It’s over! That’s about all that can be said about yesterday’s recount in Manchester’s mayoral race. Incumbent Mayor Ted Gatsas can once again celebrate victory in the hotly contested race with Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig, though by a more narrow margin. The election night tally had Gatsas winning the election by eighty five votes. The recount gave him a sixty four vote margin.
The recount wasn’t without its controversy, however and many observers, including this one, believe the mayor actually won by eighty nine votes. Here’s why. Ward One saw an enormous vote shift with Craig picking up twenty seven votes to Gatsas’ three, for a net change of twenty four votes in Craig’s favor. No other ward in the city saw a net change of more than three votes for either candidate, with nine of the twelve wards only seeing a shift of either one or two votes. The Gatsas campaign along with City Clerk Matthew Normand, asked the Board of Recount to re-tally the Ward One results to ensure that the number of tally stacks was properly counted. Craig’s campaign argued against the move and the Board of Recount, on a two to one vote, declined to allow the clerk to verify the count.
If the speculation was correct, and thanks to the Board of Recount we will never know for sure, one of the tally stacks, which contains twenty five votes, was double counted for Craig, meaning Gatsas actually gained a vote in the final count.
The tell tale sign that something was wrong with Ward One is that the vote tally for Gatsas and Craig exceeded the total number of ballots cast in the Ward. Combined, not counting the three write ins and remaining blank ballots, Gatsas and Craig had thirty one hundred forty six votes. According to official records, there were only thirty one hundred thirty one voters who went to the polls. When asked how there could be more votes for mayor than ballots cast, Normand said quote “that’s why I recommended they reopen the box and verify the count.” When asked the same question, city attorney Peter Chisea told us it didn’t matter.
The Democrats move to block the request to verify the vote in Ward One would later come back to haunt them. After the recount was finished, Craig attorney Kathleen Sullivan, former chair of the Democratic State Committee, wanted to open up the boxes and revisit the challenged ballots that weren’t counted. That brought a good natured howl of protest from Gatsas himself who laughed as he chided Sullivan for singing on a different street now. A sheepish Sullivan replied, “well, you don’t see me arguing the point do you?”
In the end, according to the official, but not real tallies, Gatsas picked up forty one votes to Craig’s sixty. Many of the votes came from absentee ballots that were disqualified by ward moderators around the city, but allowed to be counted by the Board of Recount. According to Gatsas attorney Richard Lehman, many moderators disqualified ballots under the questionable claim that the signatures on the inner and outer envelopes didn’t match. Obviously that wasn’t the case. The Board of Recount also allowed absentee ballots that were missing signatures to be counted, though state law doesn’t allow that.
In the end, none of it mattered as Gatsas’ victory withstood the irregularities. Had it not, my guess is we’d be headed to court. Anyway, Craig issued a statement on her Facebook page congratulating the mayor on his win and saying she’ll take the next several weeks to think about what comes next.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
It was a raucous night at the Manchester Board of School Committee last night that saw some tense and terse exchanges. The night got off to a good start with the third graders from Parker Varney School giving a presentation about how much better lunch at their school is with the outside provider. Contrary to the claims made by School Food Nutrition Director Jim Connors at the board’s prior meeting, the numbers of students and faculty now eating the meals from the school has skyrocketed. Turns out ninety percent of the kids surveyed like having three choices for lunch and boy do they love that food!
The board decided to put the transportation contract for special needs children out to bid after hearing from a parent about the ongoing troubles her family has had with current provider S T S. Problems with the service have been ongoing, but moms with twenty three pound four year olds that are being transported in mini-vans without car seats and occasionally forgotten to be picked up have a way of driving the point home.
There was an interesting discussion about why elementary school teachers had to jump around in the new math books, which some parents say is causing extreme confusion for their kids. Assistant Superintendent Christine Martin said teachers had to do that because the new math books the district just bought don’t conform to the district’s academic standards, which made some of us wonder why books that more closely followed the standards weren’t bought.
Parents should be looking for a letter to come home sometime this week outlining the new bus schedules as the district prepares to switch to the so called hours calendar on November thirtieth.
Superintendent Debra Livingston found herself in the awkward position of suggesting the board hold a special meeting on or before the twelfth to review the Smarter Balanced Assessment Scores for the city and state, which will be released on the twelfth. Turns out that they won’t be able to send kids home with their individual scores for an undetermined period of time, won’t be able to compare the results of this assessment to the replaced NECAP assessments (told you so) and will be able to release the aggregate scores without violating student privacy. Huh, who knew? (We did!) The board should receive a PowerPoint presentation the district has prepared to explain the scores and what they mean, which they’re not really sure about, today. We’ve asked for a copy.
Police Chief Nick Willard was on hand to address the Student Resource Officer issue at the Manchester School of Technology. He didn’t take too kindly to charges made by Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry that MST was left unprotected because their S R O was arbitrarily taken away to remedy issues at Central. In setting the record straight on a number of charges, Willard made it clear that what was done was done deliberately, after considerable consultation with district and M S T administrators. A retired certified officer was approved provide additional coverage for the balance of the school year.
There was ooohhh sooo much more, but I’m out of time and space. Click here for the our chronicling of the entire meeting in our Live Blog Forum!
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!