Mess in Manchester could have been avoided

Folks in Manchester might not like how much a special election will cost the port district, but they shouldn’t make the person behind the April ballot measure into a scapegoat.

This issue could have been settled months ago at much less cost, but it wasn’t, and now it’s come back to bite the three Port of Manchester commissioners who turned down David Kimble’s request last August.

He wanted the commissioners to refer a measure to the ballot asking port voters whether commissioners’ terms in office should be reduced from six to four years.

The commissioners wouldn’t do it, ostensibly because there wasn’t enough time to discuss the issue before the ballot referral deadline for the November general election. But that rings a little hollow, first because it’s not a complex issue but rather a simple choice between six years or four; and second because if they had referred it to the November ballot, there would have been nearly three months for the community to discuss the issue before voting.

Certainly Mr. Kimble is perceived by some in the community — including the port commissioners, no doubt — as a gadfly. And his animosity with Jim Strode, who’s been on the port commission 26 years and won re-election in 1996 by a coin flip when his race against Mr. Kimble ended in a tie, is no secret.

But evidently there are a significant number of people in Manchester who think a vote on the proposed term reductions is a good idea, because they signed the petition Mr. Kimble circulated in the community.

For his part, Mr. Kimble’s handling of this matter seems bumbling, because he claims not to want to push a costly election on the port district and that there was confusion about whether the election could be delayed until next November after he filed his petition in January. State law requires, however, that once a filed petition is verified with the required number of signatures, it will go before voters at the next election date, which is in April.

Yet if the commissioners who blew off the request to put the issue on last November’s ballot — and who also knew the petition drive was ongoing — were really that concerned about their district being saddled with an expensive special election, it sure seems like they could have met with Mr. Kimble and worked out an agreement to put the issue to a vote next fall if he would refrain from filing his petition.

But that didn’t happen, and the special election apparently will, so if anyone should accept responsibility for the financial fallout, it’s the three Port of Manchester commissioners.

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