February 2, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: We wuz robbed
By Jeff Rapsis

Imagine you’re a beat cop on foot patrol. A bank robbery is reported down the block! You rush to the scene to see a guy with a black mask running away carrying a cloth bag with big dollar signs on it.

What to do? You give chase, which is your duty. Off you sprint, pursuing the suspect so intently that you don’t see the elderly lady crossing the street up ahead.

Wham! You collide, knocking her to the ground. You stop to make sure she’s OK, but then quickly resume the pursuit and catch the criminal, saving the day.

Then, a week later, you get a summons. The elderly lady thinks you’re no hero; rather, she’s filing a $100,000 lawsuit against you for emotional trauma. And oh, by the way, she wants you fired.

The chief’s response: “Well, we’re certainly not going to back you. Go hire yourself a lawyer and good luck. And by the way, hand over your badge.”

Sound unreasonable? Not in Nashua, where it’s apparently acceptable—that is, if you believe that Mayor Bernie Streeter should personally pay legal bills he incurred while fighting the recent mayoral recall election attempt.

Like him or lump him, Streeter’s legal costs (estimated at $15,000) are absolutely the responsibility of local taxpayers. Why? Because in challenging the recall attempt, he defended not only himself, but also the mayor’s right to do his job and the coherence of Nashua’s city charter.

Streeter was elected to a four-year term. He didn’t ask for a recall, but when his enemies mounted one, of course he challenged it. Only an idiot wouldn’t.

As it turned out, his attorney concluded that Nashua’s city charter doesn’t allow such recalls, and a judge backed this up. In the end, Streeter was just doing his job, to the consternation of his critics.

At this point, expecting Streeter to pay his own legal bills is no different than expecting the cop who ran into the eldery lady to defend himself at his own expense. One situation isn’t fair, and neither is the other.

So the cost of challenging the recall in court is the city’s expense, just as the costs of holding the election itself would have been. You wouldn’t have expected Claire McGrath, the recall’s leader, to personally pay for our day at the polls, would you?

In the end, the only ones who were robbed by the recall nonsense were Nashua’s taxpayers. No matter what the outcome, property taxpayers now must cough up a cloth bag with black dollar signs to pay for it, all thanks to the personal and petty vindictive politics that give rise to recall drives and worse.

Bottom line: Streeter was elected to a four-year term. If you don’t like the way he walks the beat, that’s not enough to get him fired. Instead, vote for someone else in the next regularly scheduled election, the way you’re supposed to, and save us all time, money, and aggravation.

And while you’re at it, you might want to thank the Mayor for helping finally put an end to this recall nonsense, which has been costly to Nashua in more than just dollars.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com