Each year the Office of the Town Manager provides the Board of Selectmen with a look at key financial data through this report, as well as a capital spending report and reports on the water and sewer departments.
The report contains some key data for Seabrook, as well as attempting to explain how the property tax system works. Some of that key data: 1. The new independent audit will show an unexpended fund balance of $8.1 million. This number comes despite the fact that $1.8 million has been draw from fund balance to finance capital projects over the measured period. Additionally $6.3 million has been drawn from the fund to subsidize the tax rate. Without the fund withdrawals that number would stand at $16 million. 2. The overall tax levy, from 2014 to 2020, increased at an average of 1.5%. In 2019 the tax levy decreased from 2018, and the tax levy in 2020 was less than the levy in 2018. 3. The “NextEra Shift” continues to impact residential taxpayers, as the overall percentage of the levy contributed by NextEra has declined from 2014 to 2020. (42% in 2014 to 29.5% in 2020.) 4. Commercial, in 2020, paid 52% of the total levy.
This report is submitted in advance of the budget deliberations, and hopefully assists the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee as they formulate the policies that will shape the FY 2022 budget.
I got this book as a gift. It turned out to be a great gift, as the book, from my perspective, was excellent. The book itself, of course in this day and age, has drawn some criticism for being a hagiography of George H.W. Bush. After reading it I would say that Meacham has a deep respect for Bush 41, but it would seem to me that respect is driven by Meacham’s admiration for a form of governance that includes compromise, that is not driven by hard core partisanship at all times. Whether you agree with Meacham or not he believes Bush, whatever his faults, represented a style of governance that may be gone forever. On that score Meacham is sympathetic to Bush. I do believe that Meacham was fair in his criticism of Bush 41, but that criticism is not shrill, and does not come with a sharp edge. If you are looking to see George H.W. Bush torn apart this is not your book.
I was quite taken, as a matter of style, at how easy of a read this was. Meacham has put together 600 pages on a very important person in U.S. history that flowed, was deeply interesting, and gave the right amount of detail to make it such a great read. This book, despite its length, does not delve into great detail on the issues of the day. It is more of an overview of the life and times of George H.W. Bush.
The life and times of George H.W. Bush consists of so much more than his one-term presidency. Bush had the advantage of having a wealthy father who became a U.S. Senator. Meacham gives us a good overview of the Bush family, and the Walker family that Prescott Bush married into. Prescott was an Eisenhower Republican, later a supporter of Nelson Rockefeller. That lineage, and the home base of Connecticut, hung with Bush 41 for his entire life, making him suspect to the conservative right that would end up taking over the national GOP. This was true even though Bush moved to Texas and became a successful oil man.
Bush had quite a career, and Meacham gives us a great look at all of the stops he made along the way to the Presidency. Bush was a Congressman from Texas, lost U.S. Senate races to Ralph Yarborough and later to Lloyd Bentsen, and caught the eye of President Richard Nixon. In the Yarborough race, in the LBJ/Goldwater year of 1964, Bush was willing, despite his pedigree, to go full Goldwater, coming out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and criticizing Yarborough for his vote to break the southern filibuster of that Act. Meacham lays that out, and gently points out the Bush bow to political expediency, something that we would see more than a few times during his career. Meacham balances this out with some letters from Bush bemoaning the state of racial politics in Texas, and nationally, at the time.
“ What shall I do? How will I do it? he asked. I want to win, but not at the expense of justice, not at the expense of the dignity of any man… nor teaching my children a prejudice that I do not feel. “Meacham, Jon Destiny and Power The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush“ Page 121.
Bush, after the Yarborough defeat, was elected as a Congressman from the 7th District in Texas. Despite his earlier positions Bush voted for the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and in so doing brought a heap of abuse upon himself from Texas voters who strongly disagreed with that position. Bush, on the issue of civil rights, could not be placed squarely with the developing hard right.
After his loss to Bentsen he nearly became a member of Richard Nixon’s White House staff, getting a verbal appointment from Nixon, and being placed into the hands of Nixon Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman. Bush managed to convince Nixon that he could serve the administration more effectively as the Ambassador to the U.N. Nixon came to see the wisdom of this, and appointed George H.W. Bush to his first major post serving Republican Presidents. Bush became Ambassador at a heady time, with political giants like Nixon and Kissinger beginning the China outreach, with the status of Taiwan at the U.N. becoming more difficult. Bush fought for a difficult political proposition; keeping Taiwan in the body representing China. Bush would lose that fight, as Taiwan was expelled on his watch.
Bush, after the Nixon re-election, was asked by the President to become the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Bush took the position, reluctantly, and of course was at the helm when Watergate broke. Bush came to recognize that Nixon had misled the nation, but as RNC Chair he was forced into a very difficult political balancing act. Bush, in a sign of his political skill, managed to navigate his way through that disaster without derailing his own career. After Nixon’s resignation President Ford had Bush on a short list for Vice President. Bush lost that nod to Nelson Rockefeller. Also in consideration was Donald Rumsfeld. Ford sent Bush to China as the U.S. envoy (the U.S. still had not established diplomatic relation with China) a position that played to the Bush desire to burnish his foreign policy credentials.
With Rockefeller deposed by Ford as Vice President for the general election of 1976 Bush was called back to Washington to serve as Director of the CIA. Bush 41 always believed that Donald Rumsfeld had engineered that appointment, hoping to bury Bush in a dead end job and knock him out of consideration for the Vice Presidential nomination on the GOP ticket. That feeling, true or not, never really left Bush, who disliked Rumsfeld from that point forward.
Bush took over the CIA at a very difficult time, as the Church hearings on CIA abuses were underway, creating pretty severe issues for the agency. This book will not give you a detailed look at Bush in action as CIA Director, but I think it fair to say that he won pretty good reviews for the job he did.
After the Ford loss to Jimmy Carter Bush stepped down as Director, at the request of President Carter. He then began preparations for his own run for the Presidency in four years. We get a good look at that campaign, which Bush did very well in. He managed to defeat Ronald Reagan in Iowa, and to put a real scare into the Reagan campaign. The slumbering Reagan campaign finally came to life in New Hampshire, where the Gipper, in a must win position, carried the day. Some great tidbits from the campaign, including a nice look at the debate fiasco in New Hampshire, in Nashua. Reagan and his team out-maneuvered the Bush folks, and Reagan never looked back. We get a great look at the Republican vice presidential sweepstakes after the Reagan win, with Gerald Ford, for a while, looking like he might join the ticket and once again dash the Bush hopes for a vice presidential nod. Eventually that somewhat crazy idea passed, and Reagan turned to Bush.
Bush had eight years as Vice President under Reagan, and Meacham shows us how Bush was determined to be a loyal veep, and to build trust with Reagan. Despite some light tension with Nancy Reagan Bush in fact did build that trust. In so doing Bush became somewhat embroiled in Iran-Contra near the end of Reagan’s tenure. We don’t get a lot on the Bush role, but Meacham concedes that the Bush responses to these questions were not always forthright. Meacham also scores Bush for the advice he gave Reagan on this issue, and Meacham was right. The episode was not one of George H.W. Bush’s proudest moments.
Bush went on to win the presidency in his own right, and we get a good overview of his four years. Bush, as most would concede, was a fairly strong President on foreign affairs. His stewardship of the Gulf War, to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, was a decision he made over some pretty strong opposition. His decision for war was so successful, in my view, due to the limited strategic objectives for the operation. His decisions on the reunification of Germany, and the great care he took to ensure Soviet non-opposition to that reunification, and to Germany joining NATO, were master strokes. The Bush record in that regard, in my view, is outstanding. Meacham makes clear that from the start Bush was somewhat befuddled by domestic policy. Bush ended up making the budget deal that broke the “read my lips” no taxes pledge, but Meacham is sympathetic. Bush honestly felt that the deal was in the best interests of the country, and so was willing to take that heat. Meacham shows Bush truly floundering in this area, although Bush, even domestically, had some major victories, even with Congress firmly in Democratic hands. The signing of the American Disabilities Act was one such notable achievement. The disarray Bush found himself in domestically managed to drag him down from the vast heights he reached, polling wise, after the success of Desert Storm. Meacham shows us how the Bush heart was not truly in the re-election bid, which he lost to someone more versed in modern political techniques, William Jefferson Clinton.
The Bush post presidency was more involved than most, as his son won the Presidency after two terms of Clinton. We get a look at some of the dynamics between father and son. Meacham gives both 41 and 43 an opportunity to rebut the speculation on the father opposing the Iraq misadventure of the son. Bush 41 strongly denied this, and I believe that he did not in any way try to steer his son off the Iraq policy that proved so disastrous. But I do not believe that he was completely quiet, with the Brent Scowcroft column breaking with 43 in the Wall Street Journal one of those signals. That was heartily denied by all but I do not believe it. This book made headlines at publishing because of the comments 41 made to Meacham essentially accusing Cheney and Rumsfeld of advising 43 poorly on the Iraq situation. He was also critical of his son over some of the rhetoric used by the Administration. George H.W. Bush was correct in those criticisms.
George H.W. Bush did not just parachute into the presidency. He served in many important posts, and made major contributions even before he was elected President. He made some tough choices that many believe were wrong, and I do believe he came to be ashamed of the tactics deployed against Michael Dukakis in his winning campaign for the Presidency. (Lee Atwater wrote Dukakis a letter of apology before he died.) This book gives us a great look at the Bush life, and despite what you may have heard it is a balanced look. George H.W. Bush lived at a momentous time in American history, and he made real contributions to the country. He felt that the country had passed him by, and in some respects it had, but his Presidency was not, as he sometimes lamented, an asterisk. This book helps us to understand the very important life, and contributions, of George H.W. Bush.
Just a terrific book by Montville. I admit to coming into the book enthusiastically, being a Celtics fan and a Lakers hater but I think Montville gives us substantially more than a look at the 1969 finals between the Lakers and Celtics. He brings us back to that point in time, giving us a reminder not only of the series but of the times, and the characters, including himself, that were of that time. Montville was a young sportswriter, just getting started, thrust into covering what turned out to be the last hurrah of the Bill Russell led Boston Celtics.
Montville does as good of a job as you can do unpacking all of the undercurrents involved in the 1969 NBA finals between the Lakers and the Celtics. He gives us a look, as mentioned, at some of the Boston sports beat writers, and that is not always a pretty view. Montville mentions the over the top racism of some of those writers, calling one in particular out by name. I found some of the press stuff to be fascinating and to me that is part of the worth of the book. It is more than basketball, but does not lose its focus on the main event. Montville, in my view, weaves the story together beautifully.
The Celtics-Lakers showdown in 1969 had so much storyline. Bill Russell vs Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West trying to break the string of losses to the Celtics in so many NBA finals, the decline of the Celtics dynasty, and the berth of a new super-team in the Los Angeles Lakers, with three bona fide superstars. Montville gets to all of them in a way that is understandable even if you are not all that acquainted with basketball in this era.
In this, Bill Russell’s last season, the Boston Celtics were indeed an aging team that struggled through the NBA regular season, finishing in fourth place in the East, the last eligible playoff slot. They were a better team than that, but age and injury slowed them over the long NBA season. As the playoffs started not many gave them a chance to advance far in the playoffs. They defeated the second place Philadelphia team that had traded Chamberlain to the Lakers. That team, with Chamberlain, was and is considered to be one of the greatest teams in NBA history. Without Chamberlain the Celtics rolled over them in the playoffs. They then faced off against a New York Knicks team with Clyde Frazier, Willis Reed, and (mid season pickup) Dave DeBusschere. This was the Knick team that would rise to greatness in the years to come, especially 1970. The Celtics disposed of them in six games. I mention the run up to the NBA Finals because the folklore was always that Russell won because he had better teams. It was not true in 1969, even before the Finals. It was not true before 1969, but that is a story for another book.
Even before we get to the series the Chamberlain-Russell rivalry is examined in the context of Chamberlain’s long history of losing to Russell led teams. Montville gives us some quotes from Wilt on the role of luck in some Celtic victories of prior years. We Celtic fans called that Wilt whining. We get to look at the regular season match-up between these two teams, although the regular season, especially for Boston, was not very important. (Lakers won 4 of the 6 regular season games)
As a Celtic fan I always took some unkind pleasure in the misery Boston imposed on Jerry West throughout his career. As much as Wilt was tormented by the losses to Russell West was severely traumatized by the many losses to Boston in the NBA finals. The trauma, I am sure, was exacerbated by Boston’s perceived arrogance. His psyche was not helped by Red Auerbach blowing cigar smoke in their faces after Boston wins. With the addition of Chamberlain the Lakers finally had a center that could match up with Russell, and West made it clear that 1969 would be the year that the Celtics got a well deserved comeuppance.
As mentioned Montville talks not only about the series but also the media coverage. I was also very young, but I remember listening to games one and two from Los Angeles on radio (no TV coverage) with Johnny Most doing the play by play. Those first two games, both won by the Lakers, exhibited the already established greatness of West, and the real beginnings of the greatness of John Havlicek. West had 53 in game one, and 41 in game 2. Havlicek was immense, pouring in 37 in game 1, and 43 in game 2. The series was played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, with the first two in LA. On the return to Boston the Celtics won game 3, and that brought us to one of the pivotal moments of the series in game 4. Those two Boston games were blacked out in the Boston tv market, forcing fans on to the radio dial with Johnny Most. But, indignity of all indignities the Celtics were bumped to the FM dial in game four, which in 1969 was not in many homes. My dad had a stereo console that had an FM receiver, and so I was able to listen to one exciting game. The Lakers had the game won, with a one point lead and the ball with seconds left, but a late Celtics steal led to a timeout. In that timeout the Celtics called a play that they had not used before (came to be known as the Ohio play) that had a triple pick being set at the top of the key for Sam Jones, who managed to get the shot off while jumping off the wrong foot after slipping. The ball hit the front rim, the back rim, and dropped through the net for the Celtics win. Maybe Wilt had a point about good luck!
After trading home court wins it all came down to game 7 in Los Angeles. Each team had won every home game, and the Lakers were sure of victory. Of course Montville had to talk about the victory balloons that Jack Kent Cooke had in the rafters at the Fabulous Forum for the sure victory that was to come over the hated Celtics. That game was televised in Boston, starting at a very late hour in Boston, and it truly was reflective of the series. The Celtics raced to an early lead, Chamberlain got hurt in the second half, but the Lakers came storming back with Chamberlain on the bench, and nearly overtook Boston. As in game 4 the Celtics benefitted from a play that led to a Don Nelson shot from the foul line that hit the back of the rim, went straight up, and came back down right through the net. That shot broke the back of the Laker comeback, and Russell had done it again, winning his 11th championship in 13 years. What about Chamberlain? Although injured he shook it off and requested to come back in to the game. Laker Coach Bill van Breda Kolff, happy with the Laker rally, declined to put Wilt back in the game. That decision would be hotly debated for years to come. West, in losing again, had 42 points in game 7, and was declared the Series MVP, the first and only time a member of the losing team had won that honor. West averaged 37.8 points per game in the final, and he was truly an unstoppable force.
After the series Russell eventually announced his retirement. What more could he achieve? His last win may have been his greatest, but there were so many to choose from. His supporting cast was a bit on the older side, but they had talent. Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Bailey Howell, Emmett Bryant, Don Nelson, and Larry Siegfried all were outstanding. Sam went out with Russell, retiring with ten rings. If you are a Celtics fan this book will bring some team history back, but it also brings back the media history, some of Montville’s personal history, and the feel of a time that has passed. I thought I would enjoy the book, but it was better than I expected. Pick this one up and enjoy a trip back in time.
Jerry West leaves the court after the crushing game 7 loss to the Celtics.
Each year the Office of the Town Manager provides the Board of Selectmen with reports detailing financial results and other data from our Water Department as well as our Sewer Department. Those reports are below. The actions undertaken by the Board of Selectmen to eradicate the subsidy from taxpayers to water users has proven successful, with water operations now contributing, in 2020, $402,769 to water capital costs. In Water the Board action has eliminated what was an unsustainable burden on the municipal budget. Water usage overall was up by just over 1%, but that number is impacted by our reduction in the lost, unmetered water category. Residential use was up by 11%, and the Seabrook Station usage was up by 21%. Commercial usage increased at a negligible 1%. Obviously those numbers were impacted by the pandemic.
On the Wastewater side we have managed to cut, but not eliminate, the subsidy from the taxpayers. In 2020 that subsidy was just about cut in half from 2018, but remains at $617,849. Sewer flows declined in 2020, and the plant is currently being used at 35% of capacity. When combined with water the operational subsidy still exists, with a subsidy of $215,080 going from taxpayers to water/sewer operations. Before the Board action that subsidy was over $2 million.
The “subsidy” described is one that only deals with the “operational” budget, and excludes capital spending. If capital is included the taxpayers still provide a substantial subsidy. I will post the capital report that will show some of the numbers involved for all departments, including water and sewer.
These reports are provided annually to the Board to help inform budgetary decisions that will be made in the weeks to come. I will post an overall financial report, as well as a look at a nine year history of capital spending in Seabrook in the next few days. These reports will be presented to the Board of Selectmen on August 16, 2021.
BJ’s Wholesale Club opened for business in Seabrook with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The Board of Selectmen were on hand to welcome this major new business to Seabrook. BJ’s is located on Perkins Avenue, right off Route 1 and is a major piece of economic development for Seabrook.
C&J Bus opened their brand new facility in Seabrook on the site of the old Sam’s Club. CJ relocated from Newburyport and has been the linchpin of the redevelopment of the Sam’s Club site. The Seabrook Board of Selectmen were enthusiastic supporters of this redevelopment, which is bringing millions of dollars of investment, and jobs, to Seabrook. My thanks to Jim Jalbert and his family for this investment in Seabrook. The grand opening had the honor of having Governor Chris Sununu on hand for this event. Thanks to our great legislative delegation for their strong support as well.
Town of Seabrook Wastewater Treatment Facility Climate Resilience Assessment
Seabrook’s Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF), supporting roadway, and pump stations are vulnerable to climate impacts such as sea level rise and coastal storm surge. Located on Wright’s Island, the aging WWTF collects and treats residential, commercial, and industrial wastewater from most of the town. Any disruptions to WWTF operation due to flooding from sea-level rise and storm surge could result in significant public health risks. In order to inform long-term planning and ensure public health and safety, the WWTF Climate Resilience Assessment project will help the Town:
Better understand specific climate impacts to the WWTF
Identify potential adaptation options for improving the resilience of the WWTF
Inform the public of project results
Preparing for the long-term impacts of climate change will be critical for the future of our community. Through the Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) resiliency planning process, we want to ensure you are informed about the decisions the Town is making to safeguard this critical community asset. The Town has released a video and online comment form (tinyurl.com/SeabrookComment) to hear your comments and questions about conceptual resiliency options to help ensure that our WWTF is able to function in current and future changing conditions.
This project was funded, in part, by NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act in conjunction with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Coastal Program. The Town has contracted Weston & Sampson, an interdisciplinary design and engineering consultancy, to support this project.
Follow the Town’s website and Facebook platforms (@townofseabrooknh and @seabrookwwtf) for updates on this project. Visit the comment form (tinyurl.com/SeabrookComment) or contact the Seabrook Sewer Department at Wastewater@seabrooknh.org or 603-474-8012 for questions regarding this project.
The Board of Selectmen recognized the outstanding work of the Seabrook Fire Department at their meeting yesterday. Firefighters Troy Coleman, Binky Perkins, Rich Curtis, Jeremy Wright, and Captains Frank Chase and Seth Coleman were recognized for their quick and decisive actions that helped to save the life of a Seabrook resident at a home fire in March. Congratulations and thanks to this great crew of Seabrook Firefighters.
Chris Whipple has come up with a fine book giving us a look at CIA Directors, starting in the Kennedy/Johnson era. I read Whipple’s “The Gatekeepers” which was a very insightful book about White House Chief of Staffs. He has used the same techniques here, gathering the thoughts of CIA Directors still alive through interviews which offered some excellent commentary. Whipple gives us a look at the Directors, and how they interacted with the Presidents they served, starting with the most fascinating of spies, Richard Helms. Helms was a career man at the agency, and was in a position of authority, but not director, during the Bay of Pigs fiasco that caused so much turmoil at the Agency. Whipple shows us Helms, the expert bureaucratic infighter, not being “in the loop” on the Bay of Pigs planning. He was in a position of authority when the CIA, under orders, embarked upon Operation Mongoose, a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro with the help of U.S. organized crime figures. The Helms material is augmented by interviews with his widow Cynthia, and Whipple’s treatment of Helms, in certain instances, may be considered overly generous. Whipple reports Helms statement that when he took over as DDP in 1962 he “shut down” the CIA assassination plot against Castro. Whipple acknowledges that the evidence does not support Helms on that score. Helms took over as Director after appointment by LBJ, and as Director was charged with providing intelligence on North Vietnam. In this, the first Director covered, we see the constant theme of the Whipple effort. Helms provided intelligence on the Vietnam War that was not to LBJ’s liking, with LBJ simply ignoring the analysis that he disagreed with. (The CIA provided a 250 page analysis “The Vietnamese Communists Will to Persist” that was pessimistic about the U.S. ability to achieve its war aims) Helms in this instance did his job but determined that pushing LBJ on that score was not prudent for the agency.
“Helms reached a point where, in the morning briefings and the President’s daily brief, we just slacked off on providing information on Vietnam, said analyst Kerr. We did not do the aggressive pieces that were negative because they were counterproductive.”
The Spymasters Whipple Chris p 37.
Despite the recognition that LBJ was not receptive to this line of analysis Helms CIA took on the so called “domino theory” which argued that a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam would lead to a communist wave of takeovers in Southeast Asia by producing “Implications of an Unfavorable Outcome in Vietnam” which diplomatically called into question the domino theory. Helms may have not pushed LBJ too hard but he kept producing analysis that was honest, and not what the President wanted. He walked a tightrope, including having to deal with demands by LBJ for domestic surveillance of the anti-war movement, a violation of the CIA Charter.
The Helms portion of the book, as mentioned, in some fashion sets the stage for the rest of the Whipple effort. How does the CIA Director maintain relevancy, and access to the President, if the intelligence being provided does not dovetail with what the Presidents desires? We get to examine the George Tenet “slam dunk” to George W. Bush on Iraqi WMD. A great section on the time of George H.W. Bush as CIA Director, considered by most observers to be a successful tenure. (Bush felt, with some justification, that he had been maneuvered into the slot by rival Donald Rumsfeld, who was looking to isolate Bush into what he believed to be a dead end job politically) Ronald Reagan’s Director, William Casey, led him into what became the Iran-Contra scandal, which wounded the Reagan presidency.
The book, from my perspective, gets high marks, giving us an overview of the Agency, and how it operates. Enhanced interrogation techniques? Yes we get a pretty good back and forth on that, and so many of the issues that have dogged the agency over the years. One theme referenced by Whipple is the Washington cliche that “there are only policy successes-and intelligence failures.” With the recognition, articulated by former Director Bob Gates, that “the CIA has one protector, and one customer, and if you can’t get that relationship right then the agency is screwed” the Agency has unfortunately molded intelligence to that reality. Whipple has given us the good, the bad, and the ugly in this book. We even get a quick look at James Jesus Angelton, likely the most impactful non-director to ever work at the Agency. More on Angelton in the fine book “Wilderness of Mirrors.” Pick this one up!
Due to the abnormally dry conditions, the Town of Seabrook Water Department is asking its customers to observe Voluntary Outside Water Use Restrictions.
The drought of 2020 has continued in the form of Abnormally Dry conditions through the winter and spring, resulting in lower groundwater levels. These conditions have reduced production capacity.
Restrictions are voluntary at this time, and the focus of our messaging is to eliminate excessive water use . This can be done by repairing any leaks inside or outsides of homes or businesses, reducing the frequency of washing cars and refraining from washing driveways and sidewalks. Also the Town would like residents and businesses to limit irrigation to 30 minutes every other day. Hopefully, this will reduce the need for mandatory water use restrictions later this summer.