Contentious debate at City Council meeting over where proceds from use of parking lot during MC Week should be directed

LACONIA — After sparring for nearly an hour with representatives of the Weirs Action Committee (WAC), the City Council on Monday night granted the organization permission to raise funds by parking motorcycles at the lot at Endicott Rock Park during Motorcycle Weeks 2016, with the mayor and several councilors indicating that 2017 could be different story.

Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4), who cast the lone dissenting vote, opened the debate, by reeling off three reasons why she would oppose granting the annual concession. She said that other worthy nonprofit organizations should have the opportunity to operate the lot, which returns more than $25,000 a year. Noting that the Weirs Community Park Association operated the lot at the community center, she questioned whether the two groups at The Weirs should manage both lots.

And finally, Baer was troubled that the WAC left the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association (LMWA) rather pay increased membership dues. "Is it too much to ask that they support the event from which they benefit?" she asked.

Joe Driscoll IV, president of the WAC, countered that the request for the parking concession had nothing to do with membership in the LMWA. He said that the mission of the WAC is to improve the quality of life by enhancing the beauty and safeguarding the resources, particularly of The Weirs. which the board of directors decided was "inconsistent" with membership in the LMWA.

The WAC, Driscoll stressed, spent "tens of thousands of dollars" improving, beautifying and maintaining public property at The Weirs. "That's our organizations. That's our mission," he said. Driscoll explained that the increased dues in the LMWA represented 18 percent of the WAC's annual income of approximately $25,000 from the parking concession, without which its mission would be compromised.

Driscoll said that Charile St. Clair, executive director of the LMWA, was unable to address concerns expressed by members of the WAC about its operations, especially its financial management. He said the WAC left the LMWA with the "caveat" that it would rejoin if the financial issues were resolved, but said there were no plans to retire the association's debt.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) reminded Driscoll that the WAC's financing depends on attendance at the rally. This year the city spent more than it received policing and supporting the rally, he continued, but forfeited revenue by granting the parking concession to the WAC. "We'd like you to pitch in and promote the event," he said.

In reply, Driscoll said he was troubled by the suggestion that being a dues paying member of the LMWA "is the be-all and end-all of how the WAC can support the event. You're not asking us to set aside $5,000 to invest in the event."

When Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1) intervened, Baer suggested that as a member of the WAC she should recuse herself. Judy Krahulec reminded the council that when she represented Ward 1 and served as president of the WAC, she voted to grant the parking concession. "It's not a conflict."

When Mayor Ed Engler left the decision to Doyle, she chose to leave the council table, speak from the floor and recuse herself from voting on the matter.

Doyle told the council that it requires "30, 40 or 50 volunteers" to run the parking lot and if the city took over the responsibility, it would incur significant costs. She claimed that bikers using the lot were pleased to support a nonprofit organization, but did not want to pay into the city's coffers.

The mayor suggested distinguishing between the LMWA and Motorcycle Week, stressing that to invest in the rally need not require belonging to the association. The rally, Engler noted, "is showing signs of trouble that cannot be taken for granted." The parking lot represents $25,000 that could be invested in the rally. "We cannot give $25,000 to anyone without plowing some of that money back into Motorcycle Week," he said. The parking lot, he continued, could be rented and "you don't get to keep all the money from dollar one."

That brought Krahulec to her feet. "We do it for you," she told the councilors, stressing the time and energy of the volunteers who staff the lot, and "we put the money into The Weirs." She said that without the WAC's donations, enhancements in the Weirs Beach area would cost the city $30,000 per year.

"You guys should be ashamed of yourselves," declared Joe Driscoll, III, a longtime member of the WAC. Describing the LMWA as "the worst organization I've seen in my life," he said that it should "go under". The debt of the LMWA should have been shared between the members, he said, noting that the city of Laconia, town of Meredith and business members need only write a check. then added "you're picking on a little nonprofit." "This crony government crap has got to stop," he exclaimed.

Referring to the WAC, Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) said "I love what this committee does and how you do it," but emphasized that without changes Motorcycle Week would continue to shrink and without the rally there would be no WAC. He called for an ongoing dialogue between the city, WAC and LMWA to address the issues and ensure the success of Motorcycle Week.

Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), who had been silent, said that the city "needs to get a grasp on Bike Week" and consider taking ownership of it. "We're coming to the that point," he remarked. "We've got to decide who's going to own it."

"If we're having this same discussion a year from now," Engler cautioned, "it won't be good."

With that, the council voted four-to-one to grant the WAC's request for 2016, with Baer voting no.

Dept. of Safety not in favor of ‘Bike Week’ license plate

CONCORD — A proposal to introduce a special license plate commemorating the 100th running of Motorcycle Week in 2023 has met with resistance from the New Hampshire Department of Safety, which claims that there is neither the authority nor the capacity to undertake the project.

Charlie St. Clair, the executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, suggested that the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) begin issuing special plates, bearing the logo of the association in advance of the centennial. The proceeds from sale of the plates, less the cost of manufacturing and issuing them, would benefit the LMWA, which in turn would apply the funds to promoting and managing the rally.

This year Senator Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) introduced legislation (Senate Bill 252) establishing a committee to study issuing a plate to commemorate Motorcycle Week without specifying how the proceeds from issuing the plates would be allocated. At the same time, bills were filed to issue special plates for the Civil Air Patrol, circuit court judges and breast and pediatric cancer as well as a motorcycle plate for disabled veterans.

The bill proposing plates for beast and pediatric cancer — House Bill 567 — provided for nonprofit corporations to apply to the DMV to issue at least 1,000 plates. All proceeds in excess of manufacturing and administrative costs would be distributed to the applicant on the understanding that they would be spent for the benefit of New Hampshire residents. The bill was retained by the Transportation Committee.

Many states issue special license plates for the benefit of various nonprofit organizations – but not New Hampshire. Although New Hampshire issues the conservation (moose) plate and the state park plate as well as a combination of the two, it does not issue plates for the benefit of private organizations as contemplated by St. Clair and the sponsors of HB 567.

In commenting on HB 567, the Department of Safety said that the DMV is in the process of replacing several of its operating systems, including those associated with driver licensing, financial responsibility, auto dealerships and inspection stations and added that diverting resources to issue a special plate could jeopardize its ability to complete this project within its current appropriation.

Hosmer said that when the study committee met, officials of the Department of Safety questioned whether applying proceeds from the sale of state license plates to private nonprofit organizations would pass constitutional muster and said that the DMV lacked the technology to issue special plates to a multiplicity of nonprofit organizations. "It looks like a non-starter," Hosmer said of the notion of issuing a special plate for Motorcycle Week to benefit the LMWA.

In 2004, the Legislature authorized the director of the Division of Motor Vehicles to adopt rules for designing, selling and distributing special plates by cities and towns to mark the anniversary of their founding or "similar special occasion" in their history. These plates could be mounted in place of the front license plate for not more than the one year during which the celebration takes place.

Dec. trial set for topless sunbather

LACONIA — A December trial has been set for a woman charged with not wearing a top at the Gilford Town Beach on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
Heidi Lilley, 54, is scheduled to stand trial in Laconia circuit District Court on December 15 at 1 p.m. on the misdemeanor complaint of toplessness, which police say violates a beach ordinance (Article G number 7) that prohibits topless sunbathing for women.
Lilley, who is co-organizer of the Free the Nipple NH campaign, had spent two days topless at Weirs Beach in Laconia that weekend and said that she and other members of the movement left at 5 p.m. that Sunday when Weirs Beach was cleared so that an upcoming fireworks show could be set up.
She told the Daily Sun that when they arrived at Gilford Beach some kids yelled at them and said the beach wasn't a nudist camp but she said they ignored them. Shortly there after, she said two women approached them and asked if they realized Gilford Beach was a private beach.
Lilley said she told them she was a Gilford resident, that she paid taxes and had every right to be there. She said one of the women "got into our faces" and was "extremely verbally abusive."
Gilford Police responded and Lilley said they were "very polite and professional." She said they initially told them they could be cited for criminal trespass, however Lilley told them she lived in Gilford and produced identification to prove it.
She said the officers explained there was a Gilford Beach ordinance that prohibits topless sunbathing and then asked them to put on their shirts.
Lilley said all of them complied with the police who then asked if any of them wanted to be cited. She said three of them said "yes" but the police only wrote two summons – one for her and one for another woman. She said the officers explained to them that they violated a beach ordinance not a town ordinance.
The Free the Nipple NH campaign intends to call attention to inequalities between men and women. Lilley said the only thing her organization wants is for women to be able to go to the beach without tops, like men can.
The group took part in an earlier demonstration at Hampton Beach and announced in August that they were targeting Weirs Beach because the city of Laconia has an ordinance that exceeds state law in that it prohibits publicly exposing the female nipple.
Passed in 1998, largely because the city hosts Motorcycle Week, the ordinance also addresses people who encourage women to expose their entire breasts.