Saturday, October 08, 2005

Smoking Crack

NH politics are like smoking crack – addictive. Once upon a time I didn’t pay attention; I found national politics more interesting and relevant. Many folks only pay attention to elections every four years, and I was one of them. Those days are long gone; during the last decade I picked up the pipe, and became fully hooked on the interesting and sometimes bizarre world of NH politics.

Bizarro world cropped up recently, with our Congressional delegation urging Executive Councilman Ray Burton to resign. I’ve been to dozens of Congressman Bradley’s town hall meetings in the last six months. He’s been asked plenty of questions that he gladly passed back to state officials, as being out of his jurisdiction. I find the federal delegation’s sudden involvement in state affairs interesting. It’s also heavy handed, bullying, and obnoxious. Why is the federal delegation getting involved in trying to force the resignation of a member of their own political party? Could it be that on a state level, so much bad behavior has been ignored, that our state elected officials don’t have much credibility?

In April 2005, Representative Chris Doyle of Windham assaulted an election official at town meeting, while she was counting ballots. Doyle is 26, and Gail Webster is 61. He was charged with a Class B felony assault. Representative Doyle was not asked to resign from the NH House. Representative JJ Manning, of Salem, was charged with selling alcohol to minors. He runs a bar near the racetrack in Salem. An underage friend of his daughter’s wrapped her car around a tree one night after an evening at his establishment. Representative Manning was not asked to resign from the House. Representative Gene Chandler failed to report campaign contributions. He did resign from his position as Speaker of the House, but despite pleading guilty, and despite the ethics committee recommendation that he be expelled from the House, Representative Chandler was not asked to resign. It would be hard for the state GOP to say much of anything to Ray Burton – especially given that Burton himself has not been charged with any crime.

Do not; (I repeat – DO NOT) take this as a defense of Ray Burton’s extremely bad judgment in hiring and retaining Mark Seidensticker. Ray’s done a fairly decent job in the north country. He’s been very good on health care issues, and I’ve actually heard him admit that NH has a revenue problem. He’s not a barking lunatic right winger, which may be part of the reason his own party is trying to eat him. I’ve disagreed strongly with him on some issues. He’s a Republican, and it’s no secret that I’d be happy to see fewer of them in office in our state. It is very interesting that a bunch of politicians who could care less about the north country unless they want our votes, are suddenly all concerned about ethics and impropriety. They’ve certainly turned their back on plenty of criminal behavior and gross ethical violations. The rallying cry around Chandler (uttered by his party and the turncoat Democrats who voted not to cast him out) was “let the voters decide.” It seems as if ethical considerations aren’t equally applied. Imagine that.

Bills held over from last year will be coming back to haunt us in 2006. One such bill is HB16, a bill that would urge our Congressional delegation to support plans to privatize Social Security. It’s been retained in the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee. Now that we’re facing at least $200 billion in costs to rebuild New Orleans, it seems that borrowing $1-5 trillion to fund those private accounts is grossly irresponsible – and that’s saying something for the least fiscally responsible administration in our nation’s history. We know that there is no “crisis” in Social Security. It would be extremely ill advised for our state legislature to suggest that our Congressional delegation support this sort of borrowing. The privatization plans have proven hugely unpopular with NH residents – and people all over the country. This isn’t something our Congressman will enjoy having on their resumes for next year’s elections. In fact, it would be political suicide.

The NH Commission studying same sex marriage voted this week to recommend an amendment to our state constitution, defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. Senator Jack Barnes made the motion to recommend to the legislature that they pass this amendment on to voters next November. Senator Barnes admitted that the amendment is not likely to clear the Senate, and would not have much of a chance in the House – but he wanted each legislator to have a chance to take a public stand prior to the 2006 elections.

This is so blatant – and so vile – using a civil rights issue to whip bigots into the voting booth is a shameful tactic. Shame on Senator Barnes and those who voted in favor of this nasty piece of business: Representative Paul Brassard, Commission Chair Rep.Tony Soltani, Commission Vice-Chair Scott Earnshaw, Jack Fredyma, and Commission Clerk Rep. Maureen Mooney. To contact the commission with your comments, send emails to the clerk at: .

“The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.” Gunter Grass