What Croydon, a ‘Live Free or Die’ Town, Learned About Democracy – The New York Times

“. . . .  You also should know that New Hampshire’s individual-rights vibe, along with its small population (1.38 million) and large legislature (400 representatives and 24 senators), has drawn libertarians like colonists to a tea party.

This includes the Free State Project, a movement that for years has promoted a mass migration of “liberty activists” to the state so as to seed a kind of limited-government Shangri-La. The group espouses “radical personal responsibility,” “constitutional federalism” and “peaceful resistance to shine the light on the force that is the state,” its website says.

ImageCroydon (population: 800) has, along with other parts of New Hampshire, attracted adherents of the Free State movement.
Credit…John Tully for The New York Times
Croydon (population: 800) has, along with other parts of New Hampshire, attracted adherents of the Free State movement.

Croydon, incorporated in 1763, is among the New Hampshire towns with a free-state vein running through its granite hills. This was hinted at in 2020, when Ian Underwood, a town selectman aligned with the Free State, proposed eliminating the police department as a way to fire its sole employee, the longtime and somewhat controversial chief.

The three-member select board adopted the approach and instructed the chief to return his badge and gear. He promptly handed over his uniform, which he happened to be wearing, and then, in hat, boots and underwear, walked out into a February snowstorm. His wife collected him down past the general store.

Croydon life continued, with yard sales at the museum, Halloween celebrations at the fire station and generally low turnouts at the annual town meetings — a direct-democracy tradition common in New England, when residents gather to approve, deny or amend proposed municipal budgets.

On a snowy Saturday this past March, the 2022 meeting began in the two-century-old town hall, where the walls are adorned with an 1876 American flag made by the “women of Croydon” and instructions to reset the furnace to 53 degrees before leaving.

Residents approved the town budget in the morning. Then they turned in the afternoon to the proposed $1.7 million school budget, which covers the colonial-era schoolhouse (kindergarten to fourth grade) and the cost of sending older students to nearby schools of their choice, public or private.

This is when Mr. Underwood, 60, stood up and threw a sucker punch to the body politic.

Calling the proposed budget a “ransom,” he moved to cut it by more than half — to $800,000. He argued that taxes for education had climbed while student achievement had not, and that based in part on the much lower tuition for some local private schools, about $10,000 for each of the town’s 80 or so students was sufficient — though well short of, say, the nearly $18,000 that public schools in nearby Newport charged for pupils from Croydon.”

They cut the 1.7 Million school budget by 50%!

Chloe Maxmin and Canyon Woodward | What Democrats Don’t Understand About Rural America – The New York Times

Chloe Maxmin and 

Ms. Maxmin, 29, is the youngest female state senator in Maine’s history. Mr. Woodward ran her two campaigns. They are the authors of the forthcoming book “Dirt Road Revival,” from which this essay is adapted.

“NOBLEBORO, Maine — We say this with love to our fellow Democrats: Over the past decade, you willfully abandoned rural communities. As the party turned its focus to the cities and suburbs, its outreach became out of touch and impersonal. To rural voters, the message was clear: You don’t matter.

Now, Republicans control dozens of state legislatures, and Democrats have only tenuous majorities in Congress at a time in history when we simply can’t afford to cede an inch. The party can’t wait to start correcting course. It may be too late to prevent a blowout in the fall, but the future of progressive politics — and indeed our democracy — demands that we revive our relationship with rural communities.”