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.

Cartoon in Daily Sun Not Offensive

Originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on September 07, 2020

The furious reaction to the August 27 cartoon, showing an African-American boy fearing the police, shows how very out of touch some people are in this area of New Hampshire. One might think, or at least hope, that our community members would make some attempt to empathize with, or at least understand, what it is like to be a person of color in the U.S. in this day and age. We see instance after instance of shootings and killings of unarmed citizens who pay for their skin color with their lives. We see instance after instance of the police being called against persons of color who are jogging, or shopping, or driving their vehicles, or otherwise simply living everyday lives, but who are viewed as somehow suspicious because of their race.

There was nothing offensive about the August 27 cartoon, unless reminding all of us in this very white community that some people are treated differently is offensive. There was nothing in the cartoon that in any way attacked or demeaned police officers, as the cartoon wasn’t about the police. It was about what it is like to grow up as a black male. And the cartoon in no way disagrees with what we all know, that the vast majority of police officers are extraordinary public servants.

And for those very sensitive persons who chose to take offense at the cartoon, maybe I can lend you some of my toughness pills, of which I have (and need) a large supply. By the way, many of The Laconia Daily Sun cartoons have “offended” me, although I have a thick enough skin that I use that term in quotation marks. All of the cartoons of Gary Varvel are anti-Biden and/or pro-Trump. Just look at the cartoons of July 28 and 31, of August 13 and 15 and 18. Do the area liberals and progressives come crying to the paper threatening to never read it again, and only support the competition (as soon as they find it)? Of course not.

The Laconia Daily Sun should try to continue to do its job and survive as one of the rare local newspapers left, and the bullies trying to threaten its existence should move on and do something more constructive.

We are all neighbors; we are stronger when we work together

Originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on 07/21/20

To The Daily Sun,

I am running for state representative as the Democratic candidate from Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton (Belknap District 8). These are difficult times for many in our state and our nation. News on the national front is chaotic and disheartening, and many among us are suffering from repercussions of COVID-19, with the end not yet in sight. We also face enormous challenges from the toxic political climate promoted by the Trump administration, setting one group against another and encouraging the most divisive elements of our society. We seem to have lost sight of the wise counsel of Patrick Henry in the early days of our republic: “United we stand; divided we fall.”

Nevertheless, I see cause for optimism: the way in which our area communities have come together and rallied around local businesses and food banks, with people offering to help others with their shopping and errands, and others standing up for justice for all, including marginalized groups among us. The true spirit of community is alive and well in the Lakes Region.

Some of you may have seen people with signs on some Saturdays at the Alton circle, participating in a “Visibility for Love Not Hate.” I participate in these events, usually holding a sign that reads “Love Not Hate.” It has been truly uplifting to see passing motorists wave or honk or give a thumbs up, and I believe that a lot of people are tired of the divisiveness and want to see us come together.

Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago a truck stopped and the driver began shouting, demanding to know where we came from (all local) and who was paying us (no one). He referred to himself as a red-blooded patriotic American, and I responded that we were also. He then attacked Black Lives Matter, which I also support. Afterwards, I wrote to him, confident that if he thought about our message a little more, he might even consider joining us in the future at these non-partisan events aimed at spreading a message of kindness and inclusion. I hope to hear from him and anyone else interested in having a civil discussion about this or any other issue.

My campaign is one of hope and unity, and I welcome input from all voters, of any or no party. My vision for our community is for all of us working together to make it a place where young people want to stay, and where young families want to settle. This will provide our community with the workforce necessary to support the vibrant economy we need. Let’s use our natural resources wisely, protecting them for future generations, and support our public schools, as the backbone of our democracy. We are all neighbors, and we are stronger when we work together.

I want to hear from you and earn your support. To learn more about my candidacy, visit my website RuthLarson4NHRep.com and my Facebook page @RuthLarsonNH.

Ruth Larson

Alton

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

Alton

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

Alton

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

Alton

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

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On Gunstock Part 2

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Rep. Howard was wrong about claims of tax spikes due to Gunstock bailout

Oct 26, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

Representative Howard continues to try justifying his “No” vote on the Gunstock line of credit (from a bank, not from taxpayer funds) by claiming that a “spike” in county taxes in 1999 caused him and his family hardship. I had shown from actual data, which he does not dispute, that the county tax rate for Alton did not spike at all during the years in question. His response was that the total valuation of properties also needs to be taken into account. What he is forgetting, apparently, is that the total valuation is already in consideration, as it is one of the two factors determining the tax rate, the other factor being the amount needed to be raised. In other words, you don’t look at the tax rate and then also the valuations, because the valuations are included in the tax rate.

I have previously shown not only that Mr. Howard was wrong regarding his claim, but that the county tax rate remained stable and was not affected by any bailout of Gunstock. When I tried to imagine what led him to his thinking, though, I realized that he was probably thinking of the education taxes during the relevant time period, which were in fact in flux. In 1998 the local education tax was $9.27 per $1,000, producing an annual tax of $1,854 on a $200,000 property. In 1999, the state education tax was started. That year, it was $6.73, combined with $4.52 in local education tax, for a combined rate of $11.25 per $1,000, or a total of $2,250 on a $200,000 home. In 2000, the following year, the combined education taxes had a $11.98 rate, or a tax of $2,396 on the same $200,000 home. That amount represented an increase of $542 over the previous two years. This may be the spike Representative Howard remembered, even though he was incorrect as to its source.

We all make errors, and our memories are all fallible. My concern here is that Representative’s Howard’s incorrect memory about the rise in his taxes in 1999, and his reckless reliance on it, led him to a total misconception about Gunstock and to a very misguided vote. Had his views on Gunstock been shared by the delegation at the time of the August vote, instead of being rejected on a 14 to 2 vote, then maybe we would have no Gunstock. Think of the loss of jobs, the detriment to our area economy, the loss of family recreation, the damage to tourism and the blow to history that could have resulted, not to mention the debt that would have been passed on to the taxpayers. We are all fortunate that Mr. Howard’s misleading and incorrect statements were not adopted.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On Gunstock

Click here to see the article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Rep. Howard’s numbers on Gunstock tax impact are fantasy

Oct 12, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

I consider Rep Norman Silber’s attempted smear campaign against me (see his Oct. 9 letter to The Laconia Daily Sun) a badge of honor almost equal to the endorsements I have received in my run for the N.H. House (Belknap District 8, for Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton). It should be noted that Mr. Silber is the same man who equated a game of spin the bottle to attempted rape in his September 18 letter to The Laconia Daily Sun. He had also previously attacked me for using my own name rather than being known as Mrs. Hunter Taylor (see his April 4, 2017 letter to The Sun).

Mr. Silber now makes a crazed attempt to deflect attention from the serious policy issues I have been raising (in my letters differentiating my views from those of my opponent, Rep. Raymond Howard, Jr.). Nowhere does he even mention the actual policies I have been supporting, such as testing of toddlers for lead poisoning, testing high school students on civics, incentives for medical manufacturing, keeping county sheriff dispatch, anti-hate crimes resolution, the jail programs and county conservation and Meals on Wheels and Gunstock and others. If this attack on my campaign is Rep. Silber’s last hurrah before he returns to Florida for good, then he has my thanks for taking time out from packing to lash out.

Speaking of Gunstock, that is another area on which Rep. Howard and I totally disagree. When the county delegation voted on August 29 for the Gunstock line of credit (Revenue Anticipation Note, or RAN), the result was 14 to 2 in favor, with Rep. Howard and Rep. Silber being the two voting no. In an attempt to explain his negative vote, Rep. Howard made an extraordinary statement that I had to review afterwards on the video to confirm that I heard him accurately. Mr. Howard first insulted the citizens who attended the hearing as “groupies for Gunstock.” He then went on to claim that in 1999, or 20 years ago, the county bailed out Gunstock to the tune of $8 million, which resulted in such a spike in county taxes that he could not put food on the table for his family or clothe his children. (Anyone wishing to view this brief video can go to the Belknap County website and go to Watch Belknap County Meetings, then click on the video for the 8/29 delegation meeting; Rep. Howard’s remarks appear just after the 1 hour mark).

Suspecting that Rep. Howard’s claims were not based on fact, I obtained actual tax records to see what property owners in Alton (where Mr. Howard lives) paid in county taxes during the period in question.  As it turns out, the county portion of Alton’s property tax rate went from $2.04 in 1997 (meaning that for every $1,000 of assessed value, the taxpayer owed $2.04 for the county portion of the property tax bill) to $1.92 in 1998 to $1.98 in 1999 to $2.07 in 2000 to $1.62 in 2001. What those rates mean are that a person with a $200,000 house (an average price) would have paid annual county taxes on it of $408 in 1997, $384 in 1998, $396 in 1999, $414 in 2000, and $324 in 2001.

Where is the spike Rep. Howard referred to in his comments at the August meeting? It didn’t exist. It is clear that Mr. Howard’s statements about Belknap County taxes in the 1998–1999 period were completely without factual basis. No wonder that the person who comes to his rescue is a man who can’t distinguish between an innocent game and a sexual assault.

Ruth Larson

Alton

Letter to the Editor: On the Need for County Sheriff Dispatch

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

Howard refused to pay for costs he approved in first place

Sep 27, 2018 Updated Oct 1, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

Most of my recent letters have focused on the differences between the votes of my opponent Rep. Raymond Howard in Concord and how I would have voted; today I turn my attention to a more local, county issue.

Voters should keep in mind the importance of our representatives’ county role, where they control the county budget. Whereas in Concord a representative is one of 400, at the delegation level in Belknap County, a representative is one of 18, with proportionally greater influence. We have recently seen (on the disastrous June vote to deny Gunstock a line of credit) how a measure can pass or fail by just one vote. (That vote, fortunately, was reversed by a later vote in favor of Gunstock, which won 14 to 2).

In 2017, the county delegation slashed the budget recommended by the Belknap commissioners. My opponent, Rep. Howard, was among those who had pledged not to raise county taxes, not by one penny, and not for any reason, despite the fact that he and the rest of the delegation unanimously approved a new union contract for Sheriff’s Department employees in 2016 that added costs. In 2017 the same delegation cut the recommended appropriation for the Sheriff’s Department by $135,881. In other words, they refused to pay for the very cost items they had approved, and they disregarded the fact that the actual 2016 departmental expenditures exceeded the 2017 appropriation.

Rep. Howard had what at first blush sounded like the perfect solution to the problem. Pointing out that dispatch is not a statutorily mandated duty of the sheriff, he recommended having the sheriff’s office curtail “extra activities,” like dispatching, to save money. This would in fact have saved the Sheriff’s Department approximately $500,000.

So what’s the flaw with this logic? If the Sheriff’s office no longer does dispatching for the towns, then the towns have to do it themselves. Rep. Howard made this proposal despite the fact that the three towns he represented (Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton) were among the six towns in Belknap County receiving 24/7 dispatch through the Sheriff’s Department. Estimates of what the Howard solution would have cost were as follows: approximately $425,000 per town per year, plus an additional $500,00 for the first year (for the set-up cost of equipment and facilities for the new town dispatch center).

In other words, Alton, Barnstead, and Gilmanton would pay close to $1 million extra the first year, and $500,000 each succeeding year.

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and Rep. Howard’s proposal fell flat. Those involved realized that the proposal was obviously penny-wise, pound-foolish. Why save $500,000 for the county at a cost of millions to the towns?

On occasions like this, the attempt to save the taxpayers a few dollars in the short run can be extremely costly to those same taxpayers in the long run. When I included on my palm cards the pledge to look for “long term solutions, not quick fixes,” this is exactly the type of situation I was talking about. I can assure the voters that, if elected, I will give more thought to any solution I propose.

Ruth Larson

Alton