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Judge won't reconsider decision; county officials don't have many short-term options

LACONIA — For the time being, the Belknap County Commission has no choice but to comply with the order of the Belknap County Superior Court.

On August 28, Justice James D. O'Neill, III issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the commissioners from spending in excess of any line-item appropriation to the operating budget adopted by the Belknap County Convention or transferring more than $300 from one line item to another without the approval of the executive committee of the convention.

The litigation arose from differences between the convention and the commission over their respective budgetary authority. The Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the executive committee.
With equal resolve, the commissioners claimed that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in 13 categories. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.

In granting the convention's request for an injunction, O'Neill found that should the case proceed to trial, his reading of the statutes bearing on the preparation and management of New Hampshire county budgets indicated that the convention would likely prevail. The commission asked O'Neill to reconsider his decision, but he declined. Meanwhile, the court has yet to schedule a final hearing in the case.

Only once a final hearing is held and a final decision reached in Superior Court, the commission could appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Alternatively, absent a final hearing and ruling by the Superior Court, the commission could ask O'Neill to send the case to the Supreme Court for a direct decision.

Beyond stressing that the commission fully intends to comply with the terms of preliminary injunction, Commissioner Ed Philpot, himself an attorney, yesterday declined to comment on what if any alternative courses of action the commissioners may be considering.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2014 11:58

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Group of BHS students counteract Yik Yak attacks with upbeat messages left on lockers

BELMONT — Students and administrators at the High School discovered a pleasant surprise yesterday morning when they found positive and uplifting messages left by a group of five female students taped to each of their lockers.

In addition, the five female students made uplifting posters with positive messages and placed them in various places throughout the school.

"People were so pleased," said Principal Dan Clary. "This was done in the spirit of being positive and it was a nice way to start our day."

Clary said the surprise act of random kindness was part of the fallout of the Yik Yak craze that raced through area high schools earlier this week. Yik Yak is anonymous Internet message-posting site that combines Global Positioning Sensors with the ability to feed into a continual stream; the posts have a range limited to a few miles but have been used as a bullying tool.

He said most Belmont students have already realized they were only hurting themselves by reading "Yaks" about other students and themselves and have deleted the app from their phones.

The written messages included "Turn that frown upside down," "Your hard work is inspiring" and "Your smile is so perfect!"

Associate Superintendent Rick Acquilano said "I believe in our youth and today I was reminded of their strength, compassion and kindness."

Both Clary and Aquilano said how proud they were of their students and their positive reaction to what was a very troubling day.

A media spokeswoman working for Yik Yak said yesterday that while the "app" was designed to let people know what's happening in their immediate vicinity, when the company learned it was being used as bullying tool in high schools they created a way for a school to block the signal and made the app available to those who are 17 and older. She said they also monitor the Yaks and inappropriate comments can result in a use being blocked.

As for anonymity, Gilford Police said yesterday they have been in contact with the legal team at Yik Yak and were informed that if police become involved in a criminal investigation and the proper legal documentation is obtained, Yik Yak will give to police the IP address and GPS coordinates of the user.

This means that while no user name or personal information is required to download the app, there is a way for both Yik Yak and the police to identify a user who has made any criminal use of the app.

 

CUTLINES: One of the uplifting messages left on every locker at the Belmont High School yesterday morning by five students who were pushing back against the negativity caused by the smart phone app Yik Yak. (Photo courtesy of Belmont High School)

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2014 11:52

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Gilford parents can now appeal use of material they find objectionable to school board

GILFORD — The School Board has made some minor changes to a few instructional material policies that could make a big difference for parents who want to know what is being taught to their children.

The first change adopted by the board in early September was to give parents an opportunity to the to appeal the use of specific course material to the School Board.

"This is not required by law and gives more local control to the parents," Hemingway said.

The basic procedure remains the same as it has since 2011. If a parent finds some specific material objectionable, then they must notify the building principal in writing, using the written procedure form, and request the student receive alternative material. No reason for the objection need be given and the cost of substitute materials, if allowed, will be borne by the parent.

The principal's decision can now be appealed to the School Board — a move Hemingway said goes beyond the recommended policy as suggested by the N.H. School Board Association.

Hemingway said the district made it much easier for parents to know which instructional materials are being used by incorporating two additional links on the individual schools' Websites.

A procedural change, Hemingway said they reviewed how other schools provide access to parents about instructional material and incorporated it into their own Website.

"We are trying to be a thorough as possible," Hemingway said.

The first is a link that lists all of the books and movies that could be assigned to students broken down by grade category with freshman and sophomores in one group and juniors and seniors in another.

The link focuses on social studies, English, wellness, and health.

A second link leads to an independent assessment of each book or movie from the American Library Association, the N.H. State Library, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Internet Movie Database.

The links can be accessed by going to the Gilford High School Website, clicking on curriculum and clicking on movie list or movie link list.

In response to an outcry last school year from a parent who objected to a specific novel being taught to his freshman daughter, the board implemented an "opt-in" policy.

Hemingway said that at the beginning of this school year, the district implemented the policy by sending to each parent a list of reading materials and movies to be included in each each of their children's classes.

If a parent has a particular objection to instructional material on the list, then he or she doesn't return the opt-in form and addresses it with the administration under the procedure outline above.

Hemingway said yesterday that he does not believe that any parents have objected to any of the course materials assigned to their children this year.

The School Board also made some minor changes to materials available from the school libraries including that the members of a review committee must read the objectionable material before rendering a decision.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 12:49

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Shaheen salutes women-owned businesses during visit to Laconia

LACONIA — On the heels of the endorsement by the National Association of Women-Owned Businesses, Jeanne Shaheen yesterday brought her campaign another six-year term in the United States Senate downtown to Vintage Row, where she was hosted by Jeanne Howe Compton, who owns and operates New England Porch Rockers.

The first woman from New Hampshire to be elected both governor and senator, Shaheen, a Democrat, finds herself in a tightening race against the challenge from Republican Scott Brown, who served one term in the Senate from Massachusetts.

Introducing the senator, Donna Gaudet Hosmer, a principal of the AutoServ Dealer Group of Tilton, expressed her pride in the four women — Shaheen and her Senate colleague Kelly Ayotte and Representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster — serving the state in Washington.

"We have very smart voters here," Shaheen remarked.

Hosmer, calling herself a "registered Republican," recalled that as president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association, she found Shaheen "at the tip of the spear" when businesses appealed to their representatives for assistance. "She was always responsive, personally and passionately," she said. Hosmer called the election "the most critical" Shaheen has ever faced, with especially high stakes for women.

Shaheen, who polls indicate leads Brown by double digits among women while trailing him by a comparable margin among men, highlighted their differences over providing economic opportunity and appropriate health care for women. She explained that about two-thirds of those earning minimum wage in New Hampshire are women while nationwide women earn 78 cents for every $1 earned by men.
"Discrimination against women doesn't just affect women," she said. "It affects families."

Brown, Shaheen said, has opposed raising the federal minimum wage and twice voted against the Fair Pay Act providing equal pay for equal work while she has favored both as well as co-sponsored the "Lily Ledbetter Law," strengthening worker's capacity to challenge wage discrimination.

Shahen said that she has also worked with the Small Business Administration to expand access to credit for women who own and operate businesses. At the same time, she said she has joined bipartisan legislation to lift the bar against women bidding on sole source contracts with federal government agencies.

Referring to an incident in Conway, Shaheen chided Brown for expressing support for the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case upholding the right of business owners to withhold insurance coverage for contraception on religious grounds, "when they finally got him out of the men's room", where he apparently sought shelter from a reporter. She recalled that when the New Hampshire Legislature mandated insurance coverage for contraception the vote in the House of Representatives was 120 Democrats and 121 Republicans in favor. "There is broad bipartisan support for contraception," she said, adding that as a Brown voted for the so-called Blunt amendment that would have entitled employers to deny heath insurance reasons of conscience.

Shaheen said that she is pleased with the progress of her campaign, which she explained consists primarily of contacting individual voters either by canvassing door-to-door or by telephone. She noted while she and Brown have each expressed respect for the other without disguising their political differences, significant expenditures by independent groups has lent what she described as "an ugly" tone to the race. She said that she was disappointed by Brown's refusal to limit such expenditures.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 12:44

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