What happened to consensus-building?

While making notes in preparation for writing this column, there are often items that are written down but not developed into an entire piece. While cleaning my desk the other day, I found some of them. In somewhat random order, they go as follows:

• When I came to New Hampshire in 1966 to go to college, the “young bucks” in the Republican Party were Walter Peterson, speaker of the House and soon to be governor, Kimon Zachos, David Nixon, Lou D’Allesandro, Stewart Lamprey and other “moderates” who dominated the Legislature. Many of the names listed now are Democrats or seem to have become marginalized in the Republican Party. While there are many distinguished Republicans today, someone coming back from a long nap and looking at New Hampshire politics in action would wonder what happened to the consensus-building, moderation and sense demonstrated by the Legislature under their leadership.

• Speaking of leadership, the longtime president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Lew Feldstein, has announced that he is going to step down from that position next year. Feldstein, a charming, affable and extraordinarily bright leader, has had the good sense to listen to distinguished board members over the years and help build the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation into a major force and one of the largest community foundations in the country.

Feldstein also has served in academia but will be known for advocating for positive change in New Hampshire and for building consensus while he led an institution without which New Hampshire would be much poorer as a society and state. Well done, President Feldstein!

• The consideration of capital gains taxes, a reinstituted estate tax, video slot machines at the tracks, hundreds of raised fees and other individual revenue sources is in stark contrast to the leadership provided in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Governor Peterson got his Task Force on Government Organization together to examine New Hampshire institutions, the delivery of services and the appropriate revenue system for a changing state.

Since New Hampshire is changing again, perhaps it is time for such an effort. Looking at all of the revenue-raising devices, none of which is popular, the thought arises that a look at the total system and a consideration of what among distasteful choices is most sensible is required (the premise being no one likes to pay taxes, at today’s level or higher), before all of these changes are made.

When all of the revenue sources that have been suggested are examined as a group, it appears that a disproportionate amount of taxation is being aimed at unearned income and business. Perhaps the words “broad-based” should be re-examined in a context other than being considered obscene.

• In Manchester, State Sen. Ted Gatsas, longtime alderman and successful businessman, has announced he is running for mayor against a fellow alderman, Mark Roy, another lifetime Manchesterite, and others.

If the Manchester election can be kept to a civil debate on issues, these two gentlemen — who obviously love their city — and others who may enter the race, as well, could fashion a responsible discussion of where the state’s largest city should be going. Expressions of hope like this often accompany the beginning of a campaign. Let us hope that this election might produce that kind of discussion.

• Finally, a gracious and lovely lady, Judith Shanahan, died recently. A youthful and vibrant 80-year-old, Judy Shanahan was involved in her community, church, family, state politics and was a bright light to anyone who knew her. Her husband, retired accountant James Shanahan Jr., and her four impressive children will miss her dearly, as will all of her friends.

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 of New Hampshire.