by Jody Reese
Our aldermen arenít exactly on the cutting edge of technology, so I was mightily impressed when I heard a few months back that city government was buying them laptops.
Ward 1 Alderman Mark Roy is the first to get one. He says heíll use it to keep track of constituent issues and read all of his board and committee agendas on it, saving the city paper, printing and courier costs.
However, several Luddite aldermen criticized Royís technological toe in the water as wasteful spending in a time of lean city budgets, rising property taxes and general malaise.
Board chairman Bill Shea was especially tough on the laptop give-away.
ďItís an unnecessary and needless expense to the taxpayer,Ē he told Riley Yates, a reporter at the newly re-named New Hampshire Union Leader. What Shea forgot to say is that he and a majority of aldermen opposed the mayorís bid to streamline city government by consolidating departments and accounting, saving tax payers millions of dollars. On a side note, Shea also seems to have forgotten that he voted to continue paying the New Hampshire Union Leader thousands and thousands of dollars a year in needless advertising.
In fact, our aldermen, led by Shea, have consistently opposed modernizing city government. In a hundred million plus budget, the $1,200 cost of a laptop isnít a big deal, but creating a more modern city government is. In the long run, restructuring government to consolidate all bookkeeping in the finance department or combine several of the smaller departments will not only save money by eliminating duplicate jobs but also will allow city government to more closely watch its finances.
But then again, Sheaís anti-laptop play isnít about the $1,200. Itís about scoring political points.
It would be nice if Shea and several of his aldermanic allies spent less time playing politics than actually working to make Manchester a better place to live. Instead of pushing for modernization in city government, they push to return to the bad old days of political cronyism and paper cuts.
Dandy new name: While Iím on the subject of modernization, The Union Leader has changed itís name to New Hampshire Union Leader. Itís not entirely clear why the name change, though declining readership might be the main culprit. Daily newspapers have been having a hard time convincing people that they have to read a newspaper every day. We at Hippo think reading a good weekly is plenty, for example.
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