Portsmouth Pro Liberty!

Last year’s resolution was to get involved with local politics and to write about it, which I mostly did. Not quite weekly, but hey.

This year, I created a new organization. This grew out of some conversations leading up to the election; there was a taxpayers’ group in Portsmouth, but no general liberty organization. Well, there is now.

Announcing Portsmouth Pro Liberty. Currently it is a blog and a mailing list, and we are small, but we are more than just me. Come join us. Check out that site, and e-mail info@portsmouthproliberty.org if you are interested.

Portsmouth election returns

The bad news is that neither serious fiscal conservative, Jack Thorsen or Bill St. Laurent, was elected to City Council. The incumbents endorsed by the Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers all were returned, so here’s hoping they live up to their rhetoric. Promising newcomer Tom Martin was elected to the School Board, so that’s something.

The City Council numbers are very interesting. There is a clear division between the top eleven and the bottom three. Incumbent Laura Pantelakos and previous councilman St. Laurent finished a few hundred behind the last elected council member; then there is a big drop-off of nearly 500 votes to the last three. Ryan Baker and Jack Thorsen would have been newcomers to Portsmouth elected office, and David Adams’s previous experience was only on the Historic District Commission. The two newly-elected council members are Tony Coviello, a veteran of the Planning Committee who was encouraged to run by the mayor, and Bob Lister, who was the School Superintendent for years.

It shows, to me, the parochial nature of local politics. To get elected, one must already have some kind of profile; that means getting appointed to some board or other, or having a very large and strong community support network. Running as a maverick may be satisfying, but is unlikely to be successful.

Meanwhile, I see that our neighbors to the east have voted to continue marriage apartheid. The silver lining is that perhaps it will drive Down Easters who value personal liberty to the Free State.

Voting time!

Unless you’re one of the voluntaryists who has given up on the state altogether, tomorrow is an important day! Cities in New Hampshire all have their municipal elections.

Get out and vote! If you can take time off work, go hold a sign for a candidate or two. If you’re in Portsmouth, help David inform the voters about taxers.

I will be voting for Jack Thorsen, Bill St. Laurent, and Esther Kennedy for City Council, and Tom Martin for School Board. There are other candidates whom I find acceptable, though not great, but with a multiple-seat election like this, limiting one’s votes increases their strength.

Thoughts on Crime of the Century

Jason Howard, member of Seacoast Liberty wrote the following based on a beer bust that occurred earlier during the week.

This letter is meant to address the 19 Seacoast area teenagers that were charged in connection with a Saturday  night drinking party on Oct. 10, in Kittery, as reported in the Foster’s Daily Democrat.  I would like to help these teens by giving them the benefit of my years of experience.  I would hope you consider these arrests a wakeup call on how the real world works.  You need to understand that you live in a free country and in a free country you can’t just do what you want, even if what you do does not harm anyone else.  You see, individuals do not have the right to make decisions for themselves.  Only our infallible Govt. has that right.  Our founding fathers understood this principle well.  In fact, the founding fathers overthrew British rule because King George was too far away to effectively control and tyrannize the population of the Colonies so they decided to set one up closer to home. You are ruled over by wise and benevolent masters called politicians and bureaucrats.  Their dictates are enforced by loving men with guns that will threaten you with violence or commit violence against you if you don’t do what they say, even if what you are doing does harm to no one. Alcohol use is evil and a plague upon society.  That is why Politicians and Police Officers in there inestimable wisdom never drink. The evidence of the wisdom of politicians is all around us.  Just look the fabulous condition of our roads, the high quality education of our public schools, and the amazing ability of the Govt. to control spending and reduce the tax burden on the public.  Many of you are legally adults and probably don’t understand how at 18 you are allowed to make the decision to go fight and possibly die for your govt. in the military, but you aren’t allowed make the decision to drink alcohol.  Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but the moral to the story is don’t ever disobey the Govt. or they’ll come get you.

APT endorsement announcements

The Association of Porstmouth Taxpayers has announced its 2009 endorsements.

To be clear, APT is not a libertarian group. They—I suppose I should say, we—are focused exclusively on fiscal responsibility. That doesn’t even necessarily mean smaller government; it means that the taxes collected should be used effectively and efficiently. However, they were the closest thing to an existing liberty-leaning group I could find in Portsmouth, and I hope to be an advocate for more non-governmental options there. (For example, I think that a lot of arts and sports programs currently run by the city could be done better by non-profit organizations. The programs could continue, and even improve, but be funded by donations instead of taxes.)

It is a little odd to note that, of the eight candidates running for re-election to City Council, APT has endorsed six. This is really a recognition of the zero budget increase that came through this year, whereas a more strongly libertarian organization would only have endorsed candidates supportive of actual budget cuts.

I will also personally endorse Jack Thorsen; I think he is as good or better than any of the candidates endorsed here.

The process was certainly interesting, and is a good reason for libertarians to get involved with established single-issue groups. Nearly all of the candidates appeared in person for interviews, and it was a good chance to meet and talk with most of the current members of City Council and School Board.

Advice on running for office

It has been a very busy few weeks. Helping a friend recover from surgery, the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival (thanks for the plug, Tom!), and the Association of Portsmouth Taxpayers candidate interviews.

It is interesting to me how Porcupines are doers. The New Hampshire Sports & Social Club is one of the highlights of the Portsmouth social scene—started by Free Stater Keith Murphy in Manchester. The Manchester Brewing Co. products recently showed up in my local corner shop (Imperial Blonde is not really my style, but Koncord Kombat is excellent). And I ended up organizing and running the candidate interviews for APT, after only being involved with them for less than a year—because I wanted them to get done and was willing to do the work. I’ll post about the results after the press release goes out later today.

What I want to write about today is the reality of some frequently-repeated advice to would-be candidates: Get involved in your community. This is usually followed with assertions that people vote for candidates they know (and like) personally, more than they vote for political opinions, at least at the local level. And that may be true.

But one thing I saw during this interview process was several new candidates who espoused positions compatible with the taxpayers, but who did not get endorsements—mostly, because the committee members had never heard of them before. If these folks really cared about controlling City government spending, why hadn’t they been at City Council meetings before? Why hadn’t they been involved with the APT (at least for more than a month or two before the election)? Why hadn’t they served on local boards or commissions? Several of the candidates had good answers to these questions, I think; starting families, running businesses, etc. But given limited advertising space and an unwillingness to trust the promises of politicians (and yes, once you file to run for office, you are a politician), it was hard to endorse an unknown candidate based on their say-so.

And that leads me to my real point—getting involved gives you a track record. Someone who has been speaking at City Council meetings, writing letters to the editor, doing community charity work, coaching a Little League team, or attending weekly peace vigils is putting their views on record. They are demonstrating a willingness to work to change their community, and demonstrating the values and methods that they prefer, or at least are comfortable with.

We libertarians are suspicious of those who seek power over us, and most Americans share that suspicion at some level. So when someone’s first foray into the public arena is seeking power—even if they claim to be a libertarian who wants to use that power to reduce government power—the electorate doesn’t quite believe it. So put your time where your mouth is. Demonstrate your commitment to non-government approaches to changing your community and to reducing government power before you seek government office.