Nix the renumbering, eradicate the ethics ordinance and cancel the health coordinator
Here's some New Year's resolutions the city of Rochester should consider.
First and foremost, ditch the eight-month lesson in futility called the Ethics Ordinance.
The number of hours spent trying to created this crabbed, flawed piece of legislation, a daunting task to begin with, hopefully sounded its death knell in an 8-4 rejection by the City Council on Dec. 7.
For anyone foolish enough to seek to resurrect it, remember its history in the surrounding cities. Never impaneled in Somersworth. Never used in Dover. Used once in Portsmouth, where it turned politically polarizing and cast city government in an ugly light.
The attempt to write an Ethics Ordinance was born of politics after former City Councilor Jeremy Hutchinson called for its creation shortly after former councilor Doug Lachance announced he might be running for mayor in 2021.
An investigation into Lachance's alleged sex abuse of a teen while Lachance was mayor 20 years ago was reopened and then closed.
Strafford County attorney Tom Velardi said he couldn't name the two or three who brought the cold case to his attention, but added, "I knew there was some politics involved."
It didn't work in Portsmouth, and it won't work here.
There is already an ordinance on the books that deals with the removal of city councilors for wrongdoing.
We don't need folks running and telling the city attorney they saw a councilor shoveling snow on a public way, speeding, jaywalking or saying something on Facebook that offends them.
Don't waste more precious hours fiddling with this foolishness.
Another resolutions the city should get on board with is tossing any idea of renumbering Tebbetts Road.
The renumbering of the entire road was rejected soundly by the City Council last month and rightly so.
Another crabbed effort with fire department and city planners spending months coming up with the plan and hours trying to sell it to council.
And lastly resolve not to waste almost a million dollars on a community health officer, who according to city officials, "functions within the Welfare Office to connect community members in need to resources and increase overall health outcomes. This position would coordinate with the Police Department to respond and assist on check condition calls and follow up with those involved on these calls that occur after business hours."
The money would come from American Rescue Plan Act funds, which is money set aside to help cities and counties recover from the COVID pandemic, although there's nothing here directly related to COVID.
The million dollar price tag would include five years of salary, a vehicle, clothing and administrative support from city personnel.
Here's just a few of the reasons why we don't need this until it is vetted a little more thoroughly.
The major iteration of this type of funding was guided by a Plymouth County (Mass.) Outreach program that covers more than 530,000 residents and 27 police departments that outreach mainly with those suffering from substance abuse.
The program boasts success with numbers like 575 home visits since 2017. That's about 10 visits a month throughout the entire county. They go on to note that of those contacts some 400 have "accepted help" from their outreach team.
But they don't quantify what "accepting help" means. Does it mean they received a pamphlet about drug addiction? Or about a residential treatment option?
These numbers are skewed by government to grow government, plain and simple. What we have here is big government (Plymouth county) trying to help grow Rochester government. How cute. One government helping another waste more taxpayer money.
City personnel at a recent meeting told councilors that Plymouth County saw a decrease in overdoses a year after the program began but there's nothing to suggest any causation, just correlation, with those numbers.
The program description of this position says it would be developed "as evidence-based program with the Community Health Coordinator serving as a resource to address the current need for mobile, nonenforcement response for intervention or health services."
And what does that create. Another bureaucratic silo in which the person who presides, is paid well and the recipient of grant funding does nothing from day one but try to prove their 'evidence-based' need to continue in their job.
But you can't implement an evidence based program, until you have the evidence. And the Plymouth County numbers are dubious at best.
This is yet another boondoggle.
And while former police chief Paul Toussaint did speak in favor of it, he said the money wasn't coming out of his police budget. No way!
If you want to spend the ARPA money because it's there, try infrastructure, maybe a skate park, but not on a "do nothing" job getting some elderly lady food for her cat, which is one of the frequent calls police now take, former chief Paul Toussaint complained of at a recent City Council meeting during a discussion of the proposed position.