Changes ahead for Manchester
Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, up for re-election to a third term had he chosen to run, announced recently that he would not seek the office.
Guinta claimed that he would seek “higher office,” assumedly because he was hearing voices from those urging him to run, and claiming that running for re-election while seeking higher office would be inconsistent with serving as mayor.
Guinta’s action raises an interesting question and points to what may be a disturbing trend. Relatively young people, with no experience running things, often seek election to offices with executive responsibility. While there is nothing wrong with young people seeking office, the trend of first-time office-seekers running for chief executive positions in cities, or federal congressional or Senate seats seems somewhat out of whack. Aldermanic or selectmen seats, school board positions, legislative office and the like are more logical entry points into public office.
Indeed, without meaning to be harsh, Guinta’s two terms as Manchester’s mayor are devoid of any accomplishments that anyone has noticed. That being the case, what commends him for higher office? Similarly, among those rumored to be considering the office are bright, young but inexperienced people with no track record of administrative experience.
Why these untested people would think of running for a position that is chief executive of a several-hundred-million-dollar enterprise is one question. Why anyone would think of electing them is another.
In any event, Guinta’s exit provides another opportunity for a mass reshuffling in the state’s largest city’s offices. The outcome of that race is important, not only to the city, but also to the state.
The state recently held a “stimulus summit” in Durham. Participants came from all over New Hampshire and represented governmental entities, municipalities, not-for-profits and a host of folks hoping to find a piece of the economic stimulus pie provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The meat of the subject was described by Orville “Bud” Fitch, director of the New Hampshire Office of Economic Stimulus. Fitch, the deputy attorney general, described the process for applying for funds and the various components of the stimulus package.
Basically, there are programs for the state government in the areas of education, roads and infrastructure, funds for various specific municipal programs like clean water and wastewater treatment plants, local education and other funds. There are not many opportunities for not-for-profits to seek help, but those who think there might be were urged to contact the state agency that normally provides funding or is involved in their subject matter. Applications for many of the programs have short time frames and therefore interested parties should inquire quickly.
More information can be found at www.nh.gov, by e-mailing NHOES@nh.gov or calling 603-271-2121.
The 9,000 or so not-for-profits in New Hampshire have been the subject of much discussion during the recession.
The New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits, an effective organization headed by Mary Ellen Jackson, has a helpful Web site – nhnonprofits.org. On it, draft policies, procedures, helpful hints and notice of publications and conferences can be found.
Increasingly, not-for-profit boards and executives are seeking to cooperate with each other and get help. Many small not-for-profits struggle with issues that have successfully been handled by larger ones and the New Hampshire Center for Non-Profits seeks to be a clearinghouse.
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Charitable Trust Division of the Attorney General’s Office and other concerned parties are engaged in discussions of how not-for-profits can coordinate, cooperate and share efficiencies. These efforts need to be successful if not-for-profits are to survive and serve the purposes for which they were established.
In connection with not-for-profits, the Internal Revenue Service recently has introduced a new Form 990, the form that has to be filed every year by almost all not-for-profits.
The new form delves much more deeply into the policies that boards have, any possible conflicts of interest, pecuniary benefit transactions and the like, as part of an effort to scrutinize the activities of not-for-profit organizations and make sure they are operating for the public purpose that allows them their tax exemptions.
Not-for-profit board members and executives should be aware of the new 990 requirements. Especially for those who fill out these forms themselves without the help of sophisticated accounting professionals, it is important to get to know these new requirements promptly.
Many of the new requirements come as a result of the special interest taken in not-for-profit activities by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, former head of the Senate Finance Committee and its present senior Republican member.
Over the years, Grassley has been a supporter of not-for-profit tax exemptions but has taken special interest in organizations he believed were not operating in a manner consistent with the tax exemption, whether because of high salaries, benefits or other perceived abuses.
Whether right or wrong, Grassley’s efforts have resulted in the new form, questions, requirements for policies, and have made the life of not-for-profit organizations more complex. Those involved should be ready for the changes.
Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.