Friday, February 27, 2015
Tri Town Dems Meeting-Thursday, March 12th 7PM


Upcoming Tri Town Democratic Committee Meeting

Thursday, March 12, at 7:00 PM at the Emma Ramsey Center in Milton

Representative Jackie Cilley (D, Barrington) will be our featured speaker for the month of March. Jackie is a former candidate for Governor and, as a Representative, is sponsoring a bill to increase the minimum wage in New Hampshire. Jackie is a dynamic and inspirational individual who has visited our committee many times in the past, and will be talking with us about the current Legislative Session. So please mark your calendars and join us if you are interested in what's happening in our State Government.
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Local Dems Invited To Caucus Thursday March 19th 7PM


It is official. The overwhelming responses were 100% in favor of meeting at the Farmington House of Pizza for our local Dem caucus. We will meet at 7pm on Thursday the March 19th to elect officers for the coming two years and delegates to the state convention.

We have a few vacancies to fill. It should be a fun and interesting evening.  Please drag family and friends.  Pizza and one round of beer or wine will be there for the consumption of the hungry Dem masses.  

See you there!
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Sunday, February 22, 2015
Stan Freeda Running For 3 Year School Board Slot


Dear Farmington Voters and Taxpayers,

My name is Stan Freeda and I am running for School Board on March 10.  I am an active member of our community, a long time educator, former high school science teacher, currenlty the State Educational Technology Director at the NH Department of Education.  I want to serve on the school board because I feel that we can only grow and prosper as a community if we strengthen our support for our schools, students, and teachers.

Our education system in this country has been continuously slammed over the past 50 years. There is a constant pressure in today's society to reduce our taxes and privatize everything. It's natural for folks to want lower taxes. No one wants to pay higher taxes than they have to pay. However, the real root to the problem is not that we have taxes, but is our share fair? Our capitalist system has fostered greed and avarice among corporations who consistently do everything they can to avoid paying taxes. Since they won't pay for the services our public society needs to be civilized, the burden falls on us.

That's just the way it is, good or bad. Everyone may have their own opinion, and it really doesn't change the situation. The real questions we have to ask ourselves is what can we do about it? And most importantly, should we do something about it?

For me, the answer is obvious. Yes, I want to do something about it. I want to look to the future, not the past. So naturally, the future is our children, and it is our responsibility to raise them and educate them so they can be successful in the society that we have helped to create, and we have helped to maintain through our lifetime. So I chose education as my profession. Believe me, teachers do not go into the profession for the money. We do it for the love of children and for our realization that our children deserve much better than we normally give them. In this town, it is definitely true. For years, the school board has been populated by folks who have one agenda, keep taxes low. And that's not a bad goal. However, it is a terrible place to start the conversation. The entire Middleton mess could have been avoided by a more thoughtful board who considered the education of children to be paramount, not focus on drawing lines between the two districts and making everything about money. Now I know that there are and have been board members who rally care about education and work towards those ends. But there are and have been members whose only purpose has been to keep their own taxes lower. That's the beauty and the curse of a democratic society. Voters have to remember that people elected to board positions can't accomplish anything on their own. Board members do not have autonomy to do accomplish their own personal goals. They have to work with others. And the majority rules, and sometimes, that majority may be in favor of things that are wrong for education and for our children. While I would only be a single person on a 5 person board, I would hope to be able to remind the board members of their responsibilities and keep the focus on the children and the quality of the education our schools can provide. I would diligently work towards trying to find the most cost effective ways to accomplish the important task of educating our children. Building a quality school is the most effective way to attract families to our community. And when more families move to Farmington so their children can go to school in Farmington schools, we increase our tax base and lower our tax rates.

Budgets are built from the ground up. What programs do our children need to be successful? What are the optimum amount of faculty and staff that are needed to support the achievement and development of the children we service? What administrative staff are needed to support them? What supplies and equipment are needed to effectively educate those children and make them successful? And you add it all up and you have your budget, built for success!

What we have in our school board, and unfortunately our town as well, are folks that start with their preferred tax rate. And work backwards to fill in amounts in those lines, and if it isn't adequate, well, then our children will ave to make due. This is morally wrong, in my opinion, and is evidence of a severe lack of understanding not only of education, but of children and their developmental needs.

If Farmington had a wealthy tax base, these kinds of loaded “tax”questions wouldn't even be asked of potential candidates. Questions like “What do you feel our children need to improve?” would outweigh questions like “What do you think of state test scores?” because the focus is on the children. But educating them costs money, and when education works, test scores are high. When education doesn't work, test scores are low. There is no other way to frame it than that, because that is the only possible answer. Test scores are only as important as the content being tested. Personally, I am not in favor of standardized testing at all. There isn't a teacher in a classroom in this country who can't tell you exactly what their kids know and don't know, just by working with them everyday. If we would trust and support them, we would have our accountability system built in. Just as the teachers. But we don't have that trust built into our system. No Child Left Behind has determined that all kids must be tested in grades 3-8 and once in high school. Period. No argument. If you don't want to follow the law, then you can't get any federal funding. It's no different than the state not giving you a driver's license if you refuse to pay the fee to get one. Testing is a reality. It's not our fault that we have to test. But it is our responsibility to prepare our children for their adult life, in terms of both their profession and their civic responsibility. And currently, our ability to do that is judged by the performance on standardized tests.

Farmington has low test scores, most likely because either our kids don't have enough opportunities to learn the standards that they will be tested on or our focus is not on teaching what the kids need to learn. Kids need support from teachers. Teachers need support form administration. Administration needs support from the school board. The school board needs support from the town. It really does take a village to raise a child.

And the problem with our village is that our focus is not on educating our children it is saving our tax base. Sure we have to stretch every penny. I am all for tight budgets and trimming down of waste. But I am not for cutting out vital parts of our education system. The suggestion that somehow school board members are put into a situation where they are between taxpayers and the education of students is a short sighted and narrow minded. The only way that situation plays out is if the taxpayers don't care about the education of students. Otherwise, the correct analogy should be that school board members are a bridge between the taxpayers and the education of students. School board members work to ensure the taxpayers that their community's children are getting a quality education. The should work with the community to help folks better understand what is at stake and where their tax dollars are going. Setting up the question as an adversarial one, only assumes that folks aren't interested in education, but merely a low tax rate. Low tax rates at “any cost” or by “any means” have a severe cost. And the cost is our children's future. I personally am not willing to pay that price. I want my tax dollars to go to those children. I want them to be spent efficiently and effectively. And I don't mind paying a few extra dollars to get the quality I believe our children deserve.

People are the heart and soul of education. Kids have different learning styles and preferences. Some are internally motivated, but most learn because they love and respect their teachers. If we don't give those children a stable, educated, happy and supported faculty, they will not succeed. If we don't like testing, then our reaction should be to blame our representatives in Congress, who have consistently refused to update the failed No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, but to blame and punish our teachers and students. But regardless, testing is a demonstration of knowledge. And it is necessary for schools to use them, in some form, so that teachers can assess the learning of their students and the effectiveness of their own teaching. Properly designed tests that measure learning of properly designed standards are a good thing. Kids are only afraid of tests because tests are often designed to catch students who are not learning. A student can hit any target they can see. So we have to show them those targets, give them the experience and practice they need to be successful, then allow them to demonstrate that success back to us. Luckily for us NH has adopted a wonderful set of performance standards that allow teachers the flexibility to design their own lessons and curriculum to meet the needs of their students. And our adaptive computer based testing choice, is also designed to measure success rather than focus on failures. Adaptive testing means that students will get to answer more questions correctly than incorrectly. What a wonderful way to build confidence and self esteem, two things our students desperately need.

In New Hampshire, we are also lucky because we got a waiver from the accountability weights of the standardized testing, although we do still have to test. No one got a waiver from testing. But we can report the results of our schools through multiple measures, rather than just a single test. So our school districts have the opportunity to design accountability programs which take many factors into account and report the successes we can accomplish.

Farmington is at a cross roads. Once a thriving community with many successful businesses and factories where hard working folks lived, worked, and raised their children. Many of those children are still here. But the businesses have all gone. And while we have a larger population, our tax base growth has not been equal to the cost of administering and governing a thriving community. Boards of Selectmen have come and gone, and like our school boards they have been populated with folks who care greatly about restoring Farmington to the thriving community it once was. And there are others who just fight to keep their own taxes low. We can't do both. If we want to attract businesses and families to our town, we need a plan, and we need to stick together and support the town. And that means that until we get a larger revenue stream in from businesses and higher wage working families, we will have to pay to support our public institutions. It's no fun fun facing that, but that's the way it is. If we keep strangling our public services and making cuts to save money, more people will move away, no new people will move here, and the spiral continues downward. But if we make the sacrifices we need now, and stick together, build good schools, that are recognized throughout New Hampshire for their quality, then young families will move here to educate their children in our schools. And businesses will move here because we have good schools and town services. And every one that we attract is a return on our investments.

I challenge those asking the questions, to answer them for yourself. What are your goals for our community? What will you do to improve our schools and our town? Who will you support for our town officials? Do you want the status quo? Or do you have a vision of a better future?

A vision of a better future. That's what being a community is all about.

Thanks for listening, Farmington! I would appreciate your vote on March 10.

Go to Stan's School Board Candidate Page
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Our Schools Need The Funds-Default School Budget $600g Higher

 

Default school budget $600g higher than proposed budget

http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20150207%2FGJNEWS_01%2F150209465%2F-1%2FROCNEWS0102&template=RochesterRegion


As you can see on the photo above you can find the default budget and the supporting documents on the Farmington School Board page. You can also find the proposed budget and comparison on the same FSB page.

Default Budget and Supporting Documents
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Friday, February 13, 2015
Help Needed At The Farmington Community Gardens



Help Needed at the Farmington Community Gardens

It was exciting to be a part of the effort to get the Farmington Community Gardens started in 2011 and I feel it has been a great way to get back to the town’s roots and show people how rewarding growing some of your own food can be. I was happy to see our move to incorporate as a non-profit go smoothly and I have always felt we have terrific support from businesses in town who help sponsor us by donating items to the Gardens. We’ve had much community support and assistance over the years, but with that being said, committed volunteers have lessened and we really do need them to keep the Gardens established. We need that assistance to keep up with general maintenance and to start more intensive projects with the schools and other groups.

We need people to clear leaves and debris from the border beds up front and most of the food growing beds. We need people to move and spread compost for the year into the growing spaces. The perennial plantings from previous years need regular care and watering throughout the season. We need people to help with planting and care of the wild daises, Shasta Daisies, and Black-eyed Susans that we transplant from the meadow to add visual flair to the garden and to sell at Hay Day to raise money for the Gardens. Most of the bulbs and shrubs, mints, chives, red and yellow onions, and Egyptian onion also need tending and watering through the season.

The areas around the growing spaces and the walking paths need to be mowed often and trimmed. The decorative and flowering trees need to be tended and watered and the Bittersweet and Locust trees, both terribly invasive plants, need to be cut and pulled up. As nature has settled back into the cleared space, weeds are always a problem, so getting rid of as many of those as we can is also a high priority.

In order to maintain our status as a non-profit, we need a robust Stewardship Committee, which functions as our Board of Directors, to guide and govern the organization.  The committee needs several members, but most importantly, two key officer positions are vacant, one being a Secretary, for effective communications. It would be highly beneficial to have at least a few others on the committee who want to help brainstorm and implement ideas. The Stewardship Committee meets regularly during the growing season and directs the business of the group and decides and coordinates what projects will be done. You don’t have to be a gardener or have a space to be a Steward.

Currently we are operating with a skeleton crew and we need to know if there is still community interest and if that interest can manifest as the assistance we need to maintain the Gardens and help the organization grow and prosper. If you would like to commit to the Gardens contact me at fcg@metrocast.net. If you need more information about the Farmington Community Gardens please visit www.farmingtoncommunitygardens.org. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kyle Leach
FCG Chair
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Reflections On Discussions In Our Town


In looking at the conversations that surround our selectmen and school board elections here in Farmington, there are several points that consistently seem to be missing from our conversations. This concerns me because, as a person of reason and local taxpayer, it would seem we won’t be able to find solutions if we aren’t stepping back and looking at everything we are doing. I know being an elected official is hard. I know it is thankless and frustrating, but we need people in office who not only can deal with those inevitabilities, but implement new strategies if we not only want the town to survive, but also to thrive.

Here are four things we don’t talk about or don’t talk about enough:

     1)Discussions surrounding the budget process revolve around budget cuts, not generating new revenue or replacing revenue lost, with alternatives. I know this is one of the hardest things for a struggling town to deal with, but if we do not find new revenue, new marketing plans, and attract families and new businesses our town won’t have a future. Period. The cycle we are currently locked in only leads to less public service, less possibilities for paying for items, less of an ability to weather a financial crisis or launch bold initiatives. I don’t mind cutting costs if they are unnecessary, but our budget is quite tight as it is. It is rare to come across something so egregious in the budget as the expense to pay the library director a five percent raise. I support our library. I really think libraries are important and think some of the staff is grand. I was a Trustee and I’m a lifetime friend of the library. I was also glad this expense caused discussion and was not taken lightly. Ingenuity, creativity, and growth take investment, investment takes money. I think many townspeople would like to see more time spent on finding revenue sources. You can cut and cut and cut, but many of the largest town expenses will stay as they are, with more expense added on the next year due to inflation of cost or service prices. Buying down the tax rate and a tax cap are good short term solutions sometimes, but ultimately with both you are borrowing from our future to create stability now and both  should be used sparingly if at all, because of that. In my opinion tax caps work best paired with strong, established revenue streams. They help to keep waste down when waste and avarice have lots of places to hide. Our budget doesn’t really have many places to hide.  We need specific action plans around new revenues not grandstanding talk about it.

    2) Officials often publicly ask for more involvement from others as they end conversations. They ask for more people to attend meetings. They ask more people to come to town meeting. They ask for more people to run for positions throughout the town. They ask for more people to run for office. This would help our town, but those very people know the town and how difficult it is to get people involved. Not having enough involved people is not a new problem and it is hardly restricted to our community. Townspeople can add to the conversation and add ideas, but it is the elected official who is responsible for translating that into measurable progress. I’ve seen people step up to the plate and try to be a part of the solution only to be battered by fellow board members, stifled by their inflated egos, stalled by opposing personalities, or bullied into not speaking up. It’s one of the drawbacks to the system we have in place and unfortunately it keeps many people from donating time and energy to serving on boards. I don’t know how some of the board members can stand to sit on the boards they serve on. After townspeople come home from working several jobs, or working  thankless  jobs, like those in the service industry, I would think they  would have to have very compelling reasons to help. I’m not sure they see compelling reasons.  They watch the meetings on TV, read the minutes, or attend a meeting and are left wondering why they would want to be a part of that process. I’ll tell you a story. I was at town meeting one year. I was behind a person who sits on a town board. They were bragging to another person how they enjoyed using the silent ballot(a perfectly legal option for any townsperson), because it held people longer, beleaguered the process,  and forced people to get up and vote instead of voting while seated. I wasn’t surprised, but what if I was a person new to the process? What if I considered serving on boards and was on the fence? That’s the impression I’d have of a public servant in our town. In the future I will serve on other boards I’m sure. I can tell you honestly though that I would not choose to serve on the three most important boards in town for the reasons listed above. Actually, if I’m being completely honest you could pay me three times what my corporate salary was and I wouldn’t be interested.

   3)  Our PR issue. Yes, I feel we have one and I feel it is enormously underestimated.  To make this matter worse we really don’t have anyone dedicated to trying to change how our town is perceived, presented, and reported on.  There is no one to spin the negative Fosters article or better yet make sure the twelve great things that happened that day are out where everyone can see them. How people in our town view it and how other people view our town plays into everything from revenue generation, to community spirit, to being the deciding factor on whether someone wants to move here from somewhere else or wants to come back home after college. Since we really want people to move here and we obviously would like more revenue sources why aren’t we putting more effort into this arena? Planning how a building will be replaced or how a new one is built and how that will look is just as important as banks and landlords owning so many buildings in town and not caring about how they fair or who lives in them, if anyone lives in them at all. Again, these  are problems that didn’t creep up overnight, the situations that led to them happened over decades, so they won’t be solved quickly, but we do need to be working on them if we are to stabilize our public persona. We’ve had two town surveys while I’ve lived here, asking what townsfolk would like to see. I know I’m not the only one finding it hard to match up what we put in the surveys and what we see going on around town.  Our elected officials are dropping the ball somewhere or the message we are sending is being mistranslated. In either case I think it makes townspeople feel like they aren’t being listened to or worse that they are just being treated as irrelevant. I wouldn’t  feel I could say that if we had high turn over on our boards, but we don’t. Same people different day. Just like town meeting. Same people different day. Or voting day. Same people different day. Very few new faces. I think our own town folk have begun to believe what everyone else says about our town. We need someone working on changing that too.

  4)   The last thing that weighs on my mind in this conversation is that sometimes decisions seem to be made by passing on the buck to another time or place or issue. I looks like we’ve been doing that collectively as a town for some time.  The transfer from an industrial town to a bedroom community was not kind or without long term consequences. Many of the old families are gone and the wealth that once was standard in our community has left with those families. It would have taken a gigantic effort to replace those investors and benefactors and that just didn’t happen. Maybe people didn’t see it coming. Maybe people just didn’t care. That’s what I’m most concerned about. I’m approaching my mid forties now, almost half way through the cycle of life, if I live as long as my grandparents did. I’m particularly concerned that some of the board decisions that push off action, commitment, and revenue generation into the future, endanger the twilight years of people my age and younger by creating situations where we will not be able or even want  to live here, as if every person really has that choice. I wonder sometimes after seeing decisions at meetings if my future here is being pulled from under me. Enacting cuts or not pursuing revenue now, will have serious consequences in thirty or forty years as the problems compound. Whether by death or affluence, many won’t  be here, so it doesn’t matter to them. It is great to save the day this year, but I have to look out for forty or fifty more years.

I’m glad we have people that are willing to donate their time and energy toward board positions and I’m even more grateful to those that really seem to care about their neighbors and the town’s future. I’m happy we have many public employees who are very dedicated and committed to our town.  Some of them strive for excellence. Some surprise me with what they can do with so little. With that being said, what I’ve outlined above, from what I have observed since I moved here, seems to show we are far beyond the times of easy answers or short Facebook quips to get to the heart of our real issues or to find meaningful solutions to our problems.
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Sunday, February 8, 2015
Upcoming Tri Town Democratic Committee Meetings Feb 12th And March 12th




Tri Town Democratic Committee Meeting: February 12

Thursday, February 12, at 7:00 PM at the Emma Ramsey Center in Milton. This will be a New Durham Run Meeting. Agenda will be forthcoming.

Upcoming Tri Town Democratic Committee Meeting: March 12

Thursday, March 12, at 7:00 PM at the Emma Ramsey Center in Milton.
Representative Jackie Cilley (D, Barrington) will be speaking with us. Jackie is a former candidate for Governor and, as a Representative, is sponsoring a bill to increase the minimum wage in New Hampshire. Jackie is a dynamic and inspirational individual who has visited our committee many times in the past, and will be talking with us about the current Legislative Session.

  • Representative Jackie Cilley will talk about politics in the NH State House.
  • Farmington Town Committee Caucus
  • Milton Town Committee Caucus
  • New Durham Town Committee Caucus
  • Tri Town Town Committee Meeting
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Vision. Action. Community.

The Farmington Democrats believe that equality of opportunity can be achieved through community involvement, political action, and a shared vision of social justice.