Opinion: A tale of two houses


Published: 11-16-2023 6:00 AM

Carisa Corrow of Penacook is co-author of “126 Falsehoods We Believe About Education” and founder of Educating for Good.

The coverage of this year’s municipal election by the Concord Monitor was fantastic. From incorporating community-created questions for the candidate forums, to the follow up articles about the very tight Ward Five race and Ali Sekou’s historic election, as well as managing all those Letters to the Editor.

Saturday’s front page (Monitor, 11/11) in particular tickled my brain. The juxtaposition of two houses, the golf clubhouse and Concord’s housing problem, highlight the differences between the new city council and the outgoing one. The outgoing mayor and council are rushing a resolution to vote on a new $10 million golf clubhouse before their term is up, clearly as a last-ditch effort to get this pet project approved before a new council is sworn in. After all, this new council might not be too keen on paying for golf wants, when there are so many other pressing needs.

This current council has provided us with some good lessons in politics, however. The November 13, 2023, city council meeting is one stellar example for any civics class. Look closely to see how to use fear to pressure someone to purchase something. Find an example of hypocrisy in action, and there’s a lesson on a new term I’m coining “City Council Math.” This new term still has me giggling, so I’ll start there.

“Girl Math” is a lighthearted concept floating around social media as a way to explain how women justify purchasing an expensive accessory or article of clothing. An $80 pair of shoes suddenly becomes free if a woman can convince herself she’ll wear the shoes 80 times, making each wear $1, making it so cheap per wear, it’s free.

I’ve decided “City Council Math” is when a three-story plan for a golf clubhouse is changed to a one-story building, and the price tag goes from $5 to $10 million. Yes, this actually happened. Councilor Kretovic commented at least twice at the council meeting how the reduction of the number of stories in the new building meant no elevator, a significant cost savings for the project. It’s the most transparent example of gaslighting I’ve seen in a while.

As an attempt to remind folks how they voted for less expensive and more vital purchases in the past, outgoing councilor Rice-Hawkins called out tragic and true examples of hypocrisy, reminding councilors how they voted against much less expensive purchases in the past.

In March 2022, the village of Penacook lost its ambulance to Concord Center to accommodate higher call volumes in other parts of the city. Councilors who are eager to “Save the Beav” now, were the same ones hemming and hawing over paying for life-saving services just over a year ago. And the cost of an ambulance and personnel was nowhere near the price tag of $10 million.

And, one councilor’s request for Deputy City Manager Brian LeBrun to look into his crystal ball is a master class in how salespeople pressure customers who actually don’t need that new, expensive thing to “buy now because the sale ends at midnight.” The conclusion to their exchange: if the city doesn’t act now, the cost of the clubhouse could be even more than $10 million due to the rising cost of materials and labor. And while I know the council isn’t actually swayed by these tactics, it’s clear at least some hope they work on Concord taxpayers. In less than a month the council votes on this resolution, and the more folks who fall for this “buy now or else rhetoric,” the better.

A clubhouse for a golf course that many of our residents can’t even get to on the weekends because of a lack of public transportation is not what Concord needs. It’s a want, and only a want for some residents.

When I expressed my concerns to my counselor Brent Todd about this expensive resolution, he asked me how much I’d be willing to spend. Zero. I’d like to spend no money on this pastime, especially borrowed money.

Honestly, I think we should explore other options for the course. Could we sell it to a private group with the stipulation it stays a golf course? Could we make it a tiny house village? Could those who love “The Beav” so much create a fundraising campaign?

Maybe we’re approaching this all wrong. The city has been operating under the assumption that most Concord residents want to prioritize golf. Many folks I talk to don’t even know it’s owned and operated by the city. What if the city council asked the community what they would do with $10 million, and then what if they listened? I imagine Concord residents would put it toward a different housing project first.