There are many jobs we don’t give much thought to on a day-to-day basis. The local hospital only surfaces to our conscious mind when we drive by, visit someone we care about there or need it ourselves. The folks who plow our streets so that we can get up and go to work after a snow storm receive little attention unless a snow bank blocks our driveway. Public safety fits this frame well. We simply don’t think of first responders, police or firefighters until we need them.
On a cold, dark February evening last year that was just the case for my son and daughter-in-law. She had arrived before him to find their modest, well-tended first home had been robbed of its copper piping -- leaving them without heat or hot water. After calling my son, the first calls she made were to firefighters and police, one to investigate the lingering odor of gas and the other to try to catch the thieves.
On another cold winter day before the holidays, yet another family member was involved in an accident so horrendous it required cutting him out of the van he was driving. Having shattered his hip and sustaining other injuries, he was thankful for the loving care the paramedics provided. It was a lengthy healing process from which he never fully recovered, but they gave him the start he needed to get as far as he did.
These incidents pale in comparison to much more traumatic events such as those on 9/11 in which so many were lost – including hundreds of firefighters and police. Nonetheless, even the seemingly most innocuous incident can turn deadly. Our public safety officials are and must always be prepared for that eventuality.
Our state has consistently been rated as one of the safest in the country in which to live. Our public safety personnel work diligently to keep it that way. Our citizens expect no less from them. Business leaders choose a safe state and count on the protections afforded by well-trained and well-equipped public safety employees. Visitors arrive in the comfort of knowing we are a safe state to visit.
Our safety net, however, is stretching at the seams like a fire hose that’s been dragged along the gravel too many times. State and local cuts to public safety budgets are placing substantial stress on already thinning ranks. Recently, Chief Jamie Sullivan of the Hampton Police Department was quoted as saying, “…we have been expected to do more with less and have done so. Now we are doing less with less.”
Hampton thrives on its tourist industry. These visitors come, at least in part, because they believe it a safe place to visit. Yet, Chief Sullivan does not have the budget for a full complement of police for all shifts and locations. He must depend on back-up from equally stretched Sheriff’s departments and State Police.
Areas of the nation that fail to invest in sound public safety pay the price through higher rates of crime, fewer middle class families who want to live there and fewer visitors who come with their tourist dollars. That is not the New Hampshire we have had and it is not the New Hampshire we want.
Over these past two years our Free State/Tea Party legislature has maligned public employees, including firefighters, police and first responders, at every opportunity. The adjectives and labels used to describe these hardworking men and women would have been unthinkable to utter in the halls of our Statehouse not so long ago. Regardless, these brave men and women have continued to go about their job – sometimes at great personal risk – to keep our citizens safe.
Protecting those who protect us is a primary motive for my decision to run for Governor. I will always remember that it is our police, firefighters and first responders who make New Hampshire a safe and inviting place for businesses, tourists, and growing families. Together, we'll change the way public employees are valued. We will preserve the quality of life that well-trained and well-equipped safety forces defend.
This week I was proud to receive the endorsements of the New England Police Benevolent Association and the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire. I am honored that they have seen in me someone who will fight to keep New Hampshire a beautiful and safe state Together with all of our citizens we will protect the traditions that have made New Hampshire the greatest state in the country in which to live and work.