Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vote Baer, Cibotti, and Glahn on Tuesday

On Saturday, the Concord Monitor published my endorsement letter of Jim Baer and Rick Cibotti for at-large city council and my shout out to school board candidate Bill Glahn. This post expands on some of the reasons why I came to a certain perspective about the candidates.
In some ways, I will admit, that my decision to not vote for certain candidates isn’t completely fair. I plead guilty to that right out of the box. As someone who pays very close attention to what is going on in our city, I tend to reach conclusions that others might not because they aren’t as closely connected to the issues. It is the responsibility of the voter to learn as much as they can about the candidates as he or she can. These days, there are fewer and fewer information options to find out about those who bother to run. My perceptions come from watching the candidates, speaking to them, deeper analysis and information, and personal experiences.

At-large race
This year, four thoughtful, qualified at-large city council candidates are running to lead Concord into the future. However, Baer and Cibotti will be getting my two votes.
Next year’s fiscal situation is bound to be the worst ever which means we need councilors who will hold the line on taxes. Baer, a retiree, has made the strongest commitment to this cause. As a board member of the Concord Taxpayers Association, I’ve seen Jim in action. He is contemplative, offers alternatives to the norm, while saying, Look, we need to hold the line on taxes. He studied the budget and attended all but one of the council’s budget hearings. At the same time, if elected, he has also made a commitment to work with Mayor Jim Bouley and the council to make sure residents are protected from rising property taxes for at least another year. He won’t be a bomb-thrower (despite some of us thinking that the council could use a bomb-thrower every once in a while …). It is important to remember that we are in the middle of our generation’s Great Depression, and it is a Depression, despite the fact that many of us can still afford to pay for broadband. Many people are losing everything through no fault of their own. The city needs Jim’s competency and creative thinking to ensure that seniors, families with young children, and renters, who may be struggling in this difficult economy, are not driven from their homes.
For these reasons, I will be voting for Baer and urge you to do the same.

Cibotti is a craftsman and long-time resident who forwarded colorful ideas to raise revenue and build a better city. Instead of just rambling on about every city service he knows about, he focused his campaign on things that are a bit more visionary – making Concord a destination city, building a river walk, working to expand health awareness with residents, all lofty but worthy goals. His commonsense nature would be a good addition to the council. He deserves a vote too.

As far as the other two candidates go, I was impressed but can’t, in good conscience, cast votes for them.
Michael DelloIacono did his homework, came prepared, and has potential. But it isn’t hard to wonder whether he will have the time to do the job over the next four years. It’s sad to say but with two young children, a thriving Web business, and service to many nonprofit boards, will he be able to return phone calls to constituents never mind attend to a councilor’s business?
I know from firsthand experience that, in the past, he hasn’t had the time. In 2007, his company had a job opening for an account executive. At the time, I had a number of people sending me potential job leads, including family members and Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce members, since they knew I was losing my gig running a local radio station. When I saw the job opening, I put together a package about all of the marketing things I had done and emailed them to DelloIacono. While I didn’t think I would get the job, I thought I would at least get a response to the job advertisement and possibly an interview. I’ve led small companies, sold copiers, newspaper advertising, radio ads, and even worked in fundraising at a nonprofit radio station. Surely anyone with all this experience deserved a response. But DelloIacono never responded.
When running the radio station, and at other jobs, I have almost always replied to job applicants in some way, shape or form, even if we weren’t advertising for help. I even interacted with people about why they didn’t get jobs or what they could do to improve their future skills, especially in the finite business of radio and media. These days, with many people unemployed and applying for jobs, whether they exist or not, you can understand why a business owner doesn’t reply to every person who inquires. But two years ago, there was no excuse for not emailing a reply acknowledging receipt of an employment package.
The second problem I encountered with DelloIacono’s candidacy was the lack of disclosure about his involvement in Concord TV, the city’s cable access center.
DelloIacono sits on the board. Before he was a board member, he was a volunteer. In the first forum, the candidates were asked whether or not they thought it was right that the cable media access center receives more of the city’s money than any other social service agency or nonprofit combined. Most of the candidates stumbled on the question, praising the center’s coverage and talking about how much they enjoyed watching the city meetings, etc. DelloIacono said the money wasn’t the city’s money it was franchise fees. He also didn’t reveal to attendees that he was a member of the Concord TV board.
This response was wrong on two levels. First, he had an obligation to reveal to voters that he was on the board. One might wonder why he didn’t, since in both the forums he talked about the role he played on other nonprofit boards. Second, technically, Concord TV is city money. Here’s how the process goes: Comcast collects the franchise fees. It gives the money to the city, which is put into the general fund, along with other monies. The city then gives money to Concord TV, with a check cut from the general fund. So, it is the taxpayers’ money, paid for by subscribers, who are also taxpayers. DelloIacono’s lack of disclosure and answer to the question were disappointing.

In the case of Dan St. Hilaire, it’s a bit harder to say No. But, I still have to.
As I have extensively written on, St. Hilaire played a role in squashing an investigation into problems with our city’s cable access center. At the same time, he has also played a role in thwarting an investigation into abuse of power, misuse of city dollars and potentially unethical behavior by current and former elected officials. This is shocking if you think about it and if the residents of Concord who have pooh-poohed this looked beyond the people involved, they would not be accepting of what happened. If it was a major political player or connected lawyer, the earth would have been moved to prevent this situation from happening (long-time residents know the point I’m making here).
And yet, what is so surprising about this is that as a former prosecutor, St. Hilaire has always had a responsibility to seek justice for individuals, no matter the level of provability or expanse. Instead, in this case, he stood in the way of this investigation, hampered an individual’s ability to seek justice (or reforms), and, probably, unknowingly, left the situation as such that anyone in Concord can be targeted by investigation by the police at the whims of a city councilor, with no recourse to protect themselves. These problems remain. St. Hilaire has yet to answer the questions surrounding his role in this, suffocating the council’s oversight role. It’s shocking.
Despite his likability and wealth of knowledge, I just can’t support someone who would look the other way in this important situation. It’s unfathomable, and that’s truly too bad for someone who is not a bad guy, as the saying goes.

School board 3-year seats
In the main school board race, I will leave my ballot blank, essentially casting a “none of the above” vote.
The incumbents, unfortunately, have failed in their duties. Four schools in the system are designated “schools in need of improvement.” Instead of spending money to improve our schools and fix the problems, the board allows the administration to sit on millions in surpluses.
Instead of improving our cherished neighborhood school system (eight intimate elementary schools), they want to dismantle it and spend nearly $100 million ($60 million-plus, plus interest) tearing down historic buildings, warehousing our young children into four big elementary schools. There is some logic to why they are trying to do this, especially in saved administration and energy costs. But many people are against the plan. Many parents don't want to give up their intimate elementary schools.
With the exception of one or two members, this school board refuses to listen to the parents and taxpayers who are opposed to this scheme.
In addition, two of the incumbents – Kass Ardinger and Clint Cogswell – are actively trying to keep parents from having control over the board’s charter, a right virtually everyone in New Hampshire has. Cogswell recently stated during a Legislative School Board Charter Commission hearing that he would never support a change that would allow the residents to change the charter by initiative petition. This goes against everything our society has stood for. It also continues to perpetuate Concord residents' status as second-class citizens when compared to what other residents in the Granite State are allowed to do with their school charter and even budgets. Get in the back of the bus and stay there, is essentially what Cogswell is saying to citizens.
One candidate who was challenging the three dropped out after filing. I know of at least three people who were eyeing a run but decided at the last minute to not run after this person forwarded themselves as a candidate. In the future, I truly hope that people will think long and hard about this and will commit to running … and stick with it.

School board 1-year seat
In too many ways, Tom Croteau and Bill Glahn agree with the incumbents. They are both, disappointingly, wedded to the consolidation plan. They do, however, have extensive knowledge. At least one person I know has decided to vote for Croteau due to his extensive education background.
But at Wednesday’s debate, Glahn offered the stronger answer on parents having the right to change the charter. Croteau, frankly, dodged the question. The Monitor says he supports citizens being able to change the charter. But during the forum, he didn’t answer the question at all.
Admittedly, I haven’t voted for Glahn in the past. But I will Tuesday in the hope that he will follow through and do his best to convince his colleagues to abandon their efforts to thwart the rights of the people of Concord.

I’ll have the election results posted as soon as they become available and later this week, I’ll write some more about how we, as citizens, can become more engaged in the local political process. Whatever your views, please do go out and vote on Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

Who was the citizen that dropped out of the 3-yr. school board race? It's awful that there are no challengers for this important race. We need a choice!!
Is it possible that this person was just a plant so other people wouldn't file?

Tony said...

I don't know if the person was a shill or not. Maybe; maybe not. He was an engineer, which many folks found interesting. I think the excuse he gave - his wife just got a different job and he had to alter his life - was a reasonable one. Or, it could have been that folks started talking to him and he realized he was in over his head.
That said, it seems like the school board process and meetings are designed in such a way that it scares people off because of the time it takes to serve. They meet what, a few times a month, then there are these endless amounts of subcommittee meetings at various times throughout the week, where a lot of the work is done outside the purview of the public and press. I could be wrong, but it seems like it is designed this way to scare people from serving.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your hardnose analysis and your efforts to reveal unethical city behavior. Councilors St. Hilaire, Bennett (current CCTV board member) and Nyhan (former CCTV board member)have done their best to cover-up and stonewall on behalf of CCTV. We definitely don't need another member of this corporation on the council.