By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LITTLETON – More than 1,000 people have added their names to a community letter calling for the town’s selectmen to drop and back away from discussion about regulating public art as it relates to LGBTQ+ issues.
Fueled by comments made by state Sen. Carrie Gendreau, R-Littleton about her objections to paintings of flowers and books in boarded up windows on the side of the private Jing Fong restaurant on Main Street, which were sponsored by North Country Pride, the region’s business and civic community, visitors and citizens of the region are signing on to a growing letter saying “no more” talk about regulating public art.
Gendreau couldn’t be reached for comment Friday night.
This comes in spite of an announcement that the three member Board of Selectman have hired an attorney – at taxpayers’ expense – on the issue and plan to release a statement on the subject in January.
Critics of Gendreau’s statements say she is hurting the economy and the identity of Littleton as a welcoming environment.
The list of signers, available here, https://forms.gle/qzcYdg3wVrYxdRy1A includes Republicans and Democrats.
They include Duane Coute of Littleton Chevrolet; longtime businessman and Cog Railway owner Wayne Presby and his wife, Susan; Sonya Salanti, director of the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Don Craigie, a former Selectman; and the owners of Schilling Beer Co. to name just a few.
The list is growing and others are asked to sign on.
It reads as follows:
To The Littleton NH Community & Northern Grafton Region,
“As members of the greater Littleton community, we’re writing to express our grave concern with the recent comments and actions from the Littleton Board of Selectmen regarding both the arts and LGBTQ+ community. We do not feel these comments reflect the true nature of the Littleton community or our North Country values.
“Littleton has always seen success when individuals with diverse perspectives work together with respect for each other and a focus on the greater good of the community. Over the last three decades, this collaborative, inclusive spirit has allowed Littleton to overcome economic challenges and become the business and tourism hub of the North Country. We’ve created an award-winning Main Street, vibrant Ammonoosuc riverside, world-class industrial park, and an acknowledged model for balancing box store growth with boutique local retail. And now Littleton has a burgeoning arts movement that enhances the authentic, artisanal nature of our downtown community.
“The comments and proposed actions of the BOS does not help this important sector of our economy grow. A vibrant arts community enhances the quality of life for community members and attracts visitors to our town. Arts and culture organizations employ and purchase locally and drive commerce to other local businesses. Arts-friendly travelers are business-friendly tourists. They stay longer and spend more at local businesses. Why is the municipal leadership of our town pursuing a path so detrimental to business without input from the business community?
“While the negative impact to our local economy is a major concern, most important to us is the harmful impact the comments and actions of a few will have on the fabric of our community. Our neighbors. Our coworkers. Families. Friends.
“This is not who we are. This is not Littleton. Littleton is a vibrant, broad and inclusive community. We may not always agree, but we always try to respect each other. These comments and actions do not reflect the true nature of our community.
“We’re saddened and troubled by this sudden turn of events and call upon the Board of Selectmen to act in the best interest of our whole community and step back from this hurtful path.”