In 2017, celebrate another First in the Nation for NH

 

By Michael York

New Hampshire is known for being first for many things: we hold the First in the Nation Primary, we ratified the first state constitution, founded the first public library in the United States and more. But you might not know that we also were the first state in America to have a State Library.
On January 25, 1717 in Portsmouth, the Twenty-Seventh General Assembly “voted that ye Law books be distributed among ye severall towns of this Province in proportion according to their last Prov. tax, except two books which shall be for ye use of ye Govr & Councile and house of representatives.” This law – made when New Hampshire was still part of England and almost 60 years before there even was a United States – makes it clear that the members of the provincial government knew that libraries are vital places of information and need to be a cornerstone of how we go about our business.
The “Law books” set aside for elected officials were the beginnings of the New Hampshire State Library, and they began a long history of libraries in New Hampshire communities: Peterborough is the first library in the country supported by public funds; “social libraries,” where members shared books and paid dues, flourished across the state in the early 1800s; philanthropists funded many public libraries – both the buildings and what went into them – a hundred years later. Soon, every city and town in New Hampshire had a library, proof that our citizens valued libraries as integral facets of our communities.
Three hundred years after it was founded, the State Library continues to serve the people of the New Hampshire by providing services that keep the libraries in our communities strong. The State Library’s professional development staff offers workshops for librarians that keep them up to speed on the most cutting-edge aspects of library science, thereby allowing them to deliver the very best library services to their patrons. We serve as a central point of delivery for both public and school libraries, helping them to share resources and strengthen their purchasing power. We also are a working library with patrons who come from across the state and the country to use our collection of more than 600,000 items, including books about New Hampshire, books by New Hampshire authors and illustrators, newspaper archives, genealogy documents, government documents and library science materials.
Throughout 2017, we’ll be celebrating the State Library’s 300th anniversary as well as New Hampshire’s strong library tradition. Look for articles in newspapers, postings to our Facebook and Twitter accounts (look for #NHSL300), a special section on our website nh.gov/nhsl and more.
We encourage you to play your part, too, just as those who have come before you have. You’re welcome to visit us here at 20 Park St. in Concord, right across from the State House, and be sure to take advantage of the many services that your public library has to offer. You’ll be in good company when you do.

Michael York is the Acting Commissioner, NH Department of Cultural Resources

Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever

Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever

By Nicholas Kristof
NY Times columnist

There’s a broad consensus that the world is falling apart, with every headline reminding us that life is getting worse.
Except that it isn’t. In fact, by some important metrics, 2016 was the best year in the history of humanity. And 2017 will probably be better still.
How can this be? I’m as appalled as anyone by the election of Donald Trump, the bloodshed in Syria, and so on. But while I fear what Trump will do to America and the world, and I applaud those standing up to him, the Trump administration isn’t the most important thing going on. Here, take my quiz:
On any given day, the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty:
A.) Rises by 5,000, because of climate change, food shortages and endemic corruption.
B.) Stays about the same.
C.) Drops by 250,000.
Polls show that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same. But in fact, the correct answer is C. Every day, an average of about a quarter-million people worldwide graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures.
Or if you need more of a blast of good news, consider this: Just since 1990, more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhea treatment and more. If just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that’s only half as likely today as in 1990.
When I began writing about global poverty in the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10 percent are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3 or 4 percent will be. (Extreme poverty is defined as less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for inflation.)
For nearly all of human history, extreme poverty has been the default condition of our species, and now, on our watch, we are pretty much wiping it out. That’s a stunning transformation that I believe is the most important thing happening in the world today — whatever the news from Washington.
There will, of course, be continued poverty of a less extreme kind, smaller numbers of children will continue to die unnecessarily, and inequality remains immense. Oxfam calculated this month that just eight rich men own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
Yet global income inequality is actually declining. While income inequality has increased within the U.S., it has declined on a global level because China and India have lifted hundreds of millions from poverty.
All this may seem distant or irrelevant at a time when many Americans are traumatized by Trump’s inauguration. But let me o reassure you, along with myself.
On a recent trip to Madagascar to report on climate change, I was struck that several mothers I interviewed had never heard of Trump, or of Barack Obama, or even of the United States. Their obsession was more desperate: keeping their children alive. And the astonishing thing was that those children, despite severe malnutrition, were all alive, because of improvements in aid and health care — reflecting trends that are grander than any one man.
Some of the most remarkable progress has been over diseases that — thank God! — Americans very rarely encounter. Elephantiasis is a horrible, disfiguring, humiliating disease usually caused by a parasite, leading a person’s legs to expand hugely until they resemble an elephant’s. In men, the disease can make the scrotum swell to grotesque proportions, so that when they walk they must carry their scrotum on a homemade wheelbarrow.
Yet some 40 countries are now on track to eliminate elephantiasis. When you’ve seen the anguish caused by elephantiasis — or leprosy, or Guinea worm, or polio, or river blindness, or blinding trachoma — it’s impossible not to feel giddy at the gains registered against all of them.
There’s similar progress in empowering women and in reducing illiteracy. Until the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate; now, 85 percent of adults are literate. And almost nothing makes more difference in a society than being able to read and write.
Michael Elliott, who died last year after leading the One Campaign, which battles poverty, used to say that we are living in an “age of miracles.” He was right, yet the progress is still too slow, and a basic question is whether President Trump will continue bipartisan U.S. efforts to fight global poverty. A four-page questionnaire from the Trump team to the State Department seems to suggest doubts about the value of humanitarian aid.
One reason for the Trump team’s skepticism may be the belief that global poverty is hopeless, that nothing makes a difference. So let’s keep perspective. Yes, Trump may cause enormous damage to America and the world in the coming years, and by all means we should challenge him at every turn. But when the headlines make me sick, I soothe myself with the reflection that there are forces in the world that are larger than Trump, and that in the long history of humanity, this still will likely be the very best year yet.
Remember: The most important thing happening is not a Trump tweet. What’s infinitely more important is that today some 18,000 children who in the past would have died of simple diseases will survive, about 300,000 people will gain electricity and a cool 250,000 will graduate from extreme poverty.

State of the City of Berlin - January 2017

By Mayor Paul Grenier

It has been a few months since I last wrote a public report. Though we face some very serious challenges, overall the City of Berlin is doing well. The large road project we undertook last year on Hutchins Street really came out quite well. Because financing for the project was almost all federal money passed through the NH Department of Transportation, we had to conform to strict guidelines set forth by the state, including competitive bidding and acceptance of final design. There is hope we can take the sharp comer out of the Bridge Street intersection in the very near future, as well as looking at street lighting that Councilor Roland Theberge has strongly advocated for.
The Route 16 project is approximately 50 percent complete, but already it is a real treat to drive on. Once complete, sometime in mid to late summer, Berlin's main arteries will all have been completely reconstructed. With the announcement that Berlin received two grants totaling over $900,000 for the Riverwalk project, upper Main Street will be something for all of us to be very proud of. The city's investment in Service Credit Union Heritage Park is starting to pay dividends well beyond what the City Council had hoped for, and let's not forget the awesome work of the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce. They are doing exactly what they said they were going to do and in just this short time, the park looks great. Thank you Paula and all the folks at the chamber. Where would our economy be without you!!!
Our economy here in the Berlin area continues to be uneven. There continues to be really great success stories, (Capone Iron Corp., Gorham Paper and Tissue, Burgess Biopower) that are offset by the continued struggles in the retail segment. Remember, it is vital that we all shop locally. Our shopkeepers are the ones who support our various community activities and they live work and play here and are our neighbors.
There are new efforts abound by environmental groups and others to rein in and in some cases, reverse the progress we've made in ATV recreation. In the Nash Stream area, some people are trying to stop ATV usage. Many are from out of state who don't want to share the great outdoors with the rest of us. The ATV community needs to stand up and wake up to the new realities. We all need to be respectful when using ATVs on trails and on streets and highways, but make no mistake; it's time to organize. Absent of a strong lobbying organization to speak on ATV's behalf, the activity will be severely curtailed.
This year's budget process will prove to be a bear. The NH Retirement System has sharply raised rates this year at the very same time the state is also curtailing aid to local education. The total impact across the city this fiscal year will be approximately $400,000, just to keep even. These are unsustainable. I am working with a consortium of communities across the state to reverse cuts to schools and the efforts are really too early to report. That is the primary reason the City Council could not muster the two-thirds majority needed to inject new money into the Berlin Visiting Nurses Program. Although I did not agree, I respect the will of the city council and we must work together to transition folks to other services who do this for a business. Medicare billing is difficult and with the uncertainty that abounds from Washington, now is not the time to have a divided city council. Collectively, along with the expert advise from City Manager Jim Wheeler, we will work through these difficult issues.
With the NH Public Utilities Commission pushing the Smith Hydro divestiture process this year, we will soon know where we stand. Will we own and operate Smith along with other community assets? There is great interest in the hydro portion of Eversource's portfolio but lukewarm interest in the other generation assets. Berlin is positioning itself to deal with all possibilities. One area of Eversource's efforts that Berlin is 100percent behind is in Northern Pass transmission project. It is estimated that Berlin will see immediate tax relief to the tune of $250,000 to $350,000 annually in the first five years, or roughly equal to what this year's downward cost shift to us from the state is. There will be hundreds of jobs created during construction with as much impact to us locally as was the Burgess Biopower and Federal Prison jobs. Remember Berlin/Gorham's restaurants and inns then? This will be a gift that will keep giving long past completion.
Finally, my family and I have lost two very important people in our lives recently. Tony Urban, who passed away late December, was Berlin's Rock of Gibraltar. His love of student athletes was second only to wife Carolyn and daughter Pam and brother Rudy. Tony was a mentor of mine and was a brutally honest advisor. The other was my dear sister-in-law Diane Horne who passed away last week. Diane was a kind-hearted person who loved life and her family very much. She was a mother away from home to many kids who attended Brown School and made sure those kids got a fair shake. My wife Brenda and Diane were very close, our family has been left with a huge void and she will be sorely missed by husband Mike and sons Ant and Colby. May both rest in peace.

Education Initiatives Proposed by Senate Democrats

Education Initiatives Proposed by Senate Democrats

By Senator David Watters and Senator Jay Kahn

Governor Sununu began his inaugural address with a request that Democrats and Republicans work in a bipartisan manner, putting aside the antagonism of the past election season and focusing on New Hampshire’s needs over the next 10 years—issues like educating the workforce the state needs in order to thrive. In that spirit, we offer five education initiatives to promote equal opportunity, strengthen communities, and pave education-to-workforce pathways.
Full-day kindergarten is offered by 60 percent of all NH elementary schools. However, the state mandates and provides adequacy funds for half-day kindergarten, so taxpayers in full-day districts must cover the costs through higher property taxes. Parents, teachers, and researchers know full-day kindergarten is invaluable in providing the educational and behavioral skills children need for further education. Kindergarten can dramatically reduce the number of students and the associated costs of individualized educational plans in third grade and beyond. NH should remove its disincentive to full-time kindergarten and provide equal opportunity for all children, regardless of the wealth of their communities. This is the purpose of our full-day kindergarten adequacy funding bill.
Likewise, the state has a vested interest in making public schools ready for the 21st century challenges of educating students to be career and college ready so New Hampshire can compare favorably with other New England states. As the Governor stated, recruiting young families to NH is crucial for our current and future workforce. And the first question these families ask is, “how good are the schools?” A school building that looks like one students attended in the 1960s and 70s does not adequately convey community pride and the quality of teaching that exists. We’ve proposed legislation that ends the moratorium on state contributions to building improvements, and restores state building aid to encourage local communities to make needed safety, technology and accessibility improvement in public school facilities.
Public high schools also need to ensure students have the career and technical education (CTE) needed to take advantage of workforce opportunities in such fields as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, automotive repair, and building trades. Greater access to career and technical training benefits all students. Our bill supports access for sophomores to attend CTEs so they can successfully complete programs, such as pre-engineering, manufacturing or licensed nursing assistants, and take advantage of internships and work experiences as seniors. Access to state-of-the-art equipment and instruction through partnerships with industry prepares students for certification and for further education. The tax credit for contributions to CTEs has been introduced. We also are supporting increased funding for dual pathways so CTE and other high school students can receive college credits at a reduced cost.
Public community colleges and universities should provide affordable access to higher education to fill NH job pathways and enable the state to compete for business and good paying jobs. At least 65 percent of all vacancies in NH by 2025 will require some type of post-secondary education. But currently, the majority of NH high school graduates attend college out of state and the price of NH public colleges is the highest in the nation, resulting in high student debt. This is why we support additional state funding for the Community College and University systems and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education 65x25 initiatives to make higher education in NH affordable to our in-state students.
We are also proposing a program to retain New Hampshire college graduates as in-state employees. Forty-one states have programs that help students repay college loans. NH is not even on the list. The NH College Graduate Retention Incentive Partnership (GRIP) enlists NH employers who pay a $1,000 bonus for each year of work completed for the first four years of employment. The only cost to the state is funding to enable the NH Department of Economic Development to market the program to participating NH employers and to NH high school and college students. GRIP is a unique NH partnership to enable our state to compete with other states and to recruit a capable workforce.
These are modest investments in NH’s future that strengthen educational quality and affordability, pave a pathway to NH employers, and enhance NH communities and competitiveness. We look forward to working with Gov. Sununu and Republican and Democratic legislators to make these investments in New Hampshire’s future workforce. We invite citizens to contact their legislators and the Governor and ask them to endorse these efforts.

(Sen. David Watters represents District 4 and Sen. Jay Kahn represents District 10 in the NH Senate and both serve on the Senate Education Committee.)

The Editorial Board: Young Victims of the Opioid Epidemic

By The New York Times Editorial Board

Opioid overdoses have claimed more than 300,000 lives in the last 15 years, including some 33,000 in 2015 alone. But those numbers do not tell the full horror of this epidemic, which has devastated the lives of countless children whose parents have succumbed to addiction to prescription painkillers and other opiates. In one terrible case last month, a Pennsylvania couple died of apparent overdoses, and their baby perished from starvation a few days later.
More commonly, children are rescued or removed from the custody of their parents by local child welfare officials or relatives. After declining for several years, the number of children in foster care jumped 8 percent nationally, to 428,000, between fiscal years 2012 and 2015, the most recent data available. Experts say opioid abuse accounts for a lot of that increase. Officials cited parental substance abuse as a reason for removing children from families in 32.2 percent of cases in 2015, up from 28.5 percent in 2012. But these numbers very likely understate the problem, because local officials often fail to report drug and alcohol abuse and list most cases under the broad category of “parental neglect.” One group, Generations United, estimates that 2.5 million children now live with relatives or family friends rather than their parents.
Yet federal, state and local officials have done far too little to address the problem. Years of budget cutbacks have left many states with too few caseworkers and too few foster families to deal with the crisis. Total federal and state child welfare spending fell by 5 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to a report published in October by Child Trends, a research organization. In Texas, conditions have gotten so bad that officials have assigned dozens of foster care children to sleep in state offices and other temporary shelters. Two court-appointed monitors proposed an overhaul of the Texas system in November.

A bipartisan bill that would have given states matching funds for mental health, addiction treatment and other assistance to parents didn’t make it through the Senate, though it had passed the House. The measure was supported by groups like the Children’s Defense Fund and the American Academy of Pediatrics. It would have reduced funding for foster care in group homes, settings that many experts say are far worse for children than placements in foster families. But some senators who were worried about the concerns of group home operators opposed that cut and prevented a vote on the bill.
Another major threat to children of the opioid epidemic is the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. More than 20 million people have gained access to mental health and substance abuse treatment because the 2010 law expanded Medicaid and provided subsidies to help people buy insurance policies on health exchanges. If repeal isn’t followed by a replacement law that provides equivalent coverage, many parents with drug and alcohol problems won’t get access to addiction treatment. President-elect Donald Trump pledged during the campaign to end the opioid epidemic. But repealing the health care law is likely to exacerbate the crisis.
There was a big spike in foster care cases during the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. The government was far too slow to act then, and it is in danger of being dangerously behind the curve again.

The New York Times Editorial Board is composed of 16 journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise. Their primary responsibility is to write The Times’s editorials, which represent the voice of the board, its editor and the publisher.