Each year I present a finance report to the Board of Selectmen that covers Town financial data from 2014 on. In this case the covered period is 2014-2021. We examine the trends that the finance data show, and what challenges those trends bring to policy makers. The continuing shift away from the commercial/industrial sector as a percentage of the overall tax levy is shown through the NextEra (Seabrook Station) numbers over the measured period. NextEra as a percentage of the overall tax levy has gone from 42% to 28%. (The NextEra Shift) In 2021 the residential sector exceeded 50% of the total levy for the first time in the measured period.
With the application of fund balance the total tax levy in 2021 rose by under 4%. Despite that number the shifting of the overall burden to residential created, and will continue to create, a rising tax burden for the Seabrook residential sector.
I have included an executive summary that is attached below that brings some additional key data into the discussion for policy makers. We will be discussing the report at the Board meeting of May 16, 2022. I will post the 2021 Water and Sewer reports separately. They will be a key part of the ongoing discussions.
A pretty impressive book by Jimmy Soni, who manages to give us an up-close look at how PayPal was created, bringing us through the different iterations of the company. Who cares about PayPal? The group that created this company has become known for so much more than their work at PayPal. The list of “The Founders” includes Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, and a cast of coders that were nothing short of brilliant.
This book is not biographical. If you are looking for an in-depth look at any one of the individuals this is not your book. It will show you how a start-up, even with brilliant people at the helm, is often one step away from oblivion.
I was not aware of the history here, which includes the fact that PayPal was a merger of competing companies helmed separately by Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. This meter created PayPal, which eventually has Musk as the CEO.
Musk obviously has garnered a lot of publicity of late, and not everybody is happy about it. But this book shows you some of what he is made of. He had made a small fortune selling another company before his involvement in the PayPal predecessor X.Com. Musk, despite several twists and turns in just what product(s) his company was developing, was willing to stake a big chunk of his newly made fortune into X.Com. He had guts and was willing to gamble it all. But this is not an Elon Musk story. The team that developed from the merger of X.Com and Confinity (and even before) was free-wheeling, a bit reckless, and absolutely brilliant. Confinity initially invested heavily into a product that would allow money to be beamed between Palm Pilots. Maybe a good idea at the time, but as technology evolved so did the PayPal team, striking gold in realizing that there was a market for a payments provider for the auction site eBay, which was just taking off.
Soni does take us through the development of the business and how, even when the company appeared to find success, the chance of failure was ever present. How to combat user fraud, ward off the hostile EBay, who had their own payment platform, scale down customer acquisition costs, which were enormous, and stay one step ahead of regulators was a rough road indeed. The coders did amazing work here, and the entire group put in hours that were simply inhuman. But success depended on that level of commitment and this group was willing to pay the price.
I read a couple of reviews that were a bit critical of the level of detail on the business development in the book. I thought it was just right. With all of the big names involved here as younger men and women a certain legend has grown around the PayPal “Founders.” The group has gone on to some great heights after PayPal, and has been accorded the nickname “The PayPal Mafia.” You can see, through this book, how that group got its start, took a new market by storm, and made a barrel of money. Their success was not pre-ordained but came through hard work, brilliance in driving the company to the right spot in the market, and out-flanking business competitors. I enjoyed the book, and recommend it highly.
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll visited Methuen Saturday, campaigning for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. Mayor Driscoll is uniquely qualified for this office, having a distinguished career of public service. She is acknowledged as a top flight manager. Her record as Mayor of Salem is truly inspiring for the depth of accomplishment her tenure has provided. Read more about that record here. Thank you to Borrelli’s in Methuen for allowing us to gather there to discuss the issues and have Mayor Driscoll meet voters!
It was a pleasure to join the Seabrook Board of Selectmen at the grand opening of the new Historic Horse Racing machines and ballroom at “The Brook” in Seabrook. We were joined by the Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Patrick Abrami, Senator Tom Sherman, and of course Eureka CEO Andre Carrier and Eureka Chairman Greg Lee. Select Board Chair Aboul Khan expressed his deep appreciation for the investment in Seabrook made by Eureka. CEO Andre Carrier thanked the large crowd for their support. That crowd included many of the charities that have been beneficiaries of the vision of the New Hampshire Legislature and Governor Sununu to bring forward legislation that benefits some truly worthwhile New Hampshire non-profits. The Brook is now the largest charitable gaming casino in the United States. The evening unveiled the new Historic Horse Racing machines, as well as a new ballroom, and continued evolution of the facility due to the continuing investment in this great facility. Thank you to Andre and Greg for their continued commitment to “The Brook.”
The very old video history of Methuen put together for the celebration of Methuen’s 250th Anniversary. The listed chairs of the effort were James Smith and John Rimas, with assistance from Town Historian Ernest Mack. John Rimas recently passed away, and both he and Jim Smith were principals in the Methuen School system. We lost Jim Smith in 2016, and Mr. Mack in 2012. They did their best to make the 250th Anniversary a memorable one for Methuen.
I have been happy to do some posts about Methuen Inaugurals, with posts pairing some highlights from a new Mayor’s ceremony with a history of inaugural ceremonies in Methuen since the charter change creating the Mayor form in Methuen. Unfortunately, with COVID, Mayor Neil Perry was forced to forego a ceremony for his second term swearing in. A belated congratulations to Mayor Perry and the City Council upon the commencement of the new term of office this year.
I continue to find interesting documents in the “archives,” kept by my family. I have attached below the program book for my first mayoral inaugural ceremony in 2006, which of course included the City Council, the School Committee, the Nevins Library, and the Greater Lawrence Technical High School.
The officials that were sworn in that day were willing to offer themselves for service and were a fine group of public servants. We unfortunately have lost some of those officials in the many years that have gone by. We should remember those people always, as all were committed to the City of Methuen and contributed to the City in so many ways. They are:
Arthur Nicholson Kenneth Henrick Martha Welch Joseph Leone III Robert Andrew Pat Hennessy Madeline Varitimos
We had the honor of having Congressman Marty Meehan as part of the program. Marty Meehan is now the President of the University of Massachusetts system.
I have reprinted a letter to the editor to the Eagle Tribune written by myself and printed a few years back. This version has been edited.
As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day it seems fitting to remember and honor Michael Collins, called by Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan the “Man who Made Ireland.”
Collins remains a controversial historical figure, having made decisions that have been both hailed and vilified. To this day there is discomfort in some Irish republican circles talking about the historical record when it comes to Collins. The signing of the Good Friday Agreements in 1998 inevitably led to comparisons with the Collins decision, as one of the Irish plenipotentiaries, to sign the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Is it a fair comparison, and does it help us to assess the Collins legacy? I submit that it does.
The Collins legacy was created by his immense contributions to the Irish cause in the War of Independence that began in 1919. Collins had multiple roles in the self- proclaimed Irish government, including Minister of Finance, and Director of Intelligence. As Director of Intelligence Collins was responsible for combating the British intelligence service, as well as being instrumental in the formulation of the guerrilla tactics employed by the Irish Republican Army with such great success against the occupying British army. The tactics of Collins allowed a smaller, lesser equipped and self-trained guerrilla army to fight the world’s greatest military power to a draw.
Collins’ creation of “The Squad” also allowed him to brutally eliminate British intelligence assets in Ireland, reversing the ability of the British to know what the Irish resistance was planning, and giving the Irish an insight into British intelligence activities that had never been available to them prior to his efforts. His contributions, recognized by all as indispensable, led Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, to remark that Collins was “the man who won the war.”
With the declaration of truce in July of 1921 the Irish and the British began to talk about settlement of the issues outstanding. The Irish position was indeed difficult, as the political agenda had been laid out by the Easter Proclamation of 1916, which declared an Irish Republic, with governing authority over the entire island. The political and governing authority of the self-proclaimed Irish Dail flowed from that document. The British had other ideas.
Michael Collins was sent to London in October of 1921 as part of the Irish negotiating team, empowered by the Irish Dail to sign a treaty with the British. Space will not allow a full examination of the issues involved in the sending of Collins, but it is clear that the Irish President, Eamon De Valera, having been to London in July with a negotiating team that did not include Collins, realized that any agreement would, by necessity, fall short of the Irish ideal. He chose not to go again but to send Collins and Arthur Griffith as the heads of the Irish delegation. De Valera’s decision, and subsequent actions, had tragic consequences for the Irish nation.
Collins brought home a treaty, later ratified by the Cabinet, the Dail, and the Irish people, that gave Ireland Dominion status, recognizing the British king as sovereign, and allowed British control over Irish ports. But it removed the British military presence from the 26 counties of the newly created Irish Free State, which enabled Collins to correctly state that the treaty was a “stepping stone” to true Irish independence. History has borne out the Collins judgment, but the treaty itself propelled the Irish Civil War, and split the Irish political leadership in two, and led to the death of Collins.
The political arguments centered principally on the oath of allegiance to the British king, and the acceptance of partition through the unionist veto in the northern six counties. (Which was not a provision of this treaty, but had been achieved through the Government of Ireland Act of 1920) Collins principal political opponent on the treaty, Eamon De Valera, entered the Free State Dail in 1927 and took the oath. He later, using the Free State apparatus that he had so vehemently opposed, got rid of the oath and produced a new constitution for Ireland. The Irish Free State, under a Fine Gael Taoiseach, proclaimed Ireland a Republic in 1948. Collins argument, that the Free State would propel Ireland towards a fuller freedom, had come to pass.
And so we arrive at the Good Friday Agreement, reached in 1998. The agreement included the I.R.A., and dealt with partition, amongst a host of other issues. In short it codified the principle that the northern six counties could not be compelled to join the Irish Republic but would do so only by vote of the six counties. It deleted the provision in the De Valera constitution that made a territorial claim to the Northern six by the Irish Republic and did so after approval by the voters of the Republic of Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement, as well as the evolvement of the Free State into the Irish Republic, provides undeniable proof of the essential brilliance of Michael Collins. He saw in 1921 what it took so many others multiple decades to see. That vision and the record that follows him surely vindicates the difficult, but ultimately necessary decisions he had to make to create the Irish Free State and ultimately the Irish Republic. He truly is the father of modern Ireland.
Aside from some occasional music posts I do not typically put up posts on actors. William Hurt shall be the exception. He passed away this past weekend, and while his movie credits are extensive and his awards many I was always fascinated by his involvement with Lawrence Kasdan, the writer/director of The Big Chill and Body Heat. Not everyone agrees but those two films brought William Hurt some of his greatest roles, and brought us some truly outstanding performances. Kasdan wrote some great movies, but Hurt truly was magnificent in both. He had so many other great, and Oscar winning performances, but for today lets look at some of the clips from his partnership with Kasdan. The great score from Body Heat by John Barry should not be forgotten either. RIP William Hurt.