Distant Dome: It’s Hard to Keep a Straight Face Sometimes

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Garry Rayno is InDepthNH.org's State House Bureau Chief. He is pictured in the press room at the State House in Concord.


Sometimes you wonder how a politician can keep a straight face.

They have to believe that people are either stupid or do not pay attention or that their constituents have incredibly short memories.

You could call it hypocrisy instead of misinformation, but no one can deny the federal money flowing into the states due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the infrastructure act has been extraordinary over the past couple of years.

Remember not one Republican in the House and Senate in Washington voted for the American Rescue Plan Act, not one.

And many Republican governors said they would not have voted for the bill that poured $1.9 trillion dollars into the country’s economy helping to spur the business activity that produced record revenue surpluses around the country, not just here in New Hampshire.

Although Republicans in Washington did not vote for the bill, they all went home and took credit for the pork it provided to their district or state.

At the same time they complain about the growing federal deficit, inflation and claim the national economy is in terrible shape although unemployment has been below 4 percent for some time and manufacturing is finally returning to America after politicians of both parties did everything to please big business including turning a blind eye to all the good paying manufacturing jobs moved overseas for the last four decades chasing cheap non-union labor.

Moving closer to home, Gov. Chris Sununu has run around the state for the last four years touting all the great things his administration has accomplished, most of it with federal rescue relief money from the new forensic psychiatric hospital on the grounds of New Hampshire Hospital to purchasing the Hamstead Hospital for treating young people with mental health issues, and a new Youth Detention Center as well as new fish tanks for Fish and Game and a parking garage for legislators while buying the old Chubb Life Building in Concord for the Attorney General’s Offices. The building will house legislative offices when the Legislative Office Building is undergoing air ventilation and heating work so the air is healthier and safer for lawmakers and the public paid for by ARPA funds.

And funds were also used to upgrade other state buildings and town and school district facilities.

However, last week, Sununu went over the top with a press release about funding for five community centers.

“Today, Governor Chris Sununu announced that he will request members of the Fiscal Committee authorize $3,341,299 in additional funding to five New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA) Community Centers and thanked lawmakers for their advocacy on behalf of these funds,” according to the release.

“‘Thanks to the relentless advocacy of these legislators, I’ve requested transformative grants that will unlock incredible opportunity for community centers across New Hampshire,’ said Governor Chris Sununu. ‘I can’t thank these legislators enough for going to bat for their communities!’” (punctuation by the governor’s office)
The five grants of American Rescue Plan Act money are from an existing federal allocation for the Community Center Investment Program, administered through the state Community Development Finance Authority.

In order to qualify for use under the American Rescue Program Act, the authority developed criteria and goals that included;

“Projects that serve target populations, show the greatest need and are likely to have significant impact on the community.

Projects that reinvest in the public physical infrastructure and revitalize target areas.

Projects that encourage the development of effective and durable collaborations among multiple organizations to fundamentally impact communities and strengthen the community.

Projects that advance significant energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainability elements, and,

Projects (that) are ready and proposed by applicants that have the capacity to carry out the proposed project.

The criteria notes that applications for the following activities may be given a lower priority if organizations have the financial capacity to complete a proposed project without an investment.

The five grants complete all pending applications for the federal money which was initially $20 million, but was $23.2 million after the three rounds of funding.

The five awards that will go to the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee and then the Executive Council for approval include:
Barrington Community Center: $1,000,000.

Harrisville St. Denis Community Center: $779,635.

Hinsdale Millstream Community Center: $224,852.

Littleton Community Center: $336,812.50.

Newport Community Center: $1,000,000.

There is no information about what the money will be used to accomplish in the five centers and finding where the other $20 million in federal funds was spent does not appear to be the Community Center Investment Program’s or the Community Development Finance Authority’s website, but we have to assume there on some past Fiscal Committee and Executive Council’s agenda.

The grants are great for those communities and the others receiving the $20 million, there is no doubt.

But then Sununu touts the work of nine lawmakers for their work advocating for the projects in their districts.

The nine legislators are”

Rep. Margaret Drye, R-Plainfield, Newport Community Center.

Rep. Michael Harrington, R- Strafford, Barrington Community Center.

Rep. David Rochefort, R-Littleton, Littleton Community Center.

Rep. Skip Rollins, R-Newport, Newport Community Center.

Rep. Matthew Simon, R-Littleton, Littleton Community Center.

Rep. Steven Smith., R-Charlestown, Newport Community Center.

Rep. Walter Spilsbury, R-Charlestown, Newport Community Center.

Rep. Len Turcotte, R-Barrington, Barrington Community Center.

And Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, Newport Community Center.

Does that list look a little suspect, being only Republicans?

There are two Democratic representatives who represent Barrington, and the town’s Senator is also a Democrat.

Harrisville has two Democratic state representatives and the town’s Senator is a Democrat as well.

Hinsdale is represented by four Democratic state representatives.

Littleton is also represented by one Democratic state representative.

And Newport is represented only by Republicans.

Does that mean the Democrats in those communities did nothing to help secure their funds for their communities. That is highly unlikely.

However the list was developed, it is clear that no Democrat need apply for the governor’s praise although every Democrat and Republican and independent in the state is paying for the governor’s office that produced this press release, not just Republicans.

If you didn’t know better, you might think the governor believes he only represents the Republicans in the state instead of all 1.4 million people.

How do politicians keep a straight face when they put out press releases like the governor’s office did last week?

It must take a lot of restraint, and maybe a little arrogance, just to own the Dems.

Are there any playgrounds planned for the community centers?

Garry Rayno may be reached at garry.rayno@yahoo.com.

Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.

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