Howard’s philosophy of government: he’s against it

This was originally published in the Laconia Daily Sun on October 1, 2020

This spring, Covid was spreading its death grip all over, and it was a time of horror for the world. During some of the worst periods of the coronavirus pandemic, however, we were nevertheless treated to magical photos of nature left wild, or at least wilder. We saw animals roaming free in areas previously crowded with humans, marine mammals swimming in previously polluted and overfished waters, we saw the skies of L.A. without the thick veil of smog.

There were also very concrete improvements in air quality, in San Francisco (40 percent less air pollution than in 2019), LA, New York, and Seattle, with similar reductions in pollution.

There could be no more convincing proof of climate change than these photos and air measurements. Even a climate denier should be able to see the evidence before our eyes, showing climate change linked to human activity.

The bad news is that those changes were temporary, and as soon as human activity increases to previous levels (more vehicles, more planes, and more movement), those benefits begin to disappear. What we learned from this terrible experiment is that we humans are indeed in control of not only our own destiny, but that of our children and grandchildren. The earth is ours to save for them or to squander.

The voting record of my opponent, Rep. Raymond Howard, Jr., shows that we could not be much further apart on environmental issues. In Concord, he has voted consistently against measures designed to tackle climate change, to reduce carbon emissions, to protect water and air quality, and to increase solar power. His nay votes sum up his philosophy of government: he’s against it. I believe wise leaders need to address the dangerous effects of climate change, which are already reaching crisis levels. The younger generation is ready to tackle this problem; why aren’t we?

Mr. Howard has not only voted repeatedly against environmental measures, but he has even voted against a bill seeking to establish a climate action plan. That’s right, he voted nay on HB-1664, to study the issue of climate change, and plan for the future. He put his head in the sand and refused to look at the evidence. I would obviously have voted yes.

At the county level, Ray Howard has consistently voted to deny or reduce appropriations to the Belknap County Conservation District, an outside agency serving as our county environmental steward, implementing conservation measures and assisting land managers in maintaining natural resources in the county. The BCCD provides about $16 of benefits (through its outreach, its grants, its use of volunteers) for every $1 it receives from the county. Instead of encouraging locally based programs like BCCD, Mr. Howard once again says nay.

If elected, I will work towards saving and improving the environment in New Hampshire. For the health of all of us, for the beauty and economic benefit of our natural resources, and for all the generations to come.

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