Panel advising Benson has libertarian leaning
|Title:||Panel advising Benson has libertarian leaning|
Panel advising Benson has libertarian leaning
Its mission: Find inefficiencies in state departmentsby Daniel Barrick Monitor staff 04/14/04
John Babiarz, Libertarian candidate for governor. Ken Williams Photo
A panel authorized by the governor to find inefficiencies in the state health and transportation departments is composed almost entirely of members of the Free State Project and includes a longtime antagonist of the Division of Children, Youth and Families.
Gov. Craig Benson chose John Babiarz, head of the state Libertarian Party, to chair the committee and select its members last month. Among the panel's 11 members are eight members of the libertarian Free State Project, a woman who has not yet moved to New Hampshire and Paula Werme, a Boscawen lawyer who has battled DCYF in court many times. DCYF is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Members of the committee said their libertarian bent would help them find problems in state government that others had missed.
"We're not here to dismantle, we're here to look outside the box," Babiarz said. "We're here to give them a sanity check and say what works. The key aspect is looking at ways of making the process better and more efficient. All of us are outside-the-box thinkers."
The Free State Project hopes to move 20,000 people to New Hampshire within the next five years. The project's charter calls for effecting change - including shrinking the size of state government by two-thirds, repealing most gun and drug laws and doing away with public education - through electoral results. Not all of the project's members are affiliated with the Libertarian Party, though many are.
Werme is listed as an adviser to the panel. Reached by phone yesterday, Werme refused to comment on the committee or her involvement with it.
But Werme has had several publicized run-ins with DCYF and the court system in recent years. In 1999, Werme was ordered to return her license plate, which read "H8DCYF."
At the time, Werme said the plate "perfectly expresses my sentiments toward the Division for Children, Youth and Families, who violate my clients' rights on a daily basis."
Last December, the state Supreme Court ruled that Werme violated state rules of professional conduct when she advised a client to disclose details of confidential court proceedings to a Monitorreporter.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has said that you need not honor an unconstitutional statute," Werme said in December. "You're free to violate it. That's all I told my client."
"In plain English, DCYF lies and the courts believe them," the site says.
Werme has run for Congress and the state Legislature as a Libertarian candidate. Babiarz, the panel's chairman, said he and other panel members would consult Werme with questions as they continued with their work. Babiarz said some officials at the Department of Health and Human Services had objected to Werme's involvement on the committee, but he defended her participation.
"She has some insights that the rest of the members of the group don't," Babiarz said. "Sometimes you have to listen to what the critics say, not to form any biased opinion, but to get a heads-up on how things work."
Don Gorman, a former Libertarian state representative from Deerfield and leader in the Free State Project, said that the panel members' status as outsiders was the right match for the job.
"Look at the present system: It needs to be revamped," he said. "And if a house is on fire, you don't form a committee made up of builders and planners. You call the fire department."
Gorman predicted that the Free State Project's robust representation on a state panel, just six months after New Hampshire was selected as the project's home, boded well.
"I think in another four years, you're going to see a lot of Free State people in the New Hampshire Legislature," he said. "We don't have the manpower yet, but it's coming."
The committee's other members include Craig Peterson of Merrimack, who was appointed to DCYF's advisory board last month by Benson; Karen and Calvin Pratt, Free State Project transplants who moved from New Jersey several months ago; Dawn Lincoln, a Free Stater who has yet to move to New Hampshire; Rick Wickson of Derry; John Barnes of New London; Amanda Phillips of Bridgewater; and Michelle Dumas of Somersworth.
Asked about the panel's strong Free State component, Benson spokesman Wendell Packard said, "We're all part of what makes New Hampshire great. The governor doesn't exclude people."
Packard said the panel had no authority to implement policy but was simply giving advice to the governor and Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen. Attempts to reach officials at the department last night were unsuccessful.
The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, a lobbying and social group aligned with the Free State Project, announced yesterday that Benson would be the keynote speaker at its June fundraiser. Packard said he could not confirm whether Benson would be there.
Benson was the keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Libertarian Party's state convention last November.
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