A season of political stunts

Reflections on the convoluted and unnecessary actions taken by elected officials

Sitting in church on a recent Sunday, Psalm 146 was part of the service. One verse caught my attention: “Do not put your trust in leaders, in mortal men … when their spirit departs, they return to the ground … their plans come to nothing.” 

The reason the verse caught my attention was I have been thinking recently about how convoluted and unnecessary the actions of governmental leaders on various levels can be and how much more refreshing it would be if they merely addressed issues and processes on a straightforward basis without games.

Unfortunately, this is not just true on any one governmental level, as three current examples demonstrate. 

The impending vote on the Iran nuclear “deal” is a classic example of governmental obfuscation. Apparently, President Obama has the right to make an executive agreement concerning the Iran nuclear matter and the sanctions that will be lifted if it is implemented. Notwithstanding this, many in Congress expressed a desire to vote on the issue.

The resulting “agreement” was to give Congress the chance to “veto” or approve the deal as negotiated. Republicans were key players in coming up with this parliamentary arrangement under which they will have a chance to decry the deal, vote not to approve it and, when that vote gets to the president’s desk, he will veto the veto, resulting in the Congressional action being a nullity. 

While this may be perfectly acceptable parliamentary procedure, the fact that apparently all the players knew how it was going to play out and that the president’s negotiated deal would go through, makes questionable having to go through the entire process and, more problematically, how the American governmental system looks to our allies who participated in the deal and to the rest of the world. 

Why could not they just have let the president negotiate the deal and have those who do not like it criticize it? 

On the state level, the maneuvering over the state budget passed in the spring and vetoed by Governor Hassan is another example of the failure of leadership and playing of games, apparently.

If the governor thought the budget as passed was defective, she certainly had the right to veto it (notwithstanding the fact that there are many who claim her criticisms of the budget are politically motivated). However, the Republican reaction of letting the entire budget process “twist in the wind” for a long period of time by passing a six-month continuing resolution froze governmental processes into chaos, especially for those departments that saw increased revenue in the new budget.

There is a theory that the Republican action was to put any Hassan bid for the U.S. Senate on hold and that Hassan’s reaction is politically motivated in seeking to continue to be seen as the “fighter for justice.” 

In any event, all these people are hired to run the government, not to play budget games for far too long a period of time, and the people have the right to expect them to sit down, work out their differences, compromise and get it over with. 

In Manchester, the matter of a teacher contract has seen all manner of confusion and maneuvering as well. Without a contract for many years, the Manchester Education Association and the school district finally reached a deal that was passed by the aldermen but vetoed by Mayor Ted Gatsas, who claimed it would create a budget imbalance and force the aldermen to vote to exceed the “tax cap,” which was imprudently inserted into the City Charter some years ago. 

In the face of protest by the teachers and various other proponents of the educational system, the aldermen took another vote and approved the contract again. In the first vote, two aldermen whose relatives are teachers in the school system recused themselves from voting, eliminating the possibility of overriding the Mayor’s veto because there were not 10 votes to do so. The second time, one of them changed his position, notwithstanding the advice of the city solicitor, and voted to override the veto, creating a situation in which the entire process could be challenged because of a conflict of interest. 

Going through all the nonsense and games, reversal of action and inconsistency seen in the Manchester process did not cause anyone to have confidence in the system or, frankly, to understand what really was going on and what effect it would have on the city budget. 

In any event, the people have the right to expect better of their government at all levels than has been demonstrated lately.  

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups.

Categories: Cook on Concord