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

Letter to the Editor: Rep. Howard has a very cynical view of his constituents

Click here to view article in the Laconia Daily Sun

January 18, 2018

To The Daily Sun,

During the recent holiday season, our community (including people with very limited resources) repeatedly showed its generosity toward the less fortunate among us, offering assistance in a variety of forms. Some donated their time in the form of volunteer work; others donated money and food and clothing. It was a heartening reminder that care for the needy can cross over partisan divides and can give us all common ground.

In stark contrast with this was a cynical comment made by state Rep. Ray Howard about his constituents at the Dec. 8  Belknap County delegation meeting regarding the budget. His remarks were in response to mine during the public portion of the meeting. I had urged the delegation to fully fund our support agencies, including Community Action Program (that supplies Meals on Wheels), Genesis (that provides mental health treatment), Belknap County Conservation District (protecting the environment and water safety), etc. All of these agencies provide vital support to the citizens of Belknap County and to the future and economy of the region.

In support of my plea to fund these outside agencies, and knowing that many of the representatives, including Ray Howard, are very conservative, I mentioned that in Alton — perhaps the most conservative town within Belknap County — the voters have consistently supported social service agencies by voting in favor of full funding for them in the warrant articles. My point, in other words, was that support for these agencies should cut across political lines and that all representatives should join with their constituents in voting in favor of funding them.

To my surprise and dismay, I heard Rep. Howard express a very disparaging attitude toward his own constituents, viewing them not as caring and generous people who want to do the right thing, but rather people who say they “vote (for) everything” because “the waterfront owners will pay for it.” Many of these waterfront owners, according to him, are seasonal people who do not even get to vote, so my point was not well taken. Thinking later about these negative comments, I thought I must have been mistaken about what I heard, but my review of the video of the meeting (available on the Belknap County website) confirmed Mr. Howard’s expressed scorn toward his constituents, particularly the citizens of Alton.

Rep. Howard thinks the only reason we, his constituents, support social service agencies at the local level is that someone else will pay for it. If his cynical view of his constituents is correct, then logically the same constituents would have him fully fund the support agencies at the county level because, once again, someone else (the waterfront owners) will pay for it. So, Rep. Howard, please support full funding for all of the support agencies because (1) it’s the right thing to do, and (2) “the waterfront people will pay for it.”

In my view, Mr. Howard’s cynical view of his constituents is totally wrong. The citizens of Alton are better than he thinks. We are genuinely concerned about the needy among us, we want to help the elderly and the environment and those needing mental health treatment. And we depend on Rep. Howard and his fellow delegation members, in their votes on the county budget, to fully support the outside agencies that perform important governmental functions, the same as we support them in our local votes. Maybe in the future Mr. Howard should give the people in his district a little more credit for decency rather than belittling us.

Ruth Larson

Alton

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

Alton