State Senator David Boutin, Republican from Hooksett, and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, Republican from Wolfeboro, announced the details of legislation they’ve filed to establish a statewide grant program for counties interested in operating drug courts at a news conference yesterday at City Hall in Manchester.
Depending on the size of the county, the state would provide fifty percent of the funding for drug courts up to two hundred forty five thousand dollars on a dollar for dollar matching basis. Boutin and Bradley both said that the legislation was being brought forward at the persistent urging of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, whom they called a leading voice in the state for establishing drug courts. The failure of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation to fund a drug court for the Northern District was also a factor leading to the legislation, with Bradley acknowledging the state has a larger role to play in combating the out of control crisis in the state.
Bradley said there was near unanimous co-sponsorship of the measure in the senate and strong bi-partisan support in the House.
In thanking the senators for bringing the legislation forward, Gatsas urged the General Court to fast track the legislation and hinted they should call a special session of the legislature to address the legislation, rather than wait for the normal legislative process to unfold. He said it was about saving lives that were being lost everyday, lives that might be saved by having a drug court to help those who want it. He said he’d secured commitments from a number of local businesses to provide recovering addicts a job so they can get back up on their feet and pay restitution and that he was working on finding alternative housing arrangements for those in the program so they don’t have to go back to the places where they’re vulnerable.
Associate Hillsborough County Court Justice Ken Brown, who presided over the Strafford County drug court for several years, said the team in Hillsborough County, which includes the judges, probation officers, prosecutors, counselors, and law enforcement, is trained and ready to go. He said the court was supposed to deal with those who present the highest risk of re-offending and the greatest need for supervision. He pointed to Strafford County’s experience saying they saw a recividism rate in the low twenty percents versus the national average of between fifty and sixty percent.
Brown dismissed the possibility of local communities funding the court if the county didn’t after a question from Ward Ten Manchester Alderman Bill Barry. He said such funding presented a number of practical and constitutional issues he didn’t think could be overcome in the county based judicial system the state has for the superior courts. Boutin brushed aside a question from State Representative Mary Heath, Democrat from Manchester Ward Seven, about the reauthorization of the Expanded Medicaid Program, saying it was a different issue that was being addressed separately by the legislature. Both are supporters of Gatsas opponent Joyce Craig, whose proposal for the city to fund a drug court was defeated by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and who has criticized Gatsas for not advocating for Expanded Medicaid’s reauthorization. Craig was present for the news conference, but left almost immediately after its conclusion without asking any questions or making any statements herself.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Derry voters turned out in force with more than six thousand residents going to the polls. That’s more than a thirty percent turnout which forced the town to make over thirty five hundred ballots by photo copier as the twenty five hundred ballots they printed ran out. According to preliminary vote tallies, which had to be hand counted, it looks like the budget cuts enacted by the Derry Town Council were overturned on by a four point margin.
The Manchester Board of School Committee met last night and, as always it was interesting. The “wiggle wiggle, walk walk” guy made a presentation, this time without the demonstration. A motion by Mayor Ted Gatsas to have the district choose a school to pilot more recess time passed on a voice vote. Ward Eight Committeewoman Erika Connors questioned the mayor’s call of the vote as passing saying it sounded pretty even to her, however she did not ask for a roll call nor did she ask to be recorded as opposed, despite voting no on the proposal. I heard her say “no,” for the record. No other member of the board asked to be recorded as opposed. The district will also choose a school to pilot the “wiggle wiggle walk walk stuff, too.”
Gatsas’ proposal to audit the district’s health insurance plan to insure that only those eligible to receive coverage as dependents are receiving it ran into the same fate as the request he made to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. It went to committee. I’ll sum it up for you this way: After hearing the district admit it did nothing on an annual basis to verify employee coverage is in accordance with the eligibility requirements, Ward Ten Committeeman John Avard said that, while he supported the concept, he didn’t want to get stuck paying for a study that might come back and save them nothing because they’re doing such a good job managing he system. Ward Twelve Committeewoman Connie Van Houten questioned whether or not they were using a cannon to fix a problem that required a pea shooter.
The twelve thousand dollar field trip for kids at Wilson Elementary School ran into a buzz saw, too. It looked like the request was going down to defeat when Ward One Committeewoman Sarah Ambrogi moved to table it.
An attempt to address the tabled administrator contracts went down to defeat as well. Ward Two Committeewoman Debra Langton’s attempt to take it of the table failed. Ward Nine Committeeman Arthur Beaudry questioned whether or not the board was going to deal with them after the election to avoid being on record beforehand.
The administration also made a presentation about truancy rates across the city and the treatment of V-LACS grades.
Beaudry questioned the administration about the failure of the high schools to notify parents about the graphic heroin presentation, to which Superintendent Debra Livingston responded that parents should have been given adequate advance notice and the opportunity to opt out. She said district policies for such notification were not clear, but that the schools would be so instructed uniformly in the future.
The six million dollar bond for phase two of the Manchester School of Technology expansion was referred to the finance committee. Don’t expect that one until after the election.
Webster School Principal Christine Martin was hired last night as the new assistant superintendent.
News note from Nashua. Its school board voted to direct its superintendent to provide it with their Smarter Balanced Assessment data by October twenty first. The state, heretofore, has directed districts to keep the data under wraps until November twelfth. Once it’s given to the board, it’s a public document subject to the Right to Know Law. That should be interesting, shouldn’t it?
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next