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Ted Siefer's City Hall: Alderman Osborne challenger promises civility in office

August 17. 2013 9:21PM

Alderman Ed Osborne may have some competition this November after all. A day after the news that the east side stalwart had a run-in with the driver of a special education bus, neighborhood resident Melanie Ross-Brady announced that she would wage a write-in campaign for the Ward 5 seat.

In case you haven't heard, about nine weeks ago, Osborne allegedly became incensed sitting behind the wheel of his car, waiting for the bus to complete its pickup of a child and move along. He is alleged to have brushed by the child's mother, sworn at her and the driver, and mentioned that he's an alderman. "Wait and see what happens," he allegedly told the women, according to the police report on the investigation. The detective concluded there wasn't enough evidence to support a simple assault charge against Osborne. (The Union Leader only obtained the records late last month.)

On the newly created Facebook page for her candidacy, Ross-Brady doesn't explicitly mention the Osborne incident, but she says, "I promise to remain mindful that I represent the citizens of Manchester, NH (Ward 5), and to behave in a way that reflects positively on all of us."

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If there's an opposite of the honor roll, it was presented at Monday's Board of School Committee meeting. The board reviewed a statistical breakdown of the actions taken by the Committee on Student Conduct, the school board panel responsible for expulsions, over the past school year. Altogether, 28 expulsion hearings were held to deal with violations ranging from defacing school property to possession of a weapon and drugs. Out of the 28 cases, 12 students were expelled.

The fact that some students accused of bringing a weapon to school had escaped expulsion didn't sit well with Ward 9 board member Art Beaudry.

"With the zero-tolerance policy on weapons and drugs, I look at this report and I question how do so many get to go back to school," he said.

There was a certain irony to the moment. A year earlier, the chairman of the conduct committee, Ward 2's Debra Gagnon Langton, who is generally an ally of Beaudry, had pressed then-Superintendent Tom Brennan as to why so few cases were being referred to the committee. The committee had only seven cases the year prior - and all seven students were expelled.

Clearly, the district got the memo and referred many more cases to the conduct committee this past year. While not every hearing resulted in an expulsion, Langton said, each case was taken very seriously.

"I want to assure everyone that students get penalties that are commensurate with their infractions. Sometimes the child is allowed to go back, but they have a tight leash, and one infraction will result in the expulsion taking place," she said.

Beaudry acknowledged that the committee's record had improved. "I applaud you for what you do," he said.

Still, Beaudry said he was concerned that special education students may be getting off scot-free when misconduct on their part is classified as a "manifestation of disability."

Those cases, Assistant Superintendent Karen Burkush explained, don't even get referred to the conduct committee.

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As it turns out, Monday's meeting was the last for school board member Jason Cooper. He announced that he was moving out of Ward 11 and was resigning, effective the next day. Cooper did not have the most regular attendance record, but he was there for crucial votes and was often a foil for Beaudry, who has a reputation for being very hands-on, overly so in the view of his critics.

Cooper's announcement wasn't exactly a surprise; he hadn't filed for reelection.

It now falls on Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gramache to nominate a replacement to serve out the remaining few months of the term.

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Who could have a problem with getting free tickets to a baseball game?

Alderman-At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur, that's who - at least if the source of the tickets are Manchester police officers.

About a month ago, you may recall, police signaled drivers wearing their seatbelts to pull over, and Fisher Cat volunteers offered them tickets for three upcoming games. It was meant to be a reward for buckling up.

But at the last aldermen meeting, Levasseur said he had received complaints about the program.

"When you start saying that the police can pull you over for free stuff, well that opens the door for a lot of issues," he said. "What if (a driver) had alcohol on their breath. If the police didn't have probable cause to pull them over in the first place, do they let them go?"

Police Chief David Mara said most drivers were happy to receive the good kind of tickets.

"It's good public relations, to get people to wear seatbelts," Mara said.

Levasseur had other questions about the program, such as whether the police were working regular shifts or getting overtime.

Mara said he'd get back to him on that.

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Mayor Ted Gatsas is running for reelection, in case you haven't heard - or seen one of his blue campaign signs that have become ubiquitous throughout the city.

His Democratic opponent, you may not have heard, is Patrick Arnold. So far, the young two-term alderman has run a more low-profile campaign. Starting this week, however, Arnold will be upping his game.

He's opening his campaign headquarters, at 1117 Elm St., behind The Bridge Cafe. And at noon on Tuesday he's to deliver a "policy speech" in the aldermanic chambers.

According to a campaign news release, he "will address his vision for improving Manchester's school district, halting skyrocketing violent crime, and developing innovative new ways to grow Manchester's economy and create good jobs for local workers."

One assumes Arnold will get to use the mayor's podium, so he can savor the feeling of being at the helm, at least for a little while.

Ted Siefer may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @tbsreporter.

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