Chris Herren in Seabrook Today- Katie Duffey Periscope

We had Katie Duffey, Recreation Director for Seabrook, come in to do a Periscope on the Chris Herren event today in Seabrook. Thanks to Katie for bringing the Herren event, and the powerful anti-drug message it presents, to Seabrook. Looking forward to seeing the event, which is today, at 6:00 p.m. at the Seabrook Community Center.

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The Seabrook Budget Message for FY 2017

Below is my budget message to the Seabrook Board of Selectmen for FY 2017, which begins on January 1, with Town Meeting in March of 2017.

Budget Message FY2017

I am pleased to present the annual budget to the Board of Selectmen for FY 2017.
As the Board considers this Budget it is important to note that health care pricing for the next cycle is not yet available, and will need to be incorporated into our budgetary numbers when the Health Trust provides us with that figure. Another note is that the numbers for our obligation to the New Hampshire Retirement system have spiked dramatically. Our recent discussion with our independent auditors highlighted the “unfunded liability” of the N.H. retirement system, with a $10 million charge to our balance sheet that recognized our portion of that liability. It is likely that the local assessments will continue to rise in order to correct the problem, which is not good news for our taxpayers.
The budget submitted continues to reflect the policy direction set by the Board of Selectmen. The rate of increase for the overall budget is 1.36% over last years budget. It should be noted that even that small increase, when further analyzed, shows that discretionary increases not mandated contractually account for about one half of one percent of the total increase. Contractual and mandated increases, such as the one highlighted above for retirement benefits, account for just under 1% of the total. The number submitted to the Board is exceedingly lean, and during the course of your review I know that you will hear, from our Department heads, legitimate requests for increases to address needs that are important as we provide vital services to our community. In many cases I not only understand, but agree that such increases would be helpful in providing first rate services. My recommendations are not dismissive of these ideas, but a recognition that keeping the overall tax burden stable is vital, and that we face a major unknown as to the ultimate results of the tax negotiation with our largest taxpayer, NextEra Energy.
The NextEra negotiation, still ongoing, is obviously critical. The 2015 tax payment constituted approximately 72% of the Town side expenditure, and while the ultimate outcome of the negotiation is yet to be determined we must brace ourselves for the potential of a smaller payment. Until such time as we know the outcome of that negotiation it will be difficult for me as Town Manager to recommend to the Board the undertaking of new budgetary spending, even where some justification may be evident. 

Our last independent audit showed our unexpended fund balance as over $9 million, a growth from last years number of about $8 million. We funded a major capital project out of that fund last year, and I realize that many feel that the number may be too high. But the direction given has been to create a fund balance sufficient to buffer the community against the potential downsides of a new agreement with NextEra, and this fund balance is designed to give our community that budgetary flexibility. It would be fair to say that we will be in a better position to fully understand our ability to take on additional capital spending, or address additional Departmental needs, in the FY 2018 budget year.
In this budget there has been a reconfiguration, in a minor way, of how some personnel are deployed within DPW. While there is no request made by me for additional full time personnel I have recommended some additional part time personnel within those budgets. Additionally I have not listed the requested swing set for Harborside Park within the submitted budget, but would recommend a $6,000 appropriation for that equipment, within the Parks Department Budget, should the Board wish to include it.
I would like to take the time to highlight the findings of the independent audit, which gave Seabrook strong marks for implementing management reforms, and for fiscal management. The Board of Selectmen have set strong priorities and policies for management to follow, and those policies are paying dividends from a management perspective, which translates into a much stronger fiscal position for our Town.
We have prepared the draft CIP, which will be submitted to you this week. A preliminary draft warrant, and prospective articles, have been prepared for you to examine as you review the municipal budget. I will also give you a review of requested, and dollar amounts, approved by voters for articles in this past three years. We will be able to provide capital spending by Department, which may be helpful in considering this years requests.
We have managed to submit a budget a bit earlier than we did last year, and we look forward to the Board’s review, comments and prospective changes. I would like to thank my staff for all of the hard work that has gone into preparation of the municipal budget. Our Finance Manager Carrie Fowler has done an outstanding job, not only in preparation of this budget, but in producing the audit results cited earlier. The Deputy Town Manager Kelly O’Connor has worked diligently on our budget, and has prepared the warrant articles for your consideration. My thanks to Procurement Manager Shaylia Marquis, who has worked to prepare our CIP. All of our Department Heads have worked very hard to make this budget process a smooth one, even when they hoped for different results. Seabrook is blessed with top quality professionals serving our citizens.

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Welcome to Seabrook Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union

It was a beautiful day yesterday for the Grand Opening of the Merrimack Valley Federal Credit Union’s newest branch in Seabrook. Our thanks to Peter Matthews and his team for the investment in Seabrook, which has brought a new and modern branch, and a regional banking presence to Seabrook. The Seabrook Board of Selectmen were on hand for the opening. Check out this new branch.



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The New Electoral Map Mid September Edition

With the Presidential race taking some twists and turns since Labor Day I thought it was time to put up a new map, and take a look at the race after Hillary Clinton had arguably her worst stretch since the Conventions. Without question the race has tightened, in national polling, but more importantly in key swing state polling, where some important changes have occurred. I am going to review changes to my last map, and see where that leaves us.

In both of my previous postings I have highlighted, for Donald Trump, the absolute necessity of winning Florida. That is still the case. I just cannot see the path to 270 for him without it. But his difficulty in getting to 270 is shown by this map, where even wins in Florida and Ohio do not bring him victory. Let us look at the changes from my last map, all of which favor Trump.

I have moved a group of states I had previously designated as “toss-up” into the Trump column, including Utah, Georgia, Iowa and most importantly Ohio. I am not entirely convinced on Ohio, but the trend lines, for two weeks, have favored Trump. (Reading numbers should not be impacted by partisan desires, which many forget) I have also assigned the 1 electoral vote in Maine Congressional 2 to Trump, although I believe that the state will remain solidly blue.

With the race tightening it still remains, in my opinion, Clinton’s race to lose. But with that tightening comes some focus on the swing states that now become very important for her. As I look at this map the focus, for me, comes onto New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada. Those states need to be maintained as Democratic, or the map could skewer in a negative way for Democrats.

I have left North Carolina as undecided, and a loss there would likely finish Trump. Trump really needs to run the table in order to win this thing. The debates loom as potentially more important than ever in a Presidential race. Even with a tough couple of weeks I still have Clinton over 270, with a narrow road to victory for Trump.

I am waiting for the electoral map from Ted Panos over at WCAP, who seems very reluctant to take up the challenge, and show me the error of my ways. Come on in Teddy. Give me the map.

Click the map to create your own at
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Review of the “When the Tea Party Came to Town” by Robert Draper

When the Tea Party Came to Town: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives' Most Combative, Dysfunctional, and Infuriating Term in Modern HistoryWhen the Tea Party Came to Town: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives’ Most Combative, Dysfunctional, and Infuriating Term in Modern History by Robert Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I caught a good sale at Amazon, so I picked this one up as a Kindle download. Sort of goes without saying that the book would not be for those not interested in how Congress works. For all others it is a good read, shedding light on some of the changes that came to pass with the arrival of the GOP Tea Party class of 2010, 87 strong. The book, in my opinion, comes off as non-judgemental, giving us a view from the perspective of so many newcomers to any government service.

The GOP freshmen class did not take long to start having an impact, bringing to Washington a deep disdain of government, an avowed desire to deeply slash spending, and an unshakeable belief that major changes they desired could occur while they only controlled the House. That belief eventually brought them into conflict with their own Speaker, John Boehner, who was really stuck between a rock and a hard place, dealing with his unruly caucus on one hand, and the Senate and Harry Reid on the other, with President Obama in the White House holding a large veto pen. The freshmen class and their fundamental lack of understanding of how Congress works brought much tension, and gridlock, to that institution. This book looks at that Congress through the eyes of some of those freshmen. I thought the author was exceedingly kind to Alan West, and obviously had great access to some of the most important members of that class, including West.

If you are trying to understand the roots of modern Congressional gridlock, and the fundamental reason John Boehner was eventually exiled by his own caucus, this book will help. It would be fair to say that American government, for fundamental operations, has always managed to compromise where political division existed. That does not mean that the politicians of yesterday were afraid to score political points, but that to some degree the adults in the room managed to keep government operating while debating fundamental political differences. This new group of freshmen felt that such “compromise” was a bad thing, and had brought negative results to the country. They were determined to bring more fundamental change, and had sold that idea to the voters back home who sent them to Washington. Governing would be secondary to ideological change. GOP Senator John Ensign summed it up:

“We got obsessed with governing,” Ensign said—adding with distaste, “making sure the trains run on time. Well, what if the train is heading towards the cliff?”

Although Ensign was not a member of this Congressional class his quote, in my view, summed up the philosophy accurately.

I am a Democrat, and I have had my share of partisan disgust at the gridlock and nonsense that substitutes for actual governing in Congress. I have looked at the actions of Congress and said to myself how could these people do (insert latest outrage). The reality is that we have created, ourselves, the system that we so decry. These GOP freshmen were not outliers, but rather accurately reflected the wishes of their constituents. Congressional gerrymandering, designed to protect incumbents and create ideologically homogeneous Congressional Districts, has worked on both fronts. Adding the gasoline of talk radio and new media (with a financial stake in political combat) to that mix and governing became an afterthought. The GOP leadership was slow to catch on, but with earmarks gone and the folks back home clamoring to defeat the socialists they were soon dissuaded of the notion that traditional compromise might be possible.

“Boehner, Cantor, and McCarthy had endeavored to find an upside to Congress’s deepening unpopularity. Perhaps, they hoped, the freshmen would get an earful back home and return to Washington in September with a newfound eagerness to compromise. But it wasn’t quite shaping up that way. The district maps that had been redrawn this year by predominantly GOP-controlled state legislatures as a result of the 2010 census meant that many Republicans now represented much more conservative territory—or, in some cases, much more Democratic, forcing them to migrate to a new district and run against a fellow Republican and in the process compelling them to prove their superior conservative bona fides. Right-wing advocates such as Heritage Action and Erick Erickson of continued to rate members on their votes and agitated for primary challenges against less conservative members like freshman Martha Roby and the Missouri moderate Jo Ann Emerson. (“Wow, what did you do to piss off Erick Erickson?” Texas freshman Bill Flores asked Emerson one afternoon on the House floor. She had never heard of the conservative blogger whose October 21 post began with the headline, ‘Paging the Missouri Tea Party: Here’s One to Primary.’)”

More fearful of a challenge from the right, (and a potential primary)the willingness of this new group to compromise to move government forward (or even to keep it open)was essentially lost, and likely never existed to start. Many of the newcomers were “true believers.”

Robert Draper has done a good job of following and reporting on this Congress, and showing us the mindset of the Tea Party folks who came to Washington looking to remake the federal government in a very radical way. They had impact, but never to the extent that they hoped. For that they blame Harry Reid and Barack Obama. But the real culprits were the founding fathers, who designed our system to make overnight change exceedingly difficult.

From Madison, in Federalist 51:

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State. But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit. It may even be necessary to guard against dangerous encroachments by still further precautions. As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified.”

A solid book by Draper that is well worth a look.

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Review of Give Em Hell by Terry Golway

Give 'em Hell: The Tumultuous Years of Harry Truman's Presidency, in His Own Words and Voice [With CD (Audio)]Give ’em Hell: The Tumultuous Years of Harry Truman’s Presidency, in His Own Words and Voice [With CD (Audio)] by Terry Golway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Got the book as a gift, and it was a very pleasant summer read. I have not read McCullough, but this effort will likely lead me to take that book up. The book includes an audio cd, which contains some of the memorable Truman speeches, and the book builds the chapters and narrative around those speeches. The audio quality is pretty good, and the chapters deal with some of the monumental events in U.S. history. Starting with Truman’s ascent to the Presidency after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the chapters bring us announcements of the surrender of Germany and Japan, the bringing forth of the Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of a war shattered Europe, the Truman campaign for a full term in 1948, and the long odds he faced as he started that campaign, the Korean War, and the controversial firing of General Douglas MacArthur. Truman and his administration were faced with “winning the peace” and showing the necessary resolve against the “probing” of Josef Stalin, our erstwhile WWII ally. This book gives you a better than Readers Digest version of Harry Truman, and does not aspire to be a biography, but rather a snapshot of some fascinating and important events in U.S. history. Truman left with a pretty low approval rating, but correctly predicted that history would bring him the positive recognition he deserved.

Some pretty good speeches by the “plain speaking” President are included. Track 24 got my attention, where the President warns of the excesses of the anti-communist movement, speaking against sacrificing our constitutional protections in order to defeat communism. Clearly an anti Joe McCarthy speech, but the Senator was never mentioned. Truman’s words ring true, and may have some real importance today.

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Seabrook Fire Department Recognition

The Seabrook Board of Selectmen, at their July meeting, recognized the Seabrook Fire Department for their outstanding work dealing with a major fire at Seabrook Beach. This fire required response from many surrounding communities, and for that mutual aid we are very grateful. Terrific help and cooperation from the Seabrook Police Department, who were on site rendering invaluable service.


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