When the House of Representatives voted to cut New Hampshire's tourism marketing budget, they put at risk revenue from tourism, one of the cornerstones of the state's economy and of the state's tax base.
Tourism is New Hampshire's second largest industry, generating more than $5 billion of economic activity per year in the state. In 2014, the tourism industry supported 68,000 jobs in New Hampshire.
The number of visitors to the state has been growing steadily, tied to the growth in promotion by New Hampshire's Division of Travel and Tourism Development (DTTD). In 2014, 4.7 percent more visitors came to the state than in 2013, and their total spending increased by 6.9 percent.
In 2009, the N.H. legislature passed a law dedicating 3.15 percent of revenue from the rooms and meals tax to tourism promotion. The Legislature has suspended this law to cut $3.77 million, almost half of the Division's total budget, from DTTD's Tourism Development Fund.
Most states, including nearby Maine and Massachusetts, spend more than New Hampshire currently spends on tourism promotion. With cuts of this magnitude, New Hampshire will have one of the weakest tourism promotion budgets in the country.
What happens to tourism after a state stops promoting? When Colorado cut its tourism marketing budget from $12 million to zero in 1992, the state lost 30 percent of its market share within a two-year interval. After Colorado reinstated its promotional spending, it took 11 years to regain the market share it lost.
A reduction in tourism to New Hampshire would be devastating to our economy, and it would severely diminish tax revenue for our state government. A study by The Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University has determined that DTTD's promotional activities generate at least $585 million in tourism spending annually. Losing that amount of spending would result in a loss of $53 million in net tax revenue to the state.
We understand that the Legislature faces many tough decisions as they decide on the state budget for the next two years. However, cutting promotion for tourism is short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible. In fact, we would argue that an increase in the tourism budget is the more logical path to solving our financial problems. In Fiscal Year 2014, state and local governments took in $9.23 of tax revenue for every dollar invested in tourism promotion.
Joined by members of the N.H. Travel Council and others in the tourism industry, we urge the Legislature to approve a budget that continues to fund tourism promotion at its previous level. It's an investment that benefits all New Hampshire residents.
(Rusty McLear is co-owner and president of Mill Falls at the Lake in Meredith. Alex Ray is owner and founder of The Common Man family of restaurants. Together, they are the principals of Granite State Hospitality, the company that is currently building the new State Welcome Centers on I-93 in Hooksett.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 10:45
To The Daily Sun,
Before the WOW Trail gets final approval to continue the trail from Main Street in Laconia to the Belmont line, a caboose behind our building on 100A New Salem St. needs to be moved. At the Laconia Planning Board meeting on April 7, the WOW Trail presented a plan that says, "Existing R.R. Tracks and ties to be removed by contractor". These are the same tracks that this Caboose sits on. Then a fence will be built. When this happens there will be no access to the Main Line to move this caboose.
Richard Mitchell (AKA Canterbury Classics/Pitman's Freight Room) had a lease with the State of New Hampshire for part of the New Salem Side Track in Laconia from 1997 to 2004. In 1999 he placed a caboose behind our building at 100A New Salem St which has made a great grudge fence. In a letter from Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards dated August 10, 19988 she says, "However, the Department of Transportation does have a policy that it will consider other abutting landowners' interest in an area when it issues a lease. Therefore, based on this policy and the bureau's mistaken belief that Mr. Mitchell owned your building, the bureau is willing to grant you a license to pass and repass over the state's right-of-way behind your building. By way of further explanation, Mr. Mitchell did not inform the bureau employees that he owned your building; they made that mistaken assumption on their own."
This "mistaken assumption" continues in a communication titled, "WOW Trail Phase II, Laconia" from HEB Engineers' Jay Poulin (lead civil engineer) to Brain Lombard, N.H. Railroad Operations Engineer, Number 23: "The owner of Pitman's Freight Room has expressed an interest in keeping the siding track in place so that he can move the caboose out from the back of his building if and when he needs to." The Caboose is not behind his building.
The Governor and Executive Council at their September 8, 2004 meeting did not renew his lease. He hasn't had a lease since May 2004 but still has the caboose in the same spot for 11 years without paying the $986 yearly lease fee for a total of $9,860, or the general liability insurance coverage in the amount of $1,000,000 each occurrence. In a Right-to-Know request to Shelly Winters, administrator of Bureau of Rail Transit, I asked for "copies of all payments to the State of N.H. paid by Richard Mitchell or by his various AKAs starting in 1997 to March 30, 2015 for the lease or sale of part of the Concord to Lincoln (railroad) corridor. All billings from the State of N.H. to Richard Mitchell or his various AKAs for the lease or sale of part of the Concord to Lincoln Corridor." Shelley Winters replied on April 17, "Please be advised that we have researched our records and do not have any additional documentation to provide". No billings and no payments?
Former Administrator Christopher Morgan of the Bureau of Rail & Transit wrote to Richard Mitchell on July 2, 2004, telling him, "Given the opposition to your lease of the portion of the corridor adjacent to an abutting property owner, the department has decided that we will not lease you the half of the corridor that abuts that property. We would be willing to lease you the half of the spur that abuts your other parcel, and allow you to move the tracks to accommodate your caboose on that land (as well as your land). The existing lease has expired, however, and the caboose may not remain where it is."
In communications with former DOT Commissioner Carol Murray dated July 13, 2004, she wrote, "In talking to the people in Rail and Transit after our visit with you, it is clear to me that the original lease was in error, at least in my opinion. I believe that the rail car is on state land with no lease to allow it there and the Attorney General's Office has been contacted to see what the appropriate action is to deal with this. The lease was never signed, so essentially Mr. Mitchell is there with no legal agreement to be there. Tenant at will means he can be removed at any time."
On September 28, 2005 she wrote, "I was by there last week and saw that the car was still there. The issue has not yet been pursued by the Attorney General's Office — but I have asked them to get on it." On June 19, 2006 she wrote, "This was turned over to the Attorney General's Office and I will be honest that I haven't followed up with them. I will also check with the Attorney General's Office to get an update on what is happening with this issue."
On March 13, 2015 I made another Right-to-Know request of Shelley Winters asking for any communications between the Attorney General's office and former Commissioner Carol Murray, former Administrator Christopher Morgan or any other DOT employee concerning this side track. Her answer: "I was remiss in my original correspondence to inform you that any communication between the department and Attorney General's Office is protected from disclosure under both the attorney-client privilege and RSA91-A:5,IV and thus will not be provided." What is in these Attorney General communications that they have decided not to follow the directives of the former Governor & Council, commissioner and administrator? RSA 228:57 Sale or Lease; "The commissioner as sole agent for the state, with approval of the Governor and Executive Council is authorized to sell, transfer or lease all or part of the rail property."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 10:41
To The Daily Sun,
We all have been affected by the surge in heroin related issues here in Laconia. Emotionally, socially, economically, it has affected us all. Losses of family and friends death or permanently disabled, real estate values really who wants to purchase a home next to a drug house, loss of enjoyment in our public parks because of needles left on the playground or on the beaches, businesses suffer because shoppers don't feel safe frequenting these establishments either because of who is hanging around outside, or needles and blood found in the restrooms.
We as a community turn our heads and some how think, if we ignore it it will go away. IT WON'T! We want to turn a blind eye, yet complain that our police aren't doing enough to stop it. Then we want the police to carry Narcan as well? That unfortunately does not fix the issues.
We all need to realize , that WE as a COMMUNITY need to be proactive. Most of us don't even know our neighbors either because we fear who they are or don't want to become involved, or have abandoned or foreclosed properties next door, of people who have given up, who feel that nothing can be done. Also associated with drugs comes robbery, domestic assaults, burglaries, aggravated assaults.
Heroin is frightening. Most of us can't imagine putting a needle in our arm, let alone get pleasure from it. But, these are our neighbors, these are someones child, mother, father, sister, brother. Heroin is not contained by socioeconomic borders.
Here in the lakes region there are no clinics to get help. There is no where to turn for them. No one WANTS a methadone clinic in their neighborhood. There are no rehab programs available. Most think the answer relies upon the police department and courts to lock them up. We as a community shun them, dismissing and laughing at it as "population control", but they could be our own children,mothers, or fathers.
THAT'S NOT THE ANSWER
The answer isn't easy. It will not be well received by many citizens.
The answer comes from US as a community. Building that word — community.
Becoming involved, not turning away. Speaking up, knowing our neighbors. Taking back the fear, through knowledge and sincerity. Not allowing people to go unnoticed, or forgotten.
Having city block parties — the Pumpkin Festival would be fantastic. The point is to become more involved, a safer community. I read a wonderful article about Rutland, Vermont; they took back their town and so can we.
They began by treating an addiction (not just heroin) as a DISEASE, not just a crime punishable by incarceration. If someone was discovered by law enforcement they were given two options from the court at their arraignment: #1. Immediately be entered into a treatment program, complete it, and there would be no further prosecution (very hard to get employment with a drug conviction), or #2. Incarceration.
They opened treatment programs.
They opened a methadone clinic because people go there to seek HELP.
They had block parties to know their neighbors.
They had neighborhood watch groups that were adamant about reclaiming the neighborhoods.
They convinced landlords to step up and not allow this to go on in their complexes.
Abandoned buildings were given to nonprofits for rehab to build better lives, through skills, training, and praise in volunteering when the treatment plan was completed for the ex addicts.
They took back their town.
No more fear.
People became kind.
People had worth again.
We can do that here too.
Operation H.E.L.P. (Heroin Engulfing Laconia's People) — "It takes a community to rebuild the city".
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 10:35
To The Daily Sun,
I'd like to take this opportunity to respond to a letter to the editor last week by Paula Trombi of Meredith. To set the record straight, the bottom line is this: Governor Hassan is trying to raid nursing home and home health care agency funds that were promised and budgeted in 2014/2015. The governor signed the budget into law — it is the law, and the governor is now trying to ignore it. By the governor's actions, she will cause the loss of $14 million to New Hampshire private and county nursing homes and home health agencies. ($7 million in state funds and $7 million in federal funds.)
While it is true Sen. Forrester voted in the 2010/11 budget to reduce funding to nursing homes, it was because there was an $800 million deficit facing the state — a deficit created by the Democrats over-spending. Our law requires a balanced budget and Republicans were faced with difficult choices to meet the law's requirement. However, in the 2014/15 budget, even though Governor Hassan tried to continue cuts to nursing homes, the Senate Republicans restored funding AND put in a budget footnote to tell the governor she could not use those funds for any other purpose.
Last Updated on Monday, 20 April 2015 09:52
To The Daily Sun,
At a conference held in Concord on Friday, April 17, Mr. Nicholas Toumpas, head of New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services, mentioned that he had just confided to his staff that "we are in crisis mode". Mr. Toumpas comes across as an experienced hand who know that New Hampshire's ability to fund mandated human services is very much in doubt.
The proximate reason for this statement at a meeting of the New Hamshire Commissioners' Association is the dilemma presented by insufficient nursing home beds, public and private, in our state and our inability to create or pay for more. The 'Silver Tsunami' is striking with a vengeance while the soaring number of those over 65 who may require services as they age will be unable to avail themselves of those services.
One partial solution to this problem is the idea, pitched by Mr. Toumpas, to expand the services which would allow the elderly to stay in their homes for longer periods of time. My response to this is: seems like a good idea but why would the citizens of Belknap County want to expand their funding of services when the state cannot meet its current obligations? Do not doubt that the Belknap County Delegation and the majority of the Belknap County Commission acted most unwisely when they adopted the 2015 budget. The state cannot meet its obligations and the downshifting of the tax burden from Washington D.C. to Concord and from Concord to local jurisdictions will escalate in future years.
These are problems which will not yield to the usual political pablum or to glittering generalities.
Belknap County Commissioner, District 2
Last Updated on Monday, 20 April 2015 09:49