Cruel summer

Unlike last summer, when I was bogged down every week with a ridiculous amount of news, this summer proved to be a little boring. Not too much excitement here, except perhaps for the Free Staters. I like to think of Free Staters as the great uncle of the Tea Party. There’s a lot of overlap in philosophy, but Free Staters are a little more libertarian and a little more into conspiracy theories. I think it’s more than fair to let readers know where politicians stand in a city race and an allegiance to a political movement is rightly in that realm. After this ran, there were a few aldermen who thanked me for the mention, though I think they said that purely for selfish reasons.

Aldermen expected to propose changes in city tax cap

After three meeting-free weeks, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is jumping right back to business by tackling the city’s tax cap.

When the aldermen meet on Tuesday, they are expected to review proposed changes to the tax cap that would give them a little breathing room when putting together the fiscal year 2013 budget. The cap was passed in 2009, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled it illegal. Legislation passed during the recent session at the State House put Manchester’s tax cap back on the books. The timing couldn’t be better — or worse depending on your position — as Manchester is looking toward a budget year that is expected to be even rougher than the last.

The proposal would exempt agencies that operate with enterprise funds, such as the Airport Division, Parks and Recreation, Environmental Protection Division and Parking, so that money spent on a new parking garage or a major sewer project wouldn’t count toward the cap. The proposal would also exclude money spent on bonds for projects such as the baseball stadium and the municipal complex.

Under the current tax cap, the limit on the property tax increase is tied to the Consumer Price Index, but that’s assuming the index goes up. Deputy City Solicitor Tom Arnold said it’s unclear what would happen if the index went down. The same goes for property values in a revaluation year, such as the one the city is in now whose initial findings show property values down between 15 percent and 20 percent city-wide.

“Yes, there’s some ambiguity,” said Arnold. “We’re not really sure how it would work in that type of scenario. At least some of the suggested changes are to bring some clarity to that situation, particularly where we have decreased property values.”

Under the proposal, if either goes down, the tax rate’s rate of change would be zero and the budget would be flat-funded.

The aldermen are expected to work quickly on the changes in hopes of getting a charter amendment on the November ballot.

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Manchester got a taste of the liberty-minded Free State set in June when eight people were arrested for protesting outside the Manchester police station. A few days later, the group showed up at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting to protest their treatment and the treatment of people involved in other incidents — one in May in which state police fatally shot a Manchester man, and the other in March 2010 in which a man was injured during an arrest at the Strange Brew Tavern.

Now at least two who identify with the movement have filed for local office.

Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne is facing a challenge from Mike Segal, an organizer for Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign and one of the protesters involved in the Manchester police station incident. Ward 2 Alderman Ron Ludwig is facing a challenge from Craig Haynie, who spoke before the aldermen in June opposing the treatment of the protesters. Both are featured on Free State websites. Segal is also listed as the outreach coordinator on the New Hampshire Jury Information website, which aims to educate jurors outside state courthouses about jury nullification and the prospect that “jurors can say no to government by refusing to convict.”

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There are fewer than a dozen top-of-the-ticket races heading to a primary vote in September, giving the bulk of the candidates for alderman and school committee some breathing room. Here’s a list of the two-way top races.

Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy is up against Democratic state Rep. Nickolas Levasseur; Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau is running against Zoning Board of Adjustments Chairman Brian Desfosses; Ward 7 Alderman Bill Shea is in a rematch with Tea Party activist Lisa Gravel; the open Ward 8 alderman race is between school committee member Thomas Katsiantonis and state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt; Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw is facing a challenge from Timothy Sawyer; and Ward 10 Alderman Phil Greazzo is running against former state Rep. Jane Beaulieu.

The Ward 2 school committee race is between current at-large member Debra Gagnon Langton and Lucia Carlisle; Ward 3 committee member Mike DeBlasi is facing a challenge from political consultant Christopher Stewart; the race for the open Ward 4 committee seat is between former state Rep. Roy Shoults and Brenda Lett, head of the ethnic diversity education organization UJIMA Collective; Ward 7 committee Vice Chairman David Gelinas is up against former state representative candidate Alan Cail; Ward 11 committee member Steve Dolman is facing Jason Cooper; and Ward 12 committee member Roger Beauchamp is facing state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez.

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And the mayoral candidates are slowly gearing up for the November elections.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said last week his signs will start going up in about two weeks, and he’ll begin door-to-door campaigning in mid-August. He is also crafting a plan that will outline what he intends to accomplish if reelected, similar to the plan he released during his previous mayoral campaign.

Committee member Chris Herbert held a joint backyard barbecue event last week with Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau and plans to do more this summer with other city candidates.

“One thing that’s going to be a big part of my campaign is small events around the city,” said Herbert. Thus far, it’s helped him sign up a slate of volunteers to get out the vote this fall, he said. “That’s what Democrats do. Republicans raise money, and Democrats raise volunteers,” Herbert said.

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