Gray, ME, Voted to Sell Fire Engine to Milton

By S.D. Plissken | November 15, 2019

A correspondent informs us that the Town of Gray, ME, in its Town Council meeting of Tuesday, November 12, 2019, voted to sell one of its fire engines to the Town of Milton, NH, for “$” [$85,000].

1997 Ferrara Spartan 75' Aerial
Another 1997 Ferrara Spartan 75′ Aerial

The relevant correspondence from the Town of Gray website follows:


October 31, 2019 
 
Deborah Cabana, Town Manager, Henry Pennell Municipal Complex, 24 Main Street, Gray, ME 04039
 
Dear Ms. Cabana,
 
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday in reference to your community’s listed tower truck.  I greatly appreciate the time Chief Elkanich, Deputy Chief Hutchins and their staff spent with both my Deputy Chief on Tuesday and myself and our department’s EVT yesterday. I was able to meet with the Milton Board of Selectman and the Milton Town Administrator yesterday afternoon and subsequently received permission to move forward with an offer to purchase the Town of Gray Maine’s 1997 Ferrara 75’ Tower Truck. 
 
As I indicated in your office when we spoke there were a few mechanical concerns and a few items that would need repair before we placed the vehicle in service for our community.  With that being said these are items that would be expect in a vehicle of this age and it is evident the firefighters of your community take good care of their equipment.  In preparing this proposal we reviewed cost estimates of items that need repair and have determined an additional $20,000 will be needed above the purchase price. The following items were noted as deficiencies 

  • Broken rear leaf spring- noted in Ladder testing report.
  • Leaf springs front and rear need replacement –See Figure 1 and 2 attached.
  • Exhaust needs replacement as indicated by several exhaust leaks -See figure 3 and 4 attached
  • Coolant leak was noted in the area of the radiator 
  • Frame corrosion and tunnel corrosion was noted-See figures 5-8
  • A few leaks were noted in the pump including a long-term leak around the pump packing- See figure 9
  • Other hydraulic small hydraulic leaks where noted which present an unknown risk and cost- See Figure 10 and 11

The above list was noted by Milton’s certified Emergency Vehicle Technician and corroborated by the latest ladder test report completed in September.  In preparing a cost analysts based on the useful life of the vehicle, the needed repairs and the budget, which the Town of Milton must work with, we are prepared to offer $75,000 for the Town of Gray Maine’s 1997 Ferrara 75’ Tower Truck.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  
 
Nick Marique 
Fire Chief
Nicholas


From: Nick Hutchins <e-mail omitted>
Sent: Monday, November 4, 2019 7:58 PM
To: Deb Cabana e-mail omitted

Subject: RE: Truck 44

Deb,

Here is the recommendation you requested after reviewing the Town of Milton’s proposal. Some of the noted items were going to be fixed when the new ladder truck went into service, allowing the truck to be stored serviceable and in good shape for resale or use. To fix everything Chief Marique mentioned with parts (not including time) would be in the vicinity of $5,600, providing the town doesn’t purchase or repair the radiator which at this time seems unnecessary. These are reasonably obtainable repairs that are not open ended on how the Town of Gray would want them done, verse how the Town of Milton might expect them done. This point of discussion needs to be at the for front of thoughts when talking about repairs made to a truck this age. Items like rust repair come with a level of expectation from each party on how they would want it to be fixed, which can cause an open-ended price tag that the Town of Gray probably should avoid.

I have attached my answers to the proposal as well in this email. If you need more information on anything that I can help you with, please reach out to me. If it is urgent, I can be reached at phone number omitted.

I hope this helps you out and look forward to hearing back from you on the direction you’d like us to go.

Stay safe.

Deputy Chief Nick Hutchins
Operations and Equipment
GRAY FIRE RESCUE
Phone: phone number omitted

“Protecting Life and property at the Crossroads of Maine since 1880”


From: Deb Cabana
Sent: Tuesday, November 5, 2019 11:08 AM

To: Nick Marique
cc: Kurt Elkanich

Subject: r-w: Truck 44

Attachments: Truck 44 repair.docx; TC Agenda 11122019.doc

Dear Mr. Marique,

Thank you for your interest in the ladder truck and your thoughtful offer. I have had an opportunity to have our mechanic review the associated costs that you have identified for the ladder truck. t have attached his opinion regarding the pictures that you sent, as well. The Town of Gray can fix the leaf springs and exhaust leak with a good wash and grease of the ladder itself. Additionally, we can offer ladders and one length of hard suction, all maintenance records, one set of filters for the first filter change, spare tires for both fronts and one side on rear and grease for the ladder itself. We are also willing to offer training from a department member with your department, if you so desire.

I have placed an item on the Town Council agenda for next Tuesday night (November 12) regarding the potential sale of this vehicle. (Please see Item #65-20 in the copy of the attached agenda.) As I indicated to you earlier, my Council was anticipating a sale price of $100K for this truck. I believe that I could convince my Council to a price of $85,000. If this counteroffer is acceptable, we will need to keep the current truck in service until the new one is fully in service and operational and the repairs agreed upon are done. l am told that we should have the new truck in about a week. Of course, the crew will need to be trained on the new truck.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Deborah Cabana

Town Manager, Town of Gray
24 Main Street, Gray ME 04039 Phone:
phone number omitted Fax: fax number omitted e-mail omitted e-mail omitted


Agenda – Gray Town Council – November 12, 2019

#65-20  To Review and Act Upon a Proposed Sale of the Ladder Truck.  5 MINS.

Proposed motion:

Ordered, the Gray Town Council approves the sale of the ladder truck to the Town of Milton, New Hampshire for a purchase price of $.

This item passed unanimously.


References:

Town of Gray. (2019, November 12). Gray Town Council, Regular Meeting, 11/12/2019, 7:00 PM. Retrieved from graytownme.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=3635

A Rare Split Vote

By S.D. Plissken | October 24, 2019

Last Monday’s Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting featured an interesting and exceedingly rare split vote, or it would have, had it come to a vote.

Correspondents have sent me recently a variety of articles about official projections of New Hampshire’s population over the next decade or so. New Hampshire’s population is both aging and declining.

The total New Hampshire state population is projected to be 1,432,730 in 2040, an increase of 116,260 or 8.8 percent from the 2010 Census population of 1,316,470 (RLS, 2016).

That is a projected net increase of only 116,260 (8.8%) over a period of thirty years, i.e., more than a generation. Most of that net increase will be a result of people moving into the state from elsewhere. New Hampshire’s congressional representation will drop from two US Representatives to only one in or after 2040. Yes, there will be more US Senators from New Hampshire than US Representatives.

How might this affect Milton? Let us step through it logically. The few incoming people will not distribute themselves evenly across the land area of New Hampshire. They will settle in greater numbers in places that have most to offer and, conversely, they will avoid like the plague places with less to offer. And this effect is not limited to newcomers. The existing (or surviving) population will want also to relocate themselves to the most advantageous places.

What are they avoiding? Economics embraces a concept known as “utility.” In this context, utility may be defined as the relative ease of obtaining one’s economic ends. The converse of this concept is “disutility,” in which it is difficult (or even impossible) to achieve one’s ends without undue effort.

Milton is currently in the eighth year of its fourth ten-year plan (the first having been put in place in 1982, and updated at ten-year intervals). Chairman Thibeault put forward the Town’s so-called “Master Plan” in support of his notions in the most recent BOS meeting. Most people associate Master Plans with fictional and cartoon villains, as well they might.

Master plans are hopelessly ineffective because of Hayek’s Knowledge Problem. Briefly, it is impossible for any of us, or any committee of us, to assemble and possess the knowledge necessary to manage an economy. That knowledge resides in the whole of us, but in a distributed fashion. To suppose that one has, or can ever hope to acquire, sufficient knowledge to order the economy is an admission of folly.

Bastiat spoke of the Broken Window Fallacy. His important insight was that there exist possibilities or outcomes that are readily “seen.” But there are also possibilities or outcomes that are “not seen.” One may encourage, or subsidize, or even compel some particular outcome. That result can be readily seen, by which it might be judged a “success.” Of course, there it is, I can see it! But other possible outcomes might have occurred, might have occurred more naturally, and might have occurred in preference to the one forced upon us. Those are the outcomes that are not seen. Those outcomes were displaced by the one forced upon us.

It emerged that the old fire station has been sold. The owner’s representative came to the BOS meeting. Chairman Thibeault wanted to hold the new owner to his preference put forward at some prior meeting (there have been several). That preference would have had the old fire station renovated as a commercial property only. In the interval between preliminary discussions and sale, the new owner envisaged instead a mix of one-bedroom apartments and commercial space. They did not seem to feel that the commercial limitation was either necessary or desired, but had retained it only as an accommodation. Chairman Thibeault dug in his heels – as he is wont to do – and insisted that the new owner restrict themselves to a commercial use only. Because that better satisfied the sacred “Master Plan.” Blessed be the Plan.

The owner’s representative pointed out that the final purchase-and-sales agreement contained no such commercial requirement. Chairman Thibeault turned somewhat petulant. The Planning Board and ZBA might have something to say. (Get ready for another lawsuit).

Now, this was the path taken in the Binker Brothers’ opening, a process bitterly criticized at the time, and rightly so. Someone invests in a property in order to establish a business (or any other use) in a legitimate way. Only after purchasing a Milton property does the hapless owner learn that there are many other requirements above and beyond those set forth in the ever-increasing pages of the zoning regulations. They must pass also the conditional approval of the BOS, the Planning Board, the ZBA, etc. In the case of the Binker Brothers, the Police were also invited to put in their oar.

Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings and Selectman Rawson balked. They pointed out that Milton had already a number of vacant commercial properties. Too many, and vacant for far too long. They could see no reason to compel the new owner to conform to the commercial-only requirement. Chairman Thibeault’s dissatisfaction was manifest. He dislikes being thwarted and we have likely not heard the end of this. (The Chairman experienced some strong disapproval from the audience too).

The dissenters may or may not have penetrated to the root of the problem. The Master Plan is impossible. It lacks the necessary knowledge to be effective. If empirical evidence is required, Milton’s economic activity has declined, rather than increased, over its thirty-eight-year tenure. Its visible results, few as they have been, have no claim over other unseen outcomes that were forced aside.

Will the few incomers of the next twenty years gravitate towards Milton? That seems highly unlikely. We have been led far down the wrong path. We have too much government, too many regulations, poor results, and all at too high a price. And our budgets have been increasing at an unconscionable rate. All these characteristics impose a major “disutility” on its residents, taxpayers, and prospective incomers.

A static or even dwindling population would be left to carry the load. Those able will want to escape. (And a major economic downturn – some say it will be “The Big One” – is expected at any time).

Franz Oppenheimer explained the fundamental difference between the means employed by the free market versus those of government.

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others … I propose to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means” … while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”

Chairman Thibeault has in his time shown a dogged and regrettable preference for achieving his fevered visions through use of the “political means.” He is wrong, of course. Should he not change his approach radically, so as to favor market solutions over compulsory political ones, it would be difficult to recommend his continuation in office.

His colleagues vote with him all too often but, in this case, they favored correctly allowing the freedom of the “economic means” to work.

References:

RLS Demographics. (2016). State of New Hampshire Regional Planning Commissions. County Population Projections, 2016, by Age and Sex. Retrieved from www.nh.gov/osi/data-center/documents/2016-state-county-projections-final-report.pdf

Standing Idle

By S.D. Plissken | August 23, 2019

Long ago I was given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s other book, the Silmarillion. No movie has been made to date – you would have to read it. Early in the story, a Hephaestus-like demi-god Aüle anticipated his creator’s intentions and made his own creatures, the dwarves, without authority. He was rebuked by his creator for having done so.

For thou hast from me as a gift thy own being only, and no more; and therefore the creatures of thy hand and mind can live only by that being, moving when thou thinkest to move them, and if thy thought be elsewhere, standing idle. Is that thy desire?

Last Monday’s meeting of the Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) had an almost mythological moment in the “Other Items That May Come Before the Board” portion of the meeting.

Before they vanished last July into a month-long series of workshop meetings, the BOS gave “guidance” to the Town department heads to prepare their budgets based upon salary increases of 2% for merit and 1.7% in Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) [!!!].

And then the BOS’ thoughts turned elsewhere. And it would seem that their creatures, the Town department heads, lacking their own volition, then stood idle in the matter of their annual CIP Plan submissions. Sound a bit familiar?

Chairman Thibeault: Another item that has come up is a request from the Planning board for an extension on the CIP process, and I’ll ask Bruce to speak to this.

Town Planner Bruce Woodruff: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I’m Bruce Woodruff, Town Planner. The Planning Board has requested extra time to present their annual Capital Improvement Program report to you. As you know, the policy document that you approved does state that the report has to come to you in that first week in September. What I wanted to tell you is that the … all of the submission documents from all the various people that propose Capital Improvement projects didn’t get to the Planning Board until just before August 6th of this year, and they were all supposed to be in by … the middle of June.

Selectman Rawson: Hmm.

Town Planner Woodruff: Now, we are catching up a little bit. And, as I said, we were supposed to begin to review all of those compiled project submissions starting on July 2nd. We didn’t get all of these until August 6th, so there’s about a month and four days that we’re behind at this point. And so, really, what the Planning Board is asking is this: they’re asking to change this deadline date for submission from September 5th to October 16th, which coincides with the day after their required Public Hearing on the Capital Improvement Program.

Selectman Rawson: I’m fine with that.

Chairman Thibeault: I’m fine with that. I make a motion to grant the Planning Board an extension for the CIP submission of October 16th.

Selectman Rawson: I’ll second that.

Chairman Thibeault: All in favor?

Entire BOS: Aye.

Chairman Thibeault: Alright. Next up is approval of minutes.

Returning to the BOS “guidance” for 2% merit increases. Would you say these Town department heads turned in a particularly meritorious performance in that matter of their CIP submission deadlines?

And the Town Planner? He appears by his own statement to have pretty much spent a month and four days just tapping his foot, waiting for the Town departmental submissions. Or perhaps he is simply too polite to mention publicly his constant dunning of Town department heads during that period. Or perhaps he warned the BOS in a timely manner that its creatures were standing idle past their deadline?

As we have just seen, none of that constitutes a Town problem. We’ll just put off the deadline. The BOS is unanimously “fine with that.” Think no more about it.

They would feel just the same if you missed your tax payment by a month and four days. Right?

Right, they would have no problem with your being late either. No interest penalties. Because missing a deadline would be the same for you, as it might be for any other creature, say, even a Town department head. You might deserve a merit increase too. Well, in context, for you it would have to be a merit tax cut.


I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. – Douglas Adams


References:

Tolkien, John R.R. (1977). The Silmarillion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001

Town of Milton. (2019, August 19). BOS Meeting, August 19, 2019. Retrieved from youtu.be/0qUQttNemPY?t=1614

Wikpedia. (2019, August 8). Hephaestus. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephaestus

 

The More Things Change …

By S.D. Plissken | June 26, 2019

Last week’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting had some few points of interest.

Chief Krauss added some new expense requests. An upgraded police phone system was added to his nautical items already on the agenda. His combined police-pursuit / boat-hauling vehicle was described as having been approved already at a prior meeting. He sought only permission to include the prior unnecessary boat-hauling vehicle in a trade-in deal for the new unnecessary police-pursuit / boat-hauling vehicle.

The Town (or Town Police) boat dock “Concern” was the damaged Town boat dock that had damaged also the Town Police boat. Or vice versa. It seems that the dock is inadequate at its current length, as more dock length is needed when the pond water level goes down. No one could have predicted that (as it goes down every year). Thus the damage to the dock, and to the boat.

There was some discussion of whether some beach funds might be redirected to cover some or all of this. We know that is unlikely, at least to any significant degree, as the Milton Town Beach Has Its Own Government. But the BOS chose to pretend that such a thing might happen, for purposes of discussion.

Note well that the other side of the ponds has no corresponding Lebanon Police navy. In fact, our larger neighbor (population 6,031 in 2010), has had no police department at all since 1991. An effort to create one was defeated at the ballot in 2009 (498 (60.8%) to 321 (39.2%)). (They rely on state and county police).

One looks in vain for the nightly light of a burning Lebanon reflected in the ponds, or for its daily riots, or its pond pirates, or for its warlords fighting over territories within it.

Thank God the bridge is down and that we have a Police navy.


Under Old Business, the Town Administrator put forward a suggested September Saturday meeting, in which a combined BOS and Budget Committee would hear the departmental budget presentations. The board was in favor of this. The administrator would next seek similar approval from the Budget Committee.

Chairman Thibeault asked Town Administrator Ernest Creveling about the current budget.

Town Administrator Creveling: We’ve already started working on [Budget] things. One of the things we’re working on is we’ve put together a spreadsheet and gave it to all the department heads. Because we’re on a Default Budget and I wanted people to go through it and analyze their budgets and take a look at exactly what it is and exactly what it is they think they absolutely need to spend, these are all absolute necessities, things that are dealing with public safety, employee safety, contracts – the police phone system may become one of those things – it is important to be able to reach the police department and leave messages if you have to, so they are are things in the process of going through that exercise.

The Town Administrator has here suggested to the department heads a sort of “party line”: express all your desired budget increases in terms of either public or personnel safety. Yes, that should do the trick.

Creveling: Hopefully, that will give us an amount that we can sort of pool together out of each line item, for a total, so that we know, if other things pop up, we’re able to pull from there, and once we get through that, I’ll make sure that you all get a copy and are you’re fully aware of what we’ve done.

Selectman Rawson: It seems a good idea.

From there, they moved on to the payroll aspect of next year’s budget. Note that they begin with the assumption that the baseline is correct and that there will be an increase above that. It is then just a question of how large that increase will be.

Chairman Thibeault: Alright. Did you also want to discuss the guidance on the employee wages for 2020, or is that just …

Creveling: Well, on … Oh, yes, we can do that as well. As far as putting budgets together, people are starting to do that now. So, as far … in the recent past, you’ve gone 2% for merit and 1.7% for Cost of Living. People just wanted to know if that is what they should move forward with in the budget development, at this point.

Now, as we have mentioned previously, very few in the real world might expect to receive any Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) increase at all. (We have heard that Social Security recipients recently got some pittance, after a gap of some years without any). But, based upon this discussion, 2% raises and additional annual COLA would seem to be de rigueur in Milton Town budget thinking.

Which might go some ways at least towards explaining why Town budgets increase always faster than – usually double – the rate of inflation.

What might “our” representatives have to say? Doubtless something innovative, something bold.

Selectman Rawson: Yeah, I’m fine with that. It’s always been that way, since my tenure of being in town.

Creveling: If you look at the New England region, its been that for the last couple of years.

The Argumentum ad Populum fallacy. Your mother has an answer for that: If all the other Towns were jumping off a bridge, would you jump off too?

Thibeault: I’m alright with that. Erin, do you want …

Vice-Chairwoman Hutchings: That’s … that’s … I mean you’re just pulling it together to look at it, so …

It seems fairly obvious that once you tell the department heads to assume 3.7% raises, they are going to budget 3.7% raises and that will be what you will “look at” later. Then will come the unanimous approval of what they will have before them.

So, you see, they just lost the budget increase battle right there. Not much of a struggle to represent the taxpayers’ interests, was it?

Creveling: Right, right. By no means is it a final budget. It would just give people guidance on what to use.

One hears around town several variations of the old saw: If one does again what one always has done before, one might reasonably expect to get again what one has always gotten before. In our case, that would be budgets and taxes that rise at twice the rate of inflation.

Chairman Thibeault is fond of talking about “out of the box” solutions. One commenter suggested that we might replace the BOS with a simple computer “app” to be always just “fine with that.”

Magic BOS-Ball
Magic BOS-Ball

I thought perhaps a Magic 8-Ball, which would at least give a negative answer one-quarter of the time. Each board member would give it a shake and read off their answer.


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose [The more things change, the more they remain the same] – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr


References:

Foster’s Daily Democrat. (2017, December 18). Does Lebanon Need Its Own Police Force? Retrieved from www.fosters.com/news/20171218/does-lebanon-need-its-own-police-force

Town of Milton. (2019, June 17). BOS Meeting, June 17, 2019. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/4RLXxlP8rFA?t=1386

Wikipedia. (2019, June 20). Argumentum ad Populum. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

Wikipedia. (2019, March 11). Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_Alphonse_Karr

Wikipedia. (2019, June 7). Magic 8-Ball. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_8-Ball

Wrong Way – Go Back

By S.D. Plissken | June 3, 2019

Wrong Way SignIt was announced last year that the State had postponed the long-awaited replacement of the Milton-Lebanon bridge for a further two years

At the time, some Town officials put forward a theory that this would not have happened if only we were represented on the Strafford County Planning Commission. They are wrong, of course.

Logically Fallacious

Central planning can never work, because of Hayek’s “Knowledge Problem.” It is a logically impossible. I pointed this out formerly (Milton and the Knowledge Problem), but the Town government clings to its pet notion regardless.

Such methods survive partly through a need to control and order the world (and people) around its adherents. St. Augustine termed it the libido dominandi: the lust for domination.

Town planners might serve us better in figuring out how to deal with their own Town messes: “Lockhart Field,” the Emma Ramsey Center’s failing foundation, invasive plants, unsustainable budget increases, etc. I have heard even that we have a toxic bloom in town.

There is plenty to occupy their time without attempting to plan and direct our economic lives.

We have spoken to government interventions in the market before (PawSox Put One Over the Fence). These hot-house creations must  be perpetually tended. Even so, they will fail to thrive when market forces change or if there is a better offer. Milton need look no further for instructive examples than its own economic history. (As transcribed by Ms. Bristol).

Empirically Disproven

Propping Up Marginal Businesses

Some portion of Milton Mills’ residents engaged at shoe-making at home, at least part-time, with components shipped in from outside. This might have been the economically viable level of production. You see, while Milton Mills had an ample supply of water power (Milton Water Power in 1885), as did many places in New England, it was easily five miles from the railhead at Union station.

A group of wealthier Milton Mills residents sought to “encourage” the establishment of a shoe factory in 1888. (They had wanted this since at least 1864). They purchased a disused factory building (with their own money) and offered it – free of charge – to anyone who would set up such a shoe factory in Milton Mills. The townspeople even voted to relieve the factory of all taxation – thus taking that tax burden upon themselves – for a period of ten years.

But it was not enough. Transport costs, and the limitations of a village-level (“country”) labor pool, and other factors, all required wages that were lower than those paid in the city. That occasioned discontent and the subsidized factory did not even last a year (Milton Mills Shoe Strike of 1889).

Their Ends Do Not Align with Ours

Federal central planners wanted a military road network like the Autobahn they so admired when conquering Germany. So, they created the Federal Interstate highway system. For their own reasons. Any benefits for the civilian areas through which it passed were purely incidental.

Milton enjoyed a twenty-year tourist boom when the Spaulding Turnpike funneled an increased number of people right though its business district. That ended when the Federal and State central planners bypassed Milton in the next phase of their construction (Milton and the Spaulding Turnpike).

Those planners did nothing to either help or hurt Milton. They simply did not care. They were as oblivious to Milton’s needs in diverting the traffic away from here as they had been in directing it here in the first place. Our needs are just not in their plans.

Since then, our own Town planners have for some reason worked diligently in ensuring that Milton experiences no economic resurgence. They have planned that we remain a bedroom community only and that is what they have largely achieved.

There are fewer businesses here than when they first set out to “plan” in 1982, and there is certainly much less economic activity here now than at any time since the so-called Gilded Age. One wonders how much of their oeuvre would survive if the whole package were put to a vote.

Why should we continue to abide by the unsuccessful plans of these Town, County, State, Federal, and, now, even international planners? There is simply no reason at all for us to do so.

Alton Shows the Way

On Alton’s 2014 ballot, resident petitioners placed warrant articles on the ballot to eliminate the offices of Town Planner and Town Assessor, in favor of a contract planner and a contract assessor, and to withdraw Alton from the Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC). They did not succeed at this initial outing, but this was merely the beginning.

(We may note that Milton has both a Town Assessor and a contract assessor, whereas Alton seemed to regard it as an either/or proposition).

In 2018, the Alton Town government put forward a warrant article to fund Alton’s membership in the Lakes Region Planning Commission. The selectmen recommended it by three votes in favor and two against. (Note that split votes are possible). The budget committee opposed it.

The Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers (CNHT) claims that these planning commissions – their ideas, plans, and goals – come straight from the American Planning Commission, a non-governmental organization that “promotes United Nations Agenda 21/2030 regional principles.” There is State and Federal nonsense in there too.

Despite the recommendation of the Alton Board of Selectmen, town residents rejected continued funding for the regional planning commission, with 401 votes (70%) opposed and 172 votes (30%) in favor. (Note that the BOS majority was the complete opposite of the voters. So, we might well ask, who was the Alton BOS representing?)

Remember, it was an attempted insertion of plug-and-play planning code that caused the virulent opposition – hysterical even – by its very creators, of last year’s Article #3.

One Alton resident remarked, “If only more towns would get out of these regional boondoggles.” Or, better yet, if only more towns never entered into them in the first place.

Ask yourselves too, whose business district is doing better, Alton’s or Milton’s? The answer argues for less planning, a great deal less. But, if we cannot manage that, we should at least stop making it worse.

What Is to Be Done?

Take heart. If Milton officials are deluded enough to proceed along this route, – this wrong way – we can undo it as they did in Alton.

The danger for Town officials, and for their “plans” of many years, is that we might not stop at withdrawing from County planning.


There are none so blind as they who will not see. – John Heywood


References:

CNHT. (2018, March 15). Alton Residents Dump Lakes Region Planning Commission. Retrieved from www.cnht.org/news/2018/03/15/alton-residents-dump-lakes-region-planning-commission/

Laconia Daily Sun. (2014, February 20). Petitioned warrant articles would do away with Alton planner & Assessor. Retrieved from www.laconiadailysun.com/news/local/petitioned-warrant-articles-would-do-away-with-alton-planner-assessor/article_121a954d-94f5-5e2f-b2c1-505edb77ee72.html

 

SB 154 on the House Floor

By S.D. Plissken | May 31, 2019

New Hampshire Senate Bill (SB) 154 (2019) passed out of the House Municipal and County Government Committee and reached the House floor last Thursday afternoon, May 23, at 3:18:29 PM.

This is the bill originally authorizing a study of workforce housing tax deductions, but now including a “problematic” side order of authorizing the sale, sans voter approval, of Milton’s “Old Fire Station.” (See NH SB 154 Amended).

House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord): The majority of the Committee on Municipal and County Government, to which was referred Senate Bill 154, an Act – new title – “Allowing municipalities to adopt a credit against property taxes for certain workforce housing, and authorizing the sale of certain property by the Town of Milton,” having considered the same, report the same, with the following amendment, and with a recommendation that the bill Ought-to-Pass [OTP] with amendment. – Representative Clyde Carson [D-Warner)] for a majority of the committee. The minority of the committee, having considered the same, and being unable to agree with the majority, report with the following resolution: “Resolved, that it is Inexpedient-to-Legislate [ITL].” – Representative Mona Perrault [(R-Rochester)], for the minority of the committee. The question before the House is on the adoption of the majority amendment, 1577 H, printed in House Record 25, and found on Pages 29 to 30. Are you ready for the question? All those in favor, say Aye.

Some number of House members: Aye.

House Speaker: Opposed, Nay.

Some number of House members: No.

House Speaker: The Ayes have it, and the motion carries. [Looking stage right]. I’m sorry … We’re in the voting mode… I heard … you wanted …

Representative Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont): To make a motion.

House Speaker: Please come, state your motion.

House Clerk: The motion to divide.

Representative Sylvia: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I was off on my timing. I would like to move to divide the question to remove section six of the bill.

This would have the effect of splitting Senate Bill 154 into two separate bills: 1) the original workforce housing bill, and 2) authorization of the sale of Milton’s old fire station.

House Speaker: I’ve talked with the clerk about this motion to divide, and the issue that has arisen and we have, and I have as the speaker, in having to make a decision, to take out section six, dealing with the Town of Milton, would be fine. But by leaving in sections one through five, and section seven – section seven being the effective date of the bills – which say that this shall take effect upon passage – the section six, if the motion was to prevail, that that section six should pass, and the House votes that way, section six has no effective date, so it would be out there in limbo. So, it would be in … it’s not divisible, is what I am trying to tell you. But I am trying to give you an explanation for why it is not divisible.

Representative Sylvia: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, then I would like to speak against the bill.

House Speaker: Yeah. Well, first we have to fix our computer again. Oh, that’s good. Thank you. I have you signed up to speak again. So, the member from Belmont is recognized. And thank you for your forbearance.

Representative Sylvia: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for the confusion. I have no intent to affect the study committee section of this bill, but the reference to the section on the Town of Milton being allowed to sell the old fire house is very problematic. So, my first opposition to this bill is when we make statutes that particularly point out one Town, and in this particular case, one specific property, I think those sorts of bills are problematic.

The … Once I started looking into it, when you look at RSA 41:14a Roman 2C, this essentially prohibits the selectmen from selling a property that is held in trust, which has been bequeathed to the Town, and that certainly brought a bit of curiosity to my mind, whereas somebody had very generously given a property to the Town and now the Town was looking to dispose of it. And certainly if they [the original donors] had intended some particular purpose for the property, the statute as it currently reads is very clear, and it’s very fine. That, we have a section within the Attorney General’s office, which is for charitable trusts and they track the purposes of assets.

For instance, the University of New Hampshire probably has many, and we took one up in Judiciary this year, referencing a school in agriculture, and assuring … the Attorney General’s trust division assures that what was promised, when the property was given, is adhered to.

And in this process that particular line of statute has a provision which directs if the Town, the property, the use perhaps fades away, and it no longer really fits within the trust it was given for, there is a fancy legal French term, which is Cy-Près, which is a doctrine which says, well, the Attorney General’s office of  trusts, or the probate court, or superior court, depending on which way these things go, they would look into this intended purpose of the property, and find the next closest match for either using the property, or if it is sold, then continuing those funds, on the direction of what they were intended for.

So, doing further research, as I should, if you are going to get up and oppose a bill that is mostly very well supported, I called the Attorney General’s division of charitable trusts, and asked them about the property, and tried to figure out what the purpose was that it was given to the Town for, and as it turns out, the property was given to the Town with no restrictions.

Now, this creates a bit of a problem, because we are exempting the Town from using this particular statute, when this particular statute is not applicable. Now, there is another process for the select-board of the Town to sell property, and it’s just before that in 41:14a Roman I.

As I understand it, the … it seems like, and I don’t have all of the facts, I haven’t talked to the Town, but they seem to not quite read the statute correctly. They believe that they would have to bring this to the Town Meeting on a Warrant Article to sell. That is part of a possible solution, and it’s going to be what they will have to do anyway, because we’re not really affecting anything with this change. It’s a nullity.

So, to the Town of Milton, I would say, you need to look at that first part again. It does not require, automatically, that it goes on a warrant article. The statute says they will have the planning commission and the conservation commission look at this, and then they will have two public meetings, fourteen days apart, and unless fifty Town citizens challenge that with a petition, which would require it to go onto a warrant article, and postpone the sale of the property, they can … they are going to have to go through this regular process anyway.

And I think we should really consider, as Memorial Day approaches, [that] the legislature made laws, and there is nothing wrong with the laws, and this little section is totally unnecessary, uncalled for. Further, I think that anytime that some good citizen bequeaths to a Town a property, it should be treated with great respect. And I think that that’s my story and I think that we should not approve this process, and I am sorry that we approved the amendment. Perhaps we could find someone who wanted to reconsider. That’s my spiel, thank you for listening.

House Speaker: The question before the house is the recommendation that the bill Ought-to-Pass as amended. The chair recognizes Representative Carson to speak in support of the recommendation.

Representative Carson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to talk to the fire station aspect of this bill, because I have looked into it, and I want to talk a little bit [about] what I found out about it. In 1880, some volunteers in the Town of Milton built a fire house for the Town and donated it to the Town.

Recently, that Town of Milton, as you might expect, outgrew that fire station and built a new fire station. And they would like to find a new owner for the old fire station, so they can get it back on the tax rolls. There’s a statute that says, as the good representative mentioned, that if selectmen have the authority to buy and sell property, they can do so, except in a few situations, and one of those is when something is donated.

So, the Town went, and they did go through the due diligence of going to the division of charitable trusts. They checked out this charitable trust and said, there’s no strings here, all you have to do is go back and bring it to your Town Meeting and get the authority to do it.

I’m a selectmen in a Town that has a fire station up for sale.  There’s not a lot of market for used fire stations. When you have a buyer, you’d like to do it, and that’s what the Town of Milton has.

They missed getting it on the warrant for this Town Meeting. They have a willing buyer that wants to buy the fire station. And they went to their state senator [Jeb Bradley] in Wolfeboro and said could you help us out, This good senator said, I’ll add it to one of my bills. He’s a private sponsor of this bill. And it came to our committee and we thought it was a good idea to help out the Town of Milton as well. We’ve done this before for other Towns when they need to make something happen in a hurry. They’ve done all their due diligence. And with regards to the fire station, I ask you to support the bill on that behalf. Thank you.

House Speaker: Will the speaker yield for a question?

Representative Carson: No.

Representatives Max Abramson (R-Seabrook) and Laurel Stavis (D-West Lebanon) rose to speak against and for the workforce housing aspect of SB 154.

Representative Carson rose to explain the parliamentary aspect of what a yes or no vote would mean in terms of passage.

SB 154 passed with 250 votes [73.7%] in favor and 89 [26.3%] opposed. The votes of particular representatives are not available at this time.


“Sovereignty resides in the people.” – John Locke. “Unless you flub the deadline of getting it on the people’s warrant.” – NH House Majority.


References:

NH General Court. (2019). RSA 41:14a. Acquisition or Sale of Land, Buildings, or Both. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/iii/41/41-14-a.htm

NH House of Representatives. (2019, May 23). House Session, May 23, 2019. Retrieved from sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00288/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20190523/1029/21374#agenda_

Wikipedia. (2019, May 25). Cy-Près Doctrine. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cy-près_doctrine

 

Taxation Is Theft

By S.D. Plissken | May 16, 2019

For well over a month now, some of New Hampshire’s Republican legislators have been working the phrase “Taxation is theft” into their speeches on the House floor in Concord. (See video compilation in the References below).

One might ask what they mean by this. By way of explanation, the classic “How Many Men?” thought experiment took us along a continuum of theft. It comes in many variations, of which we will here provide but two. You are challenged to identify the point at which theft ceases to be theft.

British theologian J. Budziszewski provided the following How Many Men? sequence.

  1. On a dark street, a man draws a knife and demands my money for drugs.
  2. Instead of demanding my money for drugs, he demands it for the Church.
  3. Instead of being alone, he is with a bishop of the Church who acts as bagman.
  4. Instead of drawing a knife, he produces a policeman who says I must do as he says.
  5. Instead of meeting me on the street, he mails me his demand as an official agent of the government.

If the first is theft, it is difficult to see why the other four are not also theft. Expropriation is wrong not because its causes are wrong, but because it is a violation of the Eighth Commandment: Thou shalt not steal.

[Ed. note: the church in this example is an “established” church, i.e., an arm of the British government].

Strictly speaking, the menaces threatened make taxation more of an Extortion, or perhaps a Robbery, but the Taxation is Theft phrase reaches for some degree of alliteration.

American jurist Andrew Napolitano provided a similar How Many Men? sequence from a legal point of view.

  1. Is it theft if one man steals a car?
  2. What if a gang of five men steal the car?
  3. What if a gang of ten men take a vote (allowing the victim to vote as well) on whether to steal the car before stealing it?
  4. What if one hundred men take the car and give the victim back a bicycle?
  5. What if two hundred men not only give the victim back a bicycle but buy a poor person a bicycle, as well?

The experiment challenges an individual to determine how large a group is required before the taking of an individual’s property becomes the “democratic right” of the majority.

For many, there is no point at which it ceases to be a theft. They claim there can never be such a point. Individuals lack the right to perpetrate theft. Aggregate groups of individuals, such as democratically-voting majorities or their democratically-elected representatives, also lack that right, as groups cannot acquire any extra rights above and beyond those of the individuals of which they are composed.

One might hope that this newly-expressed awareness of majority theft spreads like wildfire throughout the Republican caucus. Perhaps it might temper their own actions when they regain the majority.

One might hope also that this awareness is infectious and crosses over the aisle to the current majority Democrat caucus too.

In fact, awareness of the true nature of taxation should permeate through every level of government, right down to Milton selectmen. It might have the happy effect of limiting some of their wilder fancies.

As the WW II posters asked when seeking to save scarce resources, “Is this trip really necessary?”

Meanwhile, those of us in the peanut gallery may watch these interesting floor speeches by these few “woken” representatives. Too funny.

References:

Wikipedia. (2019, May 15). Extortion. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extortion

Wikipedia. (2019, May 16). Robbery. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robbery

Wikipedia. (2019, May 12). Taxation as Theft. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_as_theft

Wikipedia. (2019, May 13). Theft. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theft

Yokela, Josh (Concord Monitor). (2019, April 1). My Turn: Taxation is Theft – and Here’s Why. Retrieved from www.concordmonitor.com/Taxation-is-theft-2441211

Youtube. (2019, April 4). NH Representatives Stating That Taxation Is Theft. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGO7m8O83ZQ