Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 5, 2011: Public Hearing on "Right To Work" Bill (HB 474)

The NH Senate Commerce Committee will hear public testimony on HB 474 (the so-called "Right To Work" bill) on Tuesday, April 5, starting at 9:00 AM. The hearing will be held in Representatives Hall. Please plan to attend the grassroots meet-up and pre-hearing briefing session at 8:00-8:45 AM for an overview of the legislation and how it will affect NH working families and the middle class.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pictures & Press Coverage of Carol Shea-Porter's Portsmouth Town Hall

Right: Seacoast for Changers Bill Duncan and Larry Drake. Photo courtesy of Daily Kos.

Saturday morning was cold, wet, and windy -- but that didn't discourage local health care voters from turning out early and en masse for Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter's town hall at the Thomas J. McIntyre Federal Building in Downtown Portsmouth (August 29, 2009).

Supporters of affordable, quality health care outnumbered tea party protesters by nearly 3-to-1 in the waiting line. There were no serious altercations outside the event (although a few of my fellow Democrats tried to cut to the front of line, which was bad form and irked the tea party folks so much they asked to police to intervene).

Members of the Leftist Marching Band stopped by around noon and played a lively and suitably patriotic set. By the time the doors opened at 1:00 PM, over 200 people were standing in line to get a seat (only 150 were allowed to enter the building).

There are some terrific pictures of the sign-waving action outside Saturday's event on Daily Kos; a reporter from the Portsmouth Herald also interviewed people who were waiting to get into the event. Details about the heated discussion inside the town hall are reported in the Portsmouth Herald, Foster's, the Concord Monitor, and the Manchester Union Leader.

Lunatic Fringe Department: People leaving the building after the event were serenaded by the vocal harmonies of several Lyndon LaRouche culties carrying a larger-than-life poster of President Obama rendered to resemble Adolf Hitler. No lie, the singing was not too bad -- except for the part about the President's Nazi plan for a government takeover of the health care system and killing grandma.

Seacoast for Change volunteers supported Change That Works organizers and Organizing for America in building early-morning supporter turnout for the Portsmouth event.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We Have Fan Mail! "You are too nice for your own good..."

I received an unsigned email from this morning in response to my post about our whoppingly successful visibility outside Judd Gregg's health care forum at the Red Hook Brewery last week.

Mr. (or Ms.) Classic had quite a lot to say, so I'll share the entire text of the email with you (below). I do want to respond directly to Mr. (or Ms.) Classic's concern that the comment function on this blog is disabled. The primary reason is that the Seacoast for Change blog is a broadcast tool, and not a discussion space. The other reason is that I have no desire to offer a free public forum to anonymous blog trolls who are ideologically opposed to all forms of fairness and progress, and I'm too busy doing the serious work of organizing for change (as opposed to, say, spreading a scatter shot of inane and/or nasty chatter across the progressive/pro-Obama/pro-health care reform blogosphere) to moderate random and generally unhelpful comments from visitors who don't share my values and goals.

For dissatisfied readers who take the initiative to email me directly, I will be happy to periodically publish your emails and email address in this space, because you seem to feel that people like me are not sufficiently aware of your position on the perils of health care reform and need to be reminded that creating a public health insurance option that will reduce costs, ensure consumer choice, keep the private insurance industry honest, and expand affordable coverage options for working families and the uninsured is the de-facto equivalent of sending our great country to Hell In A Handbasket. So, thanks for sharing.

Judy Stadtman
Lead Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroot Network

Subject: No place for comments on your blog so.....
Date: Sat, 22 Aug 2009 23:05:15 -0400

On your article here:

You ask a question of Gregg:
Hey, Judd Gregg! How 'bout a public health insurance option?

... and I have the answer for you.

This is not about giving insurance to those who don't have it. Otherwise the bill would be 10 pages long. (And by the way, the rest of us should not be taxed to pay for it... none of the gov'ts purview!)

This is about control of society.... a utopian dream of Obama's world communist handlers Soros, Kissinger and Rockefeller.

And Gregg doesn't want it because Gregg knows this is what the Nazis did after they stole the money, devalued the dollar, took over the car companies, and now want to nationalize the health care so they can decide if someone doesn't agree with them politically they can pull the plug?

This stuff is only done in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nazi Germany.. NOT in a free country.

Please educate yourself to what you and your wingnut president are doing to this country. You are too nice for your own good, wanting to 'help' people and are too willing to swallow a bill of goods to do it. Obama is a sly criminal to take advantage of you all.

Have you studied the RECENT writings Zeke Emanuel, John Holdren and Cass Sunstein to find out how they feel about YOUR LIFE and YOUR RIGHT TO LIVE? They believe in EUGENICS!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are advising this scary monster.

Does it make you wonder the parallels? Obama just stole $23 trillion to GIVE to his euro-trash banking oligarchs, the ones we fought to get rid of in the revolution, then he takes over the car companies and now the health care. Education was already lost and gone to the brainwashers.

NO.YOU.WON'T make this country into Nazi Germany!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hey, Judd Gregg! How 'bout a public health insurance option?

August 20, 2009: Over three dozen supporters took a stand for real health insurance reform outside of Judd Gregg's health care forum at the Red Hook Brewery. A lone counter-protester showed up to oppose President Obama's plan, but spent the entire time texting on his phone. Below: After our visibility we dropped by Senator Gregg's Portsmouth office to deliver our prescriptions for real health care reform.

More than three dozen volunteers and advocates gathered at the Red Hook Brewery in Portsmouth on Thursday to stand up for health care reform during Senator Judd Gregg's meeting with members of the Portsmouth Rotary Club (August 20). Although he endorses President Obama's goal to bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, Senator Gregg is strongly opposed to creating a government-administered non-profit plan to provide fair competition for the private insurance industry and expand affordable options for working families and the uninsured.

Although he debunked claims that proposed legislation authorizes the creation of "death panels" to pull the plug on grandma, in the past Senator Gregg has resorted to standard-issue GOP talking points to put the scare into Granite Staters who are likely to benefit from the President's plan for health insurance reform. (In a May 28 OpEd in the Concord Monitor, Gregg stated that "the proposals that have been put forward to move to a public plan, or essentially a nationalization of health care in this country, will lead to a Washington bureaucrat being inserted between you and your doctor, long delays in delivery of care and the likelihood of rationing." Or, you know, maybe not.)

At the Rotary Club meeting, Gregg pitched a policy solution that would limit legal recourse for medical malpractice, create incentives for disease prevention, and reward healthy lifestyles - without mentioning that a bi-partisan bill he cosponsored would require employers and individuals to pay into the private health insurance system. Our uneventful visibility was covered by WMUR-TV, the Portsmouth Herald, and the Concord Monitor. Oh yeah, there was one lone anti-Obama protester there, too.

After the visibility, a small group of volunteers paid a drop-in visit to Senator Gregg's Portsmouth office to deliver a "prescription pad" of 30 supporters' personal Rx for real health care reform (see photo) and a copy of a full-page newspaper advertisement featuring the names of 180 NH small business owners who support health insurance reform that includes a public plan option. The noon-time action was organized by Change That Works and the Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

President Obama's Portsmouth Town Hall's one thing I've got to say: I never said this was going to be easy. I never said change would be easy. If it were easy, it would have already been done. Change is hard. And it doesn't start in Washington. It begins in places like Portsmouth, with people... who have the courage to share their stories and fight for something better.

That's what we need to do right now. And I need your help. If you want a health care system that works for the American people as well as it works for the insurance companies, I need your help -- knocking on doors, talking to your neighbors. Spread the facts. Let's get this done.

President Barack Obama, Portsmouth, NH, August 11, 2009

Tuesday, August 11 was an exhilarating and gratifying occasion for President Obama's long-time supporters in the Seacoast region. Although stalwart health care voters who showed up for early morning rallies at Portsmouth High and Lafayette Park got a good soaking from an unexpected downpour (while those waiting in long lines to get into the Town Hall event later in the day sweltered in the searing heat), the take-away from the day's events was that local support for the President's agenda for health insurance reform remains strong.

Outside the venue, Tea Party protesters turned out in force to fear-monger and voice their radical opposition to change, while inside the Portsmouth High School gym President Obama calmly debunked groundless right-wing claims that creating a public health insurance option will destroy the private insurance industry, and that the U.S. House of Representatives voted for "death panels" that will be authorized to "pull the plug on grandma because we've decided it's too expensive to let her live."

This week, the White House launched a new web site, Health Care Reform Reality Check, to actively counter misinformation spread by health care reform opponents ( Visit the site for talking points and more factual information you can use when talking to neighbors and co-workers about why you support President Obama's goal to pass meaningful health care reform this year.

From making hand-lettered rally signs to staffing the Sunday night phone bank to notify Town Hall ticket holders when & where to pick up their much-sought-after tix, local volunteers were instrumental to making the event a success. On Friday and Saturday, Seacoast volunteers also collected over 500 declarations in support of President Obama's priorities for health care reform. Thanks to everyone who volunteered during the lead up to the event and all those who helped out on the big day. I'm incredibly proud of how quickly and efficiently we were able to mobilize our local team to support White House advance operations. (An NHPR reporter covered our pre-event preparations; you can listen to the story here.) Special shout out to Dave O'Connor, our new Regional Field Director for Organizing for America NH, who worked tirelessly to keep up with the mercurial needs of White House advance staff and pulled it all together on extremely short notice. Change That Works/NH for Health Care organizers, NHDP, and other coalition groups get credit for turning out hundreds of pro-health care reform demonstrators to counteract the the hateful noise and rage of Tea Party protesters with the message that we can't wait for health care reform that includes a public plan option. (For more of Walter Weizenauer's photo from the rallies and Town Hall event, visit his flickr album.)

As President Obama remarked on Tuesday, change is hard - and it begins right here. Organizing for America and Change That Works will be planning a number of outreach events and actions in the coming weeks - please participate, because the status quo isn't working for you, it's not working for our community, and it's not working for New Hampshire families and small businesses. It's time to get this done.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Follow Up: Portsmouth Forum on Community Health & Health Care Reform

Left: Panelists address a rapt audience at the Portsmouth Public Forum on Community Health & Health Care Reform on Wednesday, July 29, 2009.

Event organizers had a packed house for last week's Public Forum on Community Health & Health Care Reform at the Portsmouth Public Library (Wednesday, July 29, 2009). The forum was organized by Change That Works/NH for Health Care and Seacoast for Change in collaboration with Organizing for America NH and South Church UU Outreach Associates.

The evening program featured a presentation by Wendy Frosh on national trends in health care costs and access, an update on legislative developments by Lisa Kaplan Howe of NH Voices fro Health, and panel presentations by Rich DiPentima, Helen Taft of Families First Community Health Center, small business owner Meredith Stolper, and Catherine DiPentima on the urgent need for health care reform from her perspective as a health care provider.

The panel and question & answer session were adroitly moderated by Rich DiPentima. The final half-hour of the forum was dedicated to a call to action, with organizers from Seacoast for Change, Change That Works, and Organizing for America NH describing the activities of local campaigns to win affordable, quality health care for all and next steps for action.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Do We Want? Health Care Now!

Health care activists from around the country gathered near the U.S. Capitol for a June 25 rally.

Our local campaign to win affordable, quality health care for all is still going strong. Last week, dozens of New Hampshire activists -- including many familiar faces from the Greater Seacoast area -- traveled to Washington DC for a national day of advocacy and action for real health care reform.

On Thursday, June 25, members of the NH delegation kicked off the big day with a breakfast meeting with Senator Jeanne Shaheen and senior policy staff from the offices of Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes. We learned that New Hampshire's Congressional Democrats are firm in their support for a public plan option as a key component of legislation to reduce skyrocketing health care costs and guarantee that every American has access to affordable, quality care when they need it.

After the morning meeting, we joined a Capitol Hill rally with thousands of fired-up health care voters from across the U.S., followed by a high-spirited march to the nearby offices of Republican National Senatorial Committee. In the afternoon, a small contingent of NH activists visited the DC office of Judd Gregg to deliver a message urging the Senator to listen to his constituents instead of well-paid lobbyists from big pharmaceutical companies and the private health insurance industry. In short, it was a fantastic, purposeful day, and Granite Staters who made the long bus ride were glad they came.

This summer, watch for a series of Seacoast region events and actions to support President Obama's priorities for health care reform. Seacoast for Change will be partnering with the NH for Health Care/Change That Works campaign and Organizing for America on a number of local actions in the coming weeks. Yes, we can make a difference -- and there are many ways to get involved:
  • Join us for a health care house meeting or volunteer to help with a Change That Works/Seacoast for Change/Organizing for America event or action. Email for more information.
  • Have you sent a handwritten card or note to thank Jeanne Shaheen for supporting the public plan option? If not, please do it today -- it only takes five minutes. (Send USPS mail to any one of Senator Shaheen's NH offices for timely reading -- you can find the addresses here.)
  • Write a Letter to the Editor on why NH businesses and families can't wait for real health care reform that includes the public health insurance option.
  • Reach out to your friends and neighbors. If you're able to make calls to invite other health care supporters to upcoming events, we can provide call lists and scripts for you if you'd like to organize a phone bank or make calls from home.
Political pundits on the left and right are already speculating that the outcome of this year's battle for health care reform will make or break the legacy of the Obama presidency as a transformative era -- and that a failure to push through a meaningful fix for our broken health care system will signal the powerlessness and futility of the organized progressive movement in the United States.

We worked hard last year to get Barack Obama elected. We need to work just as hard this year to make the change we believe in a reality. We can't wait -- and we cannot afford to sit this one out and expect the right thing to happen. Please pick one health care action you can take today, tomorrow, or this week, and follow through.

Follow up on Hampton Democrats Health Care Forum:

On Thursday, June 18, Hampton Democrats sponsored a non-partisan community forum on health care reform featuring a panel of experts on health care administration, community health needs, and health care policy. From all accounts, it was an extremely well organized and informative event. Segments of the panel presentations and discussion can be viewed on YouTube; a report on the forum was also featured in a June 25 cover story for the Portsmouth Wire newspaper. The Health Care Forum was the second in an ongoing series of public policy forums organized by the Hampton Democratic Town Committee.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Health Care Summer: Call to Action


ON ELECTION NIGHT, President Obama reminded the nation that his victory was not the change we seek -- only the opportunity to make that change. Right now, we have another chance to make historic progress, and a formidable challenge before us.

You've heard the grim facts: The United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, yet 46 million Americans are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. In 2007, more than 4 in 10 working-age adults said they postponed or avoided filling a prescription or seeking needed medical care because they could not afford it. Disparities in health insurance coverage, health care access and outcomes, and life expectancy -- between the wealthy and working poor, whites and non-whites, men and women -- are pronounced and disturbing. In the entire U.S. population, a significant percentage of men, women, and children do not have access to the health care they need to grow well, learn well, work well, and have a decent quality of life. Whether insured or uninsured, millions of U.S. families are struggling with rising health care costs and medical debt.

There's work to be done on many fronts to ensure that all Americans have truly equal opportunities to thrive. But health care reform that works for everyone -- not just private insurance companies and a privileged few -- may be the most important civil rights issue of our day.

This summer, we have a real chance to make substantive progress on comprehensive health care reform. President Obama has made health care reform one of his top priorities, and the Democratic majority in Congress is favorable to passing legislation that guarantees every American has access to affordable, quality health care when they need it.

But opposition to meaningful change -- backed by big-money special interest groups with a reputation for ruthlessness -- is mounting. Anyone who hopes to see a more caring and equitable society in this lifetime cannot afford to wait this one out and expect the right thing to happen.

Congress may vote on health care reform before the end of July. That means the next eight weeks offer a critical window of opportunity to for strategic grassroots action.

The big battle will be over the creation of a public health insurance plan, and the battleground will be the U.S. Senate. The public plan option will establish a federally-funded, publicly-administered health insurance program to provide coverage to those who cannot afford private insurance and/or do not have employer-based coverage, and anyone else who prefers to enroll. It will establish a baseline standard of care delivery, and create healthy competition for private insurers to meet or exceed the level of cost savings and scope of care available through the non-profit public plan. It will also expand patient choice by offering a new option for comprehensive coverage that includes preventative, primary, and long-term care, and allow patients to keep or choose their own doctor. People who like the private plan they have now will be able to keep it.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to pass legislation that includes a public plan option, and NH representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes are likely to support it. Senator Judd Gregg is the co-sponsor of a bill that seeks to control costs and mandate universal coverage by regulating the private insurance market and requiring individuals and employers to pay into a private, for-profit health insurance plan. Senator Jeanne Shaheen recently signed a resolution with 28 other U.S. Senators endorsing the creation of a public plan.

Since February 2009, Seacoast for Change has worked with organizers from the SEIU Change That Works/NH for Health Care campaign to engage members of the Seacoast community in a grassroots action campaign for health care reform. On June 6, Organizing for America -- the DNC's post-election online action center -- will kick-off a nationwide campaign to re-mobilize former Campaign for Change volunteers and build public support for President Obama's health care reform priorities.

If you want health care reform that works for working families and everyone else, the time to act is now. Both NH for Health Care/Change That Works and OFA are organizing house meetings to get the word out and bring new supporters into the fold. Hosting a health care house meeting is easy, and it's one of the most effective things you can do to spread the word about the urgent need for health care reform and set the stage for a successful citizen action campaign.

If you support the public plan choice -- and if you care about reducing health care costs, improving health care delivery and outcomes, and ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care, you probably do -- please take 10-15 minutes this week to write a hand written card or note to Senator Shaheen to let her know you stand behind her decision to support the public health insurance plan option. Mail your thank you note to one of Senator Shaheen's NH offices for timely reading -- you'll find those addresses here.

On June 25, New Hampshire will send a delegation of activists to Washington DC for a national day of action for health care reform. Group transportation is being coordinated by the NH Citizen's Action Alliance as part of the NH Health Care for America Now campaign -- click here for more information and to reserve a seat on the bus.

If you can't host a house meeting or participate in the DC day of action, there are plenty of other opportunities make a meaningful difference. For more information about supporting the NH for Health Care/Change That Works campaign, contact SEIU's Seacoast Region field organizer, Israel Pierre. If you're interested in supporting Organizing for America's health care action campaign, visit for more information or to find an event. If you want more information or want to get more involved through the Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network, please contact me.

Judy Stadtman
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network
Portsmouth NH
603.479.7217 |

Friday, May 15, 2009

Taking Action for Health Care Reform: Change That Works

Seacoast for Change organizers and volunteers recently collaborated with organizers from the NH for Health Care/Change That Works campaign on two local events. On Friday, May 8, mothers and grandmothers from the Seacoast area delivered cards and flowers to the Dover offices of Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter as part of a statewide Mother's Day action. Photos of the Dover visit and other NH Mother's Day action teams are posted on SIEU's national blog. (The gorgeous flowers were from the Flower Kiosk in Portsmouth, the adorable baby belongs to Janet Groat.)

Seacoast for Change and Seacoast Local also participated in organizing a roundtable event on health care reform for Seacoast area small business owners on Tuesday, May 12, at the Portsmouth Public Library. The roundtable discussion was the local launch of an effort to bring the voices of NH small business owners into the national health care policy debate.

Plans are in the works for more local and national events and actions to support affordable, quality health care for all. Contact Judy Stadtman at for more information about how you can get involved.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Seacoast for Change: Our First 100-something Days

Saturday, May 9: Seacoast for Change volunteers join NH Freedom To Marry organizers and other local activists for a visibility and petition drive to support marriage equality in New Hampshire.

Of all the bone-headed debates swirling around the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency, one of the silliest is whether the President is trying to accomplish too much, too soon. Having two wars to contend with, an economic crisis of epic proportions, a badly broken health care system, climate change, and public education that fails to deliver the core skills Americans need to compete in the global economy, we're pretty lucky to have a leader in the White House who is prepared to act with speed and determination.

Throughout the campaign and again in his Inaugural address, President Obama cautioned the American public that the change we need to put our country back on track won't be easily achieved, and will depend on ordinary people stepping up to the challenge to act for the greater good. It was this call to action -- and a shared desire to make the most of the political moment -- that inspired the formation and recent organizing efforts of the Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network. In the months since the election, Seacoast for Change has evolved from an ad hoc network of campaign volunteers into a thriving action organization. Today, our primary purpose is to connect local activists and would-be activists with meaningful opportunities to "be the change."

I'm not an objective observer, but I'd say we've done a pretty good job of meeting that objective in our first 100-something days. Here's a short list of the actions and activities Seacoast for Change organizers and volunteers have coordinated or participated in since the end of January:

Health Care Reform: Seacoast for Change is actively supporting the NH for Health Care/Change That Works Campaign, and SFCGN organizers and volunteers are currently working with campaign staff on a series of outreach and action projects. Major opposition to policy reforms that guarantee every American access to affordable, quality care will be heating up soon, so stay tuned for updates and volunteer opportunities.

Save Our Bridges! Campaign: Seacoast for Change has become a full partner in the diverse coalition of concerned individuals and community groups fighting to get funding for urgently-needed repairs to the Portsmouth-Kittery Bridges.

Community Outreach/Public Events: In March, Seacoast for Change co-organized a public forum with House Speaker Terie Norelli on the State Budget (with the Portsmouth City Democratic Committee), followed by our first-ever Portsmouth Meet Your Legislators forum on April 4. Seacoast for Change organizers are also participating in the Seacoast 20/20 Community Vision project, a series of working conferences for change-oriented non-profits and community groups in the Seacoast area.

Supporting Economic Recovery & Renewal: In early February, Seacoast for Change hosted an Organizing for America Economic Recovery Meeting at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth. To see how New Hampshire and other states will benefit from President Obama's economic stimulus plan, check out this cool map on the Organizing for America web site.

Advancing President Obama's Policy Priorities: Seacoast for Change is working with the NH Rebuild and Renew America Now! Coalition to build public support for the President's budget priorities on affordable health care for all, investing in green industry and renewable energy, and education for the 21st century. In March, we organized a successful phone bank to generate calls to members of Congress to ask for their support in passing the initial budget proposal. Local volunteers also participated in a nation-wide Organizing for America canvass to collect signatures in support of President Obama's budget priorities.

Corporate Accountability/Fairness for the Middle Class: As part of our alliance with the SEIU Change That Works Campaign, Seacoast for Change activists took part in demonstrations at Bank of America locations in Portsmouth and Exeter to protest corporate excess and demand accountability from financial institutions receiving bank bailout funds.

Marriage Equality: Seacoast for Change volunteers joined NH Freedom To Marry organizers and other local supporters of same-sex marriage for a Market Square rally and petition drive to urge Governor Lynch to sign the equal marriage bill.

Organizing Meetings & Group Discussions: We've continued to organize activities to connect, support, and expand the grassroots community, including monthly "Read for Change" discussion groups and regular progress reports and organizing meetings.

Community Service: In February, Seacoast for Change organized a "Change for Good" drive to raise small individual donations for Seacoast Local's (H)EAT campaign. In the coming months, we'll be organizing beach clean-ups and other service projects to benefit the Greater Seacoast community.

Supporting Democratic Party Candidates & Organizations: Seacoast for Change mobilized local volunteers to participate in Get Out The Vote campaigns for special elections in NH Senate District 3 and an open NH House seat in Windham-Salem. We've also welcomed discussions with leaders of Seacoast region Democratic committees who are looking for ways to engage Obama volunteers and build up a grassroots base. In June, we'll be recruiting volunteers to help staff the Portsmouth Democrats booth on Market Square Day.

It looks like our next 100-something days will be at least as busy and productive as the last 16 weeks. So keep in touch, stay involved, and join in when you can. Working together, we are making a difference -- in the Seacoast community and beyond.

Judy Stadtman
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network

Friday, April 10, 2009

Save Our Bridges! Campaign Gearing Up for April 28 Rally

Back in December 2008, Seacoast for Change volunteers met to discuss what sort of causes and actions our grassroots network should prioritize going forward, and a number of supporters expressed an interest in working on local issues. In response to those comments, I've made an effort to reach out to other community-directed organizations that share our commitment to progress. One of the top concerns raised by the forward-thinking leaders of Seacoast Local was the precarious state of the Memorial Bridge.

Seacoast for Change has joined an ad hoc coalition of Greater Seacoast non-profit and business groups seeking to raise public support for repair and rehabilitation, rather than replacement, of the Memorial Bridge and its upstream neighbor, the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. Both spans are in urgent need of attention -- the Memorial Bridge, which is ranked No. 1 on the NH Department of Transportation's "red list," is estimated to have a remaining lifespan of 5 years or less. Permanently removing either bridge from service would have a significant impact on the Seacoast area economy, with small businesses in Kittery taking the hardest hit. The Memorial Bridge also has historical, cultural, and recreational value for members of the surrounding community, and is a scenic attraction for local residents and out-of-town visitors.

Several recent stories and editorials in the Portsmouth Herald address the uncertain fate of the two lower Piscataqua spans (links to new and past articles on the bridge debate are archived on the New Hampshire Gazette web site -- you can find them here).
Plans to repair the Memorial Bridge for long-term use have been completed, and federal dollars to cover nearly all of the cost of rehabilitating both bridges are available through President Obama's economic stimulus package. These projects are shovel-ready -- work can begin as soon as state officials on both sides of the river authorize funding. NH DOT has signed off on the proposed repairs. Officials at ME DOT remain favorable to replacing the older bridges with a single, high-span structure to be built at an unspecified location between the existing spans. The older bridges would not necessarily be demolished, but would be closed to all cross-river traffic.

While particpating in the Save Our Bridges! campaign may seem unrelated to our usual efforts to organize in support of President Obama's policy priorities, I feel this project is entirely consistent with the spirit of his vision to rebuild and renew America by investing in essential infrastructure and promoting civic engagement. It's also a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with local groups who do not necessarily see their primary mission as political, but understand the importance of mobilizing popular support to solve public problems.

The Seacoast Save Our Bridges! campaign will formally kick-off with a lunch-hour rally on Tuesday, April 28. Visibilities are planned in Portsmouth and Kittery locations -- stay tuned for details. The campaign is also launching a petition drive and a letter-to-the-editor writing campaign (you can check out the PortsmouthBridges web site for updates and sign the petition online).

Follow Up: Portsmouth "Meet Your Legislators" Forum

Photo: NH Senator Martha Fuller Clark spoke about the importance of having citizen input on legislative issues. Also pictured (left to right): moderator Hillary Niles, Rep. Jim Splaine, Rep. Paul McEachern, Rep. Laura Pantelakos, House Speaker Terie Norelli, Rep. Jackie Cali-Pitts, Rep. Rich DiPentima, and Rep. Robin Read.

The Seacoast for Change "Meet Your Legislators" forum (April 4) was informative and well-received by those who attended the Saturday morning event. NH Speaker of the House Terie Norelli and NH State Senator Martha Fuller Clark provided a brief overview of how a bill becomes law in New Hampshire, inlcuding the process of Committee reviews and public hearings. While discussing the influence of professional lobbyists in Concord, Senator Fuller Clark emphasized how important it is for ordinary citizens to speak out on legislative issues. Portsmouth Representatives Jackie Cali Pitts, Rich DiPentima, Paul McEarchern, Laura Pantelakos, Robin Read, and Jim Splaine answered questions from the audience, which included concerns about the just-passed seat belt law and reducing retirement benefits for state employees. The discussion was moderated by Hilary Niles, producer of Front Door Politics NH ( The forum was covered by Foster's Daily Democrat -- you can read the story here.

Special thanks to Larry Drake and Joan Jacobs, who took the lead on organizing the event.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Taking Back the Economy: A good time was had by all

Seacoast for Change activists joined NH Change That Works organizers and other local volunteers for a street action to protest corporate greed on Thursday, March 19 (in front of the Portsmouth Bank of America branch on Pleasant Street). It was cold out, but kinda fun. The local event, which was part of a nationally-coordinated demonstration to take back the economy for the middle class (, received great news coverage-- check out the excellent pictures of familiar faces, Joan Hamblet, Joan Jacobs and Jane Hoffman from Reuters news service. The Portsmouth Herald, Foster's Daily Democrat, and WMUR-TV also covered the Portsmouth protest.

Follow Up: March 21 Budget Forum and OFA Canvass

Saturday was a busy day for local activists, kicking off at 10:00 AM with the "Follow the Money: Understanding the State Budget" forum at the Portsmouth Public Library. NH House Speaker Terie Norelli discussed the process of approving the state budget and answered questions from the audience about the fate of funding for Health and Human Service programs and other proposed adjustments to state spending. Foster's Daily Democrat reported on the forum in today's paper ("Concerns aired about proposed N.H. budget cuts," Bob Cook, 03.22.09). Organizing the forum was a joint project of the Portsmouth City Democratic Committee and Seacoast for Change.

Several Seacoast for Change volunteers also participated in Organizing for America's Pledge Canvass to draw public support for President Obama's plan to lay the groundwork for lasting prosperity by investing in clean energy, education for the 21st century, and quality, affordable health care for all. Clipboards in hand, we staked out a sunny spot in Market Square between 1:00-2:30 PM on Saturday afternoon. The reception from locals and visitors was pleasantly warm, and 31 supporters signed pledge forms. The Portsmouth action was one of four scheduled pledge project events in NH. For those who want to know more about the pledge canvass, the Washington Post reported on OFA's March 21 national day of action ("Obama's Campaign Army on Road Again"). In the above photo, Doug M. of Newfields (far right) signs up a group of supporters.

We'll be inviting Seacoast for Change volunteers to participate in more actions to support the passage of President Obama's proposals to renew America and create an economy that works for everyone in the coming weeks and months--stay tuned!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Follow Up: "Be the Change" Organizing Meeting, February 25

Thanks to everyone who joined us in Portsmouth last week for our February organizing meeting. We had a full house and covered a lot of ground -- and it was clear from the evening's discussion that there's no shortage of opportunities for Seacoast for Change volunteers to strengthen our community and take action for the change we believe in.

Representatives from several local organizations were on hand to talk about their projects and how grassroots activists can get involved:

David Stylianou, regional field organizer of the NH for Health Care campaign, spoke about the importance of getting a public conversation started about why all Americans need affordable, quality health care now, and how his organization will be working over the next 6-8 months to spread that conversation in New Hampshire and 16 other states.

Karen Marzloff of Seacoast Local was not able to stay and speak to the entire group, but did share information about Seacoast Local's mission to promote community sustainability by supporting locally-owned businesses and environmentally-responsible practices in the Seacoast region.

Robin Albert of the United Way of the Greater Seacoast Volunteer Action Center described her agency's program to match up area volunteers with local organizations, and introduced the newly-launched Seacoast 20/20 Community Vision Project (which you can read more about here).

NH Democratic Party Field Director Ryan Mahoney spoke about NHDP's goal to strengthen local Democratic organizations in preparation for the 2010 election, and how grassroots volunteers can have an important role in sustaining New Hampshire's progressive momentum.

Laurie McCray, Larry Drake, and Joan Jacobs made announcements about two upcoming events to share information about state policy issues and connect community members with local legislators. On Saturday, March 21, Seacoast for Change and Portsmouth Democrats will co-host a community forum with NH House Speaker Terie Norelli and Senator Martha Fuller Clark on how the proposed state budget will impact the Seacoast region. In April, Seacoast for Change invites Portsmouth voters to "Meet Your Legislators" for a discussion of legislative priorities; the event will be moderated by Hilary Niles, editor of Front Door Politics NH. Also in the works: A community forum on working women and families in the NH economy, and a presentation and discussion on affordable health care as a women's issue. More information on these and other Seacoast for Change events will be available soon!

Near the end of the meeting, we had a lively discussion about the best way for concerned citizens to share their views with elected officials and decision-makers. People were so fired up by this topic that we've decided to organize a workshop on how to make your voice heard on policy matters, from calling your members of congress to spending a day at the State House. Stay tuned for more details.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our Economic Recovery Meeting (and what we really talked about)

A small but engaged group turned out for the Seacoast for Change Economic Recovery Meeting at The Friendly Toast on Wednesday, February 11. The Portsmouth event was one of approximately 3,500 gatherings organized by grassroots volunteers in over 1,500 cities in response to a call by Organizing for America (aka "OFA 2.0") to gather friends and neighbors to share fact sheets and talking points on the Obama administration's stimulus plan. The main focus of the meetings, according to the event hosting guide, "is to share your story, the story of your neighbors, and collect the stories of your community during this economic crisis" -- and report it all to OFA 2.0 through the organization's web site.

As OFA 2.0's first official attempt to enlist the pro-Obama masses to support the President's agenda, the economic recovery meetings have received considerable press attention (WMUR sent a news crew to cover our Seacoast get-together). Not all media reports have been positive (there's a good summary here on the FiveThirtyEight blog), with several news stories and commentaries painting OFA 2.0 as dead on arrival. Even the most optimistic coverage acknowledges that convincing a diverse and independent-minded grassroots base to amplify President Obama's message with a single voice is going to be tricky, and the whole thing could fall flat if the budding army of citizen activists grows disenchanted with OFA 2.0's not-so-inclusive approach to social movement organizing. But it's also clear from reports that Seacoast for Change is one of dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of well-organized, ready-to-go grassroots groups planning action in communities around the country.

On the topic of media reporting, it was pretty obvious that the WMUR reporter who covered Wednesday night's event had been assigned a story on public reaction to debates about the stimulus plan in relation to NH infrastructure spending -- which is an important and timely issue, but I can assure you that those of us who gathered at the Toast last night did not spend the entire evening to talking about the sad state of the Memorial Bridge, and what to do about it. We did, however, talk about the need to increase education spending and create new jobs by investing in green industry, solving the health care crisis, filling the gaps in publicly-funded safety net through community service, and the causes and consequences of extreme income inequality in the United States. (Due to a technical glitch, we did not view a short video of DNC Chair Tim Kaine responding to questions about the stimulus package and announcing the soon-to-be launched web site, which you can watch here.)

With the stimulus bill on track for a final vote before the end of the day, it's worth noting that although far from perfect, the recovery package is -- as Bernie Horn writes for the Campaign for America's Future blog -- "the biggest and boldest progressive legislation of the past 40 years" and a Darn Good First Step.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Momentum Watch: '08 Gallup Polls Shade NH Solid Blue

An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from 2008 finds that 49 percent of New Hampshire voters affiliate with the Democratic Party, compared to 36 percent who identify with or lean toward the GOP. That 13 percentage point gap places New Hampshire among 29 other states ranked "solidly" Democratic by the Gallup organization, with six states "leaning" blue. Only four states -- Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah -- were ranked solidly Republican in 2008, with one state (Nebraska) leaning. The remaining states -- all of which were carried by McCain in the November election -- are considered "competitive," with the partisan advantage to either party under 5 points.

While Gallup reports that results from the state-level analysis are consistent with national polls finding that a majority of Americans affiliated with any political party leaned toward or identified as Dems in 2008, election results suggest a robust population of Democratic sympathizers is not enough to guarantee that a state will actually vote for Democratic candidates. As the report explains,

Given that most states had a Democratic advantage in party affiliation last year, to some degree it can be argued that Barack Obama could have won many more electoral votes than he did. In fact, Obama won 28 states (plus the District of Columbia) to John McCain's 22 in the 2008 election.

There are several reasons for possible disparities between the party affiliation data and the voting outcomes in a given state. First, turnout has typically been an equalizer in U.S. electoral politics because Democrats almost always have an advantage in identification, but Republicans have been competitive in national and state elections over the last three decades because Republicans are usually more likely than Democrats to vote. Second, one's partisan leaning is not a perfect predictor of voting in a presidential election, in which candidate-specific characteristics can influence a voter's choice. (Emphasis added.)

More momentum: Americans (heart) Democrats!
A report published today by Pew Research finds that the Democratic Party has a "vast favorability advantage" over the GOP among the American public. Overall, 62 percent of U.S. adults who took the January 11-15 survey rated the Democratic Party favorably, compared to 40 percent who held a favorable opinion of the Republican camp. Almost every demographic group reported feeling more favorable toward Dems -- including white evangelic Christians, who were more like to favor the Democratic Party by 2 percentage points. The latest numbers reflect the highest overall favorability rating of either party in 20 years.

Further parsing of the survey data shows that Americans believe historically excluded & ignored constituencies -- including African Americans, the poor, children, women, gays & lesbians, environmentalists, union leaders, and ordinary folks ("people like yourself") -- will gain significantly more political clout under President Obama's administration compared to the last eight years. The biggest losers in the influence department, Americans predict, will be business corporations, conservative Christians, Washington lobbyists, and "the wealthy." (How do you spell, "it's about damn time"?)

Another high note from the Pew study: in January 2009, 70 percent of Americans surveyed approved of the way President Obama explains his policies and plans. Opinion was sharply divided along partisan lines, however, with Democrats (92 percent) and Independent voters (67 percent) giving Obama a higher approval rating than Republicans (44 percent). Over 80 percent of Americans have heard "a lot" (33 percent) or "a little" about President Obama's economic recovery plan, and a majority -- 57 percent -- think the proposal is a good idea.

There's plenty more enlightening fodder for Democratic data geeks in the full report.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another Milestone: Legislative Action Opportunities

In year of many milestones, we're hitting another one. For the first time since we started organizing as a grassroots volunteer network (that would be January, 2008), Seacoast for Change is offering information about specific state and federal legislation that you may, or may not, choose to actively support. The bills described here are consistent with President Obama's agenda to restore vitality to our nation's troubled economy, provide affordable health care for all, create more good jobs with living wages, invest in clean energy, strengthen our schools and communities, promote civic responsibility, and foster inclusion by creating a government that works for everyone, including those who are most vulnerable to hardship.

We are also providing information about how you can support this legislation if -- and only if -- you wish to do so. Information about opportunities for legislative activism will only be published once -- we're not going to track the response, and there will be no follow up calls or emails reminding you to take action. If you want to make a phone call or write a letter in support of these policies or other legislation going forward, we love you. If that's not your thing, we still love you. If you have feedback or suggestions about the introduction of legislative issues into the mix of Seacoast for Change actions, we welcome your comments (email

In solidarity,


Judy Stadtman
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network
Portsmouth, NH

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Day Poem: What if the mightiest word is love?

Several people mentioned that they would like to read the poem written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander during the inauguration ceremony. Here's a good link to the full text of "Praise Song for the Day, Praise Song for Struggle."

It's moving poem -- and even if poetry is not your thing, it's definitely worth reading over once or twice. I must admit that my favorite passage is this:
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by "first do no harm," or "take no more
than you need." What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp --

praise song for walking forward in that light.