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Sununu's 'Millennial Advisory Council' Releases First Report After Maintaining Low Profile

Casey McDermott, NHPR

This story was updated upon publication of the council's first report.

Remember the Millennial AdvisoryCouncil the governor’s office rolled out back in September? The governor's office released a 22-page report with the council's initial recommendations Wednesday afternoon — encouraging policymakers to review the state's housing policies, consider tax credits that incentivize hiring recent graduates and more.

The council also recommends creating a statewide "school resource counselor" that would outreach to high schools across New Hampshire on education options after high school and student loans. The council also highlights the importance of "a progressive and proactive stance on Climate Change and Climate Policy."

"To ignore Climate Change in New Hampshire is to ignore the myriad of new jobs, technological innovations, and investments spurred by the global, economic and social shift toward renewable energy," the report states. "It is to slight the outdoor tourism industry that is so central to New Hampshire’s economy, as well as the many businesses – such as those in the ski and snowmobiling industry – that rely on a stable climate."

(Read the Millennial Advisory Council's full report here.)

The report was due to the governor Dec. 1, according to the executive order creating the council. The governor's office told NHPR it just received the final version of the report on Wednesday.

Members of the council and the governor’s office confirmed that the council has convened at the State House several times since its first meeting in September, though those meetings have not been widely publicized in advance.

The governor’s office provided two copies of meeting minutes to NHPR upon request, one from the original Sept. 27 meeting and another from Nov. 9. Additional meetings were also held Nov. 29 and Dec. 13.

The Millennial Advisory Council drew significant public interest when it was first announced, as the governor himself acknowledged at its first meeting.

“I cannot tell you the number of phone calls we got from people all across the state wanting to be in this room,” Sununu told the council at the time, adding that he encouraged those selected to find ways to involve their peers in the process. “This is a highly coveted table right now.”

An advisory from the governor’s office ahead of the council’s first meeting also said there would be opportunities for public involvement at future meetings.

“Interested millennials, not selected for the Council, are encouraged to continue to contact the office and will have the opportunity to be a part of the Council’s work through issue specific subcommittees, special initiatives and other projects that the Council may pursue,” the governor’s office said in September. “As such, all interested Millennials not selected are encouraged to attend council meetings, which will be open to the press and the public."

But since September, the governor’s office has not issued any updates to the press about the council's meetings or its work.

Asked how the governor’s office was publicizing the Millennial Advisory Council’s meetings to the public, Sununu spokesman Ben Vihstadt told NHPR via email, “As with most boards and commission meetings, the public notices were posted in the State House elevators.”

As for the substance of the meetings themselves, members of the council said they were encouraged by the group’s conversations so far. Early on, the council divided itself into four subcommittees — focusing broadly on workforce issues, housing, education and "Conservation/Transportation" — and has since been workshopping policy recommendations that fall under each of those umbrellas. 

“I’m hopeful that this is really going to provide some much needed guidance and insight,” said George Hansel, who also serves as a Keene City Councilor. “It’s sort of a rare thing in Concord to have people come together without necessarily a lot of political prejudice or to come with such an open mind to the table like this from all over the state.”

Hansel said he and fellow Millennial Advisory Council member Danya Landis have tried to do their own public outreach on the council’s work, giving presentations to the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce and the Keene Young Professionals Network.

Jessica Wright, another council member from Conway, said she hopes to see the Millennial Advisory Council broaden its public outreach to involve more millennials’ voices — and to hold more meetings outside of Concord — in the year ahead.

“I’m always for more public involvement and getting other people involved,” Wright said. “There’s no way this group of 25 people can understand every aspect of policy recommendations that we’re making.”

Wright and fellow Milllennial Advisory Council member Austen Bernier pitched the idea of this kind of advisory council tailored to young adults in New Hampshire earlier this year. Asked how well the council’s living up to expectations so far, Wright said it’s still early to tell.

“That portion is going to be answered by the response from the governor’s office,” Wright said. “This kind of thing can be so easily be just kind of lip service, but when we figure out how the governor responds and what he takes into account and what he does not, then I think we’ll know if we’re successful or not.”

Casey is a Senior News Editor for NHPR. You can contact her with questions or feedback at cmcdermott@nhpr.org.
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