CLAREMONT — Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, running a Republican primary campaign against President Donald Trump, visited Claremont yesterday morning as part of a five-day New Hampshire visit to all 10 counties. Weld visited the city fire station, where he delivered a speech honoring the heroism of America’s first responders on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and joined a roundtable at city hall with city and school officials to hear about Claremont’s biggest needs from the federal level of government.
Only three members of the department — Deputy Chief Tom Belaire and firefighters Kyle Lizotte and Matt Whitehead — were able to attend Weld’s visit, because most of the crew were still responding to a scrap metal fire at 38 Industrial Boulevard.
Speaking to reporters, Weld shared his memories of being in New York City in the immediate aftermath of the Twin Towers attack, saying that he had three daughters who attended schools in the city at the time. Even from a distant part of the city he could see the smoke billowing from Ground Zero, and he remembered family members and friends of missing loved ones on their cell phones, hoping to receive positive information three to five days afterward to no avail.
As a presidential hopeful, Weld said he wants to restore the national security and relationships with foreign countries and economic partners that he feels have become lost under the Trump administration.
“Our Pledge of Allegiance refers to our country as indivisible and the United States,” Weld said. “Our current president is visibly trying to divide this country into opposing sides.”
Weld said that he includes America’s growing debt and climate change among America’s national security issues, and stressed the need to restore the trade relations that were in place prior to the Trump administration. Weld also spoke critically of the administration’s tariffs, pointing out their historical failure decades ago.
Roundtable with Claremont officials
At City Hall, Weld sat with city officials and department heads, who shared some of the city’s biggest needs from the federal government, which ranged from a renewed commitment to federal funding and grants for special education, infrastructure and economic revitalization projects.
Mayor Charlene Lovett also discussed the importance to create a border preclearance facility for the Amtrak Vermonter line to extend into Canada, which would have significant economic importance to Claremont in respects to tourism and commerce.
Weld said that he strongly supported bilateral projects like rail transportation, which strengthens tourism and understanding between parties. “I know from my experience as a governor that a state gets a six-to-one return on investment in tourism.”
“We currently have businesses that are headquartered in Canada that have plants here, and Canada is the number one trade partner,” Lovett said. “And these are not small companies. North Country Smokehouse has a national reputation and Can-Am is finishing its repairing of Tappan Zee Bridge.”
Lovett said that prior to the changes in administration in the U.S. and Canada, both governments had approved the legislation to allow the Vermonter line expansion, but the trade arguments appeared to stall their negotiations to fund construction of that facility, which would be necessary for the train to enter each country without requiring a lengthy stop by border security. Lovett learned that the transportation minister in Quebec plans to take the lead to plan and construct the facility, but she does not know where the funding will come from.
Planning and Development Director Nancy Merrill discussed the need for the continuance of federal funds for economic development like Community Development Block Grants and the Northern Borders program, which the city relies on heavily to fund the adaptive reuse of its historic or vacant buildings. Unlike surrounding states, New Hampshire does not provide comparable grant programs to its communities. Merrill expressed concern about the future preservation of these programs, recalling that in 2016 Congress’ first presented budget dropped these two programs.
Lovett expressed a similar need for a federal program that rewards communities like Claremont through grant assistance for being proactive to remove lead-based paints from their community. Claremont has been a leader in New Hampshire in this initiative, though many of the lead-paint problems are in privately-owned buildings and few state or federal funds are available to help property owners remove these hazards.
Weld restated his prioritization of environmental and community protection, and desire to correct the deregulatory practices of President Trump.
“They’re cutting back two types of regulation,” Weld said. “One is for clean air and the other for clean water. Now he wants to relax regulations on methane. Methane is 38 times as harmful to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.”
Weld said that, if president, he would want to support initiatives like Claremont’s to proactively arrest its lead problem before it escalates to something like what transpired in Flint, Michigan.