I often take a bit of pride in discussing some of New Hampshire’s finer points. (OK, I’ll admit it, I brag about them.) Not as much as I spend running down Massachusetts, I admit, but in my defense there is so much wrong about that state that it’s easier to talk about that than to bring up what’s right with us here in NH.
A few people, in the comments, have resented my affirmations of New Hampshire’s rightness, and have brought up a few things about my home state that they consider less than admirable. I freely admit I haven’t mentioned them too much, so it might seem as if I’m ashamed of them. Rest assured, I am not.
For example, the annual Road Kill Auction. I’ve known about this for almost 20 years. Every year the state (I think it’s done through Fish And Game, but the Highway Department might do it) holds an auction of carcasses of dead animals collected along the highways. Most of them are quietly disposed of, but those of larger, rarer animals that are mostly intact are taken to a big freezer in Concord and once a year they are sold off to the highest bidders. Yes, it’s tacky and gross, but it’s simple economics — if there’s a demand for them, why not sell them? I don’t know why people would want to buy a dead, frozen bear or moose or deer or wolf, but if they want it, and they’re willing to fork over good money for it, I think that’s just fine and dandy.
New Hampshire’s reliance on property taxes is another point that bugs some people. As we have no sales or income tax (the only state that utterly rejects both notions), a good chunk of our public funds comes through property taxes — and they’re pretty damned high. We’re looking at that, though, and we’re always kicking around ways of tweaking the system.
Another point brought up is our former governor, the late Meldrim Thomson, Jr. Thomson was a Pennsyvanian who moved to New Hampshire and allied himself with the publisher of our only state-wide newspaper, and rode that friendship into three terms in the governor’s office. “Mel” was a true character.
- When a Massachusetts driver blew past his state-trooper-driven car, Thomson ordered the trooper to chase and pull over the guy, who not only got a ticket and hefty fine, but lost his privilege to drive in New Hampshire.
- When Massachusetts had state troopers sit in the parking lot of New Hampshire state liquor stores and copy down the license plates of Bay Staters cheating Massachusetts’ tax on booze, Thomson ordered New Hampshire state troopers to arrest their Massachusetts colleagues for loitering.
- Thomson, a tireless supporter of states’ rights, pushed repeatedly for the New Hampshire National Guard to be equipped with tactical nuclear weapons.
- Thomson used his authority to order the states’ flags lowered to half-staff at the drop of a hat. We offiicially mourned the official United States recognition of Communist China, the ejection of Taiwan from the Olympics, the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, and several other times.
- When anti-nuclear protesters assembled at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (then under construction), Thomson put on his “commander in chief of the National Guard” hat and, while wearing military fatigues, flew in a helicopter to the scene and personally ordered the arrest of all 1,400 protesters.
- Thomson was denied a fourth term in 1978, when Democrat Hugh Gallen finally defeated Governor Mel. But while politics might have been done with Mel Thomson, Thomson wasn’t done with politics. In 1980, disgusted that the leading Republican candidate — Ronald Reagan — was too liberal, he ran a very brief presidential campaign.
In retrospect, Thomson was a seriously loose cannon, and a lot of what he stood for and fought for was just plain wrong. But with the benefit of 30 years of perspective, though, I’d take another Governor Mel today over a good chunk of the politicians Massachusetts keeps choosing over and over and over. After all, we got rid of Mel after three terms and six years. The Bay Staters are about to send Ted Kennedy back to the United States Senate (where he can — and does — cause far more damage than Mel ever dreamed of) for a ninth time, and let’s not forget that they also “blessed” us with almost-presidents Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.
Yeah, we’re kind of odd and peculiar up here in New Hampshire. We have our quirks and faults, just like every other state.
But I wouldn’t live anywhere else for love or money.