Photo from the Japan Times
On Wednesday, September 8th I sat down in the Keene Library Annex and talked to State Senate Candidate Kris Roberts. Roberts is running for the District 10 Senate seat which covers the southwestern part of the state including, Alstead, Chesterfield, Gilsum, Harrisville, Hinsdale, Keene, Marlborough, Nelson, Roxbury, Sullivan, Surry, Swanzey, Walpole, Westmoreland, and Winchester.
Roberts is currently serving as a Keene school board member and as a representative in the State House for Cheshire, District 16. He has served as a state representative since 2004. Roberts was also the city councilor at large, was chair of the Keene Board of Education and also sits on the school board, a position he’s held for 13 years.
Bio from Ballotpedia: “Roberts earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts and History, and a B.A. in Social Science from Keene State College. Roberts’ education also includes attending the United States Army Engineer School; certification in global logistics from the State University of California-Long Beach; logistics from United States Marine Advance Logistics and executive development from United States Army Associate Executive Development. Roberts served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserves from 1977 to 2002.”
Also its noteworthy to state, since for the sake of time we didn’t get into his personal history, but that Roberts stated in an interview with Rights and Democracy, that he grew up in a family of 10. Raised by a single mother in Massachusetts, Roberts overcame a hard-scrabble childhood and he said, “by luck and good genes” he was able to overcome some serious obstacles put before him early in his life.
Roberts is not the choice of the New Hampshire Democratic party since they have brought out an opponent to run against him in the primary. Roberts is aware that his sometimes iconoclastic views have not set well with the Democratic establishment in the state, particularly his support of charter schools which separates him from most of the Democratic establishment. For the sake of time, we did not get into the charter school issue and Roberts did not bring it up on his own.
So did you grow up in New England?
“I grew up in Massachusetts and Rhode Island mostly Fall River Massachusetts. I came to Massachusetts in 1972 to go to college here, Keene State and then I graduated in ‘77 and went into the Marine Corps. As everybody knows the Marine Corps is pretty tough on the body. I officially retired from the Marine Corps in 2002. My body was pretty well beat up so I ended up with 80% service connected disability. So I pretty stuck, couldn’t do my science and engineering that I was well trained for so I figured what else could I do, so that’s when I went into public service.”
So you were trained as an engineer?
“Yes, engineer and finance. I had been down in Panama for six months building schools and roads and wells and I had been all over all kinds of places doing that kinds of stuff, but with the traumatic brain injury that ended and some days were good and some days were bad and when you are in engineering and finance you can’t afford bad days.”
What was the cause of the injury?
“It was a combination of, when I was in the Marine Corps, I had seven confirmed concussions and we didn’t think much of it in the 70’s and 80’s. Being an engineer we were using explosives all the time and we’d say ‘Wow that really rang your bell.’ The concussive effects, its an accumulation of having those injuries from the constant exposure to explosives. So, I didn’t I want to stay home and feel sorry myself, but I had a lot of training and education that came out to fit me to the public sector.”
What was first your first foray into the public sector?
“The first time I ran was before the school board and I was the number one vote getter which was really surprising because the only reason I put my name in was because I always sick and tired of three people for the same three slots and because like in a small town they would hand pick the people for the city council, the school board, the state house.”
“Then I went and ran for the state house in 2004. I remember ticking off the county party chairman when he asked me, ‘Who did you ask to run?’ and I said I didn’t ask anybody to run I just went down and signed up. I’m thinking wait a minute, I spent all this time in the military saving your ass and now I have to ask for permission to run for office?”
“And so going through and then the last two times I was the number one vote getter and then in 2007 I ran for the city council and I was the last person to make it, but the last two elections I was the number one vote getter. The parties to be were not really happy with me.”
“Because I’m not part of the good old boy system. In a lot of ways it was kind like I was a loose cannon, I wouldn’t vote the party line, I would vote the issue.”
We’re going to have some questions about the issues, especially issues that have come up in the state house repeatedly.
“Yeah, there have been some weird issues.”
Let’s jump right into social issues since that’s what everyone loves to talk about. Firstly, where do you stand on women’s right to choose?
“I personally don’t favor abortion but like I told my daughters if got pregnant and they choose to have an abortion, I support them I support the unlimited right to choose for the first six months. I have a problem with partial birth abortion and I would like to see the adoption laws changed – well if its in a case of the woman’s health, up to the delivery date, the woman’s health is the primary concern.”
Actually that’s the time case when partial birth abortion is used. The state house Republicans have been trying to defund Planned Parenthood which will cause low income women to not have access to affordable birth control and other services.
“That is a stupid plan and one of the reasons is they are using a false. Planned Parenthood cannot use money to fund abortions because of the Hyde Amendment, plain and simple. So they’re trying to say Planned Parenthood is an abortion clinic, no, when you look at the whole works, for low income women that is, the only place they can get woman’s healthcare is Planned Parenthood.”
“A lot of women don’t want to have babies, you have these unplanned babies — but if you have cheap or accessible birth control that does away with a lot of unplanned babies whether you have three year, five year there’s now even a ten year uterine device that protects women. Because unplanned babies reduce a woman’s opportunity for education and self sufficiency and unplanned babies cost the state more money. So for me it’s [the controversy] just political.”
“I know Republicans who do support Planned Parenthood because they know someone who has to use it because they may be low income and they use it for birth control. And it’s just like some Republicans will say ‘No abortion” but they have no problem spending to send their daughter is she has a great future or their son just knocked somebody up so they say, ‘Oh yeah, let’s just go down to Massachusetts,’ so its hypocrisy plain and simple.”
“Jesse Ventura the former governor, the wrestler, he says, ‘These guys aren’t pro-life, these guys are pro-birth, once the baby’s born they don’t want to supply any social services for the baby,’ If you’re pro-life you’re going to provide services all the way up so the kid will have an opportunity to have a productive life. Again, that’s the hypocrisy of it all.”
Gay Rights – We know that the state legislature has passed right to marry and we know that Republicans want to remove that, would you protect that right?
“Yes, if we go back to HB436, the Marriage Equality bill, Jim Splain if you remember, I went to the floor three times to get it to passed, because the game was the governor didn’t want it to pass the first time and it failed and we twisted a couple of people’s arms to get it to pass and then it went to the Senate and another state representative and I had put in an amendment that would say two times of marriages and it would be official and it was blown out of the water, but when the Republicans put it back on thinking it would die in conference and it came back and we fought that again and the governor went and said well if you don’t pass this bill I’m not gonna sign and it went to the floor and got that one to pass and then the third one was HB73 I think it was and the governor said this bill has to pass or I’m not going to sign this so we were able to get all three bills passed and then about two hours later the governor signed all over them.”
“I didn’t vote for gay marriage, I voted for marriage equality because I don’t think the government has any business in the marriage business. You know if two people whether the same sex or opposite sex want to get married they should not have to justify to the government their reason for getting married, so right now in New Hampshire we are completely marriage equality, we were the first state to do that and I think we did it perfectly and the other guy I was working with, he was a Republican and the Republicans went after him big time and got him voted out of office. On marriage equality, one of the things I used was what old Chief Justice John Jay said “marriage is a contract” and you can’t discriminate against those who can enter a contract, so that way we were able to get it passed.”
On expanding Medicaid, it has already passed but the Republicans keep wanting to take it back, would you defend it?
“The first would be to take the “every two year” out. It is ridiculous. If you go to a doctor for cancer, how do you know he’s going to pick you up [as a patient] if he thinks you might not have medical coverage in two years? You know maybe some doctors would but basically the health profession is a business, they’re there to make a profit. I’d like to bring it up to 150% of poverty and bring it up to 200% of poverty. I think 200% would be about the highest New Hampshire would go, some states are at a higher level, but I think even 200% of poverty in not very much money.”
What about a state or national broad healthcare program, that is healthcare for all?
“We need one and we need one bad. Like I told you before I had a serious stroke in 2014, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t speak and couldn’t do anything but I had great health insurance and basically I spent 165 days in the hospital and in a nursing home and I had to pay less than $1,000 and I over 500 sessions of therapy, so now I walk and now I talk and I do a lot of things, there’s things I can’t do, but I’ve accepted that.”
“When was in the nursing home, or even in rehab they evaluate whether they think you are going to come out of the rehab, but I could not see anybody in rehab that did not have insurance – and that was the acute rehab. The bill for the forty days I think was what $143,000 and I paid $440. I looked at the room and said I could have gone to Club Med and it might have been cheaper.”
“Then I went to the nursing home for four months and that’s when I really found out there were people that were leaving on the twentieth day and asked how come they’re leaving and they said well Medicare only pays twenty days and you look at them and say boy in another month these people could return to a productive state and others were leaving at 100 hundreds because they had Medicaid Advantage or whatever and so they paid a certain amount more. But basically I’m looking, I stayed past the hundredth day and I was approved for 180 days right up front.”
“Also with single payer national healthcare, we have to have some kind of long-term disability or short-term disability fund, because I was retired and I got my check every month and I didn’t have to worry about the mortgage or any of that and I’ve talked to people who had to go back. So now I can see how a serious heart attack or a stroke can force people go into bankruptcy. You got that choice, ‘Do you get better or do you get bankrupt?’
“It’s quite a different learning experience when you are inside experiencing this stuff. Also I’ve seen people game the system, put their money in trust and got on Medicaid or Medicare and have the taxpayers paying all their high bills while they get to get all kinds of care and they are often the people that could have afforded Medicaid Advantage or long term healthcare.”
One of the things you didn’t mention in your history today but did mention in your interview with Rights and Democracy was that you grew up in a family headed by a single mother.
Do you support philosophically the concept of a strong social safety net?
“Yes, not like Neal Kurk [long serving, fiercely fiscally conservative state Representative from Hillsborough 2] who wants to kill it all. I’ll give you a personal example, my daughter was 20 years old, she was pregnant and she wasn’t married and we talked with her and about what she wants to do. If you have the baby we’ll help you take care of it. She said “I want the baby.” Ok, you can have the baby but you have to follow my rules and we’ll send you to school to become an LNA and go to Claremont. She started that when her baby was about six months old and I watch him. So she went to school and got her LNA and started working at the county nursing home. Then I says, ok time for you to go to school again, you’re going back to Claremont. So she got her LPN, then she kept and we kept helping her along and then she got her RN from Vermont Tech and then her got her BS in from Phoenix and now she’s the head of infection control at the nursing home. But I was her safety net.”
“Childcare was $600 a month, how can a woman work fulltime, pay childcare and then try get to school. You have to have a certain amount of time to recover and bond with the kids. Even if you got six months old, because six months is important because there’s a big drop in childcare costs at six months or older and you have to do that. And the other part that may be controversial is I think that we need to hold men accountable. New Hampshire has one of the worst systems of child support collection.”
“My brother came up here, he got a girl pregnant, he want to Massachusetts, the child is fourteen years old now and he stays out of trouble with the state of New Hampshire because he pays five dollars a month. My daughter, I was saying, she got married then she got divorced because he drank and he didn’t like to work. Well he owed up to thirty thousand dollars, every now and then he would pay a little bit to stay out of court. Then he applied for social security disability, so woosh, its gone, he’s disabled now and he doesn’t have to pay.”
What would you do to change that system? There seems to be a lot of focus on the mother and not a lot of focus on fathers.
“It takes two to produce a baby and fathers have a responsibility. Like I said I met my father a couple of times and every time I met him he would give my mother a couple twenty dollar bills and I remember would always put them in her bra. But he did not contribute anything financially or emotionally or anything to my growing up and I was lucky and I had the right genes and I had intelligence and I could do things, but five my siblings were addicts and they’ve all been in trouble. My other brother, he just addict and he got dependent on the Oxycontin and his wife had really good insurance and he could get really good rehab. If you told me I get someone pregnant I’m gonna lose 20% of all my future earnings. You know I might say you, is this really worth the risk?”
Do you support sex education in schools?
“Yes, not abstinence. I remember growing up people said, ‘You teach them sex education they are going to have babies.’
Speaking of addiction, what would propose to do about opioid addiction crisis?
“Keene is pretty close if not the worst in the state. We have over 2,000 addicts so basically if you walk down the street in Keene, one out of every ten people you see are addicts. And that 2,000 doesn’t count the people that are abusing or abusing other drugs. I brought that issue up back in 2004 when we had that at risk assessment and we had something like 11% or 7% I can’t remember kids that were taking heroin and every two years we’d get the report says, ‘Nope, nope the kids are lying.’ ”
Where did you hear that?
“Oh the parents and the school board because it doesn’t look good if you have a high drug use, so they kept pushing against us, we even had a big committee to look into it and how we deal with it and it still didn’t go until we had a 25 year old teacher die of an overdose and she was on the front page. And all of a sudden it was like ‘Keene has a problem.’ It was one of those ‘Those people that are addicts.’ and once it came out that the teacher was an addict and people knew she was an addict and even kids were telling their parents but they were looking the other way. They said no way, a 25 year old school teacher, no way. Then after she died it came out that doctors were addicts and lawyers were addicts and they started coming out.”
NH has always ranked really high along national demographics and my personal experience with people who’ve struggled with alcohol or drug addiction is that rehabilitation especially in house services are almost unreachable. I have heard repeatedly in Manchester from social workers and alcoholics trying to get help, or their friends trying to help them that beds in the only affordable rehabilitation location in Manchester were always full.
Many say New Hampshire isn’t putting enough focus and funding on affordable and available rehabilitation services, would you agree and if so, what do you think should be done?
“NPR had a special a week ago and it said that it takes 7 stints in rehab on average for a person to be can control his or her addiction. The not politically correct thing is that one notices when you have a problem, you have people who look at this as a way ‘I can make a quick buck’ in some of these places you see advertising on TV. When you look at them you think , “No it’s a waste of money.’ But people think you can put someone in a three week treatment and then its bang-bang and its done.”
“But no, like I was telling the Keene Sentinel, first when you are in a mud hole and I take you home and I clean you up and then put you back in the mud hole. What have I accomplished? And so part of it is taking a person – an addict, you have to take them out of the environment that creates the addiction or gives them easy access. Then the other part is, on drugs you have to have a program where there’s an evaluation and the doctor decides “you have the ability to respond to a twelve-step program…” and you get a sponsor and that’s what you do. We do not have to find a three or six week bed for someone or maybe someone only needs a short stay and then there’s some people that might need a long stay.”
Do you think there’s a conflict in some of the state politics to resolving issues such as with Bill Shaheen’s connection with pain centers?
“Look, I am in pain all the time and I have the option to use OxyContin to control my pain. Sometimes the pain builds up so bad that I can’t sleep at night to I take ten milligrams of oxy and then its that quick once when I wake up in the morning and then I’m good to go. What the VA is doing is helping me with acupuncture. So instead of taking ten pills a day I maybe take just a few a week and I have weekly acupuncture and that levels the pain for about three days.”
“I’ll be going to yoga classes soon and then they sent me to the mindfulness and they do a tremendous way of controlling the pain without drugs. I’ve been in other states where there is pain management. I’ve gone before my stroke to the pain management clinic at the hospital. There’s a couple of times I’ve had RF’s that burn the nerve a little bit, so again I didn’t have to take pain pills all the time. So there are ways to do that. To me anybody that an addict (I’m not a doctor) is in some kind of pain, whether its physical or mental.”
“So you can’t control the addiction until you control the pain. I’ve got a broken back from a helicopter crash, I’ve had six pain blocks and the two RF’s but I don’t take any pain pills for that. If I had gone to another doctor I could have easily gotten heavy doses of pain medication to cover and sooner or later I was going to need more and more. Pain management and doctors that specialize in pain management are critical because they help address a lot of the addiction problems, because I’ve known, especially after the stroke, I’d become a raving violent lunatic and I didn’t realize what pain do to you.”
“Up at the state house the big problem is that you still got a lot of people – mostly Republicans but some Democrats who see addicts as weak people and so they place the blame totally on the individual. ‘I can drink six beers and I’m not an alcoholic, why is this guy and alcoholic,’ and so they place the blame totally on the individual. ‘Why should I give service consideration to a weakly?’ Some of those guys are stuck in not just 20th century but 19th century beliefs.”
Maggie Hassan pushed to increase funding for enforcement. Do you agree with this approach?
“Oh yeah, Granite Hammer. Granite Hammer is a waste. The money could be used better in other places. Like I gave the Keene Sentinel an analogy, the drug dealers send our troops and if we take them out they are replaced with others. We need to the distributors. Like for example, we have an individual in Keene, you see him all the time begging for money. The police won’t arrest because he’s on social security. Well, if I want to some heroin I can go to him and he’ll get it for me, but ok, who’s the guy who’s supplying it to him and to other guys? You are going to have to go deep under cover into the command structure, so do you arrest that guy? Do you put that guy in jail for two or three years? What have you have you accomplished? You haven’t accomplished anything and he’s quickly replaced on the street.”
When we talk about that that means having a treatment centered attack on drug addiction and not a punitive attack.
“Yes, if you look at the executive council just signed a deal to bring in more mental health funding. If I’m the chief in Keene and I’m going to arrest fifty addicts today and they get sentenced to a year in the corrections facility. Now addition is a mental health and a health condition. So in the jail I have to provide treatment for these people in jail. I spend x amount per day but they come out with a record too. It would be much cheaper to have a drug court. With that someone is able to stay at home and work but go to treatment for so many days and he doesn’t lose his and if you go to jail for so many days you lose your job. I’m a systems guy and I would say I’m like Mr. Spock, playing three dimensional chess knowing that if I make a move up here its going to have an effect down here, you have to look at the other costs. Politically its really great to arrest a lot of people, but your jail costs, disrupting families, welfare costs, but people don’t always look at that because just want to look at their little section.”
You’ve been on school board for awhile.
So I guess you are familiar with the issues of school funding in NH and the Claremont decision and without getting too complicated, do you support expanding or at least not cutting funding for education?
“We need to expand funding for education and the only way we’re going to expand funding for education is we have to redefine and adequate education. I voted against that in budget, I voted against the constitutional amendment because the speaker of the house says, for example says, ‘Here 1.1 million dollars now go and find an adequate education that matches 1.1.’ The court was upset because they found that they violated the spirit of the law and so they basically defined the adequate education as reading and writing and arithmetic and they looked at that and they said ‘Ok, that can be funded for $3400 and none of this extra stuff that you have to do.’ and I voted against it because I wanted a quality education which will get you into most four year colleges, an adequate education does not qualify you to get into really good schools. Governor Lynch said no donut towns but we’ve got towns that can spend a lot of money and we got other districts over here that can’t spend anything and they just like to do the bare minimum just to keep the state off their butt.”
Veterans – Supporting veterans, you are a veteran, how do you feel about veteran services being a veteran?
“One of the things I’m proud of is that I worked with Senator Joe Kenney and we were able to get the vet center in Keene and the vet center in Brattleboro. We also have a better transportation system to get vets up to White River Junction, which is a top medical center. They have quite a few really quality doctors. Manchester is only aligned with one of those small nursing schools, so they don’t have the ability to do what the other hospitals can do. What we pushed on was those C-Blocks around the state and they’re really good quality, if you have something serious they will send you down to Boston.”
“New Hampshire, we’re pretty good, the only complaint with some vets is that they have to go to Boston sometimes, well West Roxbury is one of the best hospitals and like I know one vet that had liver cancer, he complained that he had to go to Boston, but there was only 10 people in NH that had liver cancer, what do you expect? It works really good and they’re accepting more and more veterans coming in.”
What are your views on immigration in New Hampshire and the issue of diversity?
“Well first thing I was the one that see, Mayor Gatsas, he had a law that would ban refugees from coming to Manchester it was published that he said, ‘I get what I want.’ And I was the one who stepped up to get it defeated and I said, ‘Well I guess he didn’t get what he wanted this time.’ I just felt that it was totally discriminatory because when I went and did the research, what he was doing was this; he had really bad schools in Manchester and they were red-ling. He was putting poor students in there and he was blaming the refugees.”
“I did my research and found that the immigrants by and large were out performing others and so his justification for not having refugees was wrong. They didn’t go on welfare, they were doing their jobs, they were hard working. As for racism in the senate, its been 233 years and there hasn’t been a single person of color in the state senate. From the federal senate all the way down to the top 5 cities in New Hampshire there’s only six people of color serving in elected office and that’s why New Hampshire got an F in diversity in politics.”
“Like this election, none of the Democrats in the party are supporting me. Despite all the experience I have and in 2008 in the New York Times, a former councilman, well respected and ran with the upper crust said hey ‘I’m not gonna vote for that black man.’ That’s in the New York Times. [referencing Obama’s election].”
“Then in June of this year, one of the city councilors got up and said, ‘We don’t need anymore colored faces or gender faces,‘ and when the issue of diversity would come up they’d say, ‘We’re running really good so we don’t need to worry about diversity, the people voted, we don’t need any of this.’ People said that it happened and I didn’t believe them and I went and got the tape of the meeting. I was shocked and insulted and I put that down on Facebook to the Keene Democrats and the only reply was from one city council member and he said ‘Don’t go down that road.'”
“This part of the state has about half the state’s average for people of color. Part of my big thing is that I want to change the dynamics of this area. I know that looking around we’re one of the wealthiest places in this country, we’re ranked very high in assets. We have people who have over a million dollars and yet we have 15% poverty level. There’s a lot of immigrants come in and graduate from colleges. Between 2015 and 2040 we’re only projected to grow by 3,000 people a year – in the county.”
New Hampshire has a very large aging population as well.
“Yeah, we’re second in the country, so we’ve got people aging really quick and a below poverty population – the fastest growing population. We need to get people to come here and buy the houses, of all colors and start businesses and raise the economy.”
Speaking of people coming to live and work here and immigrants, let’s most on to issues of labor. When we talk about immigrants everybody brings up right? Of course and divided among the left and right its divided mostly by racism.
“Yeah, if I bring in a college educated person from England, Ireland and Canada, they’re not viewed negatively or Eastern Europeans – Russians and such. You can go to the top of Maine and down to North Carolina, you can go and see that most of those tourist places are staffed by Eastern Europeans.”
“The vast majority of people view immigrants of color as immigrants that are uneducated and that’s just the stereotype. You go to Dartmouth and to Yale, a lot of doctors are foreign, somehow if they come overseas and go to our colleges and stay here, they’re not immigrants but they’re here and NH needs to find a way to get more skilled people like them here.”
But the other issue is the misclassification of employees, that’s bad say in the construction industry.
“I got endorsed by the New Hampshire Building Trades and Construction Council.” [link to all endorsements and further information on Kris Roberts at end of interview].
“The problem is we got guys on the city council who own property and they use undocumented workers to work on their properties and it’s really amazing the people who will come out and bitch about it and are using them themselves. We got to hold people accountable. They bid a certain number and put the excess in their pocket instead of paying payroll taxes.”
“When I was on the school board and we got a 34 million contract to build a new middle school, I took advantage of a loophole in the law and said since they are going to be working on school property let’s do a background check on everybody. By background checking everybody, the company was forced to do the job and they didn’t make the money they wanted so they didn’t come back. So if you have a company to build a school such, you say, ‘Hey let’s do a background check,’ and you can make sure you have good contractors in there.”
Do you support getting a prevailing wage in New Hampshire?
“Yes, for example, the university system doesn’t want the prevailing wage because they can get out of state workers to work for less while we’re using tax payer funds on these projects even at Keene State when they put in all those dorms which are financed by the university system. They use workers from out of state so that money goes out of state.”
Would you be willing model wage law on Bacon-Davis? That has requirements to hire women and minorities and to enforce anti-discrimination laws?
I guess you are against Right to Work?
Do you support bringing back and minimum wage in New Hampshire?
And do you support getting rid of the tipped wage?
“Yes. I just think it’s really wrong to say to your employee, ‘Well I only have to pay $2.50 an hour and the tips will cover you and if you’re tips don’t cover I don’t pay you plain and simple.’ If I going to work any place I want to get paid at least minimum wage.”
Considering the red marked bridges and crumbling and infrastructure all around the state, do you support expanded infrastructure investment and do you support also using some funds for rail expansion? In other words reducing some of the investment in highway expansion and put some of that money in rail?
“I really like the concept of rail. If they can make it economically viable. When I consider ‘economically viable,‘ I also look at the avoidance costs, less people on the road, less pollution and you should compute those as being economically viable. I need more facts, but I’m definitely not a no, but I can’t go there unless the facts justify it.”
So we’ll move onto renewable Energy. How do you see how we can balance the issues that have come up in communities about renewable energy development? The North-east uses more fossil fuels than any other region in the country, are you familiar with geo-thermal?
“Also there was quite a conflict over wind power and its encroachment on important conservation and recreational areas in the northwest, namely wind towers on the Cardigan Range and also there’s the conflict with Northern Pass. Northern Pass people feel up north will cause a lot of upset to the mountains and to property owners with eminent domain but people in the south argue that its renewable energy they say they need more renewable power development. How do you balance these issues and work on renewable energy development.”
“The one thing with renewable energy is that you are always going to have NIMBY people. Its one of those; the cost of electricity, the cost of oil keeps businesses out of the state, plain and simple . The one of the fastest is the net metering, we voted to double net metering. We got to sit and figure out the transmission costs, once we get that I can see an unlimited cap on net metering because all of us we have to pay a transportation cost for the electricity we get and right now under net metering there is no transportation cost. Eversouce and others they want more dependable electricity coming in and they don’t care where they get it from they just want to make sure that the transmission lines are covered. There has to be a balance where you put the wind turbines, but we’re going to have to use the wind turbines, if you drive out west they’re there. If you go to Germany they’re at all the farms.”
“Again let’s look at the farms we have, let’s look at the possibility of putting wind turbines in other areas. Giving the farmers extra money to help support the farms.”
Would you support looking at other resources such as geo-thermal development?
“Yeah, geo-thermal I’ve done that before we have a lot of granite here, if I pipe down and I see the granite in there and the temperature is a consistent 60 degrees and Iput a tank in my ground, I only have bump up my heat cost by twelve degrees. Geo-thermal may be a high upfront cost but once its done its done.”
What about bringing jobs to NH? How do we attract people that will stay, raise their families here, pay taxes and have an interest in investing in the community?
“Keene and this whole area around here have a lot to offer people. If I become Senator my vision would be a 91 economic corridor, like they’ve done along 93. People talk about museums and stuff and you go down 91 to Springfield, Massachusetts there’s so much there. You have to sit down and sell the area. People say, ‘They will come to us.’ Well that’s not gonna happen. No, you have to make the sale to them.”
“Well if you say in Manchester, ‘I want people coming to Manchester to start a business or saying you want women led businesses women would come and say, “I like Manchester, I’m going to settle here.’ This part of the state, we have not done any of that and I would use my advantage as a person of color and say hey, Keene isn’t as bad as the reputation. There’s access to the highway, housing is cheap and we have an advantage, it’s not congested like Manchester or Nashua.”
“My thing here is we’re never going to get big businesses in this area, one some people are not going to want it, but the fact is our taxes are too high. In Keene the taxes are 35 dollars per thousand so they’re not coming here. Our demographics show business-wise they are not coming here. So we have to go out and bring those small businesses in and once you bring them in they create other small businesses. The taxes are too high and so business wise and demographic wise, they are not coming. So we have to go out and bring those small businesses in and when get here they create more small businesses.”
“I went to the realtors I said ‘Hey when you look at the houses in southwest New Hampshire, a lot of them are hundred years old and if you bring more people in it’s a lot more houses being build and again you are creating more. I think for technology and other businesses we’re good for that, we can grow. The that did what they could to keep growth out of the city, they are dying off, so we can do that.”
“People who did whatever they could to keep union activity out of the city, they are dying off, so there is opportunity for people and business opportunities to grow. Just recently at Keene the janitors unionized and tutors are unionized and para-paraprofessionals unionize.”
That brings up the standard of living for a bunch of people in the community.
Revenues – As progressives we have a lot of ideas about growth and we see growth as requiring investment.
Of course investment takes money and the money has to come from somewhere. And you just talked earlier about higher taxes. It’s a fact that nobody can deny that NH has a strange kind of revenue system that is often quite a burden to many working people and some have said grossly its unfair.
“Oh it is.”
How do you see it as unfair and how can we increase revenue?
“I would increasing the gas tax and then I would support a road use tax cause we are coming up with more electrical vehicles that aren’t paying as much road use tax and with a 40mpg standard gas we would never get enough money to maintain the roads we have. If we can just maintain our roads and if we can’t maintain our roads, we can’t get industry to come in. I saw a study that Fed-Ex doesn’t mind paying extra money on the road use tax because they figured on how many hours they gain not being stuck in traffic. I think that’s a simple.”
That kind of gets back to the argument for rail – that businesses would be interested in expanding freight rail and passenger rail …
“For all intents and purposes we don’t have freight rail. I go right across the Connecticutt River and not only is there freight rail but there’s even Amtrak. People get on the train from New York, visit Vermont, stay in hotels and all that and spend their money and we don’t any of that. The closest Amtrak goes is Durham and than back to Boston.”
Yes the Down-Easter.
“As far as taxes, we have to come up with a way to make the property tax more equitable. I supported a bill awhile ago for a homestead exemption for a certain amount. The reason being is, say my house is 153,000 in valuation, I have to pay a thousand dollars a month in property taxes on that house. Now I’m 52 my wife’s 58. She’s still working but when she retires we’ll get so much for social security. Now if I’m paying taxes and if my house isn’t paid off, for a lot of people their houses are not paid when they retire, how can I stay in that house when I retire? A lot of people cannot stay in their houses. Like I couldn’t afford to stay in my house and I have a moderate house at 153,000 dollars, so what we’re doing is again I can go in and say, ‘You know what, so what if I sell my house for only 15,000 more, I can still sell it, less it out for even less and move down south to say, North or South Carolina where the living is cheaper.”
I’ve known people that have done that.
“That’s our middle class. We’re gutting the middle class. People forget even when yhou’re in your 60’s and 70’s and you’re retired you can still be in the middle class and you can still be retired. If I have a money, if I have liquid assets in the house, I’m outta here.”
So we’re losing an important demographic
“Yes, we’re losing the disposable income demographic. Taxes on my house in South Carolina are $958 dollars a year. People say well you have to pay sales tax and you have a small income tax. But their income tax is at a higher level and I would have to spend a lot of money every year before I’d start losing compared to our property tax. We cannot afford to keep allowing our people to migrate out. My motto is, if you’re born in New Hampshire you’re not going to be rich enough to stay in New Hampshire. Here’s the sad part; if you are poor you are going to spend your whole life in New Hampshire because you cannot leave. You’re stuck; you have no options to move. But if you’re middle class you will say ‘I’m not doing this anymore and get up and leave.’ We can’t afford to allow this.”
“I have nine grandchildren and three daughters that I’m in the community, I have a connection and the way I vote up at the state house, I understand how it has an effect in the community.”
“We’re the only state in nation where only half our reps are born and raised in New Hampshire, so they have no family here and they don’t see the benefit in voting for more taxes and voting for education or communities and so they don’t have any connection to their whole communities. So when issues come up for schools and such they say, ‘Hey I don’t want to pay for that, I don’t have any kids here, I don’t have any family here.’”
“There was a bill that came up in the state house where people would only be responsible for their exclusive community they’d create and they only wanted to be responsible for the infrastructure for that gated community. If we had a gated community and we had no kids in it why should I pay a school tax for the rest of community? That’s the disconnect, that’s what one the big problems in New Hampshire.”
And what you’re talking about just now, doesn’t that sound like libertarians?
So let’s go to the issue of the Free Staters, you’re in Keene, how do you feel about dealing with Free Staters? Do you find them to be a problem? There are Free Staters that have been targeting communities by running as Democrats and then caucusing with the Republicans. I don’t know if they are in the Senate now, but it seems like it will encroach eventually.
“It will encroach. But you know the Senate is kind of a wiser and older body. I think they are not going to put up with a bunch of the crap of these Free Staters like when they would go up on the floor and talk about one little word in a bill. Because you got all these bills from the house, a lot of them are whacky bills. The Senate has to listen to all of them, but the best part about the Senate is you can listen to the bill and then you can vote it up or down right after listening to the bill.”
“Not like in the House you listen to a bill and you might not exec a bill for a couple of weeks. So they dispose more of those bills because they don’t go to the floor as much as the house does. You got people in the house, especially the libertarians and some of the really radical Republicans, they are not even Tea Party, they’re radical. They will go to the floor just to make a point or they may go to the floor to make a video so they can show how much they are doing for their people or to go and vote so they can get a certain score; a lot of grand standing and the Senate doesn’t put up with that grand standing.”
Do you see the libertarians as having a corrosive effect in New Hampshire culture and our ability to move forward and grow?
“Yes, because if I want to bring a company with 25 workers in Keene. There has to be certain level of infrastructure, a certain level of social services. Like the guy that we have in Keene, Ian Freeman, his philosophy is ala carte; you don’t have to pay any taxes but if you use the water or you use this or that, you pay for those but if I don’t have any kids in school or need any other services, I don’t have to pay for any of that. That’s really disruptive to the community because in your whole lifetime you’re going to pay for things you never use.”
“But you’ll also get more of a value from a thing that you hardly ever paid for, you know like school, it might be a a hundred thousand dollars to teach your kid in school, but you are never going to pay a hundred thousand dollars in school tax and so like the roads; you aren’t going to pay much for the roads, but you are going to use the roads a lot. So there has to be a community, no one can stand alone. We can’t go back to the thing where you hire your own fire service and hire your own police; and if you’re house in burning down, ‘Oh sorry.’”
Are willing you to help build a progressive caucus?
So we’ve just touched on just everything some a little more and some little less, but we have to close. So let’s close with ‘the ask’ Why should people vote for you?
“Why should people vote me? I think the most important part is that I go in and listen to people more than talk to people. People want to be heard and people want believe that they matter. If you’re an elected leader or a military leader, it’s your responsibility to go up to people and like said listen to what they have to say and you can get valuable input from anyplace as long as you want to listen. Second is that I do research, I view myself as knowledgeable in a lot of areas because I’m always planning ahead.”
“Third, I will vote the issue – I will vote the issue. I might vote libertarian, I might vote Democrat or Republican. I will look at the issue and if its beneficial for the people that I represent then it’s the issue I’m going to vote positive for, If it’s a negative then I’m going to vote negative, regardless of where it comes from. I’ve taken good ideas from bad people and made them better. A lot of bills I got passed up in Concord, I looked at them and I’m made amendments to them to make them better and that’s what I do.”
Links for more information and endorsements for Kris Roberts
Keene Sentinel endorsement: Kris Roberts, Military Disciplined, Driven by Principle
Endorsement from NH Building Construction and Building Trades Council : kris-roberts-endorsement-from-building-trades-council
Kris Roberts’ campaign page: Kris E. Roberts for Senate Seat 10
Kris Roberts Vote Smart
Japan Times : Agent Orange at Base in 80’s : US Vet