Is it over yet?

I know, election season is supposed to be fun, but I’m looking forward to it ending. In many ways it did for me tonight, though I know it hasn’t.
I live in a parallel world where anything that happens after Monday doesn’t matter. I won’t be reporting on the election next week because by the time my paper comes out the election will be over. Sure, I’m partial sponsor of a debate Wednesday night, but I won’t cover it in the paper. In reality I’m off the election ride, while Berlin has a week left to go.
The council meeting tonight was basically one stump speech after another, but the only people who heard it were Mel Liston, Bill Gabler, Barry Kelley and Jon Edwards. Sometimes I wonder if all the rhetoric is just for me and daily paper reporter, or does everyone like hearing their opinions supported by the group? The council is annoyed with the county commissioners. OK. They don’t like what PSNH is doing. Fine. They are more favorable to Clean Power than Laidlaw. Great. They go around and around saying the same thing over and over again, each backing the other one up. Honestly, it might be nice to have a strong pro-Laidlaw voice on the council—at least then there’d be someone to disagree.

I have been trying to visit entrepreneurs while reporting for the Reporter. I like pointing them out because they often get missed in this downtrodden city. As a result I am often surrounded by people who see Berlin’s future 30 years down the road, with creative ideas and amorphous plans. The city will be completely post-industrial, they say, without any of the squabbles now flying around city hall.

That leaves out what the heck people will do for work for the next 25 years, a time-frame city leaders will likely have a hard time making so blissful.
Mr. Grenier might win the election. His signs are crap, but his experience and dedication to the city is real. He disagrees with the current council, and his tactics have raised some eyebrows, but as I understand it this has been a clean fight by Berlin standards. He is advocating for the unemployed and the underemployed, by talking to them instead of by talking about them. In an election, being able to communicate with constituents is key, and Mr. Grenier does an excellent job of it.
I would think this council would get that. They hate the way Laidlaw does everything in the dark, and they love the way Clean Power holds their hand every step of the way. But the council is running city hall more like Laidlaw, and Mr. Grenier has taken the CPD approach.
I don’t have any idea what’s best for Berlin. What if CPD never comes to fruition? Or Laidlaw? Or neither makes Fraser viable, or no light industry follows suit? The Vote Jobs crew is right, the city needs jobs, but it needs more than that for a future. It needs an infrastructure that draws talent back to the city, and I have yet to hear anyone mention a good method for doing that.

I read Norm Charest’s economic report for BIDPA the other day. I’m tired of the doom and gloom. I’m not sure how many of these reports I’ve read that mention we’ve entered a post-industrial economy. So what? Berlin has to change? No kidding. I wonder just what these are reports are supposed to accomplish. They make a good downer; other than that I’d say they’re useless.

I like Norm. He has some great ideas. His challenge is the same as the rest of Berlin—he knows the city too well. It’s hard to come up with possibility in the place that for too long has suffocated your best ideas.

The seed is in Berlin to move forward. It has anything to do with who is elected to city hall. It has has nothing to do with Laidlaw or CPD either. These are symptoms, traits of a city that is still learning to walk without a smokestack for a cane. The creativity is draining from Berlin like blood on the pavement, and no one knows how to scoop it up. But it will pool regardless.

You know who’s cool in Berlin? Pam Laflamme. Andre Caron. Corinne Cascadden. They look to the future. They have unique perspectives and creative ideas and a capacity for problem solving. These are the bureaucrats, and they blow most Berlin’s “creative entrepreneurs” out of the water! What’s wrong with this picture?

Berlin has the people it needs to be great. Interesting things happen where different words meet, and worlds collide in Berlin. Creativity breeds there. It becomes infectious. The city has to harness that energy, but that won’t come from city hall. If the current council isn’t the next council I won’t complain, because tonight’s meeting was nothing but politics. The game the council accused Mr. Grenier of playing last week was in full swing tonight in the chambers. Luckily the real Berlin isn’t contained within city hall. It’s in the streets. It’s on the pavement. It pools where you’d least expect it.

13 thoughts on “Is it over yet?

  1. Erik,I understand where you are coming from with your most recent post. I find myself equally as drained, some physically, but most mentally and emotionally. I understand that this is politics, and I truly don't like the banter, but I'd like you to note one thing…. since you became a reporter there was none of this until the last few weeks…. was there? I agree with the notice of stump speeches, however, look a little deeper… Why was Barry Kelley there to question Clean Power's plans? He was an agenda item you remember… his request I was told. Why would he care? Here is a man who needs customers for his business in a bad way…he needs jobs. Clean Power has jobs, soon. He needs lower taxes, Clean Power will help lower taxes. Wouldn't he be in full support of Clean Power and its jobs? And its development partnerships? I just simply don't understand why, as a business man, and a citizen of Berlin, he would be fighting them. (The answer, unfortunately is purely political….as he proudly campaigns for the Grenier team, displaying one of the "Vote Jobs" flowers in his yard)You said it yourself… one last page in the paper before the election. I fear more and more that the answer is simply because he backs Laidlaw, which apparently prevents him from backing anything else. I said it tonight…. I really believe I may be missing something….. as 3 men and a woman are parading around Berlin with signs that say "vote jobs", and they won't back the jobs that are almost immediately available… Jobs the city has been working to create for almost two years. You don't find that the least bit suspicious?So that's it for Berlin voters, Laidlaw or nothing….. Barry Kelly says so. Period. ??I hope you were tired Erik, because I truly feel like you missed the point. It is a point that most, if not all Berlin residents should hear to make an educated decision, not one that is based on fear or attack ads in the BDS.Sorry the "Vote Jobs" crew didn't show up to make it more interesting….. but we'll give them some slack on that one also…. after all they are out talking with the unemployed. (They are just not advocating for jobs….unless they are stamped LAIDLAW.Ryan Landry

  2. Erik,This still blows my mind….. As THE investigative reporter for the city of Berlin, you don't find it peculiar, or newsworthy at best that THE County Commissioner himself, Paul Grenier, will file to intervene on behalf of A company (Laidlaw), but won't file to intervene on behalf of a city in its effort to support a business who is ready to run and add jobs and benefits to HIS district?Add in the fact that Clean Power is ahead of Laidlaw in the Coos County Power Loop…..And ready to begin operation a full 2-3 years ahead of Laidlaw? And actively searching for development partners to go along with it, further helping the economic development of HIS district…..And that he is running for elected city office under a platform of "Vote Jobs" in a community that needs jobs and tax base soon, not in 3-4 years?None of this seems a bit fishy to you? Doesn't it seem to you that Mr. Grenier might be doing what's best for the company in this case and not the city? Hasn't it become crystal clear in the last few days that the Laidlaw supporters have long ago determined it can be one or the other, not both?I'd personally support both, as it would add twice the jobs, wouldn't it? Clean Power 1st, as they are further along in development and higher in the cue. By then Laidlaw would have completed the EFSEC process and also ready to break ground. It would be a job and tax base bonanza for the city of Berlin. The community has said they would support both, why wouldn't the "Vote Jobs" crew? Wow, I just thought you would have jumped all over that….. It would bother me to know the facts of this as a citizen…never mind a councilor.I just want the jobs. Unfortunately my slogan says "A Brighter Future For Berlin"Too complicated I guess. Sorry, I'm a rookie.Ryan Landry

  3. Erik, Do you think that it is right for the County commissioners to refuse to even meet with Clean Power after what Mel delivered to you last night? How many people do you know that talk about using Berlin's waste water to produce power, fuel and commodities? Who in there right mind would ignore such a person? Sounds to me like Grenier is in the same pony show as PSNH. The question becomes just how many shares/interest of LLEG stock are they protecting. Jon Edwards

  4. Sorry we’re boring you Erik. Conducting official city business can be tedious. But what I heard last night were not stump speeches, at least not from me. They are our official positions that are now part of the public record. Be it election time or not, we as elected officials have to take a stand on the issues. Whether anyone is there to hear them or not. Some major, others less so. Some controversial, others less interesting. Some with the potential to impact Berlin for generations, others that no one will notice. But every one of them important. Where we stand on those issues is now part of the public record for the world to read. Whether anyone takes the time to read the minutes is anyone’s guess. But they are there should they care too.What you heard last night was no different then what has been going on long before you or I were ever walked in those chambers. I’d venture to say as long as there has been a city council. The problem is not that we take a stand and no one hears it. The problem is no one cares enough to attend or take the time to find out everything that was said. They are perfectly content to read about it in the local paper. The problem with that is they only get the reporters spin. Which we all know is only part of the story. And at the end of the day the citizens of Berlin themselves are the ones who are the real losers. I understand people work hard and the last thing they want to do is spend their Monday night listening to 9 people set city policy. Which is why I advocate for video recording the meetings and putting them on TV. My guess is if it were on TV it would likely be one of the most watched shows here in Berlin. No one in those chambers last night is a politician Erik. We are all just concerned citizens of Berlin who give our Monday nights (and in many cases Tuesday-Friday also) to serve in hopes that we can make a difference in making Berlin a better place. Plain and simple. I can see where some may find that boring. But it is also admirable.I contend that what we have to say bears more weight then just paying lip service to a campaign. Our job is to set policy. We are the ones who give the marching orders and steer the city. The real foot soldiers are the city manager and his staff. It is important that we make sure they understand what we want. It isn’t all just for show Erik. It’s a job and the fact that we show up every Monday night is proof that we take it seriously. Whether anyone is there to hear us or not, the record stands. And that dog and pony show won’t change regardless of who is elected.

  5. I’d like to take issue with another comment you made here Erik. “I understand it this has been a clean fight by Berlin standards.”I don’t know about others, but I don’t see where misleading people to get their vote is clean by any standard. In my mind if someone is willing to say whatever it takes to get elected, I have to question their true motive. I was taught growing up that lying to get what you want is not an acceptable characteristic.Caveat emptor

  6. I don't disagree there are problems and complications and inconsistencies in this race. But Mr. Grenier is taking his argument to the people, while the council keeps theirs in the chambers. Neither paper is an effective platform to fight this fight. Candidates need other ways to voice their opinions to the people. Councilors may not like what Mr. Grenier has to say, but he is certainly effective at saying it.Ryan was right, I was tired when I wrote it. But he was also right last night when he said all he hears is Laidlaw, Laidlaw, Laidlaw. Mr. Grenier has made that the issue. No one on the opposite side of the ticket has offered an effective counter-issue. He's been out there, embracing the rallying cry, while the council plays the role of the victim. Why is that? No one has been effective at changing the conversation. Why not? This council says its proactive, and it is, when it comes to the ATV trail, infrastructure and regionalization. But on taking its agenda to the people it is reactive. And it's getting clobbered.People call Mr. Grenier a politician, and they say it like it's a dirty word. But all the great ideas candidates have are useless if that person doesn't get elected. Every councilor sitting in the chambers is now also a politician, like it or not, and by the measure of their campaigning, it's not clear they're good politicians.Every member of the council could learn from Mr. Grenier if they want to help change Berlin from inside city government. He does a better job engaging voters than anyone else out there. There is a week left in the election. Is the council going to complain about tactics or learn from it?I don't endorse one side or the other, but I support creative problem solving. In the current council there great problem solving has been applied in some places, but when it devolves to politics this council is no more effective than any other. Last night's meeting was too much playing to an audience that wasn't there. It doesn't bore me; it's ineffective. How about applying that creative spirit to every part of council, not just the policy portion?And Tim, as I understand it this really is clean. I wasn't around for other elections, but when you go way back I guess there were some real pitched battles that make this look like a petting zoo. I don't know, I wasn't there, but that's what people have been telling me. I thought it was rough too, but apparently it isn't rough for Berlin.Thanks again for the comments. Keep them coming.

  7. Jon, Tim and Ryan —Thanks for commenting. Really. You're opinions are at least as worth reading as my posts. I appreciate your additions to the discussion. I just wanted to make that point.And Ryan — Get some sleep! You've got to be more tired than I was.

  8. Oh Erik that last response is full of misnomers. It would take me way more time then I have right now to reply to all of them. But I am starting to get the impression that is exactly what you would like. Suffice to say we don’t see eye to eye on most of it. I will say one thing; Mr. Grenier is feeding on people’s inpatients and lack of knowledge to get their vote. Furthermore he has demonstrated that he is willing to mislead people to do it. Which disgusts me since he of all people knows all to well exactly how city government works. And for this election he is pulling out all the stops to get what he wants, regardless of the facts. What do you want the council to do, run an ad in the paper countering his claims? You don’t think we are not all out there talking to people on a daily basis? The jury has not yet spoken as to how effective his message has been. We will know November 3. If the people of the city believe for one minute that Mr. Grenier is going to save the city with Laidlaw jobs, and they are willing to put him in office, all I have to say is see you in 2 years. Because that is all it will take for people to realize that while he was great at talking the talk, he fell short on walking the walk. Like Barnum said; There is a sucker born every minute. I don’t consider myself one of them.

  9. Erik,I respectfully disagree with you. The future of this City (and this region) is tied 100% to whether or not the City is able to stop Laidlaw from building their biomass plant. If Laidlaw succeeds in putting heavy industry in downtown Berlin, then all future and better uses of that site will have disappeared forever. We'll be stuck with a monster in our downtown, something we really don't need when we have a better alternative in the Clean Power plant. Do you want a better future for Berlin or do you want to take a step back into the past? That is the question everyone has to ask in the voting both next week. I'm sorry to see that you have decided that the issue of Laidlaw is not the most pressing issue in this City. Not only will that plant destroy our chances for a better future, it will likely result in higher electric rates for NH ratepayers and will in all likelihood be detrimental to the forests of Coos County. It may also force the closure of other operating businesses in Coos County due to higher wood prices. So, when you say that Berlin will move on with or without Laidlaw I respectfully disagree. We'll move on WITHOUT Laidlaw but if they succeed then a better future for Berlin will be destroyed forever. I honestly believe that to be true and I’ll be completely disappointed if the incumbents loose in this election. I’m sorry to see that you no longer see it that way. The challengers in this race will not lead the City in a better or new direction. They’ll bring in Laidlaw and that is all that they’ll do. That, my friend, is a pretty sad reason to vote them into power.

  10. Tim –I guess my question is, is there such a thing as bad press? Maybe not in this race. Mr. Grenier may have people disagreeing with him, but his is the name on everyone's lips, along with Laidlaw. My view from the corner table at city hall is that council is treating him like the man to beat instead of a challenger. I agree, November 3 will prove who the city supports, but I'm not saying they support one side or the other. I'm saying council looks like it's playing defense, not offense.Anonymous –I have a hard time picturing the people who work so hard for Berlin giving up because that project moves forward. I see them persevering no matter what. But I don't know anymore than anyone else. Your opinion is valid, and I am sure it will influence your vote, as it should.As I said to Jon Edwards a week or so ago, LPJ is my opinion, informed by my experience. It may be wrong. Take what you want from it and let the rest go.Thanks for joining in the discussion.

  11. I just realized that I waste way too much time, thought and effort stating my opinion here…. and I have Erik to thank for it. As he pointed out last night, everything good that this council has done in the last two years has fallen on deaf ears, in part because NOBODY GOES TO THE MEETINGS. We all just read BDS spin, which surely tomorrow makes Barry Kelly look like a savior for Berlin…..don't scare PSNH please, we have Laidlaw!!!!! Laidlaw Laidlaw Laidlaw!!!!!! Why are you fighting Laidlaw!!!! I've determined Berlin doesn't careIts been so bad for so long in Berlin, that people actually want to keep it bad. Monday night at city hall, Barry Kelly was fighting development in Berlin. Mind Blowing. He was fighting jobs. Laidlaw has brainwashed Berlin so bad that we won't even consider a superior alternative…..even though it is ready to go. Go LAIDLAW!!!!!!!Berlin hasn't prospered since 1931….its struggled for 75 years, but quick- let's get back to our roots"…. Think about it, 75 years is an entire lifetime for most Berliners… they know no other way…. let's just keep suffering, its comforting…..keep the smoke chuffing, its comforting……"If Keene was so good, why don't you go back there!" (I've heard that several times.)Its a joke- 99% of communities in this country would turn their back to Laidlaw, but not Berlin. Welcome home, just remember, "Vote Jobs"For a split second in 2006, we actually had a vision… a future…. I remember how excited I was…… the mill was going to be gone forever…. like Mayor Bertrands signs say: " A new beginning for Berlin"Even Paul Grenier agreed:From the Union Leader October 14, 2006 just after it was announced NAD would tear down all but the boiler:"Not everyone at yesterday afternoon's news conference announcing the sale shared the enthusiasm. Ward 4 City Councilor Paul Grenier, who has lived most of his life on the city's East Side, in the shadow of the pulp mill, said if the city wants redefine itself, the entire complex should be taken down."Berlin needs to completely reinvent itself and that's not going to happen by leaving a relic of the 1940s to generate 25 megawatts of electricity," he said. "It's good and bad, but I don't share the enthusiasm in the room." He had the vision there for a second…..but its gone….. at the sake of one single company that really doesn't even exist yet. Great job Paul…. I can't wait to get "back to my roots.""Vote Jobs"Signing off from LPJ,Ryan

  12. I think we all need to take a deep breath……..and put in perspective what's being said here and in the papers. IT'S ELECTION TIME, a time where people show their true colors and where the old saying; It's best to be quiet and thought a fool than opening one's mouth and removing all doubt". The fools are not being quiet and they are proving that the old saying is correct. …Jobs, jobs, jobs, yes, but it's not everybody that wishes to be a corporate whore.

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