Durham, NH: Grandstanding Administrator makes spectacle of self

It seems grandstanding by public officials is catching.  As if public officials in the legislature hadn’t done enough to embarrass the citizens of New Hampshire, now the Administrator of the Town of Durham, Todd Selig, has to get into the action.  According to his press release (note the misspelling in the subject line):

Subject: EMERGENCY COUNIL MEETING SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY, 6/25/12 AT 8:30 AM | PRESS RELEASE: Durham, NH Requests Reimbursement from Obama for America Campaign for Scheduled Campaign Stop Monday

Dear Members of the Council,

A tremendous amount of time has been devoted this evening to addressing the campaign-related costs that are associated with the Obama for America campaign visit of President Obama to Durham on Monday.  To this end in conversations with Jay and Jim, we will be posting tomorrow morning for a special emergency Council meeting to be held Monday morning, 6/25, at 8:30 AM to discuss the matter as a Council in public in full and whether the Council desires to take the symbolic action of disinviting the President from visiting Durham.  Our sincere hope is that this meeting will not be necessary and that the campaign will agree to reimburse the town’s projected public safety costs associated with the event.  

In addition, you will find a press release below outlining the situation for the media who have been calling this evening.  The release went out earlier this evening.

I anticipate that Durham may very well become a focus for the media over the next few days and to this end suggest that inquires from the media are sent along to me for a consistent community response.

Todd

It is both accurate and noteworthy that the administrator has finnessed the Chairman of the Council, Jay Gooze, into calling this emergency meeting.  Todd Selig could not do it on his own hook.  That Mr. Gooze, a known Democrat, is going along with this farce is, in my book, yet another example of Republicans coercing Democrats to do their dirty work.
Actually, to call threats to “disinvite” the President of the United States a farce is to be too kind.  Todd Selig, on his own hook, has been trying to extort money from the Obama for President campaign to pay for what the Secret Service deems prudent public services for such an event.

While I personally happen to think the Town of Durham could do with about a quarter of the Police Department we now field, not to mention that their “emergency responses” in the past have been embarrassing enough, putting in for over-time because something is actually happening is simply wasteful.

But then, there’s a pattern to follow.  After all, when a lone motorcyclist on the highway was reported to be intending  to do himself in at the ocean’s edge, the police evacuated an entire neighborhood in the middle of the night, while another report of a potential suicide triggered an eight hour “emergency situation,” complete with “command center” and traffic interdiction until after the shift change.

One wonders if some people even know what “emergency” means.  Certainly, the President of the United States making an announced visit is not an occasion for emergency meetings. On the other hand, a minor bureaucrat using publicity to extort money is almost criminal.  An embarrassment, for sure.

UPDATE: Council chair, Jay Gooze, held press conference to announce that there would be no emergency meeting and expressed gratitude to an anonymous donor who has pledged to cover expenses up to $20,000.

15 Responses to Durham, NH: Grandstanding Administrator makes spectacle of self

  1. mevansnh June 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Did the Town of Stratham (I think that was the town) where Romney held his rally last week, demand money from the Romney campaign?

    • hannah June 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      However, to be fair, it is not the Town of Durham that’s making the demands; it’s a minor bureaucrat who’s too big for his britches.
      Also, Romney was being hosted on private property (which has benefited from a federal grant to preserve its unique character), from which people can be restricted at will.  The High School is a public facility and accessible to the public.  Tickets were distributed yesterday on a first-come, first served basis upon the presentation of one’s name, address and phone number.  In other words, any person that showed up early enough got a ticket.  
      A ticket-holder is not, however, guaranteed admission.  Presumably, if a records check suggests a good reason to exclude the person when s/he shows up, the Secret Service will do so.

    • BurtCohen June 25, 2012 at 1:43 am #

      Did they cover it at all in Stratham?
      Is there drooling bias blatant enough for average viewers to see? Despicable. Yet again. They clearly have no sense of shame.

  2. mevansnh June 24, 2012 at 2:31 am #

    We’ll be there.

  3. susanthe June 24, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    in 2002, was he presented with a bill?

    • hannah June 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      They seem to think that the potential victims of having their rights infringed should pay for extra protection, because the services of public officials are reserved to protect the interests of the state, which is somehow distinct from the people in it.
      I think the first time I encountered this attitude was in about 1980 when complaints to a city commissioner, about the lack of parking and traffic enforcement during football games making our neighborhood impassable, were responded to with the suggestion that we should hire our own police. In other words, the solution to poor public service is privatization and the proliferation of layers and layers of middlemen.
      The extent to which more people shirking their duties has fueled ‘economic growth’ is uncalculated and incalculable and indubitably significant.

    • TimothyHorrigan June 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

      I am writing this of the top of my head, but I believe the host police force pays for the police work (which typically involves officers from other jurisdictions.)  UNH has its own police force, so UNH rather than the Town of Durham would be the host for police purposes.

      People are wondering why the event is being held at Oyster River High School gym rather than at UNH which has three pretty nice gyms, all of them much bigger than the high school’s (not to mention a variety of other spaces.)  I don’t know why Oyster River was chosen: it may have been because Obama campaign wanted to fill a 1600-seat gym to the gunwales rather than take a chance on a bigger space being half empty.  It may have been because Obama wanted to be speaking at a public high school.  It may have been because UNH’s facilities were not available.

      When Bush II came to Durham in 2002 (or for that matter when Biden came in 2011), it was a White House (rather than campaign) event which took place on the campus.

  4. Vis Unita Fortior June 24, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Politico: N.H. town makes stink about cost of Obama visit

  5. elwood June 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    to complain that political campaigns are too expensive and inconvenient.

    Any moment now Jack will remind us that other states would be happy to host the first primary.

    These efforts to extort money from either the White House or the political campaign make it more likely we will lose our status.

  6. calvin June 25, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    June 24, 2012

    With respect for the President and support for our town administrator

    To our public,

    The excitement is palpable in our New Hampshire college town as the President prepares to visit on Monday.  The warm welcome he will receive from our residents – young, old, and in between – in a packed high school gymnasium will leave no doubt that he picked the right place to come. Durham is steeped in history and natural beauty and is looking to brighter economic times ahead with excellent schools and the potential of new high-tech redevelopment linked to our state university. What better backdrop for a Presidential address?

    That said, Durham has come in for criticism and praise for our town administrator’s request on behalf of the community this past week for the Obama campaign to reimburse the cost to town taxpayers for local police and fire services in support of thePresident’s campaign visit. We have heard from those who think it’s disrespectful to ask the President’s campaign for help in covering the cost of his visit. And we have heard from others who say that no local taxpayer, regardless of party loyalty, should foot a campaign expense. These are honest and strongly held beliefs and, judging by the debate unfolding in the national news media, our request has struck a nerve.

    We want to be clear that our town’s request was not motivated by partisan politics (a majority of Durham voters are registered Democrats) or by a want to make a national statement about campaign reimbursements. We have more than enough civic work on our plate. To be clear, our request came from the basic responsibility that a local government has to its residents to ensure that expenses outside our approved budget are recovered in a fair and equitable manner. As in small towns across the country, we have struggled to save money while providing essential quality services to our public. We commend our Town Administrator, Todd Selig, for respectfully raising this issue.  We owed it to our residents to ask the Obama campaign to help cover our costs. Unfortunately, they declined.

    Happily, this afternoon, an anonymous donor, a Durham resident, contacted the Town Administrator and Council Chair and offered to pay for town public safety costs up to $20,000. The donor wanted us to make public his/her sentiment that our Town had done the right thing in asking the campaign to do its part. We are grateful for this generous offer. With this development we have decided to cancel Monday’s special Town Council meeting. The issue of proper compensation for public services from any political candidate is a matter for discussion at a future Town Council meeting.

    That said, we believe that now is not the time to further deliberate the issue but to look forward to Monday’s visit. It is a privilege for any town to host a sitting President of any party and we do not take that responsibility lightly. Durham residents will welcome the President with open arms tomorrow and the proud members of our police and fire departments will do their jobs with honor.

    Jay B. Gooze, Chair

    Durham Town Council

    James E. Lawson, Chair Pro-tem

    Durham Town Council

  7. calvin June 25, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    June 24, 2012

    With respect for the President and support for our town administrator

    To our public,

    The excitement is palpable in our New Hampshire college town as the President prepares to visit on Monday.  The warm welcome he will receive from our residents – young, old, and in between – in a packed high school gymnasium will leave no doubt that he picked the right place to come. Durham is steeped in history and natural beauty and is looking to brighter economic times ahead with excellent schools and the potential of new high-tech redevelopment linked to our state university. What better backdrop for a Presidential address?

    That said, Durham has come in for criticism and praise for our town administrator’s request on behalf of the community this past week for the Obama campaign to reimburse the cost to town taxpayers for local police and fire services in support of thePresident’s campaign visit. We have heard from those who think it’s disrespectful to ask the President’s campaign for help in covering the cost of his visit. And we have heard from others who say that no local taxpayer, regardless of party loyalty, should foot a campaign expense. These are honest and strongly held beliefs and, judging by the debate unfolding in the national news media, our request has struck a nerve.

    We want to be clear that our town’s request was not motivated by partisan politics (a majority of Durham voters are registered Democrats) or by a want to make a national statement about campaign reimbursements. We have more than enough civic work on our plate. To be clear, our request came from the basic responsibility that a local government has to its residents to ensure that expenses outside our approved budget are recovered in a fair and equitable manner. As in small towns across the country, we have struggled to save money while providing essential quality services to our public. We commend our Town Administrator, Todd Selig, for respectfully raising this issue.  We owed it to our residents to ask the Obama campaign to help cover our costs. Unfortunately, they declined.

    Happily, this afternoon, an anonymous donor, a Durham resident, contacted the Town Administrator and Council Chair and offered to pay for town public safety costs up to $20,000. The donor wanted us to make public his/her sentiment that our Town had done the right thing in asking the campaign to do its part. We are grateful for this generous offer. With this development we have decided to cancel Monday’s special Town Council meeting. The issue of proper compensation for public services from any political candidate is a matter for discussion at a future Town Council meeting.

    That said, we believe that now is not the time to further deliberate the issue but to look forward to Monday’s visit. It is a privilege for any town to host a sitting President of any party and we do not take that responsibility lightly. Durham residents will welcome the President with open arms tomorrow and the proud members of our police and fire departments will do their jobs with honor.

    Jay B. Gooze, Chair

    Durham Town Council

    James E. Lawson, Chair Pro-tem

    Durham Town Council

    • Kathy Sullivan 2 June 25, 2012 at 4:25 am #

      But the town manager did not handle it ” respectfully” when he sent out a press release announcing a special meeting being called to “disinvite” the President of the United States. Republican or Democrat, George Bush or Barack Obama, it’s an honor and a privilege to have a presidential visit. This guy tried to embarrass the President, and he is not to be commended. Poor manners and lack of respect.

      Or as Curly would say, oh, a wise guy, eh?

      • Ray Buckley June 25, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

        As Selig stood next to the town councilor on the WMUR report the glint in his eye and mischeivous smirk revealed more than he thought we would ever see.

  8. hannah June 26, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    The promise that Durham’s police would do their jobs with honor was not kept. People who parked many blocks away and walked through the rain to the high school were told their cars would be towed and people in the neighborhood were shouted at and told they could not drive to their houses.
    Then there was the widow of a former Council member, now deceased, who wrote:

    Subject: Re: Statement from Durham Town Council Chair and Chair Pro-tem
    on Presidential Campaign Visit to Durham, NH on Monday, 6/25/12 at ORHS

    Mr. Gooze, just want you to know that I am hopping mad about Obama visit
    to
    durham today. I parked my car at my friends house on Nobel Peterson Drive
    at
    10:30 am and walked over to the High School to join with friends to
    support
    Mr. Romney.  As you know it was raining  and thundering.  A police
    officer
    suggested that we should seek cover, which most normal people do in a
    thunder storm. As I am walking back to NP Drive I am informed that they
    are
    going to tow my car from in front of my friends home.  I arrived in time
    to
    put it in their  driveway.   Then I start to walk back to the High School
    and am told I can’t do that as  nobody was being allowed to approach the
    high school on foot or car either.  What kind of a horse and pony show is
    this? An 82 year old resident of Durham since 1953 and I can’t walk on
    the
    streets to get to an event intown?    If Mr obama is so wonderful why are
    they  so afraid of people going to see him.  Thanks to the person that
    paid
    the money to let him come to Durham.  Do you think he would like to help
    me
    with my tax bill. He would get a better return on his money by supporting
    the people that make Durham run.  Marney Sumner durham Point Road I am
    now
    definitely a Romney supporter.

    And what did Todd Selig, who spent the weekend nattering about dollars instead of supervising the coordination of the public services and informing the residents of what inconveniences they might encounter, respond?

    Dear Marney,

    Thank you very much for your email.  There were a series of issues
    associated with the campaign stop today and unfortunately, the U.S. Secret
    Service was in charge of the issues you reference.  We indeed try to
    intervene on behalf of residents but they were firm in following protocol.
    My personal apologies for any inconvenience and frustration you
    experienced.  

    All my very best,

    Todd

    It was not the Secret Service who were rude.  It was not the Secret Service which failed to designate no parking zones ahead of time.  It was not the Secret Service which congregated under the portico to tell citizens they couldn’t enter their own school by the front door. It was not the Secret Service who could not explain why no preparations for admitting even the catering service had been made. It was not the Secret Service that yelled at people from squad cars and tried to prevent them from walking on the sidewalk a good three hours before the President even arrived.

    It was Todd Selig who caused an embarrassment and then went out of state on Saturday to a social event.

    • TimothyHorrigan June 26, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      Marney Sumner’s late husband was Donald Sumner, an architect who designed many schools all over the northeast USA, including Oyster River High School.  (Although, the school has been expanded two times and only a little of his original building is left.)

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