Steven J Connolly


Report From Burton Train #1. 

This will be a quick post. I'll have more details tomorrow.

In any case, today (Saturday) I rode the Railroad Promotion Marketing Day train sponsored by the long-time and departing Executive Councilor from the north. I've ridden the train several times before but this one was for the history books as it is likely the last one.

Initially, I thought it was going to be more of a political event than it was. Actually, it wasn't very political at all. County Commissioner Mike Cryans was more or less the official representative, not much was stated sans the thanking for service, dedication, etc. The primary focus of today was clearly the train. Cryans was followed by State Sen. Forrester who might have spoken the all of 30 seconds, part of which included the fact that she was planning to be a server at the spaghetti lunch run by the senior center that catered the event.

That was it.

It was a nice day for a train ride in central New Hampshire. I'm writing this from near the Meredith Town Docks where speed-boats and one cigarette boat have arrived so that the people on board can go to various shops, eateries, etc. here in downtown Meredith. Think upscale.

I'll have another report tommorrow with some more details of this historic train.


A Room Full Of Taxes. 

As is my policy I don't deal in rumors on this board. Everything that I write has a basis, eithier in fact or in mathematical calculation supported by what I'd term 'reasonable ideas.'

But today I heard a 'rumor' that is too good to pass up. Gorham Paper & Tissue. Rumored To Be In Arrears In Property Taxes. Is this an example of 'innovation' in New Hampshire?

The rumor goes like this. "The amount of property taxes in arrears, default and in foreclosure is rising in some cases by double digits, the towns are continuing to spend more and something has to give."

Something does have to give. This flies in the face of an innovation economy too.

But let's move on. I questioned my source as to how he arrived at his statement about defaulted property taxes. He said he checked with the tax collector in Gorham, NH and learned that there are 22 pages of defaulted property taxes totaling over $950,000.00 that is owed to the town. Some of the major employers in the town are on the list, one of these according to my source is Gorham Paper & Tissue and their corporate mission statement: "Known for innovation and collaboration."

This to me looks like a room full of taxes regardless of what the politicians say.


Rep. Cormier Is Right And Wrong. 

Representative Cormier from Belknap County is sponsoring legislation to dissolve regional planning commissions in New Hampshire.

It's a commendable effort and one that I tried back in 1998 but it's also an LSR which, at most, will get 'refer to interim study.' if not a committee recommendation: ITL.

The Weirs Times had a really good editorial by the legislator showing the comfortable salaries by regional planners, paid by local fees and she painted it against what these regional planning commissions actually accomplish for their area(s).

This goes on statewide...

This legislation will fail simply because the well paid planners will offer substantive information of the conduit they provide for the flow of federal grant monies from everything from affordable housing to mass transit. It's hard to make an argument against the flow of money, regardless of where the source is and how it's gotten.

The only way I've ever found to stop regional planning is for individual communities to drop their membership fees from their commission. For example up here in northern New Hampshire the town of Bartlett dropped out of North Country Council Inc. and was almost followed by Berlin. At the time I believe Bartlett believed they weren't getting anything from their membership, and Berlin wanted to start their own 'Economic Development District.' and apply for federal grants on their own.

I'd note that neither Bartlett or Berlin went through with their plans. I believe Bartlett now pays a reduced rate for membership, and the idea for Berlin to leave North Country Council was defeated by the city council.


Invitational Hassan Politics

Politicians run for re-election this is what politicians do.

Gov. Maggie Wood Hassan is no exception or any different to this statement.

But what concerns me is that she directly campaigned on themes of economic development, jobs and advancement of New Hampshire yet, other than glossy brochures and statements I don't think there is any real evidence of even progress or Innovation! being made. Making A Point: Gov. Hassan states innovation and jobs but where are they?

Political or not.

The Union Leaderhad an interesting story about Hassan attending some type of business forum in Dover. Is this event 'by invitation only?'I think it serves as an example of what the Hassan administration is really about:

Invitational politics and a re-election campaign.


Promoting The State, Part II

So today I received my ticket to the "Ray Burton Railroad Promotion Marketing Day." for this Saturday running from Meredith to Plymouth. Hopefully the weather will be good.

In any case, this event with political overtones serves to highlight and promote this state owned railroad line from Concord to Lincoln; a majority of which just so happens to be in Executive Council District #1.

A brief history lesson: The rail line was constructed in the late 1800s as the White Mountains Branch of the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad rail was once an integral part of the economy. Time moved on and the B,C & M was merged into the Boston & Maine Railroad and this line mainly served the passenger markets and the paper, textile industries in places like Laconia, Tilton, Plymouth and Lincoln. World War II ended in came I-93 and competition from cars and trucks. The Boston & Maine initially declared bankruptcy in 1962 and then again in 1970, when it was reorganized and run by court trustees instead of an actual company, for profit.

A major component of the B&M reorganization was the selling of assets: rail lines, equipment, real estate, etc. So in 1972 the State of New Hampshire ended up purchasing this line, by then facing years of deferred maintenance and not many customers.

So today the Concord to Lincoln rail line primarilly serves tourist(s) and a few small freight customers like lumber yards or propane distributors. The interesting thing here is that the state is still able to maintain the length of rail line (capital cost) and the two rail operators are still able to generate a profit. This is a public-private partnership that really works!

Each year Executive Councilor Ray Burton hosts this train to highlight what the state and the rail operators are doing on this historic railroad line. I'll be looking forward to reporting on what happens on Saturday.