Seabrook Goes Paperless for Board of Selectmen Meetings

The Town of Seabrook has gone paperless for Board of Selectmen meetings, allowing us to transmit data, including backup data, to the Board of Selectmen more efficiently, with significantly less staff time, paper, and copying costs for the Town. With the price of paper rising, and the Town already deploying tablets within our asset management program, we had the ability to provide tablets for meeting access to the materials (agenda and backup) for the Board. This access is not limited to the tablets, which primarily reside in Town Hall. Access to the intranet is available through desktops and laptops as well, giving the Board an ability to view agendas, past and present, by accessing the site through their own computers.

While we looked at several alternatives as we approached this issue, including agenda software, we opted to build an intranet with password access, and multiple layers to it, allowing us to scale the project to other Boards. We currently have tabs for Planning and Zoning, and will have full employee access for information postings (internal bulletin board) very soon.

While access to the current agenda is the main purpose of this effort we felt it important to facilitate Board access to prior meetings, including backup, in order to allow research, to be able to retrieve older documents without an endless paper chase, and to be able to view the video of the meeting. We have connected the intranet with our meeting video retention software, providing a direct link on the agenda page to the meeting video. Chasing video requests internally is now a thing of the past.

My thanks to IT Director Brian Murphy, who worked long and hard, and skillfully, on this project. My thanks to Deputy Town Manager Kelly O’Connor, who kept the work flow on schedule, and thanks also to Project Clerk Kelsey Mae Boscoe, who is now setting up the online agendas and backup. Great team effort.

An especially big thank you to the Board of Selectmen who really pushed for the project, and looked after it frequently. They recognized the financial benefits to the Town, and were invested heavily in the project.

The link to the media coverage here.

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A look at “The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour” by Andrew Rawnsley

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New LabourThe End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour by Andrew Rawnsley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A terrific, and detailed book, about the second and third terms of “New Labour” led by Tony Blair, and then by Gordon Brown. This book is a follow-up to the author’s “Servants of the People” look at the first term of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, and “New Labour.”

Like the first book the central theme remains the constant political warfare between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and how that impacted the governing of the Labor government. Of course the events they were dealing with in the second and third terms included Blair’s politically misguided Iraq war decisions, which the author covers in detail. That detail is not kind to Prime Minister Blair, nor should it be. Gordon Brown does not fare much better, and is shown in the worst light, both as a Chancellor constantly trying to push Blair towards the exit, and as the Prime Minister when he finally got Blair to go.

As British political history goes this book is invaluable. Tony Blair led Labour to three general election victories, and although Brown was often credited as the political mastermind of those victories it is quite apparent that Blair should have gotten a much larger share of the credit. When Blair exited the entire apparatus fell apart, although his Iraq decision played some role in the ultimate demise of “New Labour.” The constant battles between Blair and Brown were in many cases centered on policy, but the author shows us a conniving Brown using policy to try to try to undercut his own Prime Minister. Fairly or not the view has always been that Blair was more flash and spin than substance and detail, but I never bought that line entirely. Without a doubt Blair used media to hype, and yes, to spin, press coverage. But he knew his brief, and showed that knowledge during Prime Minister’s Questions, where he frequently made short work of the Tory Leader. The author sticks to that theme here, pointing to the Blair tendency to gloss over detail while embracing “vision.” It was observed by Sir Robin Butler that:

“the attitude of Tony Blair and New Labour was that it was their job to have the concept. They would define the New Jerusalem. It was the civil service’s job to get there. So if one failed to achieve everything that the Government wanted, this was somehow the fault of the technicians, the civil service. Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Objectives require resources, organisations, discussions about capacity.”

Rawnsley, Andrew. The End of the Party (p. 288). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

“What Blair lacked was a sustained interest in the mechanics of delivery. ‘He latched on to issues,’ observes Sir Stephen Wall. ‘But he didn’t have a really determined follow-through.’49 Margaret Jay coined a phrase for the boredom in Blair’s eyes when he was forced to listen to the ‘nitty gritty’ of policy. She called it ‘the garden look’. His ‘gaze would shift’ and look longingly through the window and out into the back garden of Number 10.”

Rawnsley, Andrew. The End of the Party (p. 289). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

The author covers the Iraq debacle at some length, and shows what I have always believed to be Blair’s true motivation: his desire to maintain the “special relationship” with the U.S., at all costs, and to be the “bridge” between Europe and George W. Bush. Blair believed he could influence the Bush Administration Iraq policy by proximity to the President, but his hopes in that regard were dashed by Bush (and Cheney and Rumsfeld.) The power in that relationship was obviously disproportionately in Bush’s favor, but the author speculates that Bush, as always, was underestimated politically by the British.

“Bush was a politician of some skill. This was rarely noticed by most people in Europe and wholly forgotten later when Bush became such a discredited figure. Yet it was true. Blair was once asked by a colleague: ‘What do you see in Bush?’ Blair responded: ‘He’s got charm and peasant cunning.’ This was a potent combination when allied with the most powerful office in the world. ‘I think Bush genuinely liked Blair,’ says Meyer. ‘But he used Blair.’ ‘Bush was a very artful politician,’ agrees another senior official. ‘Blair thought he was running the relationship, but he was being run.’ At Crawford and subsequently, Bush out-Blaired Blair. The Prime Minister thought he could ride the tiger; he ended up inside its stomach.”

Rawnsley, Andrew. The End of the Party (pp. 95-96). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Blair’s decisions on Iraq have had an outsized influence on British politics since, impacting the Labor Party and the entire system in ways still felt to this very day. Blair’s record will always have that monumental error on it, but he had plenty of substantial achievements as P.M. as well, including the Good Friday Agreement, which is also still playing a major role in British politics as Brexit negotiations continually founder on the issue of the Irish “backstop.” Blair proved himself, over the longer term, to be a vastly superior politician than Brown, whose tenure as P.M. had some shining moments, but was in many respects a continual train wreck. Rawnsley covers the Brown premiership in sometimes excruciating detail. Brown’s inability to make decisions, and then to make bad decisions when he got around to execution, is covered very well. Brown’s decision making process was neatly summed up by political observer Sue Cameron, who said:

“When John Major was in Number 10 and there was a big decision to be taken, he would order papers and he would read through them, often quite late into the night. The next morning, he’d make a decision. When Blair was in Number 10, he’d tell his civil servants to read the papers and give him a shortlist of options and in the morning he’d make a decision. With Gordon, he sends for the papers, he reads them late into the night and then the next morning he sends for more papers.”

Rawnsley, Andrew. The End of the Party (p. 524). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Brown ended up losing to a Conservative Leader who seemed to emulate Tony Blair, David Cameron. He seemed, after the fact, and maybe a little before the fact, to become aware of some of his own shortcomings as P.M. Brown was, and is, a very smart man, but he spent a career trying to push Tony Blair out of the P.M. job. When he finally got the crown he found that the job was a little harder than he thought. Some real irony in the fact that Brown, as P.M., had trouble with a Chancellor who would not buy into his program. I am sure Tony Blair found that irony more than a little satisfying. Great book, highly recommended.

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Happy Birthday Eric Clapton

One of the very greatest musicians of his era, and most certainly at the top of the list of the great rock guitarists, Eric Clapton turns 74 today. He has never been content to stay in one musical spot for very long, and while that has brought some short term disappointment it has brought us a career of outstanding music done his way. His ability to share the stage with some of the greatest talent in music has brought us all endless enjoyment. The below clips are from Clapton reuniting with the great Steve Winwood at a Crossroads festival to bring us what I consider to be the very best version of the Blind Faith masterpiece “Can’t Find My Way Home” as well as Clapton sitting in as a session player in 1967 for Aretha as she does “Good to Me As I Am to You.” Clapton’s wardrobe for that session might have been a bit out there but he showed what he could do sitting in with some very talented musicians. His meeting, and playing with, Duane Allman brought us some music through the Layla sessions that still amazes all these years later. Happy Birthday Slow Hand!

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The Seabrook CIP Seven Year Spending Review

Below I have posted the seven year review of Seabrook Capital Spending, along with a supporting document of tabs that show the basis of the numbers in the main report. This document is designed to show how much we are spending on capital, how we are financing it, and where those capital tax dollars are going. There have been some important changes made, principally the adoption by the Board of Selectmen of capital reserve accounts, which are highlighted in the report. The new annual financial report will be up next. For those that might dismiss the vital importance of annual capital plans please look at the dollars spent over the past seven years. There may not be a more important document produced by localities than the annual CIP.

Seabrook CIP Spending Seven Year Review 2019

Seabrook Capital Report 2019 Tabs

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The FY 2019 Warrant Articles Tax Impacts

The very preliminary report submitted to the Board of Selectmen on the FY 2019 tax impacts of the approved warrant articles is below. It is important to note that there are longer term tax impacts for Seabrook (bond finance) not covered by this report. A seven year look back at all of Seabrook’s capital spending will be out soon.

Warrant Articles 2019 Board Report

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The Grand Opening of “The Greyhound Casino & Tavern” in Seabrook

It was an exciting day in Seabrook, as Eureka Gaming opened the Greyhound Casino & Tavern at the site of the old Yankee Greyhound facility they recently purchased. This is the first of many upgrades to come at this location, and occurred a scant 40 plus days after Eureka purchased the site. There is much more to come! Stay tuned for some more exciting economic development news in Seabrook New Hampshire!

Sports Betting Bill passes the New Hampshire House.

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Argo Rescue Vehicle Arrives in Seabrook

The ARGO Rescue vehicle, ordered by the Seabrook Board of Selectmen last year, has arrived in Seabrook. Our first responders are training on this vehicle, which will allow them to reach those in distress that are in difficult to reach areas. While it will be of significant assistance to rescue personnel on Seabrook Beach the vehicle can be deployed town-wide. A big thank you to the D’Allasandro Fund, which financed the purchase, allowing us to increase public safety at no cost to taxpayers.

Press coverage of the Argo purchase.

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