It’s the little things that get the biggest reaction

One of the best things about my job is I get to see the little power plays and true personalities of public officials. Some people must have a baby toe in every action, while others have a problem watching what they say. Both those things happened here. And some people got mad at me. At least something interesting came out of TS Irene.

High praise for city’s actions during Irene’s visit

IN THE AFTERMATH of Tropical Storm Irene, high praise went to city police, firefighters, highway workers and other staff for their efficient handling of the havoc the storm wrought.

The compliments were particularly plentiful from the aldermen. There was just one problem — communication was lacking.

Leaving an alderman out of the loop has long been a major no-no in Manchester politics. If power is out in a section of a ward or the nearby fire station has to divert an engine across the city for the day, that ward alderman expects to be notified.

So when a call was made to run all storm-related information through the mayor’s office, a debate via email ensued.

Alderman At-Large Dan O’Neil started off an email on Monday with a “great job” and followed with a polite request for better communication on the front-end of the storm, specifically getting the city’s emergency contact number out to the public sooner.

“I would ask in the future that all aldermen be briefed in advance of our plans and be notified by phone (not emails) of meetings and briefings during the event,” wrote O’Neil in an email obtained by the City Hall column.

“If someone wants to change anything, bring it before the board of aldermen,” wrote Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez. “We also know that our department heads have their hands full and they know what to do.

You cannot have 14 people in charge in emergencies but I can tell you everything did work out and if something would have happened the aldermen would have been called.”

He finishes with “Thanks to all GREAT JOB.”

Ward 11 Alderman Russ Ouellette then joined in, saying department heads have more important tasks during an emergency than calling each alderman.

“If aldermen want information the aldermen should contact the mayor’s office or his designee for concerns of wards or any other information,” Ouellette wrote.

“The people of this city look to the mayor and ALL alderman for help and solutions,” O’Neil fired back. “You may not want to know what is going on in the city but I do. I don’t report to the mayor or his designee. I report to the citizens of Manchester.”
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THIS COLUMN REPORTED last week that Mayor Ted Gatsas asked department heads for 2013 budget projections. In response, Manchester firefighters’ union President Ryan Cashin sent out a press release asking Gatsas to fix this year’s budget before moving on to the next.

“The facts are clear. Arson and crime are on the rise in the city of Manchester.

Making sweeping cuts to public safety during these times is not in the best interest of the people of Manchester,” wrote Cashin.

Overall crime is up slightly according to police statistics from 2010. Arsons are up but violent crime in the city is down slightly.

Though Gatsas denied requesting budget numbers this early was part of a campaign strategy, the expected grim numbers will inevitably force candidates to take a stand on spending.

Cashin not-so-subtly criticized Gatsas for the move.

“We cannot focus on election gimmicks at a time when the public safety of the people of Manchester is at risk,” he wrote. “Mayor Gatsas and the Aldermanic Board need to focus on reprioritizing this budget, not the future one. The Mayor needs to put his focus off the upcoming election and onto public safety.”

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THE CITY IS set to hear from the U.S. State Department any day now about its request for a moratorium on resettling refugees.

A majority of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen favored the move, but mayoral candidate Chris Herbert thinks it’s too restrictive.

“The underlying problem isn’t that refugees cost Manchester taxpayers, because they don’t.

The real problem is that the various programs to support these new arrivals are almost totally uncoordinated and as a result money is being wasted that could provide them better help,” Herbert said in a statement last week.

Herbert instead favors a “structured moratorium” that allows immediate family members to join relatives already placed in Manchester. While the partial moratorium is in place, the city must enact reforms, “that will better monitor and utilize available federal and other funds,” he said.

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DESPITE A FEW PERKS, the Board of School Committee has decided membership to the New Hampshire School Boards Association does not have its privileges.

The board voted to end its relationship with the statewide group, saving the district $7,600 each year. Board members said the information provided from the group was aimed more at small towns, but it had also provided useful templates for crafting policy. Schools superintendent Thomas Brennan said those templates can also be easily found on the Internet for free and the district could live without the membership.

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CANDIDATE FOR Ward 6 alderman and Zoning Board Chairman Brian Desfosses will host a fundraiser Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 6-9 p.m., at Moe and Joe’s Restaurant on Candia Road near the Massabesic Traffic Circle.

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SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN will speak to about 300 union members at the annual New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast on Monday at the Executive Court. Shaheen will be joined by Gov. John Lynch and state AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie, who will also deliver remarks to the labor crowd.

The event has become a Manchester holiday tradition, with attendees wearing their “work clothes” and carrying signs and banners.

Program starts at 9 a.m. and organizers say $25 tickets are still available.

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