Friday, January 20, 2017

NH House Bill 181 Would Require Abutters of Private Roads to Maintain and Remove Snow From Them

This bill was mentioned last evening during the public hearing regarding the recommended minimums for private roads and was a bit misleading. If you are in favor of the Town continuing to plow private roads in the winter, this is not a bill you want to see passed.

A hearing on this bill was scheduled for January 17th in the House Public Works and Highways Committee. 

NH House Bill 181: The bill amends RSA 231 by adding section 89, which states in part: (bold is mine) I.  The owner of any residential property that abuts a private road, the purpose of which is to provide access to such property, shall be responsible for the cost of maintaining the road in good repair and for the cost of repairing or restoring any damaged portion of the road.  Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, the removal of snow from the road.

This is the email address for the members of the House Public Works and Highways:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Donor Town Tax On the Horizon? Please Email the Committee

CACR 7 (Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution 7): "This constitutional amendment concurrent resolution provides that the general court shall have the authority to define standards for education, establish standards of accountability, and mitigate local disparities in educational opportunity and fiscal capacity, and have full discretion to determine the amount of state funding for education."

This is currently in the NH House Education Committee ( a hearing was held today) and the wording I highlighted above is an amendment submitted today that brings the specter of donor town tax back on the front burner. 
The Coalition Communities, of which we are a member, represent the towns and cities that were impacted by the donor town tax, that just a few years ago caused drastic increases in our portion of the state education property tax to subsidize places like Claremont and other less property rich municipalities in NH. " "Between 1999-2005, New Hampshire communities with high property values were forced to "donate" $160.7 million of their residents' tax dollars to other municipalities, many with higher median incomes."
NH determined that towns that were not funding to the “minimal” level would be helped out by getting money from the ones that were exceeding their level.  Like Moultonboro. Imagine your tax rate increasing all of a sudden by 30-40% . 
Please send an email to NH House Education Commission Chair Ladd and House Education Committee members at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state, urging them to vote CACR 7 Inexpedient to Legislate. 

Why Has So Called " Right to Work" Become a Legislative Priority?

In NH, it is not the most pressing issue, but today the NH Senate will vote to pass Right to Work legislation that will prohibit unions from forcing non-union members to pay fees to the union. 
NHPR did a nice job reviewing the whole issue ( here is the link), and there were two pieces in that story that made it clear why this has become a top shelf issue. 
Let me back up a bit first, because the point here is why has this issue a top priority. Throughout the latest campaign for the NH House and Senate, just about everyone campaigned on the opioid crisis in NH as the biggest problem facing the state. Where is that legislation and why isn't that among the bills being discussed on the front page of every newspaper in NH?
All I needed to see was that the biggest voice in pushing right to work is none other than the NH Chapter of the Koch brothers Americans for Prosperity. They say jump, and many of our legislators ask : how high? The AFP-NH 2017 Legislative agenda lists right to work and further cuts to business taxes as the top priorities.
(Not related to the "right to work" issues is the # 5 priority:  Repeal of  occupational licensure statues."New Hampshire should begin to repeal unnecessary licenses and sunset all other licenses to force a reassessment of each to ensure that the requirements are not unduly restrictive." How scary is that? These are the people pulling the strings of a great many of our legislators, including one of our own, AFP 100% rated Glenn Cordelli, and they follow like sheep,)
The story though can be told with one simple graph:

The vast majority of workers in NH  are non-union ( total about 579,000) and those that are unionized (62,000), two thirds are in the public sector, teachers, some government workers and public safety. So just 22,000 or so out of a workforce of nearly 650,000 are private sector union jobs.

 Puts thing in a bit of perspective doesn't it? Our AFP robots are working diligently on solving problems that don't exist, and putting our real problems on the back burner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Future of Public Education Nationally and Locally

Betsy DeVos, President -elect Trump's nominee for US Secretary of Eduction, was questioned yesterday in Washington by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
After watching and reading some of the interactions, it is clear to me that she is  one of the least qualified people ever nominated to lead the US Department of Education.

  • She would not answer the question yes or no, as to whether charter schools should be held to the same standards of accountability as public schools . She repeated numerous times " I support accountability" but would not state that charter schools should be held to the same accountability standards as are traditional public schools. That is important, as she has been the driving force in the Michigan charter school experiment, which has a questionable record in many areas. Michigan permits practices barred by some other states, such as for-profit charter operators, virtual charter schools and multiple charter-authorizing bodies. Fraud and waste has also been a problem. What direction if confirmed will she take for schools across America and how will they be held accountable? 
  •  She didn't know the difference between measuring a child's test scores based on "growth" vs. judging them based on "proficiency." Growth is individual progress, whereas proficiency is achieving some set of standards.A basic concept in education.
  • She wouldn't commit to keeping federal funding intact for traditional public schools.
  • She was not aware that the IDEA ( Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) was federal law and not a choice for the states to enforce. (IDEA ensures students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), just like all other children. Schools are required to provide special education in the least restrictive environment. That means schools must teach students with disabilities in general education classroom whenever possible.)
  • Neither she nor her husband or children ever took out student loans. She has no personal experience with student loans or PELL Grants. (The total outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. is $1.2 trillion, that's the second-highest level of consumer debt behind only mortgages. Most of that is loans held by the federal government.
  • Neither she nor her husband or children ever attended public school. 
  • She has no experience or training whatsoever as an educator.
Why was she nominated then? Perhaps the maybe $200 million she and her family have donated over the years to Republicans and some of which most recently, to the Trump's campaign. More likely though is the ideology of school choice of which Betsy DeVos has been very vocal.

Speaking of " unqualified", Gov. Sununu nominated Frank Edelblut as NH Education Commissioner  who  has no legitimate qualifications to hold that office: RSA 21-N:3C ,"The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience." 
He sold his accounting consulting practice in 2009. He holds no degrees in education, and has a Masters degree in Theological Studies. He and his wife have home schooled their children. He is a  proponent for school choice, and supports using property tax dollars, to pay student tuition at private schools. 
Current commissioner, Dr. Virginia Barry has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, leader, tenured university professor, and provost and vice president for academic affairs. Shouldn't that be the type of candidate  selected to lead this department? 
Instead, as with the choice of Betsy DeVos, dangerously unprepared ideologues could be in charge of education policy nationally and now locally.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Carroll County No Smoking Policy Rescinded

 The ban against smoking tobacco on the Carroll county campus was approved back on  August 3rd 2016 and took effect on January 1st, 2017. At the very first Carroll County Commissioner's meeting of 2017, the county's new smoking ban was rescinded.
Since smoking was previously not allowed inside any county building, presumably employees will go back to smoking in their vehicle or designated smoking area outside. 
 The Indoor Smoking Act (ISA), New Hampshire’s statewide ban of smoking became effective on September 17, 2007. The ban is applicable to some workplaces, restaurants, bars, hospitals, public educational facilities and a variety of other places.
In 2006, the US Surgeon General released a report entitled The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. "On the basis of this review, it is clear that banning smoking from the workplace is the only effective way to ensure that exposures are not occurring. Despite reductions in workplace smoking, significant worker safety issues remain that only smoking bans can address. The home remains the most serious venue for secondhand smoke exposure." 
My personal opinion, and this is coming from a Respiratory Therapist of 36 years, is that smoking any tobacco product is bad for your health, and there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. I have known patients with crippling and deadly tobacco related disease who only inhaled second hand smoke from a spouse, and never lit a cigarette in their lives. Most others that made the choice to smoke have experienced extremely severe limitations on their ability to function and perform just about any task that requires any level of exertion. All ultimately succumb to the many smoking related diseases and chronic conditions that smoking tobacco causes. Its not a pretty sight.

Speaking now as a taxpayer, we are providing very generous health insurance benefits to our county employees, better than the vast majority of the taxpayers paying for it. Smoking causes disease and disability and death. The cost to care for these patients is extremely high and in the end, we all end up paying for it. Much of it could be avoided if people would just quit smoking. 
So where do I stand on the county smoking policy? No smoking on the county complex. Period. It was a bad decision to rescind the ban and I sense that the new commissioners bowed to some pressure from employees who were not happy about it. You want to work for the county, you don't smoke on county property.  The threat of people walking and finding other jobs because they can't smoke on breaks , should not drive making sound and logical decision by the commissioners.  There are many private employers that ban smoking on their property and it is time for the public sector to get on board. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Moultonboro Conservation Commission Presents Natural Resources Inventory

The Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) was completed by FB Environmental Services of Portland  Maine and be found here on the Towns website.
"A natural resources inventory (NRI) is a document that identifies and describes important naturally-occurring resources within a given locality via written descriptions of resources, maps, and associated documentation of mapped data. A comprehensive NRI provides the basis for land conservation planning and facilitates the incorporation of natural resources information into local land-use planning and zoning."

Some highlights:

  • There are currently 14,100 acres of conserved land within the town
  •  Much of this conserved land is in the higher-elevation portions of the town, namely the Ossipee Mountains and Red Hill. Conservation land is underrepresented in lower-elevation portions of the town, where development is most prominent.
  • Nine contiguous priority conservation areas were identified in total: Moultonborough Neck Marsh, Moultonborough Neck, Mud Pond, Moultonborough Bay, Lee’s Pond, Cross Property, Berry Pond, Balmoral, and Shannon Brook.
  • These Priority conservation areas represent lower-elevation portions of the town and encompass much of the town’s mapped wetlands and streams
  • The greatest threat to the natural resources and ecology of Moultonborough is habitat loss/alteration resulting from poorly-planned development.
  • Careful attention to growth in Moultonborough will help to ensure sound stewardship of the town’s natural resources.
A lot more good information in the NRI and if you have any questions, comments or want further information, please contact the Moultonboro Conservation Commission

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Do not municipal officials have free speech rights?"

The New Hampshire Municipal Association during the NH Legislative session, publishes a weekly Legislative Bulletin, which highlights the happenings in the NH House and Senate.
The current edition focuses on a few bills, some in regard to the Assessing Standards Board (ASB) which the BoS discussed on Thursday. The impact of these bills could cost NH municipalities billions of dollars in lost revenue made up by increased property tax bills.
The BoS on Thursday authorized the Town Administrator to send a letter to Concord opposing passage of these bills.

Lobbying is another point of this post. The NHMA lobbies for its member towns and cities and as Moultonboro is a paying member of that organization, I have learned over the past few years of the numerous benefits it entails, such as the issue with ASB bills.
 There is another bill that seeks to "  Muzzle Local Officials"per the NHMA. The Legislative Bulletin highlights just one other bill this week, HB 223 , sponsored by Rep. Cordelli, Carr. 4; Rep. F. McCarthy, Carr. 2; Rep. Avellani, Carr. 5; Rep. Comeau, Carr. 5; Rep. McConkey, Carr. 3; Rep. Spillane, Rock. 2, seeks to prohibit the recipient of a grant or appropriation of county or municipal funds from using such funds to engage in lobbying activities."Typically these bills are directed at NHMA, but depending on which rumor you listen to, this one has either the School Boards Association or the Association of Counties as its target."
Considering the lead sponsor, I would be fairly certain that the bill is intended to stifle counties and schools from opposing and perhaps even testifying against legislation these elected bodies disagree with.
It would prevent  NHMA and many other municipal organizations ( NHMA lists the Police Chiefs Association, the Association of Assessing Officials, the Water Works Association, and the City and Town Clerks Association among the many such organizations) from advocating on behalf of their members.
Another organization that has lobbied on behalf of Moultonboro, although it is not as active as it once was, is the Coalition of Communities, which led the fight to lobby against donor towns. Over the years we have paid fees to to them to have our voice be heard in Concord on behalf of our taxpayers.
As NHMA states: "Do not municipal officials have free speech rights?"

It is quite disingenuous for the most vocal opponents of anything, good or bad, that "infringes" on local control, then want to use the power of the government to take away our local control when it gets in the way of their personal agenda.
Town meeting should be the arbiter of these decisions to keep local control, not the State of NH. Lets keep it that way.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Case For Full Day Kindergarten in NH

NH House Bill 155, a bipartisan bill, proposes to  increase funding for pupils attending full-day kindergarten programs. Related to this bill, is HB 129 which woulrepeal the education tax credit program. It was passed in 2012 over the veto of Gov. John Lynch and was subsequently ruled unconstitutional in 2013 by NH Superior Court Judge John Lewis because it violated NH’s separation of church and state (NH Constitution Part II, Article 83.." no money raised by taxation shall ever be granted or applied for the use of the schools of institutions of any religious sect or denomination." ). On appeal, the NH Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit due to lack of standing by the plaintiff and did not rule on the constitutionality of the education voucher law. 

Hearings were scheduled for today in the House Education committee on both bills.

Representative Mary Stuart Gile, co-sponsor of both bills, holds her Doctorate in Education from Vanderbilt University and her Master’s in Education from UNH. She began her teaching career as a kindergarten teacher at the Whitefield School in Jefferson, NH. She is a renowned expert in the area of child development and, among other accomplishments, established the Child Development Center and Laboratory School at NHTI.
She is also the former Chair and Ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. She released the following statements subsequent to the public hearings on HB 155 and HB 129: 
Development Center and Laboratory School at NHTI.
The skills attained by children during their early, impressionable years of life are critical to their development throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Overwhelming research shows the value of kindergarten programs to social and academic development. It was not until 2009 that New Hampshire caught-up to the rest of the nation by offering public kindergarten in every school district. However we remain one of the few states that do not provide funding for full-day kindergarten programs. Our failure to reimburse cities and towns for full-day kindergarten acts as a deterrent to communities that wish to enact these critical programs. 
With the difficulties that we have securing needed funding for our public schools, it makes no sense to siphon money away from the tax base that provides that funding. Further, the New Hampshire Constitution expressly prohibits the financing of religious schools that the education voucher tax credit authorizes. Repealing this unconstitutional voucher law will return some sorely needed funds to our public education system.”

Our Turn: It’s time to support full day kindergarten
For the Monitor
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Today, in the House Education Committee, bipartisan legislation to finally fully support full day
kindergarten will be heard. Full-day kindergarten has solid bipartisan support. In fact,
Gov. Sununu expressed support for full funding of full-day kindergarten during the
campaign, and recent polling commissioned by Save the Children Action Network shows
about 70 percent of Granite State voters agree that funding full-day kindergarten should
be a major budget priority.
The central mission of all our organizations – Save the Children Action Network,
Moms Rising and Every Child Matters in New Hampshire – is to give every child a strong
start in life and an equal opportunity to succeed.
Evidence-based research shows that children from birth to age 5 who lack access to high quality
early learning programs often start to fall behind their peers, and many never catch
up. A recent report from a Nobel Prize-winning economist in December 2016 shows an
annual rate of return on investments in early childhood development for many children
can be $13 for every $1 invested due to improved outcomes in education, health,
sociability, economic productivity and reduced crime.
A full-day of learning offers greater social, emotional and intellectual benefits to

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Clarification on Selectmen's Ability to Sell Town Owned Property

There is some apparent confusion out there on the ability and process for the sale of town owned property. 

In 2003 Town Meeting, voters authorized the Selectmen per RSA 41:14 a " the authority to acquire or sell land, buildings, or both. provided, however, they shall first submit any such proposed acquisition or sale to the planning board and to the conservation commission for review and recommendation by those bodies, where a board or commission or both, exist. After the selectmen receive the recommendation of the planning board and the conservation commission, where a board or commission or both exist, they shall hold 2 public hearings at least 10 but not more than 14 days apart on the proposed acquisition or sale."  Even  with this authority, there exists a simple remedy if voters want to move the vote on a particular sale or purchase to a Town Meeting vote. Before the BoS votes on the matter and after the second public hearing, 50 registered voters can submit a petition to the BoS requiring that the matter be inserted in the warrant and voted on by the Legislative body at Town Meeting. That is not the same as a petitioned warrant article ,which only requires 25 registered voters, or a petition for a " special town meeting" which requires 50 registered voters.
Also, any 25 voters can petition a warrant article to rescind the 2003 authorization vote.

According to the NH Municipal Association:

"RSA 41:4-a and 41:4-c permit the town meeting to delegate to the selectmen the authority to acquire and/or sell town land and buildings, with some important exceptions for town conservation land, town forest land and land given to the town for charitable or community purposes. The law requires the selectmen to submit the proposed acquisition or sale to the planning board and conservation commission for review and recommendation and then hold two public hearings at least 10 but not more than 14 days apart. However, if at least 50 voters submit a petition to the selectmen before the selectmen’s final vote on the matter, the proposed acquisition or sale must be inserted as an article in the town meeting warrant."

This occurred in the town of Belmont (Laconia Daily Sun) a few years back wherein a citizens petition  by 80 voters halted the BoS from purchasing a bank building town. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Carroll County Delegation Budget Subcommittee Assignments

It is that time of year again. All committee meetings are open to the public and should be properly noticed as to when they will be meeting. The first name on each committee listed will chair the committee.
One of our two new delegation members, Rep. Marsh, who is a physician is a logical fit for the nursing home, but I would have also included Rep. Knirk, who is also a physician on that same committee. Just seems to make sense to me to have your most informed individuals at the table.
Public Works encompasses the County Farm and I find it challenging to accept that the most vocal
opponents of the farm comprising the subcommittee, will fairly consider its future. I would certainly question the accuracy of any numbers they present to bolster their case to close the farm considering how they cooked the books in the past. ( Maybe they should fund a forensic audit on how they arrived at those bogus numbers?)
Lastly, the Delegation has asked the county to re-look at the budget considering there are two new commissioners and to present a budget that is no higher than last years budget. That may be a challenge. At yesterdays executive committee meeting that met to approve line item transfers, Rep. Avellani voted against transferring $25K to the propane line item to pay for increased fuel usage due to the colder temperatures.What is the alternative?  It is precisely that kind of misguided thinking that should be of concern to taxpayers.