While the ads and public statements by our presidential candidates dominate the political news, and nearly drive some folks mad with the frustration they feel over the process of electing people to office, our congressional delegation goes through the routine of staying in touch with constituents.
Last Wednesday night, at the school gymnasium in Sunapee, Senator Kelly Ayotte held a "town hall meeting" open to the public. This was the third one of Senator Ayotte’s meetings I have attended. Congressman Charlie Bass and Senator Jeanne Shaheen have regularly held similar events.
As I watched the interaction between the attendees and Senator Ayotte, I was thinking how fortunate we are to live in New Hampshire, a state with so many assets, one of which is our size. Citizens are regularly given the opportunity to not only listen to their Senators and Congressmen, but to have a personal, one-on-one conversation with them.
In Senator Ayotte’s case, she uses a power point presentation to lay out the facts about the undisputed fiscal crisis that faces the United States. The factual presentation on the annual deficit and our national debt combined with the disastrous trend lines if we take no action leaves listeners nodding. While we may not agree on the resolution of our problems, there is consensus that there is a problem.
I encourage readers to attend a town hall meeting when a member of the Congressional delegation holds one in your area. It will be worth your time.
Early in my time as a state senator, George Bald, the Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development, came to Claremont and had dinner with City Manager Guy Santagate and myself. Then, we went to a meeting of the City Council where Commissioner Bald explained the work of his department and his perspective on economic development.
I remember his words, "economic development is everybody’s business." I would hear those words regularly over the next decade as he and I toured businesses and participated in various forums around the region.
Last week, Commissioner Bald announced his retirement from state government.
While his department encompasses the divisions of Parks and Recreation, Forest and Lands, and Travel and Tourism, it is the division of Economic Development that he is most identified with.
Governor John Lynch noted "George’s hard work and dedication to the North Country …," while I am appreciative of his support and attention to our area. Whether it was an unfortunate plant closing, helping to put the pieces together for the mill renovation project in Claremont, or as recently as a couple of weeks ago, helping to make sure that a sign could be put up on state property pointing people to the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s fair at Mt. Sunapee, George Bald has been very responsive to our needs
Commissioner Bald has dealt well with the routine of his department’s work as well as being at the center of some perennial issues. Just this year, he asked the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which I chair, to change a piece of legislation that would have pushed Franconia State Park ski operations toward privatization.
The issue of privatization of the ski operations has come up annually. The Commissioner’s plea was a simple one: do an assessment of the merits of privatization and make a decision. He said the department could not effectively do its job if the threat of privatization was hanging over the heads of the department’s employees year after year.
The Commissioner has been a steady and reliable force in New Hampshire state government. And for those of us who have counted on him for years and enjoyed our working relationship, he will be sorely missed. It is easy to criticize state government and its employees and administrators, but George Bald is just one of many examples of excellence in leadership that can be found in Concord.
The Cornish Fair is 63 years old this year. And for my grandchildren, two from the area and two from Portland, OR, the fair is pure entertainment in their eyes and we now have a tradition of attending each year. For adults it is a reminder of times past and the expectations of possible visits to other fairs that will come along during the late summer and fall season.
We took advantage of the discounted tickets for the midway rides on Friday. Children joined with parents and in many cases with grandparents to enjoy the rides. In our group, there was a variety of ages from 3 years old to 9 years old. That meant some rides were only for older children and they were not much interested in the tamer rides enjoyed by the two youngest. It all worked out and there was plenty of fun.
There was also time visit the livestock. As Steve Taylor, former Commissioner of Agriculture, pointed out in the fair program, "ever since it was founded, the Cornish Fair has showcased agriculture, giving the Connecticut Valley’s farmers top billing."
Our family group stopped by the ring where 4-H youngsters were showing their market lambs. I once again took the opportunity to remind the children that more than 50 years ago their grandfather was showing his lambs at New Hampshire fairs. I am not sure I am very good at making the connection. Maybe next year.