Unopposed, Jenness stresses holding to frugal course

Three contested races in Rye; Anti-gay marriage warrant is amended out of existence

Jack Driscoll

Maintaining a "frugal fiscal path" is uppermost in the mind of Priscilla Jenness, who will be unopposed in her quest for a fourth three-year term on the Board of Selectmen when Rye's election is held on Tuesday, March 9. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rye Elementary School.

Only three seats are being contested on a ballot that seems notable for its lack of a hot-button warrant article issue, now that townspeople at the January 30 Deliberative Session have amended out of existence an anti-gay marriage article.

Priscilla Jenness studies document. (Jim Cerny photo)
Jenness signaled that grappling with the future of Town Hall will be an upcoming issue for Selectmen. Asked what her hopes are for the next three years if elected, Jenness responded that "'hope' too often brings to mind thoughts and ideas over which I have little or no influence such as improvement of the economy and avoidance of natural disasters.

"On the other hand," she continued, "if reelected I will strive to keep our Town on the frugal fiscal path we have maintained for generations, continue to remain vigilant in regard to threats of alteration to our way of life from outside our borders through proactive response and look forward to assisting in the resolution of major issues on the horizon, such as the future of Town Hall, both as a historical structure and Town office space, pursuing development of a Marsh Management Program and investing sufficient time to hire well whenever a position opens. We have an army of volunteers working diligently on committees and commissions for the betterment of our Town, and I plan to continue to support and facilitate their efforts if reelected. I have enjoyed designing and editing the Annual Report of the Town of Rye for the past ten years as well as drafting reports of the Board of Selectmen to our citizens. With voter approval, I look forward to continuing this work."

The major election contest results from the decision by veteran School Board members Betty Anderson and chairman Ian Grant to step down. In the race for the two open seats are Maggie Duffy-Durkin, Cynthia Lingamfelter, Kirsten Marella and Jayson Paquette.

Budget committee members James Maheras and Shawn Crapo will be challenged by Mark Galvin of the Planning Board for two seats, both for three-year terms while Jane Holway will have opposition from Rosalie Powell Andrews and Brian Murphy for the six-year term as supervisor of the  checklist.

Uncontested are Bob Eaton for Town Moderator, Jaci Grote and Galvin for Planning Board, two three-year terms; Victor Azzi for Library Trustee, three years; Frank Drake for Cemetery Trustee, three years; Andrew Mahoney for Trustee of the Trust Fund, three years; David Adams for Sewer Commission, three years and Mark Zartarian for School District treasurer, three years.

Attentive crowd in Junior High auditorium. (Jack Driscoll photo)

Candidates Night Feb. 18

All those running for town and school offices have been invited to a Candidates Night on Thursday night, February 18, from 6:30 to 8 the Rye Public Library. Residents are urged to attend and ask questions. The event is sponsored by the newly-revived Rye Civic Leaague and will be moderated by Ray Jarvis, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The 68-minute Deliberative Session attended by nearly 90 townspeople found hardly any disagreement over warrant articles, including an overwhelming rejection of a petition-generated article that called for N.H. citizens to be "allowed to vote on an amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution that defines 'marriage'". It didn't take long before it became clear which way the wind was blowing.

Prior to this session Rye citizens had routinely voted in favor of persons who lived outside Rye speaking about an article. Not so this time. When a motion was put forth asking if non-resident Rebecca Gifford could speak in favor of the article, only five voters were in favor, a few didn't vote but upperwards of 50 raised their yellow cards high.

Jenness and moderator Eaton asked if there was anyone from Rye who wished to speak in favor. No one responded. "That tells a lot," said resident Paula Merritt as she stepped to the  microphone.

Amy Feitelson said the overthrow of the law permitting gay marriage would create a serious injustice. "It's a matter of rights," she said, adding that "any minority group should be worried," were it to prevail. She also feared it would pit neighbor against neighbor. She then stunned most in the  audience by suggesting the article be amended to say: "Article 15. (By Petition) To See". That meant deleting the next 50 words.

Moderator Eaton, a lawyer, said the law supported her amendment based on a case that went to the state Supreme Court called Grant vs. Barrington.

Once the audience grasped what Feitelson was suggesting they voted overwhelmingly and enthusiastically in favor, with only three voting no.

The original article read as folloows:

ARTICLE 15. (By Petition) To see if the Town will vote to approve the following resolution to be forwarded to our State Representative(s), our State Senator, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President, Resolved: The citizens of New Hampshire should be allowed to vote on an amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution that defines "marriage".

Bill Ladrie expresses appreciation to town officials. (Jack Driscoll photo)
At the outset of the meeting the tone was set that the audience was in a go-along mood unlike last year. Moderator Eaton pointed out that Planning Board articles could not be amended, but they could be discussed if the attendees so voted. He was opening the way for discussion on two workforce housing amendments to the zoning ordinance that had taken about 18 months to craft, including several public meetings. No one in Rye Junior High auditorium saw any need for discussion.

Last year about 50 more residents turned out and amended an article to take the teeth out of a warrant (no pun intended) regarding dogs on the beach.

This year even the budget article went unquestioned calling for an operating budget of $8,167,542, only a slight increase over last year's $8,031,362 amount.

(Meanwhile, as presented in a separate February 3 session, the warrant article for the school operating budget recommended by the School Board and Budget Committee was presented, calling for a amount totalling $11,843, 517, which is lower than the default budget of $11,876,688. Click here for a comparison of the proposed 2010-2011 school budget with the previous three years.)

The brief but business-like January 30 meeting ended on a positive note as well, when longtime attendee Bill Ladrie called for applause for the town officials sitting on the stage and Don Osborne calling for a moment of silence for Les Stevens, who died recently and was an outspoken, sometimes contentious but always respected participant in Deliberative Sessions, Town Meetings and other public meetings through the years. "I for one will miss him," said Osborne, and most in the audience nodded in agreement


NOTE: Total Operating Budget is recommended by both the Selectmen and the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee recommends exactly the same line items to voters by department. It's Capital Outlay figure is $7000 lower.


February, 2010