This was published as an op-ed in the August 31, 2012 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper. The town of Fryeburg, ME is just over the border from where I live in northern NH. Nestle has torn the town of Fryeburg apart - and the water war continues.
The NH legislature pushed through a Voter ID law for our state, despite the absence of proof of any actual fraud occurring. There’s a lot of anecdotal talk of “busloads of people from Massachusetts” coming to the polls and voting, by people swearing they’ve seen it. Under questioning, however, they were remarkably passive in the face of massive voter fraud. Not a one of them ever so much as mentioned it to the cop stationed at the polls, nor did they tell moderator, call the Sec. of State or the AG’s office, or even take a picture with their cell phone.
Voter fraud has always been a solution in search of a bunch of actual election thieves, and thanks to ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) Voter ID laws were passed in a number of states over the last few years. A percentage of voters in each of these states have been disenfranchised. That was the goal: to make sure poor people, students, poor people of color, and old people weren’t able to vote. If they could only get rid of that pesky 19th Amendment, they’d be well on their way to the dictatorship they crave.
The US Constitution gives us the right to vote. It doesn’t mention cashing checks, flying, or entering government buildings. Just voting. When someone gives you all of those reasons as to why you should WANT to have Voter ID laws, feel free to bring that up. Bear in mind that you will be making that point to the same people who claim to love the Constitution more than life itself. None of their evidence of voter fraud holds up, even the attempt made here by Breitbart acolyte and faux journalist James O’Keefe who attempted to prove voter fraud in NH by asking for ballots of people who were actually dead. Well, some of them were dead anyhow. The living ones weren’t very happy. O’Keefe doesn’t dare to come back to NH, because he’ll be given a grand jury subpoena if he does, and he’s already on probation for attempting to bug US Senator Mary Landrieu’s office, while posing as a telephone repair man.
The biggest single incidence of voter fraud took place in Florida, in November of 2000. The GOP does not wish to discuss that.
In any case, the new state Voter ID law is available on the NH Secretary of State's website or in an easily printed out pdf from the NH League of Women Voter's site. The state primary election is on Sept. 11, and for that primary, nothing has changed. You will not be required to show ID to get a ballot. Ballot clerks will ask for ID, and give those who don’t produce one a handout on the future requirements of the new law. For the November 6 General Election, you will be asked to show ID. If you do not, you will be asked to sign a voter affidavit. The Secretary of State’s office will contact you to confirm that you voted. The list of acceptable ID’s is available at either of the above websites. Please share this information with your friends and neighbors, because a lot of incorrect information is being circulated. One local town clerk sent out a highly edited version of the law. It wasn’t dishonest, but it wasn’t 100% accurate, either. This matters. At a time when our voting rights are under assault by the corporate puppet masters of the GOP, it’s damned important that we pay attention, and know the exact letter of the law.
There’s a group called Commit2Vote2012 that is sending out voter registration packets in NH. This is a project of Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist religious group who apparently didn’t bother to do any research before they tried focusing on NH families. NH doesn’t have a motor voter law in place that allows third party voter registrations. If you sign the Commit2Vote forms, you will not be registered to vote, you’ll just be on their mailing list for life. Just say no to Focus on the Family.
In other local news, the Fryeburg water situation is rearing its ugly head again. This time, the Fryeburg Water Company (a privately held utility) is asking for a long-term commitment from Nestle/Poland Spring (the multinational corporation that is pumping water from Fryeburg and selling it at an enormous profit. Nestle would buy a guaranteed amount of water, and pay $12,000 a month in rental fees, for the privilege of taking that water. That adds up to $144,000 a year. Nestle’s profit on water sales in 2009 was upwards of $4.2 billion. The deal would be in place for 25 years. This new deal has to be approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The Maine PUC made this information public just last week, and the period for public comment ends on Sept. 4. It’s worth pointing out that two of the three PUC commissioners have worked for Nestle in the past. In other words – this is being shoved through with great haste, and in hopes of little public attention.
Meanwhile, the Fryeburg Water District is considering going inactive. The Fryeburg Water District is an independent municipal board that was originally created by the ME legislature in the event that Fryeburg Water Co. decided to sell. That was before Nestle. A couple of remarkable coincidences are taking place. First, FWD trustee Dick Krasker took some time off from the board. He was reelected in June, and within a week made the motion to put the district in inactive status. The other Big Remarkable Coincidence is that this is happening right now, when the Nestle/Fryeburg Water Co. deal is going down. Making the FWD inactive would mean an end to any sort of public oversight over the whole issue of water in Fryeburg. It’s not exactly rocket science to understand why Nestle wants the FWD to go away, and Nestle has proven to be remarkably efficient at getting its way in Fryeburg.
Folks in East Conway should be paying attention to this, since it’s your water, too. In fact, we should all be contacting our legislators and asking them to push for the PUC to extend the comment period and do a thorough examination of the Nestle/Fryeburg Water contract. The financial health of the Fryeburg Water Company should also be scrutinized. We should also all be asking PUC Commissioners Welsh and Vannoy to recuse themselves, due to conflict of interest. They’ve both worked for Nestle (one as a lawyer, one as an engineer) in the past.
The unseemly haste and lack of transparency that is transpiring here should serve as a warning sign that something is wrong with all of this, and will almost certainly be to the detriment of the town of Fryeburg and all area water users.
“In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.” Rachel Carson
cross-posted at susanthebruce