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Susan Bruce: Frank Pageantry




On Tuesday (May 22, 2012), NH CD-1 Congressman Frank Guinta hosted a job fair in Conway, at Granite State College. A mere four days earlier, on May 18, N.H. Employment Security and Granite State College partnered on a job fair, at the same location. One might be tempted to think that two job fairs in a four-day span must mean that there is a an abundance of available jobs. One would, of course, be wrong. The Guinta job fair was just another chapter in his re-election pageant. A failed chapter.
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't get to the NHES job fair on the 18th, but I did attend the Guintapalooza. I spoke to folks who attended both events. By all accounts, there were three times as many vendors at the first job fair, many offering local jobs. There were more attendees, too. I'll be generous in saying that about 50 people came through the Guinta job fair during the three-hour period I was there. There were 14 vendors. Of the 14, two were branches of the Granite State college system; one was NHES, nhjobs.com, the Small Business Administration, NH Works, and SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Network) a non-profit that helps low-income folks over the age of 55 find jobs. The businesses represented were: US Cellular, Avon, Bankers Life and Casualty Company, efi, Dove Chocolate Home Parties, Personal-Touch Home Health Services, and Aeroflex.
Aeroflex manufactures microelectronic components. They're located in Londonderry and in Lawrence, Ma. EFI is located in Meredith. They print big stuff, like banners and billboards. Both of these workplaces involve a rather lengthy commute. US Cellular did have jobs available, though mostly in Maine. Banker's Life was looking for unspecified numbers of people to sell their investment/retirement products. Personal-Touch Home Health Services is a national corporation that provides home health care personnel and services to individuals in their homes. They're located in Berlin, and trying to gain a foothold in the Conway area. Avon and Dove Chocolate home parties are also available for locals. I watched a number of men walk around the room and leave without speaking to anyone.
The most glaring omission here wasn't the dearth of actual companies hiring folks. It was far worse than that. There wasn't a reporter or photographer from any mainstream media outlet there to capture the Congressman as he did a walk-through, and glad-handed the vendors. This was a pageant failure. No bouquet of roses, no sash, no tiara, and worst of all, no photographers.
When I went in, I did tell Guinta's aide that I wrote for The Conway Daily Sun, and do some blogging. This was a true statement. I didn't feel compelled to explain in what capacity my writing manifests itself. The Guinta aides interpreted this as me being a reporter. As Guinta briefly worked the room, another aide approached me and asked if I'd like to speak with the Congressman. Naturally I said I'd be delighted to. The aide asked me a few more questions. When he heard my name, his face froze and he said, "I've heard of you." So much for the opportunity to speak with the Congressman. The aide said Guinta had a meeting with the college president, but he'd be back. Guinta never returned. I only saw him speak with one actual attendee of the job fair.
In March, the Congressman had an event at St. Anselm's College in Manchester that was billed as the first "Empower, Educate, and Engage Women's Conference. I was there, with approximately 50 other women. There were a number of photographers and someone doing video recording. Guinta gave a short speech, encouraged us all to reach out to him personally, because he is here to serve the people of NH. Lots of pictures were taken. When the photographers left, so did the Congressman.
The Women's Conference began with a panel about leadership, and included a rather lengthy discussion amongst the three panelists on the "psychology of dressing." We learned that, as women, we are all leaders. The next panel was comprised of women from the non-profit sector. They were more interesting. The last presenter was a young woman who is the HR director at a corporation. She offered up a lot of information about resumes, interviews, and what to do about gaps in one's employment history. That was especially important to the attendees. There were some young women there; some obviously students from St. A's, but the majority of attendees were over 50. I spoke with many of them. Mostly they're older women re-entering the workplace out of financial necessity. They have sick husbands or family members, they lost their savings when the economy crashed, there were many wrenching stories.
These were women who didn't need anyone blowing smoke up their skirts about leadership. They're just trying to stay afloat — and they're scared. They know that as unemployed people over the age of 50, they have a better chance of getting struck by lightening than finding a good paying job. This conference did little to help the women in that room. It did, however, provide excellent photo coverage for the re-election pageant, which is the sole reason for all of the job fairs.
Congressman Guinta puts out a series of memos called "Frankly Speaking." In spite of his alleged frankness, he still has yet to adequately explain the magic bank account that funded his 2010 campaign. Frankly Speaking Frank was terribly concerned with Congressional franking privileges during the 2010 campaign. One of his centerpieces was getting his teanut supporters all wound up about Carol Shea-Porter's alleged abuses of the Congressional franking system. The franking system was created in 1775, and allows Congresscritters to send out mail under their signature, with no stamp or postage. Congress reimburses the Post Office for the franked mail that it handles. Candidate Guinta bemoaned the mailings of our former Congresswoman, and asked, "How is this supposed to help our deficit?"
Given all the caterwauling over the franking, I was shocked to learn that Congressman Guinta spent more than any other member of the House on franked mail. Let's be frank about Frank's franking. He sends out big multicolored mailers all the time. He does this, because he doesn't actually want to meet with constituents. Guinta has chosen to conduct his "town hall" meetings with constituents via conference call. I'm sure you all remember the contentious town hall meetings held in 2010, where teanuts were shrieking at Congresswoman Shea-Porter. It seems likely that the GOP is smart enough to realize that their tactics could easily be turned on them. Guinta's chosen to eschew events that might provide that sort of potential.
If Guinta had chosen to speak to me, it wouldn't have changed my mind about how he has served this district. It would, however, have caused me to give him credit for being willing to speak with a member of the alternative/opposition media.

Susan Bruce is a writer and activist who lives in the Mount Washington Valley. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com.
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