Thursday, March 06, 2014

Get Your Aristotle On

Ray Burton was our Executive Councilor in District One for 35 years. District One is the largest district, from Claremont to Pittsburg and down to Milton. It’s a big, big area to cover. Ray started covering it in 1977. He had the unique opportunity to grow into the job at the same time as the population of the north country was growing.

Ray was remarkable. He remembered everyone’s name. He was always friendly and charming, and always listened, even if he didn’t agree. Over the years there have been politicians who ducked my calls. Ray never did. He took his job seriously, and that meant listening to everyone.

Ray was never an ideologue. Ray was north country first – and Republican second. He was never a fire breathing conservative intent on pushing a radical right agenda. He believed that his job was to fight for the best interests of the people in his district, and that’s what he did. The Executive Council shouldn’t be a partisan sideshow.

A brief overview of the role of the EC: they approve state contracts for more than $10,000, and approve the receiving and spending of federal funds. They watch the state treasury to make sure that departments don’t spend more than they were allotted. They also approve judges, commissioners, notaries public, justices of the peace, commissioners of deeds, and they hear pardon requests. NH is the only state that has an Executive Council, just as we are the only state that has a 424 member volunteer legislature. The EC does not pass or repeal laws on the state or national level.

The special election to fill Ray’s seat from now till November is coming up on March 11. There are two candidates: Joe Kenney from Wakefield and Mike Cryans from Littleton.

Joe Kenney served 4 terms in the NH House and 3 in the state Senate. He ran for governor in 2008, and garnered approximately 30% of the vote. Mike Cryans has been a Grafton County Commissioner for 17 years – 16 of them working on that commission with Ray Burton.

Mike Cryans has worked in NH as a teacher, a banker, and worked at a transitional facility for substance abusers. Joe Kenney hasn’t had a job in the private sector since he left college.  He spent 30 years in the military. His service is certainly laudable, but it doesn’t make him any more (or less) qualified for the EC. Joe Kenney hasn’t had an actual paying job in NH since he worked for his parents as a teenager. 

Both Kenney and Cryans did interviews with the Concord Monitor. Both men talked about the infrastructure needs of the north country.  Kenney also talked a lot about his political beliefs, and he was honest about his intention to use the EC as an ideological platform.

Legislative experience is a wonderful thing, but it does leave a trail. All of the roll call votes from 1999 on are available on the NH General Court website. Looking back over Kenney’s voting record I was struck by how often he voted on the wrong side of history. He voted against Martin Luther King Day in 1999. He voted for a law so punitive that it not only refused to recognize out of state civil unions, it also refused to recognize gay couples. He also voted for SB 110, the 2003 bill that gave health insurance companies the right to discriminate against customers on the basis of geography – a move that caused health insurance rates in the north country to increase by as much as 500%. 

The month before Ray died, he joined 3 of his colleagues on the EC to support Governor Hassan’s call for a special session on expanded Medicaid. As Ray knew quite well, his district has the largest population of uninsured adults. As Ray also knew, there are plenty of working poor in Carroll, Coos, and Grafton Counties. Service jobs don’t pay enough for most people to live on. Coos County has the highest concentration of families on food stamps. There are no jobs. And there won’t be until something is done about the infrastructure up there.

That takes money. We’ve all seen how loath some of our elected officials are to allow any of our federal tax dollars to return home to us. NH is unwilling to raise sufficient revenue to fund the state properly and rebuild our infrastructure. That infrastructure is costing us on so many levels. Companies won’t locate here because of it, and the longer we put off the work, the more it will cost. NH is the seventh wealthiest state (per capita) yet we have the 11th worst infrastructure in the nation. We’re not a poor state. We’re a cheap state. The oft-repeated canard that there is all kinds of pork in the NH budget is mendacity that hurts our state. As long as people buy into that lie, we’ll continue to avoid doing the work, which serves to perpetuate the cycle, and further increase the eventual cost.

The future isn’t popular. The radicals of the far right have no vision for the future, only a longing to return to an imaginary past. NH is a state that desperately needs a vision for the future and elected officials who are going to work toward that vision. The north country, more than any other part of the state, needs a fierce advocate, someone who will fight for all of us.

On Tuesday, we’ll all decide who that advocate will be. I urge voters to read up on the candidates, read the Concord Monitor interviews (in the March 5 edition), and take a look at each of their endorsers.

Tuesday is also town meeting day for many of us. It is our chance to participate in the budgeting and decision making in our towns. It’s an opportunity that is envied by people in other parts of the country. Madison Moderator George Epstein once described town meeting to me as “pure Aristotelian democracy.”

Get your Aristotle on, go forth, and participate.

h/t to Kathleen Ronayne at  the Concord Monitor

© sbruce 2014   Published as an op/ed in the March 7, 2014 Conway Daily Sun newspaper. 


Anonymous said...

This may very well be one of the best columns you've written so far Susan, and they are ALL stellar. What is interesting about individuals on the right, Kenney in particular, is their blatant hypocrisy. Decrying Government at every turn, spurning the needs of the disadvantaged, all the while sucking up every dollar from us taxpayers while he has enjoyed a lifetime of citizen tax money and surfed to shore comfortably for over thirty years in his financial security. How nice.

Being supported wholly by the taxpayer has clearly escaped him. This for someone who denounces government which is supposed to be "We the People". I am "one of those" individuals who does not place military service on a pedestal nor thank anyone after WWII for it. (I'm married to a veteran. We will not be voting for Kenney, but rather for Cryans who is a man with common sense, a clear sense of humanity and plain smart.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Susan! I hope there is a large turnout. The fringe wins when people don't show up to vote. I've seen the tin foil helmets, first in line at 7:59 a.m. They never miss a vote.

Steven J. Connolly said...

So in other words economic development, jobs are building in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Alabama because of better infrastructure.
It appears that your in contention for a Gov. Maggie Hassan innovation award for advancing the interests of the state; however untruthful this may be. I'd be willing to bet at the ceremony her excellency will even give you some Chobani yougurt and a silver spoon to eat it with.

susanthe said...

Congratulations Steven J. Connolly!

You still can't comprehend what you read, but you have learned not to quote Nazis and white supremacists in your comments.