U.S. could be described as a laughing stock on the Covid front

Originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on September 13, 2020

The rabid letters regarding my candidacy for the N.H. House suggest that a red flag (or more appropriately, a blue flag) was waved in front of a raging bull, the bull consisting of a group of local naysayers. Most of the assertions in their letters merit no response, and the notion that President Trump has been the savior of people of color is not only bizarre, but downright laughable. 

The rhetoric coming from the far right these days is primarily a feeble attempt to distract the public from the tragic, incompetent response to the coronavirus. Even President Trump, in tweeting that Michelle Obama got her facts wrong in her DNC speech, noted that the actual deaths were 20,000 higher than she had indicated, and that was just in the space of a few days between the taping and the airing of her comments. The U.S. has embarrassed itself terribly on the world stage, with only 4 percent of the world’s population, but over 25 percent of Covid cases. There was a time when the U.S. led the scientific world, and the field of medicine; not so now. With close to 200,00 deaths to date, the U.S. could be described as a laughing stock if it were funny, rather than tragic.

So how does the GOP and its followers in this area try to make everyone forget about the disaster that has been Trump’s handling of Covid? They start talking about socialism, in terms attempting to scare Americans about the future. As Harry Truman said in 1952, “Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years… socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people”. Some things never change.

When persons graduating from high school or college in New Hampshire think about their next move, or when young couples and families think about whether to move to New Hampshire, are they thinking about socialism? Not likely. They are thinking first of all about jobs, jobs that pay more than the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. They are thinking about good public schools fully supported by more equitable means of financing than local property taxes. They are thinking about health care, and hoping that Obamacare gets strengthened or replaced by Medicare for all, not eliminated. They want women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights to be protected and enhanced. They want us to address the problems of climate change, and work to protect the environment. And they want our country to live up to the promise of liberty and justice for all.

We should not let the fearmongers among us distract us from sensible plans for the future, or forget the disastrous situation this administration has dragged us into during the pandemic. Let’s instead focus on what will make New Hampshire a place where young people want to remain, and young families want to move. Join me in looking forward rather than into the abyss.

Letter to the Editor: Wearing a mask is nod to the safety of store workers

Originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on May 28, 2020

To The Daily Sun,

We all owe thanks to area businesses using protective measures against Covid-19. Hannaford’s, for example, not only has all of its employees wearing masks, but it also has one-way aisles and required six-foot distancing between customers. For shoppers, who are in a store for limited amounts of time, wearing a mask is no hardship. For the employees who must wear the mask all day long, the inconvenience and discomfort are much more significant.

The request that shoppers also wear masks is followed by some, but not all. Employees working full-day shifts must cross their fingers and hope that none of the customers they encounter are infected with the virus, particularly as summer approaches and more people arrive from out-of-state hot spot areas. In view of the large number of infected people who are asymptomatic, those who feel healthy cannot assume that they are not transmitting the virus.

Although a few area stores refuse entry to customers without masks, most only make the request, leaving it up to the individual customer to decide. Most store owners want to protect their workers, but they have to worry that requiring masks will bring on the wrath of those who feel it is their right to move about uncovered. The state decision not to have an executive order requiring masks leaves the stores having to make the hard decisions themselves, instead of simply telling customers that masks are required under the law. These stores are trying to run a business and maybe it is expecting too much to ask them to enforce a masks-only policy on their own.

So let us all, as members of this community, show the same concern for employee safety as the stores are showing for ours as customers, doing the right thing whether it is required by law or not. We are all in this together.

Ruth Larson


Letter to the Editor: My roots in Alton go back 80+ years; how long is long enough?

Originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on April 28, 2020

To The Daily Sun,

The multi-pronged letter attacks against me from the fringe generally lack content, and thus require no response. As for Rick Notkin’s recent reference to suicides due to increased unemployment, I share his concern. My view concerning COVID-19 is that a few extra preventive measures in the short term may save us heartache in the long term. Of course, Mr. Notkin must undoubtedly join me in worrying about increasing gun sales during the pandemic, knowing that most successful suicide attempts are from firearms.

With regard to Steve Fiorini’s hallucinogenic stream-of-consciousness letter of April 28, it is difficult o see his point. First, he doesn’t like leaf blowers (not a topic I have ever weighed in on!); next, he is apparently from Massachusetts and lives in Laconia, but refers to Alton as if he lives there (which I do). My grandfather bought an old farmhouse in Alton in the 1930s (it is still in my family), and in 2010 I moved to my house on some adjacent land he purchased back then. So my roots in the area go back over 80 years, even older than I am.

Finally, I have never advocated for the recreation center Fiorini refers to as my “pet project.” All I ever said was that the volunteers who donated their time to the All in for Alton project (to study the feasibility of a rec center) should be complimented, rather than trashed by the likes of Steve Fiorini and his fellow naysayers.

Ruth Larson


Letter to the Editor: The liberty of Rep. Sylvia vs. the safety of all the rest of us

This was originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on April 21, 2020

To The Daily Sun,

Once again, the chairman of our Belknap County Delegation has publicly embarrassed Belknap County. On Saturday, Rep. Michael Sylvia (Belmont) appeared at a rally in Concord to protest the health and safety restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Like his fellow Free Staters, Mr. Sylvia consistently espouses the view that his individual liberty puts him above the law and allows him to do whatever he pleases, regardless of the harm to others. After lying under oath about his residency when he was first elected, and then illegally occupying property in Belmont without a septic system, he now feels no need to even obey the belated limit on gatherings of over 10 people set by Governor Sununu.

Most responsible and patriotic citizens want not only to protect themselves and their families from Covid-19, but they also want to protect their fellow citizens. They understand that the virus spreads from person to person contact, including by asymptomatic people. They also understand that irresponsible behavior endangers us all, and most importantly, the health care workers on the front lines trying to save lives.

Not Mr. Sylvia. To him, the inconveniences of the restrictions are an affront to his personal right to do as he pleases. Presumably that right would also include shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Is there no limit to the selfishness of such an entitled person? Does he expect the same health care workers whose lives he endangers to take care of him should he get the virus?

Perhaps most offensive of all is the photo of Rep. Sylvia taken by the Associated Press at the Concord rally. It shows him wearing a N95 mask, the very type of medical mask in such short supply, that should be reserved for medical workers. On his mask appear the handwritten words “Liberty for Safety — No Deal”. That’s right. If it’s the safety of all versus the “liberty” of Mr. Sylvia, that’s a deal breaker for him.

Instead of engaging in this type of self-centered protest, perhaps Rep. Sylvia could devote his efforts towards helping small businesses and workers affected by the virus containment measures. And maybe he could keep in mind that the better compliance we have with those measures, the sooner life can return to normal.

Let’s just hope that there were no other members of our county delegation at the rally.

Ruth Larson


Letter to the Editor: Would Mr. Howard have opposed rationing during WWII

Originally published on April 1, 2020 in the Laconia Daily Sun.

To The Daily Sun,

The reader responses to the question about reasonableness of coronavirus restrictions were generally well thought out. The glaring exception was the response of Raymond Howard, of Alton, whose statement began with a sneering reference to the “nanny state.” As an anti-government extremist, Mr. Howard can never see any benefit in pooling resources for the larger good. And, to him, seeing the large crowds at Mt. Major violating every standard of social distancing was probably a welcome sign.

His sadness at the supposed loss of independence of this once great country is misplaced. Mr. Howard would undoubtedly have opposed the rationing system put in place in World War II to help the war effort. Americans considered it their patriotic duty to do without. We are now all being asked to do our patriotic duty by staying home, by keeping safe distances, and by trying to keep the doctors and nurses alive to help us all.

This “once great country” is now the epicenter of the Covid19 pandemic, with the most known cases to date. If not for the abysmally low rate of testing in the U.S., the numbers would be more extreme. The situation is expected to worsen in upcoming weeks. This “once great country” now rejects scientific evidence in favor of junk facts and superstition. The U.S. has already experienced terrible delays in dealing with this crisis. Would Mr. Howard subject every proposed restriction to a referendum? Does he not realize we are facing a national emergency and further delays will only compound the problem?

Let us all do our patriotic duty to try to minimize the virus, even if it requires sacrifices on our part.

Ruth Larson


Letter to the Editor: On protecting NH Children from Lead Paint Poisoning

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Rep. Howard voted ‘no’ on lead paint bill; I would vote ‘yes’ (August 9, 2018)

To The Daily Sun,

As I look at the voting record of Rep. Raymond Howard, Jr., I see more and more instances where I would have voted differently. In my opinion, my views on many of these issues are more in line with the values of the residents of District 8 (Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton), and I am running for N.H. state representative so that these views will be better reflected in votes in Concord and within the county.

Although I am a Democrat, many of these issues are non-partisan and should appeal equally to Republicans, to Democrats, and to independents. In fact, on many of these issues, the Republican-controlled N.H. House passed legislation that I agree with, but that Mr. Howard voted against. I have previously referred to his “no” votes on an anti-hate crimes resolution, and on a requirement that high school students be taught and tested on civics. Another example concerns lead paint. Early in 2018, the N.H. House passed SB-247, which requires blood testing for lead in all children age two and under. The bill also reduces the lead level at which the state is required to test a rental property for lead. In addition, the bill set up a program under which the state guarantees $6 million in loans for lead hazard abatement in rental properties. This bill had considerable bipartisan support, and passed the N.H. House 266 to 87. Rep. Howard voted against it.

The importance of this legislation to the health of our children is underscored by numerous facts. One such fact is that the housing stock in New Hampshire is among the oldest in the nation, much of it dating long before 1978 when lead paint was banned by federal legislation. Recent studies have shown that a high percentage of N.H.children have already been exposed to lead. Studies conducted in 2014 found that 15.2 percent of tested 5-year-olds had significant lead exposure. A group of almost 200,000 children age six through 18 had lead exposure rate of 37 percent.

There is no safe level of lead in the blood. In addition to the need for immediate medical treatment, a victim of lead poisoning is likely to suffer from the effects permanently. Children exposed to lead may require special education as a result of the neurological damage. The additional cost of special education is about $15,000 per year, so a child needing special education from K through 12 would add approximately $195,000 to the costs of that school district.

The impact of lead poisoning extends far beyond a child’s early years. The adult income of a child with lead poisoning is significantly reduced, which in turn reduces the ability of that adult to contribute to the community in numerous ways. There is also a strong correlation between childhood lead exposure and future criminal activity, resulting in other added costs to the community.

In my view, voting for the lead paint bill, SB-247, was the right thing to do. It was right for the children of New Hampshire, who will suffer throughout their lives if they are exposed to lead. And it was right for the taxpayers of New Hampshire, who save money in the long run if problems like lead paint are addressed early.

I would have voted “yes” on the lead paint bill; Representative Howard voted “no”.

Ruth Larson


Letter to the Editor: Ray Howard has a sorry voting record and he can’t hide from it

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

November 4, 2016

To The Daily Sun,

In his crafty letter of Nov. 2, attempting to deflect attention from his voting record, Ray Howard states that he is “not a politician.” This non-politician has run for Cemetery Commission, chair of the Cemetery Commission, state House of Representatives, and state House of Representatives again. His letter begins with thanks to the voters of Belknap County, and ends with a plea for our support. Not a politician?

More importantly, the only issue from my letter that he addresses is the opioid crisis and he voted against all of the bills attempting to deal with the problem. The vast majority of his fellow Republicans supported the measures, which passed by large margins. So when Rep. Howard states that his votes “are in line with the Republican platform,” I can only respond that his votes are not in line with the actual voting of the the Republican-led House. And what exactly does Mr. Howard think should be done about the drug problem? Apparently nothing.

Tell that to the mother who lost her son to an overdose. Tell that to the local business that gets burglarized by addicts. Tell that to the taxpayers who have to pay increased law enforcement and jail costs because of the problem. If Belknap County did not want to address this problem, then it should not have voted for the new corrections center, but should instead have voted for a larger jail to house the inevitably greater inmate population. (Parenthetically, Ray Howard voted for the corrections center, but clearly had no idea what he was voting for.)

Mr. Howard carefully avoids mentioning Meals on Wheels. If this is a program that only a liberal Democrat could support, then that will be surprising news to my Republican friends. Most Belknap County residents want seniors to be able to remain in their homes as long as feasible, and enthusiastically support programs such as Meals on Wheels and senior medical transportation with that goal in mind. Rep. Howard, on the other hand, would yank away that helping hand and leave seniors adrift.

So who is the outlier here, this liberal Democrat or Ray Howard? He is to the far right of his own party, even in this heavily-Republican area. His policies, if enacted, will cost us all dearly in the long run.

Finally, as for Mr. Howard’s swipe at me regarding Gunstock, it is simply another attempt to distract Belknap County voters from his own sorry voting record by misrepresenting a vote I took as a Gunstock commissioner. In that capacity, I took an oath to protect Gunstock in furtherance of the public interest, to do everything in my power to make sure Gunstock remains an asset to, not a liability of the county. Raiding the coffers of Gunstock to pay for things like more corrections officers at the county jail would be completely contrary to the laws that set up Gunstock and provided safeguards against the delegation taking such action.

It should be noted that neither I nor any other Gunstock commissioner voted to, as Representative Howard claimed, “not reimburse the county taxpayers the millions of tax dollars that were used in 2001 to bail out Gunstock when it was insolvent.” The inaccuracy of his statement shows a complete lack of knowledge of the relationship between Gunstock and the county, and a total disregard for the statutory responsibilities of the Gunstock Area Commission. It is a perfect example of the close-minded thinking that Mr. Howard has exposed in his years in the state House.

Let’s help this non-politician truly become one, out of office.

Ruth Larson