From the February 2008 Idaho Observer:
Free State Project: Making a difference
Rich Angell is a friend of ours who pulled up his tent stakes, packed his belongings and drove cross country from Missoula, Montana, to New Hampshire last summer to be part of the Free State Project. "Porcupines" such as Angell are not just waiting for government to give them freedom. They are systematically bringing freedom back by respectfully reinstating the freedom values into the dialogue by participating in local politics.
By Rich Angell
The Free State Project (www.freestateproject.org), is a project to get as many liberty-oriented people as possible to move to New Hampshire and put the Government back in its Constitutional cage where it belongs. New Hampshire was chosen from among ten states that were originally under consideration. The criteria included low population, a favorable political climate, respect for the Second Amendment and allowed homeschooling. The mascot of the FSP is the porcupine, a friendly critter who lives in the woods and minds its own business—provided you don’t step on it or otherwise molest it. While the project is behind its goal of 20,000 members, the 518 (or so) Porcupines who have already made the move have made a very significant impact. Nearly 1,000 more have personally pledged to move by the end of 2008.
I made the move in June 2007, in time for the fourth annual Porcupine Freedom Festival, www.porcfest.com, which is an opportunity for Porcupines, Friends of the Free State Project (members who were already in New Hampshire when it was chosen), prospective members, and anyone else who enjoys mingling with people who understand that the maximum extent of government should be to protect the life, liberty and property of individuals.
I arrived with no plan, other than to "wing it". Before the end of the Porc Fest, I had an offer to house sit in the rural Town of Grafton, home of the Free Town Project. I have all but settled in Grafton, where we are lauded by people who are sick and tired of their property taxes going up every year, and hated by a vocal minority who have yet to figure out that socialism doesn’t work. One such guy was seen on a local TV news clip proclaiming, "I don’t want people moving in here and cramming freedom down our throats!" Notably, that particular individual was not at the annual Grafton Town meeting held recently on Saturday, February 9th.
The town meeting really clarified for me the fact that a few people can make a difference in the Free State. Eight Porcupines were present, seven of which are registered voters of Grafton and who are therefore eligible to vote on the budget proposals and warrant articles to be voted on in a future election. Never before in my life had I been involved in politics at such a local level, and here I was, making a real difference.
Fighting tooth and nail, we managed to lower the operating budget by over $20,000. Clearly, without the Porcupines, the outcome of the votes would have been very different.
There were 27 warrant articles under consideration to be possibly amended, and ultimately voted on by the entire Town of Grafton in March. Most had to do with raising and spending money on roads, vehicles, emergency equipment, etcetera, but there were a few that readers of The Idaho Observer will find particularly interesting. What follows are several of the numbered warrant articles we considered:
17. "Are you in favor of abolishing the Planning Board as... proposed by petition of the voters of the Town of Grafton? Not recommended by the Planning Board." Grafton thankfully has no zoning, but this little bureaucracy still wants to determine what you may or may not do with your own property.
20. "Are you in favor of requiring that the Town of Grafton set the date for payment of property tax bills be one day prior to Town Meeting?" When this was drafted by our Porcupine attorney from Florida, he was unaware that the Town had just changed its tax collection from once to twice per year, so there was a question about its legality... but any reader of The Idaho Observer has got to love the concept.
21. "To see if the Town will vote to request that the Selectment recommend for appointment as the Town Health Officer... only individuals who are residents and taxpayers of the Town of Grafton." The Health Officer, who doesn’t live in Grafton, often shows up unannounced, poking around, looking into peoples’ yards and looking for "violations". Ultimately, Porcupines would like to see this office abolished altogether. But for now, it makes total sense to appoint someone who will have to face his neighbors. The warrant article was amended to substitute the word "request" for the previous "require", which was ruled to be illegal under the law. It passed overwhelmingly.
22. "In order to reduce Grafton property taxes, are you in favor of requesting the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee to reduce town spending and property taxes by 10% of the current town budget for each of the next three fiscal years?" This is another one where the word "request" had to be substituted for "require".
23. "Are you in favor of requiring that each warrant article which appears on the ballot requesting or requiring either additional or reduced spending from the previous year’s town budget, disclose the impact of such additional or reduced spending by disclosing on the ballot the money amount that property taxes in Grafton will either increase or decrease per $1,000 of assessed value, based upon the previous year’s tax rate, if the warrant article is approved?" Passed overwhelmingly.
24. "To see if the Town will pass an ordinance that shall be known as ‘The Grafton United Nations Free Zone Act’. The purpose of this Act is to establish the Town of Grafton, New Hampshire as a United Nations free zone in that the United Nations is prohibited within the Town limits and that citizens are sovereign from the jurisdiction of the United Nations. To maintain and preserve the Supreme Law of the Land as set forth in the Constitution for the State of New Hampshire, and for these United States of America to the benefit of the people of the Town of Grafton, to include, but not limited to, the freedom of speech, press, assembly and petition, and the right to bear arms, to trial by jury, to the privilege against self incrimination and to the common law writ of habeas corpus. To protect the citizens of the town of Grafton from taxation without representation, by forbidding the implementation within the town limits of any tax, levy, fee, assessment, surcharge, or any other financial imposition by the United Nations."
Enemies of freedom tried to molest this one, substituting "Mickey Mouse" for the words "United Nations". People at the town meeting were not amused, and the hostile amendment was easily defeated.
The UN Free Zone article was proposed by our Fire Chief John Babiarz, a long time Graftonite, former chairman of the New Hampshire Libertarian Party, and friend of the Free State Project. He gave a speech that would make our Founding Fathers proud. This article has failed in years past, but as more Porcupines move to the Free Town, we may very well be able to pass the ordinance.
Perhaps the highlight of the night was warrant article 26, which originally read like this: "To see if the Town will vote to approve the following resolution to be forwarded to our State Representatives, our State Senator and our Governor: Resolved: We the citizens of Grafton, NH believe in a New Hampshire that is just and fair. The property tax has become unjust and unfair. State leaders who take a pledge for no new taxes perpetuate higher and higher property taxes. We call on our State Representatives, our State Senator, and our Governor to reject the "pledge", have an open discussion covering all options, and adopt a revenue system that lowers property taxes."
This particular warrant article is a project of an organization seeking to increase taxes and spending in New Hampshire. A proposed amendment was easily passed that revised the article as follows:
"Resolved: We the citizens of Grafton, NH believe in a NH that is just and fair. The property tax has become unjust and unfair. State leaders who have increased State spending 17% in the last budget perpetuate higher and higher property taxes. We call on our state representatives and our governor to reduce the irresponsible spending in Concord [the state capitol], which will lower property tax burden for the residents of NH."
All the above warrant articles, as well as various budget proposals, will be voted on by the people of Grafton in the upcoming town election to be held on the 11th of March.
Making a difference
But enough about Grafton. I’ve traveled throughout New Hampshire. As a Porcupine, I’ve attended straw polls, sign waves, canvassing, an annual UN flag burn, the FSP’s Second Annual Liberty Forum, hearings on bills in the State Capitol, and many protests. For the past two weeks I’ve worked as a volunteer observer for the Republican Primary vote recount. It’s quite obvious that without the Free State Project and the presence of Porcupines, most of these events would be flops, if they were attempted at all.
The Porcupine-created NH Liberty Alliance, www.NHLiberty.org, studies and rates all the proposed bills that are introduced in Concord. They also have a guide that rates the Governor and all State legislators from A to F, and (in extreme cases) "CT" (Constitutional Threat) or "DD" (Dereliction of Duty).
New Hampshire continues to be transformed, little by little, by incoming Free Staters. Porcupines Ian and Mark moved from Florida with their daily talk radio show Free Talk Live, www.freetalklive.com. There is a popular Porcupine owned and operated pub in downtown Manchester (the most populous city in the State) called Murphy’s Taproom, which has become a social mecca for libertarians. One early mover Joel Winters rallied various organizations and activists to defeat the Patriot Act in New Hampshire, and was subsequently rewarded by being elected to the State House of Representatives.
The bottom line is this: we are making a difference in New Hampshire, the Free State, and we’re sure to enjoy more success as we grow in numbers. If you love liberty, if you’re sick of the burgeoning government in your State, by all means look up the Free State Project on the internet, and then join us by moving to the only state with motto "Live Free or Die".
You’ll be in very good company, and welcomed by other liberty-lovers with open arms.