Portsmouth Memorial Bridge at night
Welcome to my webpage. If you vote at the Senior Activity Center, 125 Cottage St. you are considered to be in Ward 3 by the City, and Rockingham District 27 by the State of New Hampshire. On this page I'll highlight some of the local goals and issues that are important to me as well as providing some updates on current issues that affect either Ward 3 directly, or that affect all of us in New Hampshire. I'll also mention issues or bills that need immediate attention and will list individuals and contact information so that you, as a NH resident, can contact office-holders and decision-makers prior to important decisions. This is part of what democracy is all about today. Please be an active participant. Also, please check out some of the documents (Links to Docs) to see some of my LTE and other relevant documents and correspondence.

But First, A Reality Check for NH

For those of you who have not spent much time in NH, and especially not in Concord observing state politics, you may be surprised (or maybe not) to discover, that despite which party has the majority in the House, the Senate and even has their governor in office, NH's budgets and state administration does not seem to change noticeably. The truth (as I see it) is that our state is woefully underfunded (10-25% based on outside auditors) with respect to our obligations (e.g. education, infrastructure, social services, correctional facilities, mental health services, pensions, etc.) and relies too heavily on the local property tax. On top of this situation, our state has very limited sources of funding. You may be surprised to learn that less than 9% of the taxes paid by NH residents go to the state, while 91% goes to your local municipality. Most of us only pay state taxes on gasoline, car registration and, if earnings exceed a modest amount, interest and dividends. On the other hand, the revenue of the State of NH depends on business taxes, liquor revenues and rooms and meals taxes. In addition, most businesses in NH pay little to no state taxes at all, since their profits can be distributed to partners or employees as bonuses, and go untaxed because we have no income tax. At the same time, there is a fear by lawmakers of raising any taxes or fees, whether gasoline, tolls, or business taxes, even when these are desperately needed, like during a pandemic or recession. Fortunately, in 2020 NH was the recipients of very generous federal subsidies during the pandemic. Unless our state's situation changes, don't expect any big improvements in NH's quality of life issues. I personally think that our state needs to make fundamental and structural changes, for example by implementing either an income or sale's tax, and using that revenue to reduce property taxes.

Personal Comments about Governor Sununu

While Governor Sununu makes a good and friendly impression in public, his lack of leadership on state issues (compared to neighboring states, both Republican-Vermont or Democratic-Maine and Massachusetts) has been totally lacking and sometimes even self-contradicting. Many of his priority goals were quickly shot down by the Freedom Caucus-Libertarian minority wing in the Republican caucus, without him defending those priorities. While 2 years ago he portrayed himself as a moderate Republican, today he is a total captive of the extreme elements of the NH Republican Party. If the Covid pandemic had not happened, giving him emergency powers and unilateral authority over federal funds, his recent term in office would have been an obvious failure. Many bills signed by him in 2021 will restrict his (and that of a future governor's) ability to act forcefully in emergency situations.

My Goals and Issues

Update on Current Local Issues

Two Local Issues that have been high priorities for me are: Noise Abatement for the Pannaway Manor Neighborhood (see Links to Docs Section-Local Issues) and the Traffic Issues in the Echo Ave. Neighborhood.

However, recently I have also been involved in supporting the opening of the Spinnaker Point Recreation facility (see Links to Docs Section- Local Issues), speaking out for a street project on Peverly Hill Road (see Links to Docs Section- Local Issues) and supporting the recruitment of volunteers to the first national Study of PFOS chemicals at the former Pease air force base (PFOS chemicals are often referred to as “forever chemicals”, and were the topic of a recent movie titled “ Dark Waters”). The study is still looking for individuals who could have been affected by these chemicals at Pease either through work or by way of the daycare centers. There is also a need for a control group that was not connected to Pease. I have signed up for that control group myself, and encourage everyone who can to do the same and support this unique study, made possible through the efforts of local residents and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, to sign up by calling: 603-846-6192.

The Pannaway Manor neighborhood has been waging a battle to receive noise abatement for the noise generated by the Route 95 traffic. That mitigation, to which they were entitled to under federal law for a federal road project, should have been included in the original project in the 1980s, and certainly at least 2 more times when Route 95 was widened and modified. Many of Portsmouth's State Representatives and city officials have made attempts at forcing the NHDOT to provide the noise abatement.

Despite a visit by the Governor's senior assistant, Harold Parker (see Links to Docs Section- Local Topics), to the Pannaway neighborhood, on April 24, 2018 no action was undertaken by the Governor to assist this neighborhood. That visit included Bill Cass of NHDOT, who suggested he would work on this issue. In the meantime, NHDOT has become more involved by designating the Pannaway Manor project as their first pilot project for Type II noise abatement. That process included on-site measurements and evaluation performed by NHDOT. This first step was made possible by the efforts of the City of Portsmouth, which stepped up to fulfill all of the Type II requirements, including committing to an approximately 20% funding share. In the meantime, the gas utility, Unitil, has enhanced safety by installing extra safety barriers between Route 95 and its gas utility shed. While planning to remove that installation by the end of 2019 initially, it now appears that as the result of the pandemic, a removal will not occur before 2021.

Together with the neighborhood I have continued to lobby both Governor Sununu and our Executive Councilor, to help find funding for this noise abatement project. In addition, I'll continue to submit bills that would provide for funding for this project. I am grateful to both Donna Garganta and Representative Joan Hamblet for supporting these efforts in Concord, 3 years in a row now, and testifying at the hearings. I am also greatly indebted to Representative Laura Pantelakos for her fervent championing of this cause, as well as Representative Jackie Cali-Pitts. The Executive Council was poised in 2019 to increase the road tolls and was willing to consider using some of that revenue to fund noise abatement projects, however, when the Governor threatened a veto, they did not go ahead with that plan.

The latest effort is an on-site visit on Aug. 25, 2021 in Pannaway Manor with representatives of NHDOT, the City of Portsmouth and staff members of our federal delegation to discuss new options for funding in light of the upcoming federal infrastructure bills pending approval in Washington. In addition, a follow-up site visitation is also scheduled for the Rockingham Ave. neighborhood which also suffers from Rt. 95 noise, on Sept. 13.

The situation with the Echo Ave. neighborhood has now been resolved with the help of Portsmouth traffic engineer Eric Ebby and the City of Portsmouth. The exit into the Echo Ave. neighborhood from the on-ramp to Rt. 16 was temporarily closed and that action was deemed successful so that it has now been closed permanently. This will make the Echo Ave. neighborhood more inviting and safer for the residents, and especially for the residents of Betty's Dream who often use wheelchairs on the roadways, because there are no sidewalks in that area.

An additional concern in that neighborhood comes from some local businesses regarding the speed limit on the Rt. 16 North on-ramp which increases from 40 mph at the traffic circle to 55 mph just before the Echo Ave. exit, making it dangerous for workers and customers of these businesses to enter the on-ramp roadway safely. Customers of the car dealerships who enter the roadway are doing so when the traffic is traveling at 55 mph or more. This makes difficult and unsafe to enter traffic. I hope to discuss this situation with both NHDOT and the City of Portsmouth to see if a better solution can be found, e.g. keeping the speed limit at 40 mph (which used to be the case) along that entire on-ramp.

Update on State Issues

The legislature is currently not in session and is scheduled to begin its activities in January 2022. In 2021 Speaker Shurtleff submitted a request to the NH Supreme Court for guidance about “ in person meeting”, and received a ruling that indicated that remote participation , e.g. via Zoom under the proper verification, could be seen as “in-person participation and voting”. Despite that ruling, the Republican leadership decided that while they would allow Zoom participation at committee meetings and hearings, they would mandate in-person participation at regular sessions of the entire House of Representatives, despite the Covid pandemic that already killed former Speaker Dick Hinch. Even though the NH Senate was conducting business using remote Zoom participation, and even though there was no masking (and later no vaccination requirements in place) House leadership would require all members to meet and vote in-person. That is why during the 2021 session the House was forced to meet in-person at 2 sites at UNH and 1 site in Bedford.

The Democratic House leadership filed a lawsuit on behalf of House members who had preexisting conditions or medical issues making it dangerous for them to meet with other members, some of whom were not masked or vaccinated. That lawsuit is now a federal lawsuit and has been joined by various disability rights groups and the Department of Justice, claiming a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. House leadership was asked to make appropriate accommodations for those House members but refused to do so. A decision from this federal lawsuit is now pending. This could affect how the House meets in the 2022 session beginning in January.

During the 2019-2020 session I sponsored 3 bills, of which all were passed in the House, but due to the pandemic, no final action was taken in the Senate. My first bill requested that a study committee be established to evaluate the opportunities in New Hampshire to create microgrids. A microgrid is essentially an energy island that can operate both connected but also islanded (not connected) to the grid. This microgrid would essentially provide energy to all the users within the microgrid, and would generate its own energy both from conventional fossil fuel generators or renewable energy sources. A recent bill called “Community Power” could be a vehicle to use such microgrids locally. My second bill would have slightly increased the vehicle registration fees (they have not changed for more than 13 years) to generate more revenue for highway and bridge maintenance, with the final fee be linked to both the weight of a vehicle and the miles per year travelled by that vehicle, and that a portion of the newly generated revenues be made available for Type II noise abatement (the kind that Pannaway Manor is waiting for).

Finally, I agreed with the majority of the House and Senate that NH should abolish the death penalty (which was lethal injection) and replace it with life without parole. This resulted in an emotional and passionate debate and was an important moment in New Hampshire history, when despite a veto by the Governor, the NH House with a bipartisan vote eliminated the death penalty with a 2/3 rds. majority by only 1 vote. My support was based on the morality of the death penalty, but also on the financial burden of this punishment for our state. Experts have estimated that an execution (currently NH has one black man on death row) would cost 5-10 times as much as the cost of life in prison-without parole and NH would first have to build its own execution chamber at considerable cost to allow it to execute anyone. Of course, additionally an execution will always have the possibility of killing an innocent person, so that the only reason left for this punishment is revenge, which does not bring anyone's loved one back.

On the positive side, the Governor finally gave a green light for offshore wind energy by agreeing to join the federal taskforce formed by BOEM (the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management), which works to approve offshore wind energy leases. I am grateful to have been appointed to this taskforce representing New Hampshire. This taskforce is comprised of representation from NH along with Maine and Massachusetts.

In the 2020 session the Governor also signed a bill sponsored by Senator David Watters to create an Offshore Wind Energy and Port Development Commission to promote economic development of offshore wind energy to benefit New Hampshire. I am excited about being appointed to this commission which has a lot of work to do before wind energy starts to flow into NH's energy network.

While it was understandable in 2020 for the Governor to issue an emergency order including specific restrictions, he also insisted that there be no oversight of how he spends federal appropriations designated for New Hampshire. While a majority of the legislature found this situation unacceptable, there was no resolution of the conflict either by the courts or by way of a compromise between the Executive and the Legislative branches.

The 2020 legislative session got off to a positive start when many forward-looking bills were submitted with respect to energy issues (Net-metering increase to 5 MW and energy efficiency funding, and increasing the electric vehicle charging station network), as well as bills to make vehicle registration fees more equitable, while earmarking funds to support the construction of sound abatement project for Type II sites. Other good bills included red flag protection orders regarding firearms, protective orders against the exploitation of elderly residents, criminal justice reforms, gun safety laws and additional funding of education. Unfortunately, in March 2020 as the result of the pandemic, all activities in Concord came to a sudden halt, and have not resumed at a normal level.

During the 2021 legislative session I was proud to join a bipartisan majority to vote down, with a veto-proof majority, the constantly returning version of “Right to Work”. This type of bill is better described as a “Right to Work for Less” bill, since it undermines labor unions and the required wage negotiations so that NH workers are more at the mercy of employers. These types of bills are part of a national effort by anti-labor PACs and they ask local legislators to support them in exchange for campaign donations. At the close of the 2021 session Governor Sununu signed the new 2021-2022 budget which, in my opinion, is both cruel and dangerous. (see Link to Docs Section- State Issues)

National and International Issues

I have also been involved in other national and international topics such as, Health Care for All, Nuclear Issues and Human Rights in Hungary, Poland, Hong Kong and supportive of Taiwan. (See Links to Docs Section – National and other Issues).

Take Action on Issues

If you wish to contact:

Governor Chris Sununu, (concerning noise abatement, energy issues, gun safety or state agencies) his telephone number is (603) 271-2121 or by email: Chris.Sununu@nh.gov.

The Executive Council (concerning noise abatement, funding from tolls) they can be reached at tel. (603) 271-3632 or by email: gcweb@nh.gov

NHDOT c/o Bill Cass, (concerning noise abatement, or state agency issues ) his telephone number is (603) 271-1484 and email: wcass@dot.state.nh.us

Speaker of the House Sherman Packard – Republican (concerning state or agency issues) he can be reached at tel. (603) 271-3661 or by email: sherman.packard@leg.state.nh.us

Senate President Chuck Morse-Republican, (concerning state or agency issues) his telephone number is (603) 271-3479 and email: chuck.morse@leg.state.nh.us

House Majority (Republican) Leader Jason Osborne (concerning state matters) he can be reached at tel. (603) 391-2138 or by email: jason@osborne4nh.com

House Minority (Democratic) Leader Robert (Renny) Cushing(concerning state matters) he can be reached at tel. (603) 926-2737 or by email: renny.cushing@leg.state.nh.us