A PPA and more

It’s official: PSNH has reached an agreement with Laidlaw Berlin Biopower to buy their power. The PUC still has to approve the PPA to ensure it is in the best interests of the rate payers, but this is a big step toward getting financing for a major generation project for any private developer.

At the same time there are some new roadblocks to CPD’s project, which will be in next week’s paper (Tuesday night meetings vs. weekly paper schedule). Again it involves PSNH. Energy, it again seems, will be a big part of the coming Reporter.

I’m also seeing if I can do an NHPR story on CPD and Laidlaw.

At the end of Wednesday night’s meeting there was a short debate about the mayor’s position on the two plants, as well as those of several other councilors, which didn’t make it into my council story last week. I had to follow up on a major story I’d done two weeks before, and by the end of it I didn’t have room for a new version of on an old argument. Not that the argument is unimportant, but I simply didn’t have room.

In fact, a lot happened on Monday night that didn’t make it into either paper. That’s how it always happens. There just isn’t enough space dedicated to news to capture all that goes on at those meetings. Those decisions are made by publishers, but reporters, editors and citizens have to live with it.

It makes me wonder about all mediated messages. It’s impossible to follow all that’s going on, but it is imperative residents stay informed. The media doesn’t have room for all of it, but unfortunately in Berlin there is seldom any other account of events. When Mayor Grenier asked for public comment on Monday night at the start and end of the meeting the only person in the audience was Bobby Haggart. There funny looks from councilors who recognized the absurdity of the moment.

Thus my version of what happened, and that of the daily’s reporter (both inevitably incomplete), make up the story of Monday night’s meeting. The councilors also have their opinions of the discussion, but their views reflect their politics. Residents don’t have access to a complete, unbiased view of the meeting. A few more first hand accounts would be phenomenal.

(Some people would say the meeting minutes provide this, but I assure you they are incomplete; not in content, perhaps, but in emotion. The debates often involve backstory and personnel interactions that the secretary doesn’t write down. It’s like reading a script versus watching a movie—one doesn’t compare to the other.)

People come out for issues, but not to ensure their city is run to their liking. For day to day decisions, often only the reporters (and Mr. Haggart) are watching. And there just isn’t enough newsprint available to capture it all.

Do you ever notice the daily has three stories on Wednesday about what happened on Monday? They could do more, too, if they had a bigger news hole. It’s amazing how much goes on in the evenings at city hall, and how few residents are engaged.

But then again, maybe the silence is approval. The budget hearing last month was much quieter than I’d expected, considering teachers, cops, public works employees and firefighters are all getting laid off. Maybe Berlin is OK with that. Maybe even thought the papers can’t get the word out people are confident the politicians are doing a fine job. Aside from the occasional street name change perhaps everyone is happy.

That seems like a stretch. I’ve talked to many people who don’t like what’s going on there, but then I never see them at public comment times. Everyone who cares about the city must know the papers do not have the space to answer all the pressing questions, and residents have to take a keen interest if they want to see Berlin thrive. The best stories develop largely through interactions with residents and seeing what people care, often at these meetings. Media doesn’t act alone. It takes engaged citizens to generate engaging reporting. And it isn’t enough to just read the stories. People need to show up.

6 thoughts on “A PPA and more

    1. Norman —

      I don’t know about broken. The system is meant to inform the masses, but I’m not sure it’s meant to be the sole avenue for information. Increased civic engagement would augment the printed word, and they would bolster each other. It is the paper that’s broken when no one shows up to comment on city governance? Maybe, but maybe there are more problems than just those of print journalism. The nationwide decline in civic engagement hasn’t helped anyone, and in Berlin it’s left the papers to fill a gap beyond reasonable capacity.

      Thanks for the comment.


  1. Erik, it was not my intention to single out the papers as being broken, I believe our democracy is operating on life support. Yes if media did a better job, yes if people were engaged, yes if we had candidates worthy of the office they hold, but when all is dysfunctional we have the type of government we now witness at the local, State and national level. When I hear your comments about limited time and space, I can only suggest that you use that time and space wisely. Sharpen your questions to expose the core of the issues after which the responsibility is ours to make people accountable.

  2. Erik,

    What is the point of showing up to express your opinion at the City Council meetings. Paul Grenier has already made up his mind about everything so there is no sense in trying to convince him otherwise. Trying to do so would be a waste of time and and waste of energy. Don’t worry, Paul has it all figured out. Just ask him and he’ll tell you.

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