By S.D. Plissken | March 20, 2019
Many of those that hold Milton’s Town government offices suffer from one or more commonly-held delusions.
One is reminded of various medical practitioners of the past who, though well meaning, aggravated patient problems and probably even hastened their deaths. For example, George Washington is said to have been “bled” in his final hours by such a practitioner, which certainly did not do him any good.
Now, they were not entirely bad doctors, but merely doing their best according to the state of medical knowledge of their day. Had they persisted in employing antiquated methods, disproven theories, or even some illogical and unproven notions of their own, we might term them “quacks.”
At the most recent Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting (March 18, 2019), some of our very own economic and political quackery was on display yet again. This needs to stop.
The Atlantic Broadband representative confirmed, in answer to a query, that his company has not extended their network to every house in town. He explained that is financially unremunerative to run lines where there are less then ten customers per mile. He further explained that potential customers in such areas might still get Atlantic Broadband connections, but would need to contribute themselves, at least in part, to run the lines out to their location.
The representative was not presenting some sort of bizarre formulation. I have heard similar things about Eversource (and their predecessor PSNH). You may build as far off the street as you may like, but you will be paying yourself to run the poles from your house out to a connection at the street.
Enter our Town Planner, Bruce W. Woodruff. He wondered if – in this day and age – internet access is really more akin to a public utility than merely a service. Step carefully, Mr. Woodruff. Didn’t we just have a rather close call on Article #3 in trying to fiddle meanings and definitions for political purposes? Of course, Mr. Woodruff’s hint led nowhere with the vendor. Milton cannot yet compel companies to engage in unprofitable practices.
But Mr. Woodruff was willing to have the taxpayers build upon that poor foundation. He would have the Town tax everybody in town, put that tax money in a “Broadband Fund,” and use that tax money to subsidize an extension of the internet to the purportedly underserved areas. (Thinly-settled areas may be served with as many satellite connections as they like).
Planner Woodruff: Other communities have invested some of their tax dollars into a fund called a “Broadband Fund,” and then they would use that “Broadband Fund” toward these goals. And I think it’s very important to consider.
Go carefully there too, Mr. Woodruff, I think I got just a whiff of some Socialism. We would not want to step in that.
Subsidizing broadband connections is not a legitimate governmental function. Not at all, no matter how you might wish to redefine it.
Newly-returned Selectman Rawson delivered a stunner in the Town-Owned Properties discussion. He proposed adding the 1121 White Mountain Highway property – the so-called “Blue House” – to the proposed auction list.
Chairman Thibeault had a sort of Rube Goldberg contraption planned for that property. Giving it to the Milton Historical Society would allow them to move the Plummer’s Ridge Schoolhouse No. 1 property – which he would also give them – across the street to the “Blue House” land. (See also Not Yours to Give). The “Blue House” would have to be demolished first, of course, but his plan did not mention who would be paying for that. Any guesses?
That would create an “attraction,” which would be – as he said – a “huge asset” for Milton. Tell us Chairman Thibeault, why would that be such a great thing for Milton taxpayers?
Well, as an attraction, it might bring in out-of-town visitors, who might spend money here, which might “encourage” businesses, which might somehow reduce taxes. The “logic” trails off there. (They having already more than spent any conceivable tax advantage that might accrue from phantom businesses, if they were to ever arrive).
But “encouraging” businesses (at public time and expense) is not a legitimate governmental function at all.
Now, you won’t believe this newest twist (at least the one most recently revealed): Chairman Thibeault’s Historical Society scheme would have the additional “advantage” of preventing occupation of the “Blue House” by a family with children. Quelle horreur!
Chairman Thibeault: You talk about tax revenue, but remember when you talk about tax revenue, right, there’s what you are going to bring in for that house, and what it’s going to cost the Town. Right? So, say that house is fixed up, and a family moves into it, – And I’m not saying I don’t want families moving to Milton, I’m not saying that at all – But it’s going to cost you more money, because of the cost of the School system. So, you’re not …
He’s not saying that at all, except when he is saying exactly that. In his view, a childless or elderly couple, or a business, or the Historical Society are to be preferred at that location because a young family, with children, would cause an additional cost to the School District. One older audience member described this sort of calculation as “crooked and dystopian.”
Milton’s population has been more or less stagnant since 2010. (While its taxes have skyrocketed). Are attitudes such as Chairman Thibeault’s contributing to its lack of growth?
Shouldn’t the Town and School District be looking more to reducing its higher-than-State-average per-pupil expenses rather than its number of pupils?
We have been told that Milton is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NH State government. The NH Constitution clearly states that government’s raison d’etre: the inhabitants surrender a very few of their acknowledged natural rights in order to preserve some others, i.e. some of their other natural rights.
Subsidizing internet connections, encouraging businesses, or, worst yet, discouraging children, do not come under the heading of surrendering some natural rights to preserve others.
Town officials need to step back and take a deep breath. Open the windows to let some fresh air in there. Get their heads straight. Stop employing the political means where the economic means are more appropriate (which is true for nearly everything).
Ms. McDougall prompted the board to remember who they represent. (The correct answer: the taxpayers).
Kudos to Selectman Rawson for his “Blue House” motion and to Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings for voting with him. One hopes they may continue to remember who they represent.
See also A Reply to Chairman Thibeault’s Rube Goldberg Machine
(Editor’s note: Ms. Bristol compiled accounts of a prior failed Milton business “encouragement,” which resulted in the Milton Mills Shoe Strike of 1889).
State of New Hampshire. (2019). [NH] State Constitution: Bill of Rights. Retrieved from www.nh.gov/glance/bill-of-rights.htm
Town of Milton. (2019, March 18). BOS Meeting, March 18, 2019. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktrwn9qoUIo
Wikipedia. (2018, December 11). Rube Goldberg Machine. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rube_Goldberg_machine