Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Right to Know Presentation Well Attended

Thank you to Selectman Josh Bartlett for arranging this informative session with the NH Municipal Association.
Stephan Buckely,an attorney with the NH Municipal Association, did a very comprehensive presentation on the Right to Know law (RTK)  last evening at Town Hall to about 25 or so of our local officials and department heads. Most boards were represented at the presentation.
The session was taped, but is not available for broadcast per the NHMA . It is to be used for training purposes only.
A topic I found of great interest was the the use of email. Never use email to conduct a meeting. Never hit reply all in responding to emails from a majority of the board. It is okay to pass along information for later discussion at a legally posted meeting, but it is never okay to discuss it in an email as it may constitute a meeting subject to the RTK law. I explained the recent issue I had with rescheduling a selectmen meeting a few weeks ago by email which I objected to and felt was improper as it involved discussion by a member hitting reply all and a decision made on an issue over which the board has jurisdiction and control. Attorney Buckley said that was a no-no and could lead to litigation. A question was asked about polling members of a public body outside of a public meeting to ascertain choosing it's leadership and that was also a no-no per Attorney Buckley.
Chance encounters with a quorum of members of a board was discussed  and the advise was to never discuss things over which the public body has jurisdiction and control at such chance encounters to avoid any concerns.
All in all a very worthwhile session and one of the benefits of membership in the NHMA. I have to mention that membership in NHMA requires a fee that is not based on property value. It is a flat fee that all towns pay. Imagine that.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fee Basis for Lakes Region Mutual Aid Fair and Equitable?

The Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association of which we are a member community is the central dispatch for fire, rescue, and EMS calls for 35 different communities in the central part of the state. Their dispatch center is housed in Laconia next to the former state prison.
Support is provide by each member community in three ways; a fixed charge of 10% of expenses equally shared by each community, a valuation factor and a population factor. A valuation factor is arrived at by dividing 40% of the total budget by the total evaluation of all member communities. The population factor is arrived at by dividing 50% of the total budget by the total population of all member communities. Those factors are then multiplied by the total valuation and population respectively for each member community.
The following charts are from the 2014 annual report. ( Follow the yellow highlighted section for Moultonboro's information in the middle two chart below.)
Of the total LRMFA expenses of $1,159,679.59 , Moultonboro paid $91,225.18 or  7.89% . That is far better than using just total valuation, as the cost to Moultonboro would be almost double. The "but" in these calculations though is usage, specifically call volume.
We are ninth in total calls ( 795) but pay the second highest cost right behind Laconia, which by far had the highest number of calls ( 3,818), almost 5 times as many as Moultonboro. That's $304 per call for Laconia vs. $1,458 per call for Moultonboro. In raw numbers, the overall cost per call is just $52.
In terms of funding formulas, compared to county appropriations and the Lakes Region Planning Association, this is far more equitable, but there is plenty of room for improvement. There is no formula, or combination of formulas that ultimately leads to a more favorable outcome for Moultonboro so long as it includes heavy reliance on our property values.We will continue to subsidize other less property rich communities at every level.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

"We have forgotten who we are"

(The following is an editorial that appeared in the April 30th edition of the Granite State News. )
Like many of our readers, we find the cur­rent state of our nation deeply disturbing. We are not thinking of the riots in Balti­more, the end of the Boston Marathon bombing trial or the start of the trial of the mass murderer of Aurora, Colorado – these events just the symp­toms of a much more troubling national malaise.
We are a nation turning in upon itself. Wedge issues are created one after another to drive us apart, to feed our fears and stoke hatred and in­tolerance. If you listen carefully the most outspo­ken among us are complaining about the same issues but in ways that obscure rather than illu­minate our common problems. Every issue is po­larized and overstated in stark, uncompromising terms that block any possible dialogue. We shout at each other and don’t listen.
Our politics reflect this self-consuming, impo­tent rage. Our political institutions accomplish very little and our political parties offer no vision for the future. Everything political is here and now and politicians play zero-sum games that no one wins. Money pours into political campaigns and the few people who vote elect those who have the most money behind them and who manage to convince us they are the lesser of two evils. In the end it appears that the goal of politics and the billions invested in it is simply to protect the sta­tus quo.
This is not the country we were born into and it is not the nation envisioned in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.
While the people who founded this country spoke and wrote about freedom and individual rights, they did so in the context of establishing inter-related communities and states formed by free association. Being opposed to a form of gov­ernment based on a hereditary monarchy and a class-based system of representation, they were wary of anyone elevating himself and acting purely from self-interest. It is no coincidence that three of the original 13 states (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia) formed themselves as Commonwealths. The states of Delaware and Vermont also refer to themselves as common­wealths in their constitutions. Beyond the legal definition of “a government based on the com­mon consent of the people,” commonwealth also conveys that the government embodies the com­mon wealth of its citizens.
In other words, when it came to government, our founders did not think of “us” vs. “them” be­cause government was supposed to be “us.” We pooled our ideas, our energies and part of our earnings to build roads, churches and schools and to create rules and laws to benefit everyone.
Today it is worse than “us” vs. “them” – it’s “me” vs. “them.” Our politics push for the rights of individuals over not only the government but the rights of others. We form cults of personali­ty, absorbed with celebrities whose only claim to fame is that they are celebrities. Our spiritual leaders are people like Timothy Leary and Ayn Rand who preach selfishness and self-absorption and decry government and any law that inter­feres with their ability to do anything they want, regardless of how it injures or lessens the com­mon good.
In the 18th century, when all of the colonists who formed this country came from Europe, the main difference that existed between the various groups of immigrants was religion, and it is clear to us that the reason why the Constitution em­bodies the principle of separation of church and state is that religious differences were seen as di­visive, and if the new government was to survive it needed to recognize that there was diversity and to accommodate it.
If one had to cite one factor that shaped this nation and brought it to greatness, it has been the diversity of its citizens and their willingness to accept differences, find common interests and set common goals. It was not an easy path over the years, and we had to endure a civil war to settle some differences, but the desire to find common ground and achieve common goals has kept the nation together and made it grow into a world power.
We need to reaffirm the need to find common ground and commit ourself once more to the principle that we are all in this together. Work­ing together we have achieved great things in the past and endured and prospered despite wither­ing challenges.

We all need to commit ourselves to finding common ground and not let ideology and hate­mongers drive us apart. If we don’t make that commitment, the instability and inequities we see now will only worsen and our democracy will fail.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Moultonborough Seeks Public Input Regarding the Next Town Administrator Public Forum May 11 and Survey Online

(In addition to the forum below and the online survey, the BoS yesterday agreed to also form a panel consisting of two department heads and three members of the public to interview candidates. More to come on that process at the next BoS meeting. In the end, we ( BoS) will review all the input and recommendations, do our own interviews and homework and then hire a new TA.)

The following is from a press release from the Town :

Moultonborough, NH, May 1, 2015: The Board of Selectmen are seeking public input to assist the Town in selecting its next Town Administrator. The Town has contracted with Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI) for the services of a part time Interim Town Administrator, who will be also working on the recruitment along with MRI.
Public Input Forum: The public is invited to attend a forum that will be facilitated to seek input to assist the Town shape a Profile and Challenge Statement, and identify challenges for the community along with important traits needed for the Town Administrator.
The Forum will be held: 
Monday, May 11 
Moultonborough Town Hall 
6 Holland Street 
7 pm 

Survey: The Public is invited to participate in a brief online survey that will assist in identifying ideal characteristics important for the next Town Administrator along with challenges for the community. Anyone desiring to complete a written survey instead of online can pick one up at the Town Hall. The survey is online now atwww.moultonboroughnh.gov and will close on Friday May 15.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in either or both of these ways to provide communication to the Town on this important venture.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Eye on illegal meetings: City attorney gives Right to Know tips. “There are tremendous implications that would come for somebody hitting 'reply all,'”

I was forwarded this article by a reader in response to last Thursday's ( April 23rd) BoS 7pm meeting ( video here on the Town website) and my concerns about using email to communicate and discuss business over which the BoS have control.

Seacoast Online

PORTSMOUTH — The City Council on Tuesday night got an education on the state's Right to Know law, most notably how it may have unknowingly clashed with the measure while recently communicating through e-mail.
The work session, which lasted slightly more than an hour, was held to allow council members to further understand the law, which states: “Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society.”
City Attorney Robert Sullivan led the council through the work session Tuesday night, paying close attention to the language of the law, as well as the possible ramifications should anyone working for the city or elected by voters violate it.
“Any person who feels aggrieved that the city government may have violated the Right to Know law, either by having an illegal meeting, not keeping minutes or not producing public records, has the right to bring that action to the Superior Court,” Sullivan said.
If that person or party prevails in court, Sullivan said they then become entitled to have their legal fees paid for by the city. Sullivan said the court could also invalidate any action the City Council made while in violation of the Right to Know law.
In addition, Sullivan said any city employee or elected official who may have violated the law could be subject to a civil penalty between $250 and $2,000, and be obligated to pay for legal fees.
“This could actually be pretty serious stuff and cost somebody a lot of money,” he said. “This is one of the reasons we should all be thinking about these things all the time.”
While the meeting was meant to be informational, a bulk of the discussion at Tuesday night's work session centered on a recent e-mail sent by City Manager John Bohenko to the nine-person council and whether councilors who responded to the e-mail could have unknowingly caused the discussion to be subject to Right to Know.
As one of the councilors who responded to the e-mail, Esther Kennedy said she was simply trying to ask a question and was in no way trying to clash with the law.
Kennedy said she asked the question of Bohenko, but decided to reply to all of the other councilors on the list.
Bohenko also addressed the subject, saying he only attempts to communicate with councilors through e-mail as a way of making them aware of issues taking place throughout the city.
“I, as city manager, need to communicate with the mayor and councilors,” Bohenko said. “I'm not looking to get them to make any decisions.”
Bohenko said ultimately the lesson to be learned by councilors is not to reply to the e-mail and include all of the other councilors.
“Don't 'reply all' and I think we'll be OK,” Bohenko said.
Sullivan concurred.
“There are tremendous implications that would come for somebody hitting 'reply all,'” Sullivan said.
Tuesday night's work session also led to some surprise revelations on how the law applies to councilors taking part in neighborhood meetings or commenting on stories online.
Councilor Jack Thorsen asked at the end of the work session how the law applies to councilors who make comments online in a public forum such as on a news Web site or on social media.
“Is that now a meeting?” he asked.
Sullivan responded with, “Frankly it sounds like a meeting to me.”
Thorsen also questioned whether councilors who either participate in a news story or attend neighborhood meetings could be in violation of the law should a majority of them partake.
Sullivan said it would ultimately depend upon the topic of such a story or a meeting and whether that discussion involved councilors making some sort of a decision.
“It would not be a stretch to find that you were having an illegal meeting,” Sullivan responded.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Upcoming Meetings

The CIPC is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning at 10am in Town Hall.  The Selectmen will conduct a worksession also tomorrow at 4pm. One of the topics is the the TA search process.
On Friday. the UNH Feasibiity Study Committee will meet at 9am in Town Hall.

Monday, April 27, 2015

We Already Have Gambling in NH

With the possibility of casino gambling coming to NH, I thought it would be interesting to look at how our other gambling enterprise has fared over the years. 
First lottery in the nation. According to the NH Lottery website "State Representative Larry Pickett of Keene saw a sweepstakes as a viable and voluntary method of raising money for education. Between 1953 and 1963, Pickett proposed a Sweepstakes bill five times, finally succeeding in getting it passed in 1963. On April 30 of that year, Governor John King signed the bill. New Hampshire cities and towns voted by special ballot, with 198 of the state’s 211 communities voting in favor of starting a lottery. On March 12, 1964, two days after the vote, Sweepstakes tickets went on sale – and the benefits to New Hampshire schools began."
 Since the NH lottery began sale in 1964, close to $1.7 billion have been earmarked for state education funding. A total of almost $5.5 billion in total adjusted gross revenues. A little more than $3.6 billion paid out in prizes. 
Here's the breakdown by percentage ( as of January 2013):
  • 62% Prize payouts
  • 26% To New Hampshire schools
  • 6% Retailer commissions
  • 3% Other cost of sales
  • 3% Administrative expenses 
The following is the revenue breakdown over the last 15 years ( note that the total at the end is the all time revenue since the lottery began in 1964) 

Does this support the case for casino gambling or hinder it? I'm torn on the subject. Sure we would see more revenue, but what will it be used for? More importantly, close to $300 million is being spent in NH yearly to purchase lottery tickets. If we reverse the equation, that's about $200 million more than is contributed by the lottery for education.
No one is forcing you to gamble. Why not allow NH to increase revenue if people obviously want to gamble their money?  The cons that I have heard include the potential for increased crime rates, the revenues are overstated and casino gambling is far more addictive than the lottery. The pros believe that the crime issue is overstated , that it will increase revenue, jobs and tourism and that without increased revenue, more severe budget cuts will be required.
Personally, I am leaning toward a few well placed casinos as I believe the potential benefits to the state outweigh the concerns. The only caveat for me is that if this does come to fruition, the revenue is earmarked to a rock solid current need and not just added to the general fund or used to create new programs.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Carroll County Commissioner's Make Right to Know Request for Delegation Minutes

Things are not so good when the County Commissioner's have to make a formal Right to Know request to get meeting minutes from their own delegation. According to the Commissioner's draft minutes of April 15th, 2015 :
"Missing minutes Ms. Laurent reported she has not received any meeting minutes from Rep. Karel Crawford for the Sheriff Subcommittee meetings. Ms. Laurent reported a 91-A request was sent to Rep. Karen Umberger requesting the minutes of the March 25 delegation meeting that was held in Concord."\
The March 25th Delegation minutes were placed on the County website the same day as the Commissioner's meeting. Turns out that was an important meeting as the final budget for the county was approved. The meeting was held in Concord and the question of the $567,000 deficit was discussed and added to the budget.
According to the April 21st Carroll County Commissioner's meeting video ( here on GovernmentOversite.com) , the Sheriff Subcommittee chair had computer issues and she was attempting to recreate the missing minutes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Board of Selectmen Highlights April 23rd, 2015

In addition to a rather testy discussion started by yours truly about a right to know issue involving improper use of emails to conduct BoS business and changing meeting times , there were a few items of interest discussed:
  • Interim TA Carol Granfield was introduced.
  • At the citizen input section, Eric Taussig discussed some issues with meeting postings and the notices on the Town calendar as well as expressing concerns that whomever is hired as the new Town Administrator would not write the contract them self or receive the same contract as was used for the previous TA and especially that it not require anything more than a majority vote to not renew. He was advised that a new contract will be written and would require only a majority vote provision. He was also advised that we would work with counsel to review the contract. 
  • Three "Adopt a Facility " local landscaping companies were approved to provide free mowing and trimming services for certain town properties. They will only be compensated for other landscaping services.  McCarthy Lawn Property Management, LLC adopted the Public Safety Building, Miracle Farm Landscape Contractors adopted the Town Hall and Library and Donnybrook Home Services adopted the Recreation Center, Lions Club and the Historical Society. They were thanked by the BoS for their community service and partnership with the Town.
  • Adopt a Spot volunteers were also announced. Miracle Farms volunteered for the Rt.25 Center Harbor Town Line and the Public Safety Bldg. Karen and James Nigzus Family for Playground Drive. The Moultonboro Women' s Club for the median in the Town Hall parking lot. Donnybrook Home Services, LLC for the Recreation Bldg, the Lions Club flagpole area and the Sutherland Park center garden. Moultonboro Toastmasters for the Public Safety Bldg. Bob Patenaude for the Town entry sign at the Bean Road Town line. 
  • The process for hiring a new TA was discussed. The importance of public input was stressed and a process utilizing the interim TA as a primary focus of her role was approved. Developing a list of desired qualities in a new TA will be developed with input from the public. 
  • The spring town newsletter was approved and will be sent out with the mid-year tax bill. I did make the comment that it was very informative, but perhaps it can be "prettied up" a bit in the future. 
  • Josh Bartlett discussed his progress with the TWC contract renewal process. Some decisions will need to be made such as franchise fee which can range from 0 to 5%.  I mentioned I am in favor of 0% as I see it as  a tax on those of us that pay for cable services. A comment as made that it is the same as paying for the schools and not having kids in the system. I don't see it that way . I can cancel my cable subscription, but I can't cancel my school tax bill.