Executive Council Rejects Federal Funds for Rail Study

While all eyes were on the House rollback of women’s rights yesterday, the state’s Executive Council was rejecting a $3.2 million federal grant to help pay for a feasibility study for a commuter rail line between Boston and Concord.

The federal grant, which had strong bipartisan support from Gov. Lynch, Nashua officials and business leaders, would have funded most of the $3.6 million feasibility study. The remainder would have come from private donors and state-backed bonds in a previous public works budget.

Councilors Wheeler, Sununu and St. Hilaire voted against accepting the grant. Colin Van Ostern, who is running against St. Hilaire for the District Two council seat, accused the council of putting “their personal anti-government zeal ahead of a practical bipartisan solution — this time, one that would have cut commuting costs and helped economic development across the Greater Concord area.”

Former state senator Peter Burling, the past chairman of a rail transit authority that has pushed for the project, was upset by the vote. The refusal to use federal money to simply study the issue left him “breathless with incredulity,” and the funding will likely now be used by another state, he said.

“It felt like foolishness,” he said. “It felt like ignorance triumphing over inquiry.”

“The action by three executive councilors, who decided based on dogma instead of information, is an overt insult to the nonpartisan donors of the original effort,” he said.


15 Responses to Executive Council Rejects Federal Funds for Rail Study

  1. hannah March 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    referred to as “populism” is what they are against. “Big government” is a euphemism for popular government or the people governing.  Since the people still have the vote, it wouldn’t be politic to admit that they are to be dissed, dismissed and deprived of their rights.

    What’s handy about dividing the world into good and bad is that one can ham-string the good to promote the bad with hardly anyone noticing.

  2. FrankLloydMike March 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I sent letters to each of the executive councilors, and a second one to Dan St. Hilaire specifically after I heard that he was on the fence.

    The foolishness and shortsightedness of this decision is appalling and breathtaking, but unfortunately hardly surprising.

    I can’t even begin to understand how these people fail to realize that they are resigning New Hampshire to a future of being passed by by its neighbors. The state–and especially its Merrimack Valley cities (and the airport)–can not compete as long as close-minded radical individualists remain in power.

    What really kills me about this whole thing, though, is that even with St. Hilaire’s ridiculously pathetic excuse for voting against this, he was voting basically to block his ears. This wasn’t a grant to build commuter rail–it was a grant to study it! It would have cost the state nothing, and it would have addressed questions about cost, feasibility, viability and alternatives to commuter rail. If St. Hilaire and others (only 5% of residents according to UNH study last year) really believe that commuter rail is wrong for the state, then they should have the courage and confidence to approve a study that would have evaluated that. Of course, they probably know that the 75% of residents who support commuter rail are right, and that it would benefit the state, but they’re too afraid to find that out for sure.

    Part of the problem is that O’Brien’s sideshow (on full display yesterday) takes attention away from issues like the Executive Council playing politics with commuter rail. While 75% of New Hampshire residents support commuter rail, I bet the percentage of people aware of the BS that passed as policy yesterday is in the single digits. Unfortunately, the circus is in town at least until November.

    In an effort to make sure the circus packs up, St. Hilaire’s bold display of forward-thinking yesterday got me to finally donate to Colin Van Ostern. I just hope that this money isn’t diverted to another state in the meantime.

    • JonnyBBad March 8, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

      “While 75% of New Hampshire residents support commuter rail, I bet the percentage of people aware of the BS that passed as policy yesterday is in the single digits. Unfortunately, the circus is in town at least until November.”

      so who is voting ?

      • Rep. Jim Splaine March 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

        “…the circus is in town at least until November.”

        I think the circus tent tumbles in November.  Election Day is just 242 days from now, just over 34 weeks.  

        Then the clowns are out of work, and the elephants can go home.    

      • FrankLloydMike March 8, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

        2010 was an odd–and almost certainly unlikely to be repeated–year: Republicans are never going to have that set of circumstances again, and I don’t think so few Democrats are going to show up at polls as they did in 2010 any time soon. Finally, the current circus is doing a great job of showing centrists and independents in New Hampshire that the Republican Party locally is no longer the moderate Yankee party that passed contraception coverage and an income tax in the 1990s.

        That brings me to my next point–I think the results of 2010 have shown people that who they’re voting for doesn’t always align with what they’re voting for. In 2010, a lopsided turnout resulted in huge Republican victories (though several Republicans sneaked by with narrow margins of victory). Only a few months later, in January and February 2011, UNH found that an overwhelming 75% of residents supported the commuter rail project, and 69% supported accepting the federal money for the study that the EC just rejected.

        What that tells me in part is that voters in 2010 elected Republicans as part of the Republican tide that year, but that they expected to see the sort of ostensibly sensible Yankee Republicans they remembered: Republicans who would support commuter rail, for instance. Obviously there’s more to it than that, but I don’t think the voters will be making the same mistake in 2012 or any time soon.

        For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here’s the UNH poll from last year: http://www.nh.gov/dot/programs…  

        • JonnyBBad March 9, 2012 at 7:41 am #

          “…the percentage of people aware of the BS that passed as policy yesterday is in the single digits.” This leads to the question that if they don’t know what is happening in the Statehouse in the main, how does that 75% opinion group translate into votes for Democrats…please demonstrate.

          • FrankLloydMike March 9, 2012 at 8:13 am #

            I’m just saying I hope it does. Everything I said (except for the support for rail, which is from the UNH poll) is anecdotal. I was surprised to see front page coverage of the EC rejection in the Union Leader at least, and prominent coverage in the Monitor and Telegraph online (not sure where the story was in print), so maybe more people will be aware of it than I thought.

            I do, however, think (again, just anecdotally) that the antics in Concord are probably having a cumulative effect–I doubt that the EC rejecting the money is enough for most passive voters to vote Democratic, but I’m guessing that the collection of actions like that are causing plenty of people to feel buyer’s remorse from 2010. And I’m hoping that those people are beginning to see that the Republicans they thought they voted for are probably not the Republicans they elected.

            • JonnyBBad March 9, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

              From what we’ve seen recently over the course of their primary,the core of that party,yes “that one”,is made up of fundamentalist Catholics(Papists?)like Santorum, Evangelical Christians, and some ultra Orthodox Jews who comport with the Evangelicals over the existence of Israel…that is it.

              So who are the R’s people think they elected? They never knew who they were voting for,and didn’t care perhaps because they weren’t voting for them, but rather voting against what they perceived as a lack of the Democrats ability after two years of the WH and Congressional control to Fix It.
              I think there is a similar dynamic in play, ie, “where is my _____, what happened to it?”….fill in the blanks…Health Care, Education, Home Mortgage, Retirement…we still have deep structural problems of declining or stagnant real wages,increasing costs of Health care, and the jobs we create are service jobs more than anything else. I have yet to hear a Republican with a real plan to bring back good paying, solid jobs for working class America. “Attack Women~Vote Republican 2012” now there’s a strategy. This attack has done more to help Democrats chances than anything Democrats could have done.

  3. Douglas E. Lindner March 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Colin Van Ostern is running against Dan St. Hilaire, the deciding vote. Contribute to Colin’s campaign:


  4. cmnh March 8, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    run them out of town on a rail come November.

  5. Putney Swope March 9, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    It’s time for Deb Pignatelli to stop this BS.

  6. milfordmusings March 9, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    The Nashua Telegraph had a nice editorial on Friday about Wheeler’s vote:

    We’ve heard a lot of cockamamie excuses from our elected leaders over the years, but they don’t get much lamer than those offered Wednesday by District 5 Executive Councilor David Wheeler of Milford.

    We would like to see I-93 widened, too, but why does this have to be an either or? Why couldn’t the state pursue funding for I-93 and authorize a feasibility study of expanded rail service using the $4.1 million in federal funds the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority had secured for this very purpose? Why not both?

    As for Wheeler, we found his arguments unconvincing, to say the least.

    Or maybe, just maybe, it was simply a matter of Republicans voting against the rail study because Democratic President Barack Obama is such a strong advocate of expanding high-speed rail service throughout the country.

    If that’s the case, we wish Wheeler would have just said so. At least that’s something we can understand.

    Here is the entire article:  http://www.nashuatelegraph.com

    • milfordmusings March 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      The Union Leader editorial today praised Dave Wheeler:

      It was particularly notable that Councilor David Wheeler, who represents Nashua, voted against the study. Nashua business owners and politicians are gung-ho for passenger rail. They say it represents the future of the city. It means so much to them that they helped raise $120,000 to offset the state’s portion of the cost of the commuter rail study. And that represents the problem with passenger rail in a nutshell.

      As usual, the Union Leader is against public spending unless it benefits their agenda.  They are also in favor of politicians voting against the interests of their constituents unless it benefits their agenda.

      Here is a link to the entire editorial:  http://www.unionleader.com/art

  7. Chaz Proulx March 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    The dumb meter is now broken from overuse.

    Words continue to fail.

    Thanks to all the people who stayed home in 2010.

    • GreyMike March 10, 2012 at 5:22 am #

      up to 11.

Site maintenance and hosting by Hoeferweb