Ted Siefer's City Hall: Alderman candidate Fischer says rival's pitch misses mark
There is more than one Republican in the race for the Ward 11 alderman seat, candidate Eric Fischer wants you to know.
And no, he doesn't get a paycheck or a pension from the city, contrary to the claims of his Republican rival, Emily Sandblade.
Sandblade has circulated a flier in the West Side ward — Fischer was a recipient — that says she is “the only candidate running for alderman who does NOT collect a paycheck or pension from the city of Manchester” and adds, “I don't have to choose between my wallet and the taxpayers' wallets.”
Fischer is an electrician for the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, a state-chartered agency. And he is prohibited from receiving the $5,000 aldermen's salary, nor would he accept any health benefits, he said.
“It's important that people understand that I can make a distinction between my wallet and the taxpayers,” he said.
The other two candidates in the Ward 11 race, Normand Gamache and Armand Forest, are city fire and police department retirees, respectively.
Fischer also sought to dispel the idea that Sandblade was the pick of the Manchester Republican Committee. As reported in this column in July, MRC Chairman Mike Ball, speaking on behalf of the group, said Sandblade would be a “stellar addition” to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Ball made the statement shortly after the special election for the seat was announced, and he told me last week that he was unaware Fischer was running at the time.
“We wish both of them the best of luck. It's sad that both of them can't win,” Ball said.
Fischer said he's been a Republican “forever,” but was undeclared until April, when he changed his registration. He insists that “independent thinking” is more important to him than party loyalty.
Yes, the city elections are technically nonpartisan, although public union support does serve as a de facto dividing line, with Democratic-minded candidates having a stronger alliance with the unions.
Fischer is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; however, he maintains that his experience has reinforced the need for compromise on both sides of negotiations. He notes that when he was a member of the Board of School Committee in 2009, he opposed the contract extension for the Manchester Education Association.
As for Sandblade, Fischer suggested she shouldn't be one to throw stones. Her relationship with the Free State Project, Fischer said, appears to go beyond an affinity for some of the group's ideas, as Sandblade has indicated.
The group wants to bring 20,000 people to New Hampshire dedicated to the ideals of limited government and personal liberty.
Fischer pointed to a Free State Project event last year. A blog shows photos of Sandblade winning a contest at PorcFest, a summer gathering organized by the FSP, for her tongue-in-cheek composition: “10 Reasons Why It's Better To Be Ruled By The Mafia Than By The Government.” She celebrated her victory by burning a Federal Reserve note.
Sandblade did not return a call in time for her comments to be included here.
We'll be checking in with Gamache and Forest, the other candidates in the race, before the Sept. 11 primary.
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On the theme of setting the record straight, a correction is in order.
In this column last week, it was reported that Republicans Roy Shoults, a school committee member, and state Rep. Kathleen Souza would be facing off in the race for the Hillsborough 43rd District state representative seat. It turns out this is one of those new floterial districts created by the 2012 redistricting map. The district includes Manchester Wards 4, 5, 6 and 7, and it will have three representatives.
So Shoults doesn't see Souza as an opponent. On the contrary, better to vote for both of them, rather than give up a seat to a Democrat, he made a point of telling me last week.
Shoults said that many Manchester voters have the misapprehension that they can only vote for one state representative, something he attributed in part to the late Leo Pepino, the veteran Republican legislator who passed away in June.
“Leo said he's got to get the most votes,” he said. “But it's not just Leo. A lot of Manchester politicians are just looking for bullet votes. That does a disservice to the party.”
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Hopefully, the aldermen will have a restful Labor Day weekend because things should be picking up at City Hall starting on Tuesday, when there will be a slew of committee meetings and a full Mayor and Board of Aldermen session.
There's at least one item on the agenda of the Committee on Human Resources that will likely generate some interesting discussion: How did Welfare Commissioner Paul Martineau end up getting 11 merit increases, bringing his salary to more than $113,000, while being evaluated only three times? This informations comes from a review conducted by city Human Resources Director Jane Gile. The analysis was prompted by the inquires of Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur, who has railed against Martineau's salary and the fact that his agency's payroll exceeds the benefits it pays out to the needy.
Another finding: While the welfare commissioner is the only elected official to enjoy mandated pay increases under the city's Yarger Decker scale, a city ordinance states that the position is not subject to such pay raises.
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Earlier this summer, the aldermen were pleasantly surprised to learn that a city department is highly functioning, efficient and lucrative. This was the conclusion of a consultant's report on the Parking Division, an update to an overhaul plan proposed five years ago.
Now city Parking Manager Denise Boutilier wants to press forward with recommendations outlined in the consultant's latest report.
Aldermen on the Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic on Tuesday will consider a plan to eliminate the current policy of charging only $1 for event parking on metered streets downtown. Instead, the hours of meter enforcement would be extended from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Boutilier said she'll hold off on other recommendations for stepped up permitting and enforcement, including extending meter times throughout the week.
“We are moving forward with tiny pieces,” she said.
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Remember that great idea two city employees had earlier this year to send out ads along with vehicle inspection reminders? AutoFair agreed to pay $25,000 to the city, largely underwriting the annual cost of the mailings.
Well, as several readers learned when they opened their mail recently, AutoFair is taking full advantage of the opportunity, with fliers headlined “State Inspection HQ” and offering discounted oil changes for those who bring their cars in for inspections.
This didn't sit will with the readers.
Carmen Davis called the insert “extremely inappropriate” in a letter addressed to Mayor Ted Gatsas and copied to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
An official with the Motor Vehicle Registration Department notes that the deal with AutoFair was made only after a Request for Proposals went out and there was no response and that nothing in the agreement with the company prevented it from tailoring the ads to auto inspections.
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Ted Siefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @tbsreporter.
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