LEBANON – In June, Al Patterson ended his 40-plus years as a resident of Lebanon by selling his Farr Road home for $ 515,000, resigning from the zoning council and leaving the city.
That decision, Patterson later said, was largely due to frustration. After losing his school board seat in 2013, a failure for New Hampshire House in 2014, and two unsuccessful campaigns for city council, it was clear to him that the city will not change.
And by change, Patterson, 56, means cutting spending, lowering taxes and, he says, going back to the days when Lebanon was made up of working-class and middle-class families.
“I am a guy from Lebanon. I’ve lived here my whole life, loved the city like nothing else and loved the people, ”Patterson said in an interview last week.
But, he added, the city is “mismanaged”, with tax rates rising and few amenities to show them.
Patterson, who was appointed to Lebanon’s Zoning Council in 2013, said he and his wife Barbara had moved to a nearby town, but asked that she not be named.
Patterson, who ran for New Hampshire House as a Republican, said it wasn’t just the tax hike that helped his decision to move. There has been a marked change in the political climate in Lebanon, he argues, driven in part by gentrification.
A fiscal conservative like him, he deduced, can no longer win a city-wide election.
“Lebanon has become extremely liberal,” he said.
Just a few months ago, in March, Patterson made an offer to working-class residents of Lebanon: elect him to city council and their voices would be heard.
The annual tax increases, he said, which squeeze the elderly in Lebanon would be reduced, the dreaded increases in water and sewerage would be reduced and everything would be done by re-examining the city’s needs, reducing fats and questioning new projects.
“We have to set a budget that we can afford and stick to it,” he said in a February email to Valley News. “Don’t go into debt like we’re a teenager with a credit card who thinks we should keep raising our spending limit.”
Patterson bet his campaign on the idea that voters, especially longtime residents of the city, could no longer afford rising utility and tax bills and were being forced to leave. The city’s working class would be evicted, Patterson warned, replaced by graduate students and college workers, medical workers and the “young professionals” to whom the city’s expensive new apartments are being marketed.
But when the election results were calculated, Patterson received 802 votes, placing second in a three-way race against longtime city councilor Karen Liot Hill, who won 924 votes, and teacher at Vermont Technical College, Sylvia Puglisi, who obtained 303 votes.
Liot Hill, a former Republican, defines herself as a center-left Democrat. She declined to comment on Patterson. Puglisi was endorsed by the Upper Valley Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA.
Barbara Patterson, who was a candidate for the school board, also lost, finishing fourth in a race to seven for three seats on the panel.
The results underscore that in the 21st century, elections in Lebanon show a shift from the battlefield of the Violet State to a reliable Democratic stronghold.
In 2000, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the city between 2,892 and 2,865, according to data from the city clerk’s office. But by 2020, that makeup had changed, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 5,451 to 1,964.
The last Republicans elected to represent Lebanon at New Hampshire House were the late Terri Dudley and then-mayor Ralph Akins in 2002. Akins lost a nomination for re-election the following year as an Independent and is now democrat. The city’s four representatives in Concord have since been Democrats.
The shift to the left has also spilled over into city politics, with little or no voice in city council or school board blatantly calling itself “conservative.”
But while there are certainly fewer Republicans elected in Lebanon, that doesn’t necessarily change the outcome of the votes, said Karen Cervantes, longtime Lebanese resident and Republican activist.
Cervantes served on the Lebanon School Board for seven years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During this time she was part of a group of three voters, still in the minority, who tried unsuccessfully to reduce the number of voters. expenses.
“This has been going on for years and years,” she said of the city’s democratic control. “Alan’s move is not going to affect more than what he’s done in the past 20 years.”
Cervantes also pointed out that Patterson’s recent campaign wasn’t just about saving taxpayer dollars. A former Hanover police officer, he opposed the cuts in the budget of the Lebanese police department proposed by the Haute Vallée DSA and pleaded against the group’s efforts to abolish the post of Lebanon’s school resources officer. .
While residents voted, by 1,011 to 1,006, to approve an article on the mandate asking Lebanon’s school district to “dissolve” its school resources post, the council ultimately decided to keep the post in May.
Patterson has also clashed with Liot Hill, now serving his 17th year, who often advocates for business and taxpayer interests before city council.
State Senator Sue Prentiss, D-Lebanon, added that city-wide elections were not previously partisan affairs, with a burning button, with local issues generally dominating the countryside. But in recent years, she said, politics and national issues often play out at the municipal level.
“It created a much more stark contrast,” said Prentiss, a former moderate Republican who served as mayor of Lebanon, of the police debate. “I think that the candidates for the elections should not only build on their vision of the city and share their background, but also their ideologies and their way of thinking. ”
Like Patterson and his conservative beliefs, Liot Hill was also asked about his Democratic activism during the election, Prentiss said, as was City Councilor Devin Wilkie, who was endorsed by the Upper Valley DSA.
“It brought out a contrast for voters,” Prentiss said.
Meanwhile, school board president Dick Milius, who served for two years with Patterson, also said his absence in Lebanon “would leave a void.” He remembers Patterson, with a small voting block, often advocating for spending cuts.
“He didn’t win a lot of those fights, but I think when Al was on the board you could always count on that side,” Milius said.
However, the president of the school board is confident that others will stand for election, saying Lebanon is still made up “of a substantial number of people with different political and social views”.
The mayor of Lebanon, Tim McNamara, from West Lebanon, also echoed similar sentiments.
“I think we still have a lot of voice in this city across the spectrum,” he said. “People are not going to change their minds just because someone has moved. People will always run, as they should.
Tim Camerato can be contacted at [email protected] or 603-727-3223.