Editorial: Optimism in the age of cynicism

  • A handful of minimum-security inmates from the state prison cleared the state-owned sidewalk along the disputed route on the way to the Friendly Kitchen. They finished the job midday Sunday, even before adjacent city sidewalks were plowed. NICK REID

Published: 12/20/2016 12:05:04 AM

Government can be unresponsive. New revenue ideas are stale and unimaginative. Citizens are unengaged. We hear these complaints often – and they are usually warranted. But in the past couple of days we have seen reasons for optimism at the local, state and national levels.

On Monday, the Monitor’s Nick Reid reported that after a nearly year-long battle, Concord and the state of New Hampshire reached an agreement to clear a section of sidewalk along Interstate 393 leading to the Friendly Kitchen, a crucial resource for the city’s homeless population. It was almost a year ago that a homeless, wheelchair-bound man named Gene Parker was struck and killed because he could not use the sidewalk.

In the months since Parker’s death, many readers have written letters to the editor urging the state and city to cut through the red tape and find a solution to a problem that seemed so easy to address. Finally, officials did just that: After the weekend snowstorm, minimum security inmates shoveled the sidewalk. In the near future, the Department of Transportation will hire a contractor to do the work, with the city contributing up to $5,000.

This is a good example of officials responding to the voice of the people. If concerned residents had remained quiet, nothing would have changed. We applaud you, readers and letter writers, and offer our thanks to the city and the state for listening.

There was also a bit of news inside the Monday Monitor that should be heartening for those who wish the state was a little more creative when coming up with ideas to increase revenue or support existing programs.

New Hampshire’s Fish and Game Department said that the state has sold 4,175 Hike Safe Cards, bringing in nearly $120,000 to fund search and rescue missions. The Hike Safe law, which went into effect in 2015, allows people to enjoy the outdoors without being liable for rescue costs should they get into trouble out of their own negligence. All that hikers, skiers, boaters and hunters have to do is pay $25 a year (or $35 for a family), and they will not be on the hook for costs associated with extraction. Of course, this isn’t a license to act recklessly (you still have to pay for that), but rather a small fee for a little peace of mind.

And even if the bulk of your outdoor adventuring consist of occasional day hikes up family-friendly Mount Kearsarge, the Hike Safe Card is a good way to support all of Fish and Game’s fine work.

Finally, we’re even seeing reasons for hope when it comes to the future of civic engagement.

In this era of fake news and mistrust of the press, there’s also growing interest in economic policies, elections and federal agencies. It started with the establishment-busting campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, each of which highlighted income inequality and the plight of the American working class in profound ways. With Trump’s Electoral College victory and loss in the popular vote, voters young an old became experts in the function and history of the Electoral College. People began referring to Hamilton not only as a hit Broadway musical but also as the likely author of Federalist No. 68, which explains the process of electing the American president. And just look at how much attention and scrutiny Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions are getting.

There is nothing more dangerous to a Republic than a sleeping electorate. America is awake and alert, and that’s a very good thing for democracy.

Nobody knows what the new year will bring, but we hold these pieces of news at the end of 2016 as reasons for optimism.


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