Sanders, Surging in Polls, draws huge crowd at Laconia rally

LACONIA — One of the largest crowds in recent memory to turn out for a campaign event in this city showed up for a campaign rally Sunday afternoon at the Lake Opechee Inn's Conference Center, where Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to more than 400 people.

Acknowledging how important New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary is to his campaign, Sanders told the enthusiastic crowd, "If we can win here, we will have momentum which will carry us all around this nation.''

Sanders, the Independent U.S. senator from Vermont, buoyed by a poll last week which showed him trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton by only eight points, 43-35, said that Sunday was a good day as he had drawn more than 300 voters at a Rochester event and more than 500 in Durham, and said that the reason he was drawing big crowds is that his message on income inequality is resonating with people.

"We're telling it like it is and we're telling the truth and people across America are responding,'' he said.

The 73-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who describes himself as a democratic socialist, was mayor of Burlington, Vt., for eight years before being elected to U.S House in 1990, where he served eight terms before being elected to the Senate in 2006. During that election, in which he again ran as an independent, he was backed by the Democratic Party, with which he continues to caucus.

Sanders called for a transformation of American politics, ''a revolution'' which he says is needed because for the last 40 years most of the economic gains have gone to the wealthy. ''The rich are getting richer and the middle class is disappearing. Economic inequality is the moral issue of our time,'' said Sanders.

He said that it is ''profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans own as much wealth as as 90 percent of the people,'' and said, ''enough is enough. They cannot have it all.''

He said that the American media and both the Republican and Democratic parties have fallen down on their responsibilities to address the problem of 99 percent of the wealth being generated in the country going to the top 1 percent, and said that the situation is so absurd when eight members of wealthiest family in America, the Waltons, who own Wal-Mart, earn more in one year than 130 million Americans at the lowest end of the economic ladder.

'''They earned 157 billion in two years. That's more wealth than is owned by 40 percent of the American people. That has got to change.''

He decried the lack of concern for their fellow citizens shown by the wealthy, whom he says continue to evade their responsibilities by hiding their money in accounts in the Cayman Islands. ''They must accept their fair share of responsibility,'' said Sanders, maintaining that he wealthy have set up a rigged economy and are now taking control of the nation's politics through unlimited and unaccountable spending on campaigns brought about by the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sanders called for a constitutional amendment to outlaw massive contributions and for publicly-financed elections.
He said that the average American family is making $5,000 less a year than it was in 1999 and that the country needs an economy which works for the middle class, not just a handful of billionaires.

Sanders said youth unemployment is untenably high -- 33 percent for whites, 36 percent for Hispanics and 51 percent for African-Americans -- and that the United States leads the world in the number of people it incarcerates. ''It's time to rethink the way we deal with young people and create jobs rather than jails.''

He called for a $15 minimum wage, free college education at all public universities for all students who qualify, as well as family medical leave and sick time .

Sanders also supports universal healthcare, a ''Medicare for all'' plan, as well as a one trillion infrastructure plan over five years which he said would create 13 million jobs.

He said that the current-day Republic Party is intent on repealing Obamacare, which he said would take health insurance away from 27 million people, and wants to cut back on Medicare and Medicaid while reducing Pell grants for college students by $90 billion over 10 years.

Sanders said that he intends to campaign in every state, even those which vote heavily for Republicans, and wants to reach out to working class Republicans, whom he says are voting today for candidates who want to take away their healthcare, send jobs overseas and pass tax cuts for the wealthy,

''We've got to reach out to our Republican friends who are working class, and get them to support our agenda,'' said Sanders.

Among those in the audience who said that they would vote for Sanders were Bob and Mary Bee Longabaugh of Alton, Paul Duncanson of Franklin and Jim Lintner of Franklin.

''He's a fireball, and I like that,'' said Lintner.

Dave Pollak of Laconia, who was recently elected chairman of the Belknap County Democratic Party, said that he is neutral in the campaign but was greatly impressed by the turnout for Sanders and the organizational skill of his campaign.

''He's showing that he's a serious candidate and that he's offering real answers,'' said Pollak.

Man arrested for multiple Fall 2014 stalking charges involving same woman

LACONIA — A former local man has been arrested on multiple outstanding warrants that range from misdemeanor harassment charges to a felony stalking charge that dates back to September through November in 2014.

Gregory R. Mortrud, 53, of 27 Fair St. faces two counts of felony stalking, four counts of harassment, four counts of violating a protection order, four counts of breach of bail, and one count of criminal threatening.

After a video appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division on Thursday, Judge Jim Carroll ordered him held on $2,000 cash-only bail and $10,000 personal recognizance bail. Mortrud has posted bail and is no longer incarcerated.

According to multiple court documents obtained from the court, Mortrud started harassing his victim on September 13, 2014 by allegedly sending her text messages and Facebook messages at inappropriate times of day. He was also charged with stalking for allegedly laying outside her apartment door and repeated telling her to answer him.

He was arrested and given an an order to stay away from the victim.

The next day, Mortrud was arrested for allegedly following the victim into a local drug store. He was charged with breach of bail and violation and contempt of a protection order.

Motrud's next reported contact with the victim was on September 25, when he allegedly parked his bicycle in a parking lot near her apartment. Police were unable to find him and issued a warrant for his arrest for a second violation and contempt of a bail order and a second charge of breach of bail.

Five days later, he allegedly called and texted her, asking if she was having a nice walk. The victim called police. Police say he called while the investigating officer was there and he overheard Mortrud asking her if she had a nice walk. A warrant was issued for his arrest for harassment and a third violation of a protection order.

On October 1, Mortrud allegedly sent the victim 23 more text messages that included one that called her "a whore". The responding officer requested a warrant for violation and contempt, harassment and default or breach of bail.

On October 3 he allegedly contacted her again. This time the responding officer was able to listen to a conversation the victim put on speaker phone. Additional warrants were issued for harassment, breach of bail, and violating an order of protection.

On October 25, he allegedly contacted her again — this time using a different cell phone and one that police traced back to one of Mortrud's relatives who said he hadn't made the calls but that Mortrud had access to the phone. An additional warrant for breach of bail was granted.

November 11 appears to be the final contact. Morturd allegedly sent the woman Facebook messages that escalated in language until he sent her a smiley face with a bullet hole in its head with blood running down. As second smiley face pictured with a gun was sent. He allegedly used a false name to bypass her Facebook block on his real name. Police got additional warrants for felony stalking, criminal threatening and harassment.

Lt. Allan Graton said yesterday that police recently learned Mortrud was living at 27 Fair St. He said officer went to the home and arrested him Wednesday night without incident.

Housing rental vacancy rate down to 1.2% in county

LACONIA — Vacancy rates fell while rental costs rose across the state in 2015, according to the annual residential rent cost survey released by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (NHHFA) this week. Both represent the continuation of long-term trends as vacancy rates have decreased steadily since 2009 while rental costs have risen steadily since 1993.

In Belknap County the survey found that the vacancy rate fell to 1.2 percent in 2015, the lowest rate among the 10 counties and a full percentage point below the state average. The median gross rent for two bedroom units in the county remained stable at $997. However, since the median income of renter households in the county is $34,577, the median rent of a two-bedroom unit represents 34 percent of income. The survey concluded that 6 percent of two-bedroom rental units in the county are "affordable" based on the median income of renter households.

The statewide vacancy rate dropped to 2.2 percent — with only Coos County among the 10 counties reporting a rate above 4 percent — which represents the mere turnover rather than an excess inventory of units. The low vacancy rates reflect the preference for renting rather than owning reported by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and Applied Economic Research last year. Those studies found that younger households saddled with student debt, slow income growth and poor credit ratings were deferring home ownership.

Median gross rents, which include utilities, have risen 41 percent, from $818 to $1,157 since 2001 and by nearly 10 percent in the last five years. Rents in Grafton and Coos counties have jumped 15 percent in the last five years, indicating that as people relocate to more affordable regions increased demand raises rents. Nevertheless, Coos County reports the lowest median rent and highest vacancy rate for two bedroom units in the state.

The NHHFA report finds that the household incomes of renters are not keeping pace with rising rental costs. More than half of all renters dedicate more than 30 percent of their income in rent. While the median income of renters statewide is an estimated $37,326 the median gross rent of a two-bedroom unit is $1,157, or 37 percent of the median income. .

Dean Christon, executive director of the NHHFA, said that while the slower growth and rapid aging of the population has dampened the demand for housing, the rental survey, together with the agency's study of housing needs issued last year, "suggest that there is a need for additional rental housing construction."