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Gate City Musings: Sympathies, kudos and a few questions

April 21. 2013 11:35PM

Editor's note: Gate City Musings, a column on City Hall happenings and other Nashua items, is published every other Monday. It is written by a veteran political observer whose identity is known to the editors but who wishes to remain anonymous, and breathing.

Musings offers deepest sympathies to the families of those who perished and to those and their families who were injured in the terrible Marathon Day attack. Let us remember in our prayers those who lost their lives and their loved ones.

Kudos to Nashua Ward 8 Alderman Dan Moriarty as he continues to impress his constituents and others. Musings wonders why his fellow aldermen aren't that impressed.

With a huge city financial commitment in store, initially more than 10 times what was paid by our city when it purchased Pennichuck Water Works, shouldn't our aldermen be concerned? Our city's tax rate and bonded indebtedness would rise significantly should commuter rail become a reality.

Alderman Moriarty proposes an ad-hoc committee look closely at the costs and benefits of this project. Musings encourages this forward-thinking city official to push our city fathers and mothers hard and urge them to look very closely at the huge financial impact commuter rail will have on our city's already beleaguered taxpayers.

It should be pointed out that there is little support by our responsible and budget-concerned state legislators to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars for a project that will never be profitable or even break even.

While it may be possible to cover the operational expenses through excessively high fares and equally high parking revenues, in reality no commuter system in the country does this because fares and parking have to be somewhat reasonable.

At last count the New York City Transit Authority covers only 60 percent of operational costs of its commuter rail and, from what I'm told, that is the highest percentage in the nation.

As for capital costs including land, buildings, tracks, railroad cars, engines and other equipment, it would be impossible to expect Nashua and New Hampshire state government to come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars to cover these expenditures.

It's also "pie-in-the-sky thinking" to expect our federal government to pony up funds of this magnitude to serve a very small segment of the population.

Remember, only two high-speed rail projects in the world turn a profit -- Spain and Japan. By the year 2020 Spain will have spent 100 billion euros on infrastructure and billions more on trains and equipment. This equates to more than $75 billion (yes, billion!) this relatively small country would have spent on rail.

According to the International Union of Railways, only two rail routes in the world have broken even. They are the rail line in France between Paris and Lyon and the line in Japan between Tokyo and Osaka.

In other words, while high-speed commuter rail is seen as good for society and the environment, it simply isn't profitable and has to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

On another subject, Musings wonders if casino-type gambling is favored by more than 60 percent of our citizens, why does Mrs. Mayor have to take a day off on our dime, travel to Concord, again on our dime, to oppose gambling as a social value vice?

For many years, as when she was in Concord as part of the legislative hierarchy, then-state Rep. Donnalee Lozeau supported and voted for state budgets that included millions and millions in revenue from betting on dog and horse races, the New Hampshire lottery, bingo, Lucky Seven scratch tickets and charitable gambling. A portion of these revenues went back to the cities and towns including Nashua.

Musings wonders if gambling was so bad, why didn't she speak up back then? Who said you can't have your cake and eat it, too?

Boos to those members of the Board of Education who voted unanimously to hire a new assistant superintendent of the School District at $106,000 annual salary, knowing full well what the recommended salary was going to be. For some of them to then turn around and complain about the high salary after they voted for the person to hold the position was grandstanding at its worst.

Musings wonders: If these persnickety members really felt that strongly about the salary wouldn't you think they would have voted no to the hiring in the first place?

Remember ... if you have a subject, complaint or praise about what our city officials are up to or you have a suggestion for "kudos," email them to Musings would love to hear from you.

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