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Editorial: A new course for the LGC

In a remarkable interview with reporter Ben Leubsdorf in the Sunday Monitor, the new head of the Local Government Center sketched out plans for a turnaround. George Bald, the former state economic development commissioner, described his desire for a new legal strategy and corporate organization. Whether his ideas are the right ones (and whether he succeeds) remains an open question. But we can quickly endorse at least one aspect of Bald’s vision: more transparency.

The LGC runs risk pools that provide insurance for New Hampshire municipal governments. It has been embroiled in a bitter fight with state regulators for years. The state objects to its business practices and to a 2003 corporate reorganization. Last year, a hearing officer ordered the group to reorganize, change some business practices and return $52 million in improperly retained surplus money. The LGC has appealed to the state Supreme Court. Considering both sides in this complicated dispute are funded by New Hampshire taxpayers, the fight is doubly painful to the public.

Bald has ideas about restructuring the LGC and changing its legal position – if possible, he’d like to do without the Supreme Court appeal. But perhaps equally significant is this: “Broadly, I would like to put the organization in a position where we readily give out information that people ask (for). I know that that’s been an issue, of people thinking that we’re hiding things or not being forthcoming, and I want to make sure that we do that, that we make it easy for people to have access, that as many things are online as possible so people don’t have to ask,” Bald said. “And if they do, they just have to ask; they don’t have to do a right-to-know request.”

He’s right about the past perception. After all, the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire have twice in recent years gone to the Supreme Court to force the LGC to release documents. Imagine how much time and energy might be saved if unions, journalists and regular citizens could simply ask questions and get answers from the LGC. On this issue, Bald may have a challenge in changing the culture of the board that hired him, but it’s a challenge well worth his time.

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