College Bear visits Belmont Middle School


BELMONT — When a big brown bear tells a group of fifth-graders that they should start thinking about college, the fifth-graders pay attention.

And that's what happened Tuesday morning at the Belmont Middle School as the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation kicked off its November campaign to reinforce the benefits of a college education.

"I Am College Bound" is one of the signature programs for the foundation that provides information to teachers, parents and students in childhood about how to plan for college during the early school years and how to identify resources to encourage post-high school education.

"Often by sixth grade, students have an idea if they are college material," said Tori Berube, the vice president of planning and community engagement for the foundation.

Berube said this is consistent with national trends and in some cases, she said she has seen children as young as second grade say they plan on going to college.

"This (outreach program) is a chance to plant the seed," Berube said.

College Bear was not the only visitor for the fifth-graders at Belmont Middle School on Tuesday. Four senior class members, all with plans to attend college, comprised a panel that fielded questions from the younger students and their teachers about the things they needed to do in their earlier grades to make sure they can go to college at graduation.

"Keep reading until you like to read," said senior Michael Iacopucci, who hopes to attend Brigham Young University and is the Belmont High School Band president.

His advice about reading was echoed by the three other seniors, who also told their younger counterparts to not procrastinate and to never limit their horizons. Their advice also included looking and identifying scholarships and sources of money as they progress through middle and high school so they'll be as ready as they can be when college time comes.

Berube said that New Hampshire has one of the best educated populations in the United States with 49 percent of its residents having a college degree or higher and an additional 29 percent having "high value credentials" like certificates of study.

Berube said the goal is to have 65 percent of the population with college degrees or credentials by 2025, and the key is starting children to think about college in early middle school.

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College Bear made a special appearance in front of the fifth-grade class at Belmont Middle School to encourage students to begin thinking about college in their early years. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

4 GOP, 4 Dems compete for Belknap District 3


LACONIA — Four Republicans and four Democrats will vie for four seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

• Three of the four Republicans representing the city in the New Hampshire House of Representatives are seeking re-election and have been joined by Jim McCoole, a resident of the Taylor Community, who is making his first bid for elective office.

Vote 2016Frank Tilton, a graduate of West Point and former director of Public Works, is seeking his sixth term in the House, where he concedes as one of 400 members his influence is limited. However, as a mainstay of the Public Works and Highways Committee, which prepares the state's capital budget, he has played a part in securing funding for several projects, most notably the renovation of the Laconia District Courthouse and reconstruction of the Main Street Bridge. He has voted in favor of raising the gas tax and repealing the death penalty but against expanding eligibility for Medicaid, allowing casino gambling and increasing the minimum wage.

Don Flanders, owner and operator of the Byse Insurance Agency, is the longest serving member of the city's delegation in the House. First elected in 1999, he has kept his seat without interruption and is seeking re-election to his ninth term. A former city councilor and trustee of LRGHealthcare, he has saved on the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee, which oversees the banking, insurance and securities industries as well as the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, throughout his tenure. He has supported legislation to expand eligibility for Medicaid, favored repeal of the death penalty, supported casino gambling while voting against increasing the minimum wage. Like many veteran legislators, Flanders is wary of excessive legislation and regulation and likes to recall an enthusiastic rookie lawmaker who introduced 35 bills, all of which the House scuttled.

Peter Spanos, the former owner of the Shalimar Resort in Tilton, is seeking his second term in the House. A self-described fiscal conservative, he the newcomer to the Republican ticket, is a fiscal conservative who favors close control of spending over levying new or higher taxes. He is opposed to expanding gambling and concerned at the financial plight of the New Hampshire Retirement System, which he has called "a festering sore." During his first term he voted against the expansion of Medicaid and introduction of Common Core while supporting right-to-work legislation and opposing an increase in the minimum wage.

McCoole, the fourth Republican candidate, is a retired self-employed businessman, whose frequently expresses his conservative political perspective in letters to the editor of this newspaper. He believes the country has strayed from the principles of both its constitutional and Christian legacies and cherishes the notion of self-responsibility while disparaging government programs as "giveaways." In a recent letter he suggested that a cabal of high-ranking military officers should take President Obama into custody and prosecute him for treason, a statement he subsequently called "totally rhetorical." "I don't know what some of the issues are," he confessed. "I've never been to the New Hampshire legislature." He stressed that elected officials are employees of the people and wondered whatever happened to the title of "public servant." If elected, he pledges "to keep my eyes and ears open." He claims that the state budget process is flawed and advocates "zero-based budgeting," while suggesting the legislature inhibits the success of small business, and echoed Spanos in opposition to a higher minimum wage.

• The four Democrats on the ticket include two former representatives — David Huot and Liz Merry — and two newcomers — Charlie St. Clair and Tom Dawson.

Born and raised in Laconia, Huot graduated from Saint Anselm College, earned his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center and after practicing law was appointed to bench, where he served as District Court judge for 33 years. He was twice elected to the House in the 1970s and returned in 2012. In each of his three terms he served on the House Finance Committee. He maintained that the state suffers from "a structural deficit," that is, its revenues are not sufficient to meet its expenses. That is why, he explained lawmakers regularly raid programs and withhold funding and transfer costs to cities and towns to balance the state budget., which increases property taxes. In particular, he counted ensuring sufficient funding for public education, meeting the needs of an aging population, providing treatment for substance abuse and maintaining the expanded eligibility for Medicaid among his highest priorities.
Originally a Canadian, Liz Merry became a United States citizen on July 4, 2007, and a year later was elected to the House. A consultant to the telecommunications industry, she serves as a trustee of LRGHealthcare and a director of Genesis Behavioral Health. Like Huot, Merry is concerned that the state has added to the burden of property taxpayers by withholding municipal revenue sharing and proceeds from the rooms and meal tax while no longer contributing toward the pensions of municipal employees. She said that the downshifting weighs especially heavily on cities like Laconia, where budgets are subject to tax caps. She said that only four of the 13 cities had more residents enroll in the expanded Medicaid program than Laconia and insisted that maintaining it must be an overriding priority for the next legislature.
Dawson is running for the second time. A graduate of Oklahoma State University, he worked in the fire service in Houston, Texas and Wilmington, Delaware, before becoming at the State Fire Marshall in New Hampshire. When his tenure ended after two years, he turned to consulting, then, in 1972, developed the fire science program at Lakes Region Community. Calling himself "a progressive Democrat," he said that the disparity of income and wealth is the overriding challenge facing the country and the state. "We've lost our middle class," he said. "Putting more money into the hands of the 99 percent would be a starting point," he said. "We can't continue to shift money and power to the rich. We are losing control of our democracy."
St. Clair, best known as the executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association and owner of the Laconia Antique Center, said he decided to run for the House out of "frustration at not having candidates who pay attention to their constituents." Although St. Clair has supported and opposed legislation bearing on the interests of motorcyclists in the past, he said neither motorcycling nor the rally were among his priorities. These include highway safety, which he believes would be significantly enhanced by adding rumble strips to the verge of all two-lane highways. He favors raising the minimum wage, but like other business owners is troubled by the high cost of worker's compensation, which would rise even higher with an increase in the minimum wage. He also suggested that if the state withholds aid to cities and towns, the Legislature should grant municipalities the authority to levy a local sales tax. "We don't need less government," St. Clair remarked. "We need smart government."

Fields Seeking sixth term in Belknap County District 4

TILTON/SANBORNTON — Incumbent Republican Dennis Fields of Sanbornton is seeking his sixth term in Belknap County's District 4, Sanbornton and Tilton, while Democrat Ian Raymond is hoping to recapture the seat he held for two years.
Other candidates for the two seats available in the district are Republican Tim Lang and Democrat Richard Burke.
Dennis Fields
Fields was first elected to the House in 1982 and but for a four-year hiatus from 2004 to 2008 has served ever since. Seeking his 16th term — the last five representing Sanbornton and Tilton and the first 11 representing Merrimack.
Born in Vermont, Fields graduated from Newport High School in Newport, Vermont, and served with the United States Navy between 1964 and 1971 and for many years was an active member and officer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In the most recent session, he voted with the House Republican Alliance, which scores representatives according to their adherence to the party platform, 57 percent of the time and even less often with the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance.
He has been a critic of the Belknap County Delegation's cuts to outside agencies and has supported funding for programs which will be a part of the new Community Corrections facility being built by Belknap County.
Ian Raymond
Raymond served as state representative in the 2013-14 session of the Legislature, where he worked as a member of the Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. During his term, he sponsored/cosponsored 16 bills, 12 of which were signed into law. He currently serves as a commissioner on the Lakes Region Planning Commission, as vice chairman of the Board at Resilient Buildings Group, as a member of the New Hampshire Wood Energy Council, as well as on more than a dozen other committees at the state, school district, and town level.
In 2008 Raymond initiated and arranged funding for a comprehensive energy upgrade project at all six of the Winnisquam schools, which has saved taxpayers over $1.2 million to date. He is currently working with the school district to install a wood pellet biomass plant at Sanbornton Elementary School and 500 photovoltaic panels Southwick Elementary School.
He says that he wants to focus on energy issues and supports the Medicaid expansion program and additional educational funding.
Tim Lang
Lang spent 13 years in law enforcement is several states, including New Hampshire, and another 13 years operating his own information technology business. He has been something of a fixture in Sanbornton for some time, serving on the school board, chairing the Zoning Board of Adjustment and acting as moderator for both the town and school district. But, he said he was prompted to seek a seat in the House by the dissension that has roiled the Belknap County Convention for the past several years. "I think the delegation could use some compassion and empathy," he said. "I'm all for good healthy discussion, but I always learn more from those I disagree with than for those I agree with."
Lang expressed concern that the Legislature has withheld assistance and transferred responsibilities to municipalities. "Balancing the budget on the backs of city and towns doesn't help anybody," he said.
Richard Burke
Richard Burke of Tilton has had a varied career as a political action coordinator for public employee union in northern New England and as a licensed nursing assistant at a county nursing home. Now retired, he says that he would like to use his time to work on programs that help meet the needs of the people of the state.
He said that he has been disturbed by cuts made by the Belknap County Delegation to programs that elderly and disabled people need to remain in their homes. "It's not a spending issue, it's a moral issue." says Burke, who noted that the Belknap County Commissioners and the Belknap County Delegation "don't get along very well. I'd like to provide some balance to improve the situation."
He says that he supports the Medicaid expansion program and would like to see it made permanent so that people who are newly insured can continue to have affordable health insurance, which reduce the costs absorbed by health care providers and lower health insurance premiums for other people.
Burke says that the Medicaid expansion also is an important part of helping deal with the state's opioid crisis.