Karen Umberger: Delegation is still considering options for the county farm

There has been a lot of discussion over the last several months surrounding the Carroll County Farm.

First let me say there is no movement on the part of the delegation to sell the land, approximately 900 acres. The land will always remain part of the Carroll County Complex.

Secondly, the delegation had requested several years ago, that the commissioners develop a business plan for the farm operation; we are still awaiting the business plan.

Third, what does the farm produce: blueberries, hay, vegetables and wood.

Some of the blueberries and vegetables are sold to the nursing home at market price, but the nursing home has no say over what is produced. The nursing home does not have the storage capacity or the manpower to process them for future use.

The remainder of the fruit and vegetables go to food banks or are sold in farmer’s markets at market rates. The county should not undercut prices local farmers charge. The hay is sold at market rates. The wood was bought at log length, split and sold to the state for campgrounds.

All of these sales accounted for $87,252 in 2015 which was down from $97,210 in 2014 and production has dropped an average of 30 percent each year for the past three years.

The majority of the work on the farm is accomplished by county employees, and the revenue accounting to date has not factored in that operational cost.

It is true that prisoners at the correctional facility do contribute some assistance. On a daily basis, approximately four or five prisoners assist with the work at the county. This includes lawn work as well as assistance with work at the farm.

It should be noted that the average stay for people in the corrections facility is about 40 days. It is very difficult with such short stays to have any consistency.

To the best of my knowledge, there is only one other county that still maintains a farm. Farms closed because they were uneconomical to maintain. Basically, they were costing the taxpayers more than the income they produced.

For those of us over 50 there is a lot of nostalgia for the concept of a county farm. In the past, the county farm was used as a place for underprivileged people to go to obtain work and meals. Times have changed, and this is no longer part of the landscape.

The delegation established a subcommittee to look at alternatives to continuing the current operation, and its first meeting was April 23.

Additionally, there has been a request for proposals out for someone to take over haying on the farm. To date, no one has come forward to bid on the haying. If any person is interested in managing the blueberries, I am certain the county would be interested in listening to a proposal. The same is true for managing the vegetables.

You may have seen in The Conway Daily Sun a letter to the editor on April 26 from Andy Kendall, the executive director of the HP Kendall Foundation. He indicated he would like to meet to explore options for the county farm. A meeting was held with him on April 28 to discuss what the next steps might be.

Although I was unable to attend, three delegation members from the subcommittee and two commissioners were in attendance.

It is my understanding the meeting was very productive.

Mr. Kendall indicated the foundation might be able to fund a feasibility study to explore what alternatives might be available for farming to continue at the county complex.

I am certain the commissioners and the delegation will work together and come up with a viable alternative to a county run farm.

Karen Umberger is a state representative for Carroll County District 2, Conway, Chatham, Eaton, Hales Location. She lives in Conway. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jim Rubens: Rethink the failed drug war

Since the early 1970s, the U.S. has spent
$1 trillion in a war on drugs. Yet, illegal drugs are cheaper and more widely available than ever. Nearly 10 percent of Americans used illegal drugs last year. Domestic consumption exceeds $100 billion, and crime, lost productivity and health-care cost us almost $200 billion annually. Last year in New Hampshire, 433 people died from opioid overdoses, three times our traffic fatalities.

U.S. taxpayers have spent over $8 billion attempting to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, yet cultivation there has reached record levels, supplying three-quarters of global demand and providing a major source of funding for the Taliban.

Over the past decade, to meet U.S. demand for illegal drugs, Mexican drug cartels murdered 100,000 humans. Over 200 of last year’s New Hampshire drug overdose deaths were caused by the opioid fentanyl manufactured by these drug cartels and snuck across our open border. For this and several other reasons, Americans deserve a secure border with Mexico.

Unfortunately, in response to this abject and deadly policy failure, we keep hearing more of the same from most of our political leaders: Double down yet again on the drug war with more unfunded spending loaded onto our nation’s already maxed-out credit card. In a stunning admission of this failure, all inmates and all law enforcers I met during my visit to the Cheshire County jail told me that the current prosecution and incarceration approach is nothing more than an expensive revolving door. Inmates leave jail more addicted and with a bigger drug supply network than when they arrive.

As with so many of our pressing and long-unresolved national challenges, we need to open up to new approaches so that we can do much more with fewer taxpayer dollars. It’s time to face down controversy and engage in a thorough, evidence-based drug policy rethink.

About one-third of us inherit brains wired for proneness to addiction. Serious life stresses — such as childhood physical, sexual or psychological abuse, death, violence, addiction or family breakdown involving an adult family member, and major emotional blows at any time of life — are triggers that can turn proneness into self-medication with drugs or alcohol, and then to addiction. Over the past year, about 5 percent of Americans suffered a substance addiction.

Once an individual becomes psychologically dependent on an opioid, stimulant or alcohol, their addiction usually becomes part of their brain chemistry for a lifetime. Clean addicts I met in the Cheshire County jail floored me when they told me that they cannot stop their nightly dreams about getting a heroin needle back into their arms. Addiction is not a failure of willpower. Even arrest, prison, loss of career, family and dignity are not enough to stop it.

For heroin and the other “hard” drugs, we can learn from the eight European nations and Canada that have shifted taxpayer funding from drug use prosecution and incarceration to drug-assisted treatment programs. Using this policy, Switzerland has reduced its drug-overdose deaths to a rate one-twentieth (5 percent) of New Hampshire’s. Additional economic and quality of life benefits include reductions in drug-related property crimes, illegal drug use, disease and major increases in addiction treatment retention. In Switzerland, property crimes among enrolled heroin addicts dropped by 90 percent.

Opioid addiction cannot be cured but can be effectively managed with a seamless bundle of services that remain available to the addict for years or even a lifetime. These services can include a maintenance dose of opioid receptor blocking drugs like Suboxone or Vivitrol administered in clinics in combination with abuse drug tests and mental health and life counseling. For those exiting prison with criminal records and little to no money, these programs must include assistance with job counseling, transitional housing and transportation. Notable success has also been seen in a program of detox, then abstinence combined with instantly available 24/7 support from a trained and trusted coach.

These programs must be made available to drug addicts immediately and on demand and when offenders exit jail or prison. While addicts are usually drug free on release, their addiction remains as powerful as when they were arrested and most will relapse immediately if wait times for services are longer than even minutes. In New Hampshire, this program bundle would cost very roughly $500 per month per addict — far less than the costs of prosecution, incarceration, property crimes, disease, income loss and welfare services for involved children.

For marijuana, like alcohol, Congress should grant states their power under the 10th Amendment to legalize, regulate and tax it as each state may see fit. We need to admit that prohibition has failed. At my local high school in Hanover, marijuana can be had free for the asking every day and is far easier to obtain than alcohol.

States opting to legalize should consider requiring child-proof packaging and labels disclosing potency and health effects, including the fact that marijuana use involves performance and brain developmental effects (though far less in the aggregate than tobacco or alcohol). States legalizing should also ban advertising and public use, license in-state producers, allow personal production in limited quantities, and extend DUI laws to cover marijuana metabolite blood levels.

Washington state is one of four to have legalized and taxed the sale of cannabis products. Over its first year in full effect, Washington saved most of the $20 million previously spent on marijuana law enforcement and collected
$83 million in tax revenues, with revenues used to fund prevention, treatment, research and education programs. Early data show that traffic fatalities and youth marijuana use have not increased. Studies in medical marijuana states show no gateway drug effect, with no increase in use of hard drugs by either adults or youth.

Present addiction treatment programs are fragmented and poorly funded. Only one in 10 Americans who could benefit even attempt to access existing programs. States wishing to legalize and tax marijuana could use the proceeds to increase funding for addiction treatment. New Hampshire is making the mistake of funding still-insufficiently expanded treatment programs using Obamacare Medicaid dollars, a source highly likely to evaporate given already perilous federal debt levels.

Jim Rubens authored a book on addiction, was past president of Headrest, a Lebanon-based substance abuse counseling center, and is a Republican running for U.S. Senate.

Susan Bruce: Losing strategies

In 2013, a wealthy guy named Shawn O’Connor moved to New Hampshire in hopes of purchasing a U.S. Senate seat. He was thinking about running as a Democrat against Kelly Ayotte. He began by not getting involved with local or state politics. The day before the election in 2014, he donated $1,000 to the Manchester Democratic Committee and $1,000 to Executive Councilor Chris Pappas. Those were his only donations of the election cycle.

The 2014 election cycle might have been illustrative for O’Connor. We all watched a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts move to New Hampshire and lose his bid to defeat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Scott Brown had big name recognition. Shawn O’Connor? None. When Gov. Maggie Hassan decided to run against Ayotte, O’Connor set his sights on Congress. He decided to run against Carol Shea-Porter in the Democratic primary against Frank Guinta in the first congressional district.

In early 2015, he hired a bunch of people. There were media consultants, communications strategists, direct mail consultants, fundraisers, digital strategizers and legal counsel. (To date, he’s spent over a million dollars of his own money.) And still, he couldn’t seem to get any traction. No one knew who the heck he was.

There were some mentions here and there, most not very flattering. New Hampshire is suspicious of carpetbaggers with big wads of cash. When O’Connor moved to New Hampshire he was a “third way” Democrat. The Third Way think tank is funded by corporations and hedge funds. Third Way Dems are centrist to right leaning types — friends of Wall Street, not friends of workers.

Then in the summer of 2015, he made a speech at a political event about being a survivor of domestic violence. Even with all those communications strategists, he wasn’t getting any name recognition. In early January 2016, he endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders. Bernie’s campaign had caught on fire in New Hampshire, and it was a way to differentiate himself from all of the other top ticket New Hampshire Democrats. They’d all endorsed Hillary Clinton. Suddenly he was a news story. Fighting income inequality, he said, was his No. 1 priority. Those who heard O’Connor speak over the summer don’t remember ever hearing him mention that. He must have been saving the announcement of that priority for a special occasion.

The glow of media attention was what he’d been waiting for. Sadly, it waned. Desperate measures were called for. And early this month, he began to take them. He announced that he was going to sue former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter for defamation. He claimed that her campaign had engaged in a whisper campaign, accusing him of being a domestic abuser. There was evidence, he said! He said it loudly and often. The Shea-Porter campaign said it was “a sad, desperate, and untruthful attack.” O’Connor called on Shea-Porter to end her campaign. There was evidence, he said! He roped in some state legislators who really should have known better. More huffing and puffing. More legal threats. More claims of evidence.

This week, the N.H. Democratic Party released a statement saying that O’Connor had threatened to sue the party, and suggested they pay him to drop out of the race. O’Connor responded with a lengthy press release that made some peculiar accusations. In the weirdest game of telephone ever, O’Connor claimed that one state senator told another state senator that O’Connor planned to buy rats and put them in the kitchen of the Puritan Backroom — a restaurant owned by Chris Pappas, the executive councilor. O’Connor stated that he does not know where one would purchase rats. He further claimed that the restaurant had a long-standing rodent problem. That, of course, was easily checked with the health department, and quickly proven wrong.

It’s difficult to imagine what O’Connor hopes to gain at this point. He’s made many accusations. Some of them have changed over time. The one thing he hasn’t done? He hasn’t provided a single bit of proof. Not one item of corroborating evidence to back up his many bizarre claims. It’s too bad that none of those high-priced advisors O’Connor has on the payroll are telling him that this is the worst election strategy ever. He spent over 10 hours tweeting at the media on Tuesday. For Shawn O’Connor, it’s all over but the shouting, and he seems to be determined to shout for as long as his keyboard holds out.

On the local level, the Concord Monitor had a story over the weekend about the number of state representatives that aren’t showing up to do committee work. All legislators are assigned to committees. Some refuse committee assignments — both former Speaker Bill O’Brien and Rep. Max Abramson (R. Free State) have refused assignments. There seems to be an epidemic of “I’m too good for this” going around.

One of the representatives mentioned was Lino Avellani of Wakefield. He’s assigned to the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee, and he hasn’t been to a single committee meeting or hearing this year. He told the Monitor that it’s “hard” to get away from work. Avellani owns a restaurant. He owned the restaurant when he ran for office, yet he ran anyway. Still, as “hard” as it is to get to committee meetings, he does make it to House voting sessions. Luckily, members of the House Liberty Alliance stand in the hallway and hand representatives “The Gold Standard” a sheet telling them how to vote on libertea issues, so no preparation or thought is required.

This committee information should be readily available to us all online, but it isn’t. The 21st century beckons, but New Hampshire is still looking wistfully into the distance. The libertea crowd brays about transparency but does nothing to actually further it, when it comes to our state government. There are gun bills to write and women’s bodies to control.

Call me old-fashioned, but I have this silly belief that if you make a commitment, you should honor it. If you are elected to a position of public trust, you should be worthy of it. If you can’t do the work of The People, you shouldn’t run for office.

Susan Bruce is a writer and talk radio personality on “The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen”  on WNHN-FM. She lives in Concord. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com or find the broadcast at www.wnhnfm.org.

William Marvel: Metamorphosis

The inaugural meeting of the new board of trustees of the Conway Public Library would probably only have been interesting to those who have been paying attention to the political intrigues of the past few months. Judging from comments made recently in the press and at the meetings, the only people who have been paying that much attention are those on the board — and not all of them. Anyone who doubted my concerns about the troubling resurgence of Linda Fox Phillips’s influence on the board might have learned something had they been there to notice how her motions are reflexively seconded now by new trustee Stacy Sand and Sand’s champion, Debbie Cross.

The first meeting of the new board began, as always, with the election of officers. Mark Hounsell, who has chaired the board for three years, was replaced by David Paige. Hounsell nominated Sand as treasurer, observing that she had displaced the treasurer by her election, but she wanted nothing to do with that cumbersome job. Cross was then nominated, and she, at least, did not refuse the burden.

Phillips was elected secretary again, despite her tendency to hear the parts of meetings that suit her and to ignore many of those that don’t. In the very first discussion by the new board, Hounsell complained that the last set of minutes were “incomplete,” and succeeded in having them tabled until the board could see a revised version. He was generous enough to suggest that it was a matter of oversight, caused by the secretary also trying to participate in the discussion, but he was describing a tendency to biased recording that has flourished frequently over the last three years. It’s almost amusing how some people, including trustees, dislike editorializing here on the editorial pages of the newspaper, but find it acceptable in the public record.

The new chairman created a committee to present the revisions that he himself proposed to the trustee bylaws and the library personnel manual. He composed these after I wrote a column suggesting that Secretary Phillips seemed to be gaining in board influence, and that the new director might be looking to her as an ally against potential board criticism. That precipitated an alleged decline in library morale that Chairman Paige thought required some vehicle for employees filing complaints against trustees. Strange that nothing similar seemed necessary since the attempted coup of the Phillips regime, in which four veteran librarians were targeted for secret, summary discharge, but perhaps librarians are more sensitive now.

One lesson of the attempted Phillips coup was how dangerous it can be for the trustees to give the library director carte-blanche authority. Judging from one motion she made, Secretary Phillips seems equally inclined to do that for the current director as she was for the last one, and she seems to be regaining the pocket majority she usually enjoyed from the chair. It’s bad enough when trustees are unwilling to exercise authority over their director, but worse if they are too weak to do so. State laws giving special protections to librarians already hog-tie trustees sufficiently, as ours discovered when they had to practically beg the last director to leave; Chairman Paige’s amendments will only cinch those bonds tighter. If the director is going to be insulated entirely from any control or criticism by trustees, I’m happy to be free of that gag.

The notorious issue of granting borrowing privileges to nonresident employees of local businesses arose only through procedural and informational discussions. Hounsell at least got the board to agree not to foist this plan on the community until the board has held a “second reading” of the policy change, allowing for outside comment. The topic remains in committee, where the focus seems to be more a matter of making it palatable enough for the public to swallow than investigating the potential consequences. In March, the committee reported that several other libraries had found the practice innocuous, but the director had already cited most of that information in December, so there doesn’t appear to have been much work done on that front. The only apparent revision involves giving the card to the business, rather than to the employees, as though to reduce the potential losses in that pointless precedent.

At the March meeting, the director said there already was such a “precedent” for business-patron cards, claiming that a former librarian once gave a card to a local business in return for a favor. Turns out she was exceeding her authority, so the decision was inappropriate, and claiming it as a precedent fits a growing pattern of straining logic to produce positive evidence for favored projects. So far, no one has articulated any benefits from business-patron cards — other than pleasing the gnomes of the Mount Washington Valley cartel.

William Marvel lives in South Conway.

Nicholas Howe: Going Skiing

Once upon a time skiers were separated from skiing by many miles and many hazards. Some roads were paved, but not all were. Some roads were plowed, but not all were, cars ran fitfully and sometimes not at all, and their interiors were often but not always warmer than outside.

That was in the early 1930s, and skiers were just finding their feet on the lumber roads and farmer’s pastures of northern New England. Given the low state of the automotive arts, a better way of reaching the slopes was urgently needed.