The hoopla surrounding the implementation of E-ZPass in New Hampshire has been an interesting sideshow. The fact is that by offering a large discount to jump-start the system, the state did a good job of weaning us token addicts from them in favor of the convenience of the new system. It is convenient, and soon it will be the only way to get a discount at New Hampshire toll booths, when tokens are no longer sold and then no longer accepted.
Now, if people in the Hooksett line would realize that it is the middle lane only where transponders can be used, and the state would put a dual system in the exact change lanes as well as those staffed by toll-takers, everything would be perfect!
It’s nice to live in a state where the implementation of this system is one of the big issues politicians can find reason to debate, isn’t it?
Odd-numbered years in New Hampshire, as in much of the country, are election years in municipalities. New Hampshire cities all have non-partisan forms of elections, which means that candidates run as individuals and not in party primaries. There are a few misconceptions about this.
First, critics sometimes say that the elections really are not “non-political.” This misses the point. All elections are political. What is different is that people can focus on the candidates without party labels and select the best offerings in primaries without reference to party or restriction to voting for those only of their party.
Second, some say elections really are partisan, notwithstanding the form of the election. This is true sometimes, as both Republicans and Democrats find and support candidates. However, it allows for a system where the two candidates for mayor or other office deemed by the voters in a primary are selected to run off against each other in the general election. Often, this has resulted in an election between two Republicans or two Democrats.
Finally, critics say the form dampens voter interest. This has not been borne out in actual turnout on election day.
This year, the most prominent action in New Hampshire is in its largest city. Manchester Mayor Robert Baines is running for a fourth term at a time when the city seems to be on a roll, as previously reported in this column. He has two opponents, Ward 3 Alderman Frank Guinta and taxpayers association head Jeffrey Kassel.
Baines is ahead in fund-raising and is the expected winner, notwithstanding the fact that Guinta has raised money and hired professional consultants, a departure from prior Baines opponents.
A number of young professionals have emerged from the city’s Association of Young Professionals to run for ward and city offices, from selectman (a minor office in a city as opposed to a town) to school board. This may be an invigorating development, as very attractive young people have signed up.
As students head back to college for the fall semester, many New Hampshire students go for the first time. Having been through this selection process for the last time over the last year with our last child, it is interesting for us to have viewed so many great institutions of higher education available for high school juniors and seniors to examine.
Here in the Northeast, we have the cream of the crop available, and students from New Hampshire can apply to scores of great schools. However, sticker shock is starting to take hold. With full price now approaching $45,000 per year at some of the most expensive private schools, even the extensive financial aid offered is sometimes insufficient.
This year, the valedictorians of two of Manchester’s high schools, and many of those in the top 10 at these and other high schools in New Hampshire, have opted to go to the University of New Hampshire, a relative bargain when compared to the costs and travel and other expenses associated with private colleges.
This will have the effect of raising the level of academic expectations and competition at UNH and will benefit all of the students at that great university. In turn, Keene and Plymouth will receive high-quality students.
However, the question exists about how long prices can continue to rise before resistance to the cost of the private higher education will change the nature of their student bodies. How people will cope with this cost and the country will address its needs for an educated workforce in the future is going to have to be faced, sooner or later.
Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.
This article appears in the August 19 2005 issue of New Hampshire Business Review