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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The toxicity of Nashua City Hall

Telegraph Editorial

From canvassing New Hampshire, born-again Granite Stater Scott Brown told The Telegraph’s editorial board this week that among the top five concerns he has heard from voters is the vile nature of congressional politics.

U.S. Senate candidate Brown describes himself as a pro-choice moderate Republican who isn’t afraid of cutting deals with the other side if it means resolving issues crucial to the nation’s best interests. The principal failure of our national government, he said, is a lack of leadership. ...

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From canvassing New Hampshire, born-again Granite Stater Scott Brown told The Telegraph’s editorial board this week that among the top five concerns he has heard from voters is the vile nature of congressional politics.

U.S. Senate candidate Brown describes himself as a pro-choice moderate Republican who isn’t afraid of cutting deals with the other side if it means resolving issues crucial to the nation’s best interests. The principal failure of our national government, he said, is a lack of leadership.

His observations strike home. And by home we mean Nashua, where the virulent essence of local politics is eroding a lot of what is good about this proud city.

If you haven’t noticed, the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau are locked in something akin to a professional wrestling “Cage of Death” match. This confrontation was foretold in the November election and the ugly ascension of David Dean to aldermanic president. The transition started out bad and has only gotten worse.

There is a too-long-to-mention list of issues where the board’s majority and the mayor have bashed heads to the benefit of ….

Every day, the battles move closer to a War of the Roses.

That became ever more clear Wednesday with the observations offered by Alderman-at-Large Dan Moriarty during George Russell’s “Nashua this Morning” program on WSMN radio.

With a doctorate in applied physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Moriarty is a measured man who is consumed by analytical vivisection. The evidence he gathered talking to Nashuans during his 2013 election campaign resonates to this day.

Moriarty told Russell that his grass roots campaign brought him in contact with many Nashua employees who described working conditions at City Hall as intolerable. Those people, Moriarty said, were afraid to speak out from fear of losing their jobs. In one instance, a Nashua employee would only meet in another city out of fear for possible repercussions at being seen with the alderman.

Regardless of whose side you’re on, that is no way to run a city.

The next act of this Theater of the Absurd is scheduled to play out this week when the Board of Aldermen meet to sign off on the 2015 city budget, which will then go to the mayor for line-by-line review.

There are a few issues with which the mayor is likely to take issue, including what to do with the position of community services director, which has become the San Andreas fault of Nashua politics.

Patricia Rogers served in that position from 2008 until Monday. It is assumed by many and denied by no one that she was fired by the mayor. Since there has been nothing but high praise for Rogers’ performance – especially from the aldermen – the popular conclusion is that Rogers and Lozeau had a falling out of some kind. That, of course, adds weight to Moriarty’s observations about the working environment at City Hall.

When aldermen caught wind that Rogers was probably on the way out, the Budget Review Committee tried an end-run around the city charter and voted to move the community services position out of the mayor’s office and put it under the protective wing of the aldermen. The city attorney has advised that to be a no-no and the mayor has declined comment because it is a personnel issue.

If the full board approves the budget with the change to the community services position, it’s an all-in bet the mayor will use her line-item veto authority to block it, setting up a veto-override vote and putting the cycle in motion again.

When, voters have a right to wonder, will the cycle end?