Access To Information Is Important


The City of Keene IT department updates and installs new software in a rotating budget cycle.

There are a number of things going on now that makes this an opportune time to look at why City of Keene departmental software can’t search and collate information in a useful way.

Example one: After receiving the monthly M.A.R. report from chief Russo in March, I wondered if we could run multi-year graphs that would reveal trends in types of offenses in Keene. My thinking was that we should collect data that could help us direct social services in problem areas, thereby preventing future offenses and future police budget expenses. Chief Russo told me the software used at the KPD couldn’t do that.

Example two: A better data search system would speak to our problems with right to know laws, and the impression by the NH 8th District Superior Court, and the NH Supreme Court, that we don’t take RTK very seriously. The public has a right to know and we have an obligation to store that information in a form that is readily available to them. So says the court.

Example three: Let’s talk about the inadequacy of the search function on the City of Keene website. As a city councilor, I value that function in order to research issues as they come to us each week. There was a marked change for the worse about five years ago – when the site was “redone and improved”. Information that used to exist on our website is no longer readily available. I’m told now to ask the city clerk’s office and they’ll get it for me. I should say, that it might be there for me. I was told not too log ago that I had to file a RTK petition to get information. I just need this information to do my job as a city councilor. The public has a right to have this information, but is being denied that right.

In order to get a better handle on Keene’s social needs, Right To Know, and council research, we should investigate the data search and compilation capability of the city’s software packages, and train personnel to collect and compile the data that is everyone’s right to have.

I’ve filed for re-election for County Commissioner representing Keene, Roxbury and Marlborough.

It’s been an exciting time being Cheshire County Commissioner these past two years, and as County Treasurer the previous two. Through this experience, I’ve seen the extent in which counties in New Hampshire effect the everyday lives of people living here. I’ve come to realize the dedication of administrators, departmental heads and their staff, the state representatives who serve as our county delegation, and the board of commissioners.

The single-most thing that’s become apparent to me from watching this team is that department heads need commissioner support to be innovative and to run smoothly and efficiently. And taxpayers need a commission that will be both mindful of community needs, and the ability to finance those needs.

Luckily, that combination has been the order of the day and I promise to continue and add to the progress in areas such as nursing and critical care, energy efficiency and resourcefulness, and meaningful, alternative programs to the traditional criminal justice system for individuals with a substance use disorder and/or mental illness.

Immediately at my election as commissioner in 2019 we were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and tasked with dispersing $14,778,619 in American Recovery Program assistance. A million dollars of this money went to the City of Keene and the other towns in the county to use as they pleased; $1.8 million went to non-profits; nearly $2 million went to local businesses that were impacted by the pandemic; and $4.5 million allowed us to design and create a regional emergency medical services agency that will operate without county tax dollars.

Other recipients included county hall renovations and county facility HVAC upgrades; community arts; economic development agencies in Keene and Winchester; two area chambers of commerce; and even $20,000 to fund lifeguard training in area towns.

The regional ambulance service allowed me to fulfill a campaign promise to work towards regional solutions in a meaningful way.

But, I am also working on another area: community power aggregation. Besides being able to join with regional hydro-electric producers to supply a big chunk of the electricity that powers county facilities, our new community power aggregation program will allow us to purchase all of our facility’s power needs, while allowing individual towns to join our consortium and take advantage of lower electric rates for both the towns’ and resident’s needs through our combined buying power.

Throughout the next few months, I’ll try to highlight other important roles a county commissioner plays in the lives of the citizens of Cheshire County. I hope I’ll be able to win your confidence.

Arts and Culture Corridor Project

At the May 28th finance committee meeting, I opposed borrowing $770,000 this year for Gilbo Avenue infrastructure work because there are no clear plans for what the corridor would entail, when the work might start, or even if there is a consensus to move ahead. The story so far gives no analysis of the taxpayer’s point of view, just that it seems to be a fait accompli.

This infrastructure work and the Arts and Culture Corridor work should be occurring simultaneously.

MEDC is looking for funding right now, so there will have to eventually be a specific plan, right? The sponsors will need to know what the project entails. And then, they’ll have to come to the city for permission. But, that hasn’t been done yet.

If not for the planned arts corridor, when would we do this infrastructure work?

Is the work urgent? If so, why wasn’t it in prior CIP’s? Has there been emergency repairs that the finance committee doesn’t know about?

Or is the project being fast-tracked for the arts corridor?

If I wanted to build a housing development, I would be responsible for paying for any new infrastructure – roads, water/sewer, storm water – right? Then I would give it to the city, right? Just like we did on Ashuelot Ct and other neighborhoods?

So, that begs the question, how much of the $770,00 is for new, expanded infrastructure that should be paid for by the developers?

I think we need have and adhere to a concrete timeline. Steady as we go. I don’t want any mistakes here. 

And ultimately, we have to someday justify this in the face of our rising tax rate. When does this constant development start decreasing the burden of the residential tax base?

(Keene Sentinel photo) https://www.sentinelsource.com/news/local/keene-budget-includes-bond-for-arts-corridor-work/article_44c4911f-0ee7-5b3c-adfa-0624923fa80a.html

Cheshire County “Shepherd Program”

Get to know Cheshire County government:

The Cheshire County “Shepherd Program” is a part of the Maplewood Nursing Home.

The Shepherd Program helps county residents who are in need of durable medical equipment. Established by the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Department in the late 1990’s, the program recycles donations of used medical equipment. It is now run through Maplewood’s Rehab Department and is based on available inventory.

Who is eligible for the Shepherd Program?
This program is available to all residents of Cheshire County. Items are loaned free of charge on a short-term or long-term basis. The program seeks to assist county residents with equipment for visiting family or friends, and for those who are recovering at home or who have an ongoing need.

How is the Program run?
The program is run by appointment only at 399-7368. The program loans and accepts donations of durable medical equipment that are clean and in good condition, including wheelchairs, walkers, tub/shower seats, and commodes. 

How are Items made available?
Items are available on a first call/first reserve basis, and arrangements to pick up items are made by calling 399-7368. Donated and returned equipment is sanitized and stored at Maplewood, with minor repairs and adjustments as needed. An inventory of available items is maintained, and reservations are based on existing inventory and on a first call basis. Pick-up is by appointment only.

How are Donations made?
Donations are made by calling 399-7368. If you have equipment to donate, please call in advance so that we can check our existing inventory for need. Donated items must be clean and in good condition in order to be accepted into the program. Donations are logged and thank you letters sent (values are not included). Donations are by appointment only.

Who is the Shepherd Program contact person?
Please contact Sally Jenna, our Rehab Technician, at 603-399-7368. She will be happy to assist you! Sally’s hours at Maplewood are Mon-Fri: 5:30am-1:30pm.

Time to support the Democratic nominee

I’ve always thought that the greatest thing about this country is that every election cycle, millions of us stand actively for candidates who sing our particular song. We knock on doors, write letters, put up signs, donate money and march in the streets. And, we are frequently downright militant about our choices. That’s the quality we have that vets our choices and trumpets the issues we feel strongly about.

But, Democracy isn’t about always getting exactly what you want. Democracy is a coalition of ideas. Its about good governance.

My choice for President suspended his campaign today and appealed to supporters to press the presumptive nominee to adopt his priorities: healthcare for all, a livable wage, sustainable energy and universal education, et al, at the convention.

Heaven knows, the current pandemic is proving that his ideas are exactly what we need right now. But, he didn’t tell his supporters to stay home because he didn’t win. He told them that defeating the current occupant of the White House is the most pressing issue in the short term. Because, what we have now is not good governance.

In the end, good governance is my first choice. That is why I’m going to support Joe Biden with all the zeal I have shown for Bernie Sanders, and hope that you will too.

Give Us Test Kits Now!

undefinedI appeal to the state and federal authorities to give us the testing kits necessary to set up municipal and county sponsored mobile test points to identify COVID-19 cases. Empirical evidence is showing that those countries that have done massive testing have seen a flattening in they’re infection curve.

It is understood that the official policy is to test only people who have been officially identified as having contracted the COVID-19 virus, but may I suggest that policy is no longer valid, since it presumes that we are at the beginning of this crisis. Carriers of this virus have long since separated from their inceptors and are now freely infecting new hosts.

It is time now to speedily send all emergency management teams a supply of test kits that can identify carriers of this virus so that they may minimize the spread of this highly infectious virus.

Monetary cost is no longer an important focus. We must do whatever is necessary to provide team leaders with the tools to combat this contagion.

Continued discussion that delayed identification and treatment is not in the best interest of the health and welfare of the citizenry. We must act now to determine who is infected and move forward swiftly without delay.

It is apparent that our Federal and State officials will not act swiftly on our behalf, so I ask local government to bond measures that will ensure all of our citizens safety.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/coronavirus/irish-developed-kit-confirms-infection-in-15-minutes-39046582.html?fbclid=IwAR2rqABin8KB-Z36H8dOuIqJT7m7kYobVK7FZaqsp753fDjW15wiULEkFoY

Address to “No One Is Above The Law” Rally On Central Square In Keene

I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOU TODAY ABOUT THE ABUSE OF POWER FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A MINOR, LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIAL.

FOR ME, THE VERY BASIC MOTIVATION FOR SOMEONE IN MY POSITION HAS BEEN TO SELFLESSLY DO THE MOST GOOD FOR THE MOST NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN MY COMMUNITY.

THE BEST EXAMPLE IS WHEN WE LEVERAGE TAX DOLLARS TO MAINTAIN A SAFE, HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS ENVIRONMENT FOR PEOPLE TO LIVE, WORK AND PLAY IN OUR COMMUNITY.

THE PAY AND PERKS ARE MINIMAL. BUT THE REWARD IN SATISFACTION IS TREMENDOUS.

NOT THAT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN AMERICA HAVE BEEN IMMUNE TO ABUSE – THERE ARE MANY HIGH-PROFILE EXAMPLES OF PATRONAGE AND SPECIAL TREATMENT, BUT AS A RULE, THE PROPENSITY FOR ABUSE TENDS TO INCREASE AS POWER BECOMES MORE CONCENTRATED.

WE HAVE STRUGGLED WITH THAT CONCENTRATION OF POWER AND ABUSE THROUGHOUT OUR NATION’S HISTORY, AND THE SAFEGUARDS WE HAVE PUT INTO PLACE TO COMBAT THAT ABUSE ARE BEGINNING TO FAIL US.

TODAY WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO HAS STRIPPED AWAY THE CAMOUFLAGE OF ABUSE IN AMERICAN POLITICS AND HAS EXPOSED IT FOR ALL TO SEE.

IN A WORLD WHERE PRESIDENTS ONCE PUT THEIR BUSINESS INTERESTS IN BLIND TRUSTS, WHERE PRESIDENTS ONCE OPENED THE BOOKS TO THEIR PERSONAL WEALTH AND INCOME, IN A WORLD WHERE PRESIDENTS DREW THE LINE OF CRONYISM AT OUR NATIONAL BORDERS. WE NOW HAVE A WORLD WHERE THE PRESIDENT OPENLY VIOLATES THE EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE OF THE CONSTITUTION, REFUSES TO DISCLOSE HIS INCOME OR BUSINESS DEALINGS, AND WORSE, OPENLY SIDES WITH OUR ENEMIES TO COMPROMISE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

IN A WORLD WHERE SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, MISOGYNY AND BIGOTRY ONCE SPELLED THE END OF A PRESIDENT’S POLITICAL CAREER, WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO IS SOMEHOW ABLE TO THRIVE IN THAT ATMOSPHERE!

AS A LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIAL, AS A FATHER AND HUSBAND, AS A VETERAN, AS A CITIZEN OF MY COUNTRY AND COMMUNITY, I AM APPALLED AND ASHAMED AT THE REPUTATION OUR COUNTRY IS FAST GAINING WITH THE REST OF THE FREE WORLD.

BUT, WHAT APPALLS ME MOST IS THAT SO MANY ELECTED OFFICIALS, SO MANY OF MY NEIGHBORS, ARE WILLING TO STAND BY AND IGNORE THIS ABHORRENT BEHAVIOR.

WHY DO THEY DO IT? 

IT’S MY VIEW THAT MANY DO IT IN ORDER TO SATISFY THEIR OWN POLITICAL AND MONETARY GAIN. 

HOW DO THEY DO IT? 

THEY PREY UPON PEOPLE’S FEARS AND PREJUDICES.

I FIND IT UNCONSCIONABLE THAT A MEMBER OF CONGRESS OR SENATE WOULD ALLOW THIS ABHORRENT BEHAVIOR IN ORDER TO GET ONE MORE SEAT ON THE SUPREME COURT, OR TO OPEN UP ONE MORE ACRE OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS FOR EXPLOITATION. 

I UNDERSTAND THAT THEY MAY HONESTLY BELIEVE IN A CONSERVATIVE SUPREME COURT, OR THAT THEY BELIEVE THAT MINING OUR PRISTINE NATIONAL PARKS IS GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY, BUT, WHERE IS THE DECENCY? 

HOW FAR INTO THE GUTTER WILL PEOPLE GO TO SATISFY THEIR SICK SENSE OF POLITICAL LUST?

I WANT TO THANK THE ORGANIZERS OF THIS EVENT. WHAT WE DO HERE TODAY IS JUST A SMALL PART OF WHAT MUST BE DONE TO RESTORE SOME SENSE OF DIGNITY TO COUNTRY.

Keene, NH and It’s Budget Time.

Here’s the thing: This year’s city budget addresses the services that most taxpayers are used to having. The question is, how many of these services should be funded by the state or regionally?

Keene is an island in a sea of small towns that create pressures for extended city services like public works, police, fire and social services. To exacerbate things, Keene is the home to more than $650 million in non-taxable land that houses government, medical, non-profit, and religious institutions.

The proper justification for our current financial model used to be, and I say used to be, that increased commerce will provide tax revenues to offset the increased costs. But, employment and housing dynamics have changed over the years, and that model is no longer valid. I don’t believe we can continue using that model and expect the trajectory of our tax rate to be sustainable.

We can’t start slashing and burning the budget. But we can rewrite our fiscal policies to set a new course over the next few years that will resemble the changing financial landscape we now live in.

Our senior city staff is among the best and the brightest – on average they are earning $117,000 a year – together, we can figure out how to do this a different way.

City Solar Array Deemed Overwhelming Success

SolarRooftopThe 643.2-kilowatt grid-tied solar electric system installed atop Keene’s public works department on Marlboro St. late last year has been deemed an overwhelming success by senior staff in charge of the project.

At a rain-soaked ribbon cutting event held on site Monday, Brentwood, NH-based ReVision Energy spokesman Dan Weeks told a crowded room of officials and residents that “even today, the system is performing well, producing nearly 400kw of electricity for this facility.”

In 2018 the Keene City Council approved a resolution to generate 100% of our electricity from renewable sources, with the plan to reach that goal by 2030. The city’s Energy and Climate committee has been given until December of 2020 to complete that plan.

SolarHoistBut, even before that happens, the city is expected to begin planning on phase two of it’s solarization project. Assistant public works director Duncan Watson said Monday that he expects a request for proposals to install an even larger array at the Dillant-Hopkins Airport will be sent out in the next few months. That array will provide power for the city’s sewage treatment facility, which is the city’s largest user of electricity.

Many in the region have argued that, since the Marlboro Street project has performed so well, it is safe to take a much bolder step and partner with other entities – towns, county government and business – to create a regional micro-grid to support additional facilities and add resiliency to the regional power supply.

SolarRibbon1

Preliminary discussions between the Energy and Climate Committee (ECC) and Cheshire County government officials indicate that a partnership on energy projects could happen soon if senior city staff and council leadership were to adopt a more aggressive agenda.

The ECC has asked mayor Kendall Lane to expand the committee membership in order to invite major stakeholders like the county, school district and colleges to send voting representative to the committee. That proposal will be heard by the Keene City Council Finance Committee Thursday.

350SolarRoofThis particular initiative will go a long way in meeting the 100% by 2030 goal because other energy stakeholders will need to be engaged in the process in order to meet the city-wide goal. And, it makes sense to share resources and plans to maximize the amount of energy savings across the city.

To see what Keene’s solar system is producing, both today and across its lifetime, click here: [https://enjoy.solar/Keene]