Rational Taxpayers of Hampton does not support warrant article 34, which would increase funding for government sponsored Cable TV channels, currently from $84,000 to $338,000 a year, a fourfold increase. The source of this funding is a “franchise fee” of about $3 a month included in Comcast subscribers cable TV bills. The funds that would be shifted by this increase are currently used to reduce taxes and this article redirects the funds to government cable TV activities; the effect would be to increase taxes to Hampton property owners by about $250,000, and it of course invites increased spending by the Cable TV committee. No specific plan has been communicated as to how the additional money would be used: new equipment, additional channels, additional programming or whatever. Typical behavior would indicate that if the money were there, it would be spent. An amendment proposed by Selectmen Waddell, and passed at the Deliberative Session, had the effect of raising the increase from what was a proposed $50,000 increase at the Public Hearing version of this warrant article to $250,000 increase in the version on the March ballot. There is no relief for the Comcast ratepayer as a direct result of passing this article nor have the Selectmen disclosed any plans for ratepayer relief. If the Selectmen were sincerely interested in providing relief for the Comcast subscribers an agreement could have been negotiated with Comcast to reduce “franchise fees” contingent on this article passing. As it now stands, this is simply a spending increase that results in a tax increase with no associated Comcast ratepayer relief. The Fiscal Note placed on the ballot by Town Officials stating there is no tax impact is completely misleading. There is already a channel for the Hampton School District and one for the Town. This article represents a frivolous misuse of funds and should not be supported.
We also want to endorse Mary Louise Woolsey for Selectperson. Mary Louise has a wealth of knowledge on the town and is sensitive to the operational needs of those who work in it and those who live in Hampton. She has been a consistent supporter of the Public Works department and has been a passionate advocate for the Police and Fire Departments. When she is on the other side of issues, in relation to the rest of the Selectmen, she has had to withstand their abuse, particularly Phil Bean when making points at public meetings and is regularly treated unfairly by them. While we have been outspoken in our criticism of a lack of transparency on the part of the Town Manager and Selectmen this past year, many issues have hit the public radar solely because Mary Louise has raised them at public meetings, despite Chairman Griffin’s constant efforts to shout her down. We strongly believe that if Mary Louise is not re-elected public visibility into Town operations and finances will be limited to a perspective that suits the remaining Selectmen’s political agenda. Regina Barnes, her opponent, has no history of public office in Hampton. We are not aware of her being involved on town committees and based on her positions articulated at the Deliberative Session, it appears she will fit right in with the other four Selectmen, not a good thing in our view. Mary Louise best serves the majority and we urge all to return her to office.
Finally, there are many loose ends that continue to disturb us as a result of the approach taken by the Town Manager and supported by the Selectmen. There are way too many violations of Town Policies, Ordinances, State statutes and other principles and standards. For example, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on 2015 year-end encumbrances do not appear to be legally enforceable obligations as required by law, essentially transactions that are nothing more than placeholders. A lack of transparency associated with giving large raises to employees without public disclosure, numerous single source contract awards, failure to operate in a prudent manner with regard to unassigned fund balances, cozy labor negotiations, ignoring questions by citizens regarding the Town’s financial statements and a continued lack of planning all cause us to feel that it is time to change leadership in Town. The Selectmen should take 2016 to review the performance of the Town Manager and determine if he is the best person to lead Hampton into the future.