Jay Surdukowski: Listening first – the making of a platform

For the Monitor
Published: 2/15/2020 6:00:20 AM

I began forming a platform for my Executive Council race this summer by heavily traveling across the 114-mile-wide district that spans from Vermont to Maine. I believe before seeking to represent folks, you should hear them out.

Listen first. This is what I did as co-chair of the Democratic Platform Committee during the Gov. John Lynch years. We traveled to each county, listened hard, then synthesized policy goals from diverse viewpoints. Though I’m a New Hampshire-native born at Pease Air Force Base who has lived in Somersworth, Dover and Concord for almost my whole life, 49 cities and towns is a massive territory. I jumped in the Jeep and this is what I learned folks are thinking about and the principles I am running on.

1) Being a youthful workhorse and a good steward on “New Hampshire’s Board of Directors”: The youngest Executive Councilor is 60. Roughly 97% of our State House officials are 40 or over – a staggering gap in representation. There is a hunger for new leadership and generational diversity. I also heard in the back roads of Cheshire and Strafford counties and beyond that the council should engage in thoughtful stewardship, not blind partisanship.

2) Defending women’s health care: The council should not play politics with women’s health care. Having advised Planned Parenthood’s political arm for five years when they first set up their local PAC, I am steeped in knowledge of their work and one of the highlights of the 2012 election was welcoming then-Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to my home to engage young people in the fight for reproductive health. I’m also proud to be publicly supported by three founders of New Hampshire’s first abortion clinic, which opened in 1974 – what is now the Equality Health Center.

3) Using the bully pulpit to advance both climate-conscious policies and fair labor practices: Climate guardians and labor advocates from Winchester to Concord to Rollinsford have brought up these critical topics. While the council cannot legislate solutions, it can, as part of contracting and departmental oversight, signal strong messages on key policy goals like climate, a living wage and the ability to organize.

4) Vigilant review and vetting of vendors who provide addiction and mental health assistance: Due to a widely publicized bad experience with a troubled vendor, I’ve heard from the addiction treatment community that there is some skittishness about these contracts at the moment. We need to rebuild trust between state government, the council and the entities that are on the front lines of the opioid crisis.

5) Working to hire the best commissioners, judges and agency heads, and serving as a check on the next governor: We should recruit the best and brightest judges and agency heads with an eye toward a team that reflects the diverse strengths of our state. I also heard that the council must be a firm check on the next governor – whoever it is. It is in my DNA as a native of the Live Free or Die state to check and balance the chief executive – a sacred commandment dating to Colonial times.

6) Will fight for the people of New Hampshire to get the best value for their tax dollars: Something I admire from attending council meetings is an interest in getting the best value in state contracts. I’ve seen contracts held over so that the best terms possible could be negotiated and I believe that is sound stewardship which councilors, the governor and agencies can collaborate upon.

7) Departmental oversight on issues that impact rural parts of the district, including broadband access, energy and the crisis of a shortage of Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs) and other health care workers: Rural parts of the District are facing crises. The council can serve as a champion to make sure broadband, energy and health care staffing shortages are addressed. Having spent a year working for the U.S. secretary of health and human services on rural and tribal affairs, this plank has particular importance to me.

8) Banging a drum for worthy projects such as Vermont/New Hampshire bridges and consideration of a Somersworth exit off the Spaulding Turnpike and electronic tolls: Legislators and leaders I met with in the far east and west of the district, respectively, emphasized local infrastructure being of paramount importance. This plank is specific with two key examples that were cited by leaders in Westmoreland, Walpole, Somersworth, Dover and Rochester.

9) An independent voice committed to people above politics: There is an overwhelming consensus for an independent voice on the council committed to the entirety of the job and not an advocate for a singular cause. The job of representing one-fifth of the Granite State is a big one with many aspects. This platform gives voice to my neighbors and friends from Hinsdale to Rochester. I commit to common-sense governance rooted in the Granite State people and places where I grew up.

(Jay Surdukowski is a Democratic candidate for the New Hampshire Executive Council.)


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