This Week in N.H. News: A Collision Of Two Granite State Traditions, Nor'Easter and Town Meeting Day
Happy Friday! (And Happy St. Patrick's Day!) No shortage of stuff going on in the Granite State this week. Keep scrolling to catch up on everything from local elections to local bird celebrities and more.
Mother Nature No Match for N.H. Voters, Apparently
This week saw a collision of two great New Hampshire traditions: nor’easters and town meeting day.
The thing is, it’s not every year that the two phenomena overlap – and that led to some squabbling between the Secretary of State and local moderators over whether towns were, in fact, allowed to take a snow day for elections. As the Concord Monitor pointed out, a blizzard prompted towns to postpone meetings at least once before – in 1888. (This time around, it's safe to say the storm did end up being pretty serious, prompting the rare midday closure of all statewide liquor stores.)
On Tuesday, more than two dozen towns ended up pushing back voting because of the snow, according to the Union Leader, but plenty of others went on. That led to some, shall we say, creative treks to the polls.
There is still some confusion as far as what’s going to happen, for example, in multi-town school districts where some voters cast their ballots this week and some were delayed. A group of Democrats are trying to fast-track a bill meant to prevent towns from being punished or having their results voided because of scheduling decisions – and all the while, the Secretary of State still seems skeptical about the legitimacy of elections that don’t all happen on the same day.
For community-level coverage of everything from school expansions to police cruisers to bridge repairs to everything in between, we recommend turning to the town meeting roundups from the Concord Monitor, Union Leader, Valley News, Keene Sentinel, Seacoast Online or any of the local outlets listed here.
Embrace Your Inner Watchdog
Say you want to know more about a big project your local select board just approved, or how much a state official gets paid, or you want to see how many traffic tickets your local police department handed out last year? Chances are, you probably have a right to see that information, and lots of other stuff under the hood of state and local government. Getting government officials to hand over that information, in many cases, is another hurdle entirely – but NHPR’s Morning Edition caught up with the president of Right to Know New Hampshire, who offers some tips on using the state’s sunshine act to your advantage.
This week also marks Sunshine Week, an annual occasion spotlighting the public’s right-to-know – and some stellar local accountability reporting. The Concord Monitor, for one, showed that public records can tell us when legislators might be voting on issues they have a financial stake in (and what important details financial disclosure forms leave out) and how closely the state keeps track of its spending on drug treatment (spoiler: not that closely). The Monitor also showed how public records requests can help to hold agencies accountable – using records obtained through the right-to-know law, the Monitor revealed that New Hampshire’s child protection services division suspended normal protocol to close out more than 1,500 open investigations over just a two-day period last year. The governor, responding to the Monitor’s reporting, has since placed the head of the agency on leave.
In Other News
- For parents serving time behind bars, remaining close with their kids can be difficult. But one nonprofit works to help connect inmates in New Hampshire with their children simply through reading.
- Don’t be fooled by this week’s snowstorm: Winters in New England are, generally, warming up. And that’s leaving lots of ski areas in a crunch, trying to adapt to account for more erratic weather patterns.
- Nearly 1 in 10 New Hampshire teens reported being the victim of physical dating violence during the past year, and more than 1 in 10 also reported being the victim of sexual dating violence during the past year.A new report out of UNH takes a closer look at who’s being affected, in an effort to better understand how to prevent it.
- The sponsor of a bill to change voter registration requirements says she’s planning to revise it to address some critiques that came up during a recent public hearing. Lots of people testified against the bill, raising concerns specifically about a provision that would involve local police in voter verification.
- It's a deceptively simple question: "Have you or a family member ever served in the military?" The state launched a program two years ago to get doctors, police officers, educators, and others to ask that question – with the goal of identifying more people who qualify for veterans benefits. For many, that simple question has ended up making a big difference.
- You know the water contamination issues that surfaced in southern New Hampshire last year? It’s now at the heart of a class-action lawsuit. Four separate lawsuits were initially filed by local residents who claimed Saint-Gobain, a major plastics company, contaminated their drinking water with chemicals known as “PFCs” – but this week, a judge consolidated those into a single case.
- New Hampshire’s U.S. attorney is among a list of 46 Obama appointees who were asked to step down by the Trump administration. Emily Rice, who received support from both Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and then-Sen. Kelly Ayotte, submitted her resignation this week and will be replaced by an acting U.S. attorney until a permanent replacement is named.
- After initially skirting questions on the matter from the Valley News, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut says he did in fact contribute to a school choice lawsuit filed against the department he now represents. The donation came before Edelblut became commissioner, and he says it doesn’t compromise his ability to do his job.
- There’s a bill making its way through the Statehouse right now that would strengthen lead testing requirements for kids and put stricter requirements in place for property owners whose residences contain lead paint. The Exchange spent an hour talking to local experts and advocates about the risks of lead poisoning and the challenges of tackling the issue in a state where so much of the housing stock was built before those risks were widely acknowledged.
Also Worth A Click
- The shamrocks that traditionally adorn Manchester’s Elm Street this time of year are still missing, after bad weather twice delayed plans to paint. If the city’s lucky, they might still be able to get the symbols painted in time for next week’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Union Leader)
- If you’re looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you might try one of the many Irish pubs across the state. (WMUR)
- If you’re looking for something to do this week that doesn’t involve donning green and drinking Guinness, there’s plenty of non-St. Patrick’s Day alternatives. (The Sound)
- The Vernal Equinox is approaching. Wondering what the heck that actually means? Let the Something Wild crew explain. (NHPR)
- “Flocks of bird paparazzi” are descending on Newport from as far away as Pennsylvania, trying to catch a glimpse of a great gray owl. Just how popular is this bird? As many as 76 people at a time have staked out its perch in recent weeks. (Concord Monitor)
- Seven bats, six barred owls and a red-tailed hawk might not sound like your average tenants, but when you run a wildlife center that cares for some 500 birds and 300 mammals a year, it’s just another day on the job. Take an up-close look at the Henniker-based Wings of the Dawn and the woman who’s kept it running for decades. (NHPR)
- Once a hub for textiles, Manchester’s Millyard has been reborn as a hub for tech companies — and the New York Times is ON IT. (Commercial Real Estate, NYT)
- Some people are trying to make Conway into the site of the next Coachella — or, at least a scaled back version. (The Take Magazine)
- Community members in Harrisville — which, at last count, was home to less than 1,000 people — voted this week to become a “sanctuary town,” directing local law enforcement not to ask about immigration status when stopping people for minor infractions. (Keene Sentinel)
- Out: Jamming inside a hollowed-out loft in Brooklyn as a precursor to SXSW gigs. In: Skipping SXSW, jamming inside a Barrington farmhouse, mixing tracks at the foot of the grave that belongs to the person who lived in that house in the 1800s. (Observer)
- Another Granite-grown musician and former bartender at Manchester’s The Shaskeen is getting some attention for his “five-piece country ‘garbage grass’ band.” (The Take Magazine)
- All 5,000 miles of New Hampshire snowmobile trails, now mostly off-the-grid figuratively and literally, could soon be mapped using GPS tracking information gathered from cellphones and other devices. The goal is to pin down the routes to make it easier for first responders to find people during emergencies. (Laconia Daily Sun)
- I, for one, welcome our new tiny robot engineer overlords. (Seacoast Online)
- A lesson from one Milton family: If you’re going to have to cope with a mid-March snowstorm, you might as well try to have some fun with it. (WMUR)