Howell for Representative

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Harwich Town Committee

Posted by Picasa In addition to serving as a Selectman, I am also chairman of the Harwich Republican Town Committee. Here I am presiding over the election of delegates to the Republican Convention which will be held in Lowell this coming April 29th. Sitting with me is county Commissioner Bill Doherty, a Harwich resident, and his wife, Barbara Doherty (who is giggling at something that one of us said!)

The ratio of delegates is based on the number of votes cast for Governor Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy in the 2002 election, and I proud to say that Harwich is able to send 12 regular delegates, 3 ex-officio delegates, and 2 alternates to the convention.

I am also glad, in a way, that this year we had to have a ballot instead of a slate, as there were more people interested in attending the convention than we had slots to fill. This shows a real grass roots energy, and I am pleased that I will be able to lead such a lively group to Lowell!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Encouraging Inter-Town Cooperation

It seemed like such an obvious and worthwhile thought. For several years, I have been talking to my colleagues statewide about sharing responsibilities for Town services across Town lines. Maybe we could share a piece of equipment, or have one Town host a sub-regional fire station staffed by member Towns (who retain control of staff and overhead). I didn't intend that Towns would cede their authority to a "higher authority", like a Regional School or a County. In those examples, Towns are sent a bill and really don't control anything. Great idea, right? Well, many Town officials think so (R's, D's and U's alike, for those partisan thinkers out there).
I have continued to push Harwich into the forefront, inventing the process as we go along. Seems like the State, however, has no legislative framework to encourage or allow such a thing. No rules exist at all. The good news is that a number of Towns (my Town of Harwich, as well as Chatham, Dennis, Brewster, Orleans and Eastham) have agreed to hold joint Selectmen Meetings in the next few weeks to explore the obvious potential for savings. The public can then judge where they want this to go.
The bad news is that virtually anything "outside the box" which any Town wishes to do requires Home Rule Legislation. We all have elected governments and COULD do this by ourselves.
My point is that the State should set broad guidelines and let us self govern. But, as it now stands, if Brookline wants a unique revolving fund, they need the permission of my State Rep to do so. Likewise, if Harwich wanted to establish higher parking ticket fines to prevent people from Connecticut from illegally parking in order to avoid paying legitimate beach fees (a real example, by the way), we need "parental approval."
This matters because the Legislature is clogged with literally hundreds and hundreds of Home Rule Bills each year that slow down local democracy. By the same token, they siphon away precious time from the legislative calendar - time which could go to concentrating on the larger issues of our day.
I'll say it again: we need reform at the state level to empower everyone to arrive at democratically derived solutions for our problems - not roadblocks to slow us down.
By the way, did I mention that we also voted tonight to continue the closure of our Herring Run for another year? We are now consistent with the State's rules. Seems like only a year or two ago that the State wrote us to threaten legal action if we didn't keep them open, despite the compelling data we had developed showing this not to be in the public interest.
My, how the wheel turns!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Cape Codder Recognizes Problem

I was pleased to be able to speak with the Cape Codder further about the Reilly NStar debacle. Here's a link to their story-HERE

Friday, December 30, 2005

NStar - Reilly Deal - Good for Cape Cod?

Yesterday, there was a public hearing on electricity rates in Yarmouth - the Cape Cod Times story is HERE

Here is the written testimony I submitted at the public hearing which I attended:

December 30, 2005

Good evening. I am Don Howell and I serve on the Board of Selectmen. I also represent Plymouth, the Cape and the Islands on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Municipal Association Board of Directors. I stand here tonight to urge that you not allow the NStar rate settlement go into effect at this time. I make this request on numerous bases.

When actions were first taken to establish a so-called “competitive” electric rate system, there were no credible related moves taken to assure that competition would emerge. was not required to set up any potential competitor as the price for admission to the deregulated free market (as had occurred in the phone industry). Indeed, few competitors have emerged for most of the average citizens of Massachusetts, with the notable exception of here on the Cape. But the Cape Light is not just any competitor. It represents us. In fact it IS us. It is organized under Barnstable County Government and is fueled by representatives from each member Town.

It is, therefore, truly ironic that a higher level of government brokered a deal without even consulting with the level closest to the people; local government. These were people who had “on the ground” experience and could have helped guide the process. Moreover, the task was not undertaken in the usual manner. As you have been informed, no thorough rate revue has been undertaken since the 1980’s. That’s nearly twenty years ago - and prior to deregulation. On the time factor alone this would have been a bad idea. But these negotiations were not only undertaken privately and superficially, but they were conducted “on our behalf” by people who are arguably not expert in the economics of the Power industry. Frankly, I need to ask “what was the Attorney General thinking by doing things this way”?

Now it may turn out that some or all of what is before you will turn out to be a good idea. Trusting the Compact as I do, I doubt this. But a full and public revue (the way the Law suggests) is the only way to tell.

Finally, my gut tells me that the forestalling of the “burdensome” rate increases as originally proposed is a sucker bet. We may not pay now, but we surely will pay later - and with interest. In the meantime, the same short term mitigation of N-Star prices which some characterize as being in the public interest, could be viewed by others as predatory. We here on the Cape will certainly see it that way. Monopolies back in Teddy Roosevelt’s time used to play the game the same way; hold your prices down in the short term, crush the competition, and then charge what you like. You can’t have competition without competitors. And the most likely outcome of this deal will be the demise of the Compact as a true competitor with the reemergence of N-Star as a sole source provider (with prices to match)!

Please don’t let that be your legacy. Reject this proposal and go back and do it right. Open a rate case.

Donald F Howell

I would realy like to hear your comments about this - it is an issue that affects us all.