Voters in the Queen City will be asked to vote on several ballot questions and for candidates to a charter commission that is tasked with rewriting the city charter with the intent of separating the school district from the city and giving it the power and obligation to send its own tax bill. (Yikes!)
First the questions:
Question 1: Approving it would remove ward boundaries from the charter and allow them to be set by ordinance. That means the post-census redistricting that takes place ever 10 years would not be subject to voter approval, but would be left to a vote of the aldermen. The reason this was brought forward was the loss of St. Pius X as the polling place for Ward 6. The selectmen of the ward were unable to find another location to hold elections in the ward. As a result, the Ward 6 polling place was moved to McLaughlin Middle School, which is in Ward 8. That’s not allowed and the city is operating under some sort of waiver. As it turns out, the ward boundaries could be redrawn to put McLaughlin in Ward 6 without affecting any actual voters but because the charter would have to be changed, that can’t be done. While I do have some trepidation about giving the aldermen the final say on redistricting votes (what could go wrong there, right?) I will vote yes on this question.
Question 2: This is a question required by the state before sports betting locations could be opened in any municipality. On this vote, I am conflicted. As I really don’t believe this gambling thing is good for the overall economy because it siphons discretionary income away from businesses that rely on them and feeds yet another known area of addiction, I’m not a fan. On the other hand, if Manchester doesn’t support it, then the folk who want to gamble will go elsewhere and that will also harm the city’s economy. One is perhaps a slower to surface problem than the other, but it is a problem either way. Don’t know what I’m going to do here.
Question 3: This “non-binding” referendum asking the voters if they want a student from each high school to have a non-voting seat on the school board is a political football tossed by Mayor Craig and the Granite State Organizing Project. Click here for the story. The politics of this are as dishonest as any in the city. If I could vote “Hell, No!” I would!
Candidates for Charter Commission
This may be moot as we’re awaiting a court decision on the propriety of having this on the ballot. At-Large School Board Member and State Rep. Patrick Long, who is again running to be alderman in Ward 3, filed legislation at the behest of Mayor Joyce Craig to create this commission. Their admitted intent is to write a charter for the school district that provides it with the ability to raise taxes on its own. Currently, the school budget is subject to the approval of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Once the BMA give the Board of School Committee a budget, the BOSC allocates the funds. Giving the school board the power to raise taxes and appropriate funds would, in essence, create a second governing body in the city.
This all said, the people elected to the Charter Commission are not required to write a charter that gives the school board this authority. They could decide to make the district a department of the city again or they could come up with some other construct. So, assuming the commission isn’t tossed out by the court, which it very well could be for the violations of state law that occurred in registering people for it, who gets elected matters. In making my recommendations, I note that you may vote for up to 9 people but are not required to vote for 9.
My top choices (in order of how they appear on the ballot)
William John Infantine
Albert “Al” Jernigan
Michael “Mike” Lopez
James R. Gaudet
For those of you who want to vote for nine, I would add
Lisa M. Freeman
These three are not part of my original list because they are likely to hold office as either and alderman or school board member in the next term. Personally, I don’t believe people who hold or will hold such an office should also be on the commission. I view it as a conflict of interest. That said, people can disagree over that, so I’m happy to recommend them.
If you agree but want to vote for more than six, I would add Andre Rosa. After him, I just can’t get to 9. They’re either teachers, retired teachers, teacher union activists or otherwise beholden to the unions, school board members or presumptive school board members or dedicated to the proposition that the school board should send tax bills.
ALERT: Girard at Large has learned that the Hillsborough County Superior Court has said the city failed to follow the state’s filing requirements for charter commissions and violated state statute. Therefore, the charter commission election may not be held tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates.