Well, we can tell the silly season is upon us as competing political events in Manchester last night drew people’s attention.
First, we’ll address the education forum hosted by the Manchester Education Association. The controversy that marred the event was brought front and center by an empty podium with Mayor Ted Gatsas‘ name on it. It was placed at the center of the stage with candidates Alderman Joyce Craig and former Alderman Patrick Arnold to its left and Jawed Alibab Shaikh and Glenn Ouellette to its right.
M E A President Sue Ellen Hannan gave a brief welcome to the roughly one hundred fifty people gathered before turning the program to Moderator Mark MacKenzie, a former president of the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire and retired Manchester fire fighter.
After the candidates gave their opening statements, MacKenzie called on Gatsas, then said, quote “Oh, I guess we don’t see him” to the laughter of the crowd and brought Hannan back to the podium to explain his absence. Hannan said that all the candidates had responded to their invitation by one way or another. Some, she said replied by email, others by letter, others face to face or through campaign or staff members. Hannan, who seemed apprehensive in making her comments, said a member of the mayor’s staff said the mayor would be there on two separate occasions to two separate people and that quote
“I guess they discovered last week that there were conflicts and that he wasn’t going to be here. So, we have it here, just in case, but we did want to let you know the reason why he declined to be here.”
She also said the original moderator, Scott Spradling declined to come upon learning the mayor would not be in attendance because he was becoming part of the Manchester Police Commission. Spradling has been reported as saying he agreed to moderate based on all candidates being present and that he withdrew to avoid showing any bias for or against any candidate.
Gatsas and his staff have strenuously denied confirming their attendance, releasing a letter from the MEA which required candidates to reply by email by August fifteenth to confirm their participation. Inasmuch as they did not reply as required, they say the mayor’s attendance was not confirmed. They also state they didn’t know the MEA was expecting their attendance until a statement released by the New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association published a statement last week saying all five candidates would be in attendance.
The reason the mayor has given for not attending was the forum conflicted with the tele-town hall he held last night, the final event in his Talk With Ted Tour, which was publicly announced at the end of June.
On that call last night, which the mayor’s camp said had four hundred ten callers, the mayor addressed, in a prepared statement, four issue areas directly, education, infrastructure, crime and economic development and the hot button issues of the murder of Denise Robert, the veto of the teacher’s contract. He fielded ten questions during the call, which lasted about half an hour. The questions ranged from the city’s tax cap to what to do with vacant buildings and the heroin epidemic.
Frankly, except for Joyce Craig saying she supported full day Kindergarten as a school board member and made it a reality as an alderman and Jawed Alibaba Shaikh saying he would enter into a formal sister city agreement with Silicon Valley, there was little said last night in either forum that hasn’t been said over and over again.
The battle over Derry’s town budget had its day in Rockingham Superior Court yesterday. The town council is being sued by residents over its refusal to act on petitions designed to overturn various cuts made to the budget. Derry Residents United, which circulated eight petitions to overturn cuts to the town’s budget, argued the town’s charter required the council to either adopt the petitioned changes or order them to ballot at a special election. After meeting with legal council retained to advise them on the matter, the council refused to do that, or anything else with the petitions. Yesterday, they restated their case in court that the town’s charter and state law vest the council with sole authority over the budget and that residents cannot usurp that authority by referendum. The judge has taken the matter under consideration and said he will rule not later than Friday, September eighteenth.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next