When "Happy Papers" Attack

Most people associated with The Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers know we have a special pet name for those free local weeklies you can pick up at any store in town.

We call them “Happy Papers” -- a name my friend Garrick Pelletier gave them after being on a school board for three years. Garrick was a great observer of things that slip by most of us, so naturally he noticed certain standards most “Happy Papers” have in common.

Happy Papers print school bus schedules, local school sports, municipal postings for hearings and meetings, arrest reports from the police, school graduation announcements, community announcements and such other items all the managed news in a big daily paper doesn't give dailies the space to cover.

Endless photos of people receiving awards are also very popular with Happy Papers. Teachers, town planners and managers, school superintendents, police, firemen, and dozens of different types of community activists are shown week after week with plaques, certificates, and checks awarded for their various endeavors.

Hey, it sells advertising so who can blame them. Besides, everyone wants to see their offspring in some sort of uniform making that big play, or being in one, on the front page. That is why most Happy Papers are part and parcel of local government. There is really no difference between the two.

But there is a darker side. Happy Papers attack!

Check out The (award-winning) Goffstown News from November 23, 2005. The huge headline this week reads; PETITION FILED TO STOP KINDERGARTEN.

It seems The Goffstown Residents Association, a local activist group, wants the parcel of land the kindergarten is being built on left the way it was intended, as recreational land, when the voters used Federal HUD money to buy the parcel in 1977. Ah free money, no strings attached.

This is reported, loosely, on the front page. But the editorial board consisting of President Amy Vellucci, Editors Ginger Kowolski, Christine Heiser, and Susan Clark became unhinged and let loose a screed like we have never seen before - but always wanted just for a piece like this. It is titled: Public should be outraged at kindergarten NIMBYs. (Note your standard yuppie NIMBY's calling someone else NIMBY, but I will let that pass.)

Here is how the gals at the (award-winning) Neighborhood News editorial board get started:
“Goffstown residents should be outraged and disgusted by the recent lawsuit filed by Collis Adams and Kurt Lauer in their continued fight to stop kindergarten.
We've said it before and we'll say it again – this is a blatant attempt to keep a school from being built near their homes. NIMBY. NIMBY. NIMBY. That stands for “Not in my backyard” for anyone unfamiliar with the acronym.”

Then like one of those old air raid sirens you crank up slowly but then keeps screaming long after your arm gets tired, they come out with this:
“The neighbors argument is that the deed is improperly written, that the land is to be used for recreational purposes. Even if that is true, so what. Big deal. No one cares.”

I have to hand it to the editorial board, they let is all hang out with that one. It shows exactly where the paper stands; on the side of “we want what we want now shut up and take it.”

Suddenly, the voters who approved this parcel in 1977, exclusively for recreation with no motorized vehicles allowed, don't matter any longer to these editorialistas because we have a kindergarten to build. Neither do town meeting statutes regarding appropriations, or federal laws for expenditure of funds carry any weight. (I do admire their method for breaking what is in effect a conservation deed restriction – the old “so what who cares” technique.)

But wait, maybe The (award-winning) Neighborhood News does care about voters. Read this line from their editorial:
“Voters overwhelmingly supported this location for the kindergarten. Besides, if Adams and Lauer really did support kindergarten,as they so hypocritically claim, they'd overlook any of these technicalities. Even if they don't support kindergarten, they should not be doing anything to subvert the will of the voters – who clearly supported this spot for the school...”

A little background is needed here. First, the kindergarten was voted down before and it won this time just like the Bedford school bond did last year – there was a severe snowstorm on voting day. So the editorlialistas are in a blind panic something else may crop up like a petition to rescind the project, loss of state funds, etc. and stop this blessed event.

You have to keep these things in context. Building a school is akin to a religious event for some people. It gives their lives meaning, and most importantly, makes them feel good about themselves. Putting things out to bid, zoning, planning, deeds, safety, water/power availability, these are all things the common people worry about. Kindergarten builders and Happy Paper editors believe they are on a higher mission.

Ed Naile, Chair CNHT