Monday, September 29, 2014

From Unfit for Human Habitation to Safe Enough for Now: 24 hours in an election year

                                Peeling lead paint on the outside of a building in Manchester.

Mark Hayward had a story in the UL on Friday about a house that had been declared "unfit for human habitation. My commentary on that storyOn Saturday he updated the story.

It seems that 405 Manchester St. went from being unfit for human habitation to "safe enough" for now:

The Health Department determined it was not unsanitary as long as tenants can flush their toilets with outside water.

The Fire Department reset the fire alarm system, which had not been working, LaFreniere said.

And his building inspector determined the other violations — such as doors that do not close and bedbugs — are quality of life issues and not reason to clear out the building, said Chief Building Inspector David Albin.

Having doors that work properly are a "quality of life" issue? Expecting to be free of an insect infestation is some sort of LUXURY? 

Water still remains shut off. Albin said he’s encouraged the tenants, who aren’t paying rent, to pool their money and work out a payment plan with Manchester Water Works.

Albin said he didn’t speak to tenants when he posted the building, but several called his office to ask about it. On Thursday, several tenants said they couldn’t get answers from the city after the sign went up.
“We have a responsibility to notify you that things aren’t right,” Albin said. “The city doesn’t have a responsibility to find you a place to live.”

Chief Building Inspector Albin didn't have the guts to knock on doors to compound the misery the folks who live in 405 were already experiencing, even though "we have a responsibility to notify you that things aren't right." Then he quickly absolves the City from any responsibility to help these people who are living in a situation that has been enabled by the City. 
Every 3 years, the City of Manchester inspects apartment buildings for compliance to the housing code. A certificate of occupancy is issued when the building passes inspection. Technically, apartments should not be rented out in buildings without CoCs. In reality, it happens all the time. It happened here at 405 Manchester St. 
The last CoC for 405 expired May 2, 2014. The process of acquiring that CoC began sometime in 2009. My notes begin in January 2010, when the owner, Paul Schaefer, was supposed to meet the building inspector and didn't show up. He was fined $50. This is not the kind of fine that strikes fear into the heart of a slumlord. It's a damn sight cheaper than doing the repairs, and with enough of those no-shows, a landlord can drag the process on for months, even years. Schaefer did exactly that. 
When the building was finally inspected, 95 code violations were found. Some were "quality of life" issues like switchplate covers on electrical outlets. Many related to replacing bathroom ceiling tiles, painting bathroom ceilings, and replacing bathroom floors. The reason for all of these bathroom repairs is obvious - leaky pipes. Fixing the leaks was never, ever mentioned. Just cosmetic repairs to conceal the ongoing leaks. How could a building deteriorate so much in 3 years? Leaky pipes and cosmetic repairs would be the first place to look. 
At 405 Manchester, he process of repairing code violations  took nearly 2 years. The CoC was issued on June 2, 2011. 
Another violation mentioned a bathroom wall with peeling paint that needed to be scraped and repainted. Was it lead paint? We don't know. The City doesn't test for lead paint unless there's a poisoning case. 
At the time the CoC program was initiated in Manchester, it was regarded as cutting edge. 
Not any more. 
It's evident that the regulations need to be rewritten, and then stringently enforced. It's also clear (after looking at numerous housing files) that a three year gap between inspections is too long for some landlords. The file on 405 Manchester is very thick. All of the files on the most dilapidated buildings are thick. They've been allowed to deteriorate over the decades. They were bought and sold as slums, by landlords who make a living exploiting low income tenants. Buildings that are well maintained do not have inspections that result in 95 code violations. 
There's something of a prevailing attitude that THOSE PEOPLE (meaning the low income tenants in buildings like 405 Manchester St) should feel lucky that they have a roof over their heads. Apparently the poor somehow forfeit any right to decent housing. 
And so the City decides that a building that was unfit for human habitation for a month is suddenly an okay place for people with children to be living. 
This is a decision that lacks conscience or humanity. It's the cowardly decision of a City that doesn't want to deal with the image problem that would be created by tossing women and children out on the street just before an election. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Substandard Housing in Manchester, NH

The peeling lead paint from the railing falls on the steps, where it travels into apartments where children live. 

Union Leader reporter Mark Hayward  has a story in today's paper about a building in Manchester that was declared unfit for human habitation:

Nearly a month after Manchester building officials deemed an apartment building unfit for human habitation, several residents remained stranded there Thursday, including some parents with children.
They expressed anger and said they’ve received no direction from the city, which placed a notice on the front door of 405 Manchester St. on Aug. 27.

The water was shut off on September 11. The city can't find Paul Schaefer, the owner of the building. In the story we learn that there was someone living in the building who collected the rent. They left when the notice went up.
The most disturbing part of this story is the way the city is pretending they knew nothing:
Planning and Community Development Director Leon LaFreniere said he only found out about the situation that afternoon. His signature is stamped on the Aug. 27 notice, which declares the building “unsafe” and warns it is unlawful for anyone to enter.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said no one told him about the situation. He said Sept. 11 seems a long time to live without access to running water.

“That’s a good question. I don’t know why they’re still there,” said Gatsas, who spoke to a reporter Wednesday evening.

No one should be living in these conditions. 

The building at 405 Manchester St. had a certificate of compliance on file at City Hall that expired in May of 2014. If the standards for compliance had been stringently enforced, could a building deteriorate so much in a 3 year period that it was declared uninhabitable? Is three years too long a period to go between inspections? 
For some landlords, it most certainly is. 
The Granite State Organizing Project published a report on substandard housing in Manchester, earlier this year. I was hired as a consultant to the project, and I'm the primary author of the report. We found that "repairs" often consisted of replacing stained ceiling tiles in bathrooms, as opposed to actually fixing leaky pipes. One landlord, Mohammad Mobeen, is on the State of NH's list of lead abatement contractors, yet owns a building where there have been child lead poisonings, and other buildings where the peeling lead paint on the outside of the building is visible. 

Families with children live in these buildings. No one should be living in these conditions. 

It's my view that the City  has ignored the housing issue for decades. This situation at 405 Manchester St. will happen again and again until the City makes the decision to take the problem seriously. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Hampshire's National Historic Site

On Saturday I went to the  Saint Gaudens National Historic Site. I've always wanted to see it, but never managed to get there.

I love that we have a National Historic Site in our back yard. We went on two tours while we were there, a tour of Aspet - the house:

The upstairs is closed to visitors, so for me, the best part of the house is the long porch. It's fabulous. A built in bench runs along the length of the porch, and the architectural elements are lovely - the columns and the lattice in the roof for grapevines. The view out over the fields with Mt. Ascutney in the distance is also pretty great. 

The tours are conducted by park rangers. After the house tour, we went on the art tour. The art tour began with a stop at the Farragut statue:

The base is made of bluestone, which  is a fairly soft and porous material - hence the glass covering. It shelters the statue from the worst of the weather, including acid rain, which is hell on NH statues and gravestones. 

Next stop was the New Gallery and Atrium,  with the reflecting pool. Those are gilded turtles spewing water into the pool. 

Lincoln's head is also there. 

And so is the rest of him:

Winged Victory was near Lincoln. It's a lovely statue - but that feather is truly remarkable. 

St. Gaudens had a gift for detail. His sculptures seem almost alive - as though they could move at any moment. 

We headed out on to the grounds, and walked down a path lined by enormous birches. We stopped to visit the Shaw Memorial - a Civil War monument commemorating the Massachusetts 54th regiment of African American volunteers. I grew up in Massachusetts, so I've seen the original sculpture on display at the Boston Garden many times. St. Gaudens' attention to detail is on full display in this piece. The facial expressions of the men, the horse, the objects they carry - and the angel overhead are all incredibly detailed. 

We moved on to the Adams Memorial. This statue was commissioned by historian Henry Adams, after his wife Clover took her own life. The original is in the Rock Creek Cemetery, in Washington, DC. St. Gaudens called it "The Mystery of the Hereafter...beyond pain and beyond joy." 

Next was the Little Studio, with a smaller scale version of Diana. The original Diana was a weathervane that sat atop the original Madison Square Garden. She is completely fabulous. 

Also in the Little Studio was a work area, where there were  a couple of horse heads. This was my favorite. 

The grounds and the gardens are magnificent. Everywhere you go there is something interesting and beautiful to see. 

This park is right here in NH. There's a $5 entry fee - and it is worth every dime. 

I'm so happy that my tax dollars go to funding national parks. I'd much rather fund parks than the Pentagon. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Out of State Special Interests

We’ve survived the recent round of primary elections. The outcomes provided little in the way of surprise to most anyone save for Lawrence Lessig of the MayDay PAC. Lessig is a professor at Harvard who has worked to reduce legal restrictions on copyrights and trademarks. More recently he’s been active in promoting a Constitutional Convention. This year he initiated the NH Rebellion, a group that took some long walks to bring attention to the need for campaign finance reform. In May he launched the MayDay PAC, which was to be used to help elect candidates to Congress that would pass campaign finance reform.

MayDay PAC picked Senate candidate Jim Rubens to support in the recent primary. Like all single-issue organizations, this was all about campaign finance reform. I understood the initial strategy: vote for Rubens to oust Brown from the primary. I didn’t think it was apt to be successful, but I understood it. That Rubens had repellent views on women and wants to finish building a wall at the southern border didn’t matter to MayDay. It didn’t seem to occur to them that those OTHER views could be problematic.

Then Lessig made the fatal mistake of giving over $100,000 to the Stark 360 PAC. Stark 360 is a PAC created by rabid Republitarian Aaron Day of the Free State Project. On a state level, they’ve lobbied against campaign finance reform. Stark 360 ran some cheesy anti-Scott Brown ads, and had people at the polls with handouts telling folks not to vote for Brown. They were paid to be there, and under questioning, proved completely unable to explain why one should vote for Rubens. Stark 360 also seems to have diverted some of that MayDay cash into ads for Andrew Hemingway and Marilinda Garcia. Stark 360 didn’t have any money till Lessig came along to share his largesse. Many of the folks who donated to Lessig were furious. Giving money to folks who fight against your cause in the na├»ve hope that they’ll promote your candidate (Stark 360’s website never mentioned Rubens) is not a winning strategy. Rubens lost big. The only reason the liberty crowd supported Rubens was because of guns. They think Scott Brown is wussy on guns – and they oppose campaign finance reform. Lessig has been very cranky about all the criticism he’s recieved, and still doesn’t seem to grasp where and how he went wrong.

Every candidate gets a ton of questionnaires from special interest groups. The rule of thumb has always been, if you want to be on the record with this group fill out the questionnaire. If not – don’t. When I ran for the NH House in 2002, I only filled out a few. Over a decade later there are many, many more questionnaires. Ron Paul’s “Campaign for Liberty” group has a questionnaire. Their website is full of the usual florid libertarian rhetoric about our glorious tradition of freedom and resistance to oppression. They point out that their Constitution is NOT a living document, and it seems likely they’d just as soon eliminate a number of those pesky amendments, notably the 19th. Their questionnaire is comprised of seven questions. Ron and the Liberty boys oppose any gun regulations, Obamacare, Common Core, and any tax and fee increases. The questionnaire is online, along with the results. It amused me that only two Carroll County candidates (both Democrats!) have answered the survey. Ron Paul supporter Ed Comeau is conspicuously absent, along with the rest of the local liberty crowd.

Another so-called liberty group, also has a candidate questionnaire. They’re an offshoot band of Paullowers, and their questionnaire is considerably longer and requires more than yes or no answers. “How should we fight a war on terror?” “Should the US maintain its standing army?” You get the idea. These are issues that will not be decided by the NH state legislature. Free State Project participants (and NH House candidates) Max Abramson of Seabrook and Shem Kellogg of Plaistow have both filled these out. Abramson would like for the US to pull out of all overseas bases and put those troops on the Mexican border. Freedom and liberty only extends so far, it seems. The liberty crowd is quite concerned about immigrants from south of the border. The liberty crowd is comprised, almost entirely, of pale people.

Max Abramson also proudly announces that he’s signed “every taxpayer pledge known to man.” As I’ve said before, signing pledges means never having to think for one’s self. Shem Kellogg’s answer to “What corrective actions could we take right now to improve the economy?” is “you and I could opt out of the state’s system whenever possible.” Ponder that for a few minutes. Then run through the list all of the countries that have successful libertarian economic systems.

It’s never a good idea to elect people who hate government to be the government.

NH badly needs some folks with vision to serve in our state government, not regressives desperate to return to a fictionalized version of the past. We have some very real problems looming, and we’ve done nothing to plan for them. Electing folks whose real concern is getting the US out of the UN and MOAR GUNZ isn’t helpful.

NH is not a big government state. It never has been. The Free Staters come with the intent of taking over and dismantling our state. They are woefully and deliberately ignorant of our state history and traditions. No different, really, than any other out of state special interest group that comes in thinking they know what is best for us.  

© 2014 sbruce 

Published as an op-ed in the September 19 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cantwell Puts on His Cop Killing Cheerleader Uniform - Again

You remember Chris Cantwell. He's the guy who was kicked out of the Free State Project around this time last year. Cantwell was getting loud about how cops should be killed, and poor Carla Gericke, the president of the Free State Project was busy shrieking about how bad it was that the Concord Police Dept. considered the possibility that Free Staters could be potential domestic terrorists. The last thing Carla needed was for that to be proven true by Chris Cantwell, so he was ousted. 

Since then, he's aired his views on how cops should die on a number of occasions. He blamed  Brentwood Police Officer Steve Arkell for his own death. Officer Arkell was killed in the line of duty. When Justin Bourque went on a RCMP  killing spree in New Brunswick, Cantwell cheered him on, as he applauded Jerad and Amanda Miller for killing cops in Las Vegas. This led to him getting kicked off CopBlock, but that was purely cosmetic. CopBlock wants to keep their memes popular amongst "the slaves." 

Cantwell may have been kicked out of the FSP in a big public attempt to whitewash their public image, but it was all for show.  Cantwell lives across the street from the Church of the Free Load in Keene. Free Keene cult leader Ian Bernard begged Cantwell to come back to Keene.

He's still cheering on murder, as you can see here at his latest blog diatribe: Chris Cantwell - PA Troopers Got Off Easy:

Every traffic stop he engaged in was a death threat. Every arrest a kidnapping. Every fine a theft. He was paid through taxation, a global system of coercion that presently enslaves the entire human race. He was an active participant and willing co-conspirator in the system of oppression that makes wars possible. Should Dickson have pulled you over on the highway, and you attempted to evade him, he would use whatever level of force was necessary to stop you, up to and including running your car off the road and shooting you in the face, with a gun you were forced to pay for.


If his death prevented a single traffic stop, then his killer is a hero. If it saved the taxpayers of Pennsylvania a single penny, then his killer is a freer of slaves. If it makes one young adult think twice about becoming a cop, then his killer saved an immeasurable number of people from theft, assault, imprisonment, and death.

Our Free Stater wannabe overlords love to natter on about how they're all about peace and love, and claim adherence to something they call the non-aggression principle. 

It's all a bunch of road apples. Scratch that facade of peace and love and what you get is far, far beyond the mainstream. 

Update - it seems Cantwell has taken a cult name.

From his Facebook page:

While we're on the topic of Free Staters....

NH GOP Chair Jennifer Horn :

Horn said the group’s philosophy is “something that’s right in line with the Republican Party.”   
"For the most part," explained Horn, "the Free State Project has been very much a movement with character that I think has probably been a positive thing in our state.”

Is cop killing right in line with the GOP philosophy, Jennifer? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Purple Purse Challenge - NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

The NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is having a fundraiser. It's the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge.  NHCADSV is the only NH organization participating in the challenge. The scoop: 

The Allstate Foundation is launching The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Challenge, a fundraising campaign for charities benefiting domestic violence survivors. 

Everything launches on Tuesday, September 2nd at 12:00pm ET and runs through Friday, October 3rd at 11:59:59am ET. 

- The team that raises the most during the Challenge wins a $100,000 donation 

- Second place gets $75,000

- Third gets $50,000 

- Fourth gets $25,000 

- Fifth through Tenth place each get $10,000 

And, there will be weekly Bonus Challenges for charities to win up to another $80,000. 

And, the best part of the Challenge is that even if you don't win any of the grand prize money, you get to keep the money you raise during the campaign. So, so great. 

By donating to NHCADSV between now and October 3, you can help the Coalition raise even more money to do their vital work. The awareness of domestic violence is heightened right now with professional athletes involved in domestic violence cases. 

Most of us know this is a problem. A boyfriend once dislocated my jaw. I've had 3 stalkers, one who stalked me off and on for 10 years. Domestic violence recently re-entered my life in a vivid and personal way. (I'll have more to say about that in the months ahead.) Please help the NH Coalition. They do important work, they lobby against bad legislation and for good legislation - the kind that protects the rights of victims. And lets be clear - both women and men can be victims of DV. 

For more than 35 years, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has been working to create safe and just communities through advocacy, prevention, and empowerment for anyone affected by sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women, and the number one reason victims remain in relationships with their abusers is that they lack the financial resources to break free. We're taking action to stop financial abuse, but we need your help. The Coalition is the only New Hampshire organization participating in the Allstate Foundation's Purple Purse Challenge and we're using this opportunity to leverage your donations with corporate dollars to fund our economic empowerment work. With your help we could even win $100,000!
The odds are high that you have a friend, a relative, or a neighbor that has been abused. Please donate generously to our  friends at the NH Coalition so that they can continue to help everyone who needs help. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Conservative Guru Urges Voters to Stay Home

That's Charlie Arlinghaus on the right, watching Bill O'Brien (disgraced former Speaker of the NH House) as he performs the hand jive.

On September 9, the day of the recent primary elections held in NH, Charlie Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Failed Wingnut Policy Initiatives had an op-ed in the Union Leader. It was titled Don't Apologize for Not Voting, and contained some curious sentiments:

Most of us shouldn’t vote, and when we do we should skip some races. In most parts of the state, there was no earthly reason for Democrats or those leaning that way to bother. None of the big races have primaries, and why bother when you aren’t actually deciding anything?
Even when there are primaries, too many of us inclined to bother casting a ballot are low-information voters. If we had heard any real information, we might have had a preference, but none of the campaigns managed to get us much information. In all probability, we know little about each candidate except how he or she looks and that their opponents believe they have a secret plan to sell the state to the Soviet Union. So, on one level, you really shouldn’t vote. If you don’t actually know enough about two candidates to decide between them, you aren’t making an informed judgment. You should skip that race. Every year I skip races on the ballot when I don’t know enough about the candidates. That or I pick the name that I think sounds the most melodious because that’s the quality we need in a county treasurer.

"Most of us shouldn't vote." Now there's an interesting take on civic participation. As we dig deeper into this piece,  the inherent snobbery of the author begins to shine through. He tries to conceal it by writing about "us." Most of "us" are low information voters. Speak for yourself, Charlie. Many of "us" do the work of researching candidates. In fact, many of "us" are actively involved in our local and county governments. Charlie doesn't seem to want "us" to do that work. 

I thought all that money in politics meant we'd have MORE information? Is Arlinghaus saying that money really isn't speech? Or is he saying that all of that money has so corrupted the process that voting is now a useless act? 

I’ll probably vote in November to move things an inch or two one way or the other. But most of you reading this probably won’t.

That's the heart of this whole piece. Charlie, will vote to move things along - because he's someone who SHOULD vote. The rest of us? We should just stay home. 

Charlie Arlinghaus is treated as some sort of a guru by the mainstream NH media, even though he's been shilling the same economic policies that have been failing us since Saint Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Republicans do well when there's low voter turnout. Republicans rely on low information voters to march in party lockstep. Its no wonder we see Arlinghaus urging the "uninformed" (translation: non-Republican) voters to stay home.