October 8, 2008

Voices Around New England

A fixed base operator (FBO) to succeed Ossipee Valley Aviation at Skyhaven Airport [in Rochester, N.H.] isn't on the horizon. It will eventually happen, but not sometime soon. It's part of what is shaping up as a go-slow-and-do-it-right approach to the change in management at the airport on Rochester Hill Road.

"Rest assured there will be someone there to keep the doors open at Skyhaven come Nov. 1," said Jack Ferns, the state's director of the Bureau of Aeronautics, a division of the Department of Transportation. "To bring on a full service FBO though, will take time."

Ossipee Valley Aviation will cease its operations at Skyhaven on Nov. 1 for what are described as financial reasons.

The Pease Development Authority and the Bureau of Aeronautics are nearing agreement on a temporary lease agreement for Skyhaven. An expected one-year lease will give everyone concerned time to develop strategy and terms for a long-term agreement.

The PDA appeared amenable to take over the Rochester airport earlier this year, when it became obvious there was little chance of a workable alternative.

The PDA has done a good job of handling general aviation at Pease. It has maintained the airport effectively and its relationship with the Air National Guard has apparently been a good one. While the history of scheduled passenger service in and out of Pease can be generously described as spotty, it has been due to no fault of the PDA. One airline service after another has been in and out of Pease largely because of the economics of the industry and geography. Larger airports surround Pease and are within 50 miles of the Seacoast area, with frequent flights and connections to and from other parts of the country, the Western Hemisphere and overseas.

What the airport at Pease does it does well, and the expertise the PDA has developed in running what is now known as Portsmouth International Airport more than qualifies it to manage Skyhaven.

A short-term lease with the PDA will enable the State of New Hampshire to walk away from Skyhaven, something it has wanted to do for several years. . . .

--Foster's Daily Democrat

(Dover, N.H.)

In agreeing to extend a Medicaid waiver for three years, the federal government has given the state's health care reform push a deserved shot in the arm.

The waiver means Massachusetts can continue to use federal money to subsidize health care coverage for residents whose incomes exceed federal eligibility guidelines but who still may be unable to afford coverage on their own.

Under the deal, the state has the authority to spend about $21.2 billion over the next three years on health-care reform, a $4.3 billion increase over the previous three-year agreement.

The state has had admirable success thus far in its effort to extend health insurance to all residents, but an estimated 150,000 people remain without insurance. The latest agreement will tremendously ease the strain on Massachusetts' budget as it works to chip away at that 150,000 figure.

The idea is that, with more people able to visit doctors in their offices because they're covered, less money will be sunk into reimbursements for non-urgent emergency room visits, as well as to safety-net hospitals that have provided care to those unable to pay. The waiver extension buys the state time to keep the reform effort moving steadily toward financial soundness and fairness.

--Telegram & Gazette (Worcester)

A recent survey shows that Connecticut residents have noticeably cooled toward two old Democratic war horses, U.S. Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman and Christopher J. Dodd.

The slide in public affection -- both men have higher negatives than positives in the poll by Pulsar Research and Consulting of Vernon -- isn't surprising considering the length of time they've been on the public scene and the inevitable warts that appear on politicians' records.

The failed presidential bids of Mr. Lieberman in 2004 and Mr. Dodd this year may have helped dim public perceptions. Other obvious factors contribute to slipping poll numbers.

Mr. Lieberman is estranged from the Connecticut Democratic Party, having been jilted by primary voters in 2006 and having won re- election via an independent candidacy. He has since twisted a vengeful knife by not only supporting Republican presidential candidate John McCain but by speaking at the GOP national convention and criticizing Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Apart from his association with Mr. McCain, Mr. Lieberman's zealous support for the Iraq war has hurt him with many Democrats and unaffiliated voters in a state where the war is unpopular.

Mr. Dodd's job approval rating has suffered because of his place on a VIP list of "friends" of the head of one of the nation's biggest lenders and the fact that he received favorable mortgage terms from that lender. Many Connecticut residents also wonder why Mr. Dodd, as chairman of the Senate banking committee, was not alert much earlier to the financial crisis now engulfing the country.

For the first time in decades, these two Democratic stalwarts find themselves in an exposed position.

--The Hartford Courant

Transmitted via the AP regional wire.

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