Manchester election a model of inconsistency
As expected, there was a moderately light turnout for Manchester’s Nov. 3 election. The results were startlingly inconsistent.
Alderman and Republican state Sen. Ted Gatsas, who started with more name recognition than his opponent Mark Roy and then outspent, out-hustled, and out-organized him, was elected mayor with a comfortable margin. On the aldermanic and school board fronts, however, the nonpartisan election in which many, if not most, people knew the difference between those candidates supported by Democrats and Republicans, resulted in Democrats capturing 13 of the 14 aldermanic seats. Seven of them will be new aldermen.
On the school board, there were significant changes as well, and the Democrats increased their majority, although party label on the school board has never been much of an indicator of who is on what side of issues.
Gatsas hit the ground running fast, inviting everyone to bring him ideas and reaching out to many citizens of the city to help him. Interestingly, he also got into a first-rate tangle with outgoing Mayor Frank Guinta at the next aldermanic meeting over the appointment of new policemen and other matters.
Also, incongruously, the “tax cap” proposition passed, winning a majority in all 12 wards. Gatsas took an interesting position on the tax cap, saying that a “real leader” could get the aldermen to override it if necessary, using the override provision requiring 10 votes.
This column previously has examined the problems with the tax cap and, hopefully, the New Hampshire Supreme Court will strike it down as an unauthorized proposition negating the need to deal with it. If not, however, it poses a problem that was obvious in the days after the election when a couple of events occurred.
First, funding for the Verizon Wireless Arena, which depends on rooms and meals tax revenue from the state, was reported to be threatened because that revenue was frozen in this year’s state budget, leaving a gap that has to be filled by some other means in order to make payments on the bonds that paid for the arena.
Next, the New Hampshire Retirement System board received a report that, according to press reports, means cities and towns face an increase of almost 25 percent in the contribution to the retirement system on behalf of city employees and teachers. The tax cap will have to deal with all of these external matters beyond the control of city budget writers.
But the voters voted for it, so what the heck!
The Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire held its annual dinner and, in its choice of honorees, hit three home runs back to back.
First, the retiring president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Lew Feldstein, was recognized for his years of contribution and the many joint efforts he led with the BIA under former President John Crosier and his successor, Jim Roche. It was a fitting recognition of the partnership that the business community has with other parts of the state’s civic life.
Next, Steve Reno, the recently retired chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, was recognized for his significant contributions to the state in his 10 years of residence.
Reno generally has been recognized as the most visible of the system’s chancellors and his retirement from that position should not deprive the state of his service in other capacities. Reno, with the able assistance of his staff, notably his right-hand assistant Matt Cookson, whose contributions also were legendary, as Chancellor Reno focused the state’s attention on higher education, its needs and potential.
Finally, the BIA noted the contributions of Easter Seals New Hampshire and especially the Veterans Count Program that Easter Seals has developed to help the families of service members being deployed overseas and those same service members after they returned to New Hampshire with the various needs that would not be met otherwise.
Two “legends” of the New Hampshire Bar Association passed away recently. Ernest L. “Tut” Bell III of Keene, a former president of the bar and litigator of note, died on Veterans Day. Himself a veteran of World War II, Bell was an author, pilot, dog trainer, railroad buff and all-around interesting participant in state affairs for decades.
He befriended many if not all lawyers whom he met and made a major contribution in Cheshire County and statewide.
Also, Donald Bryant of Dover was a major and distinguished New Hampshire attorney for decades. Bryant died a couple of weeks before Bell and was appropriately recognized for decades of service to his community, profession and family. Bryant’s wife, Eleanor, a prominent alumna of the University of New Hampshire, served with distinction on its alumni board of directors and Bryant was supportive of her efforts for her alma mater and came to know a lot of the UNH alumni participants in that way.
The loss of both of these distinguished attorneys is a significant one for New Hampshire and the legal profession. nhbr
<font size=1>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.</font size>