A Few Highlights from the Deliberative Session 2016

Some of last Saturday’s attendants at the school deliberative session are actually concerned with the Bigger Picture: the future health of the community. Sure, a good education is important, but at what cost?

In NH, as the law stands currently, a Warrant Articles can be amended to pretty much anything you want as long as the subject matter isn’t changed. New legislation that would protect the “intent” of all future warrants was introduced this year, but was ultimately killed on the House floor, 194-100. Without that protection, this is the sort of nonsense that can take place at our Town Hall meetings.

Many have voiced concerns over the extremely poor turnout and lack of participation in city and school politics over the years. The bureaucrats are clueless as to why. Ian nails it.

 

Surprising Results from the 2016 Deliberative Session

Around 80 registered voters showed up to last Saturday’s 4 hour Deliberative session, around 25 fewer than last year. Note this is .47% of Keene’s 17,000 registered voters. As usual, the bulk of the room was made up of school board members, school administrators and teachers.

Once again, local lawyer and resident busybody Ted Parent was there ready to gut my petitioned warrant articles with his own prepared amendments. I plead with the voters in the room to leave the articles untouched in their original wording and allow the voters in March to decide on them. Each amendment would require a secret vote that would take 15-20 minutes to administer. From the reaction in the room, I was led to believe that the majority were in favor of this motion. However, Parent wasn’t having any part of it.

My first Warrant to enact a budget cap of .5% was amended to 10%. 65 in favor, 25 against.  Two more attempts were made to amend it to 2% and then 4.9%. Both failed.

My second article to reduce student tuition by $500 per student until tuition matched the state average was amended to “Form a committee to study whether the district should make the reductions.” Surprisingly, this only lost by 1 vote: 41 in favor, 40 against.

Parent then made an attempt to amend my “Cease participation in the Common Core program” article by instead forming a committee to study the concept. This motion failed 60 to 21. School board member Susan Hay made her own motion to amend the article to read “Shall the school district continue to be aligned with and compliant with the state education standards.” This passed 66 to 10. It will be interesting to see how the voters react to this one in March.

Parent also made an absurd attempt to amend my fourth article “to form a committee to study the feasibility of withdrawal from the bloated SAU29” to “form a committee to form a committee.” It failed 56 to 19.

In the end, one warrant survived. Three were amended—one of which I can live with and one that only lost by a hair. Comparing those results and voter turnout to previous years, I can definitely say that there is change in the winds. Stay tuned for the ballot results in March.

Here is the Keene Sentinel’s take on the event as well as video of the proceedings. The petitioned articles start at 1:01:00.

School Spending Unsustainable

Stupid PeopleAfter almost four years of railing against the wasteful spending going on here in the city of Keene, you might be under the assumption that this place is a lost cause and subsequently choose to settle elsewhere. Don’t. Keene is a great place with a lot of good people and a lot of potential. The truth is this sort of nonsense is going on across the country and in a lot of places it is much worse. The key difference here is the strong liberty community that has chosen to keep tabs on the powers that be and hold them accountable for their misguided decisions.  We’ve cleared our eyes of the veil of apathy to see the truth for what it is.

To the wise old city bureaucrats and school officials: this may be your legacy, but it’s my inheritance. I WILL NOT stand by and watch while you squander it. You may get your way this year, but I’m not going to make it easy for you.

Here is my recent LTE to the Sentinel:

As some of you may well be aware, the Keene School District plans to cut 36.7 full-time positions, close an elementary school, and has projected a loss in enrollment of around 80 students. And yet, as you probably already expected, the budget will still be going up.

 

The school district has presented us with a proposed operating budget of $64.98 million, an increase of $181,394 from the previous year. Should that article fail, the default budget of $65.66 million will kick in. So, lose/lose. But here’s the real kicker: Due to less incoming revenue in the form of state tuition and previous-year surplus, the actual impact on the Keene taxpayer will be an additional $1.7 million increase. This will amount to a 5.31 percent increase on the school portion of your property tax.

 

 These yearly increases in both school and city spending are unacceptable and ultimately unsustainable. If the school district were a private business it would have gone belly-up years ago due to its mismanagement of funds. But unlike the private sector, the public school system doesn’t need to sell you a good product to stay in business. They’ll get your money regardless of the quality and affordability of service they provide us. Or else they’ll take your house.

In an attempt to reign in this out-of-control spending, I have introduced three warrant articles that will help school board members and administrators with their future budget preparation. They include a budget cap of .5 percent, a reduction of $500 per student per year until the student tuition matches the state average, and the formation of a committee to study the feasibility of withdrawal from SAU 29. I’ve also included a fourth article to cease participation in the one-size-fits-all common core program. Sadly, all four warrants will undoubtedly be amended in such a way as to remove their original intent at the deliberative session this Saturday.

 

If there is one thing the school and its supporters excel at, it is removing any alternative options from the ballot.

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A Growing Concern

ConanatMeetingFor the past four years now I have challenged the local school district here in Keene to reign in their out-of-control spending with no real success. Mind you, this is a huge, $65 million dollar a year welfare machine that many of the residents of Keene have grown completely dependent upon; sadly, a conundrum shared widely throughout the country.

This year I’ve introduced three petitioned warrant articles, or ballot initiatives, that would reduce school spending and one article that would direct the district to opt out of Common Core. In previous years my warrants have always been amended completely ineffective at the first Deliberative session made up primarily of teachers and school admins who oppose any types of cuts. I expect no difference this time around. Convincing people to come out early on a Saturday morning to sit through a long drawn out meeting is much more difficult than collecting their signatures. However, judging by the turnout of disgruntled residents at the first informational meeting this past Tuesday and the fact that The Keene Sentinel chose to include the story on the front page the next day, leads me to believe that more apathetic voters are beginning to wake up. Here is the full Sentinel article:

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Keene city candidates for mayor and city council 2015

Click on any candidate to read his/her answers to the Keene Sentinel Questionnaire. Answers are being updated as they are printed.

 

Mayor

Kris Roberts

Rick Blood

Kendall Lane

Ward 1

Darryl Masterson

David Crawford

Steve Hooper

Ward 2

Toby Tousley

Brian Hansen

Carl Jacobs

Ward 3

David Richards

Joseph Losh

Ward 4

Bob Sutherland

James Duffy

Ward 5

Jerry Sickels

Thomas Powers

Road calming project unnecessary

FreeMoney-01In my latest LTE to the Keene Sentinel I address my concerns over a ridiculous road project funded by federal grants that the city is trying to execute in my quiet neighborhood in north Keene. Because, you know, free money.

Well, they’re at it again. The federal grant-chasers of America are doing what they do best — finding expensive projects to invest in that we didn’t know we actually needed. Enter the Jonathan Daniels Road Calming Pilot project, an initiative to get more kids riding their bikes to school by adding more safety features to our already safe roads. Never mind the fact that this is the last year of JD Elementary. To get a better idea of their proposed plan I attended their Tuesday night meeting for questions and comments.

In order to receive the $132,000 grant, the project must be carried out by outside contractors. The city, which could probably perform this same project for a fraction of the cost, cannot be involved in the hands-on labor. Sounds fishy already. Some of the costs listed included $2,000 stripped road crossings, $5,000 radar speed signs, and $6,000 raised crosswalks.

“But it’s free money.” No. There is no such thing. Someone is picking up the check. In this case it’s getting tacked right on to the federal credit card.

“But think of the children.” I am thinking of the kids. Like my daughter, who stands to inherit this massive credit card bill.

“But this project could prevent future accidents.” What accidents? Between 2007-10 (the stats that were included in the project plan) there were 15 total accidents. All of them were minor, including the school bus that hit a parked car, and all occurred on Maple Ave. or in the school parking lot. Not a single accident occurred in Maple Acres, where the proposed project will be implemented.

“But more signs will make us safer.” No. This city is already suffering information overload from too many signs. Drivers should be paying attention to the roads, pedestrians and other vehicles, and not be lambasted by some sign every 20 feet. If anything, the city of Keene should be emulating the street system we have in Maple Acres: wide-open streets with limited street signage and road markers. (more…)