At Granite State Futures talk, tensions over competing perspectives

LACONIA — Differences over the role of government emerged as one of the key issues at a Granite State Future community conversation which was attended by 117 people at Laconia Middle School last night.
Laconia Attorney David Osman, summing up the conversation for one of the eight groups which grappled with a number of issues ranging from demographic trends to economic development, said ''there are very real differences. We had strong statements about the role of the government and there was very little common ground.''
The same sentiment came up with another group and John Moriarity of Laconia said there was broad agreement about the challenges facing the state but no consensus emerged on the issue property rights.
Tim Carter of Meredith, an activist with the Lakes Region Tea Party, said that there were many concerns over the role of government in the group he participated in and charged that the Granite State Future's plan was ''an activist document'' which portrayed the state's tradition of private property rights as a barrier to progress.
Former Meredith Selectman Miller Lovett said that one of the themes which had emerged in the Granite State Future's community conversations was a tension between individual rights and community rights which creates polarization and makes compromises and consensus more difficult.
The listening sessions are being conducted as part of a three-year project to address regional planning issues. The endeavor is being underwritten by a $3.37 million federal grant with all of the state's nine regional planning commissions participating.
Some $300,000 of that grant is going to the Lakes Region Planning Commission, which is headquartered in Meredith. Commission Executive Director Kim Koulet said that he was pleased with the large turnout and felt that there was a good discussion of a multitude of issues facing the state and the Lakes Region in particular.
Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said that the focus group he was part of thought that infrastructure and jobs, especially for young people, is critical. He also said that issues of poverty and a high crime rate are concerns that need to be dealt with,
Carmen Lorentz, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, said that the group she worked with identified education, a quality environment and linking education to industry so that it helps meet workforce needs were seen as top priorities.
Moriarity said that his group pondered the issue "what kind of a state do we want to be and do we want a tourist economy or a manufacturing economy?''
He said that one area of agreement was the need to address the issues of the state's aging infrastructure and the aging of its population.