Cook On Concord: 2008 comes to an end, thankfully

Most of us are grateful that 2008 is over. A few observations and thoughts about the year just ended:

First, near the end of the year, two centenarian attorneys passed away. Charles Griffin of Portsmouth died earlier in the fall, just in time for Arthur Nighswander to become 100 years old and the oldest New Hampshire attorney. Then, on Dec. 5, Nighswander died at his residence in Hanover.

A longtime resident of Laconia, Nighswander practiced law for over 70 years. While his main vocational interests were taxes and estate planning, he was very active with attorney professional causes, ethics and such matters as the Claremont lawsuit over school funding. He spent countless hours on good works in his community and the state, both public and private, and was instrumental in the creation of the Spaulding Youth Center in Northfield. Many now-elderly Laconia residents still remember the dashing young man who was kind to them as children.

Nighswander continued to practice well into his 90s and was an inspiration.

Charles Griffin likewise was an institution in his community, active in civic and religious causes, part of the prominent Griffin clan, and a credit to the legal profession. Both will be missed.


The country will have its first African-American president facing extraordinary challenges. As the year ended, Barack Obama appeared to have things in control and was naming an impressive group of leaders to form his administration. However, it is evident the honeymoon already is over, as he has had to address issues of great substance on a daily basis. The economic challenges facing all of us do not allow for many missteps.


Bright, young John E. Sununu will be leaving the U.S. Senate to be replaced by Jeanne Shaheen, our former governor. At a mid-December meeting of the Business and Industry Association board, Shaheen reminded everyone of her diligence, ability to listen and interest that she is a serious and hard-working officeholder.

She faces the same challenges the national administration faces, and none of us can afford to have her or them fail in their efforts for us in Washington. The economy, the deficit, the auto industry, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other matters will require the thoughtfulness, wisdom and diligence Shaheen is capable of providing. It is not a time for politics, campaign promises or platforms, but for statesmanship.


The state budget will be a major challenge when the Legislature convenes in January. Notwithstanding reports of bankrupt gambling establishments, decreased revenue, abandonment of proposals in other states and the attendant social problems, expanded gambling will be touted as a budget solution. However, a careful study will show that it is an insufficient source of revenue — one that is unreliable, unpredictable and brings social problems with it.

Legislators would be well served if they look elsewhere than to expanded gambling for a “quick fix,” although the temptation will be mighty.

It will be interesting to see what Governor Lynch proposes in his budget in the way of fixing the deficit problem and addressing the gambling proposal.


The Concord Coalition, co-founded by New Hampshire’s former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman, has long warned of the effects of deficits and reckless spending, and this year has seen its predictions come true.

As one leader of that group recently noted, it is painful sometimes to be right. How the country can balance the problems of an economy with the need to restore a balanced budget and address the debt being left to future generations will be one of the major challenges faced in the new year and beyond. However, the irresponsibility of the last eight years has to be replaced with discipline, and that will not be pleasant.


It will be instructive to see how New Hampshire reacts and what we think in the long term about the imposition of the death penalty on Michael Addison by a Manchester jury. Should Addison be executed, it will be the first New Hampshire execution since 1939, and what that says about us as a culture will indicate much.


Notwithstanding all of the above challenges and problems, New Hampshire is resilient, America has overcome major challenges in the past, and 2009 should be the beginning of a period of optimism, confidence and growth. We do not seem to have any other choice.

Happy New Year!

Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association.