Some Town Meeting voters took on ‘bigger picture’ issuesBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
March 12. 2014 6:42PM
Some communities took on more than budgets or backhoes at their annual Town Meetings Tuesday.
• In Stratford, voters took up the item: “To see if the town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to pursue the possible construction of a cell tower ...”
Three selectmen — Tim Brooks, Larry Ladd and Chair Robin Kimball Rheaume — cited the fact that the Northern Pass project was a supporter of a similar cell tower project in Groveton.
According to draft minutes from the session provided by Town Clerk Dawn Frost, the body first voted to allow the selectmen to move forward on the cell tower as long as no funding came from Northern Pass. Voters then amended the article — on the chance that Northern Pass might make a donation through another entity — to read that the effort can proceed in so far that “no apparent funding comes from Northern Pass.” The amended article passed on a voice vote.
The proposed Northern Pass project would bring hydroelectric power from Canada to the New England regional grid; critics say its transmission towers would ruin North Country views and property values.
• In Lancaster, voters balked on articles that would have opposed the transportation of tar-sand oils through the town and state and another that would have the town “stand with communities across the country to defend democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate power.”
Like an article on the warrant of Waterville Valley warrant, where it passed, the article in Lancaster also addressed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that declared corporations, associations and labor unions have a First Amendment right to make political expenditures.
The Lancaster article read: “1. Only human beings, not corporations are endowed with constitutional rights, and 2. Money is not free speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech,” and it sought a constitutional amendment to establish that fact.
The article failed as did the one preceding it, which noted that in 1950 and 1985 two pipelines were built across northern New Hampshire to transport light-crude oil from Portland, Maine to Quebec.
• In Grafton, voters rejected an article similar to the Citizens United article on the Waterville Valley and Lancaster warrants; one that would have capped the annual amount to be raised by taxes to no more than one percent; and another that would have established the “Grafton United Nations Free Zone Act.”
The act would “ ... protect the citizens of the Town of Grafton from taxation without representation, by forbidding the implementation within the town limits of any tax, levy, fee, assessment, surcharge or any other financial imposition by the United Nations.”
Grafton voters also refused to repeal an article passed at Town Meeting in 1994 that banned possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages on town property; and another which would instruct the selectmen and budget committee to “reduce the annual town budget by ten percent for the next three years.”