To The Daily Sun,
My reaction to the news that Belknap County did not receive one of the United States Justice Department grants for $600,000 (to support the efforts of our Department of Corrections to confront the addiction crisis and reduce recidivism) was one of sadness and disappointment. But I was not surprised.
For the past several months, as the issue of opening the new Community Corrections Center was hanging in the balance, I wondered, if we as a county are unwilling to properly staff our new center so it could be opened, why would anyone extend us grant money of over a half-million dollars to fund operation of the center? When I asked myself that question, the answer was clear.
As I once heard a wise person say on the issue of economic development in general, “Why would any rational decision-maker invest in the future of your community, when you are unwilling to do so yourself?" A majority of the Belknap County delegation (led by Representatives Vadney, Howard, Silber, Comtois, Aldrich and Varney) have made it clear that despite building a $7.5 million Community Center with renovations to the old jail facility, rather than building a new $42 million jail, they viewed “not raising county taxes by even one penny” as more important than spending the money necessary to properly staff the new facility to make it operational. To this group, fiscal responsibility is saving a dollar in taxes today even if it will result in ultimately costing $10 in the near future. In the face of this attitude, would you have given the county $600,000 in grant money for operation of the new corrections center?
This same group of legislators showed equal shortsightedness when they slashed funding for the Belknap County Conservation District, the Belknap County Economic Development Council, Community Action Program and Genesis Behavioral. From their actions, it is apparent that the addiction crisis and related criminal recidivism are not key issues to a majority of our county delegation. Also lacking in importance to this group are the preservation of our most valuable economic asset, our unique and beautiful environment, the economic development of our county necessary to sustain its future economic viability, the growing mental health problem in our county and the care of our dramatically growing number of seniors who will depend on some degree of governmental aid to survive.
Our future is linked to the present. If we don't care about our future, no one else will. Care in this context translates as meaningful planning. Meaningful planning will generally require spending. The spending should be wisely administered and should be limited to that which is necessary. But you cannot accomplish meaningful planning when your only guideline is “not a penny more in taxes.” That guideline has already cost our county dearly. When we next go to the polls, let's remember that, and cast our votes for a good and sensible future, rather than just a mindless and meager monetary saving for today.