Graham states case for oval office at Titeflex plant

LACONIA — "Are you getting paid while I talk," Lindsey Graham asked a room full of employees at the Titeflex Aerospace plant yesterday. When a woman in the middle of the room answered "yes," he replied "good, I've got three hours."

The visit to Titeflex was the first of three stops during the 42nd day the United States Senator from South Carolina has spent in New Hampshire since announcing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Although Graham continues to run near the rear of the pack, his enthusiasm appears undiminished.

Graham recalled that he grew up sharing one room with his parents and sister behind the Sanitary Cafe, a restaurant, bar, liquor store and pool hall his family operated in Central, South Carolina, a town of less than 2,000 in the western reach of the state midway between Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina on the railroad. "I knew the world for what it is," he remarked. His parents passed away when he was 22, leaving his younger sister an orphan. With the survivor benefits, Graham, adopted his sister and enrolled at the University of South Carolina, the first member of his family to attend college. After earning his law degree, Graham served 33 years in the United States Air Force in the Judge Advocates Corps, retiring as a colonel in 2015. Graham served four terms in the United States House of Representatives, from 1994 until 2002 when he was elected to the first of three terms in the Senate.

Known for his hawkish approach to foreign policy, Graham began by taking aim at what he called "radical Islam," those he said who seek to "purify their faith, destroy Israel and then come after infidels like us." To counter the threat, he said America must put "boots on the ground" and form a coalition of the friendly Arab states and Turkey — "90 percent them and 10 percent us — to eliminate ISIS. He expressed his strong support for companies like Titeflex that produce military hardware. "I'm not looking for a fair fight," he said. "I want more stuff than they've got. I want to kick their ass."

At the same time, Graham called for tighter security and greater vigilance against the risk of terrorism in the United States. "I think we're fighting a war," he said. "If there is a terrorist on one end of the phone, I want to know who's on the other end." When domestic terrorists are apprehended, he remarked "the last thing they'll here is 'you have a right to remain silent."

Turning to domestic issues, Graham asked "how many of you were born between 1946 and 1964?" To those who raised their hands he offered congratulations: "you're baby boomers". Then he asked how many were born after 1964 and to those said flatly "good luck".

Apart from the national debt of $18 trillion debt, which he calls a result of "bipartisanship", Graham said that the echo of the baby boom will face the risk of shrinking Social Security and Medicare benefits. He said that retirement age should be increase to 69 and benefits for those, like himself, earning $175,000 or more should be eliminated. "I'm willing to work with the Democrats to do the really big stuff like the entitlement programs," he said.

Opposed to increasing the minimum wage, Graham said that he favored lowering taxes and easing regulation, which would spur the growth of the economy and increase the competition for labor, which in turn would raise wage and salary levels. "The American dream used to be owning your home," he remarked, "now for many young people it's getting out of your house."

Graham said that his campaign hinges on finishing well in the New Hampshire primary, which is followed on the electoral calendar by the primary in his home state of South Carolina. Strong finishes in each, he believes, would put him among the frontrunners. Meanwhile, he is polling in the single digits, but apparently enjoying every stop of every day on the campaign, perhaps knowing he will still have a home in the Senate.

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.