Taxes, Improvements, Politicians and Papers

I am supposed to meet with Ron Goudreau and Paul Grenier (separately) to talk capital improvements and taxes. Mr. Grenier said the bond will result in at least a $1.67 increase in the tax rate, which currently is $29.82. Mr. Goudreau said the $29.82 includes the first year’s repayment on the bond. There won’t be a tax increase, he said, because the bond payments are already figured into the tax rate.
I minored in economics, so hopefully I have enough financial understanding to sort this out for the voters. I don’t think it’s enough for a reporter to write down what people are saying; they have to dig into the numbers and analyze what’s really there. There were sharp words at Monday’s meeting, and I reported them as well as I could. Now it’s time for me to look into the numbers behind the numbers.
So expect that in next week’s Berlin Reporter. I’m glad there are still people out there willing to pay the 50 cents. It keeps me in a job, doing what I love.

Side notes:

  • Mayoral debate at the Berlin city hall auditorium, Wednesday, October 28, at 6:30 p.m. Come see who you’re voting for and learn their positions.
  • It is constructive remarks like those LPJ has received recently that convince me to allow anonymous comments. Glad to see the discussion stay clean. I appreciate people posting, no matter the viewpoint, as long as their goal is to build a better Berlin. So thanks.
  • I bought the domain I just put in a placeholder because I haven’t built the site yet, but I feel like I’ve got a fairly consistent thing going here, and I’d like to build it out. Journalists have to have websites these days, and I’m no exception. I’m not looking to move on from the Reporter, but I’m always looking for freelance opportunities, and if I’ve got a website to direct people to so they can see some of my work, it helps. Eventually I hope to have the the blog there, to house everything in one place, but for now I’m just saving my spot.
  • There’s a public hearing next Tuesday about the ATV trail.
  • It’s time to donate to NHPR. I freelance for them occasionally, and I’ll be reporting on Berlin’s ATV trail sometime in the next few weeks. They need money to pay me, so please, help me out by helping them.

I reread my story about Laidlaw investors saying they intend to send Mr. Grenier campaign contributions. It’s funny, but by the time stories come out I haven’t looked at them in a week. When I received calls and criticism about it, I hadn’t looked at it in a while. But after reading the story today I realize how off base those comments are. I thought maybe I’d screwed something up and been unfair to Mr. Grenier. But no, I was right on, and if I had to do it again I’d write the same story. I represented Mr. Borowski fairly, including his ties to the area and his good reasons for wanting to see Laidlaw succeed. I represented Mr. Grenier fairly as well, including his hesitation before he said he would reject any money from outside the city.
I thought maybe I’d left those things out. I thought maybe I’d been too worried about length and edited the story down. But no, I didn’t, I represented the various parties fairly and accurately. And in the end, no one in the story looks all that bad.

Sometimes accurate reporting makes people look like crap. That sucks, but that’s what I’m there for. Maybe there is some meeting going on in Berlin that, if made public, would make everyone look like jerks. I hope to be there. A few phone calls and complaints aren’t going to scare me off. My goal isn’t to make anyone look bad. In fact, no one has to answer to me. They are answering to the residents of Berlin. And of Gorham. And Milan, Dummer, Randolph and Shelburne. I’m asking questions for those people, because they don’t have the time to. It takes more than calling a fair story biased to make me stop. Or a page full of numbers.

P.S. Ryan — You don’t want to buy the paper if you stay in city government, because I won’t be able to curb my reporting for your sake. Sometime you’ll make an asinine comment that I’ll put in the paper, and you’ll want to fire me, and I’ll only have been doing my job, and it’ll be a great big mess. I agree, I’d like to see more people reading the Reporter. But the paper doesn’t come with the printing press. The daily owns their press. It’s in Conway and it prints three other daily papers; that makes their business viable. The Reporter is owned by Salmon Press, which owns 10 other weeklies around the state, which makes their business viable. Buy a press to print one paper and you’ll lose money at the speed of sound. Launching an online paper cuts that cost, but the advertising revenue online is negligible, not enough to pay for quality reporting. Berlin is struggling with the same challenges the rest of journalism is: how do you support quality reporting in the Internet age? Luckily community papers are successful enough to continue surviving. As far as I know, our market isn’t growing yet. I hope my reporting will change that, but in a world where people live more and more online that may not be realistic. There are blogs, yes, but few places online for high quality local news. Residents don’t need to read people’s opinions about what is going on in Berlin—they need the facts about what is going on in Berlin. There is not, at this time, a good model for how to provide that. I’m trying to resurrect a dinosaur here, singlehandedly. Berlin has a shot at rebirth, and it’s much greater than that of newspapers.
And Jon, thank you for the compliment on LPJ as a news destination. I’m glad people come here for news and to share their opinions, but there is 10 times as much news in every Reporter than goes on here and more in depth analysis. My story about shareholders didn’t break here, remember, it broke in the Reporter. We all come here talk about it, and people add value to my work by commenting here, but the fact is this is a side project that doesn’t pay for groceries or pay my rent. The real news is in the paper; this is just the 21st century water cooler.

I wish I had an answer for newspapers. They are so valuable. I love my work, and I think it is integral to maintaining democracy. I’m lucky to have a community and an employer that supports me. What the future holds I don’t know. Will Berlin support two papers when everyone gets high-speed Internet and starts posting their ads on Craigslist? I doubt it. Which paper will fold, or will both? I don’t know. But right now, at a time where Berlin needs quality reporting so residents can make important decisions about their future, the two papers are still there. Hopefully a new model will be created before the old one dies. Otherwise there won’t be anyone out there to find out who is giving money to what causes or who’s numbers about the tax rate are accurate.

So buy a paper. Maybe a subscription for your mom for her birthday? I don’t know, but I hope everyone reading this realizes the value of quality journalism. We need it, and the fact is, it isn’t free.

11 thoughts on “Taxes, Improvements, Politicians and Papers

  1. Erik,I spend the 50 cents every Wednesday….. I'll let go of the business plan idea….. I just wish more people would read your work…..everyone in Berlin would be much better informed. Keep up the good work.Ryan Landry

  2. Erik,A couple of thoughts on this latest blog post;1.) Those people that criticized your article either didn't understand what they read or incorrectly read between the lines and convinced themselves that the article was slanted against Mr. Grenier. If Mr. Grenier is elected to office you are going to find that he and his supporters will not be afraid to strong arm you. They have large egos and correspondingly small minds. That is the way he and his companions operate. Facts don't matter to them. What matters to them is their ego & their agenda, no matter how it adversely impacts others or the City. They generally have a "take no prisoners" attitude, even when their actions are driven by misinformation or ignorance (or both). 2.) I think you'll find that Dave Bertrand, Ryan Landry and others in the current administration are not like that. So, if you report something they don't like I highly doubt they’ll come at you in the same manner. Don't forget, Mr. Grenier is a politician first and foremost. Thoughtful reflection is generally not part of his demeanor or his personality, which for some reason makes him attractive to local residents.Unfortunately for the City & its residents, I suspect Mr. Grenier & his loud mouth supporter are about to take control of City Hall. I am so looking forward to the City taking two steps backwards, can you tell? By the way, this post is not meant to be “hating” on the challengers in this race. You may not believe me now, but in spending more time with them (especially if they win) I’ll think you find my characterizations to be highly accurate.

  3. To the Editor My name is Jon Edwards and I’m running for Ward 2 Council to help Berlin and the current mayor and council create jobs that do not impact the health of the area’s population, create negative issues to the health of the area’s #1 resource; the trees that built this city, or negatively impact the potential our city center currently has to redefine itself as proud of the past and progressive with our potential. As a Realtor, business owner and a member of the Berlin board of Assessors, it is my opinion that it is the highest and best use to put a biomass facility surrounding the waste water treatment facility due to the fact that it is more removed from the area’s population and close enough to Fraser to provide steam to help keep it alive. Given a choice, the Clean Power Development biomass proposal which would simply surround the waste water treatment plant and resemble a working farm appearance rather than the Laidlaw proposal operating a biomass plant on the Burgess mill site on top of the area’s population base, makes perfect sense to me and many others within the city. The developer behind Clean Power has successfully built and operated biomass facilities in northern NH where Laidlaw is hoping for Berlin to be their first operating facility.

  4. letter to editor cont…..I will do everything I can to prevent our loss of the Clean Power opportunity and to also protect Berlin’s citizens interests should Laidlaw ever initiate an application before the State to build and operate in Berlin. I can’t think of many commercial investors that would recognize or that could realize development potential around a waste water treatment plant, yet Clean Power Development has presented a proposal that truly maximizes the value of that location via a whole master plan of business expansion through synergy related to a combined heat and power design that brings increased value to the City's WWT facility. The interesting part is that because the Clean Power facility is physically close to the Fraser Paper mill the cost of a connecting steam line is feasible. Because the Clean Power project is an all new from the ground up CHP design the price to provide steam will be favorable for Fraser. Clean Power and Fraser have a Memorandum of Understanding related to steam purchase and sale. Clean Power has initiated a study/development group with the City and others to push forward with a District Heating System for Berlin. Clean Power has already established a favorable maximum cost for heat that its facility could provide at a price that will drive the District Heating System business model. Clean Power and another company Simply Green have entered an agreement to co-locate a bio oil depot that will be anchored to the region via its significant customer commitment by Clean Power Development and from which location Simply Green will expand to become a regional supplier of renewable bio fuels. It is my understanding that Clean Power is significantly advanced with a multiple party group to advance a co-located algae production facility also to operate in synergy with the energy plant and the City's Waste water treatment facility. This operation would utilize nutrients from the Waste water treatment effluent, sequestered CO2 from the energy plant stack gas, be heated with waste heat from circulating water and purchased electricity to run grow lights. I also understand that Clean Power is advancing a plan to establish a green house growing operation that will co-locate because of synergy if additional nearby real estate becomes available. It is my understanding that this master plan will build out over a five to seven year period and bring significantly more employment opportunity to the region than anything that has been talked about thus far. Because of all the opportunity probable at the Berlin WWT site and the lack of negative impact at that site, I will do everything I can to support Clean Power Development’s biomass project going forward. That is also a major reason I consider the Laidlaw project as a spoiler of not only what can favorably happen related to the Clean Power project but for the very serious negative impact it will present along with the limitations it will saddle the City with as we position to chart a better future for our down town and our citizens. Jon Edwards

  5. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Today's Daily Sun ad provided by Mr. Grenier and company is no exception. Nor is Rano's drawing of Bertrand's bond Frankenstein. Within those pictures is a message as to how low people will stoop in the name of politics. For Grenier and crew to suggest that the burned out building on Main St. wouldn't be there if they were in office is to suggest that the current mayor and council should neglect the rule of law and order. For the Sun to run Rano's Frankenstein at this point in time is to continue the paper's course of misleading people into thinking that our caring for our infrastructure doesn't matter any more than being concerned what negative impact certain industry in specific location can have on our well being. Yet the bond is a bare bones bond to keep the foundation of Berlin from crumbling, while the Sun portrays that it's wasteful spending in what might as well be an ad and an endorsement for some folks who apparently feel they have the ability to bypass law and take a building down sooner than city attorneys believe it can come down. Interestingly I find most of Rano's drawings humorous. And as usual around the time of elections, here's another one that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Jon Edwards

  6. On November 3 the citizens of Berlin will be given a choice between taking 2 steps back or continuing down the path of building a new economy. Perhaps the choices would be clearer if someone explained to you exactly what each of those options truly meant. Please allow me to try and explain. Flash back to November 6, 2007 to the last municipal election. The citizens of this community sent a clear signal to City Hall that they wanted to see a new direction for the City of Berlin. The voters did so by electing an almost entirely new body to carry out that task for them. The new Mayor and Council understood that the old days of heavy industry in America were over. That it was time to think differently and begin to lay the framework for a new direction and a new economy for Berlin. Perhaps the path forward would have been easier for Berlin had previous administrations not stuck their collective head in the sand when they saw the writing on the wall that the days of paper mills were waning. Perhaps the closing of the mill would not have hit quite as hard had previous administrations begun to lay the groundwork to diversify Berlin’s economy before the mill closed. The old saying “failing to plan, is planning to fail” comes to mind. Because of their denial and shortsightedness Berlin found itself unprepared for what was to come. Now those same individuals want to take Berlin backwards instead of forward.As we are all aware Government does not always move at the pace we would like it to. Government functions within the framework of the bureaucracy set up by the City’s forefathers. As frustrating as it is for everyone at times, that structure is designed to try and assure that we get the best results. While it may be difficult to see the progress that has been made in the last 2 years, all one need do is pay a littler closer attention to see that the current administration has been hard at work carrying out the job voters asked them to do November 6, 2007. The results of which are just now coming to fruition. It is clear that those running to unseat the current administration are using scare tactics and misinformation to try and regain their positions on the City Council. Even their campaign slogans and ads tell you they want to take Berlin “back”. They are trying to win your vote by telling you Berlin can do better. But remember who put Berlin in the position it found itself after the mill closed. I believe the voters of Berlin are smart enough to see through these tactics and at the same time understand that it will take a little time to see the results of the work now being done to ensure a lasting prosperity for Berlin’s future generations.In the meantime this administration has held taxes flat for 2 years. Something previous administrations failed to do. They are finding new ways to solve old problems. Their plan includes taking Berlin’s true assets and utilizing them to their fullest. Without shortchanging future generations.

  7. The previous administration of Danderson, Grenier and Ingersoll want the voters of Berlin to believe that the current administration is against jobs. When in fact they of all people know that the work we have been charged with, thanks to their mismanagement, includes taking steps to protect Berlin’s future. It is the administration of Danderson, Grenier and Ingersoll that failed to take steps to protect Berlin’s future when they had the opportunity. Now they ask you to give them another chance. My question to them is why didn’t they do more when they had the opportunity? Berlin cannot afford to lose the time they would take trying to bring back something that no longer exists. Berlin must continue to forge ahead and allow the work begun by the current administration to take hold.So I ask you to please keep in mind this November 3 that voting to reinstate the former administration will mean taking Berlin back as they themselves have proclaimed. If that is the direction the citizens of Berlin want then the choice is clear. However if the voters would like to allow the current administration time to continue laying the groundwork for a new economy, then I ask that you please vote to continue on the path of recovery. Remember that future generations are counting on your thoughtfulness. The choice is clear. And it is yours.Thank YouTim CayerCurrent City Councilor ward 4

  8. What do you folks think about Grenier's political adds & signs? I guess we are supposed to assume that he is going to provide more jobs and that he is going to remove blight quicker than the current administration. I hope that during the debate Mayor Bertrand asks Paul specifically how he plans to do that. If he does, I bet you'll see Mr. Grenier stumble over his words because he is about rhetoric over substance. I hope this is obvious to more voters than just me.

  9. Erik, I found today's ad in The Berlin Daily Sun by Paul Grenier and friends, offensive. The ad puts on its head your notion of improving Berlin's image in our daily activities. I can't imagine that anybody looking at that ad is impressed with the those candidates or the community they wish to represent. Their combined 39 years of service that they brag about brought us to this point, it's not the folks who have been in City Hall for the past 2 years. The ad is very telling about their arrogance, character, ignorance and judgement. It's this kind of crap that has given Berlin its negative image and reputation and, why we have such a hard time being taken seriously by the outside world. Thank you for reminding us how great things were "back then" Paul, when you and mayor Bob ran the show.

  10. Haven't Grenier and crew thrown city hall under the bus while city hall has simply been guided by legal council not to act haphazardly with this ad? Is city hall simply going to lick off the wounds of this attack like a sheep that was attacked by a lion?

  11. Very interesting question there Anonymous. The reaction or lack of reaction will be quite telling. Where are you Erik?

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