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Forum, March 5: Thanks to voters of Hartford

Published: 3/4/2021 10:00:16 PM
Modified: 3/9/2021 9:57:39 AM
Thanks to voters of Hartford

This is a letter of thanks to all those who supported my reelection campaign to the Hartford Selectboard. Many of you wrote letters to the Valley News Forum, made social media posts, posted signs and held conversations with neighbors. Hearing such support from so many residents, as well as so many community members who run nonprofits in Hartford, made all the difference and was the key to success. Your vote is your voice and you let it be heard loud and clear.

I am honored to have received such wide support and look forward to continuing to serve the town for three more years. I must also give a shout of thanks to our town clerk, Lisa O’Neil, and the entire election team for all the work they did (for months) to make this election run so smoothly during a pandemic. I am especially thankful to all the candidates who ran their campaigns in a professional, respectful manner, free from personal attacks, threats and harassment — a time-honored tradition in our community.

Now, together, we will address issues and continue to unite Hartford, both of which are achievable goals. Listening and respect will take us far. Thank you again for your vote of confidence and support.



The writer has served as chair of the Hartford Selectboard.

Lebanon voters should keep school budget impact in mind

As we consider this year’s Lebanon school budget, there are some things we should keep in mind.

First, Lebanon taxpayers have been generous in their support of the Lebanon school system. According to information from the New Hampshire Department of Education, per pupil costs for 2019-2020 for K-12 students were $22,594. This results in Lebanon being just outside the top 10 figures for all of the school districts in the state (most of which are small, property rich entities).

Second, since my time on the School Board, the student population has declined from 2,250 students in just over 1,600. One wonders how any business could have maintained a budget under these conditions, yet Lebanon continues to steadily increase school budgets, despite the rise in gas and oil prices, in addition to increases in the city budget and increasing water and sewer rates. It isn’t just one portion of the increases, but their cumulative effects.

Having listened to the Candidates Night discussion, I believe that School Board candidates Barbara Patterson, Joshua Flanders and Renee Depalo will be more sensitive to the wishes of concerned Lebanon taxpayers.

Finally, with firsthand knowledge of school resource officers, I fully support their continuance.



School resource officer post should be ended in Lebanon

I hope Lebanon voters will vote yes on Tuesday to discontinue Lebanon’s school resource officer position. My support for this initiative is affected by my experience as a special education teacher in a high school with a diverse student population. The experience taught me that there are positive alternatives to police intervention that involve working primarily with students, parents and school social workers to understand and address the factors in each situation and to manage fair consequences.

Moreover, there is solid research regarding the specific impacts to students and communities when schools employ SROs. University of Delaware professor Aaron Kupchik, a leading researcher of school policing, noted in a 2020 report that these costs include increased possibility of youth involvement in the justice system and in disciplinary action such as school suspension. Further, Kupchik’s research indicates that students of color are more likely than white students to experience these harmful consequences, despite no evidence of different rates of student misbehavior. Students with disabilities face similar consequences in schools with SROs.

Lebanon’s students are not immune to differential treatment based on race and ability. According to the most recent data available from the federal Office for Civil Rights, in 2017, Black students made up 3% of Lebanon’s student population but at least 7.8% of students who received in-school suspensions and at least 5.6% of students who received referrals to law enforcement. Lebanon’s students with disabilities received similar differential treatment. Again, according to data from the OCR, in 2017, students with disabilities made up 19.8% of Lebanon’s student population but 34.8% of students who received referrals to law enforcement.

I do not believe that suspension or referral to law enforcement is what we as a community want for any of our students, and we certainly cannot tolerate disparate treatment of our kids based on race, ability or any other factor.

Rather, we must support positive solutions that encourage the well-being and success of all of our students. A yes vote on Article 7 will be a good start.



Reassess purpose of SRO

In response to mass school shootings and increasing school safety fears, school resource officers have heavily infiltrated schools since the 1990s. I view this as a reactive approach. SROs do not deter juvenile crime. Rather, their use ignores the upstream determinants of juvenile crime, and school shootings continue to increase.

To adequately and effectively support students, we must take steps to promote public health, social justice and mental health. In my opinion, these actions do not include increased policing of our youth, especially in educational settings.

While the purpose of SROs can vary across jurisdictions, Lebanon High School’s SRO works under a “triad concept”: teacher, counselor and law enforcement. I specifically question the ability of one person to be a teacher, counselor and law enforcement officer all in a day’s work.

To be a productive advocate for students, we must allow time and space for education to occur, mental health to take priority, and foster a community of responsibility without the presence of police. We must allocate funding for mental health counselors and other community organizations to enrich students’ lives and to increase their likelihood of success.

Moreover, the implementation of SROs completely disregards the history and relationship police officers have with communities of color. Their presence perpetuates the criminalization of student behaviors, especially for Black and Indigenous students and students of color. The officials who decided to implement SROs failed to consider this country’s history of slavery and its transition to the criminalization of Black and brown lives. They failed to recognize the school-to-prison pipeline they directly contribute to by implementing SROs.

The Lebanon High School SRO was introduced in February 2005. It is now 2021. Given the abuse and violence that many people of color endure from police, it is necessary to reassess the purpose of SROs. To be clear, this abuse and violence is nothing new. But now it is videotaped and posted for the world to see, and we cannot ignore it. We must ask, in the time of a devastating pandemic and increasing racial justice concerns, is an SRO what students truly need?



The writer is a volunteer with Showing Up for Racial Justice and Rights & Democracy.

Police don’t belong in schools

Why should Upper Valley schools eliminate the school resource officer position? As a high school nurse and mother, the answer is quite straightforward to me: The police — cops, which is what SROs really are — do not belong in the school setting. If there is a real crime to be investigated, we have plenty of local law enforcement for this.

We don’t need police to “bust” a student without a hall pass or make criminals out of kids who may have experimented with drugs or alcohol. Instead, let’s get a drug and alcohol counselor on campus to teach young people how to make positive lifelong choices.

By eliminating SROs, we would allow funds to be redirected to hire counselors, bring in community-based organizations and provide additional supports focused on guiding all students on paths to promising futures, rather than predetermining their futures at such a young age.

We don’t need SROs issuing harsh punishments, which often will create a permanent record for the student and can contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Our kids who make mistakes in high school (who aren’t actually true criminals) don’t deserve to be criminalized and branded as such before they are even sent out into the real world to begin their adult lives.

Let’s support our troubled youth in ways that can help them to heal their trauma, push past tough home lives in some cases, and allow them to obtain a personal sense of integrity and responsibility for their actions with consequences that actually make sense, consequences they can learn from and process in their brains, which are still forming and maturing.

Let adult role models, who have the correct expertise and credentials, be a part of their solution. There are so many ways to solve issues without police involvement at such a young age.



Ready for hard but necessary discussions in Lebanon

Alan J. Patterson Sr. has been my friend for more than 30 years. He is a level-headed, thoughtful guy. He has experience as a police office for more than 20 years, he is a small-business owner and a family man.

His interest in running for the City Council comes from these experiences. He knows what happens when we all work together to find creative solutions. He is very interested in taking a hard look at rising Lebanon taxes and what can be done to slow the increase. He wants to help all residents while protecting city interests. He believes they can be one in the same. He knows it is a hard discussion, but feels it is a necessary discussion.

The City Council is responsible for establishing city policies. It is a very important part of our government and the overall success of the city. I believe Patterson has the character and integrity to do an excellent job. At his retirement party, a local police chief said this about him: “He has a guardian mindset. He saw himself taking care of the community.” He would like to continue that as a member of the City Council.

Please vote for Alan J. Patterson Sr. on Tuesday.



Championing West Lebanon

Cleaning up Westboro Rail Yard, completing the rail trail between Lebanon and West Lebanon, repurposing Seminary Hill School — these are all parts of the vision for West Lebanon that I have dedicated myself to for 16 years on the City Council. I will continue to champion downtown West Lebanon and all of our city’s neighborhoods if I am reelected to the City Council.

West Lebanon is a community in transition from its storied past as a hub of railroad activity. I chaired the Westboro Yard Subcommittee in the late-2000s when we envisioned the dilapidated 13-acre rail yard as a revitalized downtown area with green space and the possibility of restaurants, shops and housing. Despite state resistance, we ultimately negotiated a transaction resulting in city ownership of 2 acres on the north end and grant funding for environmental cleanup of what will become a park.

Although stalled during the years of adjacent bridge construction, this 2-acre park is critical to redeveloping downtown West Lebanon. It created an ultimate destination for the rail trail and an opening for more engagement with the state. We recently secured state funding to demolish the deteriorating railroad buildings. A riverfront trail is now closer than ever, and I will keep advocating for the city’s ability to redevelop and use more of this valuable property.

Seminary Hill School remains an underutilized space, and I know that persistence to collaborate with the School District will eventually yield results. Making the best use of this community asset is in all of our interests — especially the taxpayers who fund both school and city.

As a city councilor, I have supported strategic investments in downtown West Lebanon, like the Kilton Library, which we did amid a global economic recession. The subsequent sale of the former West Lebanon Library with deed restrictions permanently preserved an important piece of West Lebanon’s history. When budget pressures threatened to close the West Lebanon fire station in 2012, I worked with other councilors to keep it open. Count on me for continued leadership in the efforts to revitalize downtown West Lebanon.



Sylvia Puglisi a fresh voice

I am excited to share my support for Sylvia Puglisi for an at-large seat on the Lebanon City Council.

Lebanon residents need city councilors who are relentless advocates for their needs, especially those who are struggling the most. In this time of pandemic and economic turmoil, we can’t afford to take a business-as-usual route. We need fresh voices to rise up from within the community and place the hardships of our residents first in city governance.

Puglisi is that voice. This is evident in their top campaign priority: reevaluating how the city serves its residents, particularly those in need, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Puglisi will bring a bottom-up approach to the City Council that is based on engagement and service within the community. A career as a teacher and high school administrator has prepared Puglisi to take on this challenge. As we move bravely into a post-COVID-19 world, Lebanon will benefit greatly from Puglisi’s commitment to solicit and incorporate the voices of all residents into city governance. Please join me in voting for Sylvia Puglisi on Tuesday.



Cast your vote for better housing options in Lebanon

The cost of living in Lebanon is a challenge for many of us. It is long past time that the City Council took a more active role in ensuring better and more affordable housing options for our residents, including our unsheltered population, which is why I am strongly supporting Sylvia Puglisi for the at-large seat and Devin Wilkie for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council.

These candidates have made housing a pillar of their campaigns. Puglisi has called for the establishment of a committee to improve how the city supports access to affordable homes and needed human services. Wilkie will draw on his experience with the Lebanon Housing First Working Group to push for better, more compassionate support for our unsheltered residents and improving housing options for all.

Access to stable, affordable homes is a critical first step in supporting those in need in our community. Residents struggling with economic insecurity, mental health challenges and substance misuse have much better outcomes when they have a steady home they can afford. These challenges have only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why we need a strong focus on this issue from the City Council in 2021 and beyond.

With their dedication to improving home options for residents, Devin Wilkie and Sylvia Puglisi will lead the way in creating a more caring, compassionate and inclusive Lebanon. Please join me in voting for them on Tuesday.


West Lebanon

Candidates will represent entire Lebanon community

I write in support of Lebanon School Board candidates Lilian Maughan, Stephan Kantor and Lisa Vallejo Sorensen, and City Councilor at-large Karen Liot Hill. I currently serve Lebanon as chair of the School Board. Here I express my opinions solely as an individual community member.

Over my six years of service on the School Board, I have learned the work is more than where you stand on a particular issue. It is about asking questions, researching, preparing, discussing, getting to know our schools and those impacted, etc., before voting. It is sitting around a table with eight other people of diverse backgrounds, experiences and personalities to make policy and financial decisions that directly impact the educational experiences of our students and the work experience of our staff. It is essential to consider these decisions carefully through the lens of our greater community because we are interconnected. Some decisions carry more weight, importance and impact than others. And no decision will be welcomed and supported by all stakeholders.

Because of my experience on the board, I am 100% confident that Maughan, Kantor, Vallejo Sorensen and Liot Hill are prepared to do the work required of School Board and City Council members as we continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 and begin to plan for the future.

As candidates, Maughan, Kantor and Vallejo Sorensen have already shown an amazing amount of integrity and commitment to represent Lebanon by going door-to-door talking with residents, attending meetings, asking questions and trying to understand the immediate issues ahead of them. Liot Hill continues to be as passionate about Lebanon now as in years past, and the experience she brings to the City Council is invaluable.

What I trust most about these candidates is their ability to represent the entire Lebanon community. They will work tirelessly to find creative, fiscally responsible solutions.

Please join me on Tuesday in support of Lilian Maughan, Stephen Kantor, Lisa Vallejo Sorensen and Karen Liot Hill.



Lisa Vallejo Sorensen believes in our schools

I am writing to express my support of Lisa Vallejo Sorensen for Lebanon School Board. My three children have attended Lebanon’s schools; I know their strengths and their challenges. I firmly believe that Vallejo Sorensen’s vision, skills and background would be tremendous assets to the School Board.

Her platform revolves around inclusivity and diversity; her own background is a case in point. Her maternal grandparents were from Mexico and spoke no English, and her paternal family members were Ukrainian- and Danish-speaking immigrants from Canada. Her husband is Mexican-America, and her kids are bilingual in Spanish and English. She understands the challenges of raising kids who don’t fit the norm.

In the candidate forum on March 2, she made clear that the district must work for all children.

Issues such as a school resource officer require more information to know how this position affects all kids. Our aging schools require renovations to address the disproportionate impact the facilities have on some students, including special-needs kids and English-language learners who currently receive help in converted closets. Decision-making should be more transparent. And we need to plan for the future of the district.

Vallejo Sorensen believes in our schools. She has seen them for the past 11-plus years from the inside. While there are some candidates for School Board who support school vouchers, she insists on supporting Lebanon schools rather than siphoning money from the district to send them elsewhere. Why would some candidates want to be on the School Board if they don’t believe enough in our own schools that they would be in favor of vouchers?

Her background in education as a former teacher, her nonprofit experience in budgets and marketing at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center, her long-standing commitment to our school district, her extensive volunteer activity in the schools, and her diverse background are what we need for our School Board.

On Tuesday, I will vote to support our schools and our families. I will be voting for the three most qualified candidates: Stephen Kantor, Lilian Maughan and Lisa Vallejo Sorensen.



Reelect Voegele, Wilson to Lyme School Board

As Lyme citizens, we strongly support these incumbent candidates for Lyme School Board: Jonathan Voegele and Barbara Wilson. They have earned our vote.

First and foremost, these two candidates made difficult decisions in difficult times — with careful thought and public debate under unprecedented scrutiny — and we trust they will lead us well through upcoming challenges.

A full reopening of our school was the right decision, especially in retrospect. To prepare for this decision, they spent countless hours listening to families, teachers and administrators; reading daily updates on the pandemic; drafting and redrafting a reopening plan; scrutinizing the budget; adapting rapidly, all while keeping our children’s well-being in laser focus.

At the time, reopening was an incredibly difficult decision that attracted close scrutiny and criticism. In reality, we owe the highest gratitude to each member of our School Board, our staff, our teachers, our principal and our townspeople who have put themselves at great risk and worked so hard.

Now, as we see the stories emerge across the country about the emotional and psychological impacts of schools being closed for many children, we recognize how lucky we are that a full reopening was possible in our town and was supported by these School Board members. Thanks to them, our children are not falling behind, working parents can work and our community will survive.

Secondly, we support these two candidates because they stand for fiscal responsibility.

From 2012-2019, our school’s budget increased by 45%, with an increase in cost-per-pupil spending from $16,000 to $23,000 under previous board leadership. We support our schools financially, but not without critical consideration of the budget and spending outcomes. Jonathan Voegele and Barbara Wilson have flattened the financial curve — no small task and not taken lightly. They have stood for fairness and accountability in our spending.

It is time to reelect these two board members who have been such excellent stewards of our town’s resources and our children’s well-being.



Facts on Canaan’s Article 2

There are a lot of strong opinions about zoning in Canaan. Here are some facts.

Canaan has had a Historic District since 1968, with regulations governing types of buildings and how they look. Article 2 basically moves some regulations to a zoning ordinance limited to the Historic District to conform with state law.

This has absolutely no impact on anyone or any property outside the Historic District.

History proves it’s false to argue that passing Article 2 would somehow “open the door” to broader zoning. Townwide zoning would require a majority vote of the town on another warrant in some future year. And Canaan actually has several other limited zoning ordinances. In 1988, the town adopted a flood ordinance to control building in flood-prone areas. In 2006, the town adopted a drinking water ordinance to protect community water sources. And in 2018, the town approved a limited ordinance to regulate large wind farm towers.

Article 2 does not require, nor does it impose, any new costs. In fact, it makes it less expensive for the town to uphold its rules if they’re challenged in court. There are no new taxes, fees, forms or employees required if Article 2 passes.

So, Article 2 isn’t really new or that much of a change. If you don’t live in the Historic District, it doesn’t affect you.

For the few folks who were here before the district was created there was no mass rush to move out. And the many who’ve moved into the existing district — including me — not only weren’t discouraged, they were attracted by the regulations, recognizing it preserves what drew them here in the first place.



Article 2 better protects Canaan Historic District

After attending the Canaan Selectboard candidate forum on March 2, it was apparent there is an incorrect fear that zoning is being introduced to Canaan. This is not the case. Some Selectboard candidates did not seem to understand that Article 2 is a simple measure that would ensure that Canaan could preserve its historic character, something Canaan residents have expressed repeated interest in.

Article 2 takes some existing Historic District rules (height, setback, usage) and moves them to zoning because they are less expensive to enforce under zoning — and lower costs are something all Selectboard candidates expressed their support for. Aesthetic rules remain in the Historic District regulations and no new rules, fees, forms, delays, costs or employees are introduced.

Unfortunately, the warrant has no explanation of this detail, and this has caused confusion among many. This is zoning for only the historic district of Canaan Street, nowhere else. By placing the Historic District into this type of zoning, the appropriate state laws can better protect the district. We would like to be able to keep the character of Canaan Street as people have for generations.

All of the Selectboard candidates that night expressed a desire to preserve Canaan’s heritage and character. We hope Canaan residents will agree that preservation of our Historic District is important and support Article 2 on Tuesday.



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