflects badly on the mayor and aldermen, both current and past, for leaving Manchester behind in all this transportation planning.

There is no excuse for the city not getting that transportation center and garage built. They should have found other land, even after building the baseball stadium.

But I have to ask - don't we already have a transportation center at the corner of Granite and Canal Streets? With a 1000+ car parking garage nearby? Why can't some arrangements be made to better utilize that facility? Where is the leadership?
- Bob S., Hooksett

Put a Park-n-Ride at Macy's in Bedford. This is much closer to Manchester and would have plenty of parking.
- Jose H, Manchester, NH

The Mayor controls the City bus service and the City bus terminal. The City bus terminal lacks parking. Thus, the City terminal should largely be served by City buses. Encourage City residents to take local buses downtown with frequent local service. Say's Law teaches that 'supply creates demand'. The Mayor should ask DOT what money is available to subsidize local City bus service.

Service to Boston should originate from both Manchester and Londonderry, at similar prices. Demand will tell you which destination is preferred. May the best location win.
- Steve, Manch

I seem to recall that in one of the first stories about this the Mayor made a comment that indicated he knew about this. It's interesting that he didn't take any interest in it, or try to do anything about it, until it became an issue. He could have worked behind the scenes to solve this problem before it became an issue, but instead he let it become an issue, and now he's going to try to look like our savior! He doesn't care about the City of Manchester, just what makes him look good.
- Frank, Manchester

Martin - get your numbers straight: the towns of Derry and Londonderry combined have nearly 60,000 residents.

The current commuter bus service at exit 4 has many times more Boston bound passengers than Machester has, but no weekend schedule. Should the DOT have included Manchester in their talks with Concord Coach/Boston Express? Yes. Should Mayor Guinta's staff been aware of what was going on with the new terminal at exit 5? Yes. Hopefully this will jumpstart talks to create a better bus service solution for Manchester that includes discounted/free parking.
- Mike, Derry

I moved to Portland four years ago from Manchester. I still cant get over the bus and rail system here. We have 18 bus's a day and six trains a day heading to Boston. The local transit system is also very modern. Portland operates like a big city. Maybe Manchester can look at Portland and model its transit system.
- Josh, Portland,ME

Rich Robinson: Once again, another democratic hack trying to blame Guinta for everything. It rained yesterday and spoiled my golf game - must be Guinta's fault too!

Sounds to me like Guinta is forcing the state to reconsider its plans. That is real leadership which is why he is mayor.
- Bob Connors, Manchester

Manchester has a bus system; The MTA. If I am to believe the reports, the MTA, which owns the bus terminal building, knew about the bus service leaving Manchester but didn't bother to tell anyone. That alone should be grounds for big changes within the MTA.
How on earth can Manchester expect to be taken seriously by anyone when its own transportation authority is so inept.
- Thom, Manchester, NH

Yet again another example of Guinta's failed leadership!
- Rich Robinson, Manchester

I love this line: '"Expanded service," Morgan said, means residents of the city and surrounding towns will benefit from developing Exit 5 in Londonderry.' How is that benefical to the 170000+ residents of Manchester and its surrounding towns?!?!?! Yeah, it's so beneficial to drive 20 minutes to catch a commuter bus and then drive home 20 minutes at the end of the day. It's only beneficial to the 23000+ residents of Londonderry/Derry and it's surrounding towns.
- Martin, Manchester

I hope the DOT will reevaluate the 10 year plan and make funds sooner to advance this process ASAP
- James, Manchester

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"Who's behind the wheel at MTA?"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
June 24, 2008

MANCHESTER – Mayor Frank Guinta says Manchester's buses are too big and too often empty. He also says they're not bringing in enough ad revenue, and he faults the system's administrators for using what he called "scare tactics" to rile up riders during budget season.

This summer, he says, if enough of the aldermen share those opinions, he may see to it that the system is brought under new management.

"There may be operators locally who would like to take over the service itself," Guinta said. "I think it's a legitimate possibility."

Manchester Transit Authority officials say Guinta's criticisms are off base. Executive Director David Smith notes ridership is up nearly 12 percent since July 2007, in part because of recent changes that simplified the bus schedule and made some routes more convenient. He also says the system already takes in more ad revenue than do bus systems in many similarly sized cities.

"I will say one thing," said Maureen Nagle, a member of the MTA's Board of Commissioners. "I think Dave Smith and the crew down there, the staff, are doing an incredibly good job. He knows what he's doing."

Management of the MTA has been provided since 2002 by First Transit, a Cincinnati-based contractor. Smith is a First Transit employee, as are the MTA's assistant director and operations manager.

The MTA renewed its contract with First Transit in February, extending the partnership for another five years, Smith said. The contract is worth $288,000 this year.

That agreement was reached after the Board of Commissioners put the contract out to bid last fall. First Transit was the only bidder, Smith said.

Some aldermen spoke last month about the possibility of replacing Smith and the rest of the MTA management team. Alderman Mike Garrity, a Republican and Guinta ally, said he would support a search for new management.

"I think we really need to look outside the box," he said. "Ridership, I don't believe, is where it should be. And if we can find efficiencies by sending it out to bid, I think it's our fiduciary responsibility to do that."

Guinta said his goal in going out to bid would be to find a contractor who is "far more creative than the current team." Mostly, his argument boils down to efficiency: It is inefficient, he said, for large buses to roll through the city all day with no more than a few passengers on board at a time.

The mayor also said he was frustrated with the way the MTA's current managers responded to his budget proposal this spring, which slashed the local MTA subsidy by 24 percent. Guinta accused them of "distributing to riders misinformation about particular lines that were being cut."

"They were putting rumors out there, and it was inappropriate," Guinta said.

Smith said the agency was honest with passengers about the threat the mayor's budget proposal posed. "I don't think he would have wanted us to ignore it," Smith said.

The MTA was established by the city in 1973. It receives most of its funding from the local and federal governments and is governed by a five-member Board of Commissioners, whose members are appointed by Manchester's aldermen.

Smith refuted the mayor's charge that the MTA is not maximizing its potential to bring in ad dollars. He said the agency's concessionaire, Greenland-based Alternate Transit Advertising, Inc., has already sold all of the system's available space through the end of this year.

The MTA took in about $75,000 this year in advertising, Smith said.

"Really," he said, "that's high for a city this size."

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"Ballpark bill is shared affair"
By MIKE CULLITY, New Hampshire Union Leader
15-July-2008

MANCHESTER – Although the New Hampshire Fisher Cats' ballpark has brought affordable family entertainment and economic benefits to Manchester, city taxpayers have been covering a portion of the costs associated with construction of the $27.5 million stadium, and may continue to do so, despite past promises from city officials that taxpayers would not foot any part of the bill.

Annual shortfalls on the project cost taxpayers nearly $1.3 million in fiscal years 2005-2007, adding a total of $32.88 to the average tax bill during that time, according to an Aug. 1, 2007, report from city Finance Officer William E. Sanders to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Although the city is projected to have realized a $202 surplus on the project in fiscal 2008, which ended June 30, Sanders estimated that the city could face additional shortfalls of $410,000 in fiscal 2009 and $650,000 in fiscal 2010 if development of luxury riverfront condominiums adjacent to Merchantsauto.com Stadium remains stalled.

"Will (taxpayers) get paid off in two or three years? Maybe. It depends on how many buildings are built down there," Sanders said. "There needs to be significant development to alleviate the tax burden."

To fund its debt service obligations on the $27.5 million in stadium bonds issued in December 2003, the city relies on annual lease and debt-service payments from the Fisher Cats; tax revenues from riverfront properties adjacent to the ballpark, including the Hilton Garden Inn and condominiums developed by Manchester Parkside Place LLC; and make-whole payments from each riverfront developer covering the difference between actual taxes received on the riverfront properties and the minimum assessed property tax value each developer committed to attain.

Despite prompt payments from the team and the developers, debt service obligations in fiscal 2005-2007 exceeded these payments and tax revenues from the riverfront properties, according to Sanders' report.

One of the reasons the report cites for the annual shortfalls is that "the development of the Manchester Parkside Place parcel has not proceeded as rapidly as originally anticipated."

Without further riverfront development, the city will face the prospect of earmarking additional taxpayer dollars to meet its future debt-service obligations, Sanders said.

A spokesman for Mayor Frank Guinta said Guinta was unavailable for comment.

Although he was surprised to learn last year that the stadium debt was costing taxpayers, At-Large Alderman Mike Lopez remains optimistic that more condominiums will be built once the economy improves, providing the city with the tax revenue it needs to fund the stadium debt.

"In the long run, even though (taxpayers) have to pay up front, I think it will balance out," said Lopez, who chairs the aldermanic board and is a member of its Riverfront Development Committee. "I'm confident taxpayers won't end up paying for it in the end."

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Readers' COMMENTS:

I think the park spruces up Manchester. It provides something new and exciting along with providing us with good baseball and family fun... I dont mind paying the extra tax dollars to help fund it. I am pretty sure if I look under the tax covers, I am paying more for things that provide less value than the Fishercats.
- Paul, Manchester

I am not sure which is worse, the fact that Mayor was unavailable for comment (again) or that the Chair of the Board of Alderman said "In the long run, even though (taxpayers) have to pay up front, I think it will balance out,". Thats is great Alderman Lopez. I look forward to my check from the City to "balance" my property tax payments I make for a baseball stadium. Next time, perhaps the Alderman should also be unavailable for comment.
- Tom, Manchester

Drew Webber came to manchester sold Baines and the Alderman a bill of goods and walked out of here with a pccket full of "our money". All we got was assurances that no taxpayer money would be used to pay the debt. Baines and the rest of them need to "man-up" and admit they "screwed us".
- M Bodruk, Manchester

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"Mayor wants transportation hub site selected"
By GARRY RAYNO, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
July 18, 2008

MANCHESTER – Mayor Frank Guinta wants the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to vote on a site for a new multimodal transportation center before the end of the year.

A vote by the city will allow the state Department of Transportation to recommend moving $9.4 million forward in the state's 10-year Transportation Improvement Plan. The money is earmarked for a 650-space parking garage and intermodal transportation facility for bus, taxi and eventually rail service, but under the current plan would not be available until 2016.

The opening of a new $7 million bus terminal and park-and-ride facility at Interstate 93, Exit 5, in Londonderry and the potential reduction of bus service at the city's downtown terminal, prompted city officials to address the issue.

Concord Coach is pulling out of Manchester this fall when its lease expires at the city-owned downtown terminal. An affiliated bus company, Boston Express, will provide Boston-to-Manchester service, but with fewer trips from downtown.

At a news conference yesterday, Guinta said: "We have some work to do as a city; we recognize that. The first is to identify a location for an intermodal facility."

He said a ridership survey being done by the Manchester Transit Authority and Southern New Hampshire Planning Services, information from the city's transportation summit scheduled for Aug. 12, and ongoing work by the Mayor's Transportation Task Force will be helpful in determining a location for the new facility.

Preliminary work leading to recommended changes in the state's transportation plan begins in September, Guinta said, so a decision by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen needs to happen in the next four or five months.

The DOT makes its recommendation to the Governor's Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation this fall and the commission sends its proposal to the governor at the beginning of next year.

"This is a critical juncture for the city," Guinta said.

The new facility needs to be near the highway and rail tracks, somewhere between the Public Service of New Hampshire headquarters in the Millyard and Hesser College to the south, he said yesterday.

Another option is near Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Guinta said, but identifying a specific site before the transportation summit is premature.

The mayor also said the city has begun negotiations with the owners of the Center of New Hampshire parking garage next to the bus terminal about reduced parking rates for travelers. One prime complaint by Concord Coach officials has been the lack of parking for bus patrons around the terminal.

Guinta said the bus terminal will remain open after Concord Coach's lease expires Nov. 30. He said the earliest date the Londonderry facility will open and Boston Express begins taking over the Manchester to Boston run is Oct. 31.

"We want to ensure the transition is smooth and our intention is not to shut it down," Guinta said. "We want to keep it open, have a plan to keep it open and recommendations to meet the short-term needs."

The ridership survey is under way and will continue until July 25. He said all the stakeholders from the city to bus operators want to know who is riding the buses, where they are going and what other services they would use if provided, he said.

The first Transportation Task Force meeting is next Wednesday. Guinta said, he expects the group to look at the ongoing transportation needs of the city -- short- and long-term -- and recommend transportation policies.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

I do complain, can I help it if no one follows common sense? The people we elect do not look out for the peoples best interest? Do what ever they want in the end you and me pay for mismanagement?
I as everybody have a right to voice our opinions.
I would put a bus station in the millyard under the Notra Dame bridge in the parking lot that is empty during the day and all night long. You could use the same foot print as the exsiting building on the corner of Canal and Granite street. You would have better parking and the bus station would be centraly located. I would sell the bus station to build the new building.
I spoke at the Mayor and Alderman board meeting about this and was told the city had no interest in this matter.
The city is mismanaged by the Mayor and Alderman and I will put my money where my mouth is.
I missed the deadline to file for state rep.
Write me in!
I will be running for Alderman at Large in the next city elections. I am a businessman and will self fund my campain I have been in the city all my life and I am tired of rising taxes and nothing to show for it.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester, NH

I think Bill from Manch has a great idea. I'm surthere would be a way to tie-in to the Jac-Pac renovation. That could put the rail and bus stations close to the city bus garage operation. I'm sure if they looked into it there would be benefits for all concerned. Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest.
- Sean, Manchester

"The new facility needs to be near the highway and rail tracks, somewhere between the Public Service of New Hampshire headquarters in the Millyard and Hesser College..." DOESN'T THAT DESCRIBE THE CURRENT LOCATION??? I can't believe we need to "study" this situation. Ask the Concord Coach people. The lack of reasonable parking (remember when the garage was sold a couple of years ago and the rates doubled) was recognized and they solved the problem by moving their terminals out of the city.
- Ralph, Auburn

Making the I93 wider is not the answer. Building a rail service next to or along some of its route would be ideal for freight and commercial use. While taking the exsisting line and using it for rail transportation. If we truly want to cut down on the emissions from cars and such we should look towards electric or hydrogen powered trains and buses. Heck there are even service trucks out there that run on natural gas. We as a nation and a state have the people with knowledge to create such things and the technology to do it. Shame we just can't work out a deal with Hesser college and have them move over to a Mill Building like UNH has done. That place would be ideal for a train station. We will just have to wait and see...
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

With fuel prices the way they are if railway service from Concord and Manchester to Boston could be restored, the current location of the bus terminal or very near there would be ideal. The rail road tracks are right there, easy access to 293 is there with the recent widening of the Granite St bridge traffic flow more smoothly. There are som spaces in that area where parking garages could be built for commuters. Between bus and rail service we could significantly reduce travel costs, reduce emmissions as well as traffic congestion.
- Rob, Manchester

I couldn't agree with you more Kevin from Auburn. I'm sick of the constant complaining and bickering from the Stan Howsers and Joe Kelleys of Manchester. In their minds, there is this "perfect politician" who does everything their way and if a particular politician doesn't fit this criteria, they deserve to be ridiculed and bashed constantly. Honestly, according to these men, is there anything our current office holders can do right?

I personally wish we could vote THEM out of the city and welcome some positive people with fresh ideas rather than constant ridicule into Manchester.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, NH

You may all be rather amazed by this simple fact: Manchester had active daily passenger rail service to Boston until 1967.

The air thieves in Concord and Washington DC lined their pockets with "campaign contributions" while General Motors (seller of buses) and Goodyear rubber (seller of bus tires) systematically destroyed the passenger rail industry throughout the U.S.
- John Krats, Manchester, New Hampshire

I agree with Michael, Concord Coach has all that information and the State Government could easily attain all those numbers. Although I do like the surveys they were providing, they were dinky two pagers, and only about half the people have time to take them since most riders arrive exactly before the bus leaves.

Eventhough its a long ways off, I would hope this new terminal is somewhere near downtown (i.e. rockwell or in the millyard area)
- Nathan, Manchester, NH

THIS IS GREAT NEWS!!!!!!!

(about 1-2 years to late)
- MIKE, Manchester

Stan Howser, where should the new bus station be located? Should it be at the airport? Should it be near the railroad? How many parking spaces should there be at the station? Should it be managed by the city or by a private sector firm?

You complain an awful lot, but never offer any positive suggestions. Let's hear something different. Manchester has had enough cranky complainers (Joe Kelly, Vailaincourt, Fortin, Basinow).
- Kevin, Auburn

I think the perfect location is the rockwell building on elm street. The train tracks are right behind the building. There is plenty of space for a parking garage, a new terminal for busing, and rail all in one perfect site. I wonder if any city official has figured that one out yet....
- John, manchester

This 'summit' is all for show. We all know that the site has been preselected by city hall for years now. Anagnost is going to 'win' this selection process for his site that rockwell currently sits on.
- jack, manchester

Frank is right on top of this bus issue along with the other alderman. Now would be a great time to convert the bus station to a shoe store. It is a long walk to londonderry and you will need new shoes.
Vote them all out in 2009 they did not hold the line.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester,NH

If we’re going to revamp the public transit bus service, we absolutely must develop a solid marketing plan. We have to get more people on those buses in order to keep the operation running smoothly. Putting up a new Hub station is not enough. Please, Mayor and Alderman, budget for marketing, lets make it a success this time around!
- Dave B, Manchester

Why not fit it into the new development where the JacPac plant used to operate? It would be ideal, still downtown, along the rail, more or less right off the interstate.
- Bill, Manchester, NH

I appreciate the MTA and Southern New Hampshire Planning Services taking the time to conduct a survey. However, the last time I checked part of the funding for Concord Coach service from Manchester to Boston is subsidized by NH tax dollars. If this is the case, why isn't the city asking the state to demand from Concord Coach ridership numbers for let's say a month long period on the Boston bound buses. They'll even be more helped by the fact that Concord Coach prints rider's names on the individual tickets and also by the fact that round trip rides are marked such and that commuter tickets (those who ride the bus regularly) are also marked commuter. It would seem that this would give the city the most accurate data to make an informed decision. Those taking the surveys yesterday at the Manchester Transit Center were unable to get everyone boarding and disembarking from the buses.
- Michael, Manchester

Are the Mayor and the Alderman going to meet with bus riders during the day to discuss Manchester Transit Authority, Concord Coach, and the transportation hub?

I do not think the Mayor was at the May 14 bus meeting. I think only 2 Aldermen were at the meeting. I know the Mayor and the Aldermen were not willing to answer questions. They voted to cut the budget of the Manchester Transit Authority by more than 20 percent when gas has soared in price and ridership is up. The Federal Government may match the cut. The Federal Government pays 80 percent of the cost of new buses. We may lose early morning hours and Saturday bus service. Reduced bus service will harm senior citizens, disabled veterans, workers, and others. Reduced bus service may harm many downtown businesses and other businesses. The more money people have to spend on gas the less money they have to spend on other things.

Next year is an election year for Manchester. I hope people remember that we have a Mayor and Aldermen who do not like to answer questions in public forums. I hope the Mayor and most of the Aldermen get fired next year.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

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"City clerk on leave as AG examines allegations"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Tuesday, Jul. 1, 2008

MANCHESTER – The state Attorney General's Office is investigating allegations that City Clerk Carol Johnson protected her nephew and kept him on the office's payroll after learning he may have stolen a small amount of money from a city account.

Johnson was placed on paid administrative leave last Friday. Yesterday, she defended her response to the alleged thefts and pleaded with the aldermen for permission to continue working while the state and an independent city auditor proceed in their investigations.

"She's done nothing dishonest in any way, shape or manner," her attorney, David Nixon, told the board.

The aldermen denied Johnson's request, upholding Mayor Frank Guinta's decision to place the clerk on indefinite leave.

"We are talking about public money. We're talking about the people's money," Guinta said after the meeting. "It's a public trust issue."

Johnson's conduct comes into question as Manchester police investigate claims that her nephew, Shawn Hanagan, stole cash on at least two occasions from a security-alarm registration account. The thefts occurred some time before Feb. 29, Guinta said.

At the time, Hanagan was working in the clerk's office as a licensing enforcement inspector. He left that job April 18 for reasons that had nothing to do with the stolen money, according to the mayor.

Neither Guinta nor Police Chief David Mara would say how much money may have been taken. Nixon said Hanagan is accused of stealing "$30 three times."

Attempts to reach Hanagan for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

Johnson, a former deputy city clerk who assumed the office's top job in January, said an internal "examination" revealed the stolen money had been restored. She said she resolved to reassign the employee so he could do "some of the physical work that needed to be done," noting the office was short-staffed. The employee no longer had access to cash, she said.

"The policies were changed. I did not believe there were any further liabilities to the city," she told the aldermen.

Johnson said she planned to terminate the man's employment as soon as she could fill one of the open positions in her office. Guinta said he found no evidence to support that claim.

Deputy City Clerk Matt Normand will handle Johnson's responsibilities during her absence.

Johnson has worked for the city for more than three decades. She joined the clerk's office in 1992 after stints in the Office of Youth Services and the Welfare Department.

While Normand handled the clerk's duties in the aldermanic chambers yesterday, Johnson sat in the gallery, flanked by two prominent attorneys: Nixon, a former New Hampshire Senate president, and his partner, Larry Vogelman. Nixon had been vacationing in Maine since the weekend; he said he drove 200 miles, a four-hour trip, to attend the meeting.

It was Johnson's urging that kept yesterday's board meeting from taking place behind closed doors. Nixon said his client hoped to persuade the board "that it is in the best interest of the city that she not be placed on administrative leave, with or without pay, because the city needs her serving as city clerk."

The board met twice in private with the city solicitor before voting in support of the paid leave. Alderman Ed Osborne cast the only dissenting vote.

"I think she tried, in her own way, to protect her department," Osborne said.

In a separate vote, the aldermen decided to keep Johnson on probation for another six months. Johnson was put on probation when she was promoted, a standard practice in City Hall. The probationary period would have ended either yesterday or today, Guinta noted.

In a brief interview yesterday, Normand said he was the one who recommended Hanagan for the job. Hanagan is a close friend and was the best man at Normand's wedding. Hanagan briefly worked in the clerk's office as a temp before he was hired in April 2007, according to the Human Resources Department.

City Tax Collector Joan Porter and Youth Services Director Marty Boldin were among a small crowd of city officials who came to yesterday's meeting to support Johnson. Porter's husband, former City Assessor Paul Porter, said Johnson has always served the city with integrity.

Guinta said the decision to place Johnson on paid leave was difficult for him, emotionally. He was encouraged to make it, he said, when the police chief expressed some concern that Johnson's family ties to Hanagan could interfere with the police department's investigation.

"I like Carol Johnson," Guinta said. "I mean, she's a good and decent person ... And when this came to my attention, I was devastated, and I was absolutely shocked."

-

Readers' COMMENTS:

It's interesting that, if you are the head of a city department being investigated, for misconduct-You are placed on paid leave. While if you are just a highway dept. employee, you get fired. Am I missing something here?
- Patrick Jordan, Manchester, NH

Let's see if Mara and his department go after this public official with the same zeal he has gone after other "public" officials. Oh...that's right, these public officials are Manchester officials so they'll get a pass from Mara.
- JRG, Manchester

The educational system is under assault and the only taxes being cut by the mayor appear ot be his own. Great to see that we was "devastated" by this "emotionally difficult" decision. What a clown. I think the new police chief hit the panic button and the long record of a dedicated employee is being besmirched.
- Jim, Salem

Throwing away thirty years of service for a crime she didn't even commit is WAY to harsh. A reprimand is all that is in order here.
- Greg Salts, Manchester

There is obviously a lot more to this situation than has been made public at this point. People are jumping to judge everyone involved without all of the facts. I think people will be suprised (both good and bad) when all is said and done. Family or not, the important thing to do in this situation, was to do what's right. Stealing is stealing, Hanagan should have been terminated on the spot.
- Katie, Concord

This makes me wonder what else is going on at City Hall. First the Mayor "forgets to pay his property taxes".....now we have another highly paid skilled worker of Manchester "shuffles a theft of city money wrong doing"... What Else is going on at City Hall??
Wake up People!
- Mrs. Cartwright, Manchester

For Frank Guinta to say he "agonized" over Johnson-Gate is beyond belief. Carol Johnson publicly humiliated Jersey Boy Frank at a public meeting and Guinta got his payback. Johnson does not need to be put on administrative leave. She is one of the toughest minded employees of the City, and she did not steal anything. She made a bad error in judgment, but this is nothing more than Guinta getting back at her. He did not want her as City Clerk, he wanted his right hand man Sean Thomas in that position all along or worse case, Matt Normand. Guinta is really a disgusting man for doing this. And Johnson never should have let this be aired in public, the aldermen were put on live t.v., and could not allow her to stay and vote that way in public. Aldermen need to revisit this right away and do this right, either they pay her and put her to wok, or fire her her and not pay her. She even volunteered to worjk without pay, get her back to work. The public reprimand is enough. Simple as that!
- Peter S., bedford

Lets not forget that Clerk Johnson has been earning near 6 figures in her role as city clerk. I would expect someone at that level of pay to not be so lax with her responsabilities. The position of city clerk needs to be held to a high standard due to the nature of the job. Integrity needs to be paramount. If this story holds true then a serious audit needs to happen at that department because if she's letting this stuff happen then what else?
- JSF, Manch

Everyone should relax and just wait for the result of the investigations. I'm sure a lot of you will be surprised.
- Vicki, Manchester

"The policies were changed. I did not believe there were any further liabilities to the city," she told the aldermen.

My question is, where is it written that she had sole discretion to make that decision? Where is it written that she had no obligation to report it up? The story mentions that she's worked for the city for more than 30 years and while I applaud her for her service, I cannot help but also feel like, she should have known better.
- Craig D, Manchester

Michael(Manch),Is it something personal between you and the Mayor?
It's good that you put "evade" in quotes,because that's where it belongs.
Before making a bigger ass out of yourself,may I suggest a little research into tax evasion.
Yeah Michael,you seem to be the expert on living in a glass house.You may want to invest in a truckload of mini-blinds.
- Mike P., Manchester

Guinta and the board did the right think. If that employee wasn't Carol's relative he would and should have been fired immediately. It appears that she covered it up and kept him on the payroll. If these allegations prove true she should be fired.
- Lee, Manchester

Wow, seems like you can't trust anyone these days !!!! No matter what theconsequences are, to get paid is not my idea of a punishment !!!!
- Diane S, Manchester

What was she thinking !!! Family or not, it is your job to prevent any kind of stealing. I don't think being paid is a punishment at all....there go our tax dollars !!!
- D, Manchester

Re: Gary in manchester


I'm saying to Guinta, he who throws stones shouldn't live in a glass house. Last i knew 'evading' your taxes is a crime. Let's brush that off though and move the spotlight onto someone else.
- Michael, manchester

The employee should have lost his job for stealing. His mgr should lose her job for allowing their relationship to cloud her judgement.

Being frineds and having relatives work with you is just fine but in the workplace you have to maintain a level of professionalism.
- Maria, Manchester NH

I was born and raised in Manchester and it truly distresses me that no one has called for the termination of Carol Johnson. She may be a decent person, but she has failed her responsibilities as a public official. Carol Johnson failed to fire her nephew who committed theft while employed as a Public Servent and basically covered it up. A theft of public money was committed, not once, but twice. It doesn’t matter whether the money was restored, it is still theft! As Carol Johnson stated in the article “an internal examination revealed the stolen money had been restored”. And Carol goes on and says “The employee no longer had access to cash” when she reassigned her nephew. Evidently Carol Johnson knew her nephew couldn’t be trusted around cash so she reassigned him to a job where there was no cash. Am I not reading her statements correctly? Carol admits in her statements that “money was restored” and "employee no longer had access to cash”. What more is there to say, how can I trust Carol Johnson?

As stated earlier, public officials whether local or Federal they must be held to a higher standard when it comes to the public's money. I guess our morals and standards have changed, just look at the Federal Government. nuff said!
- Peter, concord

Tim - Most people do have friends in the workplace - friends they make there, not getting jobs because they are friends - big difference. There is too much inbreeding at City Hall. There are people applying for these jobs that are most likely more qualified for these positions but will not have a chance at serving the city since they don't have a friend or relative there already. Before anyone bashes the "most likely", consider a stack of resumes with your family member's names. How many times will your family come to the top of the heap on such a wide variety of jobs over and over? Please!
- Jill, Manchester

Gary(Manch),couldn't have said it any better myself.
I will add that,while not surprising,the lack of knowledge of governmental affairs at ALL levels is disheartening.
Especially in a system guided by "of the people,by the people,and for the people".
We seem to have fallen and we can't get up.Sad.
- Mike P., Manchester

I believe that Carol stated she had been short staffed and needed help but was unable to get the funding and the work in the Clerk's office needed to get done.

She has worked long and tirelessly for Manchester - you have a great clerk!
- Sandy Harris, Vernon Vermont

Carol Johnson is on administrative leave while the police investigation continues. Why wouldn't Matt Normand be placed on leave as well? It seems his connections to the Hanagan are as strong as Carol's.
Carol and Matt are certainly hard working employees and it is unfortunate this has happened. But they need to both be reprimanded for their actions.
- Lenny B, Bedford

Wasnt Osborne's daughter hired by Johnson? How the heck can he be allowed to even participate in that vote?

Talk about a conflict of interest. Is there an ethic commission in Manchester that can investigate Osborne's participation in a vote that determined the fate of the woman that hired his daughter?

Where are we, Providence?
- jack, manchester

Why should a city employee be held to higher standards than the people making an airplane that thousands of people are going to use or the employees of a restaurant that could make many people ill. As far as the small amount of money missing and it being handled internally it was the right thing to do. I would like to meet one person who has not taken anything from his workplace either intentionally or accidently. That pen you forgot in your pocket when you left work is also stealing.
- Russ, Manchester

It's not suprising to me how naieve most of you are on the procedure of City Government. Ms. Johnson must be placed on PAID leave pending results of investigation because she has not been terminated, therefore cannot be withheld pay.

As for those who jump to bash Guinta because he "came off cruel and mean" on tv, give me a break. This man has the responsibility to keep order in City Hall. That means when a city officer such as the Clerk is under investigation dealing with the theft of money (your's as tax payers, by the way), she cannot be allowed to continue working in that office. If she is in the office, she has access to files that need to be examined and therefore cannot be tampered with.

Well done to the Mayor for standing up and doing the right thing.

Michael from Manchester -- What are you, a former Baines staffer? What a worthless remark toward the mayor. Grow up huh.
- Gary, Manchester

John in Plaistow;
Be very careful of who you accuse of committing a crime. Nowhere in the article or in the facts does anybody allege Ms. Johnson committed any crime. This is the problem with a hit and run news story. People form conclusions on others without all the facts. How about we let the AG's office and the police investigate this matter and file their reports with the proper authorities.
- Mike, Manchester

Maybe Ms. Johnson should've used the "it slipped my mind" excuse like Guinta did with his tax bill. Then everything would've been OK, right Frank?
- Michael, manchester

As public officials we must be held to a higher stancdard when it comes to the public's money. Carol made a poor decision not to trreminate him after the first occasion, however, you can't un-ring a bell.
Carol should be allowed to return to work with a reprimand and everyone should move forward.
Forget pointing fingers at the aldermen or the Mayor and keep out beautiful City moving forward. Remember how it used to be?
- Paul, Manchester

Tom, maybe you don't have any friends at your place of employment but a lot of people do. That is hardly a crime.
- Tim, Manchester

Where is the outrage that she is on PAID vacation after comitting a crime? I guess that public outcry only comes about when a police officer is involved.
- John, Plaistow

Talk about a "stink" coming from city hall. Everyone is related, going to each other's weddings, friends, ... and one wonders why Manchester is a city on the decline?
- tom, manchester,nh

I agree that Ms. Johnson failed in her responsibility as administrator to fire the individual for stealing funds. I do not agree that she should have been put on leave a reprimand would have been appropriate.
I truly believe it is politically motivated on the part of the mayor and alderman. Why is it that one day before Ms. Johnson's probationary period was to end that these alligations surfaced. Appears someone wasn't doing their job back in February when the theft took place. Need to put the mayor on leave as the Chairman of the board who is ultimately responsible. We are talking about public money. We're talking about the people's money," Guinta said after the meeting. "It's a public trust issue."
I don't belive for a minute he believe this he wants the appearance that he does. Again sad day for Manchester under Guinta. #6 on the sad day list.
- Norman R. Gill, Hooksett, NH

Love the mug shot UL
- dan, Manchester

A reprimand is definitely in order. I couldn't agree more.
- William Smith, Manchester, NH

Let me get this straight. A city employee steals money ( the amount is not important) three times. The employees supervisor is also his aunt, and he does not loose his job? Isn't nepotism a wonderful thing?

Public employees hold a public trust. They must be held to a higher standard. While I have no doubt Carol is a good person who made a poor dicision, she is in a position of power where she cannot make poor dicisions, especially when the publics trust, money and a family member is involved.

What would have happened if it was a new employee not related to the city clerk?
- mike c., manchester

Seems like gunita is on a crusade. I saw his comments on news 9 last night. He didn't seem like the person who likes her at all. He came off cruel and mean. Maybe thats just his personality. Honestly though isn't there more pressing issues for the mayor and board to be dealing with?
- Tim, Manchester

Rick Olsen:

You believe that she should be reprimanded for no impropriety on her part?

If you meant to say that because she handled the issue internally and did not make a stink about it - the aldermen will reprimand her as a face-saving measure on thier part, then fine.

Otherwise, don't stand on the fence.
- David R, Manchester

A thief is a thief. Ask the City's bonding company.

Simply reassigning an alleged repeat offender -- even a relative, and even when "small" amounts are allegedly involved -- was not the way for the Clerk to handle this. This was a serious lapse in judgment.

I think the Mayor had utterly no choice here but to suspend the Clerk, pending the investigation. He would have become part of the problem if he had done anything else. Good call, Frank.

Extending the Clerk's probationary period was a mature excercise of discretion here by the Aldermen. This will all sort out.

Sorry about the vacation, Dave. If only our clients would behave while we are away...
- Larry Gillis, Cape Coral FL

There is no dispute about the personal integrity of Carol Johnson. I also have no reason not to believe her assertions of how she handled the situation. In fact, I believe there was no impropriety on her part. I di, However, believe the Aldermanic majority was a correct in putting Johnson on leave.

As a public official, the mere appearance of impropriety can potentially have the same impact as the actual act alleged here.

While I think Carol should remain on the job, a reprimand is in order.
- Rick Olson, Manchester

Alderman Osborne's daughter works for Carol Johnson. Wonder why he was the only dissenting vote?
- Robert Paul, Manchester

Carol Johnson does a great job. The alderman who want to protect people who are being investigated should recuse themselves. If the alderman where not so busy trying to raise taxes they would have known to look for something like this. Plus hiring a relative is not new there really are only about five different familys who work for the city when you look deep into it.
Where was Mark Roy, absent at the meeting as he seems to be all the time.
Tax payers wake up. Mismanagement starts at the top with the 14 alderman and mayor leading the charge in this race. 5% tax increase plus mismanagement at Manchester city hall.
How much can a taxpayer bear in this town.
Stay tune for more.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester, NH

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"City clerk's office probe continues"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, July 24, 2008

MANCHESTER – Security measures in the City Clerk's Office were working smoothly when an employee allegedly stole cash from an account, the city's independent auditor said yesterday.

"I think the internal controls were not bad there. It's just the guy managed to steal some money," auditor Kevin Buckley said.

Buckley estimated he is three weeks away from wrapping up an investigation into the alleged fraud in the Clerk's Office. The investigation centers on Shawn Hanagan, the former employee suspected of stealing the money, and on his aunt, City Clerk Carol Johnson, who is accused of trying to shield Hanagan when the allegations came to her attention.

A separate probe being conducted by the state Attorney General's Office is also ongoing.

"We're interviewing people and reading reports," investigator Paul Brodeur said yesterday.

Buckley said he has yet to prove Hanagan stole more than $90 while working in the Clerk's Office as a licensing enforcement inspector. He is continuing to review tens of thousands of transactions, he said.

"My testing is so preliminary right now that even the stuff I think I found could very easily turn out to be nothing," Buckley said.

The alleged thefts are the subject of a Manchester Police Department investigation, according to Mayor Frank Guinta. To date, no charges have been filed.

Work, meanwhile, continues in the Clerk's Office, despite Johnson's absence. The clerk was placed on paid administrative leave June 27.

Her deputy, Matt Normand, said "things are definitely back in order" after a difficult first week. Morale, he said, is "relatively high."

"I will tell you that the strain that was placed on the office ... was without question a difficult adjustment initially," Normand wrote in a July 18 letter to the aldermen. "Every member of the City Clerk's Office, however, has performed far beyond my expectations."

In his letter, Normand notes the office now has a new customer service representative, former Ward 6 moderator Louise Gosselin, who, he said, has "quickly eliminated the backlog that existed within the Election Division." The letter also says the staff has worked out some kinks in the alarm billing system and has "mapped out a plan" to catch up on projects that have fallen by the wayside.

Normand has worked in the Clerk's Office since 1994. He and Johnson competed for the clerk's job when the position opened late last year.

In a meeting with the aldermen June 30, Johnson suggested her absence from the Clerk's Office would result in delays. Her attorney, David Nixon, said, "The city needs her serving as city clerk."

Johnson has said she responded to the alleged thefts by reassigning Hanagan so he would no longer have access to cash. She said she planned to terminate Hanagan's employment as soon as she could fill one of the open positions in her office, a claim Guinta said he found no evidence to support.

The mayor has said money was stolen from an account that consists of security alarm registration fees. Johnson said the stolen money has been returned.

Buckley said his report to the aldermanic Committee on Accounts, Enrollment and Revenue will include some recommendations. He said the computer system in the office is "kind of a mess" and said, "The way they were handling cash at the counter, that should change."

--

Readers' COMMENTS:

It's unfortunate that Carol has to go through this because of a "stupid" nephew. Carol only did what any of us would do if any one of our family members did the same thing. With all this investigation going on I would suspect the theft may well have been more than the $90.00 Atty Nixon stated originally.
- Robert J. Pariseau, Hampton, NH

Some things at Manchester's City Hall will never change.
- Carol-Ann, Pen Argyl, PA

When is Manchester going to stop hiring friends and family as favors and hire real qualified people for all positions (unbias)? Until this happens, Manchester will continue being corrupt and insider self-serving at the expense of taxpayers.
- Scott, Manchester

With regard to the theft of $90.00. Once one begins taking what is not their's to take how can they be trusted with even larger amounts of monies accumulated during a day, week or month's transactions?

This employee violated the rules. Nephew or not, he should have been dismissed immediately. Making restitution is not the answer or solution to an employee stealing money on the job. His Aunt is now at risk because of this theft. What was he thinking?? If he needed money so urgently, why didn't he just ask his Aunt to lend him the money instead of putting her reputation and job at risk? How selfish was he to put her in this position and how foolish was she to try and cover up for him?
Look at the cost to her.

Ginger Ferrer
- Ginger Ferrer, Manchester, NH

Looks like the City initially hired the wrong person for the job. We now have no back log and are working on projects that have fallen by the wayside. It also sounds like they fixed the way money was stolen from the account. Now if we could be realistic in our hunt for 90 dollars. Like the man before me said how much is this $ hunt costing us. An does no one balance the books??? Thousands of transactions to go through??
- Eric, Manchester, NH

So, I guess that the city didn't "need" her as much as she thought we did.

And, "continuing to review tens of thousands of transactions" all for $90??? Are you kidding me? How much is this costing?

The guy stole $90, he repaid it, slap him on the wrist and let's get back to the city's business.
- Domenic, Manchester

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Press Release, PR - "Statement by Mayor Frank Guinta on Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson's Decision", By Brian Lawson, July 31, 2008, 12:05pm

PRESS RELEASE – July 31, 2008, Contact: Mark Laliberte (mlaliberte@manchesternh.gov), (603) 624-6500; Cell: (603) 490-4098

"Statement by Mayor Frank Guinta on Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson’s Decision"

MANCHESTER (July 31, 2008) – “Today, like many of our citizens, I read in the New Hampshire Union Leader about how Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson passed a rather stiff (and welcome) sentence on the female ringleader of a recent home burglary. Judge Abramson rightfully recognized that only lengthy incarcerations are a true deterrent against crime. The judge ignored pleas for leniency and suggestions of probation, and enacted swift and proven justice on Ms. Klanesha Landry, a most unwelcome resident of our city.”

“Much is however being made about the judges characterization of Manchester as ‘dangerous and disgusting.’ Such a statement is woefully inaccurate and fails to recognize that Manchester is a city that has turned the corner and is on the road to recovery and renaissance. I urge anyone who thinks these negative things about Manchester to visit our historic neighborhoods and see the public and private investments that are reshaping the areas once home to crime and decay. Come to our Downtown, which offers family friendly entertainment, a vibrant nightlife and first-class restaurants, all of which employ thousands of people who make Manchester their home. Finally, meet the people of Manchester themselves, not the ilk of this world like the aforementioned Ms. Landry, and you will meet people who love Manchester and expect a bright future for their city.”

“I am certain that Judge Abramson misspoke when she characterized Manchester in such a negative light. I am certain she is aware of the great strides we have made as a city, and that she too is hopeful for our future. Removing criminals from our streets helps assure that future and I am thankful that the judge has aided us in this endeavor.”

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"A judge's good call, and bad choice of words"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, August 1, 2008

Home invasions in Manchester "have become all too common," an assistant county attorney said Wednesday at the sentencing of a young woman convicted of plotting and helping execute an armed burglary last year. It is true, and if our judges continue sending the perpetrators to prison, that might change.

Last November, 18-year-old Klanesha Landry drove her boyfriend, Corey Bryson, then 18, to the Beech Hill Drive home of Lisa Czzowitz. Bryson entered with a loaded shotgun, intent on stealing money. He was stopped by two young residents, who, with the help of a baseball bat, overpowered him.

Out in the car, Landry phoned for backup. Fortunately, police got there first. Bryson got 10 to 20 years for his role in the invasion. On Wednesday, Judge Gillian Abramson sentenced Landry to 1 1/2 to 3 years.

Abramson gave Landry, who had no prior record, the sentence prosecutors had asked for because of the extremely dangerous nature of the crime and because she said she wanted to send a "deterrent message" to other would-be burglars. The judge was exactly right in her sentencing, but wrong in commenting that Manchester is a "dangerous and disgusting city to live in."

That's overstating it, by a long shot, and the judge should choose her words more carefully. Manchester is neither disgusting nor dangerous. Some of its inhabitants are disgusting and dangerous, but that's different.

The city has had a disturbing spate of home invasions lately, and some neighborhoods remain crime-ridden. The police and prosecutors are working hard to turn that around. They need the help of judges willing to hold criminals accountable for their behavior.

But judges hoping to have a deterrent effect on crime ought to be mindful that portraying the whole city as a happy land for criminals is both inaccurate and unhelpful.

--

Readers' COMMENTS:

Nothing like someone living in a gated community in Bedford making comments about Manchester not being so bad. I wonder if this individual is secretly the Chief of Police?
- Winston Smith, Merrimack NH

That's what newspapers typically do, they twist the words in order to sell papers. If they reported thruthfully, they might not have such big headlines.

Aside from that, the judge deserves a medal because she did say the truth.
- Bill, Tuftonboro

Let's not forget about all the stabbings lately,one a day by my count.This attitude of stab first ask questions later has got to stop.My inlaw was stabbed in the neck a few months ago,she doing fine now.The girl that stabbed her was charged with simple assault even though she left her for dead and she had to drive herself to the hospital.We need harsher sentences for violent crimes,no time off for good behavior,they should have to do all their time period.
- Jon, Islamorada,Fl

You can tell the folks who post here who don't get out much - they're the ones who agree that the city as a whole is such a terrible place. They obviously haven't been to Lawrence, Roxbury, Morristown NJ, Newark NJ, or many many other places whose good neighborhoods look like the bad parts of Manchester and go downhill from there.

All her over-the-top comments do is scare the good people from the city - visitors and residents - which drops property values down, which leads to fiscal issues, which leads to the city becoming the kind of place that Newark is now.

Lets not kid ourselves, there are crime issues that need controlling - gang and drug related in particular (which usually go hand in hand) - but this city is still not that bad a place, and many neighborhoods are quite nice. As long as we don't lull ourselves into the idea that Manchester can't become as bad as other places and remain vigilant and proactive, Manchester will stay ahead of these issues.

And why should I care, living in Bedford? Because Manchester (whether some suburbanites like it or not) is the reason for a lot of the towns around here to exist - its where we work, where we play, where the center of economic activity is. Even if you don't go there often, a healthy Manchester is good for the surrounding communities.
- Mike, Bedford

Funny how only Heather of Bedford has enough brains to see the UL and its harpies for what they really are. This is absolutely typical of all Republicans: hear something then twist and mangle the truth for an ideological agenda. You folks should be very proud.
- Tom, Dover-Foxcroft, Me.

You are right Mike from Manchester that judges aren't the only reason for crime in Manchester but they sure don't help any.

I did address it but only mentioned the LIARS (read lawyers) who make the excuses for these people and forgot to mention people like you who make excuses for those who commit crimes.

I grew up in a low income family and many of my teenage friends have been in and out of jail all their lives but I didn't join them.

I have had to work my butt off to get where I am today but I had parents who taught me right from wrong and the importance of working hard for what you want, not taking what someone else has worked hard for.

If you choose to get hooked on drugs or whatever and screw your life up that is your choice and you have to answer for it. It doesn't give you carte blanche to rob others or invade their homes.

Are you familiar with the recidivism rates in NH and around the country? Many of these people attend drug & alcoholism counseling and programs in prison only to get out and go right back to what they were doing that was the root of how they ended up in jail or prison in the first place.

Many of these people don't have a good work ethic*/values code and/or have an entitlement mentality that tells them if you have more than them, they should be able to take some of yours and/or beat the crap out of you, stab you, shoot you, etc., if they feel like it. *(selling drugs/stealing is easier)

Yes Mike, there is many causes of the crime in my beloved adopted city and recently I read here a quote about 'we get more of what we subsidize' and I would like to translate that here to we get more of what we allow excuses for.
- Randal S. Ripley, Manchester, NH

Come on people, get a grip...even the Chief of Police won't live in Mancehster (which should be mandatory for this position)....that's all that really needs to be said on his matter.
- Sid Jefferson, Merrimack, NH

Randal, do you really think our judges are the reason Manchester has so much crime?? Come on. It's become popular to blame society's ills on "liberal" unelected judges lately, but that's just an easy way of avoiding a discussion about the root of our problems. (And keep in mind that many of this state's trial judges were appointed by pre-1996 Republican governors - they're on the bench for life).

I'm all for holding criminals accountable by imposing meaningful prison sentences, but you've got realize that your average convenience store robber or buglar is not going to be in jail for the rest of his life. In other words, he is going to get out at some point, and will prison really have done anything to prepare him to contribute to society on the flip side? No. Recognize that there is some validity and usefulness in the rehabilitative approach to "corrections" that you label a "slap on the wrist." A lot of people are scared straight on that first trip through the system.

Warehousing some thugs in prison (at a cost of over $30,000/year) for three years as opposed to one does nothing but buy you some time. At some point, Manchester will have to address what's making these people act the way they do. I bet that if these knuckleheads Landry and Bryson weren't hooked on some drug, none of this would've happened.
- Mike, Manchester

Thank you for standing up for Manchester, unlike the majority of commenters on your site who prefer to throw the whole city under the bus. The way people talk, you would think a weapon is required to fight your way to the corner store.

What kind of people and businesses would be attracted by that (hyperbolic) image? That sort of hysteria can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we don't bring to the discussion some perspective that goes beyond "in the good ol' days, crime didn't exist!"
- Steve, Manchester

Saying other cities are dangerous too is the biggest cop out ever?! Manchvegas can be a dangerous place if you hangout in the wrong places or with the wrong people but you can find trouble where ever you go, if you are looking for it.

Many of the crimes in the city (excluding convenience store & bank robberies) have to do with people who know each other and/or have bad blood between them over bad drug deals, drug rip-offs or just plain thug behavior.

For this Judge to say Manchester is a "dangerous and disgusting city to live in" is about as wrong and hypocritical as it gets.

The cops arrest these people, prosecutors try to get some real sentences for them but are also the first to recommend leniency for the victims described below and because their liars (lawyers) go in and plead to the judge that this person is not to blame for their actions because they grew up poor and/or were spanked, dropped out of school for whatever reason or some other useless excuse, the judge then gives them a slap on the wrist and sends them back out on the street to perpetrate more crime on society.

But even if they do get some time in jail they are given these ridiculous amounts of good time (good time in jail???) that allows them to serve a considerably less amount of time than they were sentenced to. I like to call this non-truth in sentencing.

Although I am critical of the police for their power tripping, I will be the first to admit they are trying to get the thugs off the streets and the rest of the system drops the ball.

Judge Gillian Abramson, instead of pointing at the city of Manchester, may I suggest that you, your fellow judges and liberal prosecutors need to look no further than the closest mirror to see the real reason Manchester is a "dangerous and disgusting city to live in" as you say.
- Randal S. Ripley, Manchester, NH

"Manchester is neither disgusting nor dangerous. Some of its inhabitants are disgusting and dangerous, but that's different."
- Your 100% correct. The people that are truely "disgusting and dangerous" are the weak kneed politicos, and "bought & paid for" news paper editors, that lack the guts to do, and say, the things nessesary to turn this state around. You've seen the way the MA cities have deteriorated for the past 50 years and whats caused it, and now you see the way OUR cities are going. There can be no claiming ignorance here.
- Rose, manchester

I agree that Manchester is not "disgusting and dangerous", as always, its the people who are committing the heinous crimes against residence and their property, that are disgusting and dangerous! I've lived in Manchester all my life, and I've seen "her" evolve into a place I hardly recognize. Manchester is home to a lot of angry, sick, disgruntled and "dangerous" people. More power to those who are doing what they can to get them off the streets.
- T, GOFFSTOWN

I wouldn't consider the entire city of Manchester to be disgusting or dangerous but there are many individuals within the city who can certainly be described that way. Fortunately, thanks to this judge, two of them will be off the streets for a while.
- Mark, Amherst

Sorry but to say other cities are dangerous too is the biggest cop out ever. Manchester is dangerous and ignoring the fact won't make it any safer.
- Tim, Manchester

Inaccurate and unhelpful? That would be the U/L. Yesterday's article and headline misquoted the Judge. She said "Manchester IS BECOMING a dangerous and disgusting place BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE [Landry] committing crimes like this." After listening to the entire sentencing hearing, which lasted over an hour, the writer took two of the judge's words, out of context and blew them up into a 3 inch high headline. Isn't that inaccurate and unhelpful? The Judge made the same point that the editor does today: Criminals are making this city more dangerous. Let's be thankful for our great police department for investigating this crime, the County Attorney's office for prosecuting it and Judge Abramson for bringing the responsible party to justice.
- Heather, Bedford

Great editorial. Great editorial. One of the best I have ever read.

I agree with you that "Manchester is neither disgusting nor dangerous. Some of its inhabitants are disgusting and dangerous, but that's different." This is true about many cities in our country including cities that have fewer people than Manchester.

Many cities in our country have had home invasions. We need harsher penalties. We need to be discussing life in prison without the possibility of parole for these crimes and sometimes the death penalty for these crimes.

The State legislature needs to get more active fighting violent crime. The State legislature needs to do more to support our police officers.

I hope businesses will hold fundraisers that will help Manchester Police Officers obtain body armor and helmets as good as or better than what our soldiers have. They put their lives on the line for us. We need to do a better job protecting our police officers.

I hope the Mayor and Aldermen will hold televised question and answer sessions during the day that will allow people from different parts of Manchester to ask questions dealing with crime, schools, economic development, buses, parking, and other topics.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

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"City school district to remain independent"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
August 07, 2008

MANCHESTER – A proposal to give the Board of Mayor and Aldermen a bigger say on the school district's finances won't be heading to the November ballot after all, officials on both sides of the issue said yesterday.

The measure was effectively killed late Tuesday night, when the board voted 8-4 to block the city from holding a public hearing on the question. The outcome was a victory for the district's new superintendent, Tom Brennan, and for members of the school board, who would have risked losing some authority over the district's budget.

Mayor Frank Guinta called the vote disappointing. He said he believes the city could save as much as $250,000 a year by merging the city and school administrations, as the measure would have allowed.

The mayor also argued the proposal would have made the district more accountable to taxpayers come budget season.

Guinta had previously chided the school board for refusing to pink-slip any teachers this spring when a budget crunch threatened to eliminate dozens of important school programs.

"If we as a city are going to be serious about improving the quality of education, I would think people would welcome the opportunity for greater accountability and more efficiency," Guinta said.

The autonomy of the Manchester school district has been a point of contention since the school department broke away from City Hall in 1999.

A ballot question in 2001 would have glued the two back together, but it was struck down by the state Supreme Court.

The state has since passed legislation allowing the change.

The question might well have passed a second time had it gone to the voters this November, some aldermen who opposed the measure acknowledged.

Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil, who maintained the proposal would cost more money to implement than it would save, said he believes the proposal "did not warrant bringing (it) forward to the voters."

"We'd be sending a very misleading question to the voters of this city," O'Neil said.

City Finance Officer Bill Sanders has said the transition would be complicated and would probably cost upward of $500,000. Potential savings, he said, would be "very modest."

An analysis by Sanders and district Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis found Manchester's school budget "compares very favorably" with the budget in Nashua. Manchester spent $8,290 per student in 2007; Nashua spent $8,474 per student, a difference of 2 percent.

Several aldermen who opposed the change said they were influenced by a letter from Superintendent Brennan, who argued the proposal would distract school administrators from the task of improving education.

"This issue," Brennan wrote, "will divert our focus and will have a negative impact on the education of our students."

Scott McGilvray, president of the city teachers' union, called the aldermen's vote "a victory for education in the city."

"I think we need to let Dr. Brennan do his job," McGilvray said.

Alderman Ted Gatsas lobbied hard to put the question on the ballot.

Joining him in voting to send the proposal to a public hearing were Aldermen Peter Sullivan, Ed Osborne and Bill Shea.

Sullivan, who said the district's separation from the city has resulted in administrative redundancies, such as two information technology departments, argued the people should have been allowed to speak on the issue.

"I think this deserves a broader discussion," he said.

In the end, according to Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, there were simply too many questions to allow the proposal to go forward.

Lopez said it was unclear how much money the city would have to spend on the transition.

He also questioned whether school employees would demand higher salaries under the city's pay matrix.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Richard, I am not a front for the school bureaucrats. I aim to be a front for the kids. My kids and yours. It is my firm belief that the people who spend their lives studying and practicing education are far more competent than the mayor, the alderman, or the general public (including myself!) to make decisions about how to formally educate our children. I advocate for allowing the school board, school administration, teachers, etc. to do their job while I do mine, as a parent, being involved in my kids' education, supportive, and wary that the job is getting done. Don't go to a hairdresser to have brain surgery, and don't go to an alderman to choose your kids' educational needs. We need the experts. This is too important to lump in with trash pick-up and parking prices.
- Kathy, Manchester

Mike, like so many conservatives who simply refuse to accept the fact that government can be efficient, you are delusional.

You don't think getting people with a master's degree to work for $40k is efficient? You don't think an average workload at the highschool level of 125 students/teacher is efficient? You don't think teachers having to constantly run fundraisers just to provide the bare necessities is efficient? Rooms that haven't been refurbished since the 60's, desks from the 70's, textbooks from the 80's, computers from the 90's. . . . is that efficient enough for you?

You think the Manchester School district is a Rolls Royce??? More like a Yugo, or maybe a Prius.

As Peter Sorrentino has pointed out so many times, when one looks very closely at spending in the city of Manchester one thing is abundantly clear -- the city side (NOT the school district) is where to look for savings.
- Fred, Amherst

Fred(Amherst),in answer to your question,to Mark.

You have three vehicles parked infront of you.
The first is a tractor-trailer truck.
The second is a 10-wheel Dump truck.
Third is a Rolls-Royce.
While non of the three could be considered truely fuel EFFICIENT,the Rolls-Royce is the most fuel efficient,of the three.
I understand this is not a perfect analogy,but I believe it answers the question you posed.
While the Manchester School District may be the "leanest and most efficient in the entire state",perhaps it could be made even more so.
- Mike P., Manchester

A month or two ago I happen to tune into a meeting where the mayor and aldermen were doing an “apples to apples” comparison of schools to the city. (I have been unable to find the minutes to this meeting on the city website) They were trying to determine where school savings would come from if the schools become a department. The part of the meeting I saw revealed the following:
Schools City
Total Employees: 2100 1300
HR head count: 4 5
Payroll: 3 3

At one point Alderwomen DeVries asked Mr. Clark, city solicitor, if, as a department, Yeager-Decker would have to be followed for non-affiliated employees of the school district. He replied “No.” As people who follow city government know, the decision in 1999 to adopt “Yeager-Decker” as a structure for city employee compensation has had the consequence of driving city salaries to exorbitant rates. Most seem to think this, but few to no elected officials are willing to do anything about it. Clearly, DeVries does not want school employees to fall under this pay structure.

It took the group 15-20 minutes to determine these comparisons were accurate and “apples to apples.” I was on my way out, so I couldn’t continue watching the meeting. But in this time more than one alderman said that it looked like it would be tough to find savings. I was shocked. Clearly there are savings to be had, but only if they tried to optimize the city side of government and not the schools. That seemed out of the question.

Until our elected officials are willing to seriously look for costs savings on the city side of government (where more of our property tax dollars are going) the city of Manchester will continues to have escalating taxes.
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester, NH

Kathy, you claim to be for "Quality Education", but you always, and I mean ALWAYS, defend the failed status quo.

It's clear that you aren't a real education advocate. You are a front for the school bureaucrats.
- Richard, Manchester

Mark, given the fact that the Manchester School District is just about the leanest and most efficient in the entire state, how can you possibly accuse the school board of being fiscally irresponsible? Nobody likes to pay taxes, but the simple fact is that Manchester residents need to pay more to properly fund the schools. The real way to not burden future generations is to pay your fair share now.
- Fred, Amherst

Too many chiefs. why is it we need the excessively large think tanks to do the job of one or two level headed thinkers?
Too much waste at the top
- Mike, Manchester

Brennan got his autonomy and now enjoys the support of the Aldermen as well as the School Board and Mayor. This goodwill is a rare opportunity to remake the district in his image. In my view, a 'cult of personality' around Brennan is appropriate, as I believe in local control of schools.

To me, that means authority to allocate resources (read: people) as he sees fit. And over their objections, if necessary. Should a confrontation be required, bring out the hammer -- Aliberti is not here anymore. His discussions with the Mayor means they are on the same page. It is time to remake the district into one ready to face the challenges of the 21st century.
- Steve, Manch

Iregardless of this question being put to vote. The two boards should consider merging some of their resources! Some folks just don't understand that you can only do so much with the money that you have. If you overspend today, your children and grandchildren get the bill, and end up with less to work with. Personally, I think the school board as a whole, is totally irresponsible when it comes to fiscal accounting. If they had their way, much more of the citizen's of Mancheter's hard earned money would be taxed! Lucky for us, these grandstanders that care about only one aspect of the tax base, are kept in check by those with better sense.
- Mark, Manchester

The School Board is accountable to tax payers as they are the ones who elect the members to the board.
- Sharon, Manchester

Kudos to the aldermen for sensibly voting down this silly proposal! Let the educators educate and let the politicians....er....politic.
- Kathy, Manchester

How very democratic of the Board to vote to not allow the residents of the city to be heard on this important matter.
- Jason Cooper, Manchester

The Manchester School District is already just about the leanest in the state. Only 4 of 175 school districts statewide spend less per pupil than Manchester. If anything, the school district ought to be put in charge of running the entire city.

Mayor Guinta has a little problem. His entire raison d'etre is to cut taxes, but the city is already running on fumes.
- Fred, Amherst

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The New Hampshire Union Leader - Editorial

"Parking mess: This October, look out"

August 7, 2008

Parking Manager Brandy Stanley has done an excellent job improving the management of public parking downtown. Her latest plan, however, is too complex to be adopted all at once. Unfortunately, aldermen approved it on Tuesday night despite its glaring flaws. Why would they do that? Because they'd already included the revenue from the plan in the current budget.

To her credit, Stanley thought very creatively about how to keep downtown parking affordable while making the coveted Elm Street spaces available more often. The problem is that she threw too many changes into one proposal.

The central component of her new plan, which aldermen approved on a 10-1 vote, raises the hourly rate for most Elm Street spaces from 50 cents to 75 cents. That is a sound decision. It should open up some Elm Street spaces, which will help downtown businesses.

It's not that the rest of the plan is all bad. It includes ending the two-hour time limit for some parking spaces at 5 p.m. That's an excellent idea. It also includes a $1 flat fee for spaces near the Verizon Wireless Arena and MerchantsAuto.com Stadium on event nights. That fee is actually cheaper than what event-goers now pay on weeknights.

The problem is that the plan divides downtown into multiple districts and charges different rates in those districts at different times and on different nights. People are not going to know how much they must pay, when they must pay, or where they must pay.

Alderman Ted Gatsas had the right general idea when he proposed simply raising the Elm Street rate. Unfortunately, Gatsas was the lone vote against the plan. So come October, parking downtown will be a mass of confusion.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

So come October, parking downtown will be a mass of confusion.
Wait,Wait the whole city goverment is already a mass of confusion now. But I think the Union leader is right come October there will be big problems but with 25% of the downtown empty retail wise and growing by adding a parking increase is brillant.
Tax,Tax and spend Horay for Ted.
Mean while write in Stan Howser State rep.
Stan Howser
- stan Howser, manchester, NH

This will be a catastrophe! Cars will be darting here and there, trying to find the right spot to park. People will stand for hours trying to figure out where to put there money. I can see it escalating into broken windows and burning cars! It'll be a scene directly from Mad Max.

Look, Mike had it right. There will be instructions at every meter or kiosk on what it'll cost to park. Plain and simple. It's not like everyone will plan their downtown excursion around whether they'll pay a dollar or a buck-fifty. You find the closest open spot, park, and pay what the meter says.

This editorial makes it sound like we'll have to memorize the US tax code before we go out to a Monarchs game, or for some nice Italian food. It's not that difficult, and the differences between areas too minor to be worth working around.
- Marc, Derry

Is this the same plan you supported with an editorial several weeks ago? If you were that worried about it, maybe you should have editorialized against it before the vote, like that guy in the Manchester Express...Girard...I think that's his name. Anyway, maybe you'd pay more attention to these things if you were still downtown, which you abandoned.

(Editor's note: The previous editorial did not support the plan as proposed. It closed with the following sentences: "Aldermen should . . . pass the best parts and hold the others for further debate next year. These are big changes. Passing them all at once will confuse residents and out-of-towners and discourage them from coming downtown. And that's the exact opposite of what the city should be doing.)
- Hank, Manchester

So the UL can now measure the mental capcity of citizens? This plan is actually pretty simple. All it requires is for someone to read a sign before paying the meter.
- Mike, Manchester

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The New Hampshire Union Leader, Editorial, August 7, 2008

"Domaingue abstains: Sets an example for board"

Manchester School Board member Art Beaudry and former member Jonathan Cote could learn a thing or two from Alderman and former school board member Kelleigh Domaingue.

Beaudry has and Cote had personal conflicts of interest on certain measures before the board. Beaudry's wife is a school employee. He should never vote on salary or contract issues. But he has.

Cote's live-in boyfriend, with whom he shares a home and a five-year relationship, is an attorney with Wadleigh, Starr & Peters. That firm does legal work for the school district. Its contract is up for a vote next week. Before his resignation from the board was accepted Tuesday night, Cote insisted he would vote for the contract and that there was no conflict, though there clearly was.

Alderman Domaingue, who is the daughter of our top news editor, on Tuesday night abstained from voting on a downtown parking plan that would affect her fiance, Murphy's Taproom owner Keith Murphy.

Domaingue has set an example for other members of city boards. She showed good judgment and good leadership. And that is more than we can say for her two former colleagues.

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(Editor's note: Manchester School Board member Art Beaudry has not voted on contracts for the union to which his wife, a school employee, belongs, as a Thursday editorial erroneously stated. His votes were on contracts for the other three school employee unions. That editorial, which had been posted here, has been removed.)

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City Hall: "Like Mother Hubbard, Guinta's cupboard is bare"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008

FOR MUCH of his time in office, Mayor Frank Guinta's campaign war chest has been awash in dollars.

Today, his coffers are bone dry.

Guinta, a Republican, says he didn't have any money left over when he closed the books on his campaign last fall, and he hasn't raised a dime since. His last receipt, according to campaign finance reports, was recorded on Nov. 7, the day after the election.

"That's a very curious piece of news," City Democratic Party Chairman Chris Pappas said, "because he was very active raising money over the two years prior to his reelection in 2007."

That's true. Guinta raked in a bundle in the months after his 2005 election, including roughly $50,000 in the seven-and-a-half-month stretch ending June 30, 2006.

Some of that money was needed to pay the mayor's "transition team," which helped him prepare for taking the reins from his predecessor, Bob Baines, according to longtime Guinta fund-raiser Craig Smith. Much of the rest went to consultants.

The difference this time, Guinta said, is his attention has been elsewhere.

"We have every intention of raising money at the appropriate time," the mayor said. "But you know, up until these last several months, I've just been focusing on being mayor of the city."

State Rep. Will Infantine, chairman of the city Republicans, described the mayor's inactivity as a courtesy to other Republican candidates. There's only so much money to go around, he noted, and right now, with a glut of federal, state and local races on the ticket this November, there are plenty of other Republican candidates asking for handouts.

Then there's the city budget. "It's not polite to ask people for money when teachers are possibly being (laid off)," the party chairman said.

Infantine said he has no reason to suspect the mayor will decline to seek a third term. For his own part, Guinta said his fund-raising today -- or lack thereof -- has nothing to do with that decision.

"I mean, I'm seven months into my term here," he said. "I wouldn't read into that."

-

POLITICAL INACTION: Guinta's campaign isn't the only thing that's broke. His statewide political action committee, formed in January when Guinta was considering a run for governor, doesn't have any money to its name, either, treasurer Lou DeMato confirmed.

The explanation should sound familiar.

"You saw the budget process this year in Manchester," Guinta said. "My attention was needed here in the city."

One might wonder what happened to all those "pledged" dollars the committee, known as the Granite State Leadership PAC, was said to have raised before Guinta begged out of the race in March. It seems none of that money was every collected.

Guinta maintains the PAC will soon be active and will begin raising money for the purpose of "advancing good government and fiscal responsibility in the state of New Hampshire." As a matter of fact, the PAC will hold its first fund-raiser on Wednesday at the Shaskeen, an Irish pub on Elm Street.

The cost of admission is $75 a head. The promotional flyer, which features a giant shamrock, invites supporters to "raise a pint and raise some green" for the PAC.

-

NO SHOWS: A bunch of high schoolers delivered a very professional presentation on dropout prevention Tuesday in the aldermanic chambers. Unfortunately, most of the school board wasn't there to hear it.

Only six committeemen showed up for the meeting, which was billed as a joint session of the aldermen and school board. One alderman, Mike Lopez, wondered aloud whether the meeting should even take place.

"If there isn't a quorum on the school board, does that make it a legal meeting?" he asked.

We spoke with several of the absent committeemen after the meeting. Each said he or she had a personal commitment.

"Nobody should read into this that school board members were not interested in this issue. That's just not the case," said Doug Kruse, who cited a "prior family commitment."

Joining Kruse on the list of absentees were Bob O'Sullivan, Katherine Labanaris, Dave Gelinas, Arthur Beaudry, Stephen Dolman and Debra Gagnon Langton.

-

CONFLICTED? NOT ANYMORE: Well, that was fast.

Ward 12 school board member Jonathan Cote is off the board, one day after telling colleagues he would be seeking a "legal opinion" on whether it's OK for him to vote on the school district's legal contract. Cote's live-in boyfriend, Greg Sargent, is an employee at one of the firms competing for the contract.

On Tuesday night, the aldermen confirmed Cote's successor, Eric Fischer, without a word of debate. And that was the end of that.

Fischer, by the way, said he doesn't know which of the two law firms he will vote for when the board meets tomorrow night.

-

YOUNGSTERS, PAY UP: Students in Manchester may soon have to pay a little more for a school lunch.

The school board's Finance Committee voted unanimously last week to raise lunch prices by 10 cents. If approved by the full board, the cost to buy a meal in one of Manchester's middle or high schools would jump to $2.05. The cost in the elementary schools would jump to $1.80.

Committee Chairman Kruse said the increase is needed to offset the rising cost of food. He noted the district's lunch prices would still be lower than the prices in Nashua, Concord, Bedford and many other New Hampshire communities.

"Nobody likes to increase costs on families, that's for sure," he said. "But this is reasonable."

-

I'M TELLING!: No one's saying there are legions of liars and thieves in City Hall. But just in case there are, the Committee on Accounts, Enrollment and Revenue Administration is taking action.

A proposal approved by the committee last week would set up an online system through which city employees could rat out the no-goodniks in their midst.

The system was recommended last year by independent City Auditor Kevin Buckley, who investigated the Dennis Hebert thefts and is now probing alleged thefts in the City Clerk's Office. Alderman Peter Sullivan said he expects such a system would cost the city between $3,000 and $5,000 a year.

"A lot of people are hesitant to be the first person to stick their neck out, because they're usually the first ones to get their heads cut off," Sullivan said. "This gives them the piece of mind that they're not going to be harassed or terminated for being the whistle blower."

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THE BIG 7-0: Alderman At-Large Lopez is turning 70. Friends are throwing a birthday party at the Alpine Club at 5 p.m. on Aug. 20.
--
Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

Interesting that you should refer to Guinta's campaign funds as his "war chest" since what he has been doing is waging war against the life of the city of Manchester. As a former resident, I watched Frank Guinta take the mayor's chair and proceed to make poor decision after poor decision based on whatever the whim of the day happened to be. His advisers appear to be those with personal agendas, like the mayor himself, and with little concern for the future of NH's largest city. In order for a city to grow and thrive, statistical data demonstrates the significant importance of quality education. Good schools bring industry and technology to an area that can guarantee business owners quality employees. Following that are new residents who are committed to community. And, thus, the city grows. Guinta is committed to Guinta and no one else. His promises are empty and his mayoralty with go down in the city's history as one that left Manchester with a great many steps to take to catch up to the growing cities around it that are able to demonstrate quality leadership that looks to the future of the people it governs rather than to its own sense of personal fulfillment. I sincerely hope the mayor has enjoyed the ride and I am confident that the voters of Manchester will recognize the damage he has done to their city.
- Celine A. Carrier, Charlottesville, VA

So, we're ragging on Guinta for NOT spending his time raising money for an election that is well over a year away? I'm glad that he's actually doing the job people elected him to do!
- Rob, Manchester

Manchester's government does not care much about the people of Manchester.

The Mayor did not speak at the May 14 bus meeting dealing with the Manchester Transit Authority. I think only 2 Aldermen were at the meeting and they did not speak.

The Mayor and Aldermen should have to attend mandatory questions and answers sessions. Some of them should be held during the day. Some should be held at night. They should take place in different parts of the city and be televised. I think the Mayor and most of the Aldermen have forgotten that they work for the people of Manchester. I hope the Mayor and most of the Aldermen get fired next year.

I hope many Democrats, Republicans, and others run for Mayor and Aldermen next year.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

Wasn't the MYAC presentation a rescheduled meeting?
- Leah, Manchester

Why raise money? Guinta will not be reelected.
- Peter, Manchester

Wow, it must be a slow news week, to be trashing the mayor for not actively raising funds and campaigning for office - A YEAR EARLY. Jeez, Scott, did Chris Pappas feed you this story?
- Stephen, Manchester

NO SHOWS: Time for all of them to go. We elect them to do a job. If they can't, we need to find someone that will. Citing 'prior family commitment' does not fly. It is not like these meetings are just spring up with no notice.
- Greg, Manchester

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"City school lunch cost up a dime"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
August 12, 2008

MANCHESTER – Students in Manchester will pay an extra 10 cents for a school lunch this fall.

School board members approved the price increase last night, setting new lunch prices of $2.05 in the middle and high schools and $1.80 in the elementary schools.

The decision adds Manchester to the growing list of communities across the nation that have asked families to pick up the tab for rising food and fuel costs. Locally, price increases were recently approved in both Hooksett and Bedford.

Mark Burkush, who oversees food and nutrition services in Manchester's schools, characterized the 10-cent increase as a relatively minor adjustment for most parents. Hypothetically, he said, a family with two children who buy lunch every day will end up paying an extra $36 a year.

"I'm not being cavalier," Burkush said, "but I don't think that's significant enough for people to complain."

The price increase does not apply to low-income children who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Those meals, according to Burkush, will continue to be federally subsidized at the current rate of $2.47 per meal.

City officials were not advocating a price hike in February, when a new school budget was being prepared. At the time, Burkush said, the district's food costs were expected to increase by 3.5 percent.

Today, the district is projecting those costs will shoot up 6 percent. Meanwhile, the cost of disposable supplies, such as trash liners, foam trays and cutlery, is projected to grow by 6 percent.

Burkush said he expects the higher lunch prices will bring in an extra $72,000 during the next school year.

"I came up with 10 cents because it would cover enough income to generate what we foresaw as the increase in food costs," he said.

Also contributing to the price increase are rising fuel costs. According to Burkush, nearly all of the vendors delivering food to the district are now charging a fuel surcharge. The average surcharge is $7, he said.

The amount "doesn't seem like much," Burkush said, "but you add it up over the number of schools, the number of vendors over the course of a year, it's going to be a substantial cost."

Manchester last raised lunch prices in September 2007. That, too, was a 10-cent increase. Typically, price increases have come every two to four years.

Even with the newest price increase, a school lunch in Manchester will still be cheaper than a lunch in many other New Hampshire towns and cities, according to a memorandum Burkush said out last month. Lunch prices in Concord, the memo notes, are 20 cents higher than they will be in Manchester. Prices in Rochester are 5 cents higher than in the Queen City.

Nationwide, one-third of all school districts raised meal prices during the 2006-2007 school year, according to the School Nutrition Association, a non-profit organization that advocates for nutritious and low-cost meals in U.S. Schools. The median increase was about 9 percent, or 5 cents.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

School lunch going up 10 cents, pizza going to Papa Johns. What about the Wadleigh Starr & Peters law firm being fired after 30 years with the district by an 8 to 7 vote. Or what about Mark Burkish not getting hired as the food service director. That's not news.
- Mike L. Manchester, Manchester

Lunch for $2.05 is still very inexpensive. I think they could have gone to $2.25. Parents have the options of sending their child to school with a lunch from home instead.

Estimated costs are up 6%, but a 6% increase from $1.95 would be nearly $2.07. Does that mean we are actually on the losing end of this price increase?

How did Burkush end up the head of this department? Isn't he the one responsible for the whole pizza contract mess? I thought he had resigned his position?
- Karen, Manchester

Fatal accident in Milford, and you`re reporting a dime raise for school lunches. Thank God for Fox news LOL
- Gary G, Manchester

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"No dough for lowest pizza bidder"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
August 12, 2008

MANCHESTER – Papa John's will continue to deliver pizzas to Manchester's schools, despite another company's offer to provide cooked pies at a lower price.

School board members last night rejected a recommendation to give the contract to Amato's, a Portland, Maine-based chain that offered to serve up cooked pizzas for 25 cents less per pie, or 3 cents less per slice. The board did, however, award Amato's a contract for "partially baked" pizzas.

The two contracts are together worth about $300,000 a year, according to Mark Burkush, the former director of school food and nutrition services who now works for the district as a consultant. Burkush responded to the board's decision with some surprise, saying the district has always awarded contracts to the vendor with the lowest bid.

"I don't know anything about Amato's. I'm saying they're the lowest price," said Burkush, who had advised the board to choose Amato's for both contracts.

Board members, however, gave high marks to Papa John's. The company has delivered pizzas to Manchester's schools for seven years.

"(Of) all the pizzas we've brought into our schools," said Katherine Labanaris, the board's vice chair, "the most popular, best-selling pizza is Papa John's pizza. Is that not correct?"

"Bar none," Burkush said.

The pizza debate took up about half an hour during last night's board meeting. For some, the discussion dredged up memories of another bidding process -- one that saw the district's pizza contract awarded to Ma & Pa's Pizza of Manchester, whose owners, it was later revealed, had criminal pasts.

The district revoked that contract in December 2006, alleging Ma and Pa's pizzas were often burned, too greasy or undercooked.

"I absolutely dread talking about pizza, as this board has done it over and over and over again," committee member Donna Soucy said.

Committeeman Mike DeBlasi suggested the episode with Ma and Pa's was instructive. He spoke against Amato's, noting the company "has no experience with the Manchester school district."

"It doesn't seem past precedent of going with the lowest bid has worked out too well," DeBlasi said.

Two companies underbid Papa John's for the cooked-pizza contract, according to Burkush. Amato's bid was $6 a pie. Another company, Checkmate Pizza, was offering $6.24. Papa John's offered $6.25.

The contract for "partially baked" pizzas previously belonged to Gill's Pizza of Londonderry. Amato's underbid Gill's by 60 cents per pizza, Burkush said.

Amato's has 34 stores in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, including two in Manchester, according to the company's Web site.

Two board members, Bob O'Sullivan and Doug Kruse, abstained from voting on the pizza contracts because of possible conflicts of interest. Both men said their employers may have stakes in pizza businesses.

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"Guinta's car: Cruising in style, for free"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, August 14, 2008

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta has a new official car, thanks to AutoFair Ford of Manchester. It's a brand new 2008 Ford Taurus -- black, naturally -- and the dealership is letting the city use it for free.

That's awfully good of the dealership. It's nice to see a company with some public spirit. The mayor's old official car was so beaten up that city mechanics said it would be cheaper to buy a new car than fix it. But the city didn't have the money for a new car. AutoFair President and CEO H. Andy Crews saw the news and came to the rescue.

Now taxpayers won't have to shell out any dough for a new Mayormobile. Thanks, AutoFair!

But we have a question about this whole deal. Why does the mayor need a city car in the first place?

Manchester isn't that big. It isn't that far from one end to the other. Why doesn't the mayor just use his own car and have the city reimburse him for mileage, as so many business travelers do?

We know the mayor doesn't get paid a lot considering the work he does. But a city car seems a needless perk.

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"City spending: Let voters have a say"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, August 13, 2008

Manchester's spending cap might get rained out. City voters cannot let this happen.

The volunteers at the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition have been collecting signatures all summer to have a city spending cap put before the voters this fall. The cap, an amendment to the city charter, would prohibit aldermen from raising spending beyond the rate of inflation and population growth. A supermajority vote of the aldermen could override the cap in case of emergency.

The coalition has collected 1,000 signatures. But it needs more. The rain has been a big problem. The Mall of New Hampshire is full of out-of-towners, as are many supermarkets. Many of the best places to collect signatures of residents tend to be outdoors, such as in front of City Hall. Obviously, that has been difficult with all the rain we've had this summer.

The coalition needs several hundred registered Manchester voters to sign the petition in the next few days, preferably today and tomorrow.

Signing the petition does not guarantee that the city will get a spending cap. All it does is get the cap on the ballot this fall so voters can decide whether to make it part of the city charter.

Let's make sure we give the voters that choice. If you are a registered voter and have not signed the petition, call the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition at 785-6374 and ask how you can sign up to get the spending cap on the ballot. Time is running out.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Rob in Manchester. Just because someone is against the spending cap doesnot make them a tax and spend liberal. This is the typical moronic attitude exhibited by those who are in support of this supposed spending cap. This is all smoke and mirrors and those who endores the spending cap know it.
- Mike, Manchester

To Frank in Manchester -

Rick from Manchester is correct when he said that signing the petition will only get the proposed amendment on the ballot in November. People will have more than two months to familiarize themselves with the actual amendment....and can then vote however they choose to.

Right now all we are asking people to do is sign so that the voters in Manchester have an opportunity to decide if they want the spending cap or not.

I prefer to give people this opportunity rather than scare them by misleading them to think they are signing something other than what they actually are.

I tend to think that the people who are so opposed to people being allowed to vote on this are really just concerned that given the opportunity the voters will support the cap....which will mean less spending and our property taxes in check.
- Tammy Simmons, Manchester

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor dark of night, nor liberal agent provocateurs seeking to make "NO" voters look like they are guilty of some crime, will stop this legal petition gathering to allow people to vote on whether they would like to institute a tax cap or not.

It's OUR RIGHT. Let the people vote!
- Jane, Bedford

Just a reminder to Manchester residents...

If you do become 'tax-capped', pray for good weather. More floods, another bad winter, and tornadoes might tempt you to demand services from your city.

It's up to the taxpayers to decide what they want. Decide wisely, and don't complain later.
- MS, Concord

The tax cap is a dumb gimmick strongly supported by the ignorant and selfish. What you would be doing is freezing spending levels where they are right now. Here's the problem with that -- Manchester spends less money per pupil on the education of its' children than almost any place in the entire state and results speak for themselves: dead last in NECAP test scores.

Now I know a lot of you selfish conservatives don't give a damn about educating children and you make up all sorts of ridiculous lies about how bad our schools are and how we spend more than any other country already, but what happens 10 years from now when many of the decent hard working educated folks in Manchester have moved out because they don't want their kids in a disgracefully underfunded school system? What happens 10 years from now when all those decent folks have been replaced by drug dealers?

Oh, I forgot, it doesn't matter because you'll be saving 25 cents/day on your property taxes!
- Fred, Amherst

Mikee in Manchester - Similar to what campaigns would do, NHAC has augmented our volunteer base with some paid petitioners. I am happy to be providing part time work for some people who believe in the effort and could use the extra money to offset the ever increasing spending.

There's nothing secret about it - so feel free to ask the next petitioner if they are a volunteer - which most are - or if they are being paid.

I am a bit curious if "Mike in Manchester" is being paid by someone.
- Tammy Simmons, Manchester, NH

Rick
How can I be misleading anyone by suggesting they educate themselves on the issue before signing something? Isnt that what we encourage one to do when signing a contract or agreement of any sort.
All the poliitical rhetoric that will come up isnt education, its propaganda......
Rick...I ask, do you know the negatives to a spending cap? If you answer that there are none I rest my case. If you are educated enough to know some of the downfalls, why dont you share a few, I dare you.
- Frank, Manchester

The Union Leader endorses a tax cap funny as half the staffs relatives work for the city. Joe Maquade must be out of town.
Take the tax cap who cares about the left wing people and what they do. Lets lower the taxes.
Stan Howser
- stan Howser, Manchester,NH

Rochester taxpaying voters couldn't sign up fast enough...a tax & spending cap only limits local government from spending what taxpayers can't afford...many communities in the state have one and more are considering one...with most local governments unable to control spending, it is now time for Manchester residents to send the message that they can't take it anymore...sign the petition!!!
- Fred Leonard, Rochester

Readers should know that the people collecting names are being PAID for each signature they collect. Ask them when you see them. They will eventually admit it when pressed. This whole effort is a scam on the citizens of NH by the Biundo gang.
- Mike, Manchester

To Mike Manchester,
You have got to be a tax and spend liberal if you are against the spending cap, and shame on you for your misleading comments about those collecting signatures for the petition. I too signed a petition for the cap, and the people I spoke with were curtious, polite and informative and not in anybody's way. Our alderman apparently need to have a spending cap because they haven't been holding the line on spending and we taxpayers need a break. If there is indeed a serious issue that needs to be delt with that would exceed the spending cap I'm sure we can deal with it when the time arrives.
- Rob, Manchester

To Frank in Manchester -

You are misleading people with your comments. Signing the petition only signifies that you want it put on the ballot in November.

I am suspicious of anyone who doesn't want to give voters the chance to vote on something.

I have signed it and I encourage more people to do so.
- Rick, Manchester

There are collectors at the following locations on Wednesday & Thursday:

City Hall 9am-5pm

Main Post Office (Goffs Falls Rd) 9am-5pm

Shaws (So Willow St) 4-7pm

Murphy's Taproom

Thank you to the thousands of you who have already signed!
- Tammy Simmons, Manchester

Mike of Manchester .. you are full of it.. I signed the petition yesterday.. the two men who were standing outside of the post office could not have been more pleasant, professional, and friendly. They were not in the way, they treated everyone with respect. If somebody was against the petition, they said thanks and that was that. As I stood there speaking with one of the petition gatherers, I'd say 3 out of 4 folks who could sign did. As they signed the petition I heard most saying it was about time that Manchester stop spending so much money, and they would go on and on about the waste, and abuse of government. My guess, you are a public sector employee, a part of the problem, not a solution.
- tom, manchester,nh

Mike - Yes, we can vote them out, every two years. The problem is on the non-election years! I think the spending cap is a good idea and I'm calling right now! I have wateched too many BMA meetings, and wishing that I voted different. Course, in Ward 2, we only have the encumbant TG - and his famous calculator. The bottom line is this: I think that the spending cap can help keep in check all of the local special interest. TAXES kept from being raised beyond the rate of inflation is ONLY FAIR.
- Mark, Manchester

Please help taxpayers fight tax increases; sign the petition today. I have given numerous hours to this cause and can use everyone's signature today! Call 785-6374 right now. If you are for democracy help get this on the ballot.
- Roger Wilkins, Manchester

The whole notion of a spending cap is a joke. While a spending cap sounds like a solution, it isn't. Here in Manchester, we have an elected body. If they increase taxes too much, vote them out. That is the spending cap. A spending cap placed on Manchester could be catastrophic. Lets say there is an item that comes up...lets say public safety, that has to be dealt with. If the money needed to deal with the issue exceeds the spending cap, then the issue won't be dealt with. That is not acceptable. If there is an absolute need to raise txes beyond what seems reasonable due to an urgent need in the city, then I want the city leaders to have the ability to fill the need.

I ran into some of these people who want others to sign their petition. They literally block your way as you enter a store which I find more repulsive than dealing with those tag day kids who beg for money at the entrance to the stores. This is all political rhetoric. If you think the aldermen have raised taxes too much, you can wield the most powerful asset you have.....A VOTE.
- Mike, Manchester

People need to step up to maintain what control they can in a city the size of Manchester. Unlike small, rural towns that encourage input during town meetings, residents of places like Manchester and Nashua tend to live by out of sight/out of mind apathy until they get bit through increased taxes.
- R, Raymond

We already have a spending cap, it's called a bi-annual election. Prayer for the day: "Lord, please let it rain."
- Greg, Manchester

We just went through this in Rochester.
The law used for the spending cap petition requires all signatures to be registered voters. Everyone who signs the petition and says they are a registered voter, then has their name and address checked out on the current voter checklist. What folks from NHAC stated was that they had collected the proper number of signatures, but then found out 30% or approximately 1170 would not count because they didn’t match on the checklist. That now puts them from having enough to being 1170 short. The NHAC says they have another 1000 signatures. If 30% or 300 of those are not valid they still need to collect more to have the total valid amount required.
This spending cap will help people who rent as every time the taxes go up, so does the rent. It will help young people buy homes in that it will make the payment more affordable since the property tax portion will go up marginally instead of hundreds of dollars a year. It will allow the working class to have more money for groceries and heating fuel and allow the elderly and those on fixed incomes to afford to stay in their homes. Manchester voters should be seeking out the petition circulators and lining up to sign since it will help them afford to keep living in Manchester, the city they love.
- cliff Newton, Rochester

And to those who sign this petition, I hope you are welll informed on both sides of the issue of placing a spending cap on govt. On the face it makes sense, holding govt to a certain amount, however there can be many negatives to a cap as well.
PLEASE ENSURE YOU EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE ENTIRE ISSUE BEFORE SIGNING THE PETITION.
- Frank, Manchester

Bob, we collected 4000 plus and handed them in. We needed 3898. The Clerk came back and said due to unregistered voters, people who moved since they registered, we had a gap of over 1300. We now need to fill that gap. We already have collected over 1,000 towards the new goal of 1300. However since we are losing around 30% of what we collect we need a healthy buffer.
- Michael Biundo, Manchester, NH

If the credibility of the NHAC becomes suspect because of the erroneous reporting of gathered signatures , then they will have a very difficult time convincing others to sign their petition. Either the Union Leader or the NHAC has made a reporting error... could someone fess up by the end of the day on this forum?
- Mike, Bedford Prehistoric District

From the current story August 13th, 2008 "The coalition has collected 1,000 signatures..." What happened to all those signatures they say they collected??? From a story on July 22, 2008 "Michael Biundo, the coalition's chairman and a longtime conservative activist, said the group has about 80 percent of the signatures it is seeking in Manchester and hopes to turn that petition in by the middle of August." IF the NHAC needs 4000 signatures and only states it has 3200 (80%) why is the UL Editorial now reporting only 1000? Something doesn't add up. Can someone please explain?
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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"Tipping the cap: Voters get to decide"
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Editorial, August 20, 2008

Manchester will have a tax and spending cap on the ballot this fall, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Mike Biundo, Tammy Simmons and their volunteers at the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition.

The group did an excellent job obtaining the 4,000 signatures needed to put the cap to a vote of the people. Now it will be up to the public to decide whether to restrain city taxing and spending.

The cap is an amendment to the city charter. If approved, it would prohibit the city from raising spending at a rate higher than the previous year's inflation rate. The property tax rate would be allowed to rise no higher than the rate of inflation combined with the net increase in new construction in the city.

Manchester residents have suffered through more than a decade of perpetual tax increases. Those tax hikes are the direct result of overspending at City Hall. The tax and spending cap might not put an end to tax hikes. But it would prevent them from being as large as they were under Mayor Bob Baines, who proposed a series of huge, tax-hiking budgets that continue to burden the people to this day.

The taxpayers of this city have fought in vain for years to restrain spending at City Hall. This tax and spending cap would give them an excellent tool for achieving that goal. We are glad to see it on the ballot, and we urge voters to approve it.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Jay,that's how to 'speak truth to power'. AMEN,Brother.

Mr. Tarr,I agree,at least in theory,with your get out and vote sentiments.BUT...
I think we all know,a few people, in our lives,that should never be allowed near a voting booth.I'll give you one example.

I was standing in line,waiting to cast my ballot,when John Sununu(the younger) ran for his first term for the US Senate.
Behind me,in line,was an elderly gentleman,with a few of his equally elderly friends.He was going on,with some irritation,as to how he never voted for Sununu when he ran to be NH's Govenor,and he did not like him as George HW Bushs' Chief Of Staff,etc.,etc.,and he "would be damned if he was going to vote for him this time."
This went on for a few minutes,with me trying to mind my own business,hoping one of his friends would point out,to him,his confusing Sununu(the elder),with his son John E. Sununu.None of them did.I hoped they were just being kind,but I got the feeling that they were all equally confused.
Mr. Tarr,I would respectfully disagree with your statement "Apathy has the greatest negative impact to any city or town."IMO,it is ignorance that is,as shown above,the greater problem.
- Michael Paradis(aka Mike P.), Manchester

Baines was great. He ran for Mayor using an anti-civic center campaign and has now saddled us with paying for the baseball stadium with tax dollars. Boy, he sure put us back on the map Mike. Give me a break.
- Rich, Manchester

Mr. Tarr makes a valid point and I hope that those of us who are responsible voters can rally up those folks that have not been voting and get them to vote YES on this spending cap. It is time we keep that Board in check, period!
- Mark, Manchester

"But if we cap spending, the roads will crumble!"

Look at Boston. Their slaves pay much more in taxes than you could imagine and their roads are still crumbling! I'd rather pay $X.XX/mile than I would pay $XXXX/year for the roads.

"The schools will suffer!"

No, schools won't suffer, they suck as it is. They need a radical transformation to go back to TEACHING not memorization and test taking skills. Real life teaching not babysitting.

"The police department will fall apart!"

Take some responsibility for your life and property. The police aren't here to protect YOU. They are there to "keep order". If you are being hacked up and raped the police only have to drive-by your location and if they don't see anything they don't need to stop. Stand up for your life and liberty.
- Jay, Manchester

I find it rather disingenuous that the editorial writer blaims Bob Baines for what they termed as a massive tax increase. If you harken back to the day the Mayor before Baines left the city in shambles. By not spending money on the schools and the infrastructure, he left his successsor holding the bag. What Bob Baines did was fix the problems that were completely ignored by former Mayor Wieczorek. So, while the editorial writer can rightfully claim Bob Baines raised spending what the writer fails to identify is why. Without Bob Baines and the aldermen spending the money they did, our schools would be crumbling and our roadways would be unfit to drive upon. So for all the negatives people have to remember that the money spent was used to improve the city. Let's not be so short sighted to leave out all the facts; important facts that have made our city what it is and put Manchester back on the map.
- Mike, Manchester

In the past, I used to trust elected officials to make responsible choice in spending and that they would be hesitant to raise taxes on ordinary citizens. How foolish that belief seems now. If politicians can not restrain themselves, then measures like this will. This initiative needs to be approved immediately; too bad this initiative was not passed years ago.
- Nicholl, Manchester

"The taxpayers of this city have fought in vain for years to restrain spending at City Hall. " IF the voters want to restrain spending in City Hall they should get out and vote on election day. 2007 came and with it followed a 3.5% tax increase. Ward 5 alone had only 800+ votes cast, yet there are some 3000+ registered voters? Apathy has the greatest negitive impact to any city or town. Exercise your right to vote on election day, stand up and be strong. Show our children what democracy is and why we have it. Or have we forgotten?? (9/11).
- Robert M Tarr, Manchster

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"Cop cars: Mara parks three"
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Editorial, August 20, 2008

Manchester Police Chief David Mara has done something other department heads need to copy. He has given a critical eye to perks enjoyed by senior management. If the perk is not justified, it gets axed.

Mara has revoked the "company cars" of his deputy police chiefs. Three top police administrators were given the full-time use of a Chevy Impala each. Saying the cars were not necessary, Mara has ordered that they be returned to the department's motor pool. (One of the deputy chiefs retired, and Mara is not replacing him.)

Two of those cars will be used by city detectives while on duty. The other will be used by administrative supervisors while on duty. Mara said it made a lot more sense to keep those cars available for on-duty policing than to have them carting around top management whether on duty or not.

That's a smart move not only for the taxpayers, but for the operational efficiency of the department.

If the chief of police can make better use of his department's vehicles, other department heads can, too. There is good evidence that the city is too generous with this coveted perk. Few city employees need a city car, but many have one. That needs to change. Taxpayers can thank Chief Mara for doing his part to shave that unnecessary expense from the city budget.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Since this is day two of Bill from Exeter bashing without facts, here it goes. A rank if a rank. One of ths positions has been streamlined by not replacing one DCOP. Now, since the department has about 250 employees, a chief and two top management positions are in fact needed to run a nationally accrediated department. It would be nice if you could explain how 4 new patrolmen would be put on the street by eliminating the positions. What ratio of supervisor to patrolman would you want. Most modern ideas have it at 7-1. Your idea basically states eliminate supervisors and put more patrolman on the street. Who supervises them. If you shift the reponsabilities of DCOP to Captains, what do we do with their responsabilities. In other words, maybe you don't have all the facts and like to throw out there that by cutting one position we can open another. Anyone can do that on paper, but in reality, it is a terrible idea!
- Mike, Bedford

Can anyone explain why the position of deputy police chief is needed? If a captain can be promoted to chief why can't a captain can fill in when the chief is gone? Removal of the deputies would put four new patrolman on the street with no budget increase.

Departments can get top heavy when politics take over. It's like having three deputy school superintendents making over $100,000. each and not enough textbooks for the students.

Streamline - Get rid of the do-nothing fatcats.
- Bill Howard, Exeter

Here is a novel concept. NO city cars to any employees after work hours. Everybody else has to drive their cars to and from work. All city employees can do the same. Chief Mara is on the right path and clearly he is a person who sticks to his word. He said he would make changes and he has. It is about time this city has a Chief who says what he means and means what he says.
- Mike, Manchester

Does the Chief even need one? Why can't he just drive his own car to and from where ever he needs to go?
- Paul, Nashua

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"Riders: Last Hub bus to Manchester will be hard to catch"
By DAN TUOHY & SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader, August 26, 2008

MANCHESTER – The number of bus trips between downtown Manchester and Boston would be cut nearly in half under a proposed schedule released yesterday.

Most of the service cuts are in the evenings and on weekends. Weekday commuters could still catch a ride to the Hub, but getting back could be a feat. The last commuter run from Boston's South Station would leave at 6 p.m.

"That's not going to be good for a lot of people," said Nancy Scola, a legal secretary who rides the bus to Boston every weekday.

Mayor Frank Guinta said he was pleased with the schedule, given that executives with the bus company, Boston Express, once said they expected to make just three round trips per weekday. The proposed schedule puts that number at six.

"This will be a seamless transition," Guinta said during a news conference yesterday in his office, where he unveiled the proposed schedule. "There will be no break in service whatsoever."

The schedule still requires approval from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Guinta said.

City officials are counting on Boston Express to maintain the link between the two cities when an affiliated company, Concord Coach, makes its last stop at Manchester's downtown bus station in November. Concord Coach currently offers 40 trips per week between the cities. Under the proposed schedule, Boston Express would offer 21 per week.

On weekdays, the number of trips to Boston will fall from 10 to six. On weekends and holidays, the number will fall from nine to five.

Trips from Boston to Manchester will be even less frequent.

Still, there was some relief among bus riders yesterday. Several commuters said they had been worrying for months that the new schedule would make it difficult for them to get to work.

For her part, Scola said, "I was very, very happy to hear they were keeping some (of the routes). For a while there, it sounded like there was going to be nothing for Manchester."

Lisa Olson, who commutes four days each week, said she was glad to see her own schedule would not have to change much. However, she said, "It would be nice if something was coming (to Manchester) later."

Some service is available on another carrier. Vermont Transit, now operating as Greyhound Lines, has a bus run that leaves the Manchester Transportation Center at 9:55 p.m. Its return trips leave Boston at 8 a.m. and 11:45 p.m.

Officials at the news conference yesterday described Boston Express' proposed schedule as a first step. The conference included talk of a multi-modal transportation center in Manchester that would serve as a nexus for both bus riders and rail passengers.

Alderman and state Sen. Ted Gatsas said the schedule was better than what might have been.

"More service from zero is better than zero," he said.

Critics, however, emerged as soon as the schedule was announced.

"That's a wholly inadequate service," said Bob Backus, a Democrat running for Senate against Gatsas. "I just think we really, really dropped the ball on this."

Both Guinta and Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek said efforts to secure additional bus runs and operators would continue.

Boston Express already has a line connecting Nashua and Boston. For its Manchester-to-Boston route, the company will operate from a base at the Londonderry transportation center at Exit 5 off Interstate 93. Buses will go to South Station and Logan International Airport.

Guinta said he knew of no immediate change in bus fare for the intercity trip.

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Readers' Comments:

I have to ask again... Why is the State of NH DOT purchasing new buses for the bus company, providing millions of dollars for operating expenses, and providing three years of exclusive use of the 3 park-and-ride facilities? Why are they not demanding that a full service schedule be maintained for Manchester? Why not a schedule that benefits both cities?

When is someone going to go to court to stop this nonsense?

This entire mess was caused by Boston-based groups like the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), who usually do everything in their power to stop anything that allows Manchester to grow. They want Manchester to only play the role of Boston suburb and the State of NH government is only willing to play into their hands. In this case the CLF have tried to stop the I-93 expansion and forced this deal for the bus runs, because the state is not ready to build a train system on that corridor yet.

The CLF is not interested in any Manchester-centric public transportation system for NH, but instead only in a system that brings people and business to Boston.

Isn't it ironic that Bob Backus, who works for the CLF in NH, said "That's a wholly inadequate service"! Your CLF had a hand in creating this mess! Mr. Backus is running for public office again. He's a person who gets his marching orders from the Boston-based CLF. Will he represent the best interests of Manchester, or will he put the CLF first?

Will the city or state get other bus companies to provide real express (read non-stop) service to Boston? I suspect not, because Boston Express will move to stop any competition.
- Bob, Hooksett

This really isn't a way to make Manchester a more attractive place to live. The city should be looking to attract people by giving them more options. There is reason there are no young people moving into this state.
- B, Manchester

Why should tax payers have to foot the bill to subsidize bus travel so people don't have to pay for their gas to work in Boston where they pay Mass income tax. Why not just move there.
- Russ, Manchester

Tim, the reason is that the NHDOT is subsidizing the bus routes. Londonderry? Really? Is there going to be a Manchester-Londonderry shuttle service?
- Jeff, Manchester

Very disappointing (but not at all surprising) news for the many, many people who work in Boston, live in Manchester and commute to work every day on the bus. As Mike from Bedford pointed out yesterday, very few of us get out of work early enough to make it over to South Station for what will now be the last bus home at 6:00PM. For the life of me I can not understand the apparent arrogance of those making these decisions involving literally millions of dollars of taxpayer's money. All of the "summit meetings" and even the news conference yesterday to announce this new schedule were held on weekdays in Manchester at times when all of us who need this bus service were at work in Boston. Please don't count us among those who are pleased with the new schedule.
- Paul, Manchester

Why can't Manchester use its own MTA buses & set a better schedule for its riders. I am sure they have the buses to do it & they won't have any problem finding drivers to work the schedule. Many say the city buses are empty now, so why doesn't the city get involved in transporting to Boston with full buses.
- Dave R, Manchester

This stinks-has anyone thought that people go to Boston on weekends for evening events?
- Bill, Amherst

It seems to me that if the state is going to give money to private entities, they would exert a bit more feedback in the situation. I pick up and drop off my wife daily to catch the bus to Cambridge and I can appreciate not having to get up extra early to drive her to Londonderry. I am still not clear why commuters in other communities take priority to commuters in this community.
- Rick Olson, Manchester

Why does NHDOT have to approve bus schedules? That doesn't make any sense.
- Tim, Derry

The State should require the bus company to have at least 1 bus going from Boston to Manchester after 7pm to help people who work in the Boston area. The State should have never agreed to a contract that did not stipulate within the contract the same level of service between Manchester and Boston and Boston and Manchester. The State is the customer and it screwed up. The State legislature should fix this mess.

I hope the State will use some of the money it obtains from the rooms and meals tax for buses within cities and buses between cities. This may reduce the need for families to have 2nd and 3rd cars and reduce emergency room visits and hospital stays caused by air pollution. This may increase tourism from Canada and other places. If people have an easier time getting to jobs and from jobs via buses, the State may be able to spend less money on food stamps and Medicaid.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

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"Bus routes: Manchester's loss"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, August 27, 2008

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta and his staff deserve credit for keeping downtown commuter bus service from Manchester to Boston from being decimated.

A state Department of Transportation plan to transfer Boston commuter bus service from Manchester to Londonderry would have resulted in the loss of all but three round trips from Manchester to Boston each weekday. After the mayor's intervention, the number of trips each weekday is to fall from 10 to six instead of 10 to three.

That's a big improvement. Unfortunately for commuters, the last trip back home leaves Boston's South Station at 6 p.m. That will make commuting by bus impractical for some who now use the service. Unless, that is, they switch their return site from Manchester to Londonderry.

Forcing people to make that switch was the plan of the state DOT and Boston Express, the company taking over the Manchester-Boston route. The DOT used federal highway money to buy Boston Express 20 buses and turn the park-and-ride lot off of Interstate 93's Exit 5 in Londonderry into a huge hub for commuter bus service.

Were it not for those federal subsidies, Manchester might have remained the terminus of the Boston commuter route for years to come. But there is something very important to remember when it comes to federal subsidies. When the government redistributes wealth, there are always winners and losers.

Every dime the government gives away is a dime taken by force from someone else. The benefit to the recipient is not necessarily shared by the person from whom the money was taken. And when the government allocates that money, it again creates winners and losers. In this case, Londonderry won, and Manchester lost.

That is not the case when the free market allocates resources. When you buy a service or a product, both you and the seller benefit. Had the market been allowed to operate without government interference in this case, there is good evidence that competition among providers would have increased service and lowered prices. Instead, we get a decrease in service and, so far, no reduction in price. Thanks, Washington!

--

Readers' COMMENTS:

The core of the issue is that Manchester is not business friendly. The planning and building departments will stall you and give you the runaround until you just walk away so they don't have to work. The mayors office can't seem to control these renagade departments who answer to no one. And as we complain here about the bus situation, more businesses are getting ready to leave town and no body cares. Politics as usual.
- Tom, Manchester

I'm very pleased that Mayor Guinta and his staff went to bat for local bus riders. My only complaint is mentioned in this editorial; the last bus out of Boston is just too early for a lot of commuters...any chance of negotiating for a later bus, say at 7 or 8? Perhaps they could nix the mid-day run with the lowest average ridership.

For anyone who hasn't ridden the bus down to Boston, I would encourage you to give it a try some time. The buses are clean, the drivers exceptionally courteous, and most importantly, you can get down to the city without all of the hassle of driving yourself.
- David, Manchester

The bus company cannot argue number of riders. Every day I see those buses coming ang going and people are packed on them like Sardines in a can. This editorial hits the nail right on the head.
- Rick Olson, Manchester

I am glad things are not as bad as they could have been. The State should require there to be at least 1 bus leaving from Boston's South Station to go to Manchester after 7pm to help Manchester's commuters. The State legislature should fix the situation. Did Manchester's government and bus users get asked for feedback before the contract was signed?

For some reason, NH DOT does not realize many Manchester residents do not have cars to get to Londonderry requiring them to use cabs to get to Londonderry. How does requiring Manchester residents to go to Londonderry reduce air pollution caused by them? NH DOT came up with a plan that may increase air pollution and congestion caused by Manchester's residents.

The State should have never agreed to a contract that did not stipulate in the contract the same level of bus service between Manchester and Boston and Boston and Manchester.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

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"Guinta backing Stephen in congressional primary"
The New Hampshire Union Leader (Online), August 27, 2008, (posted) 1:30 P.M.

Manchester – Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta today endorsed the congressional candidacy of John Stephen.

Stephen, also of Manchester, is battling with Jeb Bradley for the GOP nomination. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter upset Bradley in 2006.

“I’ve been friends with Jeb Bradley for a long time, so this was a tough decision,” Guinta said in a press release. “However, the recent ad I saw from Jeb went way too far. Suggesting that John Stephen is not a fiscal conservative is absurd."

-----

"Guinta backs Stephen over his former boss, Jeb Bradley"
By Daniel Trudeau, PolitickerNH.com

Congressional candidate John Stephen got the nod from the mayor of New Hampshire’s biggest city and one of his opponent's former top advisors Wednesday.

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta -- who worked on former U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley's congressional staff from 2003 to 2005 -- released a statement Wednesday saying he is backing Stephen in the 1st Congressional District, calling the former state Health and Human Services director the “true fiscal conservative in this race.”

Stephen is running against Bradley for the chance to take on Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter. On Wednesday Guinta said that, while he considers Bradley a friend, he disagreed with the implications coming out of Bradley’s campaign that Stephen is not a real conservative.

"I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I feel that John Stephen is the one candidate who can best protect the taxpayers of Manchester and New Hampshire," said Guinta. "He's the true fiscal conservative in this race. I know that John will do the hard work to keep taxes low and has the discipline to say no to new spending. He also is totally focused on finding solutions, not continuing the bickering we see in Congress. That's just what we need right now in Washington."

In a statement, Stephen lauded Guinta’s record on cutting taxes and welcomed his endorsement as a major development in the race.

"Mayor Guinta has changed the culture in Manchester politics," added Stephen. "He has taken what was an annual discussion about how big the tax increases would be to a focus on ways of cutting spending and bringing efficiency while delivering results. That's the type of approach that I will bring to Washington. I am thrilled to have the Mayor's support and look forward to working with him in Congress."

----------

"City Hall: Can McIntyre turn the white snow to green?"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Sunday, August 31, 2008

IT IS possible to make money off McIntyre Ski Area. Ross Boisvert is certain of it.

"Do I think we can turn it around? I absolutely think we can," Boisvert says.

Boisvert is the longtime director of the McIntyre Ski School, one of two companies that have recently expressed an interest in taking over management of the city-owned ski spot. The other company, officials said, is Ski Campgaw Management LLC, which operates one ski area in northern New Jersey and another in Canton, Mass.

City officials will be considering both companies' qualifications as they look to rescue the financially struggling ski area. Jay Minkarah, the director of economic development, says a recommendation should come out within a week or two.

"We want the operation to be financially solvent, if not profitable," Minkarah said.

That's a tall order. McIntyre is a notorious money pit, capable of swallowing more than $300,000 in annual losses.

Even the good years are bad. Somehow, the ski area managed to lose $150,000 last winter, despite a near-record 118 inches of snow.

Boisvert said the problem is the ski lodge. The building, almost anyone will tell you, is in awful condition. The roof leaks, the rear wall is rotted, and the bathrooms . . . well, they don't always work so well.

In many ways, the search for private management is a search for the capital needed to rebuild the lodge. Boisvert, whose company already runs the ski school and rental shop, said he would be willing to spend between $1.5 million and $1.8 million to tear the old lodge down and put up a bigger one. His vision, he said, includes a function hall and a room with video games and air hockey tables.

There's hope, too, that McIntyre can draw revenue year round. Boisvert said he would like to open a summer camp on the site. There could be a rope course, he said, and a zip line. Adults could come by in the evenings to play in league volleyball or basketball games.

"We'd like to have the opportunity to make (McIntyre) work for everybody," he said. "To finally get the place on the map."

Chuck DePrima, the city's interim parks director, said Boisvert's company has done well by the city over the past three decades and ought to have a "good, clean shot at this." Still, he said, there may be another company out there -- Campgaw, perhaps -- with more money to invest in the project.

"We just owe it to ourselves to look at that option," he said.

- - - - - - -

IOU: Mayor Frank Guinta loaned his campaign a whopping $58,000 during his first run for mayor in 2005. But if campaign finance reports are to be believed, he never paid himself back.

That's true, Guinta said. At least, to the best of his recollection.

"The only reason I'm hedging is because I don't want to say something that's not 100 percent accurate," he told us. "To my knowledge, I haven't paid myself back anything."

- - - - - - -

IN THE YEAR 2010: Guinta and former state Sen. Chuck Morse, both Republicans, were scheduled to appear together last Thursday at a fund-raiser for 1st District Congressional candidate John Stephen. We know this, because Stephen's spokesman, Greg Moore, called to tell us just how remarkable that was.

"I just thought it was interesting: the two possible candidates for governor in 2010 are going to be there," Moore said.

There it is, Frank: You've been touted.

- - - - - - -

THE PEN IS MIGHTIER: The city's Parking Division got a new toy last week: a special electronic pen that, among other things, speeds up the process of writing a ticket.

Parking Manager Brandy Stanley calls the technology "really kind of cool." You might call it something else, since it will allow the parking control officers to write more tickets.

The pens, produced by a Utah company called Velosum, have been loaned to the city as part of a pilot program expected to last about three weeks. One of product's selling points, Stanley said, is it has the power to upload information into the division's database in a split second.

This way, guilty drivers can go straight to City Hall to pay up, and angry drivers can march right in to lodge a complaint.

- - - - - - -

GROSS OUT: School board member Art Beaudry has some concerns about the playgrounds at three Manchester elementary schools: Jewett, Smyth Road and Parker-Varney.

It's the sand, he said. It isn't clean.

"We're finding, basically, animal feces. Urine. Glass," he said.

Beaudry is hoping to replace the sand with the sort of wood chips found on other school playgrounds. It's much cleaner, he said.

"The animals don't like that. They won't use it as a litter box," he said.

DePrima, the interim parks director, has estimated it could cost $10,000 to replace the sand. He said he'd like to consider Beaudry's plan, which would involve convincing the parent-teacher groups to do the shoveling themselves, but he's not so sure they'll go for it.

"It's a lot of shoveling into wheelbarrows," DePrima said. "I don't think it's going to be a lot of fun."

- - - - - - -

GOOD NEWS ABOUT PIZZA: School music programs in Manchester will be getting a little help this year. The benefactor is a downtown pizzeria.

Priscilla Lane-Rondeau and Erik Sealander, owners of 900 Degrees, have announced they will donate 5 percent of the profits they earn each Monday night. Lane-Rondeau estimated about $3,000 to $5,000 will go to the music programs this school year.

"My dad was a music teacher for 40 years," she said. "I grew up with him playing the saxophone to Louis Armstrong every night as I was going to bed. There's love there."
--
Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
--

Readers' COMMENTS:

I for one think that McIntyre is much too overpriced for a ski 'hill'. Maybe bringing in money making summer activities would cut the price for winter skiing. I can't believe that the ski area is losing money with those ticket prices. I would love to see downhill mountain biking in the summertime, assuming that the price for the lift is reasonable.
- M. Smith, Manchester

ok listen, I can understand the argument for collecting taxes for roads, schools, police, fire, plowing and even your basic neighborhood park, but please, collecting taxes for a ski area?

What a waste of precious dollars!

....and just so you know, even with McIntyre, being city owned, it is still to expensive for me to take my family for a day...rentals and lift tickets for 5? about $200 dollars....forget it kids...no snack bar! Please, the city could give it away and I'd be pleased. Spend my hard earned tax dollars on something that makes sense, if you are not going to do that then just let me put it in my gas tank!
- Kate Richards, Manchester

Les, are you baked?? Are you an employee of the parks dept? Get with the program! Why should we offer programs that need 100% financial support to be sufficient? When it comes to Recreation the offerings are not mandatory therefore they need to be self-sustaining. This program could be if the employees had a manager that actually gave a damn about the bottom dollar.
- Moe Goldman, Manchester, NH

If the city does away with Mighty Mac, where will the polar bears go? Someone needs to call Al Gore.
- tom, manchester,nh

Maybe Beaudry should practice what he preaches and start cleaning up those playgrounds with his own wheelbarrow and shovel. I am so sick of certain school board members saying idiotic things just to get their name and picture in the paper. When will it all stop?
- Jude C., Manchester

The major issue here with McIntyre is that the city Parks and Rec Dept has no reason to make money. There is no motivation, no accountibality among the staff. They punch each other in (time clock) when the employee is off in the woods smoking pot. The ski school has had to contend with misfit city employees for years; there is no reason that Mcintyre is losing money other than poor management and spaced out employees from the city getting high and zooming about on new equipment.
- Derek Foote, Manchester,NH

Who proposed the idea that city parks should operate for profit? Does Livingston park generate profits for the city? McIntyre has some fixed area and therefore some finite capacity. In my view, profitability will come in the form of higher prices for services and in that process limit access to those more fortunate who can afford the higher costs.
- Les Silver, Manchester

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"Manchester officials debate date for spending-cap vote"
By MARK HAYWARD, New Hampshire Union Leader
September 3, 2008

MANCHESTER – City residents will have an opportunity to vote on a spending cap, aldermen assured one another last night; the only question is when that election will take place.

If it was up to Mayor Frank Guinta and his allies on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, it would be on Nov. 4, when national and state elections are expected to stoke turnout past 75 percent of all registered voters.

But a majority of Democrats on the board moved last night to call a special election to decide the spending cap, which would be put before voters sometime after the November election. Doing so would give voters enough time to digest information about the far-reaching measure, they said.

"The people should have all the facts about what this means to the city," said Alderman-at large Mike Lopez. Lopez engineered an 8-6 defeat of an effort to put the measure on the November ballot.

The move infuriated Guinta and members of the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, which gathered 4,036 valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Several aldermen and Guinta interrupted one another and raised their voices last night. Tammy Simmons, executive director of the coalition, also added her thoughts during the debate, drawing rebukes from several aldermen and Guinta.

No date was set for the vote last night.

Guinta was able to stall an effort by Lopez to schedule a special meeting next week to set a date for the referendum. Because of deadlines, that would have guaranteed a special election. City officials said such an election would cost $35,000 to $40,000.

As it now stands, aldermen will reconvene at 4 p.m. Friday to decide when the election will be held. Friday is the deadline for getting a measure on the November ballot.

"The Democratic opposition wants to move it (after Nov. 4) so it fails," Guinta said in an interview. "They're spenders; all they want to do is spend the people's money the way they want."

But Democrats said they had a slew of questions they wanted answered. They want input from the city's financial adviser, bond counsel and bond rating agencies. They want to know whether the wording passes muster with state officials.

Some don't want the spending cap question overshadowed by presidential elections.

"This deserves it's day," said Alderman Mark Roy of Ward 1.

Earlier this year, the Advantage Coalition began gathering signatures to amend the city charter to allow for a spending cap. The cap would prohibit aldermen from raising spending beyond the rate of inflation and population growth. In the case of emergency, two-thirds of aldermen could vote to override the cap.

Voting for the November election were: Mike Garrity, Kelleigh Domaingue, Ted Gatsas, Peter Sullivan, Ed Osborne and Real Pinard. Voting against the November date were: Mike Lopez, Bill Shea, Betsi DeVries, George Smith, Russ Ouellette, Mark Roy, Jim Roy and Dan O'Neil.

During a public hearing last night, Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield said Franklin's spending cap "allowed us to smooth the tax burden over the years" and allowed the community to grow. It has a new police station, new or updated school buildings, a new bridge over the Pemigewasset River and fire engines.

"It forces us to be inventive," he said.

But others said Manchester cannot be compared to a city of fewer than 9,000. They said the cap does not account for county spending, retirement contributions or energy costs. Spending on police, highways and firefighters would suffer, they said.

"Can you put a cap on violent gangsters who come into the city?" said Dan Garrity.

Also last night:

-- Guinta vetoed a measure that passed 9-4 to approve spending $271,000 to purchase a quarter-acre next to the Merchantsauto.com Stadium. The land had been once planned for condos.

Guinta said he wanted more time to have questions answered. He asked why the owner of the baseball team didn't hold onto the property rather than sell it to the city. Gatsas said the purchase would allow the city to protect its $19.5 million city-owned baseball stadium.

-- Guinta said he will fly to Toronto today to speak to several companies interested in moving to Manchester. He will be accompanied by Economic Development Director Jay Minkarah. He's expected to return Friday.

--

Readers' COMMENTS:

I think that everyone who cares about this issue needs to be filling the Aldermanic chamber or standing outside city hall at 4 PM on Friday. It's time to let these people know who they work for. This is not Boston or Chicago.
- Wayne Stanley, Manchester

Comon people.. this is NOT about a spending cap. This is a political ploy to get the conservative republicans out to vote in the major towns and cities. If its on the election ballot on Nov 4th, you will see more republicans. If it was TRULY about a spending cap, then there would not be a big issue about having it on a special election day. Tell it like it is MR Buindo.. where does your money come from? I am quite certain there is MUCH MORE to this story!
- Glen, Manchester

This is really an outrage. To propose an expensive Special Election to consider the spending cap is a slap in the face of the thousands of voters who demanded it. It’s also a transparent attempt to depress turnout at the election, setting up the argument that “no one voted.” The citizens who signed that petition deserve their day at the ballot box, and believed it would come on November 4. The arrogance and abuse of power these Aldermen continually show us is evidence enough why we need a spending cap in this city. They cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
- Stephen Abbott, Manchester

As one of the Manchester signature collectors, I stood at the post office throughout the summer heat, knocked on doors, and had an actual dialog with those who signed the petition.

Everyone - regardless of their support (for or against) believed in democracy --- they believed it should be on the ballot. Obviously it should be the November Ballot as the most voters show up every four years --- giving proper voice to the measure.

The eight aldermen deciding against a date for the ballot did Manchester a disservice. The partisanship of last night's decision showed that the citizens are really ignored by the Democrat Operatives in the city.

These eight democrat aldermen were a part of insulting the Franklin Mayor with after thoughts on the size of his community, confusing comments from one of them asking what it meant to be "inventive," in city spending, not too mention that barely anyone showed up to oppose getting it on the ballot.

I find it even more difficult to believe these eight aldermen want to stand in the way of the spirit of the law which triggers the ballot access for the question to be voted on --- in NOVEMBER!

This is concerning and should remain a concern for everyone who lives in Manchester.

Will eight residents stop the will of 4,000? Stay tuned...we'll see!
- Roger Wilkins, Manchester, NH

What a shame that people keep voting these tax lovers into office in Manchester! If they had it their way, they'd just be writing the checks themselves, while with the other hand shoo-ing away any who dare question the out of control spending! What really gets me, is that the old "What about the gangsters and criminals, do THEY have a spending cap?!" baloney made it into the mix. What kind of dummies do they take us for?

We citizens are not idiots....we signed petitions because we want the right to vote and that is what we must have....a fair vote, on a day when everyone already has the day off! These election days don't grow on trees, WE pay for them!

How perfectly evil that a person would suggest paying for an extra, unecessary election day, to decide whether there needs to be a spending cap. These rabid liberal tax lovers don't need a cap, they need a damn muzzle!

What have we been reduced to, that we signed the petition and STILL have to beg for a proper vote?? These Aldermen had four months to ask questions....now the only question that needs answering is: What does a citizen of this city have to do to get a fair vote these days?

Mr Lopez....what do you want? Do you want to just start taking the money directly from our bank accounts, or what? Geez whiz!
- Natalie Mitchell, Manchester

This decision is the height of arrogance! Voters have enough time to decide which legislators, senators, and U.S. president to vote for, but not enough time to figure out if they want to limit city spending? What kind of self-deluding logic is that? The aldermanic board is out of control . . . which is exactly why we need this new charter amendment.
- Mark Warden, Manchester

Dan Garrity,can we"put a cap on violent gangsters who come into the city?"

It appears we can't even keep the "gangsters" out of the aldermanic chamber.

Put the damned thing on the November ballot and let the people vote.
Enough with the foot dragging Lopez.
- Michael Paradis, Manchester

What we witnessed last night was nothing short of an affirmation of why we need a spending cap here in Manchester. The board had four months to get answers to their “questions”. Four months to make their case to the voters of Manchester on why we shouldn’t have a spending cap. Instead they spent four months trying to figure out how to keep it off the November ballot. The November election may very well have a historic turnout. The highest number of voters possible will be able to voice their opinion in the form of a vote on this important issue. If Mike Lopez’s “Gang of Eight” gets their way Manchester Taxpayers will have to spend $50,000 on a special election to be held while everyone is thinking about their Holiday Shopping and sipping thier egg nog. Of course they think they know better than the 4,036 registered voters that signed the spending cap thinking it would be on the November ballot, thus once again showing just why we need a spending cap here in Manchester.
- Mike Biundo, Manchester

"But a majority of Democrats on the board moved last night to call a special election to decide the spending cap, which would be put before voters sometime after the November election."

What a great way to create rancor and resentment for having proposed this cap -- waste money on purpose on a special election and then blame it on the cappers. We're onto you people...

This is your typical Democrat response folks. Time to tell the children their regime is over. WE need a regime change locally and in Concord.
- Sue, Manchester

as hard as it was, i watched this meeting last night...these liberal tax and spend democrats really need to go. there actions and behavior are typical of the "we know better than you" obama crowd.
- rcn, manchester

Good job Tammy and Mayor Guinta. A special election would not only cost the taxpayers more money but how many voters do you think will actually come out and vote in a special election? The alderman have enough time to get word out and please, your comment that the taxpayers need time to digest the information is only a ploy by the board to avoid having this on the ballot when you know you will have a big turnout in the general election. And, since when do we not have enough confidence in the people of Manchester being able to digest something in an 8 week period of time? Please, give your voters a little more credit than that!
- Jane, Leesburg, GA

I just called all of those that supported the Nov election, Democrats included, to thank them for their support and to let them know that they did the right thing.

I also called those who did NOT support the Nov ballot to let them know that it was shameful, and wasteful of another $40,000 for a special election.

Please contact the Alderman at their homes and let them know how you feel, even the ones who supported the Nov ballot because some of them were Dems and it never hurts to let people know that they did a great job!

Contact info for the members of the Board of Aldermen is located here:

http://www.manchesternh.gov/website/MayorandAldermen/Alderman/AldermanDetails/tabid/1039/Default.aspx
- Andy D, Manchester

The aldermen have until Friday's meeting to come to their senses and put this item on the November 4 ballot. It not for Guinta's hard work Lopez would have assured that this vote got buried in a special election. What is Lopez and any other aldermen afraid of, the will of the people?

It is estimated that there will be a 75% voter turnout on November 4 and not putting this on the ballot would effectively disenfranchise the overwhelming majority of Manchester residents because special elections do not draw voters. Moreover, taking $40,000 from the public coffers to hold such an election should be criminal.

This is what happens when you vote in aldermen that have spent their entire employed lives feeding at the public trough - its called self-preservation. How many of the opposing aldermen worked or works in the public sector or is receiving a public pension?
- Lou DeMato, Manchester, NH

Why do we need a special election which will just cost the taxpayers more money?

Oh wait that's right they want to spend more money so they can tax more money!

The more a government taxes the more corrupt it is. Remember Nancy Cook? She's the former Belknap County administrator who stole $40,000....

Shame on those socialists. Shame on them.
- Jay, Manchester

I'm a registered democrat in Ward 1. If I don't see this on the ballot, in November, I won't be voting for Mark Roy again. I will vote for someone that represents my views and spending $40,000 extra is NOT representing me.
- sean mcnamara, manchester, nh

So the majority of the board is willing to throw away $35,000 - $40,000 to play politics? It sounds to me like Manchester really needs a spending cap, to curtail this kind of nonsense.
- Brian Seaworth, Pembroke

I cannot begin to say how appalled I was at the partisan hooliganism that took place last night at the BMA meeting.

Yesterday, the Board of Mayor & Alderman held a public hearing on the Spending Cap amendment. There were about 25-30 people in support of the spending cap and maybe a dozen in opposition. The public hearing and the subsequent vote to put the amendment on the ballot are both required by state law (RSA 49-B:3 which can be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/III/49-B/49-B-3.htm) - so they really are just a formality. The alderman cannot keep this off the ballot - but because of time factors they can act and force a special election. This is what they are attempting to do.

There are two ways that an amendment can be get on the ballot. One is for the board to vote to put it there and the other is for residents to petition that it be put there. 4,036 registered voters signed a petition requesting to put the spending cap amendment on the ballot. This was more than the number of signatures required under NH state law.

Of the 4,036 people who signed, 37.4% were Republicans, 33.4% were Democrats, and 29.2% were Undeclared. Clearly non-partisan.

In comparison, what they attempted to do last night was clearly very partisan. Mike Lopez and his Democrat buddies know that there will be a record turnout of voters in November - likely 75% of all registered voters. They also know that if this amendment is on the regular November ballot, it will pass - because it will be supported by Republicans, Democrats and Independents. They also know that if there is a special election with only this amendment on it, very few people will likely vote and could as a result make it easier to defeat the amendment.

The arguments for why this should be delayed to a special election included that some aldermen have unanswered questions about how the spending cap will effect various city functions, that they have not had ample time to get the information they need. First of all, the vote right now is not whether or not they support the spending cap amendment itself, but rather whether to place it on the November ballot or to hold a special election that will cost the taxpayers of Manchester approximately $40,000.

If these aldermen had questions, they surely had ample time to get the answers prior to now. The petition process started on April 25th when the petitioners committee filed the initial paperwork. It has been no secret that this initiative was in process for well over 4 months. If Alderman Lopez or any of the others had questions, he surely had more than enough time to do so - without delaying the process and creating a special election.

I spent my entire summer talking to thousands of voters in Manchester. Regardless of party affiliation, one message resonated - people want lower spending and lower taxes. People signed the petition with the intention of being able to vote on it in the November election.

If Mike Lopez and his Democrat buddies really wanted to leave this in the hands of the voters, they would insure it is on the ballot in November - because it is the right thing to do.

But they don't want you, the people, to decide - they want to decide for you. They think they know better.
- Tammy Simmons, West Manchester

This is how democracy works in Manchester! We are obviously to stupid to know what we signed or what it means so these aldermen are protecting us from ourselves.
- Mike Bodruk, Manchester

The senior alderman who voted against the November ballot, Lopez in particular, should be completely ashamed of themselves for such usurpation of power. They like to argue many times in aldermanic debates that they are elected officials. The people who have elected them have spoken. Get the measure on the November ballot. We are completely capable of voting on House, Presidential and a tax cap decision in one trip. I don't really appreciate Lopez, O'Neil and company deciding that we, the voters, need more than 8 weeks to understand the question. There is plenty of time for all of us to understand the ramifications, prior to November 4. O'Neil's argument of the AG's office declaring it constitutional or not is weak. The time to send a strong message to this Board is way overdue!
- Mark, Manchester

Typical liberals....they say they are listening to the people but they really are not. The people of the City spoke by petition!!

What a sham....they are afraid to have their open checkbook eliminated !!

Time for them to go!! Hope you remember this at re-election time! I know I will!!!
- Dawn Gagnon, Manchester

It's time to get Mike Lopez, Bill Shea, Besti DeVries, George Smith, Russ Ouellette, Mark Roy, Jim Roy and Dan O'Neil to be voted out of office. It is a slap in the face to all Manchester residents that these big spending, so called representatives of the people don't have enough courage to trust the people to make informed decisions in the voting booth. These obstructionists have to go. These are the same obstructionists that didn't allow us to vote on the School District/Department issue. I want new representation on the Aldermatic Board. Enough is enough...
- Ed, Manchester

Agree with Jonathan. Why wouldn't the aldermen want the greatest possible number of city voters acting on something so important as a city charter amendment? Shame on them for using their elected positions of trust to block the will of the very people who placed their trust in them.
Not only that, money spent on a special election will take money away from other real needs such as, financial help for heating fuel or food for the needy.

Rochester councilors understood that the people want the right to vote on a tax and spending cap in the general election and voted to place it on the ballot and they did so without hesitation.

Manchester's aldermen are misusing their power to circumvent the will of the people. I guess to the powerful, the only thing that matters is power. Denying this important issue to go on the November 4th ballot is a disgrace!
- cliff newton, rochester nh

I applaud the Mayor’s work on the board last night as he fought unnecessary spending, supported the effort of tax cap petitioners and was a voice of reason for delaying the procurement of a debatable section of property. Regarding the tax cap, I find it disingenuous for several members of the board to try and push this item to a special election. With over two months until the general election, there is little reason that the voters of this city will be unable to make an informed decision regarding this proposal. Creating a special election for this initiative not only costs this city $40,000 but is also a deceitful way to influence the vote with lower turnout. Turnout is obviously at elevated levels during a presidential general election and this is the perfect time for city residents to vote on such an issue. To push this item to a special election is merely an attempt to influence the outcome and is unacceptable.

The mayor’s veto regarding the purchase of the parcel located next to our baseball stadium was also an excellent move. I understand the movement of the board to purchase but there are still many questions regarding this purchase that must be fully answered before voting. We must discuss the fact that the purchase price is far higher than the assessed value, that this parcel has seen many plans for development that have been thwarted due to lack of land size, if we are to RFP this parcel for future development and if we actually need to purchase this property as the current owner acquired this land to avoid negative development. The board is too quick to move on many subjects concerning taxpayer expenditures and displays the attributes of a sloth when politically motivated.
- Jonathan Teeling, Manchester, NH

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"Infantine announces endorsements"
By Politicker Staff, politickernh.com, September 3, 2008

Hillsborough County Register of Deeds candidate Christine Infantine announced a series of endorsements today, including that of retiring Registrar Judith MacDonald.

Noting that Infantine is a business woman and not a politician, MacDonald said she would be an "outstanding Registrar of Deeds."

"For 28 years you have put your trust in me as Registrar. I am now asking you to put your trust in Christine Infantine," added MacDonald.

Infantine also announced the endorsement of other local officials, including Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek (R-Manchester), state Sen. Ted Gatsas (R-Manchester), Mayor Frank Guinta (R-Manchester), County Commissioner Toni Pappas, County Attorney Marguerite Wageling, and former state Rep. Leo Pepino (R-Manchester).

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Press Release
Statement by Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta regarding Aldermanic vote on Spending Cap referendum
September 3, 2008 - 12:52pm

MANCHESTER (September 3, 2008) – “Last night, the will of more than 4,000 Manchester voters were thwarted by eight Aldermen,” Mayor Frank Guinta said. “The people of Manchester demand that the Spending Cap referendum be placed on the November ballot for an up-or-down vote. Instead, partisan politics got in the way. These eight Aldermen want to create an unnecessary special election in the dead of winter, costing taxpayers upwards of $40,000 and severely depressing voter turnout.

“They made it clear that, instead of the highest turnout possible for this vital issue, they want to see the lowest turnout. This is blatant partisanship; just because they don’t like the Spending Cap, they are willing to make a mockery of Manchester’s referendum process and set a terrible precedent.

“Thankfully, we have one more chance to get this right. At 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, we are having a special meeting to place the Spending Cap referendum on the November ballot. I thank the six Aldermen, who are on both sides of the Spending Cap issue, for adhering to the will of the people. In addition, I strongly urge the other eight Aldermen to place the citizens of Manchester above party politics and special interests and place this on the November ballot.”

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Sunday Monitor, concordmonitor.com, Concord, NH, August 31, 2008, VIEWPOINTS, Section D, Pages D1 & D3, see Tax Cap
MY TURN: “3 reasons to reject tax cap: Drafters ignore the high cost of mandates”
By John B. Andrews, For the Monitor\
Over the doors to the Internal Revenue Service are inscribed the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” Taxes pay for police, libraries, fire, parks, healthcare, waste disposal and education on a scale that individuals cannot afford to provide for themselves. New Hampshire is unique in that most of its people vote directly on the level of local property taxes collected from them at either town, village and school district meetings or the ballot box.
In representative governments – the state Legislature, at the county level and in cities – the people control their taxes by whom they elect to represent them. Most voters know the taxing and spending philosophy of their aldermen and city councilors through the vigorous political process that we Granite Staters so love.
Now comes a populist movement enticing voters to place artificial tax and/or spending limits on their city governments through petitioned charter amendments. As tempting as this seems, the following are sound reasons why the proposals, as written, should be amended and, failing that, rejected by the voters.
1. County, school costs
These cap proposals ignore taxes imposed upon cities and towns by other units of government: counties, school districts and the state itself.
County property taxes are apportioned among each municipality in the county based on the equalized property value of each municipality. The municipalities with the highest relative equalized values – usually the larger ones – pay the most in county taxes.
In Merrimack County, for instance, Concord pays 25.8% of the county tax. Franklin pays 4 percent.
This amounts to millions in property tax dollars extracted by law from the citizens of cities over which city officials have absolutely no control. They are required by state law to levy, collect and pay over the amount of property taxes, required by the county, in full. This is also true of property taxes required to be raised for school districts.
In New Hampshire, four cities still have school district meetings. One city – Concord – has an independent school district. In these five cities, the city councilors have no control whatsoever over the amount of the school district’s budget. There is no wiggle room in the level of taxes and spending for county or school purposes. Yet, these two categories of spending comprise, on average, about 80 percent of taxes collected in New Hampshire.
What are the ramifications of this lack of any direct control? Cities often don’t collect 100 percent of the property taxes they bill each year – especially true in difficult financial times. Thus, by the normal due date for payment of taxes, usually December 1, a city may have collected only 83 percent, 92 percent or 97 percent of its demand and make up the balance when it actually collects it? No. The law requires that the city pay over 100 percent of the county and school district tax levy. This means that the city must actually operate on less than 83 percent, 92 percent or 97 percent of its budgeted tax revenue.
Counties are charged with providing two expensive social services: nursing home care and jails. The cost of these services has historically grown exponentially as our society has evolved and aged. Our aging population means that nursing home populations – and costs – are projected to skyrocket in the next 20 years. In 2007, the Legislature passed a law that transfers 100 percent of the non-federal share onto county property taxpayers beginning in the next fiscal year. The result of this mandate will be to load hundreds of millions of dollars in future costs onto the backs of city and town property taxpayers. Jails are crowded, recidivism is at an all-time high and county property taxpayers must also pay those growing costs.
A tax or spending cap that does not provide for discounting the impact of county and independent school district property tax demands will result in traditional municipal services being cut to pay for 100 percent of the service costs imposed by other units of government. A city shouldn’t have to reduce library hours, raise fees for recreational programs, close a fire station or reduce snow-plowing simply because there are more people in the county nursing home or jail or the federal government is reducing its share of Medicaid funding or there are new education mandates to be met.
2. Mandatory costs
These cap proposals ignore certain external costs imposed upon local governments that are mandatory for it to function.
Most notable are costs imposed by the New Hampshire Retirement System law. Local governments have been required to pay in whatever amount the board of trustees decree should be paid in, and this amount changes every two years. State and local governments guarantee the level of benefits regardless of external forces such as poor investment returns. This means that city, town, school and county taxpayers have to pay in even more when the system is in financial trouble, as it is at the moment. New laws passed this year will hike local governments’ retirement costs about 15 percent. And study commissions created to look into automatic cost-of-living adjustments and paying for retiree health insurance promise even greater future cost increases.
Another external cost is energy – in all its forms. The cost of fuel to operate local government vehicles, buildings and systems is out of control and, especially, out of the control of local officials.
A final major external cost over which local officials have very little control is the cost of employee benefits, notably health insurance. This is a cost that, even when purchased through cost-effective self-insured risk pools, is expanding at about 3 times the normal rate of inflation. One might argue that local officials could control health insurance costs by reducing the following: 1.) percentage of premium paid; 2.) scope of coverage; or 3.) workforce itself. But those are disingenuous positions. Most public employees are unionized, which means that reducing the first two costs cited cannot be done unilaterally. They must be negotiated and agreed to by the unions and employees. And, under a new state regulation called the “Evergreen Law,” even when a contract expires, no changes can be made to any aspect of it. Additionally, prior pay raises must continue automatically no matter how long it takes to negotiate a new contract.
A tax or spending cap that does not provide for discounting the impact of these uncontrolled, external costs will also result in traditional municipal services being cut to pay the retirement levy, fuel bill or insurance premium. A city should not have to reduce library hours, raise fees for recreational programs, close a fire station or reduce snow-plowing simply because the retirement system has made poor investments or the Iranians have closed the Strait of Hormuz or the local hospital wants to pay its chief executive a million dollars a year.
3. Impossible to override
These caps establish an impractical and politically impossible mechanism for overriding the tax and/or spending cap.
The cap language being touted provides for an override of the cap by a two-thirds vote of the aldermen or city council. This gives a minority of the body the ability to stymie any override and force reductions in local services to meet the tax demands of government units and external forces over which the local body has absolutely no control. This is not democracy as we know it in New Hampshire or America.
Evidence of the conundrum this creates can be seen in Dover’s most recent budget cycle. Even some members of the city council who supported and fought for the spending cap charter amendment balked at the idea that the county’s tax demands would be figured into the budget mix, thereby reducing what the Council could spend to meet the demands for the city’s own services. Dover adopted a budget that fell within its cap this year. But in future years, as Strafford County’s population ages, medical/nursing costs go up and the State succeeds in loading 100 percent of its share onto property taxpayers, it will not be so easy. Stafford is Every County and Dover is Every City in the tax/spending cap debate. And the first of our “future years,” by the way, is Fiscal Year 2010 – budget period which aldermen and city councilors begin preparing for in about six months!
(John B. Andrews is executive director of the New Hampshire Local Government Center.)
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www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080831/OPINION/808310332&sfad=1
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Manchester Express, September 4 – 10, 2008, Volume 3 No. 36
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Graph: “TAX RATE COMPARISON” - [for Manchester, New Hampshire] -
Fiscal Year 2001:
Inflation = 2.2%, Cap => -0.50%, Actual tax increase = 0.62%
Fiscal Year 2002: - (Property tax revaluation year) -
Inflation = 3.4%, Cap => 2.64%, Actual tax increase = -22.4%
Fiscal Year 2003:
Inflation = 2.8%, Cap => 8.14%, Actual tax increase = 7.81%
Fiscal Year 2004:
Inflation = 1.6%, Cap => 4.10%, Actual tax increase = 2.80%
Fiscal Year 2005:
Inflation = 2.3%, Cap => 5.39%, Actual tax increase = 5.77%
Fiscal Year 2006:
Inflation = 2.7%, Cap => 3.17%, Actual tax increase = 1.58%
Fiscal Year 2007: - (Property tax revaluation year) -
Inflation = 3.4%, Cap => 0.95%, Actual tax increase = -40.6%
Fiscal Year 2008:
Inflation = 3.2%, Cap => -1.60%, Actual tax increase = -1.66%
Fiscal Year 2009:
Inflation = 2.8%, Cap =>3.66%, Actual tax increase = N/A
SOURCE: City Solicitor’s and City Finance Office.
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“Democratic aldermen stall spending cap amendment: Board might spend $40,000 on special election for question during an election year”
By Jennifer Nickulas, jnickulas@manchexpress.com
Manchester voters will have the chance to vote on a spending cap charter amendment at some point in the future, but for now, it is uncertain if it will be anytime soon.
On Tuesday (9/2/2008), a majority of aldermen, all Democrats, voted against sending a spending cap question to the November 4 general election ballot. Mike Lopez, William Shea, Betsi DeVries, George Smith, Russell Ouellette, Mark Roy, Jim Roy and Dan O’Neil were the aldermen who voted against the measure.
Under state law, aldermen must send the question to voters, however, because petitioners affiliated with the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition gathered the necessary 4,000 signatures. Aldermen will meet again at 4 p.m. on Friday (9/5/2008) to try to settle the issue.
The cap would, among other things, limit aldermen from increasing taxes more than the rate of inflation, unless two-thirds of the board overrules the cap. After receiving a list of questions from the city solicitor and city finance officer, some aldermen said they – and voters – need more time to digest the information. They said the referendum question should be weighed during a special election sometime after the general election.
“They made it clear that, instead of the highest turnout possible for this vital issue, they want to see the lowest turnout,” said Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta about aldermen who voted against sending the issue to the ballot in November. “This is blatant partisanship. Just because they don’t like the spending cap, they are willing to make a mockery of Manchester’s referendum process and set a terrible precedent.”
The move, which Guinta called a political ploy, incensed the mayor and members of the audience, including Tammy Simmons, executive director of the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition. The reaction prompted Alderman Mark Roy to remind everyone present about the rules of decorum in the aldermanic chambers.
“The group has done its job and met its rule for 4,000 signatures, and [the spending cap] can be overridden by two-thirds,” said Alderman Mike Garrity, a Republican. “The fact that we are talking about spending $50,000 on a special election in a year where there is an election [already scheduled] is probably why this [question] is before us today.”
Officials said a special election would cost between $35,000 and $40,000. The cost for adding a question to an already-occuring election would be nominal.
Guinta said aldermen who voted against sending the question to ballots in November want it on a standalone ballot because fewer people would turn out for a special election, making the chances of it passing less likely, he said.
“The highest number of people are going to come out [in November], and it is going to pass,” Guinta said. “The majority of this board doesn’t want to see it pass because it makes our jobs more difficult.”
The aldermen who voted against the ballot question said they want to make sure the amendment is constitutional and will not hurt the city financially. They want to consult with Manchester’s bond rating agency, financial advisor and the state Attorney General’s office to make sure.
“The people of Manchester deserve a chance to take the time to fully research and understand what the amendment says and means,” said Mike Lopez, an alderman at-large who led the charge against sending the proposal to voters in November.
“This is too important to be rushed into the November ballot where it will be lost in all the excitement of the presidential election,” Lopez added.
“We have an obligation to the voters of this city to present all the information,” said Dan O’Neill, another alderman-at-large. “This might be the most historic referendum to come before the city in the last 25 years, and the impact if it passes is going to be [felt] for the next 25 years.
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"Manchester Residents and The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition File Injunction against Alderman and City: Gang of Eight Alderman Violate RSA 49", www.politickernh.com, September 8, 2008 - 2:59pm, CONTACT: Mike Biundo, (603) 540-2572, mbiundo@yourmeridian.com

Manchester, NH – The Manchester spending cap petition which was lawfully and signed by 4036 Manchester voters, was narrowly rejected multiple times for placement on the November ballot by a "Gang of Eight" aldermen led by Mike Lopez. The series of 8-6 votes by the Alderman on Friday evening shows a clear pattern of ignoring the laws of New Hampshire for their own political purposes. The "Gang of Eight" called the placement of the measure on the November ballot "too soon," and claimed "too many questions remain about it." These Aldermen in question are Mike Lopez, Bill Shea, Betsi DeVries, George Smith, Russ Ouellette, Mark Roy, Jim Roy and Dan O'Neil. Their actions have left no other recourse other than to file an injunction.

“Today we filed a petition for an injunction with the Hillsborough Superior Court. We asked for an expedited hearing due to the looming election on the horizon and the desire to save the taxpayers' $35,000 -$40,000 in special election costs. The board of Alderman have another chance to do the right thing this evening, we respectfully ask them to take this opportunity to reconsider their actions and place this question on the November 4th ballot where it belongs.

What we witnessed during the last week was political posturing at its best. The board’s unfortunate decision to ignore the law has brought us to this request for court action. The board had four months to get answers to their "questions." Four months to make their case to the voters of Manchester on why they think we shouldn't have a spending cap. Instead the "Gang of Eight" spent four months trying to figure out how to keep it off the November ballot." said Mike Biundo, Chairman of NHAC.

This is the first time that we are aware of that political posturing to this extent has come into play when dealing with placing spending caps on ballots. Rochester and Somersworth dealt with similar petitions this year both chose to place their petitions on the ballot without delay. The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition appreciates the leadership displayed by Mayor Frank Guinta and Aldermen Mike Garrity, Kelleigh Domaingue, Ted Gatsas, Peter Sullivan, Ed Osborne and Real Pinard for standing with the voters of Manchester. NHAC plans to file a similar measure against the City of Concord this Friday. Attached you will find the full injunction as filed.

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"Neighborhood recovering from Hanna flooding"
By BENJAMIN KEPPLE, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 9/13/2008

MANCHESTER – Things are slowly getting back to normal around the Crosbie Street neighborhood that was flooded last weekend after the remants of Tropical Storm Hanna swept through New Hampshire, city officials said.

Authorities continue to keep an eye on Goldfish Pond and nearby Dorrs Pond, but the waters of Goldfish Pond, which flooded the street, have receded. A sewer pump being installed yesterday was expected to restore sewer and water services to 13 houses on the street. One house remained uninhabitable due to environmental issues, officials said.

"As far as we know, there was only one (household) displaced due to an oil tank problem," said Chief James Burkush of the Manchester Fire Department. "As far as the water level, that's down to its normal level."

Mark Laliberte, a spokesman for Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, said sewer service was expected to resume yesterday to affected houses on Crosbie Street. With some rain expected over the next few days, he said authorities were keeping an eye on the levels of Goldfish Pond and Dorrs Pond.

Torrential rainfall from the storm, which flooded basements and businesses around the city, was a key reason Crosbie Street was flooded. Some debris also blocked a drain pipe between Goldfish Pond and Dorr's Pond, exacerbating the flooding.

Mike Pillsbury, the state Department of Transportation's assistant director of operations, said the state would study the area to see if changes could be made to increase the drain's capacity and prevent flooding from recurring in the future.

At the Manchester City Library, things are largely back to normal. Denise van Zanten, the library's director, said the basement auditorium was flooded with six inches of water and the nearby Winchell Room had two inches of water.

Fortunately, library staff were still present when the flooding hit. That allowed the library to mitigate the damage, and van Zanten said no books or computers were lost. Work to remove ruined carpet and wallboard is in progress.

A book fair scheduled for today will be held as scheduled, van Zanten said.

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"Court hearing September 26, 2008, on spending cap"
The New Hampshire Union Leader, September 13, 2008

MANCHESTER – A hearing is scheduled Sept. 26 in Hillsborough County Superior Court on an organization's bid to get a spending cap charter amendment on the Nov. 4 election ballot

Mike Biundo, head of the New Hampshire Tax Advantage Coalition, filed a request for an injunction to force the vote after Manchester aldermen voted against placing the spending cap initiative on the the Nov. 4 ballot, opting for a special election later.

The coalition gathered more than 4,000 signatures to get the cap on the Nov. 4 ballot, counting on the expected high turnout to support the amendment.

The cap would prohibit aldermen from raising spending beyond the rate of inflation and population growth. In an emergency, two-thirds of the aldermen could vote to override the cap.

The coalition, which refuses to identify its funding sources, has also collected signatures in an effort to put a spending cap measure on ballots in other communities, including Concord. Councilors there also declined to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, citing a need for an education effort.

Biundo said the coalition filed a request Thursday in Merrimack County Superior Court to force councilors to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot in Concord.

Readers' COMMENTS:

Putting the question on the Ballot only needs two reasons: 1) because its the law. 2)because its the right thing to do. Self-determination in governance was ripped from the people by the gang of eight. When carpet baggers seek to wrest control of our city, this is what happens. They are Interlopers who seeks private gain and economic advantage, from an area to which they previously had no connection, often by meddling in its politics and affairs.

Bob Tarr, Ed Osborne's proposal was quixotic at best...most already knew this. Auto liability is mandatory in 47 US states, but even in these states, uninsured motorists still comprise anywhere from 4 to 34 percent of all drivers. Governments in these states are forced to allocate resources to enforce laws that apply to all motor vehicle owner/operators, most of whom are insured. All mandatory insurance does is create another mechanism and layer of laws. People in NH alresdy know this.

It is refreshing to see that there are a few folks in the city who complain so passionately about taxes while not having a direct stake in how those taxes affect them. For example, those who reside in Manchester Public Housing we never hear a peep out of them. I guess its par for the course when one lives in assisted housing, there is no need to concern ones self with real estate taxes...or any manner of assisted housing whether it be LIHTC or section 8 when it is taxes that pays the way. It would be nice, however to know whether or not more of those beneficiares even care a lick...or is asking the question merely "class warfare" on my part?
- Rick Olson, Manchester

Could someone please tell me what the big deal is about who the "boogie man" that is funding the tax cap drive could be?

Isn't it registered voters of Manchester who had to sign the petition?

Isn't it registered voters of Manchester who will be the ones voting for or against the cap?

So in the end it will be the registered voters of Manchester who made the decision, not some outside influence "boogie man" that all against letting the initiative go on this November ballot keep mentioning.

I really don't care who is funding this and have not made up my mind as to which way I will vote but I have made up my mind it should be on the ballot.

Let see if the courts agree with We the people...or the "gang of eight".
- Randal S. Ripley, Manchester, NH

What's the big deal? This would result in less police officers in a city that needs more than they already have. It would result in less funding for our kids in schools which has very dismal funding as is. It would result in firehouse closures, firefighters being laid off. Where does it end? I'm all for low spending and responsible spending but this tax cap has bigger repercussions than most people realize.
- Bill, Manchester, NH

Robert-- agree- put it on the ballott and let the citizens of Manchester decide not politicans go against the people's wil
- dave, Manchester

What's the big deal about putting it on the ballot? When Alderman Osborne wanted a non-binding referendum on the ballot about mandatory auto insurance, he was allowed? Yet it should have been placed on a state election ballot for the whole state to decide. After the election, the majority of Manchester citizens wanted it, yet it could not be passed because it had to be approved by the majority of the state, not just Manchester. This spending cap question is just that, a question, nothing more, put forth by the 4000+ people who want in on the November ballot for the entire city to decide Yes or No. Hasn't the taxpayers of Manchester had enough of rising taxes in the past 5+ years? Or have we forgotten about the 7% tax increase and the latest 3.5% tax increase? How about next year, what will it be? 4% or 5% tax increase on your house and water bill, just to pay for the two million dollars of damage done to the Police and Fire Departments after recent floods from tropical storm Hana? You decide, vote old politics out of our city government and vote in those who represent us as closely as possible.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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RELATED NEWS ARTICLES:
"Tax cap suit looms; vote delayed until Nov. '09"
"Another crack at tax cap"
"Board says no to tax cap vote"
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"Manchester city clerk's nephew charged"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, September 16, 2008

MANCHESTER – A former city employee accused of stealing money from the City Clerk's Office earlier this year is now facing criminal charges.

Former licensing enforcement inspector Shawn Hanagan, 31, was arrested last Friday on allegations he stole $90 in cash from a City Hall account. Hanagan, who has a lengthy criminal record, is the nephew of City Clerk Carol Johnson.

His arrest is the most recent development in a case that rocked the City Clerk's Office earlier this summer. Johnson has been on paid administrative leave since late June; her response to the alleged thefts, described by some city officials as too lenient, remains under investigation by the state Attorney General's Office.

The charges against Hanagan coincide with the completion of an independent audit that found many more payments to the City Clerk's Office were not recorded properly. The auditor, Kevin Buckley, said he was unable to track $6,014 in fees for dog licenses, business licenses and security-alarm registrations because "the records were messed up."

Buckley said he found no evidence suggesting Hanagan stole anything other than the $90 he is charged with taking. Hanagan allegedly confessed to stealing the $90 when confronted by Deputy City Clerk Matt Normand in February, according to a police affidavit.

Hanagan posted a bail of $1,000 personal recognizance on Friday. An arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 24 in Manchester District Court.

Manchester police are continuing to investigate the alleged thefts, Lt. Nick Willard said.

Hanagan has an extensive criminal history, according to court records pulled yesterday. He has twice been convicted on drug charges; once in 1996 for possession of a controlled drug, and again in 2003, when a police officer who pulled him over found cocaine in his pocket.

As a driver, records show, he has been labeled an habitual offender, a status that led to a 2004 jail sentence for driving without a license.

Yesterday, Johnson said her predecessor as city clerk, Leo Bernier, knew about Hanagan's record when he hired him in April 2007. Johnson has repeatedly said she had no role in hiring her nephew.

Bernier could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Hanagan is charged with three counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Police say he stole money on three occasions between Jan. 11 and Feb. 20 of this year.

In each instance, police say, Hanagan stole $30 in cash that accompanied an application for a security-alarm permit.

Normand told police he was the one who discovered the thefts, according to an affidavit. When confronted on Feb. 29, Hanagan cried and admitted he stole the money, the affidavit says. The affidavit also says Hanagan "could not explain why he did it."

Normand and Hanagan had been close friends for many years. Hanagan was the best man at Normand's wedding.

A police investigation did not begin until the Mayor's Office reported the thefts to the police June 23, the affidavit says.

Mayor Frank Guinta said he expects the aldermen will decide whether to take Johnson off administrative leave once the state Attorney General's Office finishes its investigation. Jane Young, chief of the criminal bureau in the state Attorney General's Office, said it may be several weeks before the investigation is done.

Security measures in the City Clerk's Office have tightened since the alleged thefts, according to Buckley, the independent city auditor. Few improvements are still needed, he said.

Buckley said the $6,014 in "missing" money "could have been just bad recording keeping, or it could be other stolen stuff. But I couldn't prove it either way."

Aldermen are tentatively scheduled to meet on Monday to review the auditor's report, according to the mayor. Guinta said "faith has to be restored" in the City Clerk's Office.

"It's important and imperative that the public realize the city's taking this seriously," Guinta said.

Hanagan left the Clerk's Office in April. He is currently unemployed, according to court documents.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

Maybe they will be next to be kicked out of the City by the Mayor...
- Brian, Concord

What I do not understand is how the City chooses to discipline people. PAID LEAVE - so Johnson has had 4 months of PAID VACATION. OUCH! that really hurts - NOT!

Not only that but she probadly had been accumulating sick and vacation time which if "ask to resign" she'll be able to take with her.
- Amy, Manchester

The taxpayers of Manchester should not be paying Ms. Johnson's salary while she's home watching The Price is Right. In the private sector she would have been fired 3 months ago. But, it's just tax money so who cares right?
- Fred Norris, Manchester

Ben,"Time to weed out the bad seeds in City Hall..."

I couldn't agree more.
Let's start with 'The Gang of Eight',the baddest seeds of all.
- Michael Paradis, Manchester

Beth O,
It appears that the former City Clerk (who hired Mr. Hanagan) isn't talking. You wonder how this person passed the screening process to get hired. Ask the former City Clerk's wife, the city's former HR director. You don't have to look far to start digging.

It's been said to me in jest that 1 of our aldermen has at least one member of his family working in every department of the city. As far as I know it it not true, but since it gets repeated as if it were common knowledge it shines the light of nepotism that seems to be pervasive in this city.

And people boast about the value and importance of the non-partisan elections in this city. What a joke. This city couldn't be more partisan - in every definition of the word.
- David, Manchester, NH

Time to weed out the bad seeds in City Hall and restore faith in the City Clerk's Office.
This is a serious matter. Who knows what else is going on in City Hall's other offices.
Tighten security, background checks on employees. Just my comments. Thanks!
- Ben Stern, Manchester, NH

Why does it take an incident like this stolen $90 to tighten security measures in the City Clerk's Office? I would have thought that where cash money is involved there would have already been tight security.
Glad to hear that our fine Mayor Guinta says the city's taking this seriously.
- Gary Delabartie, Manchester, NH

Back Ground Checks are needed on all employees. Why wasn't this done on this person?
I believe $6,014 in missing money is quite a big deal. And now they're saying it could have been just a bad recording keeping or stolen.
Who's working this inside job at City Hall?
- Beth O., Manchester, NH

If Carol Johnson is allowed to retain her nearly $100,000 position after she covered up her nephew Hanagan's thefts, then something is most definitely wrong with the way the city conducts business. Johnson has been on PAID leave for 3 months at the taxpayers expense. In any private sector job, she would have been out of a job months ago.
- Sue, Manchester

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"Aldermen say no to mergers", By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, September 17, 2008

MANCHESTER – Aldermen last night cast aside a pair of proposals that would have merged some departments and altered the chain of command in City Hall.

In a close vote, board members opted to preserve the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries as it is, sidestepping plans to fold the operation into the Highway Department. The measure passed, 8-6.

Also last night, aldermen rejected a proposal that would have merged the Planning Department with the Economic Development Office. In response, Mayor Frank Guinta said he and Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez will continue to examine the proposal, as well as other possible mergers that could involve the Building Department.

Both votes last night were setbacks for the mayor, who had argued for a number of departmental mergers earlier this year in hopes of saving money during the budget process.

The decision to retain Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries as a stand-alone department ends nearly a year and a half of uncertainty for employees in that department. The department has been under the leadership of an interim director since spring 2007.

"I'm thrilled, certainly," interim Director Chuck DePrima said moments after the vote. "Not for my sake, but for the sake of the department."

Guinta said he would see to it that the director's job is posted as soon as possible. The job had been posted before, but Guinta maintained at the time he would prefer to see the position left open until the board voted on the proposed merger.

Aldermen who favored a merger argued it would have given the Parks staff access to the Highway Department's larger inventory of resources.

"I have nothing but the highest respect for Parks," Alderman Mark Roy said, "but I'd love to see them have the tools and the manpower that we allow Highway to have."

DePrima had a different take, arguing a merger might force his staff to take more time away from their current responsibilities so they could lend a hand to highway workers.

In a separate move, board members said they worried that a merger between the Economic Development and Planning offices would result in conflicts of interest. The former department, they noted, tries to lure businesses to Manchester; the latter is responsible for regulating those businesses as they try to set up shop.

Alderman Peter Sullivan suggested a better merger would involve the Planning and Building departments.

"It seems to me you've thrown the wrong one into the mix," he said to Lopez, who proposed the merger.

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"Audit contradicts city clerk's claims"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, September 18, 2008

MANCHESTER – A city employee accused of stealing $90 in cash from the City Clerk's Office was allowed to continue handling checks and had "complete access" to the office's financial records for six weeks after confessing to the thefts, a newly released audit found.

The report by Independent City Auditor Kevin Buckley found fault with City Clerk Carol Johnson's response to the allegations that her nephew stole money from an account. It said employees suspected of stealing "should not be allowed access to any financial records."

Buckley's report also says Johnson overruled Deputy Clerk Matt Normand when he tried to fire the employee. Johnson disputed that claim, saying Normand had no authority to fire staffers.

Meanwhile, Mayor Frank Guinta raised questions yesterday about the circumstances that led the City Clerk's Office to hire the license enforcement officer, Shawn Hanagan, in the first place. Hanagan, it was revealed this week, had a lengthy criminal record including two convictions for drug-related offenses.

"Someone with a drug conviction, an habitual offender, is asked to hold a very important position -- that never should have happened," Guinta said.

Johnson, who is now on paid administrative leave, was second-in-command in the clerk's office when Hanagan was brought on as a full-time employee in April 2007. She has repeatedly said she opposed the decision to hire her nephew.

Hanagan, 31, was arrested last Friday on three counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Police say he stole $30 in cash from the clerk's office on three separate occasions last winter.

Hanagan no longer works for the city.

In an interview yesterday, Johnson defended her decision to keep Hanagan on the staff for several weeks after the alleged thefts came to her attention. Johnson said she barred Hanagan at that time from handling cash. She said she was not concerned about his access to checks.

"It's not like he could take that, put it in his pocket and walk away," Johnson said.

Guinta, however, seized on the auditor's finding as evidence that Johnson misled the aldermen in June when she assured them she blocked Hanagan's access to money.

"Unfortunately, based on the observations, Carol wasn't telling me or the aldermen the truth," Guinta said.

The auditor's report says Hanagan continued to record payments in the office's computer system until April 17, roughly six weeks after he allegedly confessed to stealing the $90. Throughout his employment, the report says, "it appears that he had complete access to all records related to revenue transactions."

The audit also found several weak spots in the office's security procedures. In many cases, the auditor wrote, employees failed to record payments in the daily cash log before they passed the payments along to Hanagan. The report also found there was little to stop a staffer from erasing or modifying the office's financial records.

Already, many of the office's policies have been changed to reflect the report's recommendations, according to both the auditor and Normand, the deputy clerk. Other improvements, they said, will require some changes to the software program the office relies on.

In a written response to the audit, Normand said thefts will always be possible so long as there are employees who are "intent on theft and malfeasance."

Johnson took issue with the audit's claim that Normand tried to fire Hanagan on Feb. 28, the day Normand confronted Hanagan about the alleged thefts. She said it was another week before the deputy clerk advised her to fire Hanagan.

"And it was too late by then," Johnson said, "because I had already made my decision."

Johnson's own response to the allegations, according to the audit, was to tell Hanagan he would be let go in 30 days. The clerk also ordered Hanagan to pay back the $90.

Guinta and several aldermen have said Johnson was too lenient toward her nephew. The state Attorney General's Office is continuing to investigate Johnson's handling of the situation.

Hanagan served two stints in the City Clerk's Office. Both times, he was hired by Johnson's predecessor, Leo Bernier.

Bernier said he once fired Hanagan after he "got into trouble" with the law. Court records show Hanagan was working for the city in September 2002 when he was arrested for cocaine possession and driving without a license.

Hanagan eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors. In 2004, he was convicted of driving after being deemed an habitual offender, a felony.

Bernier said he knew Hanagan had a record when he rehired him in 2007. However, he said, "I figured everybody needs a second chance."

The application for a job in City Hall requires an applicant to say whether he or she has ever been convicted of a crime that was not annulled and to provide details of each offense.

Christine Martinsen, the city's human resource analyst, said there is no policy that prevents a department head from hiring someone with a criminal record.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Johnson had nothing to do with the hire of her nephew, as a matter of fact, Matthew Normand ammended the requirements for the position so his friend at the time, Hanagan, would meet the requirements for the position. Stan Howser is right in the fact that she had hardly been in the position long enough to make changes. It is ridiculous to let Johnson consume all responsibilities for this mess! These programs and record keeping go far enough back, long before she even took the City Clerk's role. And what about Normand...where was he during all of this?!
- Patrick O'-, Manchester

It really sounds as if Guinta really has an axe to grind with Ms. Johnson. His comments are clearly geared in that direction. I think to come out to the newspapers and outwardly call her a liar is about as close as you can come to saying that Ms. Johnson is not welcome back to her position.
"Unfortunately, based on the observations, Carol wasn't telling me or the aldermen the truth," Guinta said.

If Guinta wants to try the case do it in court and not the media.
- Mike, Manchester

Good lord. Stan Howser, the guy who constantly posts about the crooks and lowlifes at City Hall, is now defending Carol Johnson and her nephew. Stan, be consistent. Corruption is corruption, even when one of your friends is in on the deal.
- Larry, Manchester

I read this article and the audit report on-line. It is time to fire the Johnson woman. She can't tell the truth and she used such bad judgment that nobody will be able to trust her again. She also seems to be blaming everyone else for her mistakes.

And I don't buy her claim that she had nothing to do with hiring her nephew. She knew his background and obviously made a recommendation to her boss.
- Seth Tolman, Manchester

How is this case being blown up more than the kids spray painting $2600 worth of damage?

The guy acted like a 14 yr old, but at least he confessed. The kids spray painting ran away!

Seriously, $90.
- Peter Kirish, Manchester, NH

This person violated the public trust and should never be allowed to work in government again. Let a private company decide if they are capable of working with them no government.
- Jay, Manchester

Carol has done a great job over the years. She did not even hire the guy no fingers really pointed at Leo Bernier.
The city will put her on and island and the taxpayers will help fund the settlement. Carol inhertited this mess and was not in the job long enough to make changes.
It is to bad as the city need more good people.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester, NH

I think you are way off Robert Tarr, it is very wrong to not hire someone just because of a criminal record.

I think it should be based on the individual and the "type" of crime that is on their record. Some people are simply in the wrong place-wrong time and some people just have bad periods of time in their life and make a mistake. Some people finally wake up from their criminal mischief and begin their life on the straight and narrow--a bad past does not mean a bad future--otherwise the world is doomed.

"I figured everybody needs a second chance." (Bernier)

Yes they do!
- Brian F., Manchester

Once again this is a true case of knowing someone at City Hall and getting "in" at City Hall as an employee! Weed those bad seeds out now!
Stop this covering up for relatives. In the private world of working, there are many companies who do not hire relatives, and certainly do not allow relatives to work in the same departments!
Weed those bad seeds out of City Hall now!
- Ben Stern, Manchester, NH

OK Mr. Mayor. Ms. Johnson has now added lying to you and the Alderman to her list of indiscretions. How much longer before you take action and terminate her employment? How much longer will the taxpayers of Manchester have to pay her salary? Time to clean house in the City Clerk's office, and while you're at it, take a look at how things were handled by the previous City Clerk as well! I'll bet there are some interesting things in that closet.
- Paul M, Manchester

"There is no policy that prevents a department head from hiring someone with a criminal record" Well maybe it's time to do so. I know where I work, if you can't pass the criminal record check by the policies of the employer, you won't get hired. The Mayor and the alderman should start now and looking at all policies to make sure that safety and security are top priorities which keep the citizen's of Manchester's privacy private. And in other cases, an employee who is related to another employee can't work in the same building/department with the other. This would provide a high level of consumer privacy and reduce the chances of 'misfiled' records. Better to start now than latter...
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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* "Click here" for the complete audit report (.pdf format).

http://www.unionleader.com/uploads/media-items/2008/September/City%20Clerk%20Internal%20Audit%2009-08.pdf

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City Hall: "Hanagan credits 'good buddy' for his hiring"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Sunday, September 21, 2008

SHAWN HANAGAN says he never would have stood a chance of working for the City Clerk's Office as license enforcement inspector if not for one thing: A friend sought to get the position reclassified so Hanagan would be eligible for it.

"My good buddy Matt (Normand) hooked it up!" Hanagan wrote in an e-mail last week.

Hanagan, 31, is awaiting an arraignment in Manchester District Court for allegedly stealing $90 in cash from a city account. In his first public comments since his arrest, Hanagan said it was his longtime friend, Deputy City Clerk Matt Normand, and not his aunt, City Clerk Carol Johnson, who fought to bring him aboard.

"She had nothing to do with my hire," Hanagan wrote. "In fact, (she) did not want me for the position at all. (She) had another individual in mind."

Normand did not respond last week to a request for comment. He has declined to be interviewed since the alleged thefts were made public in late June.

Hanagan's hiring has been the subject of controversy since it was revealed he has an extensive criminal record, including two convictions on drug-related offenses and one for driving while intoxicated. Former City Clerk Leo Bernier has said he knew Hanagan had a record but decided to hire him because "everybody needs a second chance."

In an e-mail, Hanagan said he was not eligible for the license enforcement inspector's job before the reclassification because it called for an associate's degree and "some experience in related operations."

"That was the only position becoming available," Hanagan wrote, "and Matt had talked about fitting me in that position for quite a while."

Aldermen agreed to downgrade the position on April 3, 2007. Hanagan was hired three weeks later.

The request for the reclassification did come from Normand, according to former Human Resources Director Virginia Lamberton, who was quoted as saying so in the minutes of a February 2007 committee meeting. Normand, at the time, was deputy clerk of licensing and facilities, and the new position was to report to him.

Asked about the request last Thursday, Lamberton said she had no reason to think the request was made with Hanagan or any other applicant in mind.

"I'd be surprised if they put that one over on me," she said.

Bernier said it was his decision, and not Normand's, to hire Hanagan. His memory about that time is foggy, he said. However, he said, "From what you're telling me, we would probably have done that to bring him in as a permanent (employee)."

- - - - - -

THE CHECKS KEEP COMING: Johnson, of course, has been on paid leave for 12 weeks now as the state Attorney General's Office investigates whether she responded appropriately to the allegations against her nephew.

In that time, she has earned an estimated $22,000.

Mayor Frank Guinta said he expects Johnson will remain on paid leave until the investigation is done.

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WHAT THE HECTOR?: Sen. John McCain's Presidential campaign was proud to announce an endorsement last week from Manchester's own Hector Velez, boasting in a press release, "Another New Hampshire Democratic legislator backs John McCain."

It sounded like a small coup for the Republican nominee, but there's a problem: Velez's status as both a state rep and a Democrat are, let's say, questionable.

In a recent interview, Velez told us he tried in January to resign his seat in the Legislature because, he said, "I'm totally disgusted with what the Democrats have been doing lately." His major complaint, he said, was that the party's leadership in Concord was pressuring Democratic reps like Velez to vote the way it wanted them to.

"They play political games," Velez said. "And I was really, really upset by that."

House Clerk Karen Wadsworth confirmed Velez told her he was planning to resign, but she said she couldn't take him off the rolls because she never received an official letter of resignation. In any case, Velez hasn't voted on a single bill this year.

Then there's the matter of his party affiliation. We asked Velez last month whether still considered himself a Democrat. He answered, "You know what? I'm really looking at myself and challenging myself."

"I look at a lot of the values the Republican Party has," Velez said. "And, you know, as a Hispanic, I'm not for abortion. You know what I'm saying?"

- - - - - -

NO FAN OF ART: Former state Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan was glad when school board member Art Beaudry did not win the party's nomination for Hillsborough County registrar of deeds.

In a e-mail sent one day before the Sept. 9 primary, Sullivan not only urged voters to support her preferred candidate, Ben Clemons, but instructed them to oppose Beaudry because, she wrote, he has "publicly endorsed right wing Republican candidates over and over."

"We can count on Ben Clemons to support the entire Democratic ticket -- we can count on just the opposite with Art Beaudry," Sullivan wrote.

A little background: Sullivan is an attorney at Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, the local law firm that recently lost its contract with the Manchester school district. Beaudry played a key role in terminating the contract.

Sullivan said she has no hard feelings about the school board's decision. If anything, she said, it was "somewhat liberating" because it freed her to speak honestly about Beaudry.

"Had we still been the people representing the school district, yeah, I probably wouldn't have done that," she said.

For the record, the nomination for registrar went to Louise A. Wright, of Nashua.

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THE SCOTT & LEO SHOW: A recent meeting of the mayor's committee on sex offenders proved downright exasperating for its chairman, Manchester Police Sgt. Scott Fuller.

Fuller was quickly losing patience with former state Rep. Leo Pepino, who didn't seem to want to do his homework. Pepino was supposed to come to the meeting with some research about residency restrictions for registered sex offenders, and though he dumped 150 pages of news clippings and fact sheets on the table, he insisted he was too busy to write a one- to two-page summary.

What followed was not unlike an old vaudeville routine, with Fuller as the straight man. The only difference was, no one was trying to be funny.

Fuller: "I'm telling you to draft a formal recommendation by Friday."

Pepino: "If I have the time."

Fuller: "Leo, what do you mean you don't have the time? You had time to propose the legislation. You had time to print out all this information."

Pepino: "That's where all my time goes!"

By the way, the committee meetings are open to the public. You might consider bringing a bucket of popcorn.

- - - - - -

IF A TREE FALLS: The old elm tree by the William B. Cashin Senior Activity Center is dying. Many people, including some aldermen, are sad about this.

"It seemed to be a healthy tree not too long ago," Alderman Ed Osborne mused during a recent meeting of the Lands and Buildings Committee.

Interim Parks Director Chuck DePrima said the tree has Dutch elm disease and is about 100 years old.

Committee members on Tuesday approved a motion to have the tree removed. "With regret," Alderman Mark Roy added.

- - - - - -

THE OUTDOOR TYPE: Local nature lovers have formed a non-profit organization to promote and expand the region's trail system. The new group is called Manchester Moves.

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FOR THE RECORD: Because inquiring minds want to know, we'll note here that eight aldermen voted "yes" last week on a proposal to preserve the autonomy of the Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries Department. They are: Ted Gatsas, Ed Osborne, Real Pinard, Bill Shea, George Smith, Russ Oullette, Kelleigh Domaingue and Mike Lopez.

The other six aldermen opposed the measure.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

Hey Mike, I hear that Frank Guinta was responsible for the Patriots's defensive weakness this afternoon, too. He might be responsible for the Travis Barker plane crash, and his sister's ex-roommate's college boyfriend's cousin once worked for Leahman Brothers, so he's connected to the financial crisis.
- Larry, Manchester

Mike, once again you try to discredit the Mayor for purely partisan reasons. WE all know, as well as you do, that the Dems control City Hall, not the Republican Mayor. It was Dems who hired Hanagan, it was Dems who kept him there. If the Mayor insisted that Johnson be fired, the Dems would scream Bloodty Blue Murder that he was doing this for partisan reasons, so he has to wait for the completion of the investigation, beign done by Dems from Concord.
- Howie Howe, Manchester

Oh Mike, come on. Don't blame Johnson? She was wrong, irresponsible, and doesn't deserve to hold her position after her involvement in such corruption. She might be a nice lady as some have said, but that still doesn't take away the fact that her actions prove that she cannot be trusted with such an important position in the city. The Mayor and Aldermen have done everything necessary on this situation.

Mike, I understand that you like to take any opportunity to trash Guinta, but seriously, you've got nothing on him with this situation. The Clerks Office has and still is an incest-like office with the "help the good ol' boy" mentality running rampant. Carol might be nice, but like I said before, she just can't be trusted with such a high position in Manchester.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, New Hampshire

In my experience, Matt Normand is doing a great job as deputy city clerk. And - the women who work in the city clerk's office seem more pleasant lately, too.

If Matt and Hanagan are/were best buddies - and Matt still was going to fire him - that says Matt takes his job seriously. He should be commended, not blamed.
- Tammy, Manchester

The Aldermen put her on paid administrative leave. Don't blame Johnson, blame the Aldermen. What is the connection between Matt Normand and Guinta? Who do they know in common? Does someone related to Normand work for Guinta? How about full disclosure from the Mayor.
- Mike, Manchester

No one knows Carol Johnson better than me, trust me on that!!! She is a nice lady and should be given a break. Even while on leave she is worth the $22,000.00 the city has spent. You will not find another city clerk like her.
- Mike Pischetola, Hooksett

Lets not forget that Normand is the one who fired Hanagan. It was Johnson who stepped in and kept him in city hall. The fact that Hanagan was Normand's best friend doesn't matter. WAS being the key word. Normand is the only one who was willing to put outside relationships aside and do the right thing. The fact that Hanagan is now trying to place blame on Normand shows his true character. He messed up, he knows it, and there is no one else to blame but himself. Shame on you yet again Hanagan.
- Elizabeth, Manchester

The fact that the city is paying Johnson that amount of money for being inept, just goes to show they are just as inept as she. This is just disgusting to read about.

....AND, Matt Normand needs to go to, he is just as reponsible. As for he and Hanagan being best friends - remember the old saying - "birds of a feather!"
- Kim Flynn, Manchester

To Riley from Manchester, I don't know if your aware of this but Shawn and Matt were best friends. Shawn was his best man at his wedding.
- Joanne, Manchester

Ms. Johnson has been on paid leave for 12 weeks now as the state Attorney General's Office investigates her? For 12 Weeks??

If the city had started billing the AG's office for Ms. Johnson's salary 8 weeks ago, maybe the AG would have been motivated to complete the investigation in a timely manner - like within the first 60 days.

The city is now on the hook for month #3 of paid admin leave and possibly month #4. If this issue had happened while Mr. Bernier was still in office the whole thing would have been resolved within 10 days.

BUT NO, the mayor - in my opinion - wants to punt Ms. Johnson out of office for publicly chastising him in the past. She inherited a mismanaged department that did questionable hiring and made a poor decision about terminating an employee because (in my opinion) she could not afford to reduce her already short-staffed department by another person.

This is a 4-step program:
1. Do the departmental audit of the Clerk's Office.
2. Write new policies and procedures to address the deficiencies.
3. Reprimand the City Clerk for her error in judgment.
4. If necessary, dock her salary.

Then close the book on this issue so that the city AND the state can stop wasting MY hard-earned money on something that should have been resolved almost 2 months ago!
- David R, Manchester

Of course Hanagan is saying it was Normand - but does anyone actually believe him? It was Normand that first attempted to fire Hanagan when he learned of the theft, it was Carol Johnson who stopped the firing.

Hanagan is obviously getting back at Normand by trying to make him look like he pulled some strings to get him the hob.

Nice try Hanagan - Normand's a better person than that.
- Riley, Manchester

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"Guinta wanted clerk out, lawyer claims"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Monday, Sep. 22, 2008

MANCHESTER – An attorney for City Clerk Carol Johnson is accusing Mayor Frank Guinta of slandering the embattled clerk in an attempt to drive her out of office.

Attorney David Nixon lashed out at Guinta yesterday for a recent public statement suggesting Johnson was dishonest when confronted about a burgeoning scandal in her office. Nixon, who first made the charge in a letter to the aldermen late last week, said the mayor never supported Johnson's appointment to the city clerk's post and has been "waiting for his chance" to replace her.

"The picture, very simply, is that as soon as she was sworn in, the mayor began a plan to get rid of her," Nixon said.

Guinta responded with a laugh, saying, "Dave Nixon is going to say anything he possibly can to try and get attention away from his client's actions."

Johnson's integrity is at issue as the Attorney General's Office investigates her response to allegations that her nephew, Shawn Hanagan, stole $90 in cash from the City Clerk's Office. A new report by the city's independent auditor says Johnson overruled another supervisor who tried to fire Hanagan and later failed to block Hanagan from handling checks or accessing financial records.

Yesterday, Johnson said she was writing an 18-page response that would, among other things, refute the audit's claim that Deputy City Clerk Matt Normand tried to fire Hanagan when the alleged thefts came to light, in February. She planned to mail her response to the aldermen today, she said.

The recent dispute between Johnson's attorney and the mayor centered on Guinta's assertion the audit contradicted Johnson's account of Hanagan's last weeks in the clerk's office. A New Hampshire Union Leader story last week quoted Guinta as saying Johnson "wasn't telling me or the aldermen the truth" when she said she cut off Hanagan's access to money.

Johnson said she never claimed Hanagan did not have access to any money, only that he did not have access to cash. The distinction may be important, since the independent auditor, Kevin Buckley, has said he found no evidence Hanagan had access to cash after confessing to the thefts.

Guinta, however, stood by his statement yesterday, saying Johnson "specifically said to me in a private meeting that she took Shawn away from all access to cash, as well as to the primary functions of that job."

In a letter to the aldermen Friday, Johnson's attorney said Guinta's "false statement" is proof the mayor "intends to try to force her out of office and end her long career of public service to the City of Manchester."

Nixon said he has asked the city solicitor for early notice of "the mayor's removal proceedings" so Johnson would have time to prepare a defense. He said the hearing should be "conducted in accord with standard rules of procedure, evidence, and truth-protections -- the same rights as are available to common criminals."

Alderman Ed Osborne said yesterday he has received Nixon's letter, but he refused to weigh in on the controversy.

"We have to wait for everything to be resolved in the Attorney General's Office. That's the only way I can judge it," Osborne said.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

Richard L. Fortin
The Board of Aldermen appoints/hires the City Clerk - not the mayor. Because the Clerk's office plays a vital role in much of the city's day-to-day operation, the mayor does not hire of the City Clerk.

As much as it is alleged that Mayor Guinta as well as Alderman O'Neil do not want Ms. Johnson to remain as the City Clerk, it is not in the best interest of the Board of Aldermen to appoint a City Clerk that has the favor of the mayor.

At this point I can easily image that the Board of Aldermen are hoping that the AG's office does not conclude it's investigation until after the November election - so that they can concentrate on campaigning for themselves and each other, instead of being seen getting their hands dirty by firing the clerk prior to election day.

I pretty much expect this issue to drag its feet for another month and a half - just to make it convenient for the hacks on the Board of Aldermen.
- David R, Manchester

Let me guess - Dave Nixon supports the trial lawyers association and the democratic party interests. No friend of Mr Giunta's. C'mon Dave, keep politics out of your client's demise!
- Mike Welch, Manchester NH

All this for $90.00 are you kidding me??? Don't we have more important issues to tend to???????????? Let Carol Johnson get back to work or she can start preparing for her Lawsuit against the City and the (Dis)Honorable Mayor Frank Guinta. I hope your Atty. has told you to keep your mouth shut Mayor !!!!
- E M, Manchester

I would not be surprised at all if Atty Nixon's contentions have a ring of truth Mayor Guinta has not be the most up fron individual in the goings on at City Hall. He would love a chance to get his own person into the position of city clerk and would stoop to whatever is possible to get that chance. Mayor Guinta has been a big disappointment in this term he has turned into the type of politician that this city does not need at it's head.
- Richard L. Fortin, Manchester

Does the fact that Mayor Guinta is a Republican have anything to do with all of this?
Blaming Republicans seems to be the way to go these days.
- Guy Plante, Manchester
YES. Take a look at our economy and you have your answer. Take a look at the bailout package and you have your answer.
- Mike, Manchester

So much anger from people who probably don't know all the facts of this situation. All these people calling for Johnsons to be fired need to point out where she, as a department head, violated any ordinances or laws.
It is clear that the Mayor wants to get rid of Ms. Johnson. The fact that he came out publcly and called her a liar set the tone for her dismissal. The Mayor is eroding the public trust by talking about this in the press. As for Dave Nixon, he is a very trustworthy and credible lawyer and Guinta can laugh all he wants but Dave Nixon is no slouch.
The whole truth will probably never be told because in the end this case will probably head toward litigation where both sides will posture.
- Mike, Manchester

Even if she is guilty... the mayor probably shouldn't be making public statements until the investigation is over... if the city solicitor did not advise him of that... then even more of our taxes are going to waste.

People need to act prudently and if she is guilty.. fire her. Let's move soon but be careful with statements so that we don't lose more money in court.

This is the costliest 90.00 I can remember.
- Leah, Manchester

Does the fact that Mayor Guinta is a Republican have anything to do with all of this?
Blaming Republicans seems to be the way to go these days.
- Guy Plante, Manchester

Not only is the city clerk inept, so his her attorney. If I read the article correctly Johnson is going to submit an 18 page response to the accusation BEFORE the AG completes the investigation. What kind of advise in that Nixon. I will file your name under "Never hire this guy". In case you did not know this alreayd Atty Nixon, whatever she writes in her own defense can be used for investigative purposed. Dumb move and stupid advice!
- David Ridley, Manchester

Robyn,

The City is legally required to place her on paid leave. Remember, she has not been found guilty of anything at this time (other than poor judgement). If every time a government employee was forced into unpaid leave due to an alleged violation, a few complaints and City Hall would be ghost town (funny unless you actually want to do business there).

I don't know what happens if she is ultimately fired but is she is reinstated the City would have to pay her back wages. She would have been basically let go for several months without being found guilty of any wrongdoing.
- Amanda, Derry

Seems pretty cut and dry to me. Mr. Hanagan admitted to theft and Ms. Johnson, his supervisor as well as aunt, did next to nothing. She will be out of a job as she no longer has any integrity for a job that demands integrity.

I hope that when the dust settles and the city needs to hire a new clerk that the powers that be consider very strongly to hiring outside of the existing clerk's department or current city employees for that matter. Mr. Normand shouldn't be considered due to his proximity to this mess.

The clerk's office seems to be screaming for new blood, not related of course...
- JSF, Manch

I'll tell you what ridiculous is all the money and time being spent on this issue. I understand there was stolen money and improper actions but the time and money being spent on this is costing a whole lot more. It is politics at it's best and the worst thing is that it is costing us taxpayers and at this point in time the city is having money issues and so is its residents. Leave it behind us and move on.
- Bob, Manchester, nh

Here we go... Now Johnson will probably cost the taxpayers even more money by suing the city. Unbelievable, now she'll probably get to sit home for a year or more while lawyers run up huge tabs. Hey Carol, how do you think Drew Carey is doing as the host of the Price is Right? Enjoy your vacation on my dime.
- Bill, Manchester

yeah right. Nixon wants us to believe that Guinta masterminded the whole thing from day 1 just to get johnson out. children don't even have such a far fetched imaginatrion.
- mike conway, manchester

Cliff -

How has Carol Johnson been punished?

She has gotten paid leave, so she has made $22K for doing NOTHING this summer. I, for one, am pretty psyched that my tax dollars are going to that (tongue planted firmly in cheek).

Again, if this was in the private sector, she would be gone, no paid leave, nothing. . .just fired!

I would rather that the $22K be distributed to the people in the Clerk's office that have picked up the slcak caused by her mistakes. I have had many interactions with Mr. Normand and the member's of the Clerk's office and they are doing a great job in her absence.
- kay, manchester

I can't understand why Carol is on PaidLeave!
She's able to stay home and watch TV, go on vacation all with our taxpayer's bucks.
I agree with Guinta, Get rid of her now!
- Robyn Q., Manchester

Whatever the ultimate verdict on Johnson's behavior, what most folks will remember is yet another rant by a publicity hungry lawyer. I hope Johnson isn't paying him by the word.
- Lou, Bedford

Get rid of her now! She is a waste of the tax payers money! I dont normally side with Guinta, but this time I do.
- sarah, manchester

The actions of Johnson are ultimately what will do her in.

When confronted with malfeasance, President Nixon and Judge Coffey resigned, while President Clinton and Johnson cling to power.

The voters will remember.
- Steve, Manch

like many others my trips to city clerks office, sometimes waiting in line, but these people work hard ,and are very pleasent. Carol Johnson didt take the 90.dollors 30 yrs. should be consdered,she may have made a bad judgement,and already has been punished
- cliff crowley, manchester

The lawyers name is Nixon. Enough said.
- John M, manchester

David Nixon is a democrat running for State Rep in November. Shocker that he would be anti-Guinta.
- Riley, Manchester

Comments from Ryan, Shannon, Casey and Pam seem strangely "on message" with the Mayor's office. It's pretty clear to anyone who works in the legal community that Dave Nixon is NH's finest attorney. It does not surprise me that certain individual's would want him off the case.
- Katrina, Bow

If I was the Clerk, I'd get a new lawyer because he is only making her look more guilty.
- Pam Dupont, Manchester, New Hampshire

It sounds like this lawyer is just trying to divert attention away from his own client's guilt by trying to muddy the situation with politics.
- Casey Johnes, Manchvegas

Personally, I don't know this woman, but I do understand the importance and heavy responsibility that the City Clerk has and I also have been following this scandal closely through the paper. She might be a nice person, but I completely understand where the mayor and the aldermen stand in needing to investigate the situation further and if guilty, she needs to go. With regards to this article, I think she needs to find a new lawyer because he sounds like a nut.
- Shannon Lee, Manchester

Obviously this Nixon guy is just hoping for his 10 minutes of fame and hoping that all of this free press will get him some extra business. He reminds me of those lowly lawyers on tv commercials who are sleezy and willing to do anything to win a case.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, New Hampshire

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"Trespass incident at city clerk's office being investigated"
By BENJAMIN KEPPLE, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
September 27, 2008

MANCHESTER – Police are investigating an incidence of criminal trespass yesterday morning at City Hall, the office of Mayor Frank Guinta said.

The incident reportedly happened in the city clerk's office, the mayor said in a statement.

"I was informed by the Manchester Police Department that there was a suspected criminal trespass at the City Clerk's Office this morning," Guinta said.

"Because this is an ongoing investigation, I cannot confirm the identity of the suspect, and I refer all questions in regards to this issue to the Manchester Police Department. I have notified Mike Lopez, chairman of the Board of Aldermen, about this situation so that he may notify the other members of the board," Guinta said.

City police had no immediate comment. Messages left for Lopez and deputy city clerk Matt Normand weren't returned yesterday afternoon. The state Attorney General's Office declined to comment.

The incident at the City Clerk's Office comes as the office continues to deal with its chief being on paid administrative leave.

City Clerk Carol Johnson has been on paid leave since June 27, as the Attorney General's Office investigates her response to allegations her nephew, former city licensing inspector Shawn Hanagan, stole $90 in cash from a city account. Johnson's attorney has said she has done nothing dishonest in handling the matter.

Johnson, reached yesterday at home, said she was unaware of the trespassing incident.

This week, Hanagan waived arraignment in Manchester District Court on three misdeameanor charges of theft by unauthorized taking. A trial in that matter has been set for Jan. 6.

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"City Hall: A deal for downtown parkers -- but at a cost"
The NH Union Leader, Sunday, Sep. 28, 2008

THE CITY'S parking control officers aren't renowned for their acts of kindness. But on Wednesday, they'll do something that should make a number of drivers very happy.

They'll let some rule-breakers off with a warning.

That's the sort of leniency that comes with one of the most dramatic reimaginings of downtown parking rules in the city's history. As anyone will tell you, the new rules are very complicated, and Brandy Stanley, the city's parking manager, said she fully expects it will take some time for drivers to get used to them.

"The last thing we're going to do is write a whole bunch of parking tickets," she said.

Stanley and her staff have spent the past several weeks trying to grease the way for an easy transition. Last Thursday, they were plastering the new rules onto each of the 1,000 meters and 200 parking kiosks in downtown Manchester. By the weekend, Stanley said, they would be removing 600 old signs and posting new ones in their place.

Stanley said the rollout is costing the city about $500,000. She has previously said the parking plan, including a rate hike on some blocks, would add about $465,000 to the city's coffers each year.

So what, exactly, will be different when the new rules take effect on Wednesday? Well, for starters, drivers will have to pay 75 cents per hour on Elm Street and most of the blocks that abut it. The old rate, which will still be available a few blocks away from the downtown strip, was 50 cents per hour.

Signage will be crucial, since rates and hours of enforcement will vary from one block to the next. In some places, parking will be free after 5:30 p.m. In others, there will be a special $1 charge to park on nights when the Verizon Wireless Arena is hosting an event.

Meanwhile, in one of the biggest changes of all, roughly 115 spaces on Elm Street will cease to be free on Saturdays.

"Saturday is really the one we're worried about," Stanley said, "because a lot of people aren't used to paying on Saturday."

Fears persist. Chef Johnny Paolini, of Piccola Italia, said he worries the higher rates on Elm Street will cost him some customers.

"We all know it's going to hurt the restaurant," he said. "I don't want to say we're hurting ourselves, but it's so frustrating, because when people get disgruntled, they won't want to come down anymore."

Stanley is considerably more optimistic. She's looking forward to next weekend, when a Ringling Bros. show at the Verizon will put the new parking rules to their first major test.

The circus, literally, is coming to town.

- - - - - - -

DEAL IN THE WORKS: They won't talk about it in public, but Manchester's school board members are still actively pursuing a deal to buy a property on East Industrial Park Drive.

Here's what we do know: The board made an offer for the building this summer. Since then, the owner has made a counter offer.

"That's as far as we are," said Katherine Labanaris, the board's vice chairman. "We're still negotiating."

School officials hope to turn the building into a home for pre-schoolers and kindergartners who, for years, have been sharing space in the Easter Seals building on Auburn Street. There's some urgency to buy the building, because the district's lease expires next summer.

- - - - - - -

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Former Superintendent Michael Ludwell has a new title these days. He's now the interim superintendent at SAU 44, which encompasses the towns of Northwood, Nottingham and Strafford.

The SAU does not have a public high school. Its enrollment, according to state figures, is 1,466 students. Manchester, by contrast, has about 16,000 students.

- - - - - - -

FUZZY MATH: The Manchester Republican Committee went on the attack last week, criticizing state Democrats for raising $1.7 million from out-of-state sources.

Unfortunately, the numbers didn't add up.

"I was a little bleary-eyed," the committee's first vice chairman, Keith Murphy, conceded after we questioned his math last Thursday.

Murphy promised to revise his numbers and get back to us in a day or so.

Regardless, the Manchester Democrats were quick to issue a response -- one that didn't refute Murphy's point, but did attack Republicans for allegedly failing to disclose all of their contributors and expenses.

"To me, this is hypocrisy from the Republicans, because we're being open and transparent with our filings," Democratic Committee Chairman Chris Pappas said. "They're not even following the letter of the law."

- - - - - - -

GUINTA OPINES: Pappas has not been sparing with his criticisms of late. Recently, he harangued Mayor Frank Guinta for posting "partisan" comments on his blog.

The blog, Pappas noted, can be found on the city's official Web site, and as such, it is paid for by taxpayers.

"It's one thing if it's distributing genuine news to residents," Pappas said. "I would be fine with that. But where it's taking a stand and criticizing other elected officials in the city without giving them a chance to respond is inappropriate."

Guinta defended his blog posts, and in particular, a pair of pieces he wrote in defense of a spending cap proposed by the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition.

"My statements on the blog," Guinta said via e-mail, "are similar to the ones I made in public during the aldermanic meetings on Sept. 2 and the meeting on Sept. 5 that went until midnight."

- - - - - - -

TAKING ADVANTAGE: The phrase, "New Hampshire advantage," wasn't coined by Mike Biundo. You probably knew that.

What you might not know is that long before Biundo formed an anti-tax group called the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, there was another group with the same name, and Biundo was one of its most vocal Republican opponents.

The original New Hampshire Advantage Coalition was formed in 1998 after the state Supreme Court's ruling in the Claremont school-funding case.

The group, chaired by George Lovejoy, was among the first to fight for a constitutional amendment overturning the court's decision.

Biundo wanted an amendment too, but he wanted one that gave less authority to the Legislature and more to parents. So he formed a rival group, which he called New Hampshire Citizens for Traditional Government.

Neither group lasted long. Needless to say, the quest for a constitutional amendment continues without them.

As for the name, Lovejoy said he doesn't mind that Biundo swiped it. He called Biundo "a friend and a strong tax-fighter."
-
Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

Ms. Stanley stated: "She has previously said the parking plan, including a rate hike on some blocks, would add about $465,000 to the city's coffers each year." Sure, its not about revenue, its about helping businesses on Elm street. Okay Brandy, sure, this will be a big boost for saturday business, real big boost. Jeesh.
- joekelly, manchester

A politically motivated break-in at City Hall and you guys are still yibbering about parking meters?

Pathetic!
- Larry, Manchester

There is no such thing as a deal for down town parkers that's why I do very little business downtown. One way around this new attempt to extort usury parking fees is if eligible apply for a handicapped parking sticker and stuff it to Mayor Guinta and his buddies who want to kill whatever is left of downtown businesses by making them bear the cost of the city's innefficient operations.
- Dick, Manchester

I will tell you what makes my day... Left the Red Arrow Diner this morning around 11:00am from having breakfast with my family, watching City Workers put up signs that had the same info as the ones previous... putting up stickers on the Meter machines indicating changes..

And to boot, City workers working on a Sunday.... you KNOW that had to be overtime, or even worse, overtime plus perhaps a Sunday differential... Looks like to me, more money the city is spending where it could have done it during normal business hours to help save taxpayers the extra overtime that was paid... to three people changing one sign... one to drive, two to remove/replace signs.. Nice payroll... NOT!
- Melanie, Manchester

On no, here we go again/still, with socialized parking.

Someone has to pay for parking (land, pavement, cleaning, snow removal, etc). It shouldn’t be the citizens of the city; it should be the person using the parking or someone who chooses to pay for them. The key here being chooses. This is exactly how parking works for every business in the city except downtown.

When I go to the mall or a strip mall, or a company like Comcast on East Industrial Park Dr, or Blake’s, or The Backroom or Pappy’s, etc, they pay for the parking for me. The parking lot is built into their lease payment, or if they own the facility they pay for the land, paving, maintenance, snow removal, etc.

Why should downtown businesses have socialized parking? If you own a business downtown and the city is collecting more for parking than you think warranted then provide your own customer parking, or move, or fight city hall, but stop whining. I frequent businesses downtown and the city’s current parking fees is not a consideration, I am not going to stop going for another quarter. If a buck is going to keep people from patronizing you, you better hope your competition does not find out it’s that easy to lure your customers away.

The less socialized services the better.
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester

I registered my vote about downtown parking (by not eating out there anymore) when the parking enforcement become military-like when the Verizon Arena was built. It really isn't about paying the parking fees, it's about residents feeling like it isn't our city anymore. And for the next person who thinks Manchester should become more like Boston, please pack up your stuff, leave us alone in NH, and move to Boston. Oh yeah, you've probably moved from there to here...
- JAC, Manchester

Sounds like a reason to avoid downtown.
- Phil, Manchester

I don't understand why we are having this discussion. I thought that we recently went to the new system of parking because it would increase income from parking downtown? Now we are adjusting the parking rates to make even more money. We are going to keep raising the parking rates until it has an adverse effect on the business downtown and then we are going to say "What Happened".
- Lyle, Manchester

Yet another quote taken completely out of context by Scott Brooks. What I told him was that staring at hundreds of pages of handwritten reports made me bleary-eyed, and that following Democratic donations from person to person was tiring. However, I stand by the report, and can absolutely prove that NH Democrats raised $1.7 million from out-of-state sources. The NH Dems are bought and paid for by groups based in Washington DC, California, and Massachusetts.

And those numbers DO add up. I'll happily sit down with anyone, anytime to show where the money came from. Anytime, anywhere.

As for Chris Pappas' statement - that we weren't even given a chance to respond to due to Brooks' sloppy journalism - the Manchester Republican Committee accurately reflects all contributions and expenses in our reports. Pappas is just inventing accusations to hide the indisputable fact that his party gets over 47% of its money from out-of-state.
- Keith Murphy, Manchester, NH

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Press Release

"Mayor Frank Guinta announces Customer Service Month; asks public to participate in survey about city services"
September 29, 2008 - 11:54 am
Office of Mayor Frank C. Guinta

PRESS RELEASE – September 29, 2008Contact: Mark Laliberte (mlaliberte@manchesternh.gov), (603) 624-6500; Cell: (603) 490-4098

MANCHESTER (September 29, 2008) – Mayor Frank Guinta has announced that October 2008 will be “Customer Service Month” in Manchester. Throughout the month, the city will be collecting information on how city departments fare in terms of courtesy, efficiency and effectiveness in working with the public.

“Earlier this year, I formed a Customer Service Committee consisting of my office, department heads and representation from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. From this group, it was determined that the city needed to get the public’s opinion regarding city services. Therefore, I am announcing that we will be asking the public for its thoughts, concerns and questions.”

The survey will be available for people to submit, starting at 8:00 a.m. on October 1, 2008, and will be available in two formats. First, it can be accessed online at the city’s Web site: www.manchesternh.gov/survey. In addition, a paper survey will be available in all municipal offices, and can be submitted in ballot boxes throughout Manchester, including:

Manchester-Boston Regional Airport
City Hall Information Booth
City Clerk’s Office
Fire Department
Health Department
Highway Department
Manchester Library
MTA buses
Parking
Planning Department
Senior Services
Tax Collector’s Office (Auto Registration)
All surveys will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 31, 2008.

Members of the committee include Jennie Angell (Information Systems); Jane Gile (Human Resources); Leon LaFreniere (Building Department); Joan Porter (Tax Office); and Peter Sullivan (Ward 3 Alderman).

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"Guinta calls for recreation spending freeze"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008

MANCHESTER – Mayor Frank Guinta is calling for a spending freeze for the Derryfield Country Club, McIntyre Ski Area and the city's two ice arenas in an effort to keep a $6.1 million recreation debt from climbing any higher.

"We've got to stop the bleeding," Guinta said yesterday.

The mayor's request, which goes before the aldermen tonight, would require Finance Officer Bill Sanders to OK all "discretionary" expenses and overtime requests at the four city-owned fun spots. Sanders said the proposal has the potential to put the brakes on some maintenance projects and could force the city to hold back on equipment purchases.

Both the mayor and the finance officer say the move is necessary to help shield city residents from an impending tax hike. Sanders estimated the potential tax increase for this year alone at 1.5 percent -- which is to say, an extra $60 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

"These deficits will eventually be borne entirely by the taxpayers if the situation is not addressed," Sanders wrote in a letter to the mayor last week.

Meanwhile, Guinta said he is taking other steps to shore up the city's recreation enterprise fund, which pays for all four public facilities. To begin, he announced he is forming a committee that will recommend whether to raise or lower fees for using the city-owned recreation areas. The mayor has also asked the Human Resources Department to review the areas' administrative costs.

Changes are already in the works at McIntyre Ski Area. For several months, city officials have been looking into the possibility of leasing the public ski spot, a perennial money-loser, to a private operator.

Sanders said the idea is worth pursuing.

"I'm not blindly endorsing it," Sanders said, "but the proposal has some appeal."

Officials in the Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries Department estimate the city has been losing between $800,000 and $1 million a year on the four public facilities that take money from the enterprise fund, a group that includes the JFK Coliseum and West Ice Arena. The facilities are supposed to be self-funded.

Parks officials welcomed the proposed spending freeze but warned their budget is lean as it is. Between a quarter and a third of the fund's expenses, they noted, are tied up in bond payments on capital improvement projects, including $1.7 million in upgrades at JFK Coliseum and a $2.65 million clubhouse at the Derryfield Country Club.

Interim Parks Director Chuck DePrima said those projects were critical in a competitive marketplace.

"This is not like the Verizon Arena, and it's not like the Fisher Cats' ballpark, where they got a whole new facility," DePrima said. "We inherited these old facilities, and it's very difficult to operate them in this economy and to try to improve them to the point where people actually want to come to them."

Guinta said he does not want to reduce the offerings at McIntyre or any of the other recreation areas.

"I just feel with proper direction from the city, it can be very well-managed," he said. "It can be financially successful and remain available to just about everyone in the city."

Guinta said the freeze would be similar to the city-wide freeze the aldermen approved in March. He said he expects the proposal would produce a "5 to 10 percent savings" this year.

This year's recreation enterprise budget is $3.2 million, according to Ed Wojnilowicz, who manages the account. Wojnilowicz said he is predicting a shortfall of roughly $1 million.

Alderman George Smith said he supports the freeze on discretionary spending, although he noted, "It's a bad time for this to happen, with the economy. I'm sure a lot of people won't be playing at the Derryfield."
-
Readers' COMMENTS:

We have 3.1M budget, loosing 1M per year, and 6M in the debt. It’s amazing what city officials turn these types of decisions into. These are recreational facilities that will more than likely continue to operate whether the city owns them or not. One thing is apparent; we need to start looking at these like a business and not a government agency.


Pick ONE -

Create a business council (not a city government council) for the golf course and the ski hill and give them complete operational oversight for one year (they should see every penny coming in and going out). This council will have a clear objective – To develop a proposal on if and how they can make these facilities profitable within 2 years. If they do not believe this is possible or if the plan fails after 2 year then we should sell both the golf course and the ski hill and pay off as much of the debt as we can. Unfortunately this approach could lead to growing the debt by about 2-3M.

OR

Sell both the golf course and the ski hill as soon as possible (auction if need be) and pay off as much of the debt as we can. These are competitive businesses in the state (especially in hard economic times) and if we are going to run them like a government agency we wont have a chance to compete in this market and will continue to fail and go deeper in debt. Its really not that bad of a choice… we can run the Ice rinks for less than 3.1M, free up some money. Someone will continue to run both of these and you might have to pay an extra 5 bucks to ski or golf in Manchester... if you even ski or golf in Manchester!
- Robert, Manchester

This past weekend the Manchester Fire Fighters hosted our 20th Annual Dave Morin Memorial Softball Tournament. We hold the tournament at Wolf Park and the Brown & Mitchell Fields. We spent most of Friday night and early Saturday morning picking up garbage and broken glass, cleaning the stands, raking and lining the fields. The things we couldn’t repair were the numerous broken bleachers, breaks in the fences and standing water everywhere. We welcomed back Fire Fighters from throughout New Hampshire as well as Hartford Connecticut and New York.
It was hard for me to hear so many comments about what a “dump” the park had turned into. But facts are facts. Teams from Boston and Long Island did not return for the first time in years. There was a lot of conversation about how nice the park used to be and how graffiti now lined the City as they drove back to their hotels. As a lifelong resident I couldn’t deny that the best days of the Park and our Tournament were behind us.
Sadly, this is the impression of Manchester that our guests will leave with. While we continue to put spending freezes and tax cap proposals on the table, I continue to see our City, my City, spiral downward.
We need to have pride in our City.
- Bill Clayton, Manchester

Mcintyer Is such a cool place to learn to ski and being a parent my kids love it. but with taxes and every thing going up it is hard to afford any of these places to play. Why do we need 2 ice areans ice Arena's? Why don't we push to boost the reasorces we have, giving deals to residents for season tickets, school programs afterschool skiing, funded by the parents. controlled by the city. 500 a kid a year, 400 for each if more than one kid in a family bussing to. and pick up 4 parents after work @ mcintyer. include ski school and rentals. I got 3 kids that love to ski. 4 or 5 days a week after school, for 2 hours or so would be heaven to them.l don't skate but if we have 2 of them why not consolidate to one place? The Derryfield is a nice place if you golf. Tournaments sound like a good idea and a way to spark spending among people that like golf. And why not do winter goofy golf tournaments with neon balls? Well you may not agree with me. But I have kids and with nothing to do, but to get into trouble due to bordom. well maybe not mine, but kids out there.
- AJ D, Manchester NH

Why not try MARKETING the MCC and Ski area, now there's a NEW idea!

Flyer the schools and charge a smaller membership/fee to make golf/skiing/skating more affordable, to draw a bigger crowd. The Manchester Country Club, McIntyre Ski area and Ice Arena are hidden gems and are the best kept secrets in Manchester- start marketing surrounding towns- similiar to the airports strategy.

And then...hire some employees in the city that actually work--for once!
- Liz, Manchester NH

Uh "No Pat", I don't know if you actually ready the article, but the point of the spending freeze is because these places are such a drag on the city economy and NOT bringing money in to support themselves. The taxpayer is being forced to fund the vast amount of it. So perhaps next time you comment, it would be better to read the article first.
- Fred Lyons, Manchester, NH

Jim from Manchester...you can't get an answer because a tax cap isn't the solution.
- MS, Concord

People keep bringing up the Tax Cap issue as the solution to all our problems... but I've been trying to get an answer to this for weeks now...Someone answer this please... If the tax cap goes into place now--and my home is assessed at $300,000, when my property value drops, (like it will to say $150,000), How will the new tax rate be set; to adjust for the off set if the rate can not be increase more than x% of the rate of inflation?

If the Tax Cap is the solution...why won't anyone give me this answer???
- Jim, Manchester

To pat in manchester

Recreation is one of the few sources that $ comes into the city. He's freezing that. You and Guinta sound like a perfect pair.
- NOT PAT, nanchester

Derryfield - 1. Charge a smaller fee i.e., $125.00 for a residence pass then smaller fees each time out i.e., $18 - $25 instead of $37. More Manchester citizens would join. Raise the rates for non residences. (Check out Stamford CT town courses as an example) 2. Place red 100 markers to speed up play. 3. Put a driving range/beer garden at Mcintyre - a 5 minute drive away...
- Jim Sharron, Richmond VA

This precisely the reason I did NOT vote for Guinta. The Rec facilities are losing money through pure mis-management and management starts at the top. Guinta. What is wrong with thinking outside fo the box for a change. A spending freeze just like the spending cap are the two most lame ideas. It is so obvious, if he cant manage it, he punishes the very people who do use the facilities. Duh?

And I will ask all of you smarties out there to point out specifically the "run away spending"? Five dollars a week to fix the problem is a pretty cheap way out.

If you are going to a stupid thing like the freeze, why just pick on recreation as all of the budgets have discretionary line items in them. Get real!
- Paul, Manchester

The Mayor has just reiterated why I voted for him. He has the taxpayers pocketbook in mind and I for one am grateful. Thank you Mayor Guinta.
- Pat, Manchester

To the Manchester Board of Aldermen:
The financial crisis on Wall Street in New York must be your worst nightmare. The votes on the spending cap by 8 of you were despicable in and of themselves - as well as casting the appearance of collusion by a majority of the board. This 700 billion dollar government bailout may repair Wall Street by next April, but for the rest of us taxpayers we have no choice but to endure its effects 12 months from now - and for some even longer.

If you thought that by pushing the spending cap vote to Nov 2009 it would soften our resolve to the point that it won't pass - well guess again. The Wall Street crisis has now been burned into our minds and will weigh upon us every day for the next year, and longer. You can be assured that Sept 2008 will haunt you in the Nov 2009 election.

The budget process will begin again in the first quarter of 2009. You better become deaf - fast, because your constituents will be yelling at you to reduce the mayor's proposed budget by 10% to 20%. You might want to informally start the budget process now. It's going to be a hard sell. You'll need the extra time - the school budget may very well be your undoing. You had the opportunity to make it a dept of the city and it's coming back to bite you.
- David R, Manchester

Could the city try to get sponsorships of some sort for some of these locations to help absorb some costs? Either at a local business level or at a larger corporate level from some of the companies whose product we use at these locations.
- Jason, Manchester

McIntyre, The skating rink, et all should be contracted out. Let a private company operate them. It is obvious that the city can't do it.
- tom, manchester,nh

I live one mile form the Derryfield Country Club. As a golfer I do like the layout but the course conditions aren't that great, especially after a rain storm. That said, there always is a line to tee off when I want to play. It is one of the busier courses in the area.

I choose to play elsewhere because other courses offer promotions (cheaper) and better conditions. I would like to see Derryfield offer a midweek "city resident discount". As of now the cost to play at Derryfield is $51.00 for 18 holes and a cart. I can play 18 holes with a cart in Pembroke for $28.00...
- JSF, Manch

Why do we have the only golf course and ski area in the state that lose money every year? When are people going to realize that government is incapable of running anything properly. Just think we trust the education of our children and the policing of our streets to a bunch of morons who can't even run a golf course.
- Mike, Manchester NH

I can't afford anothe rtax increase, that is why I signed the spending cap.
- Bob, Manchester

This is another reason why the spending cap should have been before the voters this November. Manchester is lucky to have a mayor Like Frank Giunta who is consistently on the side of the taxpayer instead of the city bureaucracy. First, he lead the fight against the "gang of eight" alderman who have ignored the signatures of 4,000 residents regarding the spending cap. Manchester Taxpayers WAKE UP the city is hemorrhaging your tax dollars. The recreation department is the latest example. None of us taxpayers can spend more than we make and go back to others for more money and continue to run up debts. This is exactly why Manchester needs the spending cap, and city officials need to practice fiscal discipline. If the cost to run these facilities are to high then sell them, or lease them out to private entities. Enough is enough the budgets do not need to get bigger, the city government needs to get smaller. Thank you Mayor Giunta for looking out for the TAXPAYER AGAIN.
- Matt, Manchester, NH

Great idea! Too bad we don't get this type of leadership in Concord!
- Jennifer, Manchester

I can't wait to vote against Mike Lopez.
- Jim, Manchester

I watched the Alderman meeting where Mayor Guinta kept the Alderman there until midnight trying to get a spending cap on the ballot here in Manchester. I was amazed that he could not muster enough votes for that. All these Alderman talk a good game but when the rubber meets the road they are no where to be found. I would like to personally thank Mayor Guinta for putting this proposal forward and working hard to protect the taxpayers of Manchester. I don't always agree with you but on fiscal issues I could think of no one better to lead this City.
- Steve A, Manchester

I only wish my Alderman Besti Devries would show the same leadership on fiscal issues as Mayor Guinta. She voted against the spending cap and for the 17% increased budget in Concord that has left us with a huge deficit. Thank you Mayor Guinta for standing up for the taxpayer.
- Phil, Manchester Ward 8

Mayor Guinta showed leadership on the spending cap while the Gang of Eight did everything they could to skirt the will of the voters. With this effort to restore fiscal responsibility and protect the taxpayers the Mayor has once again proven to me that I made the right decision voting for him this last election.
- Bill A, Manchester

What about intown and what the taxpayers put in there. What about the parking garages we are renting for more than we rent the spaces out for. Where was the over sight for the last few years.
Lets cut out some of that mismanagement. In a down econamy the ice rinks and ski areas will thrive. Look at the buses ridership is up.
Stan Howser
- stan Howser, Manchester, NH

The Quality of the Derryfield golf course is Sub-Par to say the least and now we are Stopping the improvements? This is a great way to have people spend their money at the other hundreds of Golf Courses in the area and take more money away from manchester's Bottom line. Wait I know, Lets return the "Rimmon Heights" Arches on the Westside. 30 Years on the Westside and never heard it called "Rimmon Heights" But those are way more important than our recreation spots. What's Next Mayor? What's Next?
- Jeff, Manchester

If we are going to start cutting, let's start with the over paid fire and police departments. That's great that the number of deputy chiefs is cut down, now how about the rest of the force. For the 4 or 5 crimes a night, does not justify over 220 officers. Some will claim it's the amount of officers that we have on the road that keeps the crime down, the fact is we are a small town in New Hampshire. The majority of the crimes are 45 minutes south from here.
- John, Manchester

richard, get a grip.

i believe those cast iron arches are paid with federal funds. cut guinta's staff? you mean his overwhelming army of 3 which includes his receptionist? his office is the leanest in the city.
- mike conway, manchester

Wow, to maintain and opperate these facilities is going to cost $60 dollars more in taxes a year, or $5 a week. I don't cosider that alot of money for the services we recieve. Let's have someone stand at the entrance of every city park and collect a $1 every time someone uses it. I'm sure the city is spending the same amount of money to maintain them. Let's stop with all these user fees, and set the tax rate at what it costs to operate city services.
The next great idea the mayor will come up with is let's just have those with kids in school pay for the school side of the tax bill.
- Scott, Manchester

Look out If the Mayor is calling for a recreation freeze the next thing we can expect is higher fines for overtime parking fees and less free hours. Why not call for a moratorium on those ridiculous cast iron arches across city streets and reduce the amount of travel in city automobiles (non-police) and cut cell phone use in half. And maybe a cut in his staff a little to set an example I could name a few hangers on that should go.
- Richard L. Fortin, Manchester

When this years budget was being worked on a suggestion was made that there should be an oversight committee set up for these city run recreation areas. It was also suggested that maybe there should be some local citizens appointed to this committee. I called my alderman and told him that I would be more then happy to serve on this commitee. Afte a couple of weeks of not hearing back from my alderman, I called him again and was told that Mike Lopez decided that no citizens would be appointed. I then called Mr. Lopez and was told that the alderman would take care of this issue. That if more then 3 or 4 people were on this committee then there would have to be some sort of oversight from city hall. Meetings would have to be scheduled with the city clerk present, minutes being taken, etc etc etc. I was told by Mr. Lopez that it would be taken care of. Now the mayor wants a spending freeze. Will I guess it was taken care of. It seems that it was just put on one of the back burners at city hall and forgotten about.
- Dave, Manchester

Leasing out the McIntyre Ski Area is a good choice and one this reader thinks will help attract business to it. As for the Derryfield Club, why not open membership to those outside of Manchester if it doesn't already? Auburn, Candia, Bedford, Goffestown, and Hooksett members I'm sure would like to come to the area and while they are here, might shop in some of the retail markets in Manchester as well. Another idea is to host tournaments on a state level, surely there must be golfers in other cities/towns who would love to compete for prizes and such? Lastly, ask the citizens for some ideas about the four city owned areas and what they might suggest? It's worth looking into.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

With the economy the way it is, I couldn't agree more with Mayor Guinta. We have to cut unnecessary spending and get creative with finding alternative means of funding some of these extremely expensive recreational facilities.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, New Hampshire

As a parent with kids involved in sports, I understand the necessity of these city recreational facilities, but I also cannot afford to pay higher and higher taxes for a ski area or these other sites regardless of how nice it is to have them. I applaud the mayor for taking a stance and trying to find out another direction. We need them in the city, but it certainly is time to find a more cost effective way or keeping them here.
- Debra Provencher, Manchester, New Hampshire

Absolutely a good call by Guinta. Something needed to be done to stop the bleeding and come up with a solution that will keep these programs running, while not burdening the taxpayer.
- Casey Johnes, Manchvegas

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"Commuter bus firm to keep schedule"
By GARRY RAYNO, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008

MANCHESTER – A commuter survey seeking preferred travel times may have alarmed some Manchester residents who take the bus daily from downtown to Boston.

A Boston Express draft schedule was distributed with the survey showing only four round trips a day out of downtown Manchester, instead of the six that the company agreed to provide after discussions with city and state officials.

Boston Express co-owner Jim Jalbert said the draft schedule does not include "commuter trips," that will be added depending on survey results. Two additional trips not shown on the draft schedule will be added from downtown Manchester, he said, based on customers' preferences.

"The schedule we presented to (Manchester mayor Frank Guinta) is the one we're going to operate. It may change a few minutes here or there, but whatever we gave to the mayor is what we will do," Jalbert said.

Boston Express -- a joint venture of Concord Coach and C & J Trailways -- is taking over southern New Hampshire bus service from Concord Coach, which now provides 10 round trips to Boston daily during the week and nine on weekends.

City officials and commuters cried foul in June when they learned Concord Coach would leave the city's downtown terminal when its lease expires in November, and would turn over its bus routes in southern New Hampshire to Boston Express.

At the time, many believed bus service would be reduced to only three round trips a day. After discussions with the bus company owners and city and state officials, an agreement was announced for six round trips a day from downtown on week days and five on weekends.

Yesterday Manchester commuters saw the draft schedule distributed with the "Londonderry Commuter Survey" and a couple called Guinta's office seeking an explanation.

Guinta aide Mark Laliberte said the mayor's office was quite concerned when it first learned about the schedule and called the bus company. "We were glad to hear it was not what we thought it was," he said.

Nancy Scola, a legal secretary who rides the bus to Boston every day, said she is not concerned as long as the original schedule is honored. "My only concern was, and still is, the last 'commuter' bus leaving from Boston to Manchester is at 6 p.m.," she said.

The Boston Express survey explains the schedule does not include "commuter trips: we are waiting for your input before we add them. Please take the time to complete this short survey; we will use your input to help us tailor the commuter trips to your needs."

The survey asks what is the most convenient location -- exit 5, 4 or 2 -- and what are the best commute times. Also asked is how many days a week the person rides the bus.

"We are working with our existing client base to develop a schedule that works for the most number of commuters," Jalbert said. "We may not please everyone, but we're going to try like hell to do that."

Jalbert expects the schedule to be finalized within the next couple of weeks and noted the number of trips available, once the new bus facilities open along I-93, will be about double what is currently offered.

The new Exit 5 facility includes a park and ride, a bus terminal and a bus maintenance and storage facility. The state Department of Transportation hopes to have the facility operating by late November.

Boston Express has a contract with the state to provide bus service and "alternative transportation" required under state and federal permits for widening I-93 from Salem to Manchester.

The construction project is expected to cost more than $600 million and to be completed by 2014.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

I agree, this is ridiculous. How can they expect the Manchester commuters to trust their word when they say they'll produce a commuter schedule pending the results of a survey that was NOT handed out in Manchester?
- Evan, Manchester

It's really hard to take Mr. Jalbert seriously. The survey was only handed out at Exit 4. At no time has Concord Coach showed the slightest interest in Manchester. Only after the media brought it to the public's attention did Jalbert come up with a schedule - which will not work for a large number of people. He can the turn around and say "see, told you we didn't need buses in Manchester!" Why they are changing the morning schedule and providing a useless evening schedule is beyond anyone's comprehension. Lately the buses between Manchester & Boston have been packed. We need the current service and MORE! Mayor Guinta, get with the program here! The DOT is obviously in Concord Coach's pocket - they have done nothing to help!
- SamIAm, Manchester NH

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"City Hall: More of the same -- higher taxes and dangling sneakers"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Sunday, October 12, 2008

YOUR TAXES are going up. That much is certain.

What's more, it's starting to look as though the tab will be larger than you thought it would be.

City finance officer Bill Sanders has examined the books, and he says there's a good chance this year's tax increase will be higher than the 3.7 percent the aldermen projected when they inked a new budget in June. That's because revenues have fallen short of the board's expectations.

"There likely will be a shortfall," Sanders said.

Sanders wouldn't say how large he expects that shortfall to be. But there's reason to think it could be upwards of $1 million.

If that's the case, the tax rate would, at a minimum, jump another 10 cents per $1,000 of valuation. Put another way, the owner of a home worth $250,000 would have to shell out an extra $25.

Some of this, according to Sanders, has to do with the Wall Street meltdown. In an unfortunate twist, he said, the city suffered when the Federal Reserve reduced lending rates for banks last week, a move that was supposed to jump-start the financial markets. Sanders estimated Manchester's loss this year at $300,000.

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to sour, fewer people are buying cars. For the city, that means less money from auto registrations.

The trend is already apparent in Joan Porter's office. In the past three months, the tax collector says, revenues from auto registrations are down $156,000 from a year ago.

That wouldn't be so bad, except city budget writers were betting the market for cars would rebound this year.

"I don't know that anybody predicted the market would be this bad," Porter said.

There's one other problem, as Sanders sees it, and that's the new medical complex on the former Jac Pac site. The budget, as written by Alderman Ted Gatsas and Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, assumes the city will receive $1 million this year in building permits for that project. But that assumption may well have been optimistic.

"That's the biggest question mark," Sanders said.

All of this should be cleared up soon enough. The state Department of Revenue Administration typically sets the tax rate in early November.

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THINKING CAPS: City officials who hope to keep the Canal Street bus station open after Nov. 30 are going to have to do some brainstorming.

In the long term, officials are praying an entrepreneur will step forward who wants to open a coffee shop or convenience store in the 23-year-old, city-owned station. But that, according to Economic Development director Jay Minkarah, is going to take a while.

In the meantime, he said, someone is going to have to pay to keep the place open.

"It's absolutely going to cost some money," Minkarah said. He added, "We're in the process of IDing what the cost is going to be, and who would provide that service."

Discussions are set to take place this week. City planner Sam Maranto said there may be hope of netting some federal dollars for the cause.

Of course, there's still the little problem of finding a company that wants to set up shop in the bus station. Interested parties had nearly a month to get their bids in by last Friday. As of Thursday afternoon, Minkarah said, the city had yet to receive a single bid.

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ECO-FRIENDLY: Now that Corcoran Environmental Services has settled on a site for its new recycling center, local officials say they expect the city's recycling rate will soar, and quick.

Interestingly, a new report by the state Department of Environmental Services shows Manchester already does a better job of recycling its waste than most other communities in New Hampshire.

The report placed the Queen City's recycling rate -- that is, the percentage of waste that gets recycled, instead of junked -- at 24.2 percent. The state average is 20.4 percent.

Nashua, by the way, had a rate of 8.7 percent. Concord was even worse, at 3.8 percent.

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OLD SHOE: Alderman Russ Ouellette says he's sick and tired of seeing old, dirty sneakers dangling from the city's phone lines.

"I find it to be very offensive," Ouellette said during last week's board meeting. "And that's a big problem in my ward . . . It's just a total nuisance."

No one knows for sure why the sneakers are there. Nicole Rodler, the city's Weed & Seed coordinator, says the sneakers may be a gang sign, a way of marking territory. Or possibly, the cause could be something else entirely -- say, young troublemakers with nothing better to do.

"Ironically," she said, "I don't live in Manchester, and I go past a pair of sneakers every night when I go home."

Rodler said the folks at FairPoint Communications are aware of the problem and have been doing a good job of plucking the offending footwear off the lines.

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WHO YA GONNA CALL?: Members of the mayor's anti-graffiti task force are trying to make it easier for residents to file complaints with the city, even if those complaints have nothing to do with graffiti.

The task force says it wants to send every household in the city a mailer with instructions to help them avoid red tape.

Rodler, who is a member of the committee, said the cost of printing and mailing 30,000 pamphlets is $3,200. The request has been sent to the aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement.

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LOOKIN' GOOD: Former planning director Bob MacKenzie returned to City Hall last week. He was sitting in the second row when the aldermen accepted his nomination as an alternate on the Planning Board.

"It looks like not being in city government has been good to him," Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil said. "He looks relaxed."

"He looks a lot younger," Mayor Frank Guinta added.

Yes, there is life outside of City Hall. And it's not so bad, after all.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

OLD SHOE: Alderman Russ Ouellette says he's sick and tired of seeing old, dirty sneakers dangling from the city's phone lines.

**And for every pair of sneakers lurks someone with a baseball bat - and residents are sick and tired of wondering when they might be next.

Perhaps the beatings would be a more well addressed issue in the city.
- Donna Raymond, Largo, FL

Lets remember who developed this horrible budget: Gatsas and Lopez. The mayor was opposed to parts of this budget because of such things as their over expectations of money from the Jac-Pac site. If anyone deserves to be thrown out of office, it is these two clowns that made a budget that they knew would not hold because the figures were unrealistic.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, New Hampshire

The same Gang of 8 will be voting to send Carol Shea-Porter back to Congress so that she cansit and wring her hands and do absolutely nothing for another two years.
- Richard L. Fortin, Manchester

Wow, the lamest of the lame emerges from city hall...Taxes up, A City Planner who wants fed dollars so the city can continue to live beyond its means, Another retired city employee appointed to the planning board as an alternate, the Graffiti task force has evolved into a beauracracy and finally, Russ Oullette with his belly-aching over sneakers on wires. Time for a politcal enema at city hall...When this is what the results and priorities look like, its time to seek change...An excellent start would be to unseat the gang of 8...the emissaries of those special interests we all know as the Unions. What a total joke. Ther has not been one budget cycle in the last 10 years where these clowns have not hit us with a tax increase, good economy or not. Now, with things spiraling downward economically, we see another ambitious tax increase on the horizon...No big surprise there...Any discussion about how we as a city can curb, trim or cut out? NOPE!!! only, "how are we going to find other sources of revenue?" code for, "how can we continue to screw the Manchester Taxpayer?"

Andit just keeps getting faster and funnier...That bus station is about the lousiest city location existing, only to be made more lousy by the Granite Street work. There is only one point of entry and exit: Canal Street. and once a vehicle entered getting to the few parking spaces is a nightmare. People are driving in all directions. A vehicle cannot pick up and drop off a traveller in front, because 80% of the time the taxis are blocking it off, having hijacked the whole jug handle as their taxi stand. If a commuter enters, they curse and give people the finger. A vehicle cannot drive around the rear of the station to exit onto Granite Street, as the busses diagonally block the lane in the name of "safety" for their passengers. If a person picks up somebody coming in from Boston or Concord, they are resigned to traversing the congested downtown, clogged with cars looking for parking at the Verizon...or held up by pedestrians going to the verizon who step off the curb, not bothering to look for traffic. Horns and fingers are pretty much the norm. Now, the aldermen want to find a use for the bus station and they wonder why no bids have been received? But never fear...this gang of 8 will come up with some innovative "James Michael Curleyish" scheme for that too.

I would think any person on the city dole would be better informed. Or possibly? could Nicole Rodler be pushing an agenda? There are countless sources on the internet that address sneaker tossing and the one constant in the sources indicates there is no strong evidence that it is exclusively a sign of Gang activity. More money! Ther has to be something in the water at city hall.
- Rick Olson, Manchester

Another piece of wonderful news from City Hall. So in the tough economic times, households have to cut budgets to stay in their homes and support their familes. But City Hall only has to raise taxes to make up for the short fall. I can't wait to see this clan thrown out of office. All of them.
- Mark L, Manchester

Must be a mistake, NH only has a property tax which is a tax that hurts the middle class the most, but I've been told if we have a fairer tax we would see tax increases, somehow there was a typo as I was told we will cut spending and our property taxes would not go up. Must be a Manchester issue only, I'm sure all the other towns will get the annual tax decrease that the middle class property tax proponents have promised would happen if we just avoid a fairier tax.

In other words, any argument that suggests there will be higher taxes if there was an income tax is the dumbest argument in the world. What the taxes collected is going to be has no bearing on how there collected. If you are going to "control spending" with a property tax you'll have jsut as much success with and income tax, but now, with home prices plummeting, middle class familied hurting to pay heating bills and mortgages, not surprisingly, tax revenues are down and thus a tax increase is needed, it would be nice to focus the tax increase on the people that can afford it instead of a 5% tax increase that will cause many families to ask for public assistance and thus increase government cost even more. There is a reason why almost every other state doesn;t rely on this tax system, it's NOT because we are so much smarter than them, more stubborn, but not smarter.
- Kevin, Derry, NH

"Shoe flinging" has numerous explanations:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe_tossing
- Marge Hallyburton, Lyndeborough

The problems on Wall Street are making things financially painful for everyone. We're all having to watch our dollars very carefully whether that is at the gas pump, when turning the heat on, in the grocery store, or when planning the families activities. The City of Manchester isn't immune to this either. The city needs to learn to live with only what it has - not with speculated future earnings and not with revenues that just don't exist. The answer cannot always be to just pass the burden on to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are paying their share in their own homes because of the current economy - now the city's answer is to just add to their already strapped budgets.

Here's a concept - let's cap spending at the city level and spare the taxpayers a little. Oh that's right, we're trying to do that already.

You, the voters and taxpayers in Manchester, could be voting in this next election in November on whether or not you wanted the city to tighten their belts when times are tough or whether you want them top continue to grow spending and pass those added costs on to you....year after year after year.

Instead, 8 aldermen - Betsi Devries, Mike Lopez, George Smith, Dan O'neil, Mark Roy, Bill Shea, Russ Ouellette, and Jim Roy - took that opportunity away from you and will make you wait yet another year. Another year, which means another budget that won't be limited under the spending cap, and another year when rather than requiring the city to make the same hard choices you and I have to in our homes they can instead just pass that added spending on to you and me - the taxpayers of Manchester.

Some will say it's not a big deal to have to wait another year. I disagree. Already, if we were voting in November like everyone expected to, it wouldn't have taken effect until the 2010 budget. For far too many people that is just too long to wait.

The gang of eight didn't think you were smart enough to decide now how your money is spent - because remember it's not "the city's" money", it's OUR money....our tax dollars.

Shame on them. Next November can't come soon enough for this taxpayer.
- Tammy Simmons, West Manchester

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Wall Street Tower apartments.
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"City hopes to save stake in tower"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
October 18, 2008

MANCHESTER – City officials are ironing out a deal to help the owners of downtown's Wall Street Tower pay off their debts on the 17-story apartment building.

Manchester Economic Development Director Jay Minkarah said a refinancing package would allow the city to recover its investment in the Canal Street building. Officials expect the package also would require the owners to make repairs and enhancements to Wall Street Tower.

"It's important to retain the value of the building," Minkarah said.

The refinancing plan is set to go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen next week. An agreement was approved last Friday by the Manchester Development Corp., a city-affiliated non-profit that promotes economic development.

"My guess is that they are trying, in this very tenuous market, to find a way to make the building go forward on a competitive basis," said Elias "Skip" Ashooh, a former MDC chairman who sat in on the group's meeting last Friday.

The Canal Street tower -- worth $15.4 million, according to city assessment records -- was built in 1985 with help from a federal grant, Minkarah said. The city supplied some of the land on which the building stands.

The building is owned by a group called Wall Street Tower LTD and is managed by Interstate Realty Management Co., a New Jersey firm. An executive at the management company was out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment.

The city was one of several lenders who were part of a 1990 refinancing of the Wall Street Tower project, Minkarah said. Since then, he said, the building owners have been paying interest on a small portion of their debt to the city.

But, Minkarah said, the owners ran into trouble earlier this year, when the city declined to renew its long-standing lease for 400 spaces in the Wall Street Tower garage. That, according to Minkarah, created a "cash flow problem" for Wall Street Tower LTD.

"They approached us and said, 'Look, we lost all this revenue. We have a significant debt burden on this property. We'd like to refinance,'" Minkarah said.

City Parking Manager Brandy Stanley estimated the leased parking spaces were worth about $500,000 a year to Wall Street Tower LTD.

She said she asked the aldermen to renegotiate the lease earlier this year, "but the aldermen, basically, just voted to pull out of the whole thing."

Stanley said the property manager made it clear "it was going to be very difficult for them to remain in the black."

Mayor Frank Guinta said he suspects the owners need to refinance "because they're upside down on the loans."

Guinta had not taken a position on the package, saying he had not yet reviewed it.

However, he said, "In this market, it's worthy of our consideration to move up, get more money now, and just get out of the deal."

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Wall Street deal
The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen is being asked to upgrade and refinance Wall Street Tower, built in 1985, and owned by Wall Street Tower Limited Partnership.

What is owed the city? Projections for debt on Dec. 31, 2008 are, Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, $8.75 million in principal, $1.1 million in interest; Manchester Development Corporation, second mortgage, $2.95 million in principal, $13 million in interest; and MDC, fifth mortgage, $3.22 million in principal, $6.6 million in interest. Total debt is $51.8 million.
Why is so much owed on a 23-year-old building? Refinancing and failure to pay off the principal by owners has resulted in growth in interest payments.
What is the agreement? The owners hope to raise about $10.3 million to refinance the debt and improve cash flow through Wells Fargo and Freddie Mac by Dec. 31, 2008 or with an extension to March 2, 2009. In exchange for the city and the MDC releasing easements and claims on the property, the second mortgage's principal -- $2.95 million -- will be paid in full. Also the owners agree to $4.5 million in renovations and upgrades.
What is the effect on city taxpayers? Difficult to determine because federal grants and programs were used to guarantee bonds to pay for construction, although some city money was involved in refinancing the project in 1990. The city would forgive the interest owed on the loans.
-- Garry Rayno
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Readers' COMMENTS

How does the city not renewing it's lease on the parking garage take away money from them? Are they not capable of running it and having people park there or is this just another lame attempt by a company to extort money from the city and therefore you and me the tax payers?
- Jay, Manchester

Total BS .. Since I am a city taxpayer and Wall Street Tower LTD owes the city money, it owes me money.. I say foreclose. Take the building. Hand it over to a broker, and let the market handle the outcome. Why should the city of Manchester forgive the interest owed? Does the city forgive me if I'm late with my taxes? What about all the residents who have lost their homes this past year, anyone forgive their interest owed? I want to know, who are the people who own the building? "Wall Street Tower LTD" .. I smell a big huge connected RAT. Give us the names..
One last thought; if the UL looks at the history of this building, it will find that it is a remnant of the last real estate meltdown, the meltdown that caused 5 banks in Manchester to go out of business, does anyone in this city learn anything from the past.
- Thom, Manchester, NH

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"Elliot project begins with a bang"
By BENJAMIN KEPPLE, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MANCHESTER – The old Jac Pac Foods plant on Hancock Street was consigned to history yesterday as one of its buildings was imploded during a groundbreaking ceremony for The Elliot at River's Edge project.

The spectacle drew hundreds of people to the site of the old meat-packing plant near the Merrimack River. Along with the implosion, which tore a corner out of one old building on the site, a massive excavator also went to work, tearing down part of an adjoining building as if it was made of straw. As this went on, upbeat disco music played over a sound system.

Among the crowd, there was nothing but enthusiasm for the $100 million complex that will eventually rise in place of the meat-packing plant.

"I think it's exciting that a new hospital is coming in here," said Manchester resident Pat Carter, who said two brothers and her brother-in-law worked at the old Jac Pac plant. "I can't wait to see it happen. It's going to bring jobs for people who need jobs. Right now, it's just sitting."

"I think it's a great idea. This thing looks like garbage," said Jim Beard, a Manchester resident. "That'll keep a lot of people working for a while. It's going to require a lot of resources."

Yesterday's event marked a big turning point in the history of the site, which was once the home of Granite State Packing Co., later Jac Pac Foods.

Tyson came to own the plant after a series of changes in ownership. In 1998, Jac Pac merged with Houston-based Corporate Brand Foods America. Meat processor IBP Inc. bought CBFA in 2000, while the next year, Tyson Foods Inc. bought IBP. In early 2004, Tyson shut down the plant, which put about 550 people out of work.

According to developer Dick Anagnost, the remainder of the old Jac Pac complex will be torn down over the next three months. Workers must still remove asbestos and other materials from some of the buildings. The old office building, the one-story brick structure closest to Hancock Street, will remain as an office for use during construction, Anagnost said.

At least 500 workers will have a hand in building The Elliot at River's Edge, while an estimated 250 people will be employed at the complex once it opens.

Plans call for The Elliot at River's Edge to be finished in 2010. The centerpiece of the project will be an urgent care operation, which will provide care for people with unplanned medical issues, but not traumas or life-threatening health problems.

"We think it's lower cost, we think it's higher quality and we think when people have an opportunity to utilize it, they will find it far superior to an emergency room," said Doug Dean, Elliot Health System's chief executive.

The Elliot at River's Edge will also offer outpatient surgery, imaging services such as X-rays and CAT scans, and outpatient cardiac care. Additionally, the complex will have a medical office building, an apartment building, and a retail store.

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Readers' COMMENTS:

Yes, Like Elliot in Londonderry, Won't that be grand. How may people are aware that if you visit a Dr at Elliot lin Londonderry you will not be covered for your visit? Can we welcome a new Elliot outlet that will not be covered by insurance in Manchester. Think of the cost it will be before you go and know your insurance will not cover it. BEWARE
- Ann, Pembroke

Gee E.B. Hooksett... Tell me why I can see CMC from the Jac Pac site and I can't see Elliot from Center City in Manchester. Then again now we can't the the Community Health from cneter city either. This is only about competition and the City's lucky solution to Jac Pac. No one has said how non profit Elliot will contribute to the tax base. Get with it guys.
- Dave, Nashua

Seems that this is a risky proposition given the economy. Elliot already has a project still not at capacity in Londonderry. A lot of growth - someone will have to pay for the projects at the end of the day. Hopefully the communities won't suffer.
- Susan, Londonderry

Dave, it figures that someone from Nashua is going to leave the only negative comment about this article, are you a bit jealous that Manchester is capable of doing these projects while our Nashua is not doing so well? stay home my friend, or better yet, take a stroll along Nashua's waterfront and ponder what our backwards town can do with it.
- Joseph, Nashua

Gee Dave from Nashua, the Elliot is placing River’s Edge in an area that the Department of Human Resources has declared ‘short of health care services’; a census tract that has a population that is below household and below per capita earnings; in an area identified as needing community revitalization. They are building this facility at a time in which there is a clear trend nationally in which non-profit health systems are closing down urban located facilities and relocating them to affluent locations.

So you worry about risk and money making. It appears to me that Elliot is committed to providing quality healthcare, not because of profit potential, but because of an identified community need.
- E.B., Hooksett

I think it's going to be a wonderful project & addition to Manchester. I love the fact that the construction will be for NH residents only.......BUT......will the little guys get in on the action or will be Thibeault's and Audley's of the State getting the jobs????
- Susan, Hooksett

With hospitals all over the country halting projects due to the economy I wonder how much risk Elliot is taking on and who is making the money from this project? It begs the question.
- Dave, Nashua

That's great with our current credit markets that this project is moving forward. It will be nice to see some progress over the next few months.
- Joshua, Manchester

What a wonderful use of space in Manchester. I'm so glad to see a vacant run down building being reborn.
And think of all the new jobs this will create! All you unemployed people start filling out job applications now!
- Ben Stern, Manchester

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Click on the video for images from the implosion by the New Hampshire Union Leader's Bob LaPree: www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Elliot+project+begins+with+a+bang&articleId=d6688fe3-b940-4353-9dbc-752a2592b552
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"City bus riders may be left out in the cold"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

MANCHESTER – Bus riders who use the downtown bus station after Nov. 17 will have to wait in the cold unless the city can figure out a way to keep the station open, city officials said yesterday.

Economic Development Director Jay Minkarah and other officials warned it may be necessary to shut the doors to the Canal Street station, forcing ticket holders to stand outside as they wait for a Boston-bound bus.

The station could remain closed until city officials are able to find a company that will pay to lease the building. Mayor Frank Guinta said he expects a deal will be struck within a few months.

Aldermen were under the gun to make a decision last night after learning there will be no bus tickets sold at the station when Concord Coach discontinues its service to downtown Manchester on Nov. 17. The company will instead sell tickets at Exit 5 on Interstate 93 in Londonderry, officials said.

By a vote of 9 to 5, board members authorized Mayor Frank Guinta and city staff to set a course for the station's future. The board instructed the mayor to consider two options:

"--Pay the Manchester Transit Authority to staff the center. The MTA estimates this would cost about $10,000 a month.

--Keep the building open as a "comfort station," without staffing.

Alderman Ted Gatsas, who proposed the successful motion, said he would like to find a "temp" service that could maintain the building on the city's behalf.

"Maybe we can find a less expensive way to do it," he said.

Aldermen at first voted, 10-4, to close the station's doors. Gatsas convinced the board to reconsider that vote.

Several board members said they fear the station's closure could be the nail in the coffin for bus service between Boston and downtown Manchester. Some said they worry the new bus company, Boston Express, would stop making trips to downtown Manchester if ridership drops.

That's exactly what Alderman Betsi DeVries said would happen if ticket holders can't go inside the station, particularly during the cold winter months.

"It sounds like a very raw deal for Manchester," she said.

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"City Hall: Wanna drive to the polls in a classic Chrysler?"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 11/2/2008

The latest edition of Time magazine calls America's voting system "a worrisome mess" plagued by "bewildered volunteers, harried public officials, partisan distortions, misdesigned forms, malfunctioning machines and polling-place confusion."

It certainly can seem that way. But city election officials want the residents of Manchester to rest assured.

Their votes will be counted.

"This system has turned into a pretty much foolproof thing," said Jeff Michelsen, Ward 5 moderator.

Michelsen knows this as well as anyone. Early this year, he drew flak from a loose group of bloggers and conspiracy theorists after a hiccup in his ward led to some inflated vote counts for Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, and other candidates in the Democratic Primary.

The hiccup, both he and other elections officials say, was the result of "human error." Basically, a volunteer made the mistake of confusing two types of ballots: those that included write-in votes, and those that needed to be hand-counted because the machine rejected them.

This prompted one blogger to declare, "Huge New Diebold Disparities Found in Manchester, Ward 5." There also was a posting on the Web site for the documentary "Hacking Democracy," which mentioned the ward while describing "unexplained machine miscounts" in Hillsborough County.

Louise Gosselin, who works in the City Clerk's Office, says it was much more innocent than all that.

"It really was a human error. It was nothing that was done intentionally," she said.

Both Gosselin and Michelsen credit then-City Clerk Carol Johnson with catching the mistake. Both, too, say it won't happen again.

The City Clerk's Office was slated to hold two mandatory training sessions for election workers last week. Gosselin said the staff would be sure to go over the error that led to the Ward 5 mixup.

Michelsen said the incident proved how "slick" the system really is.

"If something's not right, even if it's just a few votes, it's apparent right away," he said.

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RUNNING OUT OF TIME: City officials still don't know what they're going to do with the Canal Street bus station once Concord Coach stops staffing the building Nov. 17. But Economic Development Director Jay Minkarah says he's "pretty confident" the city will find some way to keep the station open.

"What we're actively looking at now are alternatives to staff the facility on a temporary basis, using temporary help," he said.

"But obviously," he added, "there's going to be a cost attached to that."

The city could have some cold, sad bus riders on its hands if it can't figure this one out, and fast. Unless the building is staffed, it's likely passengers will have to wait outside. That won't be pleasant when it's 5 below and snowing.

Officials with the Manchester Transit Authority have estimated it'll cost $10,000 a month to staff the building. Minkarah and other officials are hoping to do it for less.

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LA CUCARACHA: The school district has brought in a pest-control company to bait cockroaches at Beech Street elementary.

Principal Elinor Murphy insists the school doesn't have a cockroach problem. But, she said, she thought it was important to be proactive.

"We know a number of apartments and buildings throughout the whole city have an issue," she said.

The concern -- and this, we should warn you, is kind of gross -- is that some children might have bugs in their backpacks.

"And on a few occasions, that did happen," Murphy said.

The cost of the Beech Street School extermination program is $50 a month. Barbara Connor, the city's building maintenance superintendent, said the exterminators at Southern New Hampshire Pest Control are visiting the elementary school monthly.

Other schools, she said, get treated "a couple times a year," or as needed.

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HUNKS OF JUNK: Call it a hunch, but we're guessing you've probably never thought to yourself, "You know, my car is pretty good, but I really wish I had a 1980 Chrysler LeBaron."

And that's too bad, because now's a great time to snag the beat-up maroon station wagon of your dreams.

The folks at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport are holding an auction Nov. 13 to unload the many cars, trucks and motorcycles that have been abandoned in the airport parking lots.

Some of the vehicles have been there for years, according to Tom Malafronte, assistant director of air service development and marketing. Many of them are completely inoperable.

"To me, it's all salvage and needs to go," Malafronte said.

The airport is putting 38 vehicles on the auction block. No warranties will be offered. Proceeds will offset the airport's towing and storage expenses.

Not that Malafronte is expecting much in the way of proceeds. Mostly, he just wants to get these lemons off the impound lot.

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BREW MASTER: Mayor Frank Guinta will be a guest bartender at Jillian's bar and restaurant this coming Friday. The restaurant is celebrating its 10th anniversary all this week.

Guinta is no stranger to the bar scene.

Back in the mid-1990s, he did a stint as a bouncer at a bar in South Boston.

He admits he doesn't have any experience mixing drinks. But that shouldn't matter come Friday night.

"I think they're going to have me on the beer taps," he said.
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E-mail Scott Brooks at sbrooks@unionleader com.
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"Focus on Manchester: High hopes for Job Corps center: Long-awaited Manchester facility expected to open in 2010"
By Jack Kenny, NH Business Review, nhbr.com, Article published: November 7, 2008

In 2003, a coalition of New Hampshire citizens formed a task force to pursue a federal Job Corps program for the Granite State. Such an effort seemed due — if not overdue — by the mere fact that New Hampshire and Wyoming were the only states without a Job Corps program and other, mostly larger, states each had several.

Judd Gregg, New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator, played the leading role in passing legislation stipulating that New Hampshire and Wyoming would be given priority when planning new Job Corps locations. That narrowed down the competition considerably, but Manchester developer Dick Anagnost was thinking globally and not just eyeing Wyoming as a potential rival.

“If we don’t get going on this soon,” he warned, “Iraq may have a Job Corps program before New Hampshire does.”

But in 2007, New Hampshire was awarded a Job Corps program, and work continues on the planning and eventual building of a $30 million to $35 million campus on a 20-acre site off Dunbarton Road in northwest Manchester. The land is being leased from the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority at $1 a year for 99 years.

With such a facility, it’s obvious that the new program is going to be more than just glorified on-the-job training.

“It’s a residential program,” said Anagnost, chairman of the task force. That’s what U.S. taxpayers are getting for the millions that will be spent for a campus and several buildings that will resemble a university, or at least a small college. There will be some day students from southern and south central New Hampshire, but since the Job Corps center will service a statewide area, housing students from as far away as Berlin and Keene is a necessity. The task force hopes one day to have a satellite program for New Hampshire’s North Country, but that is getting ahead of the story.Targeted industries
The program is aimed at serving economically disadvantaged youths between 16 and 24.

Relying on national statistics, Mike Power, executive director of the Workforce Opportunity Council in Concord, describes the kind of trainees that are anticipated at the Manchester site.

“About three-quarters of Job Corps students are high school dropouts who have never had a full-time job,” said Power. For them, completing high school or finishing a GED program will be a starting point. There will also be training in a number of career fields with tie-ins or links to the state’s community college system and to many New Hampshire businesses. The Job Corps planners have targeted three main areas of career training. One of those fields is homeland security.

The state has a port in Portsmouth, a nuclear plant and a border with another country. It has a strong and growing mid-sized airport and is in close proximity to other New England airports, especially Logan International in Boston, all with constant and growing demand for professionally trained Transportation Security Agency personnel.

There also is a regional Federal Aviation Administration control center in Nashua. And there are a number of high-tech companies and defense manufacturers in southern New Hampshire that are potential targets for espionage or terrorists attacks. Training for careers in law enforcement and national security work, as well as in advanced manufacturing, will be needed in New Hampshire, Power said.

Another area is health care, a growing need in a state with an aging population. Hospitals in particular and the health-care industry in general are expected to grow to meet demands created by that graying population, along with child health services and shortages in nursing and other health-care professions.

Finally, with tourism still accounting for a major portion of New Hampshire’s income, career training in the hospitality industries will be essential to meet the need for workers and entrepreneurs to serve the increasingly diverse international traffic in tourism. Typically, jobs in tourism are difficult to fill, and more workers and future managers will be vital to keep that part of the New Hampshire and New England economy strong.Ready in 2010
Anagnost, who knows more than a few things about construction projects, said architectural plans for the complex are 30 percent complete and will be 50 percent complete by the end of the year. The plans should be ready in February of next year, he said, with groundbreaking taking place sometime in the summer of 2009. The Job Corps academy should be open for learning by the end of 2010.

Initially, about 300 students are expected, with 100 of them to graduate within a year. Within a couple of years, the Job Corps center in New Hampshire may be graduating 500 students, Power said.

But with space available in old mill buildings and other structures around Manchester and elsewhere in southern New Hampshire, why spend $30 million or $35 million on new buildings on a remote campus?

According to Power, to serve youths statewide, the Job Corps must be able to house them. And the classroom and career training will be intensive, requiring an environment removed from the distractions and temptations of urban life.

Many of the youths have had run-ins with the law and have or have had drug or alcohol problems or been hanging around with kids who do. In the Job Corps, they will be removed from that environment.

“We want to put them in a constructive environment where they can succeed,” Anagnost said.

Indeed, it will be almost like joining the Army. The students will arise at about 6:30 each day and make their beds and tidy up their rooms, shower, shine their shoes and don their uniforms and go to breakfast. Then they will go through a full day of classes and/or career training before evening meals and retiring to do their homework or other studies.

Some of the day students may have part-time jobs, but the residents will have their food, clothing and shelter needs met and will be paid a stipend to help meet other expenses. Their world will be basically self-contained on the Manchester campus.

The average stay per student will be somewhere between eight and 11 months, Power said, enabling the academy, which will be open year-round, to graduate hundreds of well-trained young people a year.Plenty of support
A number of New Hampshire corporations have indicated a willingness to commit to employing a certain number of students upon graduation each year. In addition, a wide variety of New Hampshire companies and nonprofit organizations have already pledged donations of materials, services and in-kind contributions, such as internships and job-shadowing opportunities, worth more than $6.5 million in “links.”

“There’s no other Job Corps academy anywhere in the country that has this kind of commitment and support,” said Patrick van Rooyen of Manchester, project director for the New Hampshire Job Corps Center. In addition to the three main curriculum goals that Power and Anagnost outlined, van Rooyen described a military careers preparedness program.

“It’s a little bit like a junior ROTC program, but it’s much more focused on physical fitness and adventure programs,” said van Rooyen, who was director of the Job Corps program in Grafton, Mass., for several years. “The program grew so rapidly that in 2004, for instance, we had in the career academy put more people into the military than any other educational institution,” he said.

“The military loves the Job Corps,” said Power. So, apparently do employers and educators. In the 42-year history of the federal program, he said, 90 percent of the graduates have been placed in jobs that pay well, or have continued their education at two or four-year colleges or have joined the military.

Even those who think a successful federal program is an oxymoron, the evidence would suggest that at least the Job Corps is an exception.

“It’s not run by a bureaucracy,” said Power.

It is, rather, a fruitful public-private partnership. All of the existing Job Corps academies have been and are being run by private companies that bid for the contract. If all goes according to plan, New Hampshire’s will be the first to be run by a citizens’ task force made up of many of the same people who planned and lobbied for the program in the first place.

In addition, the state’s educational institutions are expected to play a major role. Southern New Hampshire University, for example, has an extensive program in the culinary arts that should provide educational opportunities for those in the Job Corps hospitality curriculum. Saint Anselm College has had a successful criminal justice program that will likely be accessible to students in education for homeland security. University of New Hampshire Manchester is close by, as is Manchester Community College and others campuses in the state’s community college system. And employers in varied fields will be offering programs in everything from machine design and repair to turf management.

The program has the full support of both Gov. John Lynch and Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, along with other public officials.

“I did a lot of research and background work on this issue prior to becoming mayor,” said Guinta. The program, he said, will do more than provide skills to the students. “It is also a feeder system for home-grown employment, and that’s important in New Hampshire,” Guinta said. “One of the biggest challenges we face is the growing number of students who leave New Hampshire for their education.”

Indeed, some New Hampshire youths had been enrolling in Job Corps programs in other states, mostly Massachusetts and Vermont. Having a program in the state’s southern tier should help stem the “brain drain” of students who leave and don’t come back.

For many students, the classroom education and job-training skills they acquire will be enhanced by habits of personal conduct that will be invaluable in marketing themselves to prospective employers for decades. They will learn to think clearly, to dress up, show up and when appropriate, speak up, Power said.

“New Hampshire’s going to have the best Job Corps program in the country,” he predicted, adding: “The whole purpose of Job Corps is to produce constructive members of society, ready to go to work.”

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"Black and white: City cruisers get tough"
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Editorial, Friday, 11/14/2008

Manchester's police cars, with their blue horizontal stripes on a white background, look a lot like taxi cabs. We are glad to see that Police Chief David Mara has had enough of that.

The chief has ordered the city's 35 cruisers painted black and white. Think The Blues Brothers. But the drivers of these cars aren't on a mission from God. They're on what Jake and Elwood might have called a mission to protect the public, and Mara's right to think the new paint scheme might help.

Mara says the retro look symbolizes his return to community policing. It does that. It also gives the department's main brand presence a no-nonsense look, suggesting that the folks in these cars aren't social workers; they're the law, and they mean business.

That's a good message to send to Manchester, and the new paint scheme is a subtle but effective way to send it. People respond to such signals. That's why police officers wear dark blue uniforms, not pink ones. In short, the new paint scheme is good marketing.

It's great to see that Manchester has a chief who pays attention to such details. It indicates that his approach to crime fighting is organized and highly detailed. And that is very encouraging.
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Readers' COMMENTS:
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Wow...of course!! A paint job!!! Why didn't we think of that before a couple were bludgeoned to death in their Manchester apartment. That would have made Todd Peters think twice, no doubt. Now if we could just get them to do something when called. No wonder the Los Angeles crime rate is down to nothing... The gang members are all intimidated by black and white police cruisers. Get real huh..The problem isn't in the packaging....maybe it's in the product itself....
- Les Green, Manchester

In the same spirit, we should stop calling the police officers placed in schools "resource officers." When they’re called upon they should be referred to with the respect the title infers: police officer. The students who actually hear the reference, need to hear the difference.

So how much more street coverage could we have if we eliminated the cost of the mounted patrol? Last I knew horses were very expensive to keep, and we no longer receive federal funds to support them.
- Peter, Manchester

ya got a lot of money to spend on paint and not a lot for potholes.
- jxz, manchester

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"Study backs 'broken windows' theory"
November 21, 2008

LOS ANGELES - In a series of real-world experiments, people exposed to graffiti, litter, and other cues of lawlessness were more likely to commit small crimes, according to a study published today that bolsters the controversial "broken windows" theory of policing.

The idea is that low-level offenses like vandalism and panhandling create an environment that breeds bigger crimes. According to the theory, police can help head off serious violence by keeping minor infractions in check. Dutch researchers at the University of Groningen tested the psychological underpinnings of the theory and found that signs of social disorder damped people's impulse to act for the good of the community, allowing selfish and greedy instincts to take over.

Community policing strategies based on the "broken windows" theory have taken root in cities across the United States and around the world since it was proposed in 1982.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

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"Bad city, bad! Still no dog park"
The NH Union Leader - Editorial, December 4, 2008

Manchester has 10,600 registered dogs -- and no place for them to play.

Derry has had a dog park for six years. Manchester dog owners have growled for one of their own for longer than that, and they continue to sit and wait. And wait. And wait. "Nice owners!" the city seems to be saying, with a little pat on the head.

On Tuesday night, the aldermanic Lands and Buildings Committee voted against a request by dog owners to turn Bass Island into the city's first dog park. Better-connected residents led by state Rep. Jane Beaulieau argued against it and prevailed. They hope to turn Bass Island into a high-brow park with a kayak launch and space for local craftsmen.

That might be a better use of Bass Island in the long run. But what would be wrong with letting dogs loose on the island in the meantime?

Dog owners used to meet informally at Derryfield Park to let their pets run free in the vast field below the playground. But since the renovations at the park, they stopped coming. And besides, it was a violation of the city's leash law.

Three years ago, then-Alderman Betsi DeVries worked with dog owners to establish a park at the closed dump off Dunbarton Road. It was nixed because of concerns over liability. The city would be on the hook if anyone sued after being bitten by a dog. A change in state law could take care of that. Maybe now that DeVries has been elected to the state Senate she can seek that change.

Last year, Mayor Frank Guinta and some aldermen discussed opening a dog park when parks officials wanted to ban dogs from cemeteries and some parks. But again the idea was dropped like a chewed bone.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Angelica Ladd, 25, a dog park advocate, said, "We can't rely on our city officials to (create a park). We have to do it ourselves."

She is right, and that is a howling indictment of this city's leadership. For now, the city's thousands of dog owners will have to continue taking their pooches to Derry's dog park, which even has a separate area for small dogs.

In a city Manchester's size, with this many dogs, that is not acceptable. Dog owners and dog lovers should hound the city's elected officials for a dog park until they obey.
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READERS' COMMENTS:
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Ben, I absolutely agree with you. I was thinking the SAME thing!
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester

Jane Beaulieu is 100% correct. A Dog Park is a fine idea but, not at Bass Island. There are far too many other unused parks in the city better suited for this purpose.

Greg Barrett
Kas-Bar Realty
- Greg Barrett, Manchester

Phil Greazzo is a leader of the effort to open a dog park.

Greazzo ran against George Smith last year.

george Smith is the chair of the Lands and Buildings Committee.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see that the alderman from ward 10 is being very petty .
- Ben, Manchester

I wonder if the doggy "parents", who continue to insist on comparing their doggy "children" to actual human children, realize how such nonsense sounds to the non-animal obsessed.

Hint: It makes it appear that the owner and the dog have a lot more in common than just the desire for a dog park.
Perhaps if you misguided souls were required to write 500 times:

Animals are not people. They never have been and, barring some freaky science project, never will be.

This doesn't mean animals are not great to have around, and deserve good treatment, but, unless you are the PETA flake Ingrid Newkirk, a child is infinately more valuble than a chicken, a pig, or a dog, PERIOD.
- Mike P., Manchester

Why A Dog Park Will Be A Plus For The City Of Manchester- :)

Dog parks are being established all over the country and offer a wealth of benefits to dogs, dog owners and the community as a whole.

More than just "room to roam," the creation of a dog park....

Allows dogs to exercise and socialize safely. Puppies and adult dogs need room to run, and enclosed play areas permit them to do so while preventing them from endangering themselves and others (for example, by running into the path of an oncoming vehicle). In addition, dogs who are accustomed to playing with animals and people other than their owners are more likely to be well-socialized and react well toward strangers.

Promotes responsible dog ownership. Dog parks prevent off-leash animals from infringing on the rights of other community residents and park users such as joggers, small children, and those who may be fearful of dogs. Parks also make it easier for a city to enforce its leash laws, as resident dog owners with park access have no reason to allow their canine companions off-leash when outside of the park.

Provides an outlet for dog owners to socialize. Dog parks are a great place for owners to meet other people with common interests. The love people share for their dogs reaches beyond economic and social barriers and helps to foster a sense of community. Park users also benefit from the opportunity to ask questions of other owners and find solutions to problems they might be having with their pet.

Make for a better community by promoting public health and safety. Well-exercised dogs are better neighbors who are less likely to create a nuisance, bark excessively and destroy property. Their presence in the park, along with their owners, also helps to deter crime.

I vote YES to a dog park in MANCHESTER! :)
- Sherry Bezanson, Londonderry NH

What? You, an apartment dweller with a very small yard(if any), bought a large dog that needs plenty of room to run around? And you did this with the knowledge that Manchester doesn't have a dog park?

Bad owner, bad!
Given the amount of irresponsible behavior already supported by the taxpayers, perhaps the doggy park demanders could leave the city out of this. You guys and gals seem to be very motivated. Harness that motivation, not the taxpayers. I do wish you good luck though.

Given the huge response every time the UL runs a story on the dog park subject, I wonder how much of their support of it stems from their desire to protect their server from crashing. sarcasm/off
- Mike P., Manchester

JP Warner, I hear you, If you can't feed em, don't breed em! Goes for both dogs and kids
- Olive, Berlin

A dog park might be nice for the dogs and their owners BUT Manchester has enough problems right now with crime and financial matters.
- Bob Ahern, Derry

To Alan in Haverhill who wrote:
The dog owners asking for their neighbors to pay for a dog park should've thought about whether they had room for the dogs to exercise before they got them.
- Alan, Haverhill

Lets rephrase your statement....

The Parents asking for their neighbors to pay for their Childs Education through confiscation of income should've thought about whether they had enough money to pay for the Childrens Education/Clothing/Schools etc for the Children before they had them.

You see, my point is, is you're complaining about having to pay for a Park that Dog Owners and others wish to use, WHY should I have to pay to raise YOUR Children?

And for the record, the cost of a Dog Park pales in comparison to what we are all forced to pay for other peoples Children.

How about you start taking care of YOUR obligations and I'll be sure to take care of MINE without imposing a burden on my neighbors.

"It takes a Viking to raze a Village."
- JP, Warner

When did the government become responsible for the fury little critters to get their exercise. Are you kidding me? So Manchester should somehow pick up the tab so Fido can get his walk in?

As for Tammy in Manchester you say that the dog park won't cost the city any money. You need to understand the concept of liability law. Your comments about sidewalks made me laugh because I would bet there are a number of legal claims handled by the city due to faulty sidewalks, so, you answered your own question on that one. If the city sponsors a dog park and it falls under the perview of the Parks and recreation Department and somebody or some animal is bitten by another persons wayward dog, the city could be held liable in the end. For someone who is so concerned about saving the city money, you overlook the obvious.
- Mike, Manchester

It is very possible that the city could designate land for a dog park, fence it in, add the necessary warning signs, and indemnify itself from all liability. Its only responsibility would be the mowing of the grass in the summer. What are we paying these lawyers for - to fall asleep on TV at the meetings?

The Board of Alderman has lost so much respect of the residents of Manchester since their votes in September on putting the spending cap on the ballot that it seems to be paralyzed with some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How mind-boggling is it that the board cannot even save a little bit of face by ruling on a dog park?

If the Board of Alderman does not get some group therapy quickly my fear is that during the budget process next year not one of them will step up to take the lead to demand the painful reductions in city government and services that will be necessary over the next SEVERAL budgets that it will take to restore the city's financial health. I fear this because they all seem to have PTSD and they're going to want to fly under the radar so that they can win their reelections next November.

Voting on an exercise area for the city's pet owners should have been as easy as a walk in the park. If the Board of Alderman can't even do that then what can it do?
- David R, Manchester

I am a former NH resident who visits when I can. As a dog owner I drive 15 miles to a dog park in New Port Richey (the closest one) but we have many. They are a gathering place for people who have now become friends as have the dogs. In this economy, now more than ever, we need one another. A dog park is not a tax burden but adds to the economy as people, once out and about, support local businesses. Visitors are legally responsible for their dog's safety and behavior as is stated at the entrance. There is no maintenence as good dog ownwers clean up out of pride and gratitude for this community meeting place. It only requires a bi-weekly mowing (or less thanks to the dogs).
- Patricia Teeling, Bayonet Point, FL

What’s the problem? If dog owners want a dog park they should buy one. Why should public land be allocated to allow a relatively small group of people to entertain themselves with their dogs? It sounds as though the dog owners are already organized and have raised some funds. Have they noticed what real property values are lately? Why count on the city for such a luxury, a park for a dog. Heck the dog itself is a luxury?

Don’t like that idea? Try this one on for size.... Manchester hosts many events using public property and many people from other towns participate in the events: Verizon Wireless area, where more than half of the building payments are footed by the Manchester taxpayer, the Ballpark, where again, more than half of the payments are footed by the Manchester taxpayer, or the many events in Veteran’s park like the concerts and plays, parades on Elm St, Fireworks off of the bridge, etc, etc. The lower income people of Manchester subsidize these venues for our use and the use of the higher income suburbanites. Maybe it’s time one of our wealthy suburbs subsidize and welcome Manchester residents to a dog park?

One last rant – for this post anyway…. I have to laugh, no cry, every time I read a person draw an analogy between children and dogs. I don’t have either, but I think public education is a necessity and I would loath paying for a dog park. Like our successful past, the successful future of our society, city, state and country depends on public education. A dog park is vital to … nothing. Dogs are vital to … nothing. If we could get every dog owner to devote half of their love of dogs to love for children the country, and all of us, would be much better off. Some people need to get a life and stop comparing dogs to children.
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester

Regarding the dog park story, I agree with your editorial. Manchester needs someplace for dogs to exercise.
My son lives in Phoenix, AZ. They have many dog parks, some sponsored by the city and some by PetSmart. Maybe Manchester could approach PetSmart or Petco for funds to establish a dog park in the city. My son's beagle goes to the park almost every night and is much calmer at home because of the exercise.
Please, Manchester, reconsider!
- Roberta, Londonderry

A dog park is a luxury. Especially in this economy. My taxes have gone up quite a bit in the short time I've lived in Manchester.

Those who believe that this park can be self sustaining are fooling themselves. The first "Fluffy gets chewed up by Fido, owners get bit" lawsuit will surely cost Manchester taxpayers in legal fees.
- Brad L., Manchester NH

I hope you pro-dog park folks in Manchester remember Ms. B when it's time to vote. Just a quick note regarding the small dog area in Derry. It is very small. I would suggest using the Concord small dog park. It's much bigger and the dogs are able to run farther. I rarely use the dog park anymore. But when I did, it was a great place for dogs and people to socialize. With your dog, you meet many people in the community, who you would never have met before. Dogs open people up to conversations and to friendships. Good luck dog lovers of Manchester.
- Elizabeth, Candia

I would like to point out that there are two areas on the western portion of Bass Island that allow for kayak drop-ins into the Piscataquog River. These launch sites provide sufficient access to the river with little reason to add additional points of entry on the opposite side of the island.

Additionally, the city should not move forward with creating any more major urban parks without first repairing current parks within city limits. We have many parks that are in disrepair. We should not create onerous parks that, with their well-connected overseers, can extract funding while other less-connected parks continue to go without restoration. This section of Bass Island at the very least needs to be more aesthetically attractive but Ms. Beaulieau’s current vision is too grandiose a plan.

A city diverse in recreational options is a city that will be more adept to whether economic hard-times and provide a nurturing environment to all residents. Passive recreation is vital to growing our city. The expansion of outdoor activities such as bicycle trails and walks, hiking trails and even a dog park provide not only a healthier city physically but a healthier city mentally. The more activities that citizens are able to take part in, the more cohesive we will be as a community. Not everyone will use a bike trail or our local nature walks and not everyone will use a dog park. That does not mean that the city should turn a blind idea to an idea that will be welcomed by a large amount of its residents. Quality of life in our city should be continually improved and when there is an opportunity to do so at little cost to the city, perhaps we should jump at the opportunity.
- Jonathan Teeling, Manchester, NH

Alan and Luke, you are both missing the point entirely. There are many of us who live in residential parts of the city who do have yards, we have fenced in ours and the dogs have plenty of room to run. There are other reasons, besides meeting excersice needs, that cause a dog park to be beneficial. It provides dogs the socialization aspect they can only get from being around groups of dogs. Dog owners tend to be very friendly people and it enhances neighborly relations to have a central place to gather. It's beneficial for the community because than we have more socialized dogs and less aggressive dogs. I do socialize my dogs without a Manchester dog park, I just have to go to Derry to do it. There wouldn't be an increased cost to taxpayers, and there is overwhelming support from residents. What is the downside? Liability? Well, the many other dog parks in the state seemed to have figured it out, our representatives need to listen to us and figure it out also.
- LD, Manchester, NH

Scott in Manchester - I would disagree that because dog owners are taxpayers they are somehow entitled to a dog park. The entitlement concept is partially what drive up the spending and as a result drives up our our taxes.

Mike in Manchester - and exactly what would someone be suing the city for? The RSA clearly states it is the dog owner who is responsible (see the post by Laura Knox for the specific RSA). Are you implying that the city would be liable for everything that happens on any city owned property? Then we'd better closed the sidewalks in case someone should trip over their own two feet and fall - because we were encouraging this behavior by having sidewalks in the first place. Right? And those crazy crosswalks, what if someone gets hit by a car? Surely the city would be liable since we put in the crosswalks. Right? Mike, you should read before you comment and then you would clearly see that this dog park WILL NOT COST THE TAXPAYERS additional money. That is why it is such a good idea.

A dog park would be an asset to Manchester and improve QOL here, and can be done with no added expense to the city. The more things that can be done at no cost to improve this city of ours, the more we should do.

For the record, I do not believe that the committee eliminated Bass Island or any other site as a possibility. They sent this back to Parks & Rec for further study.
- Tammy, West Manchester

The question is not whether or not owners have room for a dog. there are plenty of ways to walk your dog and get it exercise. the issue is socialization. the more socialized the dog the better the dog and the less we need to worry about agressive behavior and dogs that stray. When a dog is socialized and exercised then it is a happy healthy dog that sticks by it's owner who cares for it. Manchester NEEDS a dog park for multiple reasons. It would much more easily control the dog population that is here now allowing dogs to be socialized and exercised in a controlled space and when they went home they wouldn't stray causing the issues we have now. A socialized dog is far less likely to bite or be agressive. it is a safety issue as well as a happy healthy dog and therefore a happy owner issue. Besides, why is it that manchester can make parks everywhere that cost us the taxpayers money that barely get used when there is potential to have a dog park that many people in the city WOULD use that would cost NOTHING. The city owns the land.... a donor offered the fencing... nothing else is necessary for a dog park. If anything else wanted to be done then I'm positive that the dog owners would be happy to put forth the effort and funds to build whatever else was needed.
- Ana, Manchester, NH

What a bunch of mean nasty people writing in against a dog park. I fully support having a dog park, and I don't even own a dog! I think it's a great community building project where neighbors can meet and socialize. I fully support having my taxes used for this purpose. A city the size of Manchester, with over 10000 registered dogs, needs two or three parks at least to accommodate the dogs in the city. I'm not sure if Bass Island was the place to put it, as I like Jane Beaulieu's ideas for that spot, but surely in a city of 33sq miles there is a spot for a dog park. I encourage the mayor and aldermen to make this a priority.
- Richard, Manchester

Stop the presses - I agree with an editorial in the UL. The city looks ridiculous in denying the dog park in favor of what is basically a vacant lot strewn with trash.
- Jason, Londonderry

So, Ms. Tammy Simmons is a proponent of a dog park. The same person that is a proponent of a tax cap. Well, if the tax cap comes through and someone sues the city because a dog bit their child in a city sponsored dog park, how would that affect a spending cap in the city?

Here are two words for dog owners: Personal Responsibility. If you own a dog, it is your responsibility to ensure you have sufficient space for your animal. If you want your animal to be socialized, there is a great doggy day care in Manchester that would be willing to take your dog in. Catch is, YOU have to pay for this service yourself...not the taxpayers.

So, for those who want their dog to have socialization skills, do it on you own dime, not on the taxpayers dime. I think it is actually kind of fitting that a major mover and shaker for a spending cap for the city wants city money to be spent on a dog park. That is hypocritical at best. We have schools that need money for education yet we should somehow fund a dog park? Get real people.
- Mike, Manchester

While it might be nice to have a place to take dogs to play, I cannot see that this is a priority given the budget issues and the state of our schools and other public buildings.

There are ample places to take your dog off leash if you are willing to find them, and, just as with children on playgrounds, dog parks do not always provide the socialization that one would hope for. Most of us dog owners (and dogs) need more exercise than we are getting. I think many people feel that turning the dog loose at the dog park is an acceptable substitute for walking....it isn't!

I agree that this is something that might be best served by some sort of shared ownership with dues, but it is ludicrous to think that the city "owes" us dog owners a park. It is the pet owner's responsibility to provide exercise, not the City's.
- Pam, Manchester, NH

For me, the idea of dog park is not so much to gain room for my dog to run and play (I have that at home), but it is for socialization purposes. A dog that is well socialized tends to demonstrate better behavior and less aggression. They relate better to new people (including children) and other dogs, which is a safety benefit.
If the fence is going to be donated, this should be a minimal cost to the city. The owners are responsible for bringing their own supplies (toys, clean up materials, etc.). Since the Bass Island property will not be considered, I encourage Manchester to look at other areas for this purpose.
While I agree Manchester has bigger issues to deal with at this time, this one seems to be something that can be done quickly, easily, and with little effort on the part of the City.
- D, Manchester

THANK YOU LAURA!!!! Now if we can find a way to get the City to understand our own laws we might get somewhere. That is there biggest hold up.
- Colleen, Manchester

I moved to Manchester in late 2000 and although I do not have any kids I've contributed in excess of $13,000 towards the city's educational budget, $1,800 of it was just for last year.

Sometimes I wish there was a Kid Licensing Fee (especially around tax time) but I realize that we are all living in a community and we should be helping each other out. The tax system enables us to do just that.

So some of us have kids, some of us have dogs, some of us have both, and some of us have neither.

Does anyone know the statistics for the amount of room a kid needs to run around? Does the average family have a house large enough? Oh, but wait, there are large playgrounds and fields that the city offers to make sure everyone is happy.
- Christine Davis, Manchester, NH

Yes, Alan we do have that many dogs, actually more. The 10,600 mentioned only cover the "licensed" dogs, we have no idea how many more there are that aren't licensed.

Ok, I understand that it would be great if we all had enough room for our dogs to run, bnut we don't. We pay taxed too why arent' we entitled to something.

I understand non-dog owners frustration at the thought of taxes going up but what you're not understanding is that there is basically no cost to dog parks. The money is in the initial set up and the city SHOULD be able to pay for that with all of the "tax" money we have been paying for years to license our dogs. So Luke, are you agreeing that the free dog park (fencing and installation is already paid for) on Bass Island is a worse choice then the 1.4 MILLION dollar project Jane wants to put there? Now who's wasting tax dollars?
- Scott, Manchester

Clearly, many of these comments are written by people who are not dog owners, and have not had the joy of that addition to a family.

Manchester is a city with vast multi-family units and little green space. Restricting pet ownership based on yard allowance is parallel in a dog lover's eyes to limiting the number of children one can have based on square footage.

Dogs are a therapeutic addition to a household -- an element that brings calm, perspective, and balance to an otherwise crazy world. Dog parks are a great place for animals and owners alike to not only let out energy, but also socialize. Watch kids at a playground for 10 minutes, and dogs at a park for just as long, and I guarantee you, you won't be able to see much difference.
- Lauren, Manchester

I moved to Manchester in late 2000 and although I do not have any kids I've contributed in excess of $13,000 towards the city's educational budget, $1,800 of it was just for last year.

Sometimes I wish there was a Kid Licensing Fee (especially around tax time) but I realize that we are all living in a community and we should be helping each other out. The tax system enables us to do just that.

So some of us have kids, some of us have dogs, some of us have both, and some of us have neither.

Does anyone know the statistics for the amount of room a kid needs to run around? Does the average family have a house large enough? Oh, but wait, there are large playgrounds and fields that the city offers to make sure everyone is happy.
- Christine Davis, Manchester, NH

I think many of the posters are missing the point of this editorial--that there is a group of dog owners in the city who want to raise funds to maintain a dog park at no cost to the taxpayer. Concord, Derry and Nashua have created "Friends of the Dog Park" groups--non-profit entity's that actively seek donations to fund maintenance and upkeep of their busy dog parks. This is not a dog issue, this is quality of life issue and once again Manchester is behind the 8 ball.
- BL, Manchester, NH

To Alan in Haverhill and Luke in Bristol - there will be NO ADDED COST TO THE TAXPAYERS with this dog park. I am a huge advocate of lower spending and wouldn't be supporting this project if it was going to potentially increase the tax burden on Manchester residents. That is why it seems so absurd to me that the city wouldn't jump at this opportunity.

The land is already owned by the city and sits basically sits as an eyesore across the street from the existing Bass Island Park. A donor has offered to fence the area at no cost to the City of Manchester. A litany of volunteers are willing to make the necessary changes to the existing landscape conditions and to maintain and clean the park once opened. The concerns about liability are unfounded and seem to be more of an excuse that a true concern. Other communities in NH have dog parks without and haven't faced these liability issues.

Does the city have bigger issues - sure. But that doesn't mean that everything else should be squelched. Creating a dog park in the proposed location will not only improve the property and end the dumping of trash that is happening now, it will also provide an opportunity for more residents to get out and meet other residents. It's not just about the dogs - it's about dog owners with their dogs. The more residents get to know their neighbors, the better off the city will be as a whole.

As far as the proposed garden, perhaps the existing Bass Island Park could be beautified. There will also be park space included in the development right across the river in the Elliot development project - park that presumably will be directly on the walking path. Perhaps that would be a better place to include a walking garden - someplace where people will already be walking. As far as kayaking - those who kayak on the Merrimack River have plenty of places to access the river. I hardly think one on the Piscataquog is necessary. Plus, how many kayakers or garden perusers vs. the vast number of dog owners are there in Manchester?

All in all, the dog park at Bass Island will cost the taxpayers nothing and provide a place for residents to go with their dogs to provide them with off leash time. It really is a no brainer.

manchdogpark@yahoo.com
- Tammy, West Manchester

I moved to Manchester in late 2000 and although I do not have any kids I've contributed in excess of $13,000 towards the city's educational budget, $1,800 of it was just for last year.

Sometimes I wish there was a Kid Licensing Fee (especially around tax time) but I realize that we are all living in a community and we should be helping each other out. The tax system enables us to do just that.

So some of us have kids, some of us have dogs some of us have both, and some of us have neither.

Does anyone know the statistics for the amount of room a kid needs to run around? Does the average family have a house large enough? Oh, but wait, there are large playgrounds and fields that the city offers to make sure everyone is happy.
- Christine Davis, Manchester, NH

I moved to Manchester in late 2000 and although I do not have any kids I've contributed in excess of $13,000 towards the city's educational budget, $1,800 of it was just for last year.

Sometimes I wish there was a Kid Licensing Fee (especially around tax time) but I realize that we are all living in a community and we should be helping each other out. The tax system enables us to do just that.

So some of us have kids, some of us have dogs.

Does anyone know the statistics for the amount of room a kid needs to run around? Does the average family have a house large enough? Oh, but wait, there are large playgrounds and fields that the city offers to make sure everyone is happy.
- Christine Davis, Manchester, NH

Here in Nashua, there have been plans for a full time dog park for years. What it is now though is a $3 a visit playgroup on donated land every Sunday morning to raise the funds needed to maintain a full time park. There are literally hundreds of dogs and everyone has a good time. There are some more stringent requirements as far as proof of shots etc, but maybe the people of Manchester could emulate it instead of waiting for their alderman to just give them one.
- Steve, Nashua

Why have a dog if there is no room for it to run at your own home?
I think Manchester has bigger things to worry about than a dog park.
How about banding together for a worthwhile cause instead of nonsense.
I wouldn't want my taxes to go up because of someone's frivilous spending for a dog park.
- Luke, Bristol

This is the reason so many dogs end up in shelters. If you don't have enough land for your dog to be able to run and play then you shouldn't have a dog. Asking the city to make a dog park is totally unacceptable. there are much larger issues in this city that need to be addressed. When we have no homeless, no hungry, no road problems, enough teachers and teaching supplies and a balanced & capped city budget maybe this could be considered, but unfortunately this will never be.

Maybe the dog owners can get together and buy a piece of land to do this on and have a dog club with membership dues etc. This is a personal issue. These people should be ashamed to be wasting valuable city time with this.
- JK, Manchester

If you are interested in helping with this effort to get a dag park in Manchester, please email the Manchester Dog Park Association at manchdogpark@yahoo.com.
- Tammy Simmons, West Manchester

A change in state law? Give me a break. Read for yourself the state law below. Who is liable?

"466:19 Liability of Owner or Keeper. – Any person to whom or to whose property, including sheep, lambs, fowl, or other domestic creatures, damage may be occasioned by a dog not owned or kept by such person shall be entitled to recover damages from the person who owns, keeps, or possesses the dog, unless the damage was occasioned to a person who was engaged in the commission of a trespass or other tort. A parent or guardian shall be liable under this section if the owner or keeper of the dog is a minor."
- Laura Knox, Manchester, NH

I totally agree with the editoral-
The City needs to get their act together and get a Dog Park in Manchester ASAP! There is no excuse as to why the smalltowns have dogs parks but Mancester the Largest city in the state does not have a dog park. If Jane's Beaulieau 7 year plan is going to cost me a tax payer money so she can have place for her "friends" to display art. That is unexceptable esp. in this economy. From what I understand it would not cost the city any money as a fence was going to be donated at no cost to the city.. But the city and Jane Beaulieau would rather buy land which the city cannot afford to do at this time.. (ohh wait they can my taxes will go up.) to support Jane's stupid idea.
- Dave Dubay, Manchester

I guessing the city Manchester doesn't have nearly that many dogs. Other than a couple for the police department and the strays in the pound why would the city have dogs?

The dog owners asking for their neighbors to pay for a dog park should've thought about whether they had room for the dogs to exercise before they got them.
- Alan, Haverhill

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"Ski swap: Better managing McIntyre"
The NH Union Leader - Editorial, 12/5/2008

McIntyre Ski Area is one of Manchester's recreational gems. So why has it lost three-quarters of a million dollars in the last three years?

McIntyre is partially "privatized." The private McIntyre Ski School operates the ski school and rental shop; the city runs the rest. That arrangement isn't working out so well. Even Interim Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries Director Chuck DePrima acknowledges that the ski school is better at operating the recreational side of things than the city is.

With that understanding already well accepted, the ski school, which has run its side of McIntyre for decades, will next week present a proposal to take over all of McIntyre's operations. In exchange for a promised financial turnaround, the school wants the city to bond more than $1 million in infrastructure improvements, including replacing the lodge and snow-making machines.

The school hopes to return the ski area to profitability in part by running it during the summer, when it can hold mountain bike races and play host to parties and weddings. Those are good ideas. McIntyre sits needlessly idle in the summer. But the city is at risk here of making the same mistake it made with the minor league baseball park.

The city did not request proposals for the park. It considered only one plan, and the people got what that team proposed. We will never know if another development team could have provided the city with a better ballpark complex at less taxpayer risk.

Clearly, McIntyre needs to be run by private management. To find the best management team, the city needs to put out a request for proposals and consider competing visions for the ski area. This is no slight to McIntyre Ski School. It is simply responsible management of a valuable city asset.
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READERS' COMMENTS:
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Speaking of having a private company manage ski resorts - CNL Lifestyle Properties Inc. of Orlando is expected to announce that it is BUYING Mt. Sunapee Ski Resort (according to a report published on 12/4/08 in the Wall Sreet Journal) - Where is the UL on this story?

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Editor's note: We're working on it. The story is actually in today's Journal, not yesterday's.
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- Mike, Derry, NH

"The city did not request proposals for the park. It considered only one plan, and the people got what that team proposed. We will never know if another development team could have provided the city with a better ballpark complex at less taxpayer risk.

Clearly, McIntyre needs to be run by private management. To find the best management team, the city needs to put out a request for proposals and consider competing visions for the ski area. This is no slight to McIntyre Ski School. It is simply responsible management of a valuable city asset."

Is this what just happened with the dog park? Jane Beaulieu has some half-baked plan that has been in the works for 7 years so nothing else is being seriously considered?

Which aldermen voted to not open McIntyre up to other proposals? Shouldn't we be making a more informed decision rather than just go with one opinion? Maybe someone can come up with a plan for McIntyre that won't me an arm and a leg in mt tax bill.
- Riley, Manchester

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City Hall: "Aldermanic list -- None was naughty, all were nice"
By SCOTT BROOKS, The Union Leader
updated 12:45 a.m. ET, Mon., Dec. 22, 2008

The aldermen can expect a sackful of presents from Santa this Christmas.

All of them, arguably, were good little boys and girls in 2008, at least by one metric. When meetings were called, the aldermen showed up.

We know this, because at our request, the City Clerk's Office made a list (and checked it twice, presumably). And the record shows three aldermen didn't miss a single board meeting all year. They would be Mike Lopez, Ted Gatsas and the Ward 4 freshman, Jim Roy.

Three others -- Mark Roy, Real Pinard and Bill Shea -- missed no more than one full board meeting all year.

If anyone is at risk of finding some coal in his stocking, it's Ward 9's Mike Garrity. He missed 10 out of 48 board meetings, by our count, for an attendance rate of 79 percent.

Garrity, who hardly missed any meetings in 2007, attributed some of this year's absences to business trips. Others he chalked up to a family illness. He said he's been making a lot of visits to the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, where his 81-year-old father is receiving hospice care.

"Obviously, when I get a phone call, I go up there," Garrity said.

Kelleigh Murphy was second from the bottom on the attendance list, with six absences. Of those, we should note, the only time she missed a regularly scheduled board meeting was in October, when she was on her honeymoon.

The rest were "special" meetings, which are sometimes held as early as 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. Murphy works full time.

"I have to make a living," she said.

As for the rest of the bunch: Dan O'Neil and Betsi DeVries missed five meetings; Ed Osborne missed four; and Peter Sullivan, George Smith and Russ Ouellette missed two.

Mind you, none of this math takes into account the many committee meetings the aldermen are supposed to attend.

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ON THE ROAD . . . AGAIN???: Every so often, the aldermen are asked to jump on a bus and ride around town, inspecting roadways that need to be added or removed from the official city map.

It's called a road hearing. No one likes it.

In any case, there were three of them this past year, and Osborne didn't attend any of them.

"A road hearing is not a real big thing," Osborne said. "I think the rest of the guys could take care of that with no problem."

Like Garrity, Osborne said he, too, was dealing with some family issues in the past 12 months. One relative, he said, was diagnosed with cancer. Two other family members passed away.

"My plate's been quite full this year," he said.

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NAME GAME: Alderman At-Large Lopez won't say it was a bad idea to name the Granite Street bridge after Sen. Judd Gregg.

"I'm not going to second- guess the Board of Mayor and Aldermen," he said last week. "They did what they did. It was a 13-to-1 vote. It's over, as far as I'm concerned."

Nevertheless, Lopez said he thinks the city has a problem when it comes to naming stuff. Lately, he said, "We've been naming too many things without researching (them). And there are no procedures. I believe there should be some type of procedure."

Board members agreed Tuesday to have someone look into the issue.

At least a few people are still upset the board opted to name a bridge after Gregg, who, they note, is neither a Manchester resident nor deceased.

"There are so many other citizens who have resided in this city, and who have made significant contributions to the city, that are deserving of this honor," one city man, Warren Bouchard, told the board last Tuesday.

It was Mayor Frank Guinta who asked the board to name the bridge for the Republican senator, who helped earmark $15 million for the Granite Street project. For the record, Lopez was one of the 13 aldermen who supported the motion. (The lone dissenting vote belonged to Sullivan.)

"I would not care whether he was an independent, a Democrat or a Republican," Lopez said at the time. "We got the money. We used it. It's great for the city."

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IN A SILENT WAY: Several reporters asked Guinta for a quote after a jury sentenced Michael Addison to death last Thursday. The mayor wouldn't talk to any of them.

Guinta was unusually subdued while sitting in the courtroom when the decision was announced. A colleague who sat next to him in the back row told us Guinta kept his head down and barely spoke a word.

"I wanted to show Mike (Briggs)' family and the officers, his brethren, the respect they deserve from the city's mayor," Guinta told us afterward. "I felt my attendance would show that."

When the courtroom cleared, Guinta said, he hugged Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, kissed her cheek, and made a quiet exit.

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PLEASE TRY AGAIN: Alderman Pinard is sorry if he missed your phone call.

Like many people, Pinard lost electricity and phone service during the recent blackout. By the time his phone was working again, he said, he discovered he'd missed 36 calls.

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ACROSS THE BORDER: Mayoral aide Mark Laliberte was one of several dozen Republicans chosen to represent Rockingham County on the State Republican Committee.

Laliberte, formerly of Manchester, is new to Rockingham County. He and his wife moved to Candia three weeks ago.

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ALL BARK: Many people have tried to make a case for a dog park in Manchester. But perhaps no one has done it as eloquently as Laurel Street resident David Bigelow.

Bigelow told the aldermen last week a dog park is his due as a taxpaying homeowner. "And boy," he said, "am I a taxpaying homeowner."

"During the last property reval," he said, "my home property taxes increased 50 percent, and it's increased every year since. So I'm here tonight to get a little return on my investment."

Later, Bigelow offered the quote of the night, telling the board, essentially, it's not about the dogs.

"Saying you're going to build a dog park for dogs is like saying you're going to build a golf course for golf balls," he said.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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"No bidders for Hackett Hill acreage"
By SCOTT BROOKS, The Union Leader, updated 12:47 a.m. ET, Mon., Jan. 5, 2009

MANCHESTER - City officials have come up empty in their search for someone to buy a 124-acre stretch of undeveloped land on Hackett Hill.

The city gave developers two months to bid on the property, part of a larger swath of land that was set aside several years ago for a proposed business and light-manufacturing park.

The deadline passed last Friday. No bids were received.

"I think it's primarily because of the state of the economy," Economic Development Director Jay Minkarah said. "There just aren't too many people who are willing to undertake a speculative project like that at this point."

More than likely, Minkarah said, it will be up to the aldermen to decide whether the city should lay out the money to develop the property. As of yet, he said, it's unclear what the project would cost.

"I wouldn't characterize it as a gamble," he said. "But, of course, developing it ourselves means incurring the cost of developing it ourselves. And we don't, of course, have any assurance that there is a buyer.

"Certainly, I think there will be," he added. "But, of course, we have to recognize these are very challenging economic times."

Any request for tax dollars would probably run into some resistance. Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, the board chairman, said the city's budget woes are too dire even to consider diverting money toward the project.

"We're not going to invest tax dollars in it. Not this alderman, anyway," he said.

In lieu of tax dollars, the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Corporation has sought to use a line of credit to help pay for work at the park.

Minkarah said it had long been the city's intention to develop the property on its own, then sell the lots to businesses. Even as the city went out to bid, he said, "We continued to pursue obtaining all the necessary permits and approvals and finalizing the plans. So the board never intended to abandon our original plan to develop it ourselves."

Officials are still waiting for a Maine firm, Oest Associates, Inc., to complete a set of engineering plans. Minkarah said he hopes to present those plans to the aldermen soon.

The Hackett Hill property, located in northwest Manchester, has been awaiting redevelopment since the city purchased it from the University of New Hampshire nearly a decade ago. In a recent speech, Mayor Frank Guinta said the construction of a business park on this property "should be our number-one economic development project for the next decade."

Officials have divided the project into two phases, the first of which involves 12 lots on 124 acres of land.

The second phase may take some time, planners have said. That parcel covers 280 acres. To develop it, officials have said, the city would need to make a number of roadway improvements, including the development of a new Exit 7 on the F.E. Everett Turnpike/I-293.

The city went to bid on the first 12 lots in October. Alderman George Smith said he was a "little bit disappointed" no one showed an interest in the property.

"I thought we would get some response," Smith said, "but given the situation with retail and the stock market, I don't think anyone wants to take a chance."

The city has had some trouble of late attracting interest in its properties. This fall, the Economic Development Office asked entrepreneurs to come forward with business proposals for the Canal Street bus station. The office did not receive any written responses before deadline.
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UnionLeader.com (click for link):Your source for stories and breaking news from New Hampshire.
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URL: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28498789/
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"Hackett racket: The development that wasn't"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, 1/6/2009

Come March, the City of Manchester will have owned the former University of New Hampshire property on Hackett Hill for a decade. When the city purchased the land for $7.2 million in 1999, in a land swap with UNH, officials predicted it would be a big boon to the taxpayers. So far the deal has kept that land off the tax rolls for nine years and nine months.

Meanwhile, UNH-Manchester has a growing campus down in the Millyard, which is also booming with the exact types of high-tech businesses the city had hoped to lure to Hackett Hill 10 years ago. Oh, and UNH-Manchester doesn't pay taxes on that prime real estate. So the Hackett Hill land swap has kept two major parcels off the property tax rolls.

Two months ago, the city put a big portion of the land at Hackett Hill up for bid. The hope was that a developer would buy all of it and build a business park, then lease the sites to companies that employ lots of people and pay them well. In two months, the city received not a single bid.

Taxpayers will be interested to know that the land no one would bid on is the same land the city could have sold for $1.25 million back in 2005. Londonderry-based catalog company Herrington offered that much for the former French Hall property, which is the core of what the city tried to bid off in the past two months. The city turned Herrington down.

Instead, the city went with a tech company, J.P. Sercel, that bid $1.2 million and promised fewer jobs. But they were high tech jobs, said wide-eyed city officials. Much better than catalog jobs, they said.

Ah, but that deal fell through, and the city wound up with no jobs and no company to take the land from the debit column of the city's books to the credit column.

Now, because the solons on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen thought they could micromanage the development to get precisely the type they wanted, instead of letting the market work, the city is stuck owning a huge amount of land no one, not even the city, wants to pay to develop.

The economic development office estimates that it will cost $3.5 million to $4 million to provide the infrastructure upgrades that would be needed before the land can be sold lot by lot (that is a rough estimate). That would bring the city's total cost for the land to more than $10 million.

Tell us again, why are aldermen to be trusted to use taxpayer money to make speculative real estate deals?
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READERS' COMMENTS:

Manchester's leadership is lost. This is just anotrher example of their blunders. I'm not sure new aldermen can fix the damage already done. Same circus, different clowns.
- Brian, Manchester

As I said before, the aldermen aren't doing the city any good trying to be a Real Estate Agent and a governing body at the same time. Time for a new, responsible, respectful group of aldermen to take the helm to work with the Mayor and citizens/businesses of this city so that we can get Manchester moving forward again. This 14 to 1 ratio isn't helping the city one bit. Shame really, same old song and dance. Maybe this will be the year of change for Manchester as it was for America with a new president in 2008.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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"City Hall: And the (financial) hits just keep coming"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Sunday, January 11, 2009

How could they have known?

Manchester officials were taken aback last week when they learned the city was facing another one of its annual budget deficits, this one to the tune of $1.9 million. The trouble, to a large degree, was the aldermen's revenue projections had turned out to be wildly optimistic. But really, some asked, who could have known, way back in May 2008, that the entire global economy was going to crash and burn?

"We knew something was happening," Alderman George Smith said. "But I never thought it was going to end up like this."

True enough, the bleakest days of the economic meltdown had yet to come when the budget was written, all of seven months ago. Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch had not yet collapsed. Credit was still widely available. The phrase "too big to fail" had yet to become a national punchline.

It's clear, though, that many city officials were looking at the economy through rose-colored glasses. Consider the assumptions on which the budget was built.

With fingers crossed, city officials predicted auto registrations would increase. They predicted developer Dick Anagnost would submit $1 million worth of building permits for the Elliot at River's Edge project. They predicted the tax base would grow by $65 million, even though the city assessor had characterized that as a best-case scenario. And they counted on getting extra money from a parking proposal that had yet to be publicly debated, let alone put on the books.

So what happened? Well, the tax rate went up 4.7 percent, which is more than the aldermen said it would. And now, with six months left in the fiscal year, Finance Officer Bill Sanders is projecting a $2.3 million revenue shortfall.

Auto registrations, it appears, are not going to go up $435,000, as predicted. They're going down, possibly as much as $1 million, according to Tax Collector Joan Porter.

The River's Edge project, we're now told, is expected to bring in just $600,000 in permits this year. Not $1 million.

And the parking plan? The budget assumed it would include a $5 "event" parking fee and that it would hike prices at all downtown meters to 75 cents an hour. As it turned out, the plan that passed was less onerous for drivers, and consequently, less lucrative for the city.

Aldermen later claimed they didn't know the parking proposal factored into the budget. In an e-mail last week, Parking Manager Brandy Stanley said, "The original budget I put together included the numbers. Eeesh."

Other cities didn't make some of the same mistakes Manchester did. Unlike their Queen City counterparts, Concord's budget writers predicted auto registrations would fall 7 percent. Nashua's predicted they would stay even.

Here, by contrast, is what happened in Manchester. The mayor put out a budget that predicted registrations would bring in an extra $235,000, and the aldermen, desperate for more dollars, boosted that projection another $200,000.

That's not unusual behavior. It happens almost every year, Porter said.

"Normally," she said, "they will call me and say to me, 'Do you think that we can take in an extra whatever?'" Unless the number they toss out is "way out of the realm of possibility," she said, she goes along with it.

Alderman Ted Gatsas, who co-wrote the budget with Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, said there's no way he could have known last spring the auto industry was about to implode.

"Did we know that was going to happen last May?" he said. "I think the answer is pretty obvious."


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ON SECOND THOUGHT: Porter certainly was caught off guard by the hardship that was to come. Last May, when we asked her about the economy, she said, "I'm assuming its not going to get worse."

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NOT ALL BAD: Among the city's more ambitious budget projections, one actually did come true. The city tax base grew by roughly $87 million last year, or nearly 1 percent, Assessor David Cornell said.

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BUSIER THAN EVER: Not everyone suffers in a recession. The Manchester City Library, for instance, is doing pretty well.

Library attendance in Manchester was up 6 percent last year, with more than 460,000 visitors counted at the two buildings, according to library staff. Circulation was up 8 percent.

People, it seems, like getting free stuff.

"With the economy taking a downturn, the resources available at the Manchester City Library are gaining popularity," Library Director Denise van Zanten wrote in a Dec. 10 blog post. "Both library buildings have been busier then ever over the past few months."

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DONE WITH DUBYA: A year ago, Mayor Frank Guinta raised a ruckus about something he saw on the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority's Web site. The source of his ire was a politically charged statement, posted by the authority's executive director, Dick Dunfey, that included some harsh words about the Bush administration and some much kinder ones about Congressional Democrats.

The statement is still there, though Dunfey says he plans to take it down now that Democrats will soon be running the White House.

"Things look significantly different," said Dunfey, a Democrat. "With a new President, who has definitely demonstrated that he's attuned to housing needs in America, we have great hope here and throughout the industry."

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TOO PROUD TO BEG: Things got heated in the aldermanic chambers last Tuesday night when the conversation turned to the much-discussed Obama stimulus package.

Guinta insisted he had no intention of asking the federal government for a handout, at least until federal or state officials ask the city to come forward with some requests. Lopez said he wants the board to put together a list of projects it would like to launch, in case the money really does become available.

"Everybody's talking about it, and I want to be ready," Lopez said. "I don't want the city of Manchester to lose out."

Guinta confessed he had had two conversations with U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in which, he said, "she asked what earmarks I was interested in." But he maintained he wasn't ready to put anything in writing, saying, "I don't think it's appropriate to send a message to people that we're anticipating money. There's no legislation; there's just discussion about it."

Several aldermen said they didn't see any harm in putting together a wish list.

"Other people are selling their cities," Alderman Mark Roy said. "If we don't get out in front of this, when something does officially come, we're going to be behind the eight ball."

As a matter of fact, a city task force is putting together a wish list. Its recommendations, Guinta said, will be sent to the aldermen for review.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Readers' COMMENTS:

"Several aldermen said they didn't see any harm in putting together a wish list." Oh my, since raising the tax rate to 4.7% during a recession wasn't bad enough and one alderman saying; "I can live with a 4 or 5% tax increase", now that the aldermen seem to think they can't get anymore money from the citizens of Manchester (in forms of parking fees, fines for walking through the parks at night among other things) they want to get money from taxpayers outside of their city/state to put toward 'their' wish list. So what will it be? More speed humps, more signs warning drivers that they are approaching a crosswalk, digital speed checks that don't work chained to a sign poll? How about thinking that the money would be best spent fixing old sewer lines and working on keeping Beech Street from flooding during heavy rains? How about replacing sidewalks in bad need of repair instead of asking a taxed out property owner to come up with half the cost for the sidewalk in front of their house. The list goes on and on. What will the city elections bring this year?? Will a change becoming or will it be more of the same? It's anybodys' guess.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

Ken, Dean Kamen lives in bedford. He can not run for mayor
- James hase, Manchester

I sure hope Lopez runs for Mayor cuz his horrible budget that he crafted with Gatsas would ensure that whoever runs against him would win in a landslide and as a bonus, someone else could take his alderman-at-large seat. So come on Lopez, please run for mayor!
- Casey Johnes, Manchvegas

Ken, when did they start allowing Bedford residents running for Mayor of Manchester?
- John, Manchester

2009 should be an interesting election year.

I hope there will be many televised questions and answers sessions in different parts of Manchester during the day that the Mayor and Aldermen will attend that will have them discussing schools, infrastructure, police, fire fighters, Manchester Transit Authority, and other topics.

I recommend the Mayor and most of the Aldermen get fired.

I hope Dean Kamen will consider running for Mayor of Manchester. He may be able to figure out ways to spend education dollars a lot more wisely and grow our economy.
- Ken Stremsky, Manchester, NH

Jack from Manchester:

The Mayor did speak out against this budget. He vetoes it last spring due in large part to the pie in the sky revenue projections. All of the aldermen except for Peter Sullivan and Mike Garrity ignored the finance officer and the building department and voted for this bad budget.

Blame the good old boy hacks Lopez and Gatsas for this.
- Charlie, Manchester

Typical,, Lopez has a wish list.. So do I, my list has "Getting rid of Alderman Lopez" at the top. This is followed by the "Gang of Eight" .. I wish I wish..
Oh,, and where is the talk of cutbacks.. duh? Like normal folks.
- Tom, Manchester, NH

I wonder if the leaders at City Hall run their household finance's like the municipal budget ? Most of us would never spend a pay raise, that we might get next year ,until we get the raise !
I`m convinced that our city needs a tax cap,in order to keep the aldermen under control.
- Bill White, Manchester,NH

Mayor Guinta presented a budget and Smith, Gatsas and Lopez modified it. One ultimately turned out to be better in the best interests of the City. It's important to note which one that was.
- Steve, Manch

I agree that I don't think last spring anyone thought the economy would tank as much as it has and that we would be facing such tough times. But Charlie from Manchester is right several alderman tried to challenge Gatsas on many of his assumptions. But as usually Gatsas would not listen and he became downright impossible to work with. Same old Teddy never willing to listen to anyone!
- Lenny B, Manchester

How can Dunphy be allowed to post his overly political rants on a city-related website? I dont care if he is a Dem or GOP, he needs to keep his office non-partisan.

He has every right to go on Charlie Sherman or write an oped to the UL as "Dick Dunphy, Housing Professional" and rail against Bush all he wants. But, he should not be using his position in the city to voice these opinions.
- James, Manchester

The Mayor didn't even want to put together a wish list? What a joke.

We pay the Mayor to do his job. He should always be prepared with a list of needed improvements to the city's infrastructure. You never know when Federal Funding, unexpected high tax revenue, etc. shows up.
- Chris, Manchester, NH

How the heck can you put together a city budget based on revenue projectios for fees not in place or not yet raised? That is unbelievably irresponsible.

Why didnt the Mayor raise red flags about this fairy tale budget? He should have been on the front page of this newspaper having fits about it daily until a citizen revolt erruption.

Seriously, how the heck did this make it out of the Aldermanic chambers?

Did the Mayor WANT it to become a disaster so he could blame the Aldermen and set himself up for his next election?

This Novermber, we need a complete overhaul in City Hall. These amateurs cant continue to act like they know what the heck they are doing.
- Jack, Manchester

All these city officials are so dumb for not being able to predict the future. I wish Scott Brooks would've spoken up back in May to educate everyone.
- James, manchester

Well, Alderman Gatsas, your colleagues from Ward 3 and Ward 9 tried to tell you that your revenue projections were bunk, but instead of listening you chose to yell at everyone who disagreed with you.
- Charlie, Manchester

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"City school board keeps pay, benefits"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 2/10/2009

MANCHESTER – School board members in Manchester won't be giving up their salaries and benefits quite so readily.

The board last night rejected a pair of proposals that aimed to do away with committeemen's compensation packages when the current term comes to an end in December. The first of those proposals, which targeted members' $2,000-a-year stipends, failed by the wide margin of 12 to 3.

The second, eliminating the board's health and dental benefits, was decidedly more controversial. That motion failed 9 to 6.

Both proposals put board members -- or, at least, those who plan to run for reelection -- in the uncomfortable position of having to vote on their own compensation packages. Those who said the board should keep its benefits argued the measure was unfair to members who rely on them and ultimately would not have saved the district much money.

Members also maintained that eliminating the benefits would deter some qualified residents from seeking public office.

"I would be very afraid that we drain the water out of an already shrinking pool of talent and interested applicants," Committeeman Mike DeBlasi said.

Much of the debate centered on whether board members are akin to full-time employees. Mayor Frank Guinta likened board members to part-timers.

Members who voted to discontinue the board's health benefits noted the district is under intense pressure to cut costs, especially as demands on the budget increase. Administrators have predicted salaries will jump $2.5 million next year, while health benefits rise nearly $1.7 million.

Board member Bob O'Sullivan said it's possible the district may have to pink-slip more than 150 teachers this spring.

"I think it's important for us to stand up, be counted for," O'Sullivan said, "and understand it has to start (with) us. The sacrifice should come from us."

Board stipends cost the district $28,000 a year. Members say they use the money to cover their personal expenses as public servants, such as gas, phone calls or mailings.

It's unclear how much the district stood to save by eliminating the health and dental benefits, in part because the numbers vary from year to year. Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis has noted that on average, the district pays $8,750 per employee.

At the very least, she said, the district pays $760 in administrative costs for each employee covered. At most, the district could have to pay $200,000 per employee.

One board member, Art Beaudry, tried to tack on an amendment that would have required each committeeman to say whether he or she accepts insurance through the school district. He dropped his motion after Guinta said, "I think the board should just focus on the initial question."

School administrators have declined to say which board members are enrolled in the district's health plan, citing federal privacy laws. Two board members, Katherine Labanaris and Kathleen Kelley, have publicly stated that they do pay into the plan.

Last night, after the vote, Kelley handed a reporter a note saying, "I will not be taking the benefits in the future."

Many speakers were quick to note they are not insured by the district -- so many, in fact, that Committeeman Donna Soucy said, "I'm wondering how much money we're talking about, because obviously there are very few board members who avail themselves of this benefit."

Board members who have said they do not take the benefit include DeBlasi, Chris Herbert, Dave Gelinas and Stephen Dolman. Committeeman At-Large Debra Gagnon Langton said she doesn't take the health insurance, but her family is covered under the district's dental plan.

The three members who voted to eliminate the board's annual $2,000 stipends were O'Sullivan, Doug Kruse and Langton. Guinta does not receive the stipend but voted to keep it.

Members who voted to eliminate the health benefits were O'Sullivan, Kruse, Art Beaudry, Eric Fischer, Langton and Guinta. All others opposed the measure.

Committeeman John Avard, a chiropractor, announced after the vote that he is "in a unique situation among members of this board" because he has clients who are covered under the district's plan. Starting immediately, he said, he would like to donate to the district half of "all money paid to me by the district."
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READERS' COMMENTS:

What a surprise they get what they wanted, I wish I could have have worked so little hours for so much more with with all of the benefits. You are all patehtic. yopu should be tested regularly and if you cannot make the grade then move on.
- Tim Davis, Boscawen, NH

Mr Tarr is a judge, there for everything is given to him. All the perks and never afraid of losing his job. There's a lot of responsibility with the job, that include's high pay and benefits. I wish judges were held responsible for their verdict's like like anyone else is held for the job.
- Craig McIntosh, Allenstown

I can see that many of you never knew that these positions came with "perks".
I have ALWAYS said that no one in their right mind spends so much to get elected to a job with such low pay or no pay. It's the perks of the job they want.
Now maybe you all will stand up and put a stop to this. If they truly want to "do good", then they can do it for free.
- Pauline, Franklin

Kathy from Manchester -

Sounds like Mr. Tarr not only lives in a glass house, he stands on the sidewalk throwing rocks.
- Leo, Manchester

Not all of us get to collect a disability check & get health coverage through HHS Mr. Tarr. Why don't you hold a full-time job and pay for your family without any assistance, only then will I listen to your views, because only then you will know where the rest of us are coming from.
- Kathy, Manchester

Wake up most of you and get a life! We are talking peanuts when we talk about their stipends. Fourteen thousand dollars won't make any difference in the school budget. Even the insurance premiums which are a substantially more sifnificant amount still will not make any difference what so ever.

I support elected officials, albeit this bunch is for the most part a detrement to the city, they still deserve compensation for their efforts, Right or wrong.
- Paul, Manchester

If I had known that I could get health insurance, I would have run for the board 3 years ago. Health insurance is worth its weight in gold.
- Amy M, Manchester

Mr. Tarr- You always are quick to point out the problems- stop talking through the UL and go run for office on the platform that you will take NO compensation.
- Gary, Manchester

Why would anybody want to take away the stipend? These people work many hours for the stipend. As for the health benefits, I really don't have a problem with getting rid of the health benefits. While the stipend helps offset the cost of doing business the health benefits should be provided like anybody elses but not from the tax payers. So, why not split the vote. Agree to keep the stipend and agree to do away with the health benefits. Very simple...anybody can figure that one out....but then again, who said elected officials are like anybody else.
- Jeff, Manchester

To Mr. Tarr and Liz:

Why stop at the school board. Why not have the alderman, mayor, governor, congress, senate and others run for office and collect no compensation. They are also" in it for the people". Mr. Tarr, you seem to have all of the answers, come on now, run for office, without compensation, "for the people". Stop mouthing off and show some leadership. Lets see how outspoken you would be then when it affects you. I don't know what you do for a living, but if you are employed, give your earnings back to the community, "for the people". Lead by example.
- santos, manchester

the 2K is a nice gensute for he time thes epeople put into the board. It is not a ton of cans and certainly does not cover the hours and abuse that they spend. 28K is less than one teacher.

Why on earth should anyone work for free?
- Chris, Bedford

"Shrinking pool of talent?" If those hacks consider themselves "talent" then this city is in more trouble than we thought. The district will deny part time employees accress to health insurance coverage yet this group sits there with a straight face and righteously rationalizes their own swilling at the public trough. None of you will ever get my vote again.
- Frank, Manchester

Vote.
It is our ONLY voice.
ALK
- ALK, Manchester

Wow! Are you kidding me? All those who voted to keep the benefits and pay just lost your seat on the School Board! How brazen of you to keep your benefits while considering teacher layoffs! I am embarrassed for you taking care of yourselves first. Shame on you!
- Liz, Manchester

"Members also maintained that eliminating the benefits would deter some qualified residents from seeking public office." "Committeeman Mike DeBlasi said; I would be very afraid that we drain the water out of an "already shrinking pool of talent and interested applicants....?" Do these elected officials realize that our colleges produce many qualified applicants??? Talk about a slap in the face to the future leaders of America. This reader feels if you are running for election just to get $2000 stipend and insurance from the taxpayers then you truly don't represent those in your wards. Being an elected official means to serve your local town/city with honor, respect and hard work. Find solutions to the issues and concerns that the people want answers to. It's about the values of leadership, responsibility and dedication first and foremost not what is in the health/dental plan paid for by the taxpayers. So here's a message to those running for reelection, are you truly in it for the people, their children and the future leaders of this city/state/nation? If not, please step aside and allow someone else to put their hat in for election. It's best for everyone and in their best interest if you did so, thank you.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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"Teachers and benefits: City school board's selfishness"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, February 11, 2009

Maybe Manchester's school board members are going to pull their customary pink-slipped teacher trick this year. After their Tuesday night vote to maintain their own benefits, one wonders.

Every time there is a big fight over the school budget and aldermen ask for millions of dollars in savings, the school board responds by threatening to pink-slip teachers. Sometimes the slips are even mailed out.

This behavior has become as natural as a reflex for the city school board. It's easier to threaten massive teacher layoffs than to go through the budget line by line and pare waste and inefficiencies. And because the people love teachers, the threat can bring more money for schools. Such is the power of phone calls to aldermen from angry parents.

The board has consistently claimed poverty while refusing to do the hard work of making its budget as lean as possible. Tuesday's vote was only the latest example. Board members voted 9-6 against eliminating health benefits for themselves, even though they knew, as member Bob O'Sullivan said, the prospect of 150 teacher layoffs looms.

The excuse was that the move wouldn't save much money. But if only four board members currently are on the health plan, cutting benefits could pay for one starting teacher's salary plus signing bonus.

City schools might very well lose one teacher because of Tuesday night's vote. What if that teacher is your child's favorite?

The school board is again risking classroom cuts because of its refusal to trim unnecessary spending. We thought this school board, elected in 2007, might be different. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

Manchester already spends less per pupil than all but four school districts in the state and Manchester has the lowest test scores in the state. The budget should be increased, not cut. Unless of course you like the idea of Manchester turning into Lawrence.
- Fred, Amherst

If the UL is genuinely concerned about funding education, perhaps it should start supporting an State income tax.

This would provide a stable and reliable source of income, unlike the mindless posturing that passes for 'opinion' on these pages.
- Leon, Manchester

Well Simone from Manchester - I think all the readers will agree with at least one small portion of your post.

As for teachers getting it easy, I can tell you that my wife works far harder than I for 9+ months of the year. The 185 or so contract days is actual work days - so even if you compare them to "regular" professionals - those folks only work about 240 days/year (2 weeks vacation plus 10 holidays). So at least spare me the 1/2 a position argument. Plus, they do not generally make a salary equivalent to other professionals, so at worst it probably balances out.
- Michael, Manchester

I have an idea? anyone with kids in school system can pay there fair share, I for one give enough to pay for everyone else's kids. Take my taxes and pave my street I'll be happy then.
- Tom, Manchester

Let them, everyone else in the country is facing financial crisis by laying off over two million since January 1. Second how many teachers are just taking up space, not wanting to retire to build up their pension to make it huge. Third West will be a ghost town next year. They don't need teachres in empty classrooms. The Teachers and Unionized employees of the Manchester School System wanted a Union. Therefore go by union edict, last in first out. Unless some of the dead wood (teachers) want to throw in the towel to the younger teachers who want to teach.
- Russell, Manchester

Before we can fix the problem, we need to find common ground on what the purpose/goal of education is. When we do that, we can create a school that does just that and can figure out the budget to pay for it. What is school for? Only then can we decide what we need to cut.

I know that extracurriculars are important, but what kills me is the amout of money schools blow on sports. I feel that a pay to play system must be instated to cut the costs of the taxpayers.
- Chris, Bedford

I stated the taxpayers were picking up the tab for Ms Langdon as a school employee. Please tell me where that is incorrect.
- Richard, Manchester

The writer of the editorial believes there are expenses that should be cut, but does not outline what they are. Do you believe that the school board is hoarding these expenses for some nebulous reason rather than cut teachers? Speak up, then, all you who write of cuts in generalities. What are these excesses?

Not in the number of teachers. My 7th grader has 30 students per classroom. Because 3 Unified Arts teachers were lost last year, some children have to take the sames classes over again, even if they passed them.

Not in supplies. The same 7th grader has only 1 math book to share between 2 students; therefore, the book cannot be brought home for homework.

This word just in: a higher level math class has been cut for next year at the high school level, possibly causing several advanced math students to repeat this year's same class, despite A averages.

So if you know where the excess expenditures in the school budget are, speak up loudly now before its too late for the students.
- KAH, Manchester

I think it's time the board starts to take cuts on their benefits, then threatening pink slips for teachers to cut costs. Teachers are the base of our future. We need more teachers, not cutbacks. The board members should cut back on their benefits and maybe cut back their number of members and who knows, maybe actually go through everything line by line and see where cuts can be taken. This would make much more sense then the scare tactics to get more money out of the people of this city.
- Sara, Manchester

I agree with others on this blog. It is time to call their bluff. The teachers have it made. They work 180 days per year, have all holidays off, several vacations, sick time, start work at 8am and work til 2pm. and who knows what else. This amounts to about 51 total days per year. The unions are sinking us. The teachers should all agree to get paid for the half a year that they actually teach and we can then hire twice as many teachers. Does this make too much sense? I was brought up in the Manchester School System and I don't consider myself to be an educated person. It hasn't changed. My kids go to Memorial and they don't speak too kindly of their teachers. They are always on their cell phones, etc. We need change. I agree with Joe Levasseur, "get rid of the rif raff".
- simone, manchester

The taxpayers have been held hostage for too long. Not only should they allow pink slips to go out, but also we should call their bluff and allow some teachers to be laid off. We should replace these school board members while we're at it. After all they've clearly demonstrated they're not willing to make any sacrifices although year after year the taxpayers are continuously asked to do so. When private sector companies have to downsize, it is done, end of story. Each year the taxpayers take it in the pants. Well it’s time the taxpayers get some relief, as many cannot afford these yearly tax increases coupled with this horrendous economy. These school board members set the tone and example. If they are unwilling to do the hard work of making the school budget as lean as possible then how do they expect those under them to do the same? If this is their attitude then they don’t deserve to be on the board never mind have the benefits.
- Rob, Manchester

I do not have a problem with compensating school board members $2000. This is a small stipend for their time and effort. I do not think they should receive the same health coverage as full time school district employees. If people run for the school board for the health coverage they are in it for the wrong reason.
Richard, several of your comments concerning Mrs. Langton are incorrect. She is a public school teacher but not in Manchester. The only expense for the Manchester taxpayers as far as Mrs. Langton is concerned is the $2000 stipend and health benefits she takes for being on the school board. Both of these benefits Mrs. Langton has offered to give up to save the city money. If you want to tell the whole story it would help if you got your facts straight.
- Taig, Manchester

It's true -- the cost of school board health benefits wouldn't dramatically change the bottom line, however, their attitude does not help trim the budget. If alderman and school board members gave up these benefits it would be easier to ask the teacher's to increase their contribution to the cost of their healthcare. By the way -- as a taxpayer I'd like to know what the office visit deductible is for teachers and city employees. How much do these groups contribute to their healthcare premiums? The taxpayers' employers are asking them to assume increasing responsiblity for those costs...
- Sarah, Manchester

So you want to "pink slip" some teachers! EVERYONE I speak with concurs that there are teachers who, at best, simply go through the motions when it comes to teaching. Let's work on getting rid of the teachers' union which protects these non-producers and let the poor quality teachers, regardless of their longevity, be the ones who get pink slips. Next, stop the insanity of paying EVERY teacher with the same seniority the same wage. A science or math teacher is worth much more than a PE teacher. As an example, add 25% to the pay of a math teacher and cut a PE teacher 25%. I trust most would concur that learning math is much more important than learning how to run or do a chin-up! Then, reduce the number of administrative positions.
- John, Manchester

A city of sheep would soon beget a government of wolves.
~ De Jouvenal
- David, Keene

To Melanie in Manchester;
This is the typical over hype coming from those that want to cut costs at the expense of talented students. This yearly ritual of whipping everybody up into a frenzy and then having a massive public hearing is par for the course for this city. It is time for all parents to step up and attend the public meetings and voice their concerns. PArents and students are the ones directly affected and as a result every parent and student should show up and speak to the elected officials. Elected officials in this city don't bat an eye unless a massive outcry takes place. I mean...really... people in this city are more concerned about getting a dog park then making sure students are educated by teachers. Look at the massive support the dog park drew. If parents and students are concerned, they will inundate all the elected officials with phone calls, letters, emails to make sure all the voices are heard. Not just have the same 300 people show up at the public hearing on the budget to talk about Spending caps and so forth. Parents and students need to show up in massive numbers to be the voice the elected leaders need to hear. Have thousands of people show up at the public hearings and this will be a show of support for the teachers and the students.
- Mike, Manchester

Why is it that every year we are looking at pink slipping teachers as a way to balance the budget. How about this...fund the schools for what they need and stop the yearly threats. The Manchester schools have been woefully underfunded for many many years and every year it is the same cry about cut cut cut from education. Don't you people get it! If we don't educate our kids and have true professionals doing it how can we expect our kids to be the future leaders of our country, state and city. All the penny pinchers out there need to look at the over all cost of education and wonder...how much more expensive will it be if we don't educate our children?

As for the school board being selfish. Sorry but $28,000 savings will not save teachers from being pink slipped. This is the editor's version of narrow minded thinking. Micromanaging one aspect when the reality is for years the schools have been fighting for what they need and frankly it is getting sickening.

All of this is leading up to another public hearing where the overwhelming support from thepublic will be geared towards not cutting programs in the schools and saving teachers while the other side will simply yell cut cut cut.....
- Mike, Manchester

I say call their bluff on the pink slip parade this year and then let the School Board explain to all of the outraged parents that their health insurance "perk" is more important than "saving a few dollars" to pay for a teacher.
- Frank, Manchester

Perhaps the school board that was elected in 2007 was better than the previous board, but obviously the school board's overhaul is not yet complete. Citizens must take back the school board.
- Nicholl, Manchester

Evidently it is just too simple to understand that when cuts in spending are made by the higher ups, the lower downs have to implement them. The biggest cost is the pay for teachers so that is the easiest way to make sure that when the deluge comes, there will be some way to actually cut the budget to the levels that the muckety mucks seem to want for this ten minute period. At least they are preparing for something, keeping their responsibilities alive. How many of you even go to the meeting at which the hatchet is sunk into the educational budget. Can't be bothered until it is complaining time, I guess.
- Bob, Deerfield

Methink the editor doth protest too much. I am having a difficult time reconciling this editorial with the print edition story whereby School Superindentand Brennan is letting 2 positions go, so he can fill 3 admin positions. Further, Mr Brennan cant quite determine if administrator Burkish, currently earning 105K per annum, is slated for a salary increase as a result of his office re-org.

So scream all you want about the 2k per year stipend and health insurance and the potential loss of a favorite teacher, but the plain fact is the school admin is a bloated beauracracy with an insatiable appetite for taxpayer dollars.

Aditionally, Committeeman Langdon, who piously started this whole teapot tempest, loudly avowing she does not take the benefits, remains a bit disingeniuos about the matter in light of the fact that the taxpayers are already paying her health insurance as a school employee. I don't have a particular problem with that, I just believe in telling the whole story.

"Facts", as President Reagan famously avowed, "are troublesome things"

When I see the teachers union start to give a little, I might have some sympathy, until then, go pluck someones else heartstrings
- Richard, Manchester

What a horrible group! They complain that they need more money, yet they arent willing to make cuts tha affect them! Shame on you!
- Liz, Manchester

This editorial brings up good points, but no one, not the editor, the newspaper or the board members has presented data on the only other point that is truly critical. Obviously saving money is critical, and we have see the data/$, but what about ensuring a field of qualified school board candidates?

The assumption in this editorial, past articles and the finance committee is that reducing the compensation and benefits will not adversely impact the quality of the school board - our school district’s leaders. This should have been investigated. Who on the board would not be? Who running during the last elections would not have run? Currently, school board seats are often not contested.

Competency would require someone bring facts into this conversation regarding the quality and value the board brings to the district. A big problem our school district suffers from is the one sided view of costs without a consideration of value. No price is low enough is value is not understood.
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester

Pink Slips are proof-positive and only part of the element of what we have in the office right now. It is SOOOO much easier to let these teachers go to hide the fact that certain representatives of the City just cant seem to hold theirselves accountable for the financial mishaps that have taken shape.

I have a freshman attending Memorial. I get so many compliments from teachers over what a great student she is. My daughter has built a rapport with them, a level of trust and respect that doesnt always happen with others. She has amazing goals that she wishes to pursue. Just yesterday, she showed me her sign-up sheet for her second year: all Level 3's and 4's. She is so excited about taking on this kind of responsibility that I have teachers to thank this. I do my best as a parents to stay involved as much as possible to help keep that motivation alive.

My daughter is not the only student who would be affected. There are many great kids who attend our schools. And behind them, are really great parents: I have met so many dedicated people in my years living here. And I believe us parents will tell you the same thing : STOP putting the screws to our city's teachers!!! Stop using the teachers as a financial "Security Blanket" to solve your financial errors! Or better yet, perhaps you could go back to high school, take some math courses, particularly accounting!? Oh wait... you cant.. because your sending them a pink-slip in the mail... you cowards!
- Melanie, Manchester

Well said. Who is this editorialist? I notion that the move wouldn't save much money is precisely what is wrong with so much of today's public management. It needs to start somewhere folks; for many it's the morning coffee stop and for others it's the cable bill. Stop taking my hard earned money!
- Jack, Manchester

I find myself in the very unfamiliar position of completely agreeing with a Union Leader editorial! Odd sensation.
- Kathy, Manchester

"We thought this school board, elected in 2007, might be different. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case." Who knew? Majority of voters stayed home and didn't vote, just check the number of registered voters against those who did vote. As for 'favorite' teacher? Why not look at the five year master plan for the Manchester School District. In it, no teacher is considered a favorite. All teachers in such a position must show a three year plan with GLE's (Grade Level Expectations) that focus on an end goal after three years. A teacher performance and review was put in place when the DINI teams created it in 2006. This reader was part of one of those teams called 'Professional Development'. As for waste on the administration side, sure there are some out there. For example last years budget called for services from 60+ different companies, one might fix the copiers while another leases them out. At a cost of $450,000 for just maintance and repair of 'office equipment' then add on the cost of leasing such machines, it adds up. There are other places to cut as well. Such as the school district paying a fee to use Gill Stadium from the city of Manchester. The city gets the money back that was included in the school budget when they pay the bill, Why?. And the list goes on and on. Ask your school board members for a full list, line by line of their budget. Some items are a fixed cost such as heating and electric where others places are adjustable and can be/should be reduced. Let's not be part of Manchester's own version of the TV Show 'Scare Tatics' and fall victim to such petty games again this year.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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"City Hall: Some savings better than no savings"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 2/15/2009

An attempt to strip the school board of its health and dental benefits came up short last week. That doesn't mean the issue is going away.

Ward 2 Committeeman Bob O'Sullivan said he plans to seek a compromise between the two sides. He declined to get specific but said an alternative proposal might raise the premiums board members pay for coverage under the district plan.

That way, he said, the board would at least have some savings to show for its effort.

"Saving some money is better than saving no money," O'Sullivan said.

O'Sullivan was among the most vocal proponents of a plan to eliminate the board health benefits, along with members' $2,000-a-year stipends. The board rejected both proposals last Monday.

Several board members have cast the whole discussion as a waste of time. Still, there's some indication a compromise is possible. One committeeman who sided with the majority, Stephen Dolman, admitted he wasn't sure if board members ought to get the same benefit that full-time employees receive.

"I'd propose maybe a compromise," Dolman said before the vote, "where if they're part-time employees of the district, maybe they can get the same deal part-time employees get."

O'Sullivan said he was looking for a colleague on the other side of the issue to help him usher in a new proposal. He might want to give Dolman a call.

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MINORITY OPINION: One alderman tried to do away with his own board's health benefits last year. His comments weren't well received.

Alderman Jim Roy, a freshman, said he "didn't make any friends" on the board when he brought the issue up. He said he has no intention of making the same mistake again.

"I'll tell you why," he said. "There isn't one other person on that board that's going to support me. I mean, I don't mind running into a brick wall, but it's got to be for a reason."


- - - - -

NO PROMISES: Mayor Frank Guinta talked awful tough last spring, insisting city residents could not afford a tax increase and that he would not propose a budget that called for one.

No such promises were made last week. While announcing he may have to lay off some workers, Guinta declined to rule out the possibility that his upcoming budget proposal would increase taxes.

"I don't have all the pieces of the puzzle, in terms of revenue. A lot is going to depend on what the governor's budget provides," Guinta said last Wednesday, a day before Gov. John Lynch unveiled his own proposal for the state budget. "So until I see the complete picture, it's very difficult for me to give you a hypothetical."

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JEB TV: He's been a Congressman. Now, Jeb Bradley is trying on a different role: public-access TV show host.

Manchester residents will have the exclusive privilege of watching Bradley this spring on MCAM, Channel 23. The former Republican congressman confirmed he will be subbing for local anti-tax activist Jeff Kassel, host of the show "Let's Get Small," for several months, beginning in March.

"I want to keep it broad and flexible," Bradley said. "Talk about things that people are talking about. Obviously, the economy is front and center right now."

The show is a commitment for Bradley, since unlike most MCAM hosts, he doesn't live in Manchester. Bradley's home is in Wolfeboro, 50 miles to the north.

"It's the 21st century," Bradley said. "I can get in my car and drive pretty easily."

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THE WORSTEST: Is Alderman Ted Gatsas a big meanie?

Kathy Sullivan says so. The former state Democratic Party chairman unleashed on Gatsas last week for a recent comment he made about city employees who chose to forgo big raises so their departments could be merged.

Gatsas had an opportunity to express his appreciation for the employees, but instead said, "I think in these times, people should be very happy they still have a job."

"Uh - Senator? Have you no idea how churlish, rude, ungrateful and just plain mean you sound?" Sullivan wrote in a post on BlueHampshire.com.

Sullivan went on to compare Gatsas to Mr. Potter in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and invoked MSNBC political commentator Keith Olbermann, calling Gatsas "perhaps the Worst Person In The WOOOORRRRLLLDDDDD!!!!"

Gatsas, a Republican, dismissed the criticism, saying "Kathy Sullivan has been looking to beat me in elections. She's liable to say anything."

The Ward 2 alderman also noted how quick he was to express his gratitude to city highway workers who forfeited overtime pay on a snow-removal job late last month. Gatsas said he shook hands with every truck driver there that night.

- - - - -

CONGRESSMAN GATSAS?: On the same blog, Sullivan called Gatsas a "possible candidate" for Congress if U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter runs for Senate. Gatsas denied the characterization.

"I'm not thinking of anything right now. That's a long ways out," he said.

- - - - -

FINALLY, A FIGHT: Gatsas did say he will run for alderman again. No doubt, Democrats are determined to see that he doesn't run unopposed, as he did in each of his last two city races.

One Democrat who says he's up to the challenge is state Rep. Bob Thompson. "Am I chomping at the bit?" he said. "Yeah, you could say that."

Bill Whitmore, who lost a narrow race for state representative last fall, said he might give it a shot, as well, though he said his decision would depend on "who else is in the field."

City Democratic Chairman Chris Pappas has named activist Linda Garrish Thomas as another possible contender. Former Manchester school district spokesman David Scannell is a Ward 2 resident and a Democrat, but he says he has no intention of running for anything this year.

- - - - -

SORRY, THE HARDEST WORD: Art Beaudry is still peeved about Committeeman At-Large Kathleen Kelley's outburst at a school board meeting.

With the cameras rolling, the Ward 9 school board member insisted at last Monday night's board meeting that Kelley should apologize for cursing at him in public last month. Beaudry didn't refer to her by name, but he described the incident as "appalling."

Kelley didn't say a word in response. The meeting was adjourned within a minute.

- - - - -

MILITARY MATTERS: The school board's Coordination Committee is recommending a policy change that would allow students to withhold their personal information from military recruiters without keeping the same information from colleges.

Peace activist Will Thomas, who is pushing the change, said the district's current "opt-out" form punishes students who don't want to be contacted by military recruiters. He called the proposed form "fairer and less punitive."

- - - - -

OUT OF AMMO: The Manchester Police Department has used up all but $4,300 of the $150,000 the aldermen provided for its "Drugs and Guns" initiative last summer, Chief David Mara said. Mara is asking the aldermen for another $65,000 to keep the anti-crime program alive through April.

Officials have kept their fingers crossed, hoping federal dollars would be coming this way soon. So far, they're still waiting.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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Readers' COMMENTS

Mr. Tarr, it was Ted Gatsas who co-authored the inane budget that the alderman passed last year.

You know, the one that raised taxes, underfunded the police department, and made pie in the sky revenue assumptions?
- Clyde, Manchester

I do not live in Ward 2. If the voters of that ward get rid of Alderman Gatsas in the fall, it will be a disservice to the entire City. I do not always agree with Gatsas but he asks good questions and makes sure taxpayers are protected. He does a good job for the City. There are plenty of other alderman that should be replaced before Gatsas.
- Ron, Manchester

one Way to start eliminating waste in city Government is to fire the Parking Enforcing Double Dipper Dale Robinson and send his attitude with hinm
- Richard L. Fortin, Manchester

"I'd propose maybe a compromise," Dolman said before the vote, "where if they're part-time employees of the district, maybe they can get the same deal part-time employees get."


Many city voters would support such compromise, Mr. Dolman, because part time district employees receive no health care benefit.
- Gary, Manchester

OUT OF AMMO: Alderman at large Mike Lopez didn't even include money for the police department in his wish list. The department not only needs money to keep Operation Street Sweeper alive (aka Drugs and Guns) it needs $300,000 for new radios because the ones they use now are in need of replacement.

Alderman Gatas may not be some peoples favorite and there are times this reader does question his votes on things, yet he is a people's alderman, he listens with intent, does what he can, when he can and tries to give 110% effort representing the people both at the state level as well as the local level. Get well soon Senator/Alderman Gatas. Thank you for watching out for those in Ward 2. Now if we just had more (ahem, republican) aldermen like him, maybe we could see some relief from all these fees and taxes?
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

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"City considers early-retirement option for workers"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, February 18, 2009

MANCHESTER – The city may offer its employees early-retirement packages this year, one of several options on the table as officials grapple with a growing budget deficit, Mayor Frank Guinta confirmed last night.

"It's something that is being evaluated, like many other issues and options," Guinta told the aldermen.

Guinta has previously said the city may have to lay off or furlough some employees in the first half of this year because of disappointing revenue numbers. In addition, he has said he wants to renegotiate the contracts for city-employed union members, many of whom are due for raises this summer.

Manchester's financial problems have worsened over the past month, in part because of dwindling parking revenues. Yesterday, Finance Officer Bill Sanders said the city was facing an operating deficit of $2 million, up from $1.9 million in early January.

Guinta will discuss his budget plans tomorrow at 7 p.m. at a joint meeting of the aldermen and the school board. His budget proposal is not due until late March.

Guinta was reluctant to talk about early-retirement packages last night, but came under pressure from the aldermen. One board member, Ted Gatsas, said early-retirement packages should be offered quickly so the city can start saving money in Fiscal 2009, which ends June 30.

"If we don't get this done immediately, then there's no reason to do it," Gatsas said.

Currently, there are 116 city employees 55 or older who have at least 20 years of experience, according to Human Resources Director Jane Gile, who provided the information at Gatsas' request. The average salary for those workers is $57,400.

Of those workers, Gile said, there are 79 who have served the city for 25 years or more.

Guinta said he wants city staff to review all the numbers before the aldermen discuss the early-retirement packages in public. Aldermen agreed to let the staff work on the plan, but also voted to refer the matter to the aldermanic Committee on Human Resources.

The city has continued to fall deeper into deficit in recent months, despite an ongoing freeze on discretionary spending. Part of the problem stems from parking revenues, which have fallen short of their targets.

Sanders is now predicting a $600,000 parking-revenue shortfall. A month ago, the shortfall was estimated at $300,000.

Parking Manager Brandy Stanley said single-meter revenues have been down 50 percent from January to February. Reasons for the loss, she said, may range from the economic recession, which has hurt downtown businesses, to the snowbanks that sometimes pile around meters, making it difficult or impossible for drivers to feed them.

Stanley said she does not believe the revenue loss is indicative of a fallout from last year's downtown parking plan, which raised parking prices in some spaces. She did, however, suggest the plan spurred some drivers to buy monthly parking permits. In the last few weeks, she said, 150 permits were canceled.

Other problem areas for the city include automobile registrations and building permits, which together account for a projected $1.5 million revenue shortfall. Interest income has also slipped and is now projected to come up $700,000 short.

On the plus side, Sanders noted, the city has managed to keep spending down. Sanders said the revenue shortfalls will be offset, in part, by a $740,000 expenditure surplus.

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READERS' COMMENTS:

John is right and Jim doesn't get it. Get rid of the anti-business crowd that gets paid to make things difficult for tax paying business owners. That $100k salary is wasted on someone that has been there too long and doesn't care about anything.
- Ted, Manchester

JOHN,

How are we going to pay for this "New energy and Talent"??? Isn't the point of sending the people off to early retirement to make up for shortfalls, so what sense is it to hire new people to fill the positions? Do you expect this new talent to take a discount to work for the city? That will never happen, if you want quality people, you have to pay them the going rate.
- JIM, MANCHESTER

Early retirement? Most of these slugs have been retired in place for years. Lay them off. Let them find out what the "real" world is like. Let them go stand in line at the unemployment office on Hanover st.
Also,, when the slugs leave, and get their pension [ remember, private sector employees don't get a big fat pension ] they should not be allowed to return to work in public employment jobs. This happens all the time, and we all know how they get hired; they are INSIDERS HACKS.. Let's stop this nonsense..
- tom, manchester,nh

A great idea! Let the old entrenched useless employees move on. Bring new, strong life into this city for once. Lets start with further savings in the building dept. and find a cheaper commissioner! Do you all know that the czar Leo just got a raise and is making over $100,000 now? This is a man who wont even give local business people the courtesy of a return phione call to resolve a compliance issue. This is a great time to sweep out the old junk and bring in some new talent and energy. Lets turn Manchester into a business friendly city and be ready to ride the wave of recovery that will surely be coming soon!
- John, Manchester

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"Mayor Frank Guinta: Up to 200 layoffs possible"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Friday, February 20, 2009

MANCHESTER – As many as 200 city workers may be laid off this year, Mayor Frank Guinta warned last night in an address that laid plain the many sacrifices he expects employees to make as the city confronts a multi-million-dollar revenue shortfall.

Guinta said he would require every worker to take a one-week furlough and will ask each of the city's 17 unions for concessions, which may include some health benefits, vacations or upcoming pay raises. The mayor also said he hopes to offer buyouts to roughly 100 longtime employees during the first quarter of fiscal 2010, which begins July 1.

No matter what, some layoffs are inevitable, Guinta said in an interview yesterday afternoon. In all probability, he said, some teachers will be let go.

"I don't think we should be happy about that," Guinta said. "I think we should do this respectfully and responsibly, and I think we should try to minimize them."

The alternative to drastic spending cuts, according to the mayor, is a double-digit tax hike. To maintain current services, Guinta said, the city would have to raise taxes by 12 percent. For the owners of a $225,000 home, that would translate to a $470 increase on their fall tax bill.

Even worse, Guinta said, the tax rate would climb about 18 percent if the state withholds millions of dollars in rooms-and-meals tax rebates and other revenue sources. Those cuts were recommended last week by Gov. John Lynch, though the governor did say he expects federal stimulus dollars to make up the difference.

Guinta said he is determined to propose a budget that would not raise taxes at all. He has a little less than six weeks to craft his proposal before it must be sent to the aldermen.

"I'm letting everybody know, from this point forward, that the goal is a zero-percent tax increase," Guinta said.

Alderman Jim Roy said he agrees with the mayor's assessment that some layoffs will be unavoidable, though he and others argued it's impossible to know this early in the year just how many there may be. Another alderman, Betsi DeVries, called the mayor's projections "extremely premature," particularly since no one yet knows how much money the city will get from the federal stimulus package.

Still, union heads confessed the talk of layoffs has been disquieting. Scott McGilvray, president of the Manchester Education Association, said he's been encouraging young teachers to look for work outside the district.

"They're extremely nervous," he said, "as they should be."

Among the most notable measures Guinta revealed he is considering is a plan to put city government on a four-day work week, at least for part of the year. For instance, he said, it may be possible to close City Hall on Fridays during the summer months, when business is slower.

"Just on energy alone, you could save $100,000 to $200,000," Guinta said.

In addition, Guinta said he wants to funnel some money away from the city's two public TV stations, which take funding from Comcast fees. The stations are projected to see their budgets more than double next year, from $400,000 to $865,000.

Guinta also said he would ask the aldermen to call off plans to start replacing some of the city's oldest and most worn-out vehicles, a plan that would require $6 million in bonds next year.

The mayor acknowledged the severity of his recommendations but said he does not believe they would have much effect on city services.

"We're still going to pick up trash," he said. "We're still going to plow the streets. We're still going to educate our kids."

A loss of 200 employees would shrink the city's workforce by 6 percent. Guinta said he believes the actual number of layoffs could be much lower if other costs are cut.

At the same time, he warned, "I've already looked through the personnel, and I'm starting to make decisions, or I should say, evaluating where there should be reductions in workforce."

Guinta said the city could save up to $1.1 million through furloughs, in which every employee would take a week off without pay. The furloughs would not apply to teachers, he said.

Guinta provided few details about his plan to offer early-retirement packages in fiscal 2010 but estimated the move could save $1 million or possibly as much as $2 million. He said he does not believe it would be feasible to offer buyouts before the current fiscal year ends.

Several union heads have said they are willing to consider reopening their contracts, many of which call for a 3 percent raise for union members beginning this summer.

Meetings between the unions and city staff are expected to begin next week.

Yesterday, Guinta announced he was forming a committee to represent the city in those meetings.

Members include himself, Aldermen At-Large Mike Lopez and Dan O'Neil, Human Resources Director Jane Gile and Finance Officer Bill Sanders.

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READERS' COMMENTS:

Thanks so much to General John Stark and his "Live Free or Die (...Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils) quote. It has shackled NH thinking ever since. I don't want to wear my seat belt, Live Free of Die! I don't want to wear a helment, Live Free of Die! We don't want (although we certainly need) a State Income tax, Live Free or Die dude! There is a price to Live Free in NH - don't kid yourselves folks. Mayor Guinta has some tough decisions to make and a strong leader needs our support to help keep spending/expenses in check and think progressively/outside the box. Ask yourselves: what are you doing to help your community? Volunteering your time? Providing your skills etc... to make this a better place to live? What have you done lately? A big "grow-up pill" may be required...
- Sharon, Manchester

its not a bad idea,LETS START AT THE TOP
- steve, manchester nh

Manchester, from what it seems, MUST have a bunch of bad teachers....Well, lets do this--fire ALL of them and then go out and get brand new ones. Seems like a good idea? But who is going to want to go to work for a city who year after year threatens them with a teacher lay off? New teachers are vulnerable, they want stability. They dont want to worry year after year wether or not they are going to lose their jobs. The really good teachers will go to the districts with stability. And yes... the bad, older, higher paid--are what you have no choice to keep!
- Jimbo, Manchester

"If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it, and put a stop to it," President Obama said. "I want everyone here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it, and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it. - President Obama". Well there goes that 'wish list' the aldermen wanted...The mayor was right in his thinking to wait to see what the stimulus package will bring. How can an $80,000 Bus washer (replacement) bring in jobs anyway?. Thanks Mayor Guinta for keeping the taxpayers first in the city, and not the status quo.

Robert M Tarr
Candidate for Alderman - Ward 5, 09'
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

I don’t understand how suddenly in this economic downturn city employees are now being labeled as overpaid hacks. I have been a police officer in Manchester for 18 years. Throughout most of this decade I earned a modest salary and watched friends and family virtually print money in a robust economy. I considered leaving the job I loved because I was embarrassed at my income in comparison .

The mayor is rightfully looking to protect homeowners from a tax increase and is looking at ways to save money. What I disagree with is the suggestion of assessing his employees with a tax increase in the form of a pay forfeiture or “concessions”. That seems like an easy way out.

I can't seem to recall experiencing the benefit of the plush years. There was no discussion of opening up lean contracts As a dedicated long term city employee, I request the same consideration that Mayor Guinta is attempting to provide other tax-payers.
- Dave, Manchester

What Manchester teachers should do is ask for the pay they earned in 08-09 FISCAL year, be paid completely in FISCAL year 08-09 at the end of June 09. Let the teachers bank THEIR money and earn the interest-rather than the city earning the thousands of dollars in interest. Makes sense seeing as though they don't work in the summer!!! hmmmm
- Jim, Manchester

Kim in Merrimack,

I'm not bitter, just realistic. Realistic because I am now a taxpayer who is just starting out in life and already feel a financial squeeze from the taxes for my postage stamp sized home. I also am able to recognize the same bull from the teachers union year after year. When I was in high school at Memorial the teachers and their union threatened not to write any recommendations for students for college...a necessary entry requirement and they know it...essentially holding our futures hostage for more money. I was an excellent student and found this disgusting and low.

Teachers always say they don't do it for the money or they do it for the kids. Please explain how tactics like that are for the kids. While many are in it for the kids, some of the older ones who are just coasting through aren't skilled to do anything else, and they know it, and fear losing the gravy train they have become acustimed to and even think they deserve.

Fortunately in my college years I was shown what true academic professionals were.

I really wish teachers would wake up and get rid of their union. It only protects the bad and punishes the good. Why don't you people see this?
- Craig, Manchester, NH

So Thom, you are happy that people are being laid off? Do you think they are happy to hear what has happened to your company? In all honesty your response post to Chip sounds like a 5th grader who is upset that someone has chocolate milk for lunch and you only got regular milk. Seriously, I like how you believe that none of the city employees do anything, and I am glad to see that you fell back on your flagger stance as well. Lets see. lay off the coty employees, and have less services....And how can you be happy that someone else will now be unemployed????
- Matthew, Manchester, NH

i have a idea for spending to much money for the city workers who are over paid,lets hire cons who are in jail who we can trust and all the little people looking for jobs for less pay,like my self im willing to work for the city for less money ill be happy to make 30,000.00a yr highway employees are over paid and underworked if u get laid off join the line of the unemployment like my self who is looking for a job as i speak
- jim, manchester

Simone,
Teachers can get their 183 days of pay spread out over the summer. They don't get "paid" for not working the summer. So, if you took their pay away for a week over the summer, would be taking away pay they already earned by working the school year. That is not what the rest of city employees are doing. They get a week "off" without pay.
- Rob, Manchester

Tammy, if you total up the number of hours worked per year, I think you'll find that most teachers are working at least as many hours as the 9-to-5ers like me working 40 a week year round. I've seen it. My wife puts in many more than 40 a week as do the other teachers I know. Probably closer to 60. Suddenly that "significantly higher rate of pay", isn't at all.
- Phil, Manchester

This is the exact reason why Alderman should not be paid!
- bill D, manchester, nh

Chip of Wilton wrote "You are a pathetic human being".

Hey Chip.. the company I work for laid off employees last week, cut the pay of the remainder by 10%, and told us all that more layoffs are coming..

And you want me to sit here and think it isn't pathetic that the head of the meter maids is being paid over $100,000 per year! Are you NUTS! It is high time that the municipal and state and country employees get treated like the folks who are paying them :: US.. ME and MY neighbors. I am sick and tired of seeing cops who don't flag when they are getting paid plenty. Sick of overpaid do nothings who sit around and take my tax money.. I want to see the same face working for the city that I see standing in line at the unemployment office. Is that too much to ask? Yes.. I am happy. Happy that Manchester has a mayor who understands that enough is enough.. and by the way.. why do you care? Aren't you living in Wilton? Oh,, wait.. you must be a city employee, right? One of the many who treat the city of Manchester as the bucket of gold at the end of a rainbow.. well guess what buddy.. the gravy train has left the station.
- Thom, Manchester, NH

Mayor Frank, why not implement a cost savings sharing program allowing city employees to offer cost savings ideas and, if implemented, share in the savings?
- Jim, Manchester

If all those complaining about high taxes would stop saying "not in my back yard" about new commercial development in the city, our taxes would decrease. Example, the recycling center on Dunbarton Rd. would generate tax money as well as save in not having to take all recycling out of the city. Why do a few residents have a say in what is to the benefit of all city residents. And lets get on the ball with developing Hackett Hill Rd. I find it hard to believe the largest city north of Boston can not find tenants for this property.
- Fred, Manchester

How can you seriously try to blame the city tax increases on Mayor Guinta when it is TOTALLY the fault of the Aldermen? Guinta has been the only one (along with Alderman Garrity, Pinard, and sometimes Gatsas) who has cared at all about a zero percent tax increase in this city, but his budget gets voted down by the Democrat majority every time.

If you truly care about keeping our taxes down, vote for some new aldermen to replace people like O'Neil, Lopez, Smith, and Roy!
- Greg Ballard, Manchester, New Hampshire

It takes a brave politician to anger the entrenched bureaucrats by threatening layoffs. Look how many of them are posting threats here! Good going Mayor!
- Thomas, Deerfield

Its nice to have an honest major who tells us the truth about the budget and cares about us, the taxpayers, rather than the special interest groups. Baines cared more about the unions and department heads than he did about the taxpayer and it was horrible how high he was willing to let our taxes increase in Manchester.

The Aldermanic board still has the same mindset that Baines did--spend spend spend, but at least we have a mayor who stands up to them and fights to keep our taxes low even though he outnumbered by the Democrat aldermen.

Thanks to you Guinta, thousands of us haven't been run out of our homes because of the astronomical tax increases desired by our aldermanic representitives.
- Chris, Manch

Don't you love how Democrats like Justin complain their heads off and rant about the mayor for cutting jobs during this tough time, but when it is Lynch laying off hundreds of people on the state level, you don't hear a peep from them.

You Democrats in this state don't even know what you stand for anymore and just attack anyone who is of a different political party.
- James Price, Manchester

Hey Jim, perhaps you should point the finger at who is really to blame for your tax increases- the Democrat Aldermen who vote DOWN Guinta's zero percent tax increase every year.

However, I'm sure you are just a Democrat partisan who is ready to attack Guinta for your own reasons rather than blame who is actually at fault---The Democrat majority on the Aldermanic Board.
- Tom Moore, Manchester Nh

I am confused- Now tha the housing /mortgage market has tanked Who is determining the value of my home- and forsome who's houses were valued at double what they should be does that now mean they will be assessed @ a more reasonable inline rate- This may possibly mean my taxes go down - Correct? I purchased my house 11 yrs ago 71K - Put a boat load of sweat equity into it- Refinanced 3yrs ago it appraised @ 235K - my tax rate assessment I believe is 180K - HELP me understand what is going on here!
- Heidi, Manchester

Jim Keane from Manchester you cannot blame Guinta for any tax increases since he has been mayor. Every single budget he put forward did not include a tax increase. The aldermen wouldn't have anything to do with that. When it comes time to vote this fall I hope people remember who voted in all these tax increases - Lopez, O'neill, DeVries, Smith, etc. It wasn't Guinta.
- Rick, Manchester

John in Manchester - I'm not saying that the teachers are overpaid or underpaid. I was simply pointing out that you can't equally compare the salary of someone who works 12 months out of the year to someone who does not. Someone who works only part of the year and earns the same total amount as someone who works all year is making a significantly higher rate of pay.

I'm curious how just paying over 26 weeks vs. 21 weeks would save so much money....but if it did, then I'm glad that we switched to that system.

I'm not suggesting in any way that we make cuts in teachers at the top of the list of places to cut. I don't think it's unreasonable for the teachers - and any city or school employee - to forego raises though just like people in the private marketplace are.
- Tammy, Manchester

Hey DK - last August a local car dealership (sorry, I can't recall which one) gave the Mayor's Office free use of a 2008 Ford Taurus for the next two years.

FREE.

The mayor worked with this dealer to negotiate something that would save the city some $$.

Imagine that.

Nice try on pointing to Guinta as the "problem" though.
- Tammy, Manchester

When paychecks at home get cut, we have to adjust our spending. The same should be done by towns, cities and the state. There's enough fluff in every budget that can be cut out without any dire consequences. Beyond that, a few sacrifices will need to be made. But that's the way it is. Private companies do it and so should public agencies. It's time we all started living within our means. If we had done this all along, we wouldn't be in this mess now and we wouldn't need Obama Bucks flying out to reward fiscal irresponsibility.
- Brian, Farmington

Not sure I by it Mr. Mayor... We've had a tax increase for the last 2 years in a row as it is. Why do I feel another one coming on??? When will this end - and you're up for re-election when???
- Jim Keane, Manchester, NH

I hope that all of the people who posted yesterday and were complaining about the sidewalk issue and who are happy today with this news will be just as happy next winter when there is no one hired to drive the sidewalk plow. And I agree 100% with Chip, Thom you are pathetic. To be happy and excited that others are losing their jobs makes you real miserable. It is true that once the economy turns around all the private sector employees will be raking in the quarterly bonuses, and raises and so on, while the public sector will be stuck in slow mode as this is always the case. I hope everyone is real happy that there are going to be 200 more people on unemployment. Way to care about your fellow brothers and sisters....
- Matthew, Manchester, NH

- Thom, Manchester, NH:
About time! Lay their ... off. With all the bad news, this is good news. A mayor who "gets it".

You are a pathetic human being.


And please, people, I realize you have trouble paying your taxes, but stop with the "my house has gone down in value where's my tax break" crap. Assessing your home price is about getting your relative value to the community, if everyone had their property evaluated at half as much you'd still pay the same amount only the tax rate would appear to be higher.
- Chip, Wilton

Why should Mayor Guinta be allowed to balance the budget on the backs of the union employees? Why should the unions agree to forgo raises today when they already know that they will be getting nothing in the next contract? Mayor Guinta wants to be reelected so badly that he does not want to lose popularity by spreading the pain evenly amongst all city residents. Guinta cannot ask a city employee to forgo a raise and then increase their property tax if they happen to also be a resident.

For all of you people who are suffering in the private sector I feel for you, however, when economic times are good you do very well. When has the city ever offered to give more money to a city employee when times have been good? Never. When times are bad, yes, the union employee is somewhat protected by an existing contract. When things are better in the future private sector employees will prosper just fine while public sector employees will still be moving at the same slow pace.

Tell Guinta you see through his facade. He wants your vote and will obviously lie to get it. He is going to raise our taxes substantially because he already knows that the unions are not going to forgo their agreed upon raises, nor should they.
- Justin, Manchester

Tammy,
There are not many teacher's on the first few pages. Most are administrators. You are right they don't work 52 weeks. They also don't get PAID for 52 weeks. Teacher's get paid for 183 days of school. Many years ago the teacher's of Manchester areed to forgo being paid in 21 pay checks and went to 26 pay checks. This saved the city of Manchester over $14 million dollars. Everyone is quick to bash them but they have stepped up time and time again in the best interest of the city.
There is some waste in the school district but not as much as some think. Manchester teacher's rank 39th in the state in average teacher salary. These figures are available on the State Ed. website. Manchester ranks close to the bottom in per pupil spending in the state. So show us where there is all of the waste.
My wife teaches and spends much more time in her school than the contract calls for and she is not alone. On the city side, all the other departments, Manchester ranks near the top in spending. So let's be careful where we cut. I, too, am a taxpayer in Manchester and don't want my taxes to go up either. Instead of bashing and pointing fingers we ALL need to work together to get out of this financial mess.
I think the Mayor and the Governor both need to come up with some solutions. We need to give them both a FAIR chance to make it work. This is not a Democrat or Republican problem it's our problem. The only way out is if we work together.
- John, Manchester

Mr. Gorski
I'm neither Republican nor Democrat - and certainly no partisan.

The ineptitude of the Aldermen (when does Manchester still presume them to be Men?) will no doubt be fodder for another day.

Today we have a mayor who clearly has his eyes on other prizes, is not particularly competent and is not being held to accoutn by the local paper.

Guinta wants the betterment of Manchester to the extent that it will promote his future ambitions.
- Leon, Manchester

Good for you Mr. Mayor.
When my business is short money something gets cut. There is no bottomless pit of money (taxpayer) to help business and city govt. should be run the same way.
Hold the line and make it stick as best as you can. Let the others go on record as raising my taxes and next time you may get a board that supports you and the citizens.
- John Yule, manchester

I hope the mayor leads by example and starts by giving up his vehicle. Then he can buy a vehicle and help the economy!
- DK, Manchester

Great job mayor. The unions should have a pay freeze. What makes them different from you an me who's employers have cut our raises and shrunk our bonus. We are just thankful that we are still employed. But the government employees (including the aldermen) feel that they should not sacrafice and the burden should always fall on homeowners. i hope manchester goes to the polls this year change the Aldermen. If they don't want to sacrifice than why should we.
- Hughan, manchester

To Sharon:

You raise a great point. If New Hampshire were to institute a seat-belt law and a helmet law for those who ride motorcycles, the State would receive federal funding. Why haven't we done that yet???? Its proven to save lives and money, I guess I don't understand why the State hasn't jumped on the band wagon on that one.
- Kim, Manchester

If you want to save city money, tell the police and other city departments to stop leaving their cars and trucks unattended with their engines running. It's illegal and a waste of taxpayer-provide fuel.
- LJC, Manchester

I'm a Democrat and I am totally behind Mayor Guinta. I can't afford hundreds of dollars in increases to my tax bill. Mayor Guinta has and will continue to have my support so long as he keeps my taxes from going through the roof.
- Debra Provencher, Manchester Nh

It sounds to me like Leon and and the alderwoman (is that the right word or is it still alderman even when it is a female) DeVries are way more worried about their political parties than the should be. People are suffering, losing their jobs, and barely scraping by and they are just trying to play politics as usual. I live in DeVries' ward and I am sick of seeing her work against rather than WITH the mayor and other city leaders.
- DJ Colins, Manch

Is the mayor going to go a week without pay? Maybe the NH Coalition which he is vital part of will pick up the tab for his week off. The rest of us will suffer as you pad your resume Mr. Mayor in the hopes of leaving Manchester behind to pursue other political office.
- Dave, Manchester

Leon, I have read both of your posts on here and all you do is attack Guinta because of what seems to be de to his political party. Seriously, in these tough times, we really don't have time to deal with your partisan views. Guinta is working with members of both parties to come up with a zero percent budget for the taxpayers. I hope the Democrats on the board will actually work with the mayor for the betterment of those of us who live in Manchester rather than have a divisive attitude such as yours.
- Jake Gorski, Manchester NH

I urge everyone who cannot afford a tax increase to put pressure on your aldermen over the next month to make sure that they support the taxpayer and keep our tax increases as close to zero as humanly possible. I'm tired of aldermen such as DeVries, Smith, Lopez, O'Neil, and Mark Roy representing departments and special interests in this city and would love to see them follow the mayor's lead and represent their constituents for once.
- Cindy Stewart, Manchester

Good job Guinta. We need your fiscal responsibility now more than ever.
- Holly Lane Ginder, Manchester, New Hampshire

Guinta is forming a committee of Democrats with himself in order to best come up with solutions to the budget at hand while Betsy DeVries and other partisan Democrats are attacking him. The Democrats try and tout that they are tired of partisan politics, while every opportunity they get, they attack a Republican rather than working with them.

I applaud Guinta for working in a bipartisan manner to get this budget formulated. I wish the Democrats on the board could quit with their partisanship and actually try working with Guinta for once rather than constantly opposing him when he is trying to keep our taxes as low as possible.
- Shannon Lee, Manchester, New Hampshire

MPD is clearly ripe for attention. Many officers have gross annual pay upwards from $90,000 to over $100,000. I'm not just talking about the senior officers and the chief, in fact they often earn less than the those on the lowest rungs. (This is public information - so go look if you don't believe).

This is well above base salary and the result of overtime payments that seem to be out of control. We also need an honest appraisal of equipment and training.

Guinta of course, would prefer to beat up on (Democrat supporting) Unions rather than risk his right wing credentials.
- Leon, Manchester

Mr Mayor, the taxpayers of Manchester stand behind you during these tough times. I am sure that the decisions you will have to make during the next few months will be very difficult, but know that those of us who are just barely making it by during these tough times are grateful to have you in the corner office.
- Casey Johnes, Manchvegas

I'm curious to know how much has been done to "green" city buildings. Have city officials switched to CFL light bulbs? Put water aerators on all faucets? Put in low-flow toilets and urinals? While these measures would cost a little up front, they would than pay for themselves in no time and the resulting savings would really add up over time.

Pennies make dollars and in a time of municipal belt-tightening every little bit helps.

Check out my blog post on this subject:

http://www.fortressmanchester.com/home/2008/9/11/waste-not-want-not.html
- Will, Manchester

2007 City Salaries
http://www.unionleader.com/uploads/media-items/2008/May/52608citysalaries.pdf

2007 School District Salaries
http://www.unionleader.com/uploads/media-items/2008/May/52708schoolsalaries.pdf

Some of these figures include retirement packages, etc. You need to read the info on page 1 as to what it includes.

You will see that Mayor Guinta was on page 8 of the city salaries list....and he wouldn't even make the 1st page on the school district list (keeping in mind that teachers do not work a 52 week work year).

2008 figures will not be available until this summer.
- Tammy Simmons, Manchester

I read the article and all the comments posted here and think people of any political stripe would thank the Mayor. He is doing what we as taxpayers want our elected officials to do, think of our cost as taxpayers when budgeting. Thank you Mayor Guinta. If we look back to last year the alderman approved a budget that was 5 million dollars more than what the mayor proposed, had his more efficent budget been passed this years problems could have probably been mitigated. This is a lesson that should be transferred to the states fiscal crisis as well, had Governor Lynch had more than an toothpick for a backbone he would have refused a budget with a 171/2% increase that local communities are now paying the price for. It is time that elected leaders stop waiting for a magical bailout like Ms. Devries who is counting on federal dollars that may not appear at the promised levels, blind faith is no way to budget just ask the folks that bought houses out of the range of their affordability. The unions should be working with the city towards sustainable costs through concessions and the elimination of redundant positions with the taxpayer in mind. The cuts proposed by Mayor Guinta are a reality that all people are facing. Business owners in Manchester are letting people go in order to make ends meet and homeowners are trimming their budgets while many governments, for example Massachusetts and California are careening towards insolvency. Even here in New Hampshire with the Governor's proposed budget increasing long term debt, with these examples of fiscal mismanagement, Mayor Guinta should be praised for attempting to avoid tax hikes and those who care about the taxpayer should do their best to assist the mayor in this task or should be remembered this fall as continiuing to raise the cost of government on the backs of their constituents.
- Matthew M., Manchester

According to the City Charter: The salary of the mayor shall be set at sixty-eight thousand dollars ($68,000) after the election of
a new mayor at the next municipal general election. The mayor's salary shall not be increased from the time of
any election until the close of the term of the mayor then elected. The board of aldermen shall have the power to
increase the mayor's salary as they deem necessary, but shall not lower said salary.
- Tammy Simmons, Manc

We can't afford tax increases especially in tough times. The Mayor deserves a lot of credit bringing this process forward as early as he has. Hopefully this board will follow his lead and do everything possible to protect the taxpayer.
- Michael Biundo, Manchester

Hey Ray, the mayor has proposed a budget with a zero percent tax increase every single year on his tenure so far. The only reason why your city property taxes have gone up is because the vast majority of the aldermen are Democrats and they vote down his budget and propose one with a tax increase.

If you really are upset about property tax increases, blame the Democrats on the Board of Aldermen. If Guinta were not in office holding the aldermen's feet to the fire, our taxes would have already gone through the roof by now.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester NH

Simone, where is the mayor sacrificing? Are you blind? He cares about this city and those of us who make it up. I guarantee that it kills him to have to make cuts and lay someone off, but this is what is necessary when the economy is in the shape it is in right now. I am sure he is going to try and make cuts in the least problematic areas of city government.

If you are trying to make a comment about his pay or about his own budget for the mayor's office specifically, you really should do some serious research. The mayor's office functions on a VERY meager budget and the mayor himself is vastly underpaid (makes less than most of the department heads in the city).
- Ben Thomas, Manchester

Simone, all city employees except teachers would lose a week's pay, including the mayor and his staff. by the way the mayor's salary is 72k per year and it has not been increased in almost 10 years. at least a dozen department heads that report to him make over 100k a year. don't write that the mayor is not subject to sacrifices and does not lead by example. he is the best mayor we've had in years.
- mike conway, manchester

We've all heard the stories about the trash collectors getting paid for 8 hour days yet they rarely work an 8 hour day. Shift to a 4-day week and I'll bet they can still get all the trash picked up. yes, this will take a little adjusting of pick-up schedules, but in the long run, it will save the city money.
- Sue, Manchester

The Police department could be restructured too, MPD waste too much manpower and gas on patrolling empty streets.
Tax payers could be spare some of the financial burden by installing security cameras in busy and hot spots around Manchester and these security cameras could be monitors by a single individual and call could be put out to the MPD as needed by the person monitoring these security cameras.
This will deter crimes, save gas, police squad cars usage and MPD manpower..
MPD could also engage in continuous raid of drug and crack houses around the City on a daily basis and report these raids boldly on all local, state and regional news media.
Drug dealers will move out of the City and drug dealers from other Cities and States will want to relocate to Manchester. This Psychological warfare will save tax payer money in the long run.
- JD Williams, "inner City" Manchester NH

Sorry for the workers of Manchester. But it's the way of the world now. Good luck on your new way of life.
Hope some of those high paid employees are cut.
- Ellen D.G., Manchester

Keeping old vehicles also leads to more maintenenace costs, more break down time, more mechanics pay and less fuel efficiency - sounds like a whole lot of costs to me. More breakdown also mean more time to get jobs completed. Decisions need to be made wisely and with thought put to them.
- Amy, Manchester

Where is it written that being a Democrat = Raising Taxes? As a fiscally conservative democrat I am all for the mayors plan and am glad that someone is pushing the issues of expenses, but some decision may be short sited. If we put off purchasing new vehicles we need to maintain old ones. We need to look at the ROI for these things instead of just saying what a good idea lets hold off on big ticket items. Personally I feel Lynch is going a great job and will continue to vote for him.
- Joshua, NH

BOO HOO HOO Manchester! Manchester is always crying about their property taxes. Don't you people realize how many services you receive for such little money. Why don't you look at how much the surrounding towns pay in property taxes! I pay more than double and still need to bring my own trash to the dump!
- Judith, Deerfield

Why wouldn't the furloughs apply to the teachers? They have the whole summer off, they can take their furloughs then. Obviously, Guinta, once again is taking care of the teachers union and penalizing other unions. He wants to take care of the teachers so that he can get their support in November. He is so transparent. He needs to go. He has made a mess of our city.
- simone, manchester

thank you, mayor guinta for thinking of the citizen tax payer. your creative thinking and planning is appreciated. hopefully, the tax and spend liberals will learn something from you, even if the won't admit!
- fpc, manchester

Craig from Manchester ... you hit it right on the nose. This is a great time for the powers that be to sit down with the teachers' union people and explain that they can keep MORE teachers if the union works with the City. How? Lay-off the higher salaried, non-productive teachers who are just "going through the motions." Everyone knows that they are out there. Why doesn't anyone do something about getting rid of them? Why would a union protect them and let highly motivated, young and lower paid teachers go? After a few of the poor performers are let go, hopefully the entire public work force will get the message and pick up their productivity ... though, as a whole, there ARE those who give 100% each day!
- John, Manchester

I love how the comments always turn to democrat/republican stereotypes as if one side is "the" way to think and not the other. WAKE UP people both parties only care about themselves and not the good of the people.

I would like to know where this loss in revenue is coming from. If there are few people paying registration costs then it would make sense to let go one of the clerks. I say stop the name calling and use common sense.
- Maria, Manchester NH

No one can afford a tax increase on their homes. We have been making that sacrafice for the past 10 years! DeVries is already setting the stage for criticizing Guinta for making the hard decisions. Unbelievable!
- Mark L, Manchester

Craig of Manchester you sound like a bitter man when it comes to your education and I sorry that you feel that way.

As one of the younger less paid teachers I would like to remind everyone about the part time school board members with full time benefits. Does this benefit seem silly to anyone else?
- Kim, Merrimack

To Chris King and Dave Trembley:

I had to read the article twice because I couldn't find anything that the Mayor is going to sacrifice on his part to help out the problem that he created. Where does it mention that he will give up a weeks pay? He's always looking to the Union to sacrifice their income to make him look good. Have you two ever heard of "leading by example"? Stop your whining and criticism of everyone but the Mayor. He's doing a lousy job and deep inside you know it.
- simone, manchetser

Welcome to reality folks. No, Alderman Devries, this is not premature, this should have been addressed months if not years ago. We've had a gash in our side for a long time that has gone unattended to and now Governor Lynch has wounded us further. We cannot wait to see if the federal government may or may not show up with a bandaid for that bleeding wound. We're bleeding NOW and we need to make it stop.

The taxpayers have suffered enough. Thank you Mayor Guinta for doing the right thing and making the tough decisions. No one wants to see people laid but that is what everyone in the private sector faces every day. It's just a reality these days.
- Rick, Manchester

Thanks Mayor Guinta for at least givng the false hope that you wont raise taxes once again. Incase we haven't already heard people are losing their homes, so who will be paying these raised taxes? Cutting city employees to a four day work week, I do believe that the city workers have a sweet program going for themselves already. They already have every holiday in the book off, and abundance of sick days and vacation time. So we are now going to reward them with a four day work week for the same pay? Each and every day we are all unfortunatly facing layoffs, sorry but city workers can not be excluded. Find a better way to cut back then off the backs of tax payers or you will have more one time tax payers living under the over passes.
- Ray, Manchester

I understand cut and layoffs need to be made. The problem that I see is that the cuts are going to be your trash workers and teachers and then they will move people down to continue to pickup the trash or no gym classes.

I say people should start looking at the top and see who is working for their paycheck and who is sitting back collecting their paycheck. One school administrator might cover 2-3 teachers. One BSO position might cover 2-3 refuse workers. Hopwfully Guinta will be able to look at the "waste" while evaluating jobs.
- Amy, Manchester

My house has lost ~ $50K in value and they want to increase my property taxes? It's time for a NH State Income Tax people. Like driving w/your seat belt on, let's get w/the program NH.
- Sharon, Manchester

Obviously the mayor is not doing his job in balancing the budget so maybe he should take a month off without pay
- Steve, Hudson

so is the mayor going to go a week with out pay too?? sorry people I cant afford to go with out a weeks pay - the time off would be great but I have a house and kids .. i understand times are tough but do you think the bank cares that I had to go a week with out pay?????
- stacy, manchester

The city has a chance to make a diference at this time. Most city employees don't make a whole lot of money and they work very hard. The problem is these department managers that have been there for 20years and are making $100k + and don't do there jobs. Time for them to go. As a business owner in Manchester it is very difficult dealing with the departments I have to deal with,, building and planning. They just don't care and thay are too set in their ways. You get the impression they are anti-business. Manchester needs more tax paying businesses!
- Ted, Manchester

Yesterday, Guinta announced he was forming a committee to represent the city in those meetings.

Members include himself, Aldermen At-Large Mike Lopez and Dan O'Neil, Human Resources Director Jane Gile and Finance Officer Bill Sanders.

Why are Lopez and O'Neil on this committee? These two should be run out of office. These two are the primary reason we don't have a Spending/Tax Cap in the city. They are to worried about the unions and have consistently put it to the property owners. Let's save more money and get rid of the At-Large positions. They don't represent anyone but the unions anyway.
- Ed, Manchester

Wow,, you mean the overpaid, underworked, overpensioned, donothings who pretend to work for the city are going to be treated like the "rest of us"? Yes! About time! Lay their ... off. With all the bad news, this is good news. A mayor who "gets it".
- Thom, Manchester, NH

Let's face it, Guinta doesn't really know what he is doing and any decisions he makes are tainted by his ambitions to hold another office - hence the fatuous 'zero tax increase' nonsense. Sad truth is that we will likely need some form of tax increase to pay for essential services, Guinta is just trying to set things up so he can blame the Democrats and and has a 'clean' record when he takes a run at Concord or Washington.

Right now he has no more idea how many layoffs there will be that anyone else. He is plucking figures from his capacious derriere to try to (a) look useful and involved and (b) scare City employees so that they will be grateful if they just have a furlough or a pay cut. Either way, it is all rather pathetic.

If the UL wasn't so blatently biased in Guinta's favor we might have an objective debate on the topic. Time to hold the mayor's feet to the fire and see if he really is up to the job he has, let alone the ones he would rather have.
- Leon, Manchester

McGilvray's comment outlines everything wrong with the teacher's union today. They will lay off the least experienced lowest salaried teachers regardless of performance or ability. How about getting rid of those overpaid lazy incompetent teachers who have been milking the system for years? I went to the Manchester School district for K-12 and I'd gladly have some suggestions for who should go!
- Craig, Manchester, NH

This is just the first act in a in a play that i am sure will end with the city getting bailed out by the state and the feds.
The Mayor is showing how bad it could be. It is just a political game.
In the final act it will be thanks to the Dems when the money comes down. Of course the Mayor will take full credit for not laying off employees when the Republicans didn't back the stimulous and are not working w/ the Govenor.
Comming soon... (UL Headline) "Manchester Mayor saves 200 jobs" (page 10) "Manchester recieves $10 million in stimulous from the Feds and an additional $10 Million from the State helping keep jobs and budgets from disaster".
- Marikate, Manchester

$56,000 to drive a street sweeper? These union hacks have been over compensated for years. Pensions, lavish vacation and sick time allowances and pay rates that would make anyone in the private sector drool. Oh and don't forget the "heroes" in the Manchester Police and Fire Departments. CUT THEM ALL! They are ridiculously over compensated and a correction to the scam is long overdue.
- Tom, Manchester

No one likes layoffs or downsizing but I commend the mayor for taking steps to keep takes at their current rate. I am looking forward to hearing the complaining on this board today that we should not lay off people and at the same time...do not dare raise my taxes!

I think we should remember it was only a year ago when the mayor approached the board of alderman wanting to reduce the school budget b/c of a shortfall...

We need to cut out all unnecessary spending including summer fireworks, parades, etc. I would like to consolidation of departments/services and a 4-day work week.
- Ryan, Manchester

If anything we should ALL be seing a tax credit on our property Tax, not an INCREASE, after all according to my last private appraisal in 11/08, my house is worth 60,000 UNDER what the city apparently thinks my house and property are worth.
- Adam Murphy, Manchester

Lynch cuts programs and "Whine, Whine, Whine."
Guinta does it and "way to go!"
Way to stick to party lines fellow NH folk!
Let's forget common sense policy making and just bash the other side for making the exact same choices!
- SeanTrent, Londonderry

The taxpayers can't afford another $470. taxes, as we are already paying the price on homes that are assessed higher than what they are worth. We are already losing jobs, cutting benefits, and are living with bare bones budgets. These cost cutting measures need to be considered for the city workers who have in the past have been pretty much protected from the wrath of the economy.
- Nancy, Manchester

Ok, taxpayers, hold on to your hats... cuts of this magnitude will result in many layoffs.... So praise the zero budget increase, but be prepared for slower city services and some service cuts as well.

I wonder how many would praise garbarge pick up every other week. How about the mininal attention your kid gets in school because of overcrowding getting even less. Hey maybe the school police officers may have to go back on the street to fill vacancies.

Be ready...its not a scare tactic, if budgets are cuts due to the economic times, drastic cuts have to go along with it. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
- Frank, Manchester

What ever happened to Manchesters' insurance policy that would take over payments for the V if the city lost the revenue from the rooms and meals tax. That was one of Mayor Rays selling points. If there is a double digit increase in the tax rate, the city will lose much more revenue due to people losing homes. My property taxes have more than doubled in the 6 years I have owned this home Thank you revaluation
- Mark, Manchester

Will the City still go ahead with building a new garage (DPW) for the "big trucks" if you are faced with such budget constraints?
- Rita, Keyes

I applaud both Mayor Guinta and Governor Lynch for confronting the budget problems head-on, for speaking plainly with citizens, and for dealing respectfully with those who face lay-offs. You won't see this kind of candor in many other states or cities. With some sacrifice, we might just come happily out of this in another year or two.
- John, Manchester

What are you taking about alderman DeVries?? Premature?? Perhaps Guinta is actually just trying to directly let Manchester's residents know where we are at with regards to the budget this year rather than just beating around the bus. And perhaps he is trying to make it very clear to Governor Lynch how badly his removal of the rooms and meals tax from communities will directly hurt communities such as Manchester before Lynch makes his final decision of with holding that money from cities such as Manchester.

It looks like rather than working with the mayor during these tough times, Alderman DeVries plans on holding true to her Democrat partisan politics. Hold on while Ray Buckley and his cronies prove that rather than caring about Manchester's citizens during these tough times, they would rather use it to go after Guinta.
- Sean Myers, Manchester

I sure as heck cannot afford an extra $470 additional on my tax bill. Cut where you have to Mayor Guinta and it is good to hear that your ultimate goal is to still produce a budget with a zero percent tax increase. Now we just need to see which side the aldermen will be on- the taxpayers or the unions and administrators. I can guess that like usual, the Democrat majority will not be looking out for the taxpayers.

Its nice to have a mayor that actually puts the tax paying home owner first and foremost when considering his budget. I would bet my life that if Guinta were not in charge, our tax bill would skyrocket this year.
- John Carol, Manchester, New Hampshire

Before I have to start reading all of the sob stories and wining from the Democrat run teacher's unions and the over paid school administrators complaining about Guinta cutting their budgets and how horrible this is for the children, how about you get a dose of reality.

If Guinta doesn't take some drastic measures to make some serious cuts this year, there will be about a quarter less children in the city to educate because their parents won't be able to afford their homes! I pray that the mayor is able to make cuts in the least harmful areas of the city budget and that he is able to come up with some interesting ways to save money such as cutting the hours that city hall is open on the least busy days in order to save some money so that the fewest amount of people are let go, however we need to realize that there is NO way that homeowners can afford those kinds of tax hikes that would result if Guitna didn't make these difficult budget cuts.
- Dave Tremblay, Manchester

The whole state is going to see the same situation as Manchester: big budget problems. The sad thing is though that Lynch could have made it easier on communities like Manchester and Raymond by not taking away our portions of the rooms and meals tax.

Cities and towns are drowning in this economy and its almost like Lynch decided to hold their heads under water.
- Kevin Lyons, Raymond, NH

When the state budget came out, everything was just about cutting programs, cutting jobs, , closing liquor stores, and taking the easy route to get a balanced budget. Guinta is thinking outside the box with regards to ideas such as holding out on replacing old vehicles and possibly cutting some hours on fridays during the summer to save money. When the economy is tight, I'm sure none of these decisions are easy, but its nice to see some creative thinking on how to cut the budget down as much as possible.
- Barbara Manning, Manchester, New Hampshire

Nice to see Guinta holding the line. If I hear ONE word of a Democrat criticizing Guinta for having to make cuts and lay offs, all I have to say is LYNCH is doing the exact same thing and I haven't heard you Democrats criticizing him for it. Desperate times call for desperate measures even though they can be very tough decisions.
- Chris King, Manchester, New Hampshire

"Sacrifices". Where have we heard that word before?
- Guy Plante, Manchester

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"Manchester Mayor: Layoffs Possible"
wmur.com, February 19, 2009, 11:24 pm EST

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Layoffs are projected in the state's largest city. Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta is warning city employees it's time to prepare for a worst case scenario.

The Mayor held a meeting Thursday night to tell city leaders he plans to propose major budget cuts in an effort to avoid layoffs. Faced with a second consecutive year with revenue loss, the mayor said up to 200 workers could lose their jobs.

Next month, Mayor Guinta will deliver his budget address, but he is sending an early warning to the 1,300 city employees and 2,000 school workers. Guinta said there are difficult decisions ahead.

Next week, the city will start meeting with unions that represent about 80-percent of Manchester employees. If layoffs are leveled, they could come in the next fiscal year which starts July 1.

The city does not know how much stimulus money it could receive and how that would be a factor in the budget.

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"City Hall: Laughter failed to help the shocking news that followed"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 2/22/2009

The moments before Mayor Frank Guinta's address to the aldermen and school board last Thursday had the feel of a family reunion.

There was Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil, ribbing his old friend Stephen Dolman about the school board's penchant for salty language, while Alderman and former School Committeeman Russ Ouellette shuffled across the chambers with a can of Diet Coke. Two board members hugged. Nearby, several officials teased Art Beaudry because his seat at the edge of a plastic, fold-up table was the worst in the house.

And then, just like that, no one was laughing.

"I had concerns before I walked in here this evening," Beaudry, the Ward 9 committeeman, said when Guinta's speech was over, "but now I have grave concerns leaving here."

The mayor's speech was grim, to say the least. He warned there could be as many as 200 layoffs, called for one-week furloughs for every employee and told the unions he's counting on them to give up some pay or benefits.

Without those moves, he said, the city could be facing a tax hike of 12, or maybe even 18, percent.

"It's a reflective time," said MCTV Executive Director Grace Sullivan, reacting to news that Guinta wants both of the city's public access TV stations to give up money this year. Sullivan is known for being outspoken, but after listening to the mayor's address, she said she thought it best to slip away quietly.

Most people in the audience made a beeline for the door as soon as the meeting ended. A few people who stayed behind found themselves in a somewhat tense exchange, with Committeeman Doug Kruse telling Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, more than once, "Mike, you're too focused on 2009."

Several school board members sat up in their chairs when Lopez, during the meeting, seemed to suggest the school board might want to prepare for the possibility of a $6 million budget cut. Committeeman John Avard said a budget that small would be "completely inconceivable." Eric Fischer, who represents Ward 12, estimated a cut that deep would force the district to lay off 330 employees.

"That's devastating," Fischer said.

Guinta told the board members his approach to the budget was "a reality, not a philosophy." He acknowledged his recommendations would be painful and said they were made with a "heavy heart.

For all that, he tried to end on an uplifting note.

"I do believe," he said, "that as a city, we'll get through this."

.

WORKING FOR FREE: In case you were wondering, Guinta said he would not exclude himself from a mandate for every city employee (except for teachers) to take a week off without pay.

Guinta said he would dock himself a week's wage, "but I personally wouldn't take an extra five days off from work."

"This starts with me," Guinta said. "Anything I'm going to ask an employee to do, I'm going to be asking myself to do."

.

UH-OH: Taxpayers weren't supposed to foot the bill for the Fisher Cats' stadium. Then, in 2007, they learned they had already paid for part of it.

Now, officials have started to wonder whether city taxpayers might have to pony up for an older and larger project: the Verizon Wireless Arena.

It's not an idle concern. Last week, Finance Officer Bill Sanders said the city could have a problem on its hands if, as Gov. John Lynch recently proposed, Manchester doesn't get its rooms-and-meals tax rebate from the state.

For years now, Manchester has been using that money to cover the arena's bond payments. (This year's bill is roughly $4.5 million.) Those payments are covered by an insurance policy. That's the good news.

The bad news is, according to Sanders, that policy might be worthless.

Here's the deal: The company that issued the policy, ACA Financial Guaranty, got caught up in the subprime mortgage crisis and had its bond rating downgraded to "junk," to use Sanders' word. Sanders said the likelihood of recovering a claim on the policy is "uncertain at best," maybe even "remote."

Manchester isn't paying for the policy; the bank responsible for the bonds paid up front. But the policy is important to the city, nonetheless. Mayor Ray Wieczorek said so, before the arena was built.

"There is going to be an insurance policy," he said in August 1999. "If there is no insurance policy, believe me, there will be no civic center, because you have to protect the taxpayer."

.

LOST JOB: It's true, as this paper recently noted, the last time a large number of city workers were laid off was way back in 1995. By no means, though, was that the last layoff.

Just last year, the Manchester City Library canned its full-time information support specialist. Denise van Zanten, the library director, said the layoff was necessary because of budget constraints.

"We were not given enough to cover all the COLA's (cost-of-living adjustments) and other increases that were due the staff," she said. "Our operating budget was so lean already. There was no place else to cut."

Manchester's library budget is $2 million. Van Zanten said she doesn't know what to expect this year, but she's bracing for bad news.

"I've told my staff, 'Until we have our number, we don't know, but layoffs are a possibility here,'" she said.

.

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?: O'Neil said he doesn't know whether the city should reduce taxi prices after raising them dramatically last summer. "We need to take a look at it," he said last week.

Here's the thing, though: The 90-cent-per-mile fare increase was supposed to expire Jan. 30, but aldermen have kept it in place because, to date, no one has met to talk about it.

That responsibility was supposed to fall to the Committee on Administration and Information Systems, which O'Neil chairs. The committee has not held a meeting since Dec. 15.

"We tried to fit it in," O'Neil said. "It just did not work."

The rate is now slated to expire March 31.

.

I DID WHAT NOW?: In retrospect, it did seem strange that not a single alderman spoke out against the merger of the Building and Planning departments when it came before the board Feb. 3.

Finally, an explanation has emerged. It seems some aldermen -- or one of them, at least -- had no idea they had just voted to approve it.

"I kind of overlooked that particular item that evening, and it went through as a unanimous vote," Alderman Ed Osborne confessed last Tuesday.

Osborne had been dead-set against the merger for months, saying he did not see how it would save the city money. What he failed to notice at the Feb. 3 meeting was that the proposal was packed in with several smaller items on the so-called "consent agenda." The agenda was approved without a word of discussion.

.

METER MIXUP: Superintendent Tom Brennan found a $10 parking ticket waiting for him on his windshield Tuesday evening. Brennan said his meter expired while he was parked on Elm Street to attend a function at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Coincidentally, it was only a few hours later that the aldermen OK'd a plan to send a collection agency after parking scofflaws. May we suggest, Mr. Superintendent, that you do what the ticket tells you.

.

ON HOLIDAY: Ward 12 will have to go without a representative at the March 17 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. Alderman Kelleigh Domaingue said she won't be there.

March 17 is St. Patrick's Day.

"My husband owns an Irish restaurant," she said. "That's a high holy day for us."

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Read Scott Brooks' City Hall coverage in the New Hampshire Union Leader. His e-mail is sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

News Flash - I t cost the city worker more money to give up a weeks pay than incur a tax increase that is predicted to be about $450.00. That does not make financial sense to me.

Heck with the furloughs on these public servants - just raise our taxes already and get on with it.
- Dave Vailencourt, Manchester

I am just still in shock, that during good times people have nothing bad to say about our city employees, and once things goes sour it is suddenly the employees fault??? The city employees had nothing to do with the mortgage melt down, they have nothing to do with the DOW, nothing to do with the credit crunch, NOthing. Sorry if some of you out there would like to think they do, but they don't. So when and where did they suddenly all become "hacks" huh Spike?
- Brad, Manchester, NH

- Stephen A., Manchester "Didnt cut one position"..
Thats not true---there were a lot of retirements that went unfilled--Just like the 50+ that will go unfilled this year! Staff at West was decreased by the retirements. What do you think, they have class sizes of 5 over there.. Get your facts straight man.....
- Jim, Manchester

Cuts are "inconceivable" to school board members? WHAT? Excuse me, folks, but didn't you lose 1000 or so students to Bedford a couple of years back, and DIDN'T CUT ONE POSITION? These big-spending liberals need to wake up to reality and start living frugally. Throwing cash at education is NOT the solution and never has been. It's not raised test scores, and its not raised overall achievement. I say to the taxpayers of Manchester: WAKE UP!
- Stephen A., Manchester

Guinta is right. We are in this budget fiasco together and I am proud to hear him saying that sacrifices will be felt by everyone from himself to every city employee. I would just love to hear our aldermen focusing 100% on the budget as well rather than playing the typical political game they have every other budget cycle. The aldermen need to think about us (the taxpayer) rather than themselves and their political party first. Keep the pressure on them Guinta because so many of us just can't afford a heightened tax bill this year.
- Casey Johnes, Manchvegas

Look at good ol' Lopez worrying about the mayoral election of 2009 rather than Manchester's citizens. How typical of him.
- Fred Jenkins, Manchester

It's a tough message the mayor gave but it's needed. We've been living high off the hog for the last 18 years. The brief recession in 01 when the .com bubble burst and Y2K passed with nary a problem companies that never updated their IT hardware/software in decades made the last critical update they had too.

Real estate values are dropping like a rock in part thanks to the bubble bursting in the real estate market which was at least 7 years overdue. It wasn't if it was going to burst, but when. I saw this coming in 2003 when banks had bigger banners promoting home loans and private lenders were putting up and graphic signage on South Willow Street.

The last confirmation was when it seemed like every rat trap apartment building was going condo. Cheap pergo flooring and "granite" countertops on top of cheesy cabinets was all I needed to know that if people were getting loans for this crap it was the sign of the end of the good times for the real estate market.

Now back to the city and its budget, the city never really ever cut back, not in the last 18 years unless you consider the outsourcing of 80 or so lowly paid city janitors that got cut which I would have kept in a heartbeat over the overpaid department heads that we seem to have had, even back then.

Now people are shocked and suprised and bewildered, with all the money we have spent we have very little to show for it and now we have two public projects we now have to pay for.

I believe if the officials work with Mayor Guinta we can cut back and reign in any tax increase but it's going to require cutbacks. I am going to be lucky to pay my taxes, if need be we are all going to have to pull together and demand less services and that includes the City and School District.

The good times are over now its time to adjust.
- Jack Alex, Manchester

It is a sad day in Hack Heaven when a flurry of backslapping is interrupted by news that 200 people may have to leave the system of living forever on the backs of taxpayers.
- Spike, Brentwood NH

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"Guinta's budget cuts: This time he means business"
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, Sunday, 2/22/2009
Could Manchester taxpayers go two years out of three without a tax increase? Really?

Mayor Frank Guinta told aldermen, department heads and employees on Thursday that he wants the city budget balanced without a tax increase this year (after a 4.7 percent hike last year. The year before, we got a 1.7 percent cut). To reach that goal he says he will order layoffs and significant changes to the city's old way of doing business.

Guinta echoes President Barack Obama when he says -- discussing city union heads, school board members and aldermen -- that we must realize we are all in this together. Everyone has to make sacrifices.

To prove it, he is asking all employees to take five days of unpaid leave. "This starts with me," he says. "I'd take the pay cut." But he would not take the days off.

Unlike President Obama, however, Guinta proposes helping the people by not increasing the financial burden placed upon them (or their children) by government. To avoid a 12 percent tax increase ($470 more from the budget of an owner of a $225,000 home), he says "there is no question that there will be layoffs." Police officers and firefighters will not be granted immunity.

"The unions are going to have to make decisions about cutting employees," Guinta says.

"You can cut 35 first-year teachers, and that gets you to $1 million. Or you can do 12 targeted cuts."

Union heads have to decide whether they serve their members (and the city) better by allowing a reduction of everyone's pay and benefits, agreeing to the elimination of some more senior positions, or whacking dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of junior employees.

Guinta also wonders, "Does City Hall need to be open five days a week?"

He says that in the summer, when demand for city services is lower, a four-day week might make sense.

In the past, Guinta, dealt a weak hand, bluffed the aldermen with talk of major changes to the city budget. They called, and he folded. This year, he has a better hand. And judging from the look in his eye last week, he isn't bluffing.

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READERS' COMMENTS:

Max your pay and Bennie's ( Good ones at that)are subject to negotiation. If you don't want to take a week off than so be it. We can layoff. Go Frank. It is about time A Manchester Politician stood up for the people. I really hope the unions don't back down. My favorite memory was when Reagan Fired all the Air traffic controllers. NO more taxes and No more spending unless it is cut from some other budget.
- Tim, Manchester

The mayor is clearly out of touch with the everyday working man. It is meaningless for him to take a forgo a week’s pay given the fact that he is a wealthy man. He does not need a week’s pay. Many have said that he does not need to yearly salary he gets. But the hard working city employee NEEDS his/her weekly salary. Even the nasty tax payers who think that government employees are a burden, have to agree that no city employee is getting rich doing his/her job. The mayor is so out of touch, but soon will get a wake up call when nearly all of the city employees tell him “no way” on the furloughs.

For those whiney tax payers who demand that city employees take furloughs and make concessions, I have a request of you. How about to maintain your city services each of you donate a week’s pay to the city to help with these dire times. It is about time that the people who benefit most from the hard work city employees do, stop griping and actually show those very employees that they matter. So I call upon the tax payer for donate (or forgo if you will) a week’s pay to the City of Manchester.
- Max Grey, Manchester

I think the mayor has meant business every time he has presented a zero percent increase with regards to his proposed city budget, however this year I think the public is far more vocal and far more willing to go after the aldermen if they do not support the mayor and his budget.
- Dave Tremblay, Manch

Glad to see that someone means business because the majority of the Democrat aldermen certainly don't. Unless business means they just want to raise our taxes...
- Sean Myers, Manchester, New Hampshire

What bothers me is that my alderman, George Smith, is totally okay with raising my taxes as evident from his own quote in the other days paper. He is willing to throw in the towel and just raise our taxes in order to solve a budget deficit. Then on the other hand, you have the mayor having the courage to say that he will refuse to pass this tax burden onto us, the taxpayer.

Putting politics aside, I personally support the politician willing to work hard to keep my taxes low in comparison to the politician who is either too lazy or just doesn't care enough about his constituents to keep their taxes low. I can only imagine how bad our tax bill would be next year if it were not for the mayor we have in the corner office right now. Aldermen like Smith would have us taxed out of our homes!
- Ted Ginder, manchester, NH

See, this is what leadership is. Frank Guinta is not going at the budget with a hatchet; he is taking it apart very carefully and recognizing that there are ways of being creative in order to save money (i.e. closing City Hall on certain days when business is typically slow).
- Jake Gorski, Manchester

I couldn't agree with the mayor more. He has laid it all on the line and made it crystal clear how hard things will be this year, however he has also made is just as clear that solving the problem will not be done by bleeding Manchester's citizens dry when they are already barely scraping by financially.

Manchester's taxpayers are behind you 100% Guinta. We need your fiscal responsibility this year more than ever.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester NH

My home certainly isn't worth the $230,000 it was valued at during the last reval. If we had been true to ourselves we should have factored in the greed coefficient. All the morons out their trying to "flip" their homes to make a profit. Driving up the values because we used the prices of homes sold to set those values. When will people figure out there homes are a home. Used to be you built a house, if you needed and extra room or two you added a dormer or you built out. Thanks to all the people that created this mess and turns out many of them couldn't afford what they were buying to begin with.

Time to cut back and I support the mayor.
- Jack Alex, Manchester

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"Airport saves $8 million"
By DENIS PAISTE, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 2/23/2009

MANCHESTER – Without laying off a single worker, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport has cut its operating budget for fiscal year 2009 by $8 million, from $60 million to $52 million.

J. Brian O'Neill, deputy airport director at Manchester's airport, said MBRA expects to further reduce the operating budget to $47 million to $48 million for the 2010 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010.

"We've taken advantage of energy efficiencies, renegotiating existing contracts with law enforcement agencies and parking and cleaning services, so that we've been able to keep our operating expenses in line with our operating revenues," O'Neill said.

"We're a self-funded enterprise department of the city, so we live and die by the revenue that we generate," O'Neill said.

"To reduce our operating expenses, by $8 million, has certainly been a team effort, not only from airport employees but from the airlines that do business (here).

"The airlines are important, too. We're in this together," he said, adding, "Our contractors were instrumental in making this happen."

Among steps the airport has taken to cut costs are: a hiring freeze on non-essential employees; deferring or revising most capital projects, equipment purchases and terminal and infrastructure maintenance programs.

O'Neill said the airport expanded Parking Area C, which allowed it to close areas E and F, saving costs of lighting those lots, plowing them, and staffing them with parking attendants. The airport also closed the parking garage roof for the winter to save on electricity and snow removal.

Reducing the number of parking lots has also allowed cutting operation of parking shuttles, a contracted service, from 50,000 hours a year to 38,000 hours -- without affecting customer service, O'Neill said.

Although the airport gets federal and state funding, it receives no direct subsidy from the city and reimburses the city for services it provides in areas such as accounting, payroll and legal services.

Nevertheless, the airport's 77 employees are city employees, and planned cutbacks discussed by Mayor Frank Guinta last week -- which may include health benefits, vacations or upcoming pay raises -- could affect the airport staff.

"Because we are city employees, if there was a citywide suspension of cost of living increases, I believe that the airport would have to participate in that as well," O'Neill said.

Last week, O'Neill said the airport does not feel threatened by plans for its largest air carrier, Southwest Airlines, to being operating from Logan International Airport in Boston in the fall.

The Manchester airport will continue its joint advertising program with Providence's T.F. Green Airport, which also is served by Southwest.

MBRA's advertising budget is in the $600,000 to $800,000 range, O'Neill said.

"A vast majority of that money is spent in northern Massachusetts, trying to create awareness" of Manchester's airport, he said.

"A portion of that is co-sponsorship money that we spend with T.F. Green out of Rhode Island. The ability to co-sponsor is important to us because it really allows us to get more bang for the buck," he said.

He said the joint advertising is split 50-50.

The advertising message has been consistent over recent years: MBRA offers easy highway access, predictability, competitive air fares and inexpensive on-site parking.

"We don't have the ground and air traffic delays that they experience at airports like Logan," O'Neill said.

Manchester-Boston Regional also fared comparatively well in 2008 despite the economic downturn, he said. While traffic in Manchester fell 4.5 percent from 2007 to 2008, Logan's traffic was down 7.1 percent and Green's was down 6.5 percent, O'Neill said.

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READERS' COMMENTS:

Lou, Bedford wrote "do you know how an Enterprise Fund works in Goverment?"
Hey, Lou,, does it work like all the other parts? As in .. not work? Let's see, the part that was supposed to be watching out for fraud let B Maydoff get away with it, then there is the part that was not watching the banks and the mortgage companies and then there is the education funding .. great job there.. half the high school kids in Wash DC drop out.. ya.. Lou,, I know just how it works.
- tom, manchester,nh

If you want to see some interesting stuff, look at the airports budget from the city... I think they had 3 million budgeted for janitorial costs. Some of the stuff was outrageous.
- Samantha, Manchester

Thanks but no thanks to Manchester airport. I still drive to Boston's Logan airport to get my direct flights to places I need to go to. Can't compete with Boston's offers.
Hey now Southwest will be flying out of Boston! Good bye to Manchester's airport!
- Austin Charles, Bedford

tom, now you have a problem with a company that is solvent? it is a well run business that is not reliant upon the government or taxpayers...that is called capitalism! you and obama, should read up on it!
- fpc, manceshter

All airports are hurting with air traffic down. The infrastructure requires the same maintenance no matter if you have 800 flights a day or 100. Passengers still expect clean terminals and good service.
- Bill, St. Louis, MO

Yo,, Frank of Actionchester.. the airport employees take part in the city employees retirement party.. !! You need to get a clue.. they get the city employees benefits, retirement, etc.. so how is it that they work for whom?
- tom, manchester,nh

Tom from Manchester - do you know how an Enterprise Fund works in Goverment? Instead of writing a clueless rant, maybe you should spend some time educating yourself.
- Lou, Bedford

I hope the State Highway Department has read this article. Nice job Manchester Airport!!
- gr chase, Seacoast NH

Tom, perhaps you should re-read the article. The airport is entirely "self-funded". They don't cost the city a dime. They just happen to generate lots of additional revenue for the businesses that operate around them. Get a clue.
- Frank, Manchester

True, but at least they arent screwing the rest of us stating they need bailout money. i bet most of the companies taking money (i.e GM) dont need it either and could do this as well. but i guess that would upset the union workers making $90/hr for doing nothing
- JN, Merrimack

Let's see,, all of a sudden they don't need $8 million? My guess, they never needed the $8 million.. the cut is to keep the airport employment gravy train going ..
- tom, manchester,nh

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"City Hall: Disappointments, director cuts and feeding the poor"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, March 1, 2009

It's a safe bet Alderman Kelleigh Murphy has never missed Jonathan Cote as much as she does right now.

Murphy isn't happy with the man she picked to fill Cote's old seat on the school board, Eric Fischer. In fact, just the other day, she gave Fischer an earful when the two bumped into each other in line at a Dunkin' Donuts.

To hear Fischer tell it, the first words out of Murphy's mouth were, "Wow, you've turned out to be a complete disappointment to me."

Fischer said Murphy accused him of acting like "a complete Republican" and of voting in "lockstep" with Doug Kruse and Art Beaudry, two of the board's most conservative members.

"It really shocked me," Fischer said. He added, "The worst part about it, it was my birthday."

Murphy denied Fischer's characterization of the exchange. For one thing, she said, she never likened him to a "complete Republican."

"Not to overstate the obvious," she said, "but I married a Republican."

It's true, though, that Murphy is "deeply disappointed," as she put it, in Fischer's judgment. As an example, she cited his votes to uphold a policy that prevented some students from taking a bus to school.

"He talked feverently (sic) about busing kids when I interviewed him. He has taken exactly the opposite position in voting," Murphy wrote in an e-mail. "I appointed an independent, in the hope that independent judgment would be exercised. I am disappointed."

The dustup at Dunkin' Donuts came just before Fischer went on record saying he would be endorsing a Republican, Keith Hirschmann, and not Murphy, in this year's Ward 12 alderman's race. Hirschmann has made no secret about his desire for a rematch, saying he knew within days of the 2007 election he'd be back in '09.

Fischer, who is registered as an independent but said, "I definitely lean to the conservative side," said he's always liked Hirschmann, particularly his views on taxes.

"It's a matter of your perspective," he said. "I believe I'm more inclined to agree with Keith than Kelleigh on many issues."

- - - - - -

DON'T BET ON IT: Here's one rumor that can be put to rest. Murphy is not running for mayor.

Really, she said. She's not even thinking about it.

- - - - - -

FISCH-ING FOR VOTES: As for Fischer, he says he's absolutely positive he'll be on the ballot in November, in what would be his first attempt to win the Ward 12 school board seat outright.

He could have some competition from the right. Kelly Hurst, the former executive director of the Manchester Republican Committee, said she's debating whether to run for the seat herself.

Meanwhile, she said, her husband, David Hurst, is contemplating a run for Ward 12 alderman. David Hurst is chairman of the Greater Manchester Young Republicans.

- - - - - -

DIRECTOR'S CUT: The city's public access TV stations should have one studio, not two, state Rep. Will Infantine said last week.

"It was a mistake to separate the three stations at the beginning," Infantine said. Infantine is president of the board of directors at MCAM, Channel 23.

"It never should have happened," he said. "As a result, all we did was expand government and make it more costly to citizens."

Any pitch to merge the stations' studios would likely meet with some resistance from the folks at MCTV, which broadcasts education-related programs on Channel 16 and government programs on Channel 22. Mike Roche, who chairs MCTV's advisory board, said he imagines there would be liability issues, given that people on MCAM tend to say "just about anything" they like.

"It could be a major problem," Roche said.

MCAM was created in 2004, an offshoot of MCTV. Its studios are in the Millyard. MCTV's studios are on Elm Street.

The stations are already under scrutiny in City Hall. Recently, Mayor Frank Guinta said he wants to renegotiate their contract, which entitles each station to a budget increase next year.

"They should do the right thing, come to the city and amend the contract, considering the economic conditions that we're experiencing," Guinta said.

- - - - - -

REUNITED: A relic of the '80s and '90s is reuniting -- like New Kids on the Block, but with fewer groupies.

Roche, president of the Water Works union, said he's trying to revive an organization called the Coalition of Organized Public Employees, or COPE. The group was formed in the mid-'80s when Mark MacKenzie, then president of the firefighters union, suggested the city's unions should work together toward mutual goals.

The group was active for close to two decades, staging memorable protests during the Wieczorek years, before it fizzled out in 2003.

"We shared a lot of info," Roche said, "and I think it definitely made the unions stronger."

The unions are under fire now, with Guinta calling for concessions in their three-year contracts. Roche said he wants the union heads to meet every other month throughout the budget process.

- - - - - -

FIRST SHOT: The school board will try to zero in on a budget number this week. A "special" meeting of the full board is scheduled for tomorrow at 6 p.m. at 286 Commercial St.

Kruse, the finance committee chairman, said he'll get the ball rolling with a "proposed scenario" for a $148 million budget.

It's not a recommendation, he said. More of a "conversation starter."

"We need a starting point for discussion, and you can't just start with nothing," he said.

One hundred and forty eight million is roughly equal to this year's school district budget, which was $146 million plus $2.3 million in expendable trusts. Without a doubt, Kruse said, it would require some workforce reductions, through attrition and possibly layoffs.

What it wouldn't do, he said, is affect the city tax rate.

"We cannot go to the people of this city and ask them for more money, because they don't have it," Kruse said.

Board members expect to vote on a budget proposal March 9.

- - - - - -

SLUMDOG MANCHESTER: Much like the actual Academy Awards, this year's ManchVegas Oscars Party at Murphy's Taproom was scaled back because of the recession. Still, it raised some dough for charity.

Alderman Murphy, the event organizer, said the big night brought in $800 for the New Hampshire Food Bank, plus "hundreds of pounds" of canned food. By contrast, she said, the 2008 version raised $1,600.

The party was nearly sabotaged by snow, which was bad enough that at one point the TV reception went out. Murphy said her husband, bar owner Keith Murphy, had to climb up on the roof to clear snow off the satellite dish.

"He was definitely a superhero," she said.
-
Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

Wow, Kelleigh Murphy surprises me. I had long ago judged her as an independent minded member of the Aldermanic board who had a record of rising above political patronage. Obviously, with the is Murphy/Fischer mini brouhaha, Kelleigh had a nominee more in mind that would vote the way she preferred. Oh well, "Another one rides the bus"
- Rick Olson, Manchvegas

Kelleigh Murphy does not even return phone calls and St patty's day she will not even attend the Mayor and Aldermans meeting because she wants to hang out at a bar. Keith Hirschman was the greatest alderman my ward has ever had. Get ready for a 7% tax increase due to poor planning and over staffed city depts.
Stan Howser
- Stan Howser, Manchester, NH

Steve , it is naieve thinking like yours that makes people question the veracity of the UNited States. Immigrants coming to this country are not expecting anything. They simply want their kids bused to school. Wow, that is really asking alot.
- Mike, Manchester

Mr. Roche. I said we should use one studio. I did not say the two entities should merge. I do not belive they should merge. The Board of MCAM would be happy to meet wiht the Board of MCTV to see if we can figure out a way to streamline our operations and save the taxpayers some money. I await your call.
Will Infantine
- Will Infantine, Manchester

I often wonder if there could be a discussion about the School Calender year when reviewing the budget. Todays industry is not one of Farm and Agriculture as it was in the past. Industry has changed over the past few hundred years.What if we were to explore the impact of cost's having School Sessions with shorter weeks like 4days vs 5days. Maybe even skipping School in the Winter months when costs are higher.
- Joseph Pinard, Canterbury, NH

Fischer was right about busing. New immigrants should not be trained to expect everything to be handed to them upon landing on our shores. They come from strife ridden countries and just being here is a privilege. Remember the 'DREAM' Act?

Immigrants should be encouraged to work for money to pay for their own transportation. Perhaps as a butler.
- Steve, Manch

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City Hall: "Layoffs loom; negotiations off to bad start"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, March 8, 2009

Manchester educators have been putting up with a lot of talk in recent weeks about the probability -- really, some say, the inevitability -- of layoffs. So far, though, that's all it's been: just talk.

Reality should set in soon. Maybe tomorrow night.

Superintendent Tom Brennan is asking the school board for the authority to dole out pink slips to district employees. Board members could vote on his request tomorrow.

Brennan said he hopes he doesn't have to lay anyone off, but should he have to, he said, he wants the time to plan for it.

"I would not do it immediately," Brennan said. "But I do have to be cognizant of the timeline."

The deadline to pink-slip principals is April 15. For teachers, the deadline is May 10, and for everyone else, it's June 30.

Several board members said they would prefer to wait and see whether layoffs will be necessary. Committeeman Dave Gelinas said he would want "as much time as possible" before taking a vote that he called "probably the hardest vote in the budget process, and maybe even the hardest vote that any board member has to take on anything."

At the moment, he said, "I'm undecided on what I want to do on pink slips. My heart says no, but my head says, 'What else could we do?' "

One of the first orders of business tomorrow, according to Gelinas, will be to figure out whether the board can take away stipends for instruction coordinators (think faculty department heads) without giving them pink slips. That will be a question for the district's attorneys, he said.

Katherine Labanaris, the board's vice chairman, said she knows the board may have to OK some layoffs, eventually. However, she said, "I'm not for putting it on the fast track, if you see what I mean."

- - - - - -

FIRST IN LINE: No one may have more to worry about than the paraprofessionals -- aides who mostly work in the libraries or with special-education classes. Brennan said he believes the district has too many of them, and that laying some off would free up some money for teachers.

"I'd rather have more highly qualified teachers in the ranks," Brennan said. "I just believe that that would be the more effective way of working with our children."

Brennan said he aims to eliminate 67 paraprofessionals this year. Julie Allen, the president of the paraprofessionals' union, declined a request for comment.

- - - - - -

PROGRAM CUTS: It's all but certain that the school board will ask for a budget increase. Labanaris and others said the school board's proposal will probably end up at $152 million.

That's larger than this year's budget of $146 million, plus $2.3 million in expendable trusts, but it still would require millions of dollars in cuts. Brennan said he would recommend eliminating 97 1/2 positions, including the 67 paraprofessionals, but also 26 teachers.

In addition, the superintendent would reduce all kindergarten classes to half-day and make some cutbacks to music and art programs. He would eliminate the gifted-and-talented program; beginner band and orchestra programs for elementary school students; and Ready for Success, a summer program for children heading into kindergarten.

Mind you, that's what could happen with $152 million. The mayor and several aldermen have suggested the district could receive significantly less than that.

- - - - - -

UNSWEETENED: It'll take more than a $10,000 sweetener to convince city workers to take an early-retirement package, Water Works union head Mike Roche said.

"Some of the heavy hitters, they make more than that in five weeks," said Roche, who is acting as a spokesman for the city's unions as they enter negotiations with the city. "So unless somebody is going to be leaving anyway, that's not going to entice them."

Ten thousand dollars was the figure that kept popping up last week when an aldermanic committee met to hash out the details of a proposed buyout for long-time employees. It was the committee's first meeting, and no decisions were made.

Roche said a better proposal would allow the workers to stay on the city's single-person health-insurance plan for a few years after retiring.

"The main reason why people hang around city government, at least for the last 15, 20 years, is the insurance," Roche said.

- - - - - -

PLAYING HARDBALL: Negotiations between the city and the unions have gotten off to a shaky start. There was supposed to be a meeting last Thursday, but it was canceled at the last minute after Roche told Mayor Frank Guinta that most of the union heads wouldn't be in attendance.

"The vast majority of the unions, which includes the School District, are waiting for concrete data with regard to revenues, State and Federal stimulus money," Roche wrote in an e-mail to the mayor. "Until this is known we feel it would be premature to meet."

Members of the mayor's team -- who are trying to win concessions from the unions as budget season gets under way -- were told about the cancellation just two hours before the meeting was to start. One of them, Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil, said he was "disappointed" with the way things went down.

"We'll get more info as time goes on," O'Neil said, "but I think waiting until all the info is in, to sit down (then) may be too late."

- - - - - -

WOOO HOOO!: Bet you didn't realize Manchester's aldermen were a bunch of wild and crazy party animals.

Well, they are. That's why they voted to move their next meeting to this coming Tuesday night. The meeting had been scheduled for March 17, also known as St. Patrick's Day.

"I'm going to three or four parties," said Alderman George Smith, who calls himself "as Irish as can be."

It's fairly certain that many of Smith's colleagues will be rubbing elbows at Bobby Stephen's annual St. Patty's Day bash at the Executive Court Banquet Facility. And we already know Alderman Kelleigh Murphy will be spending the night at Murphy's Taproom, though you figure she'll probably be working, since her husband owns the joint.

Incidentally, there's a big Motley Crue show at the Verizon Wireless Arena that night. We haven't confirmed that any of the aldermen will be there, but if you have tickets, you might want to keep your eyes peeled.

- - - - - -

HOLY MOLY: Alderman Ted Gatsas seemed to think it was pretty funny that some of his colleagues were treating St. Patty's Day as -- to quote Murphy -- a "high holy day."

"Does that mean we won't meet on the 25th if that's a Tuesday, too?" Gatsas asked. "That's Greek Independence Day."

- - - - - -

ERRONEOUS!: Guinta got one of his facts wrong when he previewed his budget last month.

The mayor said the city's TV stations, MCTV and MCAM, were slated to see their budgets double next year, from a combined $400,000 to $864,000. Guinta argued that the stations ought to give up some of those extra dollars to help the city out in a time of need.

In fact, the stations received a little more than $800,000 this year, according to people affiliated with the stations. Guinta admitted the error, saying the figure he provided was a projection -- one that turned out to be dramatically off base.
-
Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. E-mail him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

Don't worry everyone, the city will remain as top heavy as ever. It's sad to say but I'd bet the bottom workers will be on lay off and none of the administrators will be cut. Everyone will still have their assistants. Too many chiefs and not enough indians. Mayor Guinta has the right idea, you could pinpoint 10 high paid or management positions, and save over $1 million with benefits, or cut from the bottom and cut 25 or so for the same money.
- Tim, Manchester

To Dave Richards from Manchester... they may have to wait in line for that Accounting course--because of cuts (at least at Memorial) there is only one class available.

To BW from Candia where would the "BIG SAVINGS" be? There are only a couple school board members who take advantage of the perk.. (Because Candia is tight with their spending for schools--this may be a "Big Savings" for Candia)
- Jorge A, Manchester

Not sure where the May 10 date came from for teacher layoffs. RSA189:14-a (Failure to be Renominated or Reelected) says:
I. (a) Any teacher who has a professional standards certificate from the state board of education and who has taught for one or more years in the same school district shall be notified in writing on or before April 15 or within 15 days of the adoption of the district budget by the legislative body, whichever is later, if that teacher is not to be renominated or reelected, provided that no notification shall occur later than the Friday following the second Tuesday in May.
- PJC, Temple

There are so many cost saving methods that could be implemented by city leaders. In some instances it has happened already. The supt. of schools implemented cost saving methods in regards to electricity use in the schools. These things need to happen across the board and there needs to be a lot of thought put into the process of cutting costs.
Everyone is feeling the pressure and stripping crucial services can be avoided with proper planning.
Imagine if garbage pickup was stripped from the city. Will landlords keep up with garbage pickup?
- joco, manchester, nh

"Several board members said they would prefer to wait and see whether layoffs will be necessary".

And anyone who doesn't think that cuts are going to be necessary this time around only has his head in the sand. Nobody, myself included, wants to lose their job. However, when you take a job, especially with the government, you run the risk of becoming a victim to budget cuts and reorganization sometime in the future.

Fortunately for those who have been around for the past 25 or 30 years, boom times have meant that there really hasn't been a need for cuts. But during an economic downturn, something has to give.

To those union heads, Alderman, and civic leaders who think they'll be able to run the city without labor cuts, you may want to try taking a simple high school accounting class, or even a basic math class, to help you understand that less money coming in means less revenue to run the city with.

I sincerely hate to see it, but some teachers are going to have to go, some city workers are going to have to be furloughed, and some city leaders are going to have to take pay cuts if we as a city are going to avoid going bankrupt.

The Mayor is in a very tough position, and every stakeholder in the city's budget wants to protect their turf at the expense of another. EVERYONE will have to shoulder some of the pain to avoid ALL of us having to suffer the consequences.

Step up and make the tough decisions. That's what you were elected, hired, or appointed to do and that's what you get paid for. It's easy to be a "leader" when there is no war going on, but the true test of a leader is when you can lead when there is artillery aimed directly at you and your troops.
- Dave Richards, Manchester

"Dr. Brennan would eliminate the gifted-and-talented program; beginner band and orchestra programs for elementary school students; and Ready for Success, a summer program for children heading into kindergarten, that's what could happen with $152 million" This reader sent a letter to all school board members and showed with not replacing/addition of 76 positions, letting go 10 assistant principals and keeping kindergarten half-day would bring the budget to $151 million, this in turn would keep those programs funded and help to keep Manchester School District improving in a way that gets it off the "Need of Improvement" list. In trouble times we need to keep focus on the important things. Our students are the first thing and second is keeping a tax hike as low as possible or no hike at all to assist families. Those recomendations should be considered if we want to get through this.

Robert M Tarr
Candidate for Alderman Ward 5 - 09'
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

I'm still trying to figure out why the School Board (which is an elected position - not "employees") are even offered Health Insurance.... ??? That would be a big savings right there.
- BW, Candia

Mike Roche will ultimtely negotiate his union members way right into a layoff and then he will only have himself to blame. Any stimulus money that comes to the city are for projects, not salaries but with the likes of Mike Roche out there some people think the stimulus money is for salaries.
A message to the Police and Fire. HEre is your chances to give back to the city. Re-open negotiations, implement a pay freeze and give back a little bit to the city. I certainly hope that police and fire are not immune from the layoffs if they happen. For too long they have been the Cinderella's of the city and it is time to treat them like any other department in the city.
- Jeff, Manchester

Glad to see the priorities of George Smith and Kelleigh Murphy and the rest of the alderman who feel that drinking green beer is more important than unbalanced budgets and layoffs. Unbelievable, and Manchester wonders what's wrong with the city when it's leaders think that St. Patrick's Day is a real holiday and should be treated as such. I wonder if the other city employees could vote to call of work on that day. One more reason to vote against dog hater George Smith.
- Scott, Manchester

Again Mike Roche and his Union croonies miss a great chance. All the City wants to do is sit down and talk. And Roche waits until a couple hours before to cancel!! I'm surprised he even told them the Unions were not going. To me this is a terrible PR move for the Unions. But then again with Roche as the so called "spokeman" I'm not surprised. Wake up Unions and get a person that can build trust as your leader!!!
- JG, Manchester

Lets get behind the mayor this time. We need to cut the fat out of education in manchester. Closing the old west high school would save thousands. We can shutter the building tight and open when the economy comes back. We can stop spending money on art, phys ed, music, and advanced placement classes. If someone wants their children to have these classes let them pay. I am tired of hearing that cuts will put kids on the streets and crime will go up. We can get more police officers with stimulus money so that will end up helping the city.

We can cut the City work force by not picking up trash, everyone can bring their own to a city wide recycling station, those that do not want to can pay someone to bring it for them. This will make us all generate less trash and help green the city.

We can close city hall and make the city offices in the parking grage at central high school. What a waste of space it is now.
- Brad, Manchester

My heart goes out to all the employees of the city. I know my job isn't too secure either and that my foot is on a banana peel too. Hopefully they will be able to encourage some folks who are nearing retirement to retire. This may not be a good time for them with this economy but it will keep others on the payroll.
- Jack Alex, Manchester

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"For now, a hold on layoffs at city schools"
By BENJAMIN KEPPLE, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MANCHESTER – The city school board voted last night to send city aldermen a $152 million budget proposal, but held off on issuing layoff notices to teachers or other staff.

For now, at any rate, that means the ball is on the aldermen's side of the court. Still, the potential for layoffs is very real. The $152 million proposal would require nearly 100 positions to be cut unless other savings could be found. That also assumes the city would agree to a $152 million budget. This year, schools got $148.3 million, $146 million of which came from the city.

"I think in this economic context, taxpayers are just not in a position to provide that type of increase," said Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, the school board's chairman, after the vote.

Guinta abstained on the vote, which passed by an 8-5 margin. At-large member Kathleen Kelley was absent. Among those voting no was Ward 8 school board member Doug Kruse.

"This request is not grounded in reality. There is zero chance the aldermen are going to appropriate $152 million to the school district," Kruse said.

Chris Herbert, representing Ward 4, also voted no -- but he came from the opposite position. Looking at the proposed cuts that would come with a $152 million budget, Herbert said he thought the board should ask for at least $154 million.

Among the ideas he didn't like were cutting kindergarten instruction to half-days, reducing specialists in reading and reducing music programs.

"We're not doing what we can do for the school district," Herbert said.

As it stands now, the $152 million proposal would mean 26 teachers would be laid off, as would about 67 teachers' aides known as "paraprofessionals." However, the board held off on giving School Superintendent Tom Brennan the authority to issue early redundancy notices.

Brennan himself said he was waiting to hear from the district's legal counsel about the right course of action. And Scott McGilvray, the chief of the Manchester Education Association, implored board members not to issue layoff notices until they absolutely had to do so.

Not only would sending early notices cause panic, it would cause teachers to start looking for other work, he said.

"It really does send a negative and clear message to those teachers in your school district," McGilvray said.

Under its labor contracts, the district must provide layoff notices to principals by April 15, teachers by May 10, and by June 30 for other staff.

1 day, 3 graduations
In other news, the board agreed to hold graduation ceremonies for the city's three high schools at the Verizon Wireless Arena -- on the same day: Saturday, June 20, 2009. That's a switch from the old system, where the high schools had ceremonies on separate weeknights.

The hope is the move will save money and be more convenient for students and their families. Times for the ceremonies haven't yet been set -- as parking issues were a concern among board members, who worried about a logjam around the arena if the ceremonies were scheduled too close together.

"It's the parking for the people who are coming in for the next shift -- that's my concern," said Ward 2 school board member Robert O'Sullivan.

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READERS' COMMENTS:

I'm sure the mayor would have no issue firing teachers. His kids go to private school.
- Jim Wilson, Manchester

I wish I made as much as the union leader said I did in that article!

Here's the link to to teacher scale, the only way some is making 60+ is to be working over 14 years and have their masters

http://www.mansd.org/main/pdfs/20072010MEASalary.pdf
- Matt, Manchester, nh

Kathy in Manchester- you're wrong. The salaries ARE that high. When a 4th grade teacher is making $60K+ a year (Beech Street School), I think something is wrong. That's $60k for 180 days of work. For FOURTH GRADE! That would be over $110k for a private sector, 50 weeks a year job. You can thank Unions for that! And your President is definately pro-union. Here's the salary info link-- right here in the UL!
http://www.unionleader.com/uploads/media-items/2008/
May/52708schoolsalaries.pdf
- Hannah Konda, Manchester NH

Why are teachers always on the defensive for their compensation, but doctors, engineers, or scientists never are? Could it be because the teaching profession has no quality accountability, inability to be fired after three years of service, and 4 months off a year? Just an observation.
- Craig, Manchester, NH

To Joan, Manchester.
Your reasoning and response to my posting is flawed and incorrect. First I request you please site the law mandating the teacher’s aids. Your slant on the SAT's is also skewed. If you take the time to examine the actual SAT tests you will see the actual tests have been made easier over the years, i.e. they began dumbing down the tests! Also it was not just the so called elite that took the tests; anyone applying for college would have had to take the test. We can fulfill our obligation to our children but that doesn’t always mean throwing more money at the schools. It requires action on our part as well. Not enough parents are involved with their children’s education, making sure they’re doing their homework, getting to bed at a decent hour or encouraging participation in school activities and making sure their children are no discipline problems at school. There are a lot of good teachers, however there are also some who are not performing and are protected by teachers unions. Also I never said that teachers had it so good, which should be stated so well” in case you didn’t know, but Joan I can tell you that the average teacher makes more than I or my wife do individually. Please understand that a lot of taxpayers such as me, the elderly on fixed incomes and those who have lost their jobs and were fortunate enough to get re-employed “at substantially lower wages” cannot afford these tax increases. As pointed out in my prior post, the cost of living has risen dramatically and many of us are literally living paycheck to paycheck.
- Rob, Manchester

Sorry Frank from Manchester, I agree with Ryan Feltner. He has intelligent points, you seem to just attack before thinking. Clearly liberal, in my opinion.
- Craig, Manchester, NH

Does anyone REALLY think there will be layoffs in the schools? Just another scare tactic folks, move along, nothing to see ....
- Marie, Hooksett

Jon in Manchester who said manchester teacher average 62 K a year, according to the school district website, The MAX a teacher can make with a DOCTORATE is 65,335 so I'm not sure where you get the 62 K figure. And Jon, if teachers have it so good for”part-time” work like you said, WHY AREN”T YOU DOING IT???
- Mike, Manchester

I think many people get confused about how teachers are paid. They get
paid for the amount of DAYS they work. When they have no school they make
up those days at the end of the year.

Jon, from Manchester, as a 'young teacher' myself I don't know if you
realize how far away I am from making "62K a year for part time work".
I'm working hard for my TENURE, and I am highly offended that you consider
my work part time. Until you've worked in my shoes you have no idea,
plain and simple. The statements you spout are ignorant and poorly
informed. Do your research.
- M, Manchester

For the poster who was complaining about the increase in teachers aides - the reason for the increase was a federal mandate in the seventies to provide equal education to students with disabilities. So if you went to school before then, that would be one reason you didn't see aides in the classroom. Between the seventies and the nineties, many special needs students were sent to separate schools aware from typical students. The federal government promised to pay a certain percentage and has never come through.
SAT scores - if you look beyond the surface you will see that over the years a much higher percentage of students takes the SATs, so it's not such a surprise that the scores have declined - it is no longer the elite students that are taking them - and the test has been significantly changed.
I'm not saying higher taxes are necessarily how things need to go, but the reality is we all will suffer if we don't fulfill our obligations and responsibilities to educate the children in this community. After all, someone paid for YOUR education.
I don't have a child, I do pay taxes, I am actually under-employed myself due to the economy and I am NOT a city or school employee. I've just had a glimpse into what is happening in Manchester schools and I am so concerned that if I did have children, I would probably try to move to get them into a district that provides a better education.
And by the way, if you think teachers have it so good - go ahead and become a teacher.
- Joan, Manchester

Jeff,

I don't disagree with you, but when is Guinta going to come up with a plan as to how to educate better and more fiscally responsible. Last year, they talked and talked about finding efficiencies...

Still waiting....
- Leah, Manchester

Actually Frank YOU are wrong..I totally appreciate the mayor not voting for it as chair of the school board because it is a complete conflict of interest when the same budget will be voted on by the aldermanic board as he will be voting for or against it there. Thank God you aren't an elected official because apparently a conflict of interest is too hard for you to comprehend along with anything else.

....and really man, enough with the "Independent" garbage...you're a liberal through and through....
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, NH

Frank,

So I am Ignorant. Wow, childish name calling. You must be a product of our fine school system here in Manchester. I pay $5,000.00 a year in property taxes for my townhouse. On top of that I pay about the same amount for association/homeowners fees.

That fee cover care for the property, lawn mowing and snow removal and we have a dumpsters on site for trash removal. I don’t use the city services for plowing, trash removal or the school system. So why should I be forced to pay for services I don’t use?

Let those who use the services pay. If you have more than I kid, they pay based on the amount of city services you use.
- Thom, Manchester

Someone wrote that Manchester teachers' pay averages 62K...excuse me? Do people really believe that? Didn't you read the list of all School Department and city workers' salaries published by the UL last year? A few remarkably dedicated teachers have been able to turn their 30+ yr careers, higher degrees, and additional responsibilities like coaching or chairing departments into salaries something like that, but the average is nowhere near that high! Someone else thinks that teaching is a part-time job. Apparently some people haven't known or spoken to a teacher recently. No, I am not a teacher nor do I work for the city. But I read and I talk to people who know more than me, and I bother to educate myself on a topic before I post my opinions (actually, before I even form an opinion). I wish everyone would.
- Kathy, Manchester

Feltner, you're a real piece of work. For one thing, I'm no Democrat as I have stated here before; I'm a former Republican, now an Independent. I take my cracks at both sides when they're warranted. Unlike you and your blatantly biased rants against anything that doesn't fit in your narrow republican mind.

Your reasoning to my earlier post is ridiculous. Even if the budget plan they were voting on was Guinta's (which it wasn't!) he should still be voting for or against it. Under your reasoning, he could never vote for any of his proposals before the board. That's just dumb.

You really should refrain from commenting on UL because you rarely make any sense with your comments.
- Frank, Manchester

Tom from manchester - "I have no kids in the Manchester school system. Why should I pay to educate and take care of your kids?"

Easy answer - so the next generation isn't as ignorant as you.
- Frank, Manchester

I really don’t care to hear about how old the technology in the schools are, or how under funded the schools are. Do some research people; look back though the average SAT scores for students and the accreditation scores for schools from the 1920’s to the present. I’m sure that the big drop in those scores might really surprise you! I hope the Union Leader does a story on that. When my parents were students and myself for that matter, there were no computers or such technology in the classrooms. Yet we all got a pretty good education, and what are with all these teachers aids? I remember my teachers, and many of them fondly. They did a great job, but I certainly don’t recall any aides? People like Joan are saying if we can just tighten our belts and make the appropriate investments. Well if Joan can afford to pay more then she truly is fortunate and the exception not the rule. What she and others just can’t seem to realize and comprehend is that for the majority of taxpayers there is just no more room for any more belt tightening! Good paying jobs are very scarce and darn hard to come by in this economy and our future employment uncertain to say the least. My wife and I are both fortunate in that we work full time. However neither my wife nor I have had a raise in quite some time, and both the companies we work for have not been able to give out raises either. We’ve had to take on more of the cost for our own healthcare and the co-pays and deductibles have gone up too. Taxes, vehicle registrations, food, clothing, gasoline, electricity, water and sewer rates, home and auto insurance, heating oil have all gone up and the list goes on! We haven’t been able to put money away for our own retirements, and sadly we are no longer able to make charitable contributions that we used to make! Vacations haven’t even a consideration anymore; they are a luxury that we can’t afford. Are you starting to get the picture? The average tax payer is tapped out!
- Rob, Manchester

I really don’t care to hear about how old the technology in the schools are, or how under funded the schools are. Do some research people; look back though the average SAT scores for students and the accreditation scores and schools from the 1920’s to the present. I’m sure that the big drop in those scores might really surprise you! I hope the Union Leader does a story on that. When my parents were students and myself for that matter, there were no computers or such technology in the classrooms. Yet we all got a pretty good education, and what are with all these teachers aids? I remember my teachers, and many of them fondly. They did a great job, but I certainly don’t recall any aides? People like Joan are saying if we can just tighten our belts and make the appropriate investments. Well if Joan can afford to pay more then she truly is fortunate and the exception not the rule. What she and others just can’t seem to realize and comprehend is that for the majority of taxpayers there is just no more room for any more belt tightening! Good paying jobs are very scarce and darn hard to come by in this economy and our future employment uncertain to say the least. My wife and I are both fortunate in that we work full time. However neither my wife nor I have had a raise in quite some time, and both the companies we work for have not been able to give out raises either. We’ve had to take on more of the cost for our own healthcare and the co-pays and deductibles have gone up too. Taxes, vehicle registrations, food, clothing, gasoline, electricity, water and sewer rates, home and auto insurance, heating oil have all gone up and the list goes on! We haven’t been able to put money away for our own retirements, and sadly we are no longer able to make charitable contributions that we used to make! Vacations haven’t even a consideration anymore; they are a luxury that we can’t afford. Are you starting to get the picture? The average tax payer is tapped out!
- Rob, Manchester

I have no kids in the Manchester school system. Why should I pay to educate and take care of your kids?
- Tom, manchester

Nancy,
Well said. Manchester spends near the top, in the state, for city side services. How about we get rid of the Police horses? What purpose do they serve? There's a big savings right there. No feed, no transportation cost, no more cost for housing them. People complain that teacher's "only work" 183 days. How about the Fire Dept.? One 24 hour shift and off for 3 days. That comes out to 91 days a year. NIce work if you can find it. Work out, watch TV, eat a great meal, sleep. Then on your 3 days off you can get another job.
Police get to supplement their pay with details. This boosts their retirement that we have to pay for. Look at how early they can retire. Most of us can't do that on our job. I'm sick of paying more taxes. Let's put the money we do collect to better use. There are savings to be had. Come on mayor and alderman, do your jobs.
- John, Manchester

Frank, enough with the partisan anti-Guinta garbage. Why do you think he abstained from the vote? Come on, lets try and put down the Democrat kool-aid and think rationally buddy of why the mayor would abstain from the vote on the School Board? Do you really think the mayor would be at the meeting and just decide not to vote? Really, try and use some common sense Frank.

He really couldn't vote because he is the one formulating the budget so his vote is a conflict of interest. Its also because he will vote on the school board's budget as mayor during the aldermanic board meeting so that is another conflict of interest.

Really Frank, at least if you are going to be a Democrat partisan attacking Guinta every chance you get, try and make an educated criticism rather than a mindless comment that makes ZERO sense whatsoever.
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, New Hampshire

I am so tired of hearing how teachers have it made in this city. I am not a teacher. I repeat, I am NOT a teacher but I have had kids go through the school system. The teachers in this district make due with what they are given and still somehow manage to provide a quality education to the students. Every year Manchester students are graduating and going to college. Without teachers doing their jobs, these kids would have no chance. It takes more than just teachers...it takes parental involvement in the academics and non-academics for each and every student.
The teachers teach in their classrooms with outdated equipment, outdated text books and more important, with very little supplies. Every time we turn around the techers in this district are getting beaten over the head. Eventually kids will stop going to school to be teachers because in the end, teachers don't get the respect they deserve and who wants to work in that type of environment. As a community, we should support our teachers and stop the bashing that takes place. Enough is enough already.
- Mike, Manchester

The easy answer here would be to increase taxes, but schools need to figure out problems just as corporate companies do. I work for a large company, and if we need more money we don't increase fees for our customers to fill that void. We are forced to make process improvements, tighten payroll, and fend for ourselves. We don't run to Washington for bailout dollars. For years Manchester schools have operated inefficiently, and I applaud Mr. Guinta for not throwing more tax dollars at the problem.

I wish Manchester voters would really pay attention to who they elect to office. I'm hoping that in these harder economic times that the people we elect are done so because they can make a difference instead of it being a popularity contest. Those running for these offices should also think about their lack of business knowledge and what effect it will have on the other residents of Manchester before they decide to run. Raising taxes isn't always the answer to solving a budget crisis. Thanks again Mayor Guinta for applying the right pressure.
- Jeff, Manchester

Every blue collar household in this nation is struggling & sacrificing (cutting back on basics (not luxurys) due to loss of employemnt by 1 or 2 of the sole breadwinners. We CANNOT afford more TAXES!!!!!! I value education & seriously prioritize this highly BUT when it comes to feeding my family or increasing the school budget (well its a no brainer) If the schools need more $ then find it within the city departmetns. Is there any dept willing to give up overtime, work less hours, if you read there are plenty of city govts doing just that around our nation. Its called sacrifice!
- Nancy, Manchester

Let's see, fourth from the BOTTOM in per pupil spending. Second in the COUNTRY as the LEAST tax burdened city. What do you say to that Mr. Tarr, et al????? How come Franky isn't quick to point these facts out? Must be the democrats(or republicans depending on your party) fault.
- John, Manchester

Joan, I happen to agree with you but higher taxes is not the solution. Beech st. is not the only school without walls. There are other elementary schools in Manchester without them as well. These schools have been without them for decades, even before Central had an underground parking lot put in. I have a problem with the way money is spent. I pay a lot in property taxes and have a child in the school system. Shouldn't someone have considered walls for the elementary schools before an underground parking lot for the teachers? We can find savings that don't hurt. We just have to have school board members willing to look for them and prioritize better with the resources allocated to them.
- Dawn, Manchester

Leadership from Guinta? He abstained from the vote; what's up with that?
- Frank, Manchester

Seriously, come to any of the public high schools and see the OLD technology that these students are learning with. When they complete something at home they cannot just bring in their thumb drive and use the school computers - most are too old.

Teachers, paras do not get paid overtime. Let's look at the police - and their paychecks after their overtime pay - that's were cuts need to happen.

As much as I do not like taxes - what happened to the head tax - wehre everyone pays not just homeowers and smokers.
- Nan, Mancheter, NH

I watch the school board meetings in amazement at the lack of understanding of the current condition by the majority of the members. They really don't get it. Whey don't they just sharpen their number 2 pencils and do some smart work. And btw - this board will never never ever vote to lay off city school workers.
- Mark L, Manchester

What gets me is not the numbers, it is the lack of solutions. All I ever read from the school board is "we need" , I never see "we can do this or that".. Let's have a step by step assessment of the needs, wants, areas that can be cut, .. a clear presentation of bad practices that need fixing. Why, for example, does the city of Manchester have its own school bus operation rather than contract it to First Student or other provider as almost every school district in the state does? Nashua is about the same size school district, yet they contract their bus fleet. What does Nashua know, that Manchester doesn't seem to get.. Just one big example.
- tom, manchester, nh

Kathy, typical windbag comments. I think everyone recognizes that "children are our future", you need not point that rediculous cliche out. However, when reality sets in, tough decisions must be made. A tug at your heartstrings may make you willing to accept a tax increase, but the majority of the city (many who do not have children) have a stake in this arguments as well.

The mayor and other fiscally responsible leaders should hold their ground against spendthrift busy bodies and deliver the budget like a good business should. The bottom line is the bottom line, and opening it up for pandering and emotional maneuvering will certainly lead to disaster.
- Stuart Dunmeyer, Manchester

Here we go lay off the teachers and it is up to the Alderman to decide the budget. How about the school board and alderman giving up there salary and perks to help the teachers? The combined perks and salarys equal over $500,000. I do not see Donna Soucy or Dan Oneil or for that matter Mike ( Wannabe Mayor) Lopez help curb the deficit. Save the teachers vote Alderman out in the fall.
- Stan Howser, Manchester, NH

I would recommend that you folks get a union at your jobs so that your pay will go up and you can afford to pay for the services that are needed by a democratic citizenry in the twenty first century. The Employee Free Choice Act will help in that regard but you are going to have to work at it. In the past year about 25% of those attempting to form a union have been fired for their efforts. Manchester is fourth from the bottom of communities in New Hampshire in the amount you spend on your education system. Instead of spiraling down to the bottom, how about setting your goals higher. Your high school tuition for out of city students is $4,000 less per student than Concord. Are you actually trying to have less educated burger flippers leaving the state?
- Robby, Deerfield

Mr. Tarr, You state that the city should cut out allovertime. What about when it is snowing at a rate of " per hour or there is an ice storm that will not let up. Your opinion as a candidate for Alderman is that the snow should not be plowed when overtime is in effect. Ice should not be treated when overtime is in effect. Broken pipes should not be fixed on overtime. Schools will not be plowed on overtime. Any after hours service for roads and buildings will be performed on overtime. Most of the overtime that is used is not copntrolable because we cannot control the weather or building emergencies. Get the point, I hope so. It would be in the best interest of the people in ward 5 to look at your opinions before they consider YOU for any political office.
- Brian, Manchester

I have a student at West High School, and paying the same taxes as people in the Memorial high district. Joan, West High school is like the movies. The principal there gets 110K for a part time position. I dont want to hear that teachers put in countless extra hours for free. The average teacher receives 62K a year for part time work. I dont receive 62K for my frustrating full time job, and have not received a raise in 8 years. Just stop the complaining, you can pick the city employees out of this blog from a mile away. When's the last time any of you got up on a snow day? How many delay openings have you had? I am pretty sure most of us that still have a job were up earlier then ever on those days shoveling and creeping our ways to work. It's a shame that we will lose the young teachers because this generation of children need fresh blood in the class rooms to draw their attention. The hell with tenior.
- Jon, Manchester

Mr. Johnes thinks that the school board doesn't "get it," and he & Mayor Guinta do. What he & Mayor Guinta need to "get" is that we cannot afford to skimp any further on the education of our children. The classes are already too crowded, programming is minimal, supplies are scarce, technology is laughable. These kids are our future - this is a case of "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later." We need to provide them with an excellent chance at achievement, not the bare-bones minimum, bargain-basement education that the Mayor would find adequate. Find somewhere else in the budget to skimp if you refuse to raise taxes and cannot find other means of revenue.

Mr Tarr had a very good point - cutting back on overtime pay for municipal workers would save a bundle. And may I point out that teachers, EA's, admininstrators, etc. get no overtime pay for the countless additional hours they work on a regular basis above & beyond their contracted hours. Maybe all municipal workers should be paid salary, like the educators are, and if they need to spend extra time finishing their work, so be it, but no overtime pay. (Then maybe my garbage would be picked up & streets plowed in a more timely manner!)
- Kathy, Manchester, NH

The taxpayers can't afford another increase! Not everyone in the City of Manchester has the resources to afford even a small increase. Our family budgets are stretched as far as they can go. What the school board fails to consider that not only do they want an increase, but so do the stores, utilities, and everthing we need to continue to survive.
School board, get real and face the cold hard facts, you are not the only ones in the city.

Nancy
- Nancy, Manchester

Have you seen those movies where the inner city schools don't have the supplies or facilities to provide the kids with a reasonable education? Manchester is getting close. I'm sorry if you don't want to pay more taxes, but the reality is our schools are already underfunded. Teachers are taking money out of their own pocket to buy basic supplies (like copy paper). Beech Street school - the school with the highest percentage of children learning the English language while trying to meet academic standards has been waiting for WALLS. Seriously! They are in an overcrowded facility without real walls - they rely on dividers while they wait for the money to come through.

If some of you saw the condition inside the Manchester public schools, you might change your tune. Perhaps we could all tighten our belts to make an appropriate investment in our community's future. Take the long view Guinta.

We already spend less per student that 98% percent of the state. And we have the most challenges.
- Joan, Manchester, NH

Mr. Tarr, you seem to have ALL the answers for every Blog--you should run for Mayor not alderman...
- Jorge A, Manchester

Oddly enough, the first look at the budget stated; "Addition of 76 positions at a cost of 3 million, Kindergarten from half day to full day - cost $848,000 and 'laying off' 10 assistant principals - cost $1 million." Without these added cost on the $146 million from last year that would have brought the total cost to $152 million alone and student programs would stay intact. Now it seems the school board has choosen not to consider those cuts? And in a local newspaper suddenly they found space for kindergarten students at Easter Seals to go to Parker Varney for free after all this searching done in the past years? Oh wait, that's right, it will cost taxpayers money to 'bus' them over there! So there is no savings at all to the taxpayer. School Administration can cut cost out of administration services, heck they spent past years upto $450,000 on office machine repair and that doesn't count for the leasing cost, that's a seperate cost. Mr. Jones is correct, even as a renter like me, my landlord's property is valued at $328,000. A tax increase is an increase on my rent. Some can't pay a higher rent and this counts for the elderly too who own their homes. Yet the city will/can allow a city employee to work a 24hr shift? How about cutting out all that overtime? There's a savings right there toward the taxpayer.

Robert M Tarr
Candidate for Alderman - Ward 5 - 09'
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

Seriously, I really don't think that the majority of those on the School Board get it. We CANNOT afford a tax increase on the local level that would at all support this kind of a budget. Thank God we have a mayor who gets it, but apparently the majorities on the aldermanic and school boards think the Manchester taxpayer has an unlimited supply of money at home to pay in taxes!

My 401K is now a 201K, stocks are floundering, and the economy is in a recession. Families are cutting back, but apparently the aldermen and school board members just don't get it. Continue holding the line Guinta. We need your fiscal discipline now more than ever.
- Casey Johnes, Manchvegas

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"City Hall: One's out, sure, but two others might be in"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 3/15/2009

Tom Donovan is out.

The Ward 1 Democrat and former school board member says he's decided not to stage a rematch against Mayor Frank Guinta this year.

"It just isn't the right time," Donovan said.

Donovan, an attorney, polled at 46 percent in his face-off with Guinta two years ago, losing by 1,487 votes. Recently, he confessed, he had been thinking very seriously about giving it another go.

Ultimately, he said, "I just decided I've got to pay more attention to my family and my business, the community."

Two other Democrats -- Aldermen At-Large Mike Lopez and Dan O'Neil -- have said they are considering a run for the city's top job.

"Obviously," Donovan said, "you consider who else is out there as one of the factors." He added, however, "I'd say that wasn't controlling."

- - - - - -

CLERKS: The applications are in, and although there's no way of knowing who the next city clerk will be, we can say this: It won't be a coronation.

That's not a commentary on Acting City Clerk Matt Normand, who may well have the inside track. But he isn't the only qualified candidate. Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron, who used to work in Manchester and was once Normand's boss -- told us last week he applied for the position.

Bergeron called the job opening "an interesting and challenging opportunity."

"I worked in Manchester almost 10 years ago, for five years, so I have certainly some familiarity with the government, the way the city operates and even the staff in the clerk's office," he said. "So it would be a comfortable fit."

Normand has been the de facto department head for nearly nine months, and has made it clear he hopes to do the job permanently. The staff in the clerk's office says it supports him, 100 percent.

The clerk's position pays between $70,000 and $100,000 a year, plus an "extensive" benefits package, according to the job posting. It will be up to the aldermen to decide who gets it.

- - - - - -

SPENDING MACHINE?: It was cause for celebration in City Hall when Gov. John Lynch announced he was dropping his threat to suspend rooms-and-meals tax rebates to cities and towns. The suspension would have cost the city $4.9 million this year.

Next up: a battle over "revenue sharing," another pot of money that Lynch said he would take away. There's $4 million in the pot for Manchester, if the city can get its hands on it.

Guinta is already on the case -- or, at least, he's blogging about it.

"In a tough economy, cities and towns must not have to shoulder the weight of the state's woeful spending machine," Guinta wrote in a post on his official city blog. "Simply put, not only is it unacceptable for the state to shift their burden downward to cities and towns, it is irresponsible."

- - - - - -

TROUBLE AHEAD, TROUBLE BEHIND: The restoration of the rooms-and-meals money was, without question, good news for Manchester. The city needed the money to cover the annual bond payments for the Verizon Wireless Arena.

So, problem solved, right? Not necessarily.

There's good reason to wonder whether the city will be able to cover the payments for as long as it needs to. Payments are due every year until 2030. As it stands, there's no guarantee the state won't play games with the rooms-and-meals money in the future -- say, the time a budget crisis comes along.

Even if the state does keep the payments coming, there may be another problem. The bill for the arena is growing, and soon it works out to about $5.1 million per year, according to Finance Officer Bill Sanders. The bond-rating agency Moody's Investments Service has said there's a good chance rooms-and-meals revenues will fail to keep pace.

Mayoral aide Mark Laliberte said Guinta realizes there could be problems and is "looking at all options."

"Obviously," he said, "the office has been looking at the bond issues, not just today but in the future."

- - - - - -

CYBER WARRIOR: Former Alderman Keith Hirschmann has confessed to doing some sarcastic "bantering" on the nhinsider.com discussion board before Alderman Peter Sullivan sicked the police on him.

It's true, he did make some mischief. In November, his online alter ego, "suncoastkid," took a shot at former state Rep. Mike Brunelle, dredging up the time in 2007 when the Manchester Democrat was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Hirschmann wrote: "if I were on duty and Brunelle pulled that bs ~ I would have clubbed him in the back of the Paddy wagon."

The suncoastkid also predicted, last November, that Sullivan would lose his seat this fall, either to Pat Long or Joe Kelly Levasseur, both former aldermen.

Other insights, courtesy of the "kid," include, "Hussein Obama should get his head checked," and "Slavery has not ended, it has just morphed into the dumming (sic) of the masses."

- - - - - -

PREECE'S PIECES: Some charming landscapes were recently tacked up in the front hallway in City Hall. Look closely, and you'll see that they were painted by none other than David Preece, the executive director of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission.

The exhibit comprises 13 Preece originals, each inspired by a scene from somewhere in the greater Manchester area. A placard on the wall explains the paintings "reflect his journey as an urban and regional planner."

It also says Preece's work has been displayed in Los Angeles and Palm Springs and that Preece is, in addition to a painter and planner, a playwright.

- - - - - -

THE KID: Maybe Georgie Reagan was dropping a hint last week when she suggested the next major work of public art in Manchester could draw some inspiration from the Ted Williams statue outside Fenway Park.

Reagan, the mayor's assistant for the arts, wouldn't say what sort of sculpture she hopes to erect, but she wasn't talking long before she started musing about Boston's bronze tribute to the legendary Sox slugger. The Beantown statue is 8 1/2 feet tall and 1,200 pounds, and it shows Williams placing a cap on a young fan's head.

Certainly, Reagan said, the Manchester sculpture could bear the likeness of one of this city's icons.

Say, Adam Sandler?

"Why not?" Reagan said. "I like that kid."

Got a better idea? Send it to sbrooks@unionleader.com. Do it quickly, before the city does something it will regret.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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READERS' COMMENTS"

I may be a democrat but I'm no fool. If Mr. O'Niel and Mr. Lopez had there way this city would be drowning in back to back 7-8% increases, thats without a bad economy.

The City of Manchester has never had a revenue problem, it's a spending problem. To sit here and see the CIP budget hearings gets me sick.
It's a frivilous waste of money and I don't care if it's our tax money or some grant by some state or federal program.

Manchester may no longer be partisan but I don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure out how the breakdown of the roll call votes are.

I will be voting for who I think is the best person for the job regardless of what party they belong to. Maybe it's time for me to toss my hat in the ring and get some better meaningful representation on the board rather than the "special interests".
- Jack Alex, Manchester

Regarding the proposed sculpture, please Georgie do not bring in some hideous thing like at the Currier or in front of the Verizon. Please! And who annointed you as the one to manage the project? It's not your money that will be buying this thing. You are adorable, but do not with a great track record when it comes to selecting overpriced art.
- Ted R., Manchester

Former Mayor Josephat T. Benoit would be a great choice for a statue in Manchester. He ran the city for many years in the 1940's and 50's. And he was definitely a fiscal conservative!
- Bob Dobens, Stuart, Florida

Is it too early to get an absentee ballot?
I just can't wait to vote against O'Neil..
What I want to know, who would vote for him? Former Alderman Keith Hirschmann aka.. "suncoastkid" .. should run for O'Neil's at large job.. then we will have two "At Large, And LARGE" guys running... The free buffets at any political event will need a second's table..
Can't make this stuff up.. Manchester.. the New Lawrence...
- tom, manchester,nh

Keith Hirschmann is immature at best. No wonder he is no longer serving as an alderman in the city. I wonder why the washed up alderman even thinks he can handle the job anybmore. Maybe he should stick to on-line journalism. Seems to be his new forte.
- Mike, Manchester

If you're happy with the union ownership of the Board of Alderman, the thought of Dan O'Neil or Mike Lopez as mayor should really make your legs tingle.
- WS, Manchester

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"Manchester taxi fares may be lowered"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 3/17/2009

MANCHESTER – Taxi rides in Manchester may soon become a whole lot cheaper.

Cab fares would drop 90 cents per mile under a recommendation approved yesterday by members of the aldermanic Committee on Administration and Information Systems. The measure wipes away a fare increase put in place last summer, when local taxi drivers complained historically high gas prices were swallowing their profits.

"Everybody knew the increase was temporary," said Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil, the committee chairman.

Cab drivers chafed at the committee's decision, many saying the lower rates would threaten to put them out of business. Some told the aldermen they are barely scraping by with the fares as they are.

"A cut right now would be disastrous for us, especially with the summer, the slow time, coming," one driver, John Murray Jr., of Radio Cab, said in a phone interview before his night shift yesterday.

Employees from all three of the city's cab companies said they plan to petition the aldermen for a permanent fare hike. O'Neil promised the committee would consider the request, but told the drivers, "I'm not going to commit to you we'll take action one way or the other''.

Gas prices have come down by more than half since the aldermen raised fares for city taxis last June. A year ago, a gallon of regular gas was close to $4. Yesterday, the average price at gas stations in and around Manchester was $1.83, according to AAA.

The current rate for a cab ride is $2.40 a mile, plus a $3 riding fee and 25 cents for each additional passenger. The committee's recommendation, which must be approved by the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen, would reset the rate to $1.50 per mile, plus the extra fees.

Cab drivers noted there has not been a permanent fare increase in Manchester in more than eight years.

"We're getting paid in 2001 dollars, and it's not going to cut the cake in 2009," Queen City Taxi driver Al DiIulio said. "That's why we're all broke."

Dave Berthiaume, another Queen City Taxi driver, said he makes about $450 a week at the current rate. Almost all of his profits come in on Fridays and Saturday nights. The rest of the week, he said, he's lucky to make more than $40 a night.

"Taking 40 percent of our income away, we're not going to be able to pay our bills," he said.

O'Neil said he is cognizant of the fact that the drivers, and not the managers, are the ones paying to fill the cabs' tanks. Drivers also pay a nightly fee of $80 to $115 to lease the cab, depending on which company they work for.

O'Neil told the drivers to consider the possibility that the higher fares have been hurting their business, not helping it.

"I do hear from consumers out there that because of the price of a cab, they're not taking cabs. Plain and simple," he said.

In addition, O'Neil said the quality of taxi service in the city has been on the decline. He said the condition of the taxis has deteriorated and said he has noticed some drivers smoking in their cabs, possibly in violation of a city ordinance.

"We're going to bring the quality of cab service back up, because it's slipped a little," he said. "And I think that's part of why you've lost some volume." Aldermen had always planned to revisit the taxi rates early in 2009. The increase was supposed to sunset Jan. 30, but the deadline was extended so O'Neil's committee would have a chance to meet with representatives from the taxi companies.

Yesterday's vote to lower the rate passed, 3 to 0, with "yea" votes from Aldermen O'Neil, Ed Osborne and Real Pinard.

READERS' COMMENTS:

John, I advise you to only play what the meter states. That is all that is enforceable. If they don't start the meter, then it is their loss. Without the meter they have no proof of money owed.

Keith is right about deregulation. Just look at how it helped the housing market, the banks, and the stock market.
- Jeff, Manchester

I've never understood why Manchester feels the need to regulate taxi fares. Why not just have each taxi company post the fare per mile on the outside of the cab, and allow the market to dictate the fare?

Price fixing is anti-competitive and unnecessary, and it reduces the incentive to provide quality service and well-maintained service. If City Hall forced every restaurant to sell every hamburger for $2.50, we'd all have lousy burgers and roll our eyes at our customers.

Let the market go. The result would be lower fares and better cabs and service for the customers. Competition makes everything better.
- Keith Murphy, Manchester

To John from Goffstown:

Not to defend the cabbies, but your argument about fares is becasue you don't understand the law. There are no statewide taxi laws.

The rates set by the city are for in-town fares only, they do not extend to travel outside the city either coming in or going out. Accordingly, drivers do not need to turn on their meters when doing either, and companies or drivers may set the fare as they wish.

I own an airport transportation company, some call that limo service, many such services also operate as Airport Taxis and as such Airport rates only apply to from the Airport to indicated zones (St. A's would fall into a zone). My minimum fare is $25 for up to 11 miles, after that our $2.25 per mile overrides that. Airport taxis and limos do not have meters, and are not requried to.
- Howie Howe, Manchester

Hi, The cab fare in Manchester is not unreasonable. And if the cab drivers haven't had a raise in a long time then they should be allowed to take the gas premium as their cost of living adjustment that they are due. As far as the quality of service I think the city needs to make the fleet owners more responsible for a decent fleet. As far as bad drivers well there is a complaint system for that. But don't penalize the guys trying to make an honest living. Manchester needs these drivers so they should be careful to think what they are doing before reducing fares.
- Ken Murray, Manchester

Dennis in Manchester is spot on. If you want a cost of living increase/raise don't do it under the guise of a 'fuel surcharge'. Basically, you lied. I agree - I wouldn't stay at a job where I had no raise for 8 years. I also wouldn't lie about why I need the far eincreased as the taxi co's did.
- Mike, Concord

What a bunch of loonies and cry babies. So much for free enterprise. This is what happens when you have "civil" servants dictating prices at the point-of-a-gun. Let the cabbies set their own prices.
- Publius, Merrimack

I live near St. Anselm college and I am not a college student and sometimes my friends and I get a cab to go to Elm st and the cab fares vary so much. Sometimes it 14 and sometimes it 20 or 25. It ludicrous and they just make up a number in there head. I don't understand they don't even turn on there meter. I am glad the taxi fare is going down bc they are robbing people.
- John, Goffstown,NH

Sounds like the cab companies have themselves to blame. To request a raise in rates tied to the cost of gas going up - what did they think was going to happen when the gas went down?

It's a viscious cycle, let them keep the raise and the next time gas goes up they'll be asking for ANOTHER.
- Dennis, Manchester

The last time I took a cab in Manchester, it was in a mini-van from Queen City Taxi and while going in my pocket and shifting my weight to get in the pocket, my seat (apparently unhinged to begin with), lifted, and I nearly smashed my head on the side door. It was that ride, that became my last taxi ride in Manchester. I'll walk miles before I take a cab in Manchester again, especially with the rates.
- Bill, Manchester

As a regular customer of Queen City Taxi for the past 11 years and a former taxi driver from the A-Taxi company in Portsmouth I understand why the drivers would like the increase to stay in place. Back in my day as a driver, we got paid $5 per hour plus tips before the owners went to a loan system. Doing that, hurt many drivers then. Service is always been a problem, there are times cabs take an hour just to show up after being called when dispatch says; "Give me 15 mins.". Better management from the owners is what is required otherwise the drivers will be the ones out of work and unemployed. Reduce the loan to a more managable rate and have more and better quality cabs to ride in will help service and keep drivers employed. Remember, your fare is their only paycheck, without it the drivers will be another victim to the recession.
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

Re: Jack in Manchester
As a Driver for one of the companies in town, I wouldnt judge all the cabs in Manchester, because of one company that refuses to spend a little money on theirs. I know one company within the city if a driver complains that the car sounds funny while sitting at an idle it is taken off the road for an inspection from the company's mechanic.
One a second note, the vehicles that are being used in this city are inspected randomly by the D.O.S. and now by a new unit the city put on the road. As for dents and dings, it happens to everyone even to city vehicles.
I was at the committee hearing last night, I could understand where Mr. O'Neil was coming from, but something people got to understand. The people he spoke (maybe 30 people) to will not make or break a business. If these people are not taking a cab now, with a 15 cent decrease on the way the meter moves they will probably not take it after the rates are lowered.
Now a question for all will read my long and drawn out comment. HOW MANY OF YOU WILL WORK OVER 8 YEARS WITH OUT A COST OF LIVING INCREASE. With that being said, think about all the drivers that have, without a raise and the economy I beleive the self esteem of majority of the drivers are really low. As for I, I will ride this decision our come July or August I will petition the committee for a happy medium so both partie involved dont lose their shirt
- A Queen City Taxi Operator, Manchester

There's a lot you don't know about being a cab driver. I was one briefly while looking for work in my chosen career a few years ago. The cab companies are the ones who supply the cabs. The drivers don't even have their choice of vehicle - they get what they are assigned. The owners of the cab companies are, of course, trying to run on as low a margin while maximizing profits. And just for kicks, why don't you go take a look at what it would cost to insure a cab? It's more than the actual cost of the cab.
- David, Hudson

Thank heaven I don't have to take a taxi on a regular basis. It's like riding in a Rent-A-Wreck. Fenders dented, bumpers missing and cracked. These guys are running their operations like the great Tuna Fleet. I'm not sure what it would take to get these guys to reinvest in some decent low milage even 2nd class cars and vans. If they are skimping and running eyesores what else are they skimping on...brakes?
- Jack Alex, Manchester

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"City Hall: City fee 'adjustments' may be in the offing"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, March 22, 2009

No one wants to raise taxes. But what about fees?

The city charges lots of them, and it hasn't escaped some city officials' notice that a bunch of them haven't been raised in years.

One of those officials is Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, who told us he's been scrutinizing several city fees that may be due for an adjustment.

"I'm looking at it," Lopez said. "I'm just looking at everything to see where we can increase revenue. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

One fee on Lopez's radar is the fee homeowners and businesses pay to register a security alarm. Acting City Clerk Matt Normand said those fees -- $30 for a first-time permit, $20 for a renewal -- haven't changed since the mid-'90s.

Meanwhile, the newly promoted director of planning and community development, Leon LaFreniere, said he is taking a good hard look at the fees developers pay for subdivisions, site-plan applications, conditional-use permits and lot mergers. LaFreniere said those fees are "artificially low" because they have been unchanged since the late-'80s.

"We're a little out of whack with what other communities are charging," he said.

Aides to Mayor Frank Guinta said the mayor disdains fee hikes and does not plan to call for any in his budget address later this month.

"You know the mayor is trying not to propose a tax increase," Senior Policy Adviser Sean Thomas said. "He believes a fee increase is also a tax increase."

Some fees appear to be safe for now, if only because the city just raised them. Library fines went up last year. Parking rates, of course, were raised last fall.

For the record, Parking Manager Brandy Stanley says this year's budget won't be like the one before it.

"Unlike last year," she said, "we don't have anything in the budget that hasn't been approved yet."

- - - - - - -

IT STARTS AT HOME: Guinta has revealed he plans to cut the budget for the mayor's office, a gesture intended to show that he, too, is willing to make some sacrifices.

A staffer said Guinta is tentatively planning to slice $4,000 off the office's budget, a 2-percent cut. The mayor said the savings would come from mandatory one-week furloughs.

Guinta touched on the decision, without offering specifics, last Wednesday during his speech at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

"I'm not going to complain," he said. "I'm going to figure out a way to make it work. But I'm also willing to do that to save jobs in our city."

Guinta told the crowd he would cut the office's budget to "about 1995 levels." That was close, but inexact. According to the staffer, the proposed budget of $199,000 would actually be the lowest since 1998, although that's somewhat misleading, since the same can be said of this year's budget.

- - - - - - -

THE JOHN & FRANK SHOW: Guinta and Gov. John Lynch gave off very different vibes during their back-to-back speeches at the chamber breakfast, Attorney Nicholas Lazos observed.

"The governor, by nature, is a much more sprightly personality," Lazos said afterward. "The mayor didn't smile as much."

It wasn't as though either of their speeches was particularly uplifting. Both dwelled on the economy, which Lynch noted, is bad and getting worse. But, the governor said, at least "the rate of deterioration is not accelerating." So that's a relief.

Maybe it was all the doom and gloom, or possibly a case of ants in the pants, but by the time Guinta was wrapping up, about eight or nine people had already walked out. The emcee said the mayor was available for questions, but no one took him up on it.

- - - - - - -

BREAKING NEWS: How's this for anti-climactic: We can now confirm that former school board member Greg Sargent was "seriously" thinking of running for mayor, just in time to tell you that he's decided not to do it.

Well, it's true, anyway.

"I definitely put the feelers out," said Sargent, a Democratic attorney. "I seriously considered running, but I have decided as of this past weekend that now is not the time for me to run for mayor."

Sargent, who is just 30 years old, said the key factor was the economy.

"Law school loans are ridiculous," he said. "And so, you know, I'm not ruling it out in the future, but for right now, I just have to focus on my work."

- - - - - - -

PUTTING ON THE BRAKES: Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil says taxi service in Manchester is less than great, and he argues the drivers deserve some of the blame.

"It's got to improve, folks," he told a group of cabbies last week at City Hall. "We're going to take cabs off the street, plain and simple."

O'Neil said the city will "start coming down on drivers" who have been breaking local ordinances. Coincidentally, just a few weeks ago, the city surprised the drivers with a round of unannounced cab inspections.

Twenty cabs were stopped during the two-day initiative, according to Kevin Kincaid, the city's licensing and compliance coordinator. Kincaid said he and the other inspectors gave out three summons for ordinance violations and wrote 15 warnings.

They also ordered four cabs to be taken off the road for immediate repairs, he said.

One cab driver, John Murray Jr., accused Kincaid of going around "stormtrooper style" and shouting at drivers for no good reason. Murray said during his own inspection, Kincaid got angry, told him to "shut up," and threatened to pull his taxi license.

"He was not too polite about it," Murray said.

Kincaid's version of the story is different. He said he gave Murray a summons because Murray was driving with an able-bodied passenger in the front seat, an ordinance violation. The only time he raised his voice, he said, was when the inspection was over, and Murray tried to drive away -- with the passenger still in the front seat.
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Scott Brooks' column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Suday News. His e-mail is sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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READER's COMMENTS:

The Fee City.

That will be our nickname to replace "Queen". The aldermen are afraid of making the hard cuts that are necessary to run the city, instead they would rather raise taxes and increase fees while the taxpayers are drowning in a recession. It's just another lame excuse not to budget appropriately given the state of our economy.

As far as Alderman O'Niel's reprimand to city cab drivers he himself should be reprimanded on threatening people. What gives the city the right to set rates and regulate an industry. I also want to say this, at the cost of the taxi service, the rates for public transporation on the MTA have been kept artificially low for years as they barely eeked a profit. The bus fares never kept up through the 80's and 90's and until the last increase I believe that they are still .50 cents shy of where they should be given the gas prices. Many of the buses have more than 3 riders except for the busier ones.

Manchester has always done this, I can see if it were a big city like New York or Boston, but in Manchester theres no random pickups off the street that I have ever seen. I think almost all are address to address and people should chose whichever is more competitive. The rates they are set at is absurdly low and doesn't afford the companies the ability to buy a better fleet of cars and pays the drivers little. I think if there were less taxi vechicles there would be more business left for the remaining ones. I think that Zone to Zone charges works better in some respect as it could afford them to pick up more than one passenger at a time.

There also needs to be a review of Kevin Kincaid's conduct, he's a representative of the city and he should not be yelling or threatening anyone.
- Jack Alex, Manchester

"Lopez said. "I'm just looking at everything to see where we can increase revenue. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
***************************
I think there is something wrong with that... the first thing they should be doing is looking to see where they can cut spending. Why is that so difficult? I can't believe that this city does not waist one dime.

Let's get real Mr Lopez, we can not afford to keep paying more and more. It's time for you to do your job... the right way!
- Domenic, Manchester

To the cab drivers, and any other citizen;; get a digital camera, be it a phone camera, or a more expensive one. Carry it with you.. record the acts of officials, the way they treat you, their demeanor. The camera will not lie, the official will be on camera, and kept on his toes. Also, if one sees wrong doing by any city employee such as sleeping on the job, talking on a cell when they are supposed to be working.. digital cameras folks... If Murray the cab driver had filmed/recorded Kincaid the official, there would be no doubt who was behaving badly.
- tom, manchester, nh

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City Hall: "'You've got to be realistic a little bit' about tax increase"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, March 29, 2009

Alderman Ed Osborne hasn't seen Mayor Frank Guinta's budget proposal yet, but he'll tell you right now what its odds of passing are: Zero.

"You know how it works," Osborne said last week. "The mayor comes in and says (he won't propose a) tax increase . . . It's easy to do that. I can come in and say that. Makes you look like a real hero. But you've got to be realistic a little bit."

Osborne can't speak for his colleagues on the board -- certainly, few would want him to -- but for his own part, he says he'd be OK with a budget that raises taxes by 3 percent.

"That wouldn't be too bad," Osborne said.

His words may be worth remembering. Last spring, Osborne said he'd be willing to accept a tax increase of 4 to 5 percent. In fact, taxes went up 4.7 percent.

Other board members, reasonably enough, are waiting to see what Guinta rolls out on Tuesday night before they make any forecasts.

"Boy, I wouldn't want to play Kreskin on this one," Alderman Peter Sullivan said Thursday. "Really, I had enough trouble making my Final Four predictions, although they've held up remarkably well." (His pick to go all the way: Louisville.)

It's clear the mayor won't propose anything that calls for a tax hike -- Guinta has promised as much -- but it remains to be seen just what he'd have to cut to get there.

Already, he's said the proposal will call for at least some layoffs and employee furloughs. An aide, Mark Laliberte, said he did not know whether the proposed budget would anticipate concessions from the unions, although Guinta has said he hopes to win some.

As it happens, the unions appeared to be softening their stance a bit after meeting with Guinta Monday. Mike Roche, the unions' spokesman, said there was talk of a compromise, in which the city might agree to "beef up" some of the language in the unions' contracts when negotiation time rolls around next year.

"There may be an opportunity to get things that we couldn't when times were better," Roche said. "I'm not talking about increases in insurance, merit pay, COLA's. But other things: more language for promotions, grievance procedures."

Guinta was unavailable for comment. Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez, who was also at the meeting, declined to talk about the meeting.

Roche, by the way, agrees with Osborne about this year's budget. Regardless of the mayor's proposal, he said, he's "quite sure" the "vast majority" of aldermen will support a tax increase.

- - - - - -

GONE FISHING: Alderman Sullivan is casting a line into cyberspace, hoping to reel in some dollars for his re-election effort. You may be interested in what -- or rather, who -- he's using for bait.

"Notorious right-wing activist Joe Kelly Levasseur has said repeatedly that his top priority will be defeating me," the downtown alderman wrote in his campaign announcement on the liberal blog BlueHampshire.com. "We can't let Joe Kelly Levasseur, Keith Hirschmann, and their fellow practitioners of the politics of personal destruction bully their way back in to City Hall."

The blog post goes on to say that donations "will help us to get out our positive message of hope and change, and fight the smears coming from Levasseur's attack machine."

To which Levasseur replied, "I wonder why Peter Sullivan focuses on me so much. I have not held a political office since 2001 . . . Peter Sullivan needs to focus more on what's good for downtown and not worry about what Joe Levasseur is doing."

- - - - - -

NOT BIG ON AT-LARGE: Alderman Osborne says the city doesn't need to have two at-large aldermen. It doesn't even need one.

"I don't see it at all," Osborne said of the job. "Stepping stone for mayor is all that is."

Osborne said he would ask the board to eliminate the positions, but only if both incumbents, Lopez and Dan O'Neil, enter the mayor's race. Neither Osborne or just about anyone else we know thinks that scenario is terribly likely.

- - - - - -

NO DEAL: Alderman Ted Gatsas will have to find someone else to move into the vacant mill building he owns with his brother, Mike. The Manchester school district has decided to pass on buying it.

The district, in need of a new home for its administrative offices, considered getting an appraisal for the 12,500-square-foot building, which sits next to the Bridge Street bridge at 111 Charles Way. The brothers' asking price was $1.35 million, according to Mike Reed, of Stebbins Commercial Properties.

That, according to school board member Mike DeBlasi, was a bit too much for some members of the Building and Sites Committee, considering it would cost extra to retrofit the building. Also, DeBlasi said, the property offered just 46 parking spaces; board members were hoping for 80 or so.

"It wasn't any one thing," DeBlasi said. "We had a review of the property and found there were several areas that would be less than ideal."

Reed said he'll keep scouring the city for other properties that might be more to the school board's liking. He said he does know of one other property -- which, by the way, is not owned by a sitting alderman -- but in general, he didn't sound overly optimistic.

"At the moment," he said, "I'm out of alternatives. I wish I had something."

- - - - - -

GO WEST, YOUNG COMMITTEEMAN: Administrators are still trying to figure out if it's possible to relocate their offices into the increasingly depopulated halls of West High School. It sounds, at first, like the cheapest option, although school board Vice Chair Katherine Labanaris said she's certain that building, too, would have to be retrofitted.

Beyond that, she said, "The big issue is parking. I mean, where would you park 70 employees?"

At the very least, there are three administrators moving to West. They are the people responsible for food and nutrition services.

Board members were told about the move last Monday. Labanaris, for one, wasn't impressed.

"I was ready to burst out laughing. Three people," she said.
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Read Scott Brooks' coverage of Manchester City Hall during the week in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email him at sbrooks@unionleader.com.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

Steve from Manchester, it is that exact line of thinking that started the French Revolution. How did that turn out for them? Is that what you want? Massive class warfare? This is a dangerous road you want us to travel down.

People make money because they work hard and earn it. Maybe you should try a little work and stop sitting around waiting for the Government to give you a handout.
- Frank, Manchester

If you want the municipal workers to start taking concessions, then show me when the upper middle and rich class start doing the same. Show me that the bonuses have stopped, show me that the profit sharing has been reduced, show me that everyone in this country who has been heavy at the feeding troth has backed away. The public employees take it on the chin when times are good, and they get kicked in the cahones when the times are bad. When I start seeing the upper class start taking it on the chin.. i will have no problem doing the same. The Obama administration and congress has started down the right road to curtailing the fat ponies at the feeding troth on the public dole!
- steve, Manchester

If you look back at History since Mayor Weiczorek was ousted by Bob Baines, Not a budget has passed in that time period where we the tax payers have not caught a tax increase. Despite that, all of these pro-tax bums somehow keep getting put back into Office. And, we must not forget about the gang of eight who obstructed the city taxpayer's right to self determination by blocking the spending cap from being put on the ballot. This crowd lies, twists, cons and confabulates for no other purpose than to spend taxpayer money and protect the interests of the union hacks they serve. Just plum disgusting
- Rick Olson, Manchester

REALISTIC?!?

Here's a dose of realism for you, Ed: How about you STOP SPENDING!! Can't you geniuses level-fund a budget for once?

Things are bad enough. Ed now wants more of your money to make his life easier.

Typical Democrat. He condescends to the citizens of this city while taking money out of their pockets.
- William Smith, Manchester, NH

When is enough ---enough? The head honchos at City Hall keep taxxing this and taxing that, raising this tax and raissing that tax....when is enough ---enough? I think it's time that the people of this state start demanding relief, and the only way we are all going to get relief is to promote and approve casino gambling. If we don't do it first, Massachussetts will and if they do, then we are doomed forever. So the people of this state had better wake up and smell reality and get this gambling thing passed. Enough is enough!
- George, Manchester

A message to Mr. Osborne: 3% tax increase is not afforable to people in Manchester. Thank you for showing the public how truly insensitive you really are especially in these economic times. Maybe Mr. Osborne can afford the 3% but the rest of the city can't. This just shows the arrogance of unqualified people like Osborne running for elected office. What is his claim to fame since being elected? Putting up yellow smile signs on Lake ave? PLease. The voters of ward 5 need to rethink their voting strategy next election.
- Jeff, Manchester

"Alderman Osborne says the city doesn't need to have two at-large aldermen. It doesn't even need one." Yo, Alderman, we also don't need a barber telling us our taxes are going up while the state hits a 10% unemployment rate. I was stunned when I read what this boob had to say. He is beyond out of touch. Will someone tell him his 2 minutes of fame is over so he can go back to the barbershop.. please????
- tom, manchester,nh

We have to be realistic about a tax increase? Realistic? Really? Come on Alderman you know better than that. Maybe it is you and your colleagues that need a dose of reality. You own a business, so you must understand that raising taxes in a down economy is the worst thing to do. Taxpayers are hurting, at least 8 out of 10 of them are either making less as a family because their business is down or there have been cuts in overtime or cut in their hours or worse an outright layoff. You say it is easy for the Mayor come in with a zero? You know what I think is easy? I think it is easy for an Alderman who lives in one of the safest seat in the city to pander to those whose job comes from taxpayers dollars, at the expense of those who shell more if it out each and every year to help keep them. I think it is easy for the Alderman each and every year not to follow the Mayor’s lead and take a hard look at the budget and make the tough choices needed to protect that taxpayer and still provide city services. I think it is much easier for you and your colleagues to resist change and reform than to roll up your sleeves and provide it. Alderman Osborne, I hope you sir will be realistic and not ask the taxpayers of this city to endure another board of aldermen sponsored tax hike.
- Michael Biundo, Manchester

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"Manchester Street: The 'forgotten stepchild'"
By DENIS PAISTE, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, Monday, March 30, 2009

MANCHESTER – The "forgotten stepchild of downtown," the block of Manchester Street between Elm and Chestnut, is being targeted by city officials for a $210,000 facelift, with new lighting, signs and sidewalks.

City officials hope the makeover will stimulate private development on the block.

"We can make it a more appealing environment and encourage more investment," city Economic Development Director Jay Minkarah said.

Ward 3 Alderman Peter M. Sullivan, who hung the stepchild moniker on the block, said, "It's a little bit spooky at night because of the bad lighting." But Sullivan is optimistic about prospects for the block.

"If we make it more inviting, it will be easier for small businesses to succeed; if small businesses succeed, that means you create more jobs and you bring more tax dollars into the city in the form of parking revenue, in the form of increased value in the properties downtown.

"It's a net gain for everyone when you have a thriving downtown area," he said.

Steven Baker of Abel Realty in Lawrence, Mass., has owned property on the block for about five years.

"What will change nicely if that street area gets lit up and renovated is, you'll have people not just running through and cutting across but actually stopping and utilizing the local shops," Baker said. Baker owns 37-45 Manchester St.

"It's a popular place to park, but it's not a popular place to walk through and shop because it's not a well-lit and friendly street," he said. In his opinion, "It's quite an attractive street with all the nice brick facade buildings."

Today the block is a mix of social service agencies, storefront ministries, a single convenience store, a restaurant and consignment furniture store, with several vacant storefronts, signs for long gone businesses and graffiti scribbled on entry ways.

"Nice looking facades and signage would make it more inviting," Minkarah said.

Minkarah has asked the city to fund the improvements through the Community Improvement Program for the fiscal year beginning July 1. If it is approved, work could begin this summer or fall.

Minkarah's long-term goal is to upgrade Manchester Street to mirror improvements already made to Hanover, Amherst, Concord and Lowell streets, on the blocks running immediately east of Elm Street.

Typical side street improvements feature brick pavers, alternating with concrete sidewalks, and a strip of red brick along the storefronts, with period ornamental lampposts. Several of the streets have arches at their Elm Street entry. Vertical signs along storefronts offer a focal point from Elm Street.

Taken together, the combination of new trees, sidewalks, lighting and arches, prove to be an attractive enticement to draw pedestrians off Elm Street onto the side streets, Minkarah said.

"Creating and maintaining a pedestrian-friendly environment is one of our greatest assets," he said. "What you see in a downtown is an assembly of buildings, assembled over a 150-year period. It is an atmosphere that you can never replace," he said.

The city Economic Development office offers building owners a variety of assistance programs, including a City of Manchester Revolving Loan Fund; Neighborhood Facade Improvement Program and federal Section 108 Loans.

Plans call for a widened sidwalk at the corner of Elm and Manchester streets, limiting turning space for cars, which Minkarah said will slow traffic turning onto the one-way street off Elm, and make it more pedestrian friendly.

A boarded-over door to a vacant storefront on Manchester Street is a symbol of its problematic situation today.

Asked what a boarded-up building means, Minkarah said, "Abandonment, that's the message . . . It's something nobody wants to see."

"When you see boarded-up buildings, it's a sign of a longer-term problem," he said.

But some are still trying to make a go of it on the block. A S Bar Grill owner Zlatko Kolasinac, a Bosnian immigrant, renovated the interior himself.

"He did an awesome job," Baker, his landlord said. "We were working in harmony to try to get his business going. Since he put in his business, another Bosnian store opened just up the street." (Bosna Store LLC at 71 Manchester St.).

Ironically, the north side of Manchester Street already has decent sidewalks, lighting and trees, but the entire block on that side is taken up by the Citizens Building, its parking garage and drive-through banking kiosk, with no retail storefronts, except for the Manchester Street entry to the bank.

An unnamed private street connects Manchester to Hanover behind the Citizens Bank garage.

The overall impression looking down Manchester Street from the corner of Elm is one of disconnectedness.

"It does seem in many ways to be a forgotten block," Minkarah said during a walking tour of the area with a Union Leader reporter and photographer.

"Our long-term goal is to see that improvements are made to Manchester Street so that it would be more fully integrated into the downtown core," Minkarah said.

Besides the vacant storefronts, there are also vacancies on the upper floors along the block.

"We'd like to see the buildings themselves fully utilized," Minkarah said. "On the upper floors you've got good potential for a nice mix of office as well as residential."

The city recently held a meeting attended by about 15 stakeholders, including representatives of property owners on the block to make them aware of the city's plans for the block and assistance programs.

Funds for the Manchester Street project haven't been approved yet, but Alderman Sullivan is optimistic about that too.

"I think it should be doable," he said. "Whether or not 13 other aldermen approve that is another issue. I live downtown, I represent downtown, and I believe in downtown."

Building owner Baker said he recently put up new awnings as well as bringing in the new Bosnian restaurant. "There has been a major improvement over the last 12 to 15 months to my property," he said. "It would be nice to start upgrading the street for the local businesses. It doesn't get the attention that it deserves."

Stephanie Lewry, executive director of Intown Manchester, said of the recent neighborhood meeting, "Everybody agreed lighting needed to be upgraded and sidewalks need to be improved so the area felt more inviting and less intimidating."

She said the improvement plan presents an opportunity to include green initiatives and possibly conduit pipes to trap waste heat from buildings that could heat sidewalks in the winter.

"All opportunities require research and some potential risk taker to do the demonstration project," Lewry said.

"The heat could be recycled in from, say, a city building like the fire department or police department, which are adjacent to Manchester Street, or from the individual buildings if they have waste heat." Waste heat could be captured from stoves or refrigerators or similar appliances. Interior heating systems wouldn't be used to heat sidewalks.

Each building owner, if they were attached to the conduit, Lewry said, might even be able to "avoid shoveling snow."

Despite the recession, Minkarah said, the city and downtown merchants should be optimistic.

"Even difficult times like these do provide some opportunities. In terms of making improvements, construction costs are down, so your dollar can go a littler further.

"It is all the more important to move forward with our planning efforts, so when the economy does turn around, and I believe it will turn around, we are ready to move forward," he said.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

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I couldn't agree more with all of you. Rick has valid points, but why are people unable to make deals these days, arrogance maybe? Why can't city government offer incentives to anchor stores/downtown real-estate owners? Downtown will remain a watering hole until we can start finding common ground. Oh yeah, we should probably think about balancing that budget too, because nothing leads to nothing.
- DL, Manchester

I have lived in downtown Manch on Hanover St. for the past 3 years, and believe improving Manchester St. would be a great addition. The problem is attracting the nice businesses to be there. That convenience store is in some foreign-language, that restuarant mentioned is really a dive bar, and the social services place has about twenty homeless people standing outside constantly smoking cigarettes. That is going to be a quite a challenge. Look to downtown Portsmouth for ideas. Nice restaurants and upscale bars off multiple streets make it feel safer even if that is not the case.

Concord St. has become somewhat nicer, but Amherst St. still has Liquid which is sketchy to walk by late at night.
- E, Manchester

"Why doesn't city government see this?"

I'm sure they do. The economic development office tries hard to get these sorts of businesses downtown.

But believe it or not, the city of Manchester does not have the power to force B&N to open a store.

Shocking, I know. And after a few more years of Obamanation, it probably will no longer be true. But for now, places like B&N can continue to choose to avoid the lack of parking, NIMBY neighbors, and massive code enforcement problems associated with locating downtown.
- Rich, Manchester

I agree - we could really use a movie theater in Manchester. What better place than somewhere on Elm. Something to give people a reason to be on Elm after 5 pm.
- Matt, Manchester

remember when clothing stores like Pariseau's, Floyd's, Lynch's, Mcquades, Leavitt's etc were downtown and open late for us who worked till 5pm? remember restaurants like the 88, Ferretti's, Ground Round, Atrium, Salty Dog, Red Onion Cedars of Lebanon? Not many bars like now, i won't walk downtown manchester now not like the 70's, we need an indoor market square, someplace people can go to after a concert, game at night at the Palace or
Verizon Center.
- jan g, manchester

Without Elm Street in porper order the side streets won't matter.
I work on Lowell Street,I get out at 5 and hope to do a little shopping after work, guess what everything is closed. Tee-Shirt Bodega closed up shop, forcing me to travel to Nashua for their unique products. I agree with Amy, we need an anchor store on Elm really bad. And exisisting shops need to think about being open once in a while. The customer's always right, right?
- Angelica Ladd, Manchester

As a resident of Manchester I look forward to seeing these improvements, however, until our city government does something to make downtown Elm Street more desirable and safe I am not quite sure this wil be that successful. We need to give folks a reason to want to walk downtown - we need an anchor store to get people walking downtown and find the little specialty shops we have. I am not sure what our city goverment does not see this. A bookstore - like B&N with a coffee shop that is open till 11 pm or a movie theatre or even a GAP would attract more people during evening hours. These few anchor stores will increase the sales of the specialty stores and restaurants. Why doesnt the city government see this?
- Amy T, Manchester, NH

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"Guinta hears a Who: Will aldermen hear them, too?
The NH Union Leader, Editorial, 3/31/2009

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta unveils his budget today. Taxpayers should note that although neither aldermen nor union officials have seen the proposal, some are saying that it's dead on arrival because it won't spend enough.

Mike Roche, spokesman for the city employee unions, told reporter Scott Brooks last week that he thought the "vast majority" of aldermen will back a tax hike this year even if Guinta, as expected, proposes a budget that avoids one.

The unions have been reluctant to renegotiate their contracts, as Guinta has requested. If they have reason to believe the aldermen will overwhelmingly support tax hikes, why would they?

Alderman Ed Osborne wants -- WANTS -- a tax increase in the 3 percent range, he said.

In the Dr. Seuss classic "Horton Hears a Who!" an elephant named Horton is the only animal in the jungle who can hear the cries of the tiny inhabitants of Whoville, who live on a speck of dust. We are starting to think Mayor Guinta is a lot like Horton. He's the only one who seems able to hear the cries of the taxpayers.

That story ended well for the hapless Whos. So far, things aren't looking so good for the city's taxpayers.
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READERS' COMMENTS:

Instead of talking- people need to start doing.

Call your Alderman- write your Alderman- Email your Alderman.

Tell them---enough is enough.

No tax increase is tolerable--find ways to cut spending.

Let them know how you feel.
- Gary, Manchester

I'm amazed the Aldermen can't find any spending cuts. I bet any random group of 12 voters could find millions of wasted dollars or come up with sensible ways to cut costs and/or improve services.

This is OUR city, let's take it back!
- Rich, West Manchester

I believe this is an election year and the union support of certain aldermen is what carries the election. The bottom line is taxpayers can't afford a 3% increase on their taxes. If it comes to layoffs then so be it. The top priority should be education. The rest can slim down and streamline services. We are in a time fo deep recession, teetering on depression. If the Mayor proposes a budget cut, then the aldermen should adopt it. if the city then fails, so will the Mayor. If the Mayor's budget works then he will be a hero. Give the Mayor what he wants and see where the chips fall.
- Jeff, Manchester

These aldermen and union bosses truly don't get it. Residents of this city will not stand for higher taxes and we are sick of the fact that they just can't get this concept through their heads.
- Dave Thompson, Manchester, New Hampshire

"It won't spend enough." That's the cry of all of these big-spending aldermen, but we have only the voters in their wards to thank for that kind of thinking, because they keep electing them.

A 3-5% increase would be a travesty in a recession, even though that's "business as usual" for these folks.

Until the voters wake up and throw these tax-and-spend bums out, and tell the Unions they have to live with less or no raises, just like everyone else, the city's taxpayers will continue to be squeezed.

We should thank Frank Guinta every day of the week when we get up in the morning that he's at City Hall working to hold back this torrential flood of spending. But he can't do it alone - with only 3 aldermen out of 14 supporting him - forever.
- Stephen Abbott, Manchester

To the taxpayers in Manchester, listen up.

Don't get too excited about the possibility of actually getting to keep more of what you earned this year. The public employee unions have bought and paid for the aldermen. They manned the phone banks, showed up by the busload to hold signs, and donated large sums of money. They are now looking to get what they paid for.

You as a taxpayer mean nothing to the aldermen. Your taxes are going up because you continue to elect these people into office. Maybe when the city implodes and has to file for bankruptcy Vallejo, Ca. we may finally wake up and elect people with our best interests in mind. Now stop complaining and get back to work.
- Wayne S, Manchester

3% Pfff, that's nothing.

Wait til 'Mao Tse Dan' O'neil gets in the mayor's office, 3% will seem like a reduction, he'll be riding us like a mule skinner...come on property owners PULL, (whip crack) PULLL!!
- Mark, 'vegas

Besides Mayor Guinta and maybe 2 or 3 others, these Alderman have always gone right for a tax increase.

They have never even once thought of trying to find a way to create a balanced budget.

There's no consideration given on how to save money or ways to be more efficient in an effort to maintain current levels. A tax increase is always their solution for everything.
- Phil Greazzo, West Manchester

Alderman Osborne should know already that upto 60% of his ward is made up of renters? (Census 2005) and of the 40% remaining are middle income families and retirees trying to make it in today's tough economic times. Oh wait, that's right, Alderman Osborne stated in 2007 in the Manchester Express that; "The most important job of an alderman is to keep taxes and crime rates low." And has even said he; "Could live within a city of a population of 80,000 to 90,000 people. (Union Leader reported)" That means 20,000 people less...Hmmm a tax hike just might do that. What we need now are people who, like our Mayor, listen to the people of their wards and do the right thing. A city employee's pay raise is nice, sure, how is that going to help when it gets taken away with a tax increase? That makes no sense at all. Come this November, let the people stand up and show they can be heard. Vote for real change, vote for people who DO care and WANT to help the taxpayers.

Robert M Tarr
Candidate for Alderman, Ward 5 09'
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

Osborne admits he wants to increase taxes and his never-say-no-to-spending collegue George Smith had this to say a couple weeks back:

"Ward 10 Alderman George Smith said Guinta's call for no tax hike is unfair...."

I hope my neighbors here in Ward 10 wake up and realize that Smith needs to go. We can't afford his lack of ability to actually try and think of ways to save the taxpayers money and not just automatically increase taxes.
- Paul, Manchester

There is one thing that is telling about this editorial and that is the statement of Mike Roche. The Unions in this city and their infamous, "I got me and mine, screw you and your attitude" sucks...In many circles, Mayor Guinta asking for a Tax cut has become a punchline.

Folks, these jerks are all laughing at us...the taxpayers....laughing and spending our money. While our taxes go up and we have to cut back, they won't negotiate. They won't come to the table. To hell with the Manchester Taxpayer.

A Political enema is long overdue at Manchester City Hall. The Gang of 8 need to go...Sadly, for all his hard work for constiuents, Ed Osborne needs to go. Its time to rise above the cacophony of the Union Blatherers and do something sensible for the city.
- Rick Olson, Manchester

Very creative editorial. Gets right to the point and I totally agree with the sentiment, but its nice to have some humor too.
- Fran Winters, Manchester

Sometimes I feel like Manchester IS Whoville because I truly wonder who the heck elected aldermen like Osborne, Smith, Lopez, O'neil, and Devries
- Fred Jenkins, Manchester, NH

In spirit of Dr. Seuss, I thought it would be a good idea to respond to our wonderful "tax loving" aldermen with a quote by Dr. Seuss himself:

"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try."

Now I know its tough, but how about the aldermanic leadership tries "THINKING" as suggested and realize that we can't afford higher taxes in Manchester! We are the second tax friendliest city in America and we'd like to keep it that way!!!
- Barbara, Manchester

Great article...straight and to the point. The aldermen need to get with it and realize that we REALLY cannot afford a tax increase. Cuts need to be made and there certainly are areas where cuts are applicable. Good for you Guinta---we need you standing up for us taxpayers now more than ever...
- Chris King, Manchester, New Hampshire

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"Mayor calls for furloughs, unions balk"
By SCOTT BROOKS, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff, 4/1/2009

MANCHESTER – Mayor Frank Guinta last night pulled the veil off a $286.8 million budget proposal that would lop a fraction of a percent off property owners' tax bills at the same time it docks some money from city workers' paychecks.

The proposal would require every one of the roughly 3,300 city and school district employees in Manchester to take off seven days of work without pay, a move two union heads at last night's meeting characterized as illegal. Guinta said those mandatory furloughs are the key to avoiding layoffs, which he had previously described as inevitable.

Yesterday, Guinta said that if he is allowed to "manage" personnel and purchasing decisions throughout the year, he may not have to lay off a single employee. At most, he said, the city would have to lay off nine workers.

Guinta said he does not believe there would be any layoffs in the school district, which would receive $146.1 million, though several school board members disagreed with that assessment.

"There's going to be layoffs no matter what" board member Art Beaudry said. "It just depends on how many and whether teachers will be affected."

In an interview, Guinta said the budget strikes a "fantastic" balance for both the taxpayers and city workers. Even as it preserves jobs, he said, the proposal slices roughly one-third of a percent off the local tax rate, which would be reset at $17.29 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The cut is small, by almost any measure. For instance, the owner of a $225,000 house would save $13.50.

Guinta said the mandatory furloughs would save $3.6 million, which, according to the mayor, is the equivalent of 90 jobs. No employee would be exempt, he said. For teachers, he said, he would want the furloughs to occur during school vacations.

"I think it's a reasonable compromise," Guinta said. "It does require some sacrifices from every employee, myself included. And I, for one, am willing to do it because I think it's the right thing to do."

Mike Roche, president of the Water Works union, said the unions will challenge the proposal as illegal, saying, "You can't force a furlough on unionized employees." Manchester Education Association President Scott McGilvray, who shared Roche's view, said teachers would have to miss class because they are only paid for days they work.

Guinta's proposal gives the school district substantially less than the $152 million the school board requested a few weeks ago. But, Guinta said, with an extra $5.5 million in federal stimulus money on the way, and with additional savings from retirements and mandatory furloughs, it would be enough to "meet the goals and expectations" of the board's request.

Even so, school board members said the proposal would, at the very least, require some program cuts. Administrators have previously suggested they would have to reduce kindergarten to a half-day; cut back on music, art and athletics; and eliminate maintenance projects.

Guinta said the district would not be able to replace any of the 52 employees who are expected to retire this spring. He noted, as he has in the past, that student enrollment is on the decline.

Nearly all department heads, according to Guinta, have said they can live with their proposed budgets, though some departments would take a hit. Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries would lose about $153,000, nearly 6 percent of its budget. The library would essentially be level-funded, which, according to Director Denise van Zanten, would require the elimination of two or three positions.

Most city departments would receive only a little more or less than they did last year. Both the police and fire departments would see increases of less than 1 percent. Guinta said the police appropriation would be enough for a full complement of 225 officers.

His proposal made no mention of union givebacks, though Guinta said he will continue to discuss that possibility with union heads. He said if the unions "don't like the furlough idea, they can replace it with a different idea."

Also, the mayor announced he will call for a merger of the Elderly Services and Health departments. That proposal will be handled outside the budget process, he said.

Guinta said he wants the aldermen to agree they won't "open up" the budget after it's been approved. The board has until June 30 to vote on a budget.

READERS' COMMENTS:

I have lived in 5 different cities in 3 New England states and I have never seen the vitriol spewed at educators that I have seen in Manchester. Just because the state's "largest" newspaper says it's so, doesn't mean that it is the truth. I have teachers to thank for my ability to discern the truth, even with constant bombardment of that which purports to be the truth. If there are words in this writing with which you are unfamiliar, look up their definitions and thank a teacher that you can read.
- CAH, Manchester

Richard Linder from Marblehead is right - the streets are filthy and the services for the most part are terrible - so what are we paying for?

The mayor may be getting praise from many of you, but look around and see for yourself, he is to blame for much of what is going on.
- Lisa Vestry, Manchester

What happened to all the good will that the city employees performed by working at night to clear snow instead of during the day this past winter so as to help everyone out?

Was that sincere or just a smoke screen?

Wasn't that about doing the right thing and some were unhappy that they were being questioned about it then - when its motives were sincere?

I'd hope that EVERYONE understands it's a very tough time for all. Some of these comments - to bite your nose off to spite your face - are insane. No one - I am sure - wants to take a cut in pay, have a week or two or three off if at all - but think of the alternative.

Some comments give the impression that they are entitled to raises and work - the current situation be damned. Whoever said that you were entitled to work and all its trappings?

Some of these union comments are the very things that are wrong with unions; They protect the weak, non-performing union workers that would be vetted and fired in a non-union setting.

Why can't you be happy to have a job while your neighbor - who does not have one through no fault of their own - is trying to find what you covet like a birth right.

Appreciate what you have, lest it be taken from you.
- GM, Manchester

if workers are furloughed for a week, they'll be able to collect unemployment for that time...for which the city will have to pay.

where's the true savings?
- ML, Manchester

i just hope all the people here telling union members to take time off, didn't vote for the obamanation. because this is exactly what you voted for. more unions and socialism. ironically, i am a union employee, but i can say this. a lot more work would get done without them!
- fpc, manchester

I personally know many people who work for companies that closed for a week or two around the holidays to cut overhead. Those people went without pay so that everyone in the company could keep their job for the rest of the year.

Then there are those who have been laid off and can't find another job. Sure, they get unemployment but they cannot afford their health insurance and unemployment only pays a portion of what they earned.

ALL of the city workers need to accept that what they are being asked has been asked of many, many private sector employees.
- Ben, Manchester

I would rather be forced to take a week off without pay than lose my job entirely. It's called "tightening the belt" and doing what needs to be done to survive. Our parents did it during the Great Depression or as immigrants. We would all do well by taking a lesson from the past to ensure our future.
- Eva, Manchester

The majority of you union workers are greedy "gimme, gimme" types that wouldn't know what a real full day of work is like. I agree, cut 10% from every city department. Problem solved and those left employed may actually have to do a full day's work and earn their salary.
- Molly W, Manchester

JRM, I work with many people who have lost more than a weeks pay. Some, their jobs. Some 10 hrs/week=520 hours/year= 13 weeks of pay. Their only benefit, 2 weeks vacation/year.
You probably voted for the redistribution of the wealth. In actuality this is the redistribution of poverty. What goes around.....
- Michael, Manchester

nice job, mayor! i'm behind you 100% i would never send my children to a public school in manchester, anyway. the schools in this city are awful. i haven't met a public school teacher yet, that i didn't think was an entitlement hog. and i can't believe the stupidity of people that wouldn't give up a weeks pay to save their jobs as well as others! mr. mayor, do we really need these 3300 people? my property taxes say, no!
- fpc, manchester

Hmmm - 7 days without pay to save your job. Not a bad deal.

If the loss in pay will be a hardship, imagine what 365 days without pay would be! During the 7 day furlough, go to Labor Ready and pick up a few days work/pay to supplement.
- BW, Concord

S.T.F. Manchester: You are more willing to potentially lose your job than take 1 day off per month without pay? Less than that actually....if that isn't backward thinking then I don't know what is. The private sector is doing it why can't city employees
- Mike, Manchester

When times are tough and everyone but city employees are making excellent money, people do not want our jobs. When things get bad, we are to blame. Its shameful. I am trying to make living like everyone else. It is not my fault that economy went into the tank. Not to mention that I pay the same taxes as you non-city employees.
- John L., Manchester

I recently spent time in Manchester at the Verizon Wireless Arena and honestly, I found the city to be very dirty. Trash was strewn all over your Elm Street and it is not like it happened over night, much of it has been there for some time. The economy is tough, but it appears that your city services are already suffering. When a visitor to your city calls it “gross” there is a problem. You may want to cut your services, but take it from an outsider, it looks like you already have.
- Richard Linder, Marblehead, MA

"you can't just violate the terms a contract because it is convenient to you.

Why not? Remember that's what our lovely Federal Gov't has decided to do with AIG bonuses and salaries.

The prescedent is already set.
- BW, Concord

Stop the Union bashing. Any idea what life for the average Joe/Jane would be like without Unions? Anyone study history at all? Know that difference between the upper and middle class you're always complaining about? Unions have very little real power left and since they are made up of average people they do indeed sometimes take crazy stands or make silly claims but they are necessary to counter what would otherwise be unchecked employer power. Unions are .. in general .. a good thing. Like middle class America .. thank a Union.
- Jim M, Hooksett, NH

How about everybody in Manchester donating 7 days pay to run the city and save yourselves $13.50 on the tax rate? That makes as much sense as Guinta's budget. 3300 employes loose a weeks pay to save 90 jobs?
The school district has already lost over 200 jobs in the last 3+ years through retirements and not filling those positions. Teacher's do not get paid for vacations. Never have never will. They get paid for 183 days of school. The money is spread out over the whole year to allow the city to collect the interest on the money owed to them. This was a concession by the teachers union to help out the city several years ago. The concession was made in good faith during NEGOTIATIONS.
All contracts were signed by both the city and the union sides. Frank Guinta came riding to the rescue 2 years ago. HE made sure ALL the union contracts were done and that they ALL had the biggest raises in the final year(next year). Now all of a sudden he can"t make ends meet. Guinta is where the fault lies, not the unions who signed in good faith. Remember, negotiations are between TWO sides. Some seem to think the unions get whatever they want. How wrong you are.
- John, Manchester

S.T.F.

If you are living pay check to pay check now, wait till you get on unemployment...You will get about 50%-60% of what you are making now every two weeks. Add to that the health insurance you will have to pay for now that you are laid off. I am a city employee and I will glady take an unpaid week off if it means I can keep my job!!! It will be tough but it will be a hell of a lot better than being unemployed. Having been laid off from other jobs in the past I can tell you that you do not want to be on the unemployment line. Pull your head out of the sand and wake up!!!!! You will be doing the right thing for your family by toughing it our for one week without a paycheck. This isn't MA, NH's unemployment bennifits aren't that great at all....
- John, Manchester

I'm a city employee - a non-affiliated one (meaning I'm not in a union) - and I am more than willing to take a furlough, particularly because it'll save my co-workers jobs. This is not unrealistic. And, many of my co-workers who aren't in a union feel the same way. Don't lambast all of us - not all of us are in the union!
- Kathy, Manchester

A creative budget that saves jobs and doesn't raise taxes and the union bosses as well as their cronies balk at it: Could it be that all they care about is political party politics and would have complained regardless of what the budget was?? LOL say it ain't so!

Guinta should be praised for this budget and the Union hacks as well as the city's Democrat leadership should be working with the mayor rather than trying to attack him at every turn as they always do.
- Ken Hogencamp, Manchester

I love how everyone bashes the unions. I bet all the people complaining who aren't in a union wouldn't take 7 days off without pay!
- JRM, Concord

Frank in Manchester: Most of us who work in the non-unionized private sector have already committed to giving up 2 days a quarter or one week a year without pay. We have not received any pay raises or bonuses this year. Now, you expect us to support these union members with higher taxes. NO WAY!! Stick to your budget, Mayor Guinta.
- HElen, Manchester

Reading the postings here:: unbelievable. While most of America gets a kick in the teeth, layed off. The government employees can't ever work together to help their own fellow workers. The answer? Simple; lay them off.. Stop with the nice guy stuff... tell them their services are being contracted out..
- tom, manchester, nh

Reading the postings here:: unbelievable. While most of America gets a kick in the teeth, layed off. The government employees can't ever work together to help their own fellow workers. The answer? Simple; lay them off.. Stop with the nice guy stuff... tell them their services are being contracted out..
- tom, manchester, nh

The union needs to get their heads out of the clouds!

What would be better for city employees and the residents of manchester?

Layoffs or getting 7 days of 'free" vacation next year???

The only way that I see this affecting "public safety" is if the unions allow their members to stage protests by large numbers of employees taking their 'unpaid" time all at once..

Unions have their time and purpose, but now is the time that they need to stop thinking of themselves and start thinking about the CITY OF MANCHESTER.

Wake up and welcome to reality..

There are companies that have already reduced their employees to 4 day (32 hour) workweeks and union members can't sacrifice 7 days of pay throughout the year?

Take the time or you may be granted the opportuniy to have the unforseen future off without pay!
- Scott, Manchester

Let me get this correct. You're willing to be laid off at 400.00 per week and COBRA your benefits. You may make too much in order to go on the other social progams and end up taking a job then is less money than your currently making. I would be happy to give up a week's pay and take a pay cut in order to be employed. My husband is currently laid off. I can't afford benefits and where I'm working and we don't qualify for the other programs. Be careful what you wish for - you just may get it!! Perhaps other cost saving measures - getting rid of private "official" cars as well as coffee service and water coolers would help...
- Julie, Manchester, NH

I don't understand the mentality of individuals such as RT from Manchester. So let me get this right you are unwilling to do your part to save the jobs of approx. 90 people based on the Mayor's budget because you feel you are entitled due to your union status. There are millions and millions of people in the country right now who don't have the luxury you have of union protection and became a casualty of this economy. I suggest an alternative to the budget is to forget the mandatory furloughs, and then poll all city employees and the ones that are absolutely unwilling to sacrifice a a weeks pay to save jobs then those are the people that get laid off. This way you can feel pride in yourself because you stood your ground as you are standing in the unemployment line. Businesses in this country are doing everything necessary to avoid layoffs. My company has mandated 2 weeks vacation every quarter for the fiscal year we are in right now. I am losing out on potentially 8 weeks of pay this year, but you know what I still have a job and the layoffs are kept to a minimum. Running a city is a business no matter how you look at and I may not agree with every decision of the Mayor but drastic times call for drastic measures.
- Bill, Manchester

My total pay in 2009 will be less than 2008 due to the dire economic conditions, but I remain employed. I EXPECT the Union employees whose salaries my taxes support to make the same sacrifices I have this year, and also remain employed. Stupid, greedy attitude.
- Frank, Manchester

For all of you incensed people who live/work in the city/state of NH ... do the math people.

do you want 1 week off or 52 weeks off?
Or possibly more?

I got laid off after 22 years at my job. 22 years!!!!

I would trade a 1 or 2 week furlough/rest period/whatever if I could be gainfully employed the rest of the year and keep my health benefits and 401K and all that.

We are getting by on 1 salary, cut most of the things you all enjoy and can make it work somehow - so 1 week is not eternity - be you police/fire/city worker/city exec or mayor.

Please stop railing at Guinta and work with him for a change. These times call for all of us to help one another as best as we can. Please?

A little humanity will go a long way. Honest.
- RG, Manchester

President Reagan fired PATCO. Is there something in their contract that states they can't be fired?
There are many out there in the land of the laid off who would be grateful to be employed.
I'm reading "increase taxes", "it means a decrease in services". Stop whining, it will be soon enough when the dollar is worthless. The peso will have a higher value than the dollar. Won't that be a hoot.
You'll soon be fighting over the scraps left in dumpsters. We can reduce trash pickup. There's a positive. Don't worry, be happy. We are the world, we are the children.
- Michael, Manchester

I am a city employee who lives paycheck to paycheck. I can not afford to take a week off, and I won’t. My family comes first. It is up to the mayor to make whatever decision he needs to in light of my unwillingness to give a weeks pay. I have kids to feed, a mortgage (in the city) to pay and other financial obligations just like the rest of you people. I will not let anyone mess with my family. Not the mayor or the screaming taxpayer!
- S.T.F, Manchester

Mike Roche and Scott McGilvary may be right that you can't make union members take a "furlough" but what they need to remember is that union workers can be LAID OFF. So, here is the choice for Roche and McGilvary: Save jobs and figure out a way to furlough or lost jobs. It is that simple. I hope they push the envelope as far as they can and while they are doing that, the employees will get laid off as a result of their union bosses actions. Smart move Roche. Smart. So, lose jobs instead of doing the right thing. And we wonder why the city is broke.
As to the Mayors budget, the aldermen should simply adopt it immediately. If it fails, then the Mayor will have failed and he will be gone. If it works, then he is a genius. So, give him what he wants and let the chips fall where they may.

Now, as to aldermen saying Police and Fire cannot take furloughs in the interest of public safety? Please. Police and Fire are no different than anybody else. THey are not immune to furloughs. If a trash hauler can take it the a firefighter or police officer can. We always pamper the police and fire...well, enough. They should be treated like any other city employee.
- Mike, Manchester

Its amazing how ignorant some people are. For someone who makes $50,000 a year, losing a paycheck equals about $961 out of their pocket. If your property taxes are $5000 a year you'll save a whopping $17.50 under Guinta's proposal. Even union members have families to take care of. Sounds like the ungrateful people posting comments are the greedy ones. How about reducing wasteful spending and entitlements to save money? I know its a new concept for you libs.
- Joe S, Manchester, NH

Not one mention of the Aldermen giving up any of their health benefits? They are part time employees who get top notch health benefits at a tune of $1,000.000.00 per year. Why are they not required to sacrifice?
- Max Grey, Manchester

Guinta's proposed tax cut is a hoax and he knows it. A tax cut in the current climate would be reckless and irresponsible.

It is just political posturing so he can lay the "blame" for a tax rise or layoffs on his political opponents.

Guinta is cynical and weak. He is more interested in his own politcal future than he is in the people of Manchester.

Guinta is not a leader, he is selfish and self interested. He should resign. Period.
- Leon, Manchester

This move doesn't stand a chance, but if it did go through, it will cost the city %20 of the projected savings in legal fees, to say nothing of what negotiations for future collective bargaining agreements. You don't pick fights with bullys, and unions are bullys.
- Jack, Manchester

If you lay off any cops, me and the Free Staters will work the shifts for free. We are all proud gun carrying folks who are willing to do our part in these hard economic times. Lay off cops and we'll work for free!
- David Ridley, Manchester

Guinta is trying to be the slick politician, or he is just very naive. Either way, propose a budget that actually runs the city. If it calls for layoffs, then show the back bone and lay off. Making illegal demands and hoping for money that may not be there is reckless…it partly how we got in this mess to begin with. He is political cowardess is showing, I wish someone would cover him up.
- Roger Gingras, Manchester

The taxes in Manchester are very low compared to the rest of the state. Stop complaining. Pay what you need to continue to receive all the services that you do!
- Katherine, Manchester

I guess we can just "forget" to pay our property taxes the same way Mayor Guinta "forgot" to pay his last year! Do I have trust for a guy balance a multi-million dollar budget when he can't keep his own business in check? Check the numbers Guinta, they are wrong again!
- Kathy, Manchester

I guess we can just "forget" to pay our property taxes the same way Mayor Guinta "forgot" to pay his last year! Do I have trust for a guy balance a multi-million dollar budget when he can't keep his own business in check? Check the numbers Guinta, they are wrong again!
- Kathy, Manchester

The greed and arrogance of Union members and officials is at the forefront here. Private industry in this state and around the country have been laying off and furloughing their employees as a way to salvage the company and at the same time, save their employees during these hard times. My sister works for an established company in the Upper Valley area. She has been through three furlough periods since December of last year; hopefully, there will be no more (at least this year). Yes, she lost some money and definitely all of her accumulated vacation time; but she retained her health benefits and still had a job at the end of this period.
Obviously, union employees feel they are above such demeaning activity.
- sandy, thornton

I am a city employee and I REFUSE TO GIVE BACK A WEEKS PAY. PERIOD!! I am also a txing payer in the city. Why would I give a weeks pay and stilll bear the burden of a tax increase? How many of you complainers have given a week of pay to your job? It is illegal to make it mandatory, so the city will get nothing from me. Lay me off and I'll sit back and take all the mony and programs all the other slackers in the city take and default on my tax bill. Good luck to all of you whiners!
- RT, Manchester

7 days off without pay is less than one day per month for the remainder of the year. It does not say it all has to be taken at once. That does not sound unreasonable to me. I just had to take a 10% pay cut at my job. It's much better than having layoffs. The unions in this country are part of the problem. No one wants to agree to a furlough but they'll just complain about layoffs also. Right now, people should just be grateful they even have a job and stop complaining. Everyone has to makes sacrifices. There was another NH town recently that tried to do a furlough of 1 day off per month but the unions refused. 1 day per month is nothing. Try being one of the ones totally out of work and the furlough won't seem bad after all.
- Stephanie, Kingston

As much as I want a tax cut, you can't just violate the terms a contract because it is convenient to you. The Mayor should have done the responsible thing and just made some real layoffs, instead of this charade.

He's made it too easy for the Aldermen to throw this entire budget in the trash immediately. I was hoping he'd do something that the angry 'peasants with pitchforks' (taxpayers) could get behind. Instead, he put up a proposal that is a political tool.

Well, Frank, my focus now shifts to the tax cap proposal, presuming the court doesn't throw that out.
- Glen, Manchester

union worker A = 10,000 annually

divide by 52 weeks = 192.3 per week

= 38.46 per work day X 7 = 269.7 pay rollback
per worker per 10,000 of salary. 9730.00 salary now.

i don't see a problem, belt-tightening going on everywhere. and it's better than losing jobs altogether. anybody auditing my numbers please do so constructively thanks.
- charlie, manchester

Wow! The selfishness of city union heads is unbelievable...pay me and screw everyone else. Nice to know they care about the welfare of their neighbors.

And now the ugly truth of the education lobby comes out...it never had anything to do with the children...it was always about teachers salaries.

Don't buy their phoney arguments. Manchester's people want this budget.
- Seth Connors, Manchester, Nh

That's it Guinta! Reduce services(police) and reduce the quality of our schools. Watch everyone with a brain leave Manchester and leave behind section 8 and halfway houses. All of our homes will be worth nothing because anyone with money to spend will not be moving here! Everyone knows you are not staying. You are not looking at the long term investment and the real problems manchester has! Why are you sending your kids to private school! Do you not like our quality education or the ciy's population?
- Jeanne, Leaving manchester

This has nothing to do with Frank Guinta trying to avoid laying off city employees. The other option is to increase taxes and spread the pain out evenly among all residents. Guinta wants to be reelected so badly that he does not want to upset or offend the majority of residents. This results in a one-sided view of how to deal with the situation and his refusal to raise the tax rate. For all of you mouthpieces out there, why should a city employee/resident be forced to giveup a weeks pay while their neighbors save $13.50? Guinta's intention is not to save jobs, that is merely his political spin to pass the blame onto someone else which are the city's union employees. Hopefully people can see that he is not the great leader that some think he is. Frank Guinta is irresponsible because he refuses to put together a reasonable budget to include tax increases, reductions in services, and reductions in the workforce. I want a truthful and reasonable person to lead this city and will vote for one in the next election.
- Tom, Manchester

No wonder the city can't balance the budget. How do you expect teachers to participate in the furlough and take the mayor's proposed 7 days during a 5 day school vacation???
- BRIAN, MANCHESTER

Mayor Guinta is telling City Employees to take a week off without pay! And plus he's sending them all on a week long cruise!

APRIL FOOLS!!! Ha! Got YA! Gotta Laugh!
- George W., Manchester

As a Union employee for the city I would gladly take a week off unpaid if it means I can keep my job. Please be aware the union bosses do not speak for all of us ....You don't have a choice you have to join the union, which isn't right either....
- John, Manchester

I love how everyone is quick to attack the unions. These contracts were negotiated fairly and I assume like all negotiations the unions had to budge on certain items to come up with a contract. Bottom line is that the cuts he proposes would only save $13.50 for the average homeowner. To me that is a few less cups of coffee a year. And for the all the union haters that expect the unions to budge during these hard economic times, why dont you try to go to the grocery store and have them budge on their prices because of poor economic times. I dont think you would get too far.
- Brian, Manchester

Tough times call for tough action. City and State works should not be held untouchable. I work for a Fortune 5 Company and my base salary has taken a $250 dollar hit bi-weekly and my sales compensation also has changed, resulting in $500 less a month. We also can't expense our Phone and Internet service resulting in an additional $150 expense. I would like to see a tax cut, however I don't want to see an increase in taxes a year from now. Everyone needs to realize that things aren't business as usual anymore and sacrifices need to be made. In my household of 4, 2 people work fulltime and a part time job to make ends meet. Everyone needs to stop complaining and do something about your own personal being, as life goes on.
- Matt, Manchester

Well lets see Frank and all the other school teachers that have posted here. Its Ok that the general public takes a hit to save jobs at their place of employment and now you want them to take a second hit by paying more taxes so you don't have to do anything. Appears this mayor is at least trying not to lay anyone off. Teachers should remember the rest of the people work 260 days (minus vac. & holidays), could be the teachers already have too much time off. And yes others take work home and go in early and stay late... At one point in time unions were well needed, now they are just another money making business.
- Jim, Loudon

I am sick of unions holding us hostage. Unions are nothing but glorified extortion groups, whose only usefullness is in an emerging economy or industry. It's time that we looked at changing or even abolishing laws and rules that protect these extortionists.
- bill smith, manchester, nh

As a union member what makes you think the union is the problem ? How about wastefull spending we could start there. I work and live in derry and I pay taxes
- Al, Derry

Businesses save costs in this country by doing things smarter and applying innovative and automation to what they need to get done – these two things employ more technology (cheap) and fewer people (expensive). It’s time Manchester does the same thing. What Guinta presents is a short term, preserve the employee at all costs approach to trying to save money. That will never save much money, notice the $13 reduction is taxes on a $225,000 household. The emphasis on labor costs and unions completely misses the big picture.

It’s interesting that teacher furloughs are supposed to take place during vacations and that the district will not be able to replace 42 retiring employees, but this article says no such thing about departments in the city. This looks like another case of cutting deeper into one of the most economical districts in the state, while not cutting as deep into one of the least efficient municipal governments in the state. I have previously posts the data that backs up that last claim. Sorry for those readers that missed it, but in a nutshell: our town spending is very lopsided and proportionately looks much like Portsmouth, Hampton and Seabrook. Salem, Nashua, Concord and most others spend much less on municipal government. Who do you think Manchester is most like?
- Peter Sorrentino, Manchester, NH

Hold on a minute... I agree Unions have had it good for to long, however to suggest 3300 employees take 7 days off without pay....Why should the burden fall on 3300 employees? A furlough would result in their loosing anywhere from $600.00 to $2000.00. They as well are hit with the economic times perhaps their spouse has lost work. How about all the tax payers take on the burden of a $200-$300 increase in taxes, which includes manyo f the city employees. That to me is a fair settlement.
- Frank, Manchester

I find it ironic that the Union Bosses are complaining that the Mayor is trying to save jobs. I hope the city workers that are members of these unions take note: they would rather see you lose your job then they lose a little bit of their iron grip. So sad.
- Ryan, Hooksett

The City tried to furlough in Claremont too and the unions shot it down, so 9 positions were eliminated last week. They'd rather see people laid off since the majority in the unions would not be affected by that.
- ginny, claremont

If the unions refused to budge or compromise with Mayor Guinta on this reasonable budget proposal, then, I would strongly suggest that he amends the budget and make deeper, deeper cuts to reflect a bigger commitment to the city taxpayer who already subsidize these union workers and their families. If no union employee is willing to share the burden of this recession by giving up a little for the community they represent, then, maybe, they do not deserve to work for this community and should go elsewhere. I don't think Mayor Guinta is being selfish. I think he is being tremendously pragmatic and willing to do what is necessary to preserve the union's livelihood and their families' quality of life.
- Maurice Forcier, Manchester

I'm confused.
The cuts at the school district are coming from attrition. If all the Math teachers retire are we just not replacing them?

What is really difficult to understand is what we're getting from this budget as well as what it is or isn't costing.

Also, one guy on WMUR said his union would help but not with furloughs. Okay, then how?
- Leah, Manchester

Teachers need to pay their bills too. Many cannot afford to go without pay for a week. Did Mayor Guinta consider how this plan will financially impact city employees?
- Deborah, Merrimack

we need to get rid of unions in general.
- bob, auburn

Are you guys crazy? Manchester was rated the 2nd most tax friendly place in the US and you act like we pay astronomical taxes. What does this prove? That most people here merely tow the party line without giving a thought to the value and services they get for the tax dollar spent. How people haven't figured out the Guinta strategy by now, I'll never know! Anyone can say that they can run the city for less by proposing an unrealistic budget and then blame unions and alderman when reasonableness is reached. That's a cheap political trick used to pass the buck. Our aldermanic board does a good job keeping taxes at a reasonable rate and giving us proper services....that's the way it should be! We're #2!! We're #2!!
- Jules, Manchester, Nh

Right on Mr. Mayor - lets agree to go one step further to keep those Union bosses happy and save them the legal fees. Lets just cut 10% of all jobs across the board. Every Department - actually they would probably still be overstaffed if you cut 25%, but, lets just start at 10%.
So 3300 City Jobs less 330 - that is a great savings - and further reduces our ridiculous tax rate.
- Bill, Manchester

If teachers are only paid for the days they work... Then the furloughs have to occur during school days. Boy will that do wonders for our school system... Atta boy Mayor...Way to be in touch with the school system...
- Jim, Manchester

It's interesting that the mayor is lecturing teachers on the meaning of a sacrifice. I'm a teacher and I'll take the furlough in a heartbeat, under one condition: The mayor must not run for re-election.
- Ed Doyle, Manchester

It is time the unions realized that they aren't immune to the economy, especially when it comes out of taxpayers pockets. Unions had their places years ago, it is time for the unions to go. They think their workers are supposed to get pay raises, not pay the same for healthcare that non-union people are paying and are generally above the average worker. Time to go. We are all cutting back, doing without raised and in some cases taking paycuts. Time for the unions to do the same.
- Ruthie, Fremont

I knew it would mean a decrease in services!
- Charleene, Manchester

This is a reasonable request, in fact the same thing has happened at my company. We have to do 5 days so that there aren't any layoffs. People can deal with furloughs on this scale. Unfortunately taxpayers are the piggy banks for the city's unions and God forbid we don't raise the taxes for these people.

There's a town in California that actually went bankrupt because of the debt the city workers created with their pensions and salaries. Be careful with your yearly demands because one day it may wipe out your entire retirement. Can't say a city going into bankruptcy would be a bad idea in this case.
- Bob, Manchester

White collar loot's us at the top and now the unions say we can't ask them to give some up !
Its getting harder to figure out just who the bad guys are.Unions are going to loose even more respect from all us, we the average blue collar non union who give up some for the all the others.
- Doug St Pierre, Boscawen

I don't understand how the furloughs would work for teachers. Their pay is contracted for 185 days, correct? Does this mean that they would work all 185 days, but only be paid 178/185 (approx 96%) of their contracted pay? Because that IS a pay cut. Or would they be asked to take off 7 school days without pay? How much will we be paying substitute teachers to cover those days, if there were enough subs to go around? The Mayor wants the teachers to take furlough during vacations, but they're already off then so what can he possibly mean? UL - could you get some more explanation about this? Are the other city workers contracted to a certain number of days per year like the teachers are?
- Kathy, Manchester

Ten bucks says that these Union Bosses are already working over your aldermen in order to get them to support their cause rather than that of the Manchester taxpayer. Funny thing is that history tells that a majority of these aldermen will probably cave to the unions rather than side with the taxpayer/voter and those blind zombie-like Manchester voters will still elect people like O'Neil, Lopez, Smith, Devries, Osborne, Roy, Oulette, and Domaigne-Murphy again and again.

I really don't understand you Manchester people. You correctly elect an intelligent fiscal conservative as mayor twice however you STILL elect the same old fiscally liberal aldermen. I love the city but really don't understand the mindset of the voters in Manchester.
- Craig, Bedford, NH

The government can cut spending in many ways without layoffs. First, reduce the work week from 5 days to 4 days during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Reduce overtime during the winter months by using part-time workers to fill in gaps. An employee should not be working a 24hr shift. It creates safety issues not only for the employee plowing the streets, it brings concerns to those who may be on the road at the time they are plowing. Another way is to reduce administrative cost. Pay online to register your dog, pay parking tickets and other items to reduce the amount of paperwork required for these things. There are other ways too. Show the taxpayers the full budget, line by line and allow them to way in on reduction of cost. They do this in Nashua, we can do it here to. This reader applauds the Mayor for taking a stand and offering up a productive budget during tough economic times.

Robert M Tarr
Candidate for Alderman - Ward 5 09'
- Robert M Tarr, Manchester

So what do these department heads and union bosses expect the taxpayers in this city to do? It is very obvious that these individuals have their number that the "need" with regards to funding, and if they can't get it, then they just want the city to raise taxes.; no if, ands or buts about it.

Is that how things work in anyone else families? When times are tough and someone in the family wants or even needs certain things, does your family just say rob a bank to get more money or something else along those lines in order to boost revenue? No, I highly doubt it. What families do is they learn to live within their own personal budgets regardless of how badly they want or need something. Government should work exactly the same way. If you don't have the money, then look else where or come up with creative ideas such as furloughs as the mayor has done, but tax increases are not the answer especially since we have had to deal with them a lot (and heavily under the spend happy Baines era).
- Roger, Manchester, New Hampshire

Annnnnd now we get to hear the Democrats come out against Guinta's budget just because of party politics. What a joke...seriously, the Democrats in this city need to think about the citizens of Manchester as a whole for once rather than just party affiliation. I will vote against any alderman who supports a