Kuster Op Ed: Views from the North Country
There are few places in New Hampshire – or anywhere else, for that matter – as majestic as the North Country.
For three days at the end of the summer, I once again got to experience the region’s breathtaking mix of diverse wildlife, picturesque landscapes, and strong communities. But, I was also reminded that, like elsewhere in the state, it’s the people -- strong, resilient, and always working together – that give the region its special character.
Over 72 hours in late August, I visited friends and neighbors in Berlin, Gorham, Errol, Colebrook, Jefferson, Littleton, and other towns as part of my “North Country Listening Tour.” I toured area hospitals, spoke with local business owners, and had the pleasure of meeting with many of our brave veterans. Each person I spoke with had their own story and their own experiences. But everywhere I went, one common thread connecting the people of the North Country was the proud sense of community and collaboration that binds the region together.
Throughout the North Country, like elsewhere in New Hampshire, neighbors work together every day to address the critical issues facing their community. In Berlin, I spoke with the owners of White Mountain Lumber who are working with area conservation groups, local municipalities, and fellow North Country businesses to preserve forestlands and protect forestry jobs. In Colebrook, I heard from administrators at Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital, who are working to coordinate services with other North Country hospitals to increase efficiency and improve care. And in Gorham, I met with local veterans and community partners who are working together to ensure that our heroes have access to the services they deserve.
Jobs, health care, conservation. The people of the North Country understand that these issues aren’t about politics. They aren’t about being a Democrat or Republican. These are vital community issues essential to the North Country, and people from across the region are working together for the good of their families, their neighbors, and their state.
That kind of dedication and cooperation isn’t restricted to the North Country. It’s a proud New Hampshire tradition. Granite Staters have a long history of putting partisanship aside and coming together to solve problems and strengthen our communities. I wish I could say the same for Washington.
Unfortunately, many of my colleagues in Congress seem more focused on what divides us rather than unites us. We are now facing a government shutdown because some of my peers refused to find common ground and pass a responsible budget.
It’s not that there’s no common ground to be found. Throughout my time in Congress, I have joined with members of both parties in supporting common sense, bipartisan legislation that could cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste without undermining priorities we need to strengthen the middle class. And yet partisan bickering and gamesmanship has once again gotten in the way of progress.
Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. should take a lesson from our friends and neighbors in the North Country. They should see how communities in this region work together to get the job done. They should remember what’s possible when we put solving problems ahead of politics. By joining forces, leaders in the North Country are preserving the region’s precious resources, reviving its economy, and serving its veterans, and they’re doing so without the political gamesmanship that so often grinds Congress to a dysfunctional halt.
That’s a North Country tradition as strong and proud as the region itself. I look forward bringing that kind of common sense back to Washington.
Congresswoman Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.