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Forum, Feb. 12: This proposal for Sunapee schools is better than the last

Published: 2/11/2020 10:00:20 PM
Modified: 2/11/2020 10:00:13 PM
This proposal for Sunapee schools is better than the last

I’m worried by comments to the effect that the Sunapee School Board is bringing the same proposal to the town this year as it did last year, when the proposal was soundly defeated by the voters. I don’t believe it is.

My observation, having looked at and considered both last year’s and the current proposal, is that the only thing that is the same is the total cost: basically $26 million. In my opinion, this year’s proposal is much better thought out than last year’s, and deals with issues across the entire system instead of looking just at the elementary school. It is based on a rather thorough consideration of what we have in the way of buildings, what the education requirements for 2020 and beyond are, and the premise, supported eloquently by many at the meeting, that we want to continue to have a prekindergarten-12 school system in Sunapee.

Well-regarded experts — architects, contractors and cost estimators — worked hard with the School Committee and the Capital Improvement Committee to develop the program being proposed. I think what they have come up with gives us much better bang for the buck than what we would have gotten with last year’s proposal. I support this year’s proposal.

We have serious problems with the elementary school buildings. The problems have to be dealt with, and there are no cheap solutions. I hope all voters will take the time to understand the full scope of what is being proposed as they think about their votes. The cost is one thing to consider, for sure, but it is not the only thing.



Key information missing in Sunapee

There is an old proverb: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” That adage was on full display at the Feb. 3 Sunapee School District deliberative session in two distinct ways.

First, among the warrant articles proposed, the elephant in the room was Article 3, which asks Sunapee taxpayers to approve $25.6 million for new school construction and repairs to allow all 376 Sunapee resident students to be housed in a single school building, including $4 million for associated athletic fields. Financing would be from a 15-year bond issue. The estimated tax impact to town property owners, was 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Therein lies the problem. The tax effect includes only part of the first year’s interest payment, ignoring the remaining 14 years of interest payments and repayment of $25.6 million of bond principal, which increases the tax effect to over $2 per $1,000 of assessed value per year, six times the initial estimate. When queried, school representatives argued that the 36 cents per $1,000 estimate was all that was required under New Hampshire law.

Second, Article 8 asks voters to create a committee of “all stakeholders” to investigate alternatives to new school construction, such as moving grades K-5 to the current middle/high school building and offering students in grades 9-12 school choice “to attend the high school that best meets each student’s needs and interests.” School choice options were summarily dismissed when alternatives were presented to voters last year. After considerable discussion, this article was adopted with restrictive amendments, which state that it only be invoked if Article 3 is defeated, and is only “advisory,” meaning it can simply be ignored for any reason.

Thus, the one-eyed king still reigns, because failing to provide relevant information, and failing to seek it, renders us blind. It is the polar opposite to transparency, which is especially important when you’re asking voters to reach into their wallets for substantial money over a protracted period of time.



A dark day for our democracy

A casual pastime of mine is reading mottos on newspaper mastheads. I think everyone has heard of The New York Times’ motto, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Other examples range from the meteorological, “Covers Dixie Like the Dew,” on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to the self congratulatory, “Worlds Greatest Newspaper” on The Chicago Tribune.

For years, The Washington Post used “The Paper That Digs Deeper.” On Jan. 21, 2016, one day after another “day which will live in infamy,” the paper’s motto was changed to “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” How prescient.

During the impeachment trial, our democracy, as the framers of the Constitution imagined it, died in the darkness of a Republican majority Senate. The majority refused to hear testimony from material witnesses or to look at any documents relevant to the trial of President Donald Trump. In more than 200 years, no impeachment trial, whether of a president or a judge, had been conducted in this manner.

Following this dereliction of their duty to be impartial jurors, the senators voted to bring about the foreordained outcome of the trial. The implications of their verdict are to condone the influence of foreign actors in our elections and render moot the coequal status of the executive and legislative branches.

American elections, the heart and soul of our democracy, should be decided only by Americans. Congressional oversight of the executive is foundational to the conduct of government. Both concepts have been annihilated.

We don’t need historical perspective to recognize how dark a day this is for our democracy.



Sen. Romney voted his conscience

I have strong Utah Mormon roots dating back to pioneer covered wagon days. Although I personally moved away from Mormonism many decades ago, I retain a deep respect for that faith. And it makes me proud indeed to see Mormon Sen. Mitt Romney cross party lines to vote his conscience in the president’s recent impeachment trial.


West Fairlee

History appears to be repeating

Allow me to quote a short passage from a book I am reading, Madam Fourcade’s Secret War, about the politics in France between the two world wars: “With France in the state of permanent political crisis, cabinet ministers focused their efforts on staying in office, which meant spending little time on substantive issues. The already deep cynicism of the French people toward government officials was further exacerbated by a string of financial scandals in the 1930s involving bribes paid to ministers and parliamentary deputies by businessmen and bankers seeking favorable government treatment.”

As it is said, the more things change the more they stay the same. Does history repeat itself?


West Lebanon

One man’s mulleins are another’s ...

I write in regard to Jennifer Hauck’s fine front-page photograph “Hot Air” (Jan. 29), showing Dave Dempsey using a leaf blower to fan his brush fire. Dempsey is shown behind upright “bars” of withered mulleins, hinting at imprisonment.

The Valley News is indeed diligent in displaying and reporting on anything from hard-core iniquity to heedless tramping on people’s emotional bunions. Hauck’s photograph, however, reveals a total lack of feeling for those who are upset by mulleins, whose lives are demeaned and soured by knowing that they must share the planet with mulleins.

These people are determined in their self-defense, working hard to eliminate the dreaded weed, even at personal risk; I’ve seen them digging away in perilous places. The group is not well-known, perhaps owing to the absence of a suitable acronym, all available letters being in use in the acronyms of other groups fighting other evils.

My friends at AAARGH (Against Almost Anything that Really Grows Here) tell me that the mullein is somehow not on the list of invasive plants, but should be, and I’m inclined to agree as I watch the occasional specimen denying living space to sumac, sweet fern, and other shy, retiring noninvasives on the bank outside my window.

I have also learned that there’s a movement to rename the mullein “congress weed,” owing to the fact that it is a biennial, and thus, like the House of Representatives, has a two-year term. But here I am forced to come to the defense of the poor mullein. At least it does something: In its second year, it offers up a column of encouraging yellow flowers, an activity it indulges in without the presence of a photographer.

We all need to be more careful about giving offense, and the Valley News should realize that what is a flower to someone can be hurtful to someone else!



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