Dispatches from the Deliberative - Part 1 - Granite Grok

Dispatches from the Deliberative – Part 1

“…if you can’t bother to do your homework”

Town Meeting

BTW, sorry for not posting the last couple of nights – just had nothing on Tuesday and last nite was my town’s SB2 Deliberative Session for the town’s budget and other issues (all called “articles”).  For those that don’t live in NH, it is Town Meeting time.  This is the continuation of a few centuries now of a tradition, especially in the smaller towns and villages, for the residents (LEGAL residents!) to gather and decide on the upcoming annual budgets (municipal and school district), zoning changes, and any other types of “warrant articles” that are to be decided. The traditional Town Meeting has both the debate on the issues as well as the voting on these articles (either by raised hands or by voice votes).

An SB2 town is a bit different in that the debate part is its own meeting the residents can question the selectmen and budget committee members on the various articles, the budget line items – and change any desired them by voting those changes up and down and arrive at the final worded articles to be put on the ballot.  This completed ballot is then voted upon at a different day just like voting for President – via the voting booth.

The advantages of this SB2 style is that:

  • one side of an issue can’t just outwait the other by keeping the meeting going (say until 2am the next morning) and wear them out – voting via the voting booth is an all day affair
  • takes away some of the intimidate that some more “retiring” folks than I might feel in wanting to vote no on a new teachers’ contract – while standing next to their child’s teacher (and yes, there can be a rather large contingent of teachers’ union members present and making their wishes well known.

I haven’t been to one in a coupla/few years but given that I’m running unopposed for the BudCom, I felt I need to help defenestrate yet another attempt to delegitimize said Committee (happens on a regular basis by those that wish that town spending have NO oversight (you know, the kind that spending your money is good and spending even more of it on stuff they REALLY like is dandy – even if you don’t want to have your money spent that way).  This time, however, it wasn’t just taking away its power (either by disbanding it altogether or making it an “advisory only” in nature), but attacking a single person on it.  This petition warrant article (e.g., not submitted by the selectmen or BudCom but by a number of town residents) stated (emphasis mine):

ARTICLE 21: Shall the Town adopt the following policy: Effictive July 1, 2017, no person who serves in any elected position at the State and Federal level shall concurrently serve in any elected position within the town of Gilford? The purpose of this article is to ensure that power concerning town matters is not concentrated in “the hands of a few” and to encourage broader civic participation with Gilford’s citizenry.
[Submitted by petition]
(Not recommented by the Board of Selectmen by a vote of 3 to 0)

UPDATE: H/T to OldNHMan pointed out my typo- from “3 to 2” to “3 to 0” – we only have 3 Selectmen)

While I did stand up and ask questions (as well pieces of my mind – I *AM* an opinionated political blogger after all) on other Articles, it was this one that really spurred my going to the Town Deliberative Session

Forgetting about the logic mistake for a moment that was noticed by another attendee (“any elected position at the State and Federal level” which kind of rendered this Article to the Stupid Bin because NO one in town is or has held both a State and a Federal elected office), this was about one thing and one thing only:


Gilford has a habit, from time to time, in residents attempting to use the Force of Government to hurt a specific individual or companies.  I brought up one from a few years ago – from when a lawyer by the name of Mr. Nix (can’t remember his first name) had moved into town and THEN found out that a little distance from his lakefront home was a seasonal resort, the Ames Farm, that, in his estimation, was too noisy with boats, jet skis, parties, and other such activities that most would call FUN!  And, by the way, had been there for well over 100 years and had been conducting business in this way for decades.

But that was of no account to this guy who put up a petition warrant article that was written in such a way that it would have put the Ames Farm out of business.  Just for “quietness” and HIS “quality of life”.  In my estimation, a rather selfish act.  So, of course, I did not stay silent then. The capper was when I asked the Planning and Land Use official “if this is voted in, will this harm the Ames Farm or even put it out of business?”.  The answer, in front of a packed school auditorium audience, was that it would put them out of business.

I hate bullies, especially selfish ones.  So did the rest of the audience and the subsequent vote on voting day showed their ire – that petition warrant article that would have zoned the Ames Farm out of existence was voted down by a wide, wide margin.  But that result needed someone to first stand up against it.  I have opinions, so I did – I let Mr. Nix know what it was and then the townfolks nixed Mr. Nix.

So back to last night.

There is one and only one person in town that fit the criteria that this policy would hereto forward deny him to serve my town in his current capacity as Budget Committee Chair because he is also a NH State Representative.  The usual gaggle of idiots  (among them, a Mr. Voivod and Mr. Butler) were trying to get the BudCom Chair thrown out because he’s been highly effective in protecting our wallets and has REALLY, REALLY has gone after the budgets – especially the School Board’s threatening them to take them to court.

That would be Norm Silber and like me, isn’t the shy retiring type. This past year, this libertarian, formerly at Reason Magazine, has come to the meetings prepared and running the meetings like an interrogatory in a courtroom.  Pretty much, doing the job he was elected to do and done it well.

Just like a lot of Lefties, they wanted to shut him up.  They wanted to banish him. They wanted to destroy him as Chair.

They tried this petition warrant article, under the guise of “getting more people to participate in the process” to target him.  Again, Norm Silber is the ONLY person in town that fits the criteria.

Shameless in their chutzpah.

Now, I used to come under the same condemnation by others like this “gaggle of idiots” when I was on the BudComm simply because I refused to check my First Amendment Rights when I walked into those meetings and afterward when I walked out.  What happened?


Former Police Chief turned Town Administrator Evans Juris and the Finance Director Debbie Shackett decided that to counteract GraniteGrok, the now defunct GilfordGrok, the radio show I had with Doug and Hynsie, and Doug’s newspaper columns and my Letters to the Editor, they were going to propose a Code of Conduct by which all elected officials had to sign and obey.  Which, amusingly enough, involved shutting me up.

Heh! Long story short (as I realize that this post has gone WAY long) is that they told us that they has spent tens of hours (hundreds?) in crafting it and they were all but ready to have us sign it.  Yeah, well:

  • screw that – I wasn’t going to and made that clear (and there was nothing they could do about it)
  • they slunk away when I discovered that they had plagiarized it from the City of Sunnyvale, CA. (they couldn’t even cut and paste right)

Back to Norm – he has refused to be silent and “go along to get along”.  Nope; he sees a wrong and goes after it. So they targeted both his effectiveness and his demeanor in running the meetings. Just like Leftists – they resorted to DefCon 10.  It isn’t enough to disagree, or participate in the debate – only dismemberment (figuratively?  literally?) can be the only option.  Both Voivod and Butler have served on the BudComm – and have tried to get rid of it ever since.  This was the latest version

Now, some might take exception to my description of “gaggle of idiots”.  Well, if you can’t bother to do your homework or have a basic understanding of Municipal Law, specifically that on SB2 Budget Committees, that’s just stupid.

So after I rolled up to the mic and started in with the above and then, having done my homework, lowered the boom on them with a side smack to the Selectmen. The part of NH State Statutes (commonly referred to as RSAs) is RSA 32:15 which outlines what can and cannot be done in or with an SB2 BudCom.  I have italicized the relevant parts that applied to this petition warrant article


Budget Committee
Section 32:15

32:15 Budget Committee Membership. –
I. The budget committee shall consist of:
(a) Three to 12 members-at-large, who may be either elected or appointed by the moderator, as the town or district adopting the provisions of this subdivision shall by vote determine, who shall serve staggered terms of 3 years; and
(b) One member of the governing body of the municipality and, if the municipality is a town, one member of the school board of each school district wholly within the town and one member of each village district wholly within the town, all of whom shall be appointed by their respective boards to serve for a term of one year and until their successors are qualified. Each such member may be represented by an alternate member designated by the respective board, who shall, when sitting, have the same authority as the regular member.
II. If the meeting decides that members-at-large are to be appointed, the staggering of terms shall begin that same year, with 1/3 of such members chosen to hold office for one year, 1/3 for 2 years, and 1/3 for 3 years, and each year thereafter 1/3 shall be chosen for terms of 3 years and until their successors are appointed and qualified. If the number of members-at-large is not divisible by 3, the division shall be as even as possible over the 3 years. All such appointments shall be made within 30 days after the annual meeting.
III. If the meeting decides members-at-large are to be elected, the meeting shall either elect the initial members for one-year terms by means other than by official ballot, or shall authorize the moderator to appoint members to serve until the next annual meeting, as provided in RSA 669:17. Elections for staggered terms, as described in paragraph II, shall not begin until that next annual meeting, and shall be by official ballot if the municipality has adopted the official ballot system, as set forth in RSA 669.
IV. A town or district which has adopted this subdivision may vote at any subsequent annual meeting to change the number or manner of selection of its members-at-large. No such change shall take effect until the annual meeting following the meeting at which the change was adopted.

So, are there restrictions as to who may serve on an SB2 Budget Committe?  Yes, they are enumerated here and I read this to the assembly last night:

    V. No selectman, town manager, member of the school board, village district commissioner, full-time employee, or part-time department head of the town, school district or village district or other associated agency shall serve as a member-at-large.

“Strike one!” the umpire calls out. Hmm, I don’t see any reference to “person who serves in any elected position at the State and Federal level” in that list.  Sorry, petitioners, you can’t do what you said you wanted to do.  You just can’t make up your own restrictions.  After all, all towns are only political subdivisions of the State – this is not a “home rule” State.

Add to that who can’t serve is this that enumerate how a member can be kicked off the BudComm:

Every member-at-large shall be domiciled in the town or district adopting this subdivision and shall cease to hold office immediately upon ceasing to be so domiciled.
Norm ain’t moving out of town.  That’s “Steeeerike Two!” And the final pitch…
VI. One of the members-at-large shall be elected by the budget committee as chair. The committee may elect other officers as it sees fit. A member-at-large shall cease to hold office immediately upon missing 4 consecutive scheduled or announced meetings of which that member received reasonable notice, without being excused by the chair.

Steeerike Three! Your petition is null and void.  It would be indefensible in court. NH is not a home rule state whereby towns can do their own thing outside of the strictures of the RSAs and in this case, strictures on who can serve or not.

I reiterated that to the Selectmen.  Towns cannot add additional strictures to an RSA as part of a town policy and neither can they relax the same.  ONLY that which is specified by RSA can be enforced.  I asked them that with this information, WHY didn’t THEY reject Article 21 when they knew it to be illegal and unenforceable.  One of them is a good friend but it had to be said and then one of the Selectmen made it worse: “we didn’t want to spend the money on a lawyer upfront”.

I’m old enough to remember back a few decades to that old Fram oil filter set of ads that always had the line “You can pay me now or you can pay me later” (eg., small price for an oil filter now or BIG bucks for a new engine later).  Someone said after hearing that if this was tried, the Town was going to pay later (heh!). Lame answer when I asked if they were going to pull it: “I think that the citizens will just reject this out of hand” was the (paraphrased) answer.

Really? No matter, the Article was changed later but that answer bothered me – a lot.

In conclusion, it was lots of fun to skewer the petitioners again because of a failure to do their homework. Even though I was concentrating on the exact wording of the RSA, it seemed a couple of times that even the Madame Moderator was hard pressed to keep from smiling from time to time.

You know, I had forgotten how much fun this can be.  Doubly so in a good cause.  In the end, a Mr. Epstein submitted an amendment that was voted upon in the affirmative that basically turned Article 21 on its head to the effect that ALL people, including those holding State and/or Federal elected office, are welcome to serve.

Defenestrated twice over.  A good night’s work.  I was told after the meeting, with all irony and hypocrisy, that both of folks I identified earlier voted FOR this amendment; they couldn’t even stand up to defend their own amendment. Profiles in courage.

I guess I have re-found a source of blog posts because of ONE really important reason:

if the politics is local to me, it’s probably true that it’s local to where you live, too.