My Turn: Transformation: Why I’m running for New Hampshire Senate

For the Monitor
Published: 6/11/2020 6:10:26 AM
Modified: 6/11/2020 6:10:15 AM

Change, unrest, and uncertainty are sweeping the country right now. We’re experiencing an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, and systemic racism continues to threaten the very fabric of our communities.

The killing of George Floyd – and the others before him – has left us feeling outraged, heartbroken, and, for many, deeply fearful for their lives and those of their fellow community members and loved ones.

Gaping shortfalls in the health care system are putting families and children at risk. Politicians are using this pandemic to erode access to reproductive health care. Public education is being crippled by persistent underfunding and inequitable tax policies. Natural landscapes, clean energy, and the climate are under assault. Partisan politics are destabilizing functional governance. Whole economies are shifting and small businesses are feeling the squeeze while increasing wage gaps and wealth consolidation threaten our ability to support our local economies.

Each of these challenges is daunting, and combined they are placing enormous burdens on New Hampshire families.

Last week, I officially filed for elected office, declaring my candidacy for New Hampshire Senate District 15 to represent Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton, and Warner. I am running because I believe these challenges can be met together. Embedded in them is the opportunity for transformation if we take hold and convert fear and uncertainty into hope and change. I’m running because I want something better for my family and for yours, and I’m committed to ensuring that what emerges is more just, connected, healthy, and equitable.

I’m a native Granite Stater, a lawyer, and a mother. I’ve seen firsthand the challenges we face as a district and a state because I have dedicated my entire career to public service. I believe that all Granite Staters have a right to safety, a livable wage, affordable and accessible health care, access to a quality education, a clean and healthy environment, and that the decisions we make about our reproductive health should be free from government intrusion.

As a staff attorney at the Disability Rights Center-N.H., I helped families navigate the health care system to receive necessary care. I worked hard to break down barriers for my clients and developed a profound understanding of the significant gaps in our chronically underfunded and uncoordinated systems.

New Hampshire continues to experience a mental health and substance misuse crisis – exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic – that must be addressed head-on through prevention services, early intervention, improved access to community-based treatment, and other public health-based policy solutions.

After working at the Environmental Defense Fund as a climate advocate and grassroots organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, I developed the know-how to fight for clean and renewable energy solutions, zero-waste policies, and improved renewable energy and efficiency programs in New Hampshire. Climate change impacts all of us and is a clear and present danger to our state’s public health and economic future. New Hampshire must be a leader in the region, or lose the innovation race, and science must be the foundation for smart policies.

There is no reason New Hampshire should be lagging on solutions like net metering or regional transportation plans. We need to transition to 100% clean and renewable energy and a critical step is setting mandatory emission reduction targets – a policy proven to drive innovation and create new jobs.

As policy director for the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative, I worked with elected officials across the political spectrum to push for reforms and improve access to essential health care and education services. I was instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 14, which transformed how we serve our most vulnerable children and families by increasing services for children in crisis and improving the child protection system. But there is still so much to be done. We need to address the root causes of childhood trauma, so that all children have the opportunity to develop academically, socially, and emotionally; we need to focus on primary prevention efforts such as ensuring access to quality child care and early childhood education for all Granite Staters; and we need to continue to broaden the service array for vulnerable children and families and rebalance spending away from institutional care and toward less expensive and more effective in-home and community-based services.

As a mom and engaged community member, I understand the importance of strong public schools. Funding our public schools and other public services largely with property taxes is unfair and unsustainable, which is why I believe it’s past time for broad structural changes that are more equitable and put an end to divisiveness within communities. We need to take an honest, fresh look at our state’s revenue problem and stop downshifting more and more costs to local communities, placing an incredible burden on property taxpayers.

As a New Hampshire senator, I will bring my deep public service experience, steadfast commitment to helping others, and hope to re-imagine how we can make a safe and healthy New Hampshire for everyone – regardless of race, gender, ZIP code, or economic status.

It is time to demand bold and just change that translates our democratic values into meaningful action. This will require fresh perspectives from compassionate leaders who bring a different type of experience to the table. We need a deep commitment to meeting the trials of the moment while building a 21st-century New Hampshire that maintains our unique way of life in a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable manner.

(Becky Whitley is a candidate for New Hampshire Senate District 15, which includes Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton, and Warner.)


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