Guest Blogs

Monday
Nov252013

Zack Deutsch-Gross - Close PSNH Coal Plants

New Hampshire has so much potential for greatness. We live in a democracy where our voices matter. We have 400 state representatives because the people of New Hampshire believe in citizen participation. Our political system is designed to help us build the clean, healthy and prosperous world we all envision. A world where we can open our doors every morning, step outside and breathe clean, crisp air. A world where our friends and family work in a local economy where everyone has jobs that support the natural beauty and uniqueness of New Hampshire. A world where we don’t have to choose between keeping the heat on in the winter and polluting our air and water with toxic chemicals. And right here in New Hampshire we can make that world a reality.

Citizens for Clean and Fair Power works to do just that. Over the past three months, we’ve been talking with elected officials, telling them our stories and enlisting their support to responsibly retire Merrimack Station in Bow, and work for a clean air and a sustainable energy future in New Hampshire. We’ve collected over 1,300 signatures from New Hampshire residents calling on our state legislators to take action. We’ve built a coalition of over 25 state-wide groups to join our call, and had 101 local business sign on their support. Just last week, we held public forums in Concord and Portsmouth where over 100 people, including U.S. Senate Candidate Jim Rubens and State Senator Martha Fuller-Clark, joined us to discuss New Hampshire’s future beyond coal. By having these conversations and enlisting the support of politicians, experts, small business owners and everyday people, we can create a clean, healthy and prosperous New Hampshire we all want and believe in.

New Hampshire yearns for a return to politics of togetherness and the realization of our mutual goals. It’s going to take more than what we’ve done over the past three months to achieve this vision, but with every new person that signs one of our petitions, with every elected official who becomes a champion for the people, with every person who stands up and says ‘I want to live in a healthy, clean and prosperous world,’ we bring that future closer. And that is what Citizens for Clean and Fair Power is all about. 

Zack Deutsch-Gross is an organizer for Toxics Action Center, a New England non-profit that supports local community groups such as Citizens for Clean and Fair Power to clean up pollution in their communities.

Saturday
Nov092013

Todd I. Selig - Planning for the "New Normal" - NH Local Governments Undertake Climate Adaptation Planning 

On October 28, 2013, the Town of Durham and the Strafford Regional Planning Commission (SRPC) organized a well-attended meeting at Durham’s new public library to engage the broader community in local climate adaptation planning.  The forum, which coincided with Hurricane Sandy’s anniversary, was designed for volunteer boards, business owners, neighboring communities, and residents interested in understanding the potential impacts of climate change and hearing more about the recently completed Climate Adaptation Chapter of Durham’s Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports at www.epa.gov/climatechange that over the last several decades, the Northeast has experienced noticeable changes in its climate: “Since 1970, the average annual temperature rose by 2°F and the average winter temperature increased by 4°F.  Heavy precipitation events increased in magnitude and frequency.. . .Climate scientists project that these trends will continue.”   The EPA website notes that by the end of this century New Hampshire's summers could be as warm as North Carolina's summers are today, and “the combination of a projected increase in heavy precipitation and likely sea level rise may lead to more frequent, damaging floods in the Northeast in the future.”

Durham therefore joins other seacoast communities Hampton, Seabrook, Newfields, Hampton Falls, Exeter, Dover, and Portsmouth wrestling in their own distinct ways with adaptation, which is planning for the climate changes that are expected to occur, and mitigation efforts to limit future impacts of that change.  But the need for climate adaptation planning is not exclusive to the Seacoast.  The potential negative impacts of climate change will likely affect all NH communities over time.

Because the oldest parts of Durham were settled almost four hundred years ago along low-lying tidal waters on the shore of the Oyster River and Great Bay, adaptation and resiliency planning related to sea level rise are key priorities here. The purpose of the Town’s Climate Adaptation Chapter is to develop strategies that protect areas at risk from flooding due to climate change and to identify various regulatory and non-regulatory options that can be considered by the Town. With collaboration from municipal officials, Durham residents, scientists at the University of New Hampshire, and several state and local agencies, the goal of this work is to increase the Town’s resiliency. 

Recommendations in Durham’s Climate Adaptation Chapter include:

  • Developing strategies to address energy efficiency in building design and the promotion of Smart Growth to minimize energy requirements of Town residents and businesses;
  • Encouraging increased use of bicycles and walking as well as the use of more energy efficient vehicles;
  • Developing alternative renewable energy resources such as solar, wind power, and hydroelectric where practical;
  • Discouraging redevelopment in areas damaged by recurrent storms or chronic erosion to prevent future losses;
  • Establishing setbacks in areas at risk for potential sea level rise;
  • Promoting conservation and proper management of open space lands to maintain biodiversity and reduce flooding risk;
  • Educating local residents and land use boards concerning climate change and ways to mitigate adverse effects.

The White House Climate Action Plan, announced in June, suggests that adapting to a changing climate is necessary and requires the attention of all levels of society. It states:  “As we act to curb the greenhouse gas pollution that is driving climate change, we must also prepare for the impacts that are too late to avoid. Across America, states, cities, and communities are taking steps to protect themselves by updating building codes, adjusting the way they manage natural resources, investing in more resilient infrastructure, and planning for rapid recovery from damages that nonetheless occur.”

Municipal planning and decision-making are accomplished locally. The role of the state and federal government is to ensure communities have the information and tools at their disposal to make the best decisions possible and to remove barriers that may prevent sound, community-specific local decisions from being acted upon.

Across New Hampshire municipalities are celebrating their 250-, 300- and 375-year anniversaries. Our political subdivisions were designed to last, as were the city halls and town structures built to support our communities. Incorporated 281 years ago, Durham and its recent efforts serve as a reminder that severe impacts of a changing climate might very well represent the “new normal” within New Hampshire’s future.  Locally, residents in the Seacoast are beginning to take steps to protect their communities from a changing climate. To do so represents good common sense and needs to be done utilizing the best available science.  To do nothing represents an approach that fails to appreciate our carbon dependent past, misses opportunities to improve, and ignores the welfare of future generations.

To view the Durham Climate Adaptation Chapter on the Town’s web site, go to https://www.ci.durham.nh.us/administration/climate-adaptation-chapter.

About the Author:  Todd I. Selig has been Administrator for the Town of Durham since 2001. 

Sunday
Nov032013

Mark Hounsell: Ray Burton — Statesman

With his announcement that he will not seek reelection in 2014 Ray Burton's career as an elected official is coming to an end. Daniel Webster once wrote, "What a man does for others, not what they do for him, gives him immortality."

I saw Ray not too long ago. We had a nice visit as we reminisced on times gone by and talked about things to come. I enjoyed our brief talk and left his presence feeling the same way I have always felt after spending time with him. I was encouraged, upbeat, more enlightened and more hopeful for a better tomorrow than I was before our visit.
What is it about Raymond S. Burton that inspires people in such a way? The answer could be found by looking at the body of work that he has produced over 45 years of public service.

Ray Burton was born and raised, and still lives in Bath. He graduated from Woodsville High School in 1958 and next went on to Plymouth State College, where he earned a bachelor of education in 1962. He taught in public schools in both Andover and Warren. It was not long before he turned his attention to politics. It quickly became evident that his passion and his talents were well suited for government service. In 1977, Ray was first elected to the executive council where he has served with fidelity and honor for 34 of the last 36 years. During that time the people of District 1 have been the beneficiaries of his hard work and dedication. The fact of the matter is that the entire population of the Granite State has reaped the rewards championed and promoted by Councilor Burton.
Ray also serves the people as a Grafton County Commissioner. A post he has held for the past 22 years.

One thing that cannot be emphasized enough is that Ray Burton, as a native of New Hampshire who has lived his entire life in the northern region of this state, has a deep and true understanding of the lifestyle and character of Northern New Hampshire residents. During his time as an executive councilor, officials who head the government agencies in Concord, governors from Meldrim Thomson to Maggie Hassan, legislators, judges and all others were and are made aware that there exists a New Hampshire north of Concord. Ray often encourages all of them to "start looking out their northern windows."

One initiative that Ray began was his student intern program. Over the past 36 years scores of young women and young men have reaped the unique advantages of being close to the action of government by gaining practical experience that only Ray Burton could provide.

I remember in 1986 I was serving District 2 in the state Senate and Ray Burton, of course, was the executive councilor that included my senate district. We both represented Plymouth which is home to Plymouth State University (in 1986 it was Plymouth State College). It was in the spring of the year and after a few days of heavy rain the Pemigewassett River flooded its banks resulting in the displacement of many inhabitants who had homes along the river.

The need for food and shelter was real and it was immediate. Ray in his gentlemanly, yet insistent manner cleared the way so that the State's Civil Defense Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, State Police and the administration of Plymouth State College could muster their resources in order to provide the help and relief needed by the people affected by the flood.

I recall at that time listening to Ray advise me that if you put good and capable professional people in the positions of leading agencies and departments, provide them with the necessary resources and then stay out their way, good results are best assured.
Ray has never been an ideologue. He acts and votes in a manner that he believes will be for the best for the people. As a lifelong Republican Ray Burton has a way of avoiding, or ignoring, the partisan skirmishes that from time to time plague the political landscape. His votes are not partisan, his votes are well thought out, inclusive, wise, benign and constructive. Ray has never allowed politics to get in the way of helping people. His fingerprints are on the much of the positive progress we the people enjoy today.

It has been said the difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician is concerned about the next election, while a statesman is concerned for the next generation. Ray Burton is clearly a statesman. The good that he has done on behalf of countless others assures that he will be remembered for a long, long time.

Mark Hounsell served in the NH State Senate from 1985 to 1988.

 

 

 

Friday
Sep202013

Kate Baker - Back to School: NEO Families Speak Out 

Back to School: NEO Families Speak Out

By Kate Baker

New Hampshire families and the business community are reaping the benefits of the state’s education tax-credit law, which boosts educational choice in the Granite State.

The modest awards derived from business contributions to The Network for Educational Opportunity (NEO) result in children attending schools with better educational settings and outcomes – not schools that fail to meet parents’ definition of the best available option.  In its inaugural year NEO awarded more than 100 need-based scholarships totaling more than $100,000, no easy feat but one we consider praiseworthy.

NEO recently heard from its devoted community of scholarship families, and their opinions about NEO might surprise critics of the education tax credit.  Time and again parents tell us they’re the ones best able to make decisions concerning their children’s education.  So while it doesn’t bewilder us at NEO, we’d like to insert a few of our scholarship families’ experiences into the broader “back to school” media coverage we all enjoy reading.  And we’ll do it in their words.

 

Preferred Outcomes 

Ann Pinkham of Conway, single mom to Zac, who experienced difficulty due to inadequate discipline at the middle school level.  Zac now attends The Community School (TCS) in South Tamworth.  Ann speaks glowingly of the close-knit, respectful environment TCS fosters.

"I feel TCS is home schooling for those who are not able to provide it for their family.  The school offers a unique environment that celebrates the student's individuality.  The children take part in all aspects of their education including making and instituting rules, discipline, and educational class trip choices.  Bullying is not tolerated.  I feel lucky that we found the Community School!"

As for her financial situation, Ann is like many parents in that she’s determined to surmount virtually any obstacle that prevents her child from accessing the best education possible.  "I have and will continue to borrow whatever it takes for my son to attend The Community School.  The scholarship I received lessens the load," she said of her modest NEO award.

Kathy Bochinski of Derry, also a single mother, sends her daughter Ivy to Southern New Hampshire Montessori Academy (SNHMA). 

SNHMA teaches Spanish in kindergarten, practical life lessons such as table setting, folding clothes, and cooking.  Students’ wear unadorned uniforms to limit distractions and maintain the focus on learning; students participate in cleaning and maintain orderly classrooms, and assist their peers in learning so confidence among all increases. Despite its inclusion of music and the arts alongside rigorous academics, “SNHMA is not a school where,” Kathy wrote, “five and six year olds know who Justin Bieber is.”

Kathy’s financial situation due to the absence of Ivy’s father has been altered, and absence of funding such as scholarships, financial aid, and the like could mean Ivy would have to leave SNHMA.

 

Response to Critics

Unsurprisingly, recipients of NEO scholarships have a message for critics of the tax credit law that makes possible NEO scholarships.  Some wrote to NEO with measured incredulity.

“I don't understand why people would be against helping families get the best education for their children other than not being informed enough, or having their political strings pulled,” wrote Lori McLaughlin of Franklin, mother of Samuel Peter. 

“Would you want the best available for your own children?” she asked.

Other parents writing to NEO expressed hope for reconciliation between tax credit law supporters and detractors.

“Even if you despise or wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of school choice, I know that you care very deeply about the poor.  This program is a creative, innovative, and cost-effective way to empower lower-income families to make choices for their children that will improve their standard of living now and in the years to come…a worthy goal we can all agree on,” wrote Megan Ebba of Barrington.  Megan homeschools her daughter, Liberty, now using a greater array of up-to-date, unused learning materials thanks to a NEO scholarship. 

Détente concerning NEO scholarships sourced from charitable giving that the hard-fought education tax credit permits is uncertain. What’s assured, however, is parents’ resolve to preserve their access to the scholarships. 

“My daughter deserved to continue that level of education,” wrote Kathy, the single mom who sends her daughter Ivy to SNHMA.  “As a single parent, tuition is difficult.  There is a need for this assistance.”

Monday
Sep092013

Darryl W. Perry - Ballot Access Reform Bill Proposal

Keene, NH - On Friday Sept 6, the Ballot Access Fairness Coalition sent an email to every member of the NH Legislature with a publicly listed email address. The email included a white paper on ballot access reform (attached) and a proposal for a ballot access reform bill, the Ballot Access Fairness Act. The proposed bill would treat all candidates equally for ballot access purposes.

According to Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, “The original bill for government-printed ballots was passed in NH in 1891. State session laws 1891, chap. 49, p. 348. It required 500 signatures for statewide petitioning candidates and defined 'party' to be a group that polled 3% for Governor. The petition deadline was 30 days before the general election.”

Now, candidates are required to file a declaration of candidacy in June, and the petition deadline is 5 weeks before the election. The signature requirement has also been increased to 3,000 signatures for a statewide independent or minor party candidate, with a requirement of 1,500 signatures from each US House district. A “party” is now defined as any group that polls 4% for Governor or US Senate.

A new parties may opt for the “party petition” which requires the party to submit petitions signed by a number of voters equal to 3% of the total votes cast in the previous election. This procedure cost the Libertarian Party nearly $20,000 last year, and the party did not retain ballot access because the candidate for Governor did not receive 4% of the vote, even though both Congressional candidates did.

Article 11 of the New Hampshire Constitution states, “All elections are to be free... Every inhabitant of the state, having the proper qualifications, has equal right to be elected into office.”

In the letter to the NH Legislators, Darryl W. Perry, founder of the Ballot Access Fairness Coalition asked, “how does every inhabitant have 'equal right to be elected' when there are not equal procedures for obtaining a place on the ballot?”

The Ballot Access Fairness Act would establish equal procedures for obtaining a place on the ballot for all candidates, regardless of political affiliation.

 

Ballot Access Fairness Act

652:11 Party. – I. "Party'' shall mean any political organization which at the preceding state general election received at least 4 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for any one of the following: the office of governor or the offices of United States senators.

II. Political organization shall mean any group which intends to run candidates for public office and has filed a copy of the party bylaws and a slate of officers with the Secretary of State.

655:42 Number. –I. It shall require the names of 3,000 registered voters, 1,500 from each United States congressional district in the state either the names of 200 registered voters or a fee of $100, to nominate by nomination papers a candidate for president, United States senator, or governor.

II. It shall require either the names of 100 voters registered in the district or a fee of $50 the names of 1,500 voters registered in the district to nominate by nomination papers a candidate for United States representative; either the names of 50 registered voters or a fee of $25 750 to nominate a candidate for councilor; or either the names of 20 registered voters or a fee of $20 to nominate a candidate for state senator; either the names of 150 registered voters or a fee of $10 to nominate a candidate for county officer; and 150 to nominate a candidate for state representative or county officer and either the names of 150 registered voters or a fee of $2 to nominate a candidate for state representative.

III. It shall require the names of registered voters equaling 3 percent of the total votes cast at the previous state general election to nominate by nomination papers a political organization. Any political organization as defined by RSA 652:11 shall nominate candidates in accordance with Section I and II, as prescribed above.

Click here to read ----> Ballot Access White Paper 

 

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The Ballot Access Fairness Coalition seeks to reform the ballot access laws in the State of New Hampshire so that all candidates are treated equally for ballot access purposes.