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Forrester looking for 3rd Senate term vs. Mello

MEREDITH — Rising to chair the Finance Committee in her second term in the New Hampshire Senate, Republican Jeanie Forrester is well placed to withstand the challenge of Democrat Carolyn Mello of Holderness, who is making her first bid for office in District 2.

"I don't believe my work is done," Forrester said as she eyed a third term. A veteran of Main Street programs in Meredith and Plymouth, former town administrator in Tuftonboro and New Durham and member of nearly a dozen civic and charitable organizations, she enjoys a strong presence in the 27 towns of the district. "Constituent service," she insists, "is my top priority."

Mello, a veteran of the United States Air Force, where she was a Russian linguist, recently retired after teaching special education for 17 years. As a teacher she was president of her union and as a retiree she served on the school board, experience that placed her both sides of the negotiating table.

The two candidates oppose the Northern Pass project and industrial wind farms, both major issues in the district. They agree that efforts should be made to shrink the role of money in electoral politics. Both favor increased support for higher education, both the university and community college systems. Forrester helped broker the compromise to extend health insurance to some 20,000 residents eligible for Medicaid, an initiative Mello supports. Neither candidate favors decriminalizing possession of marijuana. And while Forrester firmly opposes casino gambling, Mello questions its value as a revenue source.

Otherwise Forrester and Mello differ. A conservative Republican, Forrester believes that the state's fiscal challenges arise on the spending side of the ledger while Mello suggests exploring additional sources of revenue. Forrester opposes and Mello favors raising the minimum wage. Forrester opposes and Mello favors repealing the death penalty. Forrester has supported providing parents with wider choices in educating their children, including voucher programs, while Mello is strongly opposed to the state investing funds or foregoing revenue to support private pr parochial schools.

In her two terms, Forrester has become a leader in the Senate, showing a command of the major issues, from the budget to health care, and playing a major role in addressing them. Her experience and presence poses a formidable challenge for anyone making their political debut.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 12:16

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Peer group forming to support parents who have children dealing wiht substance abuse issues

LACONIA — A peer support group for parents of children, teens or young adults with drug or alcohol problems is meeting at the Laconia Family Resource Center at 719 North Main Street on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

The group is called F.A.S.T.E.R. (Families Advocating Substance Treatment, Education and Recovery) and support is being made possible through a recent Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant — passed through the state to the Laconia School District.

The group started meeting on September 11 said Susan McKeown, the Family Support Coordinator at the Children's Behavioral Health Collaborative.

"Families also need to be supported in recovery," said McKeown.

F.A.S.T.E.R is anonymous and is run by parent facilitators who are trained to train other parent facilitators. McKeown said it is free, confidential, respectful, and accepts that chemical dependency is a treatable disease of the brain.

"It can be very difficult for a parent to admit that all is not well at home," said McKeown. "If they can talk to someone ahead of time, they're not so afraid of going to a meeting."

She said it can be very helpful for people who have children with drug problems just to know that they are not alone.

McKeown said people who are interested and want to join can call Nancy at 293-0960 who will explain to them how the group works and answer any questions.

She said it's an opportunity to get support, information and to learn about resources available in the area.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 12:10

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3 Belknap County towns have say in Cataldo v. Leonard rematch in Senate 6

ROCHESTER — The contest for control of the New Hampshire Senate could hinge on the outcome of the race between the Republican incumbent Sam Caltaldo and his Democratic rival Rich Leonard in District 6, consisting of the city of Rochester and towns of Alton, Barnstead, Farmington, Gilmanton and New Durham.

Two years ago, Cataldo , after serving three terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, won the open seat, topping Leonard, who was making his political debut, by 633 votes, 12,760 to 12,127. Cataldo lost Rochester, but carried all five towns with his 793 vote margin in bright red Alton proving decisive. Running in a presidential election year contributed to Leonard's strong showing and he may find himself challenged to match it this time around.

Cataldo, a native of Massachusetts who has lived in Farmington since 2001, attended Northeastern University, served six years in the United States Air Force and worked as an engineer at Avco Corporation, an aeronautical affiliate of Textron. Semi-retired, he describes himself as a computer consultant.

The pharmacy manager at Hannaford's store in Alton, Leonard also owns Miller Farm with its orchard of 380 apple and peach trees and sugar shack. He is a member of the Public Health Advisory Council-Executive Committee and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Service in Strafford County. Raised in Hanover, Mass., he lived in Rochester for 26 years before moving to New Durham in 2004.
Both Cataldo and Leonard favor repealing the death penalty and permitting same sex marriage, but disagree about virtually everything else. An outspoken conservative Cataldo has associated with the Tea Party and 9/12 Group and drawn support from Americans for Prosperity and Cornerstone Action. Leonard, a lifelong Democrat, enjoys the support of labor unions and liberal advocacy groups.

Cataldo supports right-to-work legislation and opposes raising the minimum wage while Leonard takes the opposite positions on both issues. Cataldo disputes the notion that man-made emissions contribute to climate change while Leonard accepts the science of global warming and supports measures, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, aimed at mitigating it. Cataldo believes that voter fraud skews elections in New Hampshire and insists requiring voter identification is necessary to prevent it. Leonard claims the extent of voter is exaggerated and steps to eliminate it hinder people from voting.

Critical of what he calls Obamacare, Cataldo prefers a less regulated, more competitive approach to health care, emphasizing that Frisbie Memorial Hospital was excluded from the provider network of Anthem, the sole insurance carrier to participate in the state exchange. Leonard fully supports the Affordable Care Act, stressing that when five health insurance carriers join the exchange in 2015 the increased competition will provide greater choice and lower costs.

Likewise, Cataldo opposed the decision to expand Medicaid, explaining that when the program sunsets in two years and the federal funding is reduced the only way to fund coverage for some 20,000 people will be a sales or income tax. Leonard, whose family lost their health insurance after his wife was stricken with cancer but regained coverage through the Affordable Care Act, was drawn to politics by the desire to ensure affordable access to healthcare for all.

Cataldo contends that Common Core will hinder the achievement of students and co-sponsored legislation to delay the introduction of Common Core until the fiscal impacts of the program were studied. Stressing the importance of enabling students to compete with their counterparts abroad, Leonard believes that Common Core will improve elementary and secondary education.

Cataldo supported the introduction of casino gambling, which he claims will generate revenue and employment, but called for two casinos — one in the south and one in the north, not one. While acknowledging the need for additional revenue and the prospect of additional jobs, Leonard has indicated he will consider particular proposals to expand gambling on their merits.

Both parties will keep a close eye on the results in District 6 where the balance of power in the Senate could well be determined.


Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 12:03

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Search inventory sheet turns up in cocaine possession case; defense protests

SUPERIOR COURT — One year after a traffic stop in Gilford that led to the arrest of a local man for possession of cocaine and the same day the matter was scheduled for an evidence suppression hearing, a N.H. State Trooper testified in court that he had only just found some inventory search paperwork that had been missing from the original case file.

The paperwork, which should have been in the case file and released to the defense team of Richard Varricchio as part of discovery, was introduced into evidence by Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen the day of the suppression hearing.

Varricchio, who is charged with one count of possession of cocaine, has challenged an "inventory search" of his car performed by police on November 30, 2013 on two grounds: that the car didn't need to be towed because it was not "a menace to traffic" and that an inventory search is not meant to be an investigation.

Because Varricchio's attorney Steve Mirkin didn't get a copy of the form as part of his discovery, he argued the search was investigatory and the evidence, including the cocaine, should be suppressed or disallowed.

Mirkin objected to introducing the inventory form as evidence at this time because it had been missing for a year and there was no provable chain of custody.

"I'm not sure of the circumstances," he said. "It's been one year since the arrest and the officer said he just found it yesterday."

Trooper John Forbes testified Friday that he had only just found the form while going through some of his other files earlier that morning. He said it was accidental and that he didn't intentionally withhold it from evidence. He also acknowledged his supervisor has asked him for the form.

Guldbrandsen said the form was dated and it was signed by someone who works for Gulbricki's Towing.

Judge James O'Neill allowed the form to be introduced but said he was taking note of Mirkin's objection.

Police had the car towed after a traffic stop on Route 11 on a straight away near the entrance to Walmart. Varricchio was a passenger in the car. The driver was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Varricchio was placed into protective custody by a trooper and driven home.

State police towing policy requires that an inventory search must not be an investigation but a written record of the items in a car. The purpose is to protect both the police from an accusation of theft and the car owner from having his or her things stolen. If an illegal item, either suspected or actual, is found, the inventory search must stop and the police must apply for a search warrant to continue.

In this case, the police didn't apply for a search warrant and Mirkin argued that his search process in this case was flawed.

Forbes testified he didn't have any conversation with either the driver of the car, Gregory MacRae, or Varricchio. He wrote down MacRae's name as the person who released the car to him.

Mirkin questioned him about what he had written on the form

"You wrote assorted tools. What tools?" he asked Forbes.

"I don't know" Forbes said.

"How many tools," asked Mirkin.

"I don't know," Forbes said.

"Were they power?" Mirkin asked.

"I don't know," said Forbes.

Mirkin noted that if Varricchio was going to file a complaint the information on the form wouldn't be much help to the police and that the only items on the form were glasses, some tools and garbage.

Forbes testified he found the baggie under the front seat but said didn't remember this specific one because he does hundreds of searches a year. He said he didn't think there was any other activity.

Judge O'Neill said he would take the suppression motion under consideration.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 12:53

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