In Portsmouth it’s Parking


One of the most important skills someone could possess is how to properly read an agenda. Sometimes buried deep in the procedural lies a nasty little nugget that at around 10 p.m., launches an hour-long discussion on some hot-button issue most people didn’t even realize was going to be discussed that evening.

Portsmouth Herald reporter Charles McMahon caught the little nugget in this week’s Portsmouth City Council agenda. Here’s a good breakdown of the details.

As reported, the city is reviewing its options for more parking since a garage in the Worth Lot was shot down. It now has it’s eye on Parrot Avenue, which is very close to the tony South End neighborhood. Lest we forget what happened when another large public building was proposed and built down the street? I wish the City Councilor’s luck.

New School Super not a Super Job

Manchester Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan is set to step down this summer. After advertising the job across the country, 78 people have applied. Of those, 74 do not live in New Hampshire.

Once the applications are reviewed, 12 finalists will be selected. May I suggest the Manchester Board of School Committee send a DVD of a recent meeting to each finalist, just to make sure they understand what they are getting into?

State Spud

“The House voted 276-75 Wednesday to approve House Bill 535, which makes the white potato the state vegetable.
The bill had its genesis at the Derry Village School, where students researched the origins of the white potato in North America and found it was first planted in a field near the school in 1719, in what was known then as Nutfield.”

— Garry Rayno

When I saw the headline in the New Hampshire Union Leader, my first thought was, ‘Is the potato even a vegetable?’ According to nutritionists in the United Kingdom, it mostly is, sort of.

This bill certainly seems easy to support, especially since New Hampshire is the first state to plant the delicious tuber. Generally these children-submitted bills tend to pass. I have found that making a big to-do out of them just makes the people complaining look like a bunch of party poopers. Best to pass this bill quickly so the Legislature can move on and the everyone can forget what they just voted for.

I would, however, have to also agree with Rep. James Parison, R-New Ipswich, who prefers broccoli as the state veg.

“Making the white potato the official state vegetable sends a bad message to our children who should grow up knowing good food should be dark green and taste terrible,” Parison said.

Nothing like a little tough love from the Granite State.

Union drama … again in Manchester.

As someone who belongs to a union and has seen contentious contract negotiations play out in the workplace, I find it fascinating the way public unions and government hash out contract deals so publicly. The media, in this case pretty much just me and the stories I write, can be seen as a problem or a tool by either side in getting what they want. Manchester teachers have long argued they have made concessions more than other city unions. More give-backs is not what the members are looking for. But school and city officials argue that holding out and forcing 160 or more layoffs could not only hurt schools and make teachers’ jobs nearly impossible, but it could also turn public sentiment against those who stand in front of the classroom.

Holding out at this point also puts allies of the teachers on the Board of Aldermen in a tough spot. After promising to give more money to schools if the unions show movement on concessions, it will be hard to convince those aldermen on the fence to shift money from city services to the one group that has decided to stand its ground in this year’s labor dispute.

This week’s column also got to note the work of a behind-the-scenes player in Manchester, Kevin O’Maley. As the overseer of all city buildings, he has worked hard to improve energy efficiency, showing that being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to be this dramatic political fight, but just makes common sense when done right.


Vote against school contract sends aldermen wrong signal

SINCE MAYOR Ted Gatsas laid out his budget, aldermen have been looking for more money for the Manchester School District. The amount the city can give schools under the new tax cap is about $12 million below what the district says it needs to keep staffing and services at today’s level. This column reported last month that if school unions signaled they would make concessions to save jobs, the aldermen would consider shifting more city funds over to the school side.

On April 17, the Manchester Education Association’s executive board voted against a tentative agreement reached by school and union leaders.

This was not the signal the aldermen were looking for.
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