In case you haven't noticed the signs and the fliers, or been graced by a personal visit from a candidate, it's campaign season in the Queen City. Of course, name recognition goes far in Manchester politics, and it's debatable how closely the average voter researches the positions and backgrounds of the people vying to be his or her representative.
For example, one would never know from the card being passed out and left on doors by Roger Beauchamp that he was a city police officer for 11 years. Beauchamp is the current Ward 12 school board member who is now running for the alderman seat.
The card notes that he is a son of the West Side, a former state representative, and that he served on the state "Homeless Coordination Commission." For a tipster - who also happens to be a supporter of Beauchamp's opponent, Keith Hirschmann - Beauchamp's career as a police officer was a notable omission.
As it turns out, Beauchamp's police career ended unceremoniously in 1997, when he was dismissed after he was arrested and charged with stalking his ex-wife not long after their divorce. Beauchamp was accused of leaving flowers at his ex-wife's home, parking his car across the street on another occasion, and driving next to her, all violations of the no-contact stipulations of the divorce.
After appealing the criminal stalking convictions, Beauchamp pleaded guilty to two lesser misdemeanor counts of harassment in 1998. Those charges were annulled in 1999 by a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge.
By the time Beauchamp successfully ran for state representative in 2008, as a Democrat, it appears the past charges were largely forgotten or at least forgiven. In 2009, he was elected to the school board.
Beauchamp said he was proud of his professional work - he's now a social worker - and his public service. "I feel I've got plenty of experiences listed, and my record stands for itself," Beauchamp said, referring to his candidate card.
As for his dismissal from the police force and the prior stalking charges, Beauchamp said he had no comment, except to say, "It was an event that occurred in the past."
Hirschmann, who was the Ward 12 alderman from 1996 to 2002, said he wasn't making an issue of Beauchamp's past. "My approach has been to put out a positive message of my own. There are plenty of people out there who would like me to discuss Roger Beauchamp and who he actually is, but that's not my job. My job is to let people know who Keith Hirschmann is."
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In June 2012, the union representing Water Works employees rejected a contract extension agreed to by other city unions, which would have entailed a significant hike in their health insurance premiums, from 5 percent to 12.5 percent and then 15 percent the next year.
Now that the aldermen are poised to ratify a new contract for the union, United Steelworkers Local 8938, one has to wonder whether the workers regret that decision. The deal will instead hike their premiums to 17.5 percent, while giving them a 1 percent, non-retroactive raise - the same extended to the other unions more than a year ago.
The agreement means that Mike Roche, the longtime president of the union, will no longer be a thorn in the side of the aldermen and the mayor, as he has been for the past several months, urging the representatives of the city to sit down and talk. In the end, Roche lamented, the talks were hastily conducted by the city's go-to attorney, Matt Upton, and he said the city didn't budge from its initial offer.
"There were no negotiations," Roche said, adding, "so much for the 'me-too' clause." He was referring to the fact that the Water Works union was not offered the same deal as the other city unions in 2012.
Of course, Mayor Ted Gatsas has pointed out that since then the city has had to pay a greater share the health insurance of the Water Works employees, so naturally it would look for even greater concessions on health costs in a new contract.
The deal is not all bad. In addition to the raise, the Water Works employees will be able to accumulate personal days, two hours for each three-month quarter of full-time work.
Still, Roche felt the union got a raw deal, and he said he missed the days when the city had a union negotiator on staff and there was a genuine give and take. The beginning of the end, he said, came five years ago, when unions agreed to reopen their contracts prematurely and agree to concessions.
"That was the camel's nose under the tent," he said. "The city of Manchester may never see real negotiations again. It's hard when you're dealing with an attorney."
It's worth noting that the deal agreed to by the steelworkers union makes the offer reportedly extended to the teachers union - the largest union in the city operating without a contract - look pretty good. That deal would have given the teachers raises based on the rate of inflation, 2.17 percent this year, and the health care premiums would have been raised to 15 to 20 percent.
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As was reported in these pages a few weeks ago, political action committees have different interpretations of the city charter when it comes to disclosing campaign finances around election time. The Manchester Police Patrolman's Association, in particular, has not filed reports with the city detailing its contributions to candidates, which it regularly makes.
It may come as no surprise that Alderman-At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur has taken up the cause to get the police union to comply with the filing requirement. Levasseur, of course, has tussled with the department in one dispute after another, and the feud has been particularly heated and personal with Officer Steven Maloney, the union's president and the guy who would be responsible for filing the report.
Maloney has stated that the union's attorney has advised the group that it's not required to file as a PAC, and it has yet to file a single report with the city, unlike other city unions.
Levasseur's mind is more inquiring than others concerning the police union's campaign spending. It's safe to say the union would like nothing more than to see Levasseur's contenders for the two at-large seats, William Infantine, S. Daniel Mattingly and Dan O'Neil, the other incumbent, edge him out of office. Levasseur has pressed Maloney to release a disclosure report, and he's called on City Clerk Matt Normand to pressure the group to comply with the regulation. He said he intends to raise the issue at the next aldermen's meeting. "The people in charge of enforcing the laws won't fulfill the law requiring one to file a PAC," Levasseur said.
Ted Siefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tbsreporter.