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Council sends change to city's primary voting procedure to voters for final say

LACONIA — The City Council this week voted unanimously to place an amendment to the City Charter on the general election ballot in November that would authorize the City Clerk to declare a primary election unnecessary if no more than two candidates file for any particular office. At the same time, primary elections for the School Board and Police Commission would be eliminated altogether.
The council voted after a public hearing at which former mayor Tom Tardif warned the change would "create a lot of potential litigation."
The amendment would also move the filing period for municipal elections, which currently opens on the first Wednesday in June and closes on the following Friday, to August, approximately a month before the primary on the second Tuesday of September.
In addition, the amendment would tighten the requirements for write-in candidates to qualify for a place on the ballot for the municipal election in November. The provision that the two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary are declared the winners and placed on the ballot, would carry a rider stipulating that a person who had not filed a declaration of candidacy and received fewer than 35 write-in votes would not be eligible for a spot on the general election ballot, The rider is intended to ensure that any write-in candidate who earns a place on the general election ballot has demonstrated an intent to serve by mounting a write-in campaign as reflected by polling a minimum number of votes.
Tardif took strong exception to requiring a minimum number of votes for write-in candidates to qualify for a place on the general election ballot. "There's an apathy here I'm sure you're all aware of," he told the councilors, explaining that low turnout would eliminate write-in candidates. For example, he said that if three divided a meager vote, a write-in candidate receiving the first or second greatest number of votes, but less than the minimum of 35, would not qualify.
Echoed by Dave Gammon, Tardif doubted the city had the authority to specify a minimum number of votes for write-in candidates and said the provision may not comply with the state Constitution.
City Clerk Mary Reynolds, who initiated the process to restructure the primary election, said that the proposed charter amendment has been reviewed not only by the city attorney but also by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and Attorney General, who suggested 35 votes as the minimum. Moreover, she said that Manchester, Nashua and Concord all require write-in candidates to poll a minimum of 35 votes.
When Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) wondered if "write-in candidates would be locked out," Mayor Ed Engler snapped "they've locked themselves out of a place on the ballot by not filing. We have a filing period for a reason."
The amendment would apply solely to the primary elections for the mayor and city councilors. There would no longer be primaries for seven members of the School Board, whose members serve staggered terms, that currently require a primary every year, or for the three seats on the Police Commission.
Laconia is one of three of the state's 13 cities to conduct municipal primary elections. Both the other two — Manchester and Keene — follow the procedure prescribed by the amendment.
In the eight primary elections between 1997 and 2011 voter turnout has averaged 9 percent. Last year when there were three candidates for mayor but no more than two for any of six city council seats the turnout was 6 percent. In three of the past eight elections — in 2003, 2009 and 2011 — primary elections were held even though there were not more than two candidates for either mayor or any of the six council seats.
Reynolds said that cost of conducting municipal primary elections is approximately $8,600, which does not include about $1,000 for police details at the polling stations at Woodland Heights Elementary School and Laconia Middle School.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 01:20

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School board told high school renovations will be complete by start of school on August 26

LACONIA — School Distirct Business Administrator Ed Emond told the board last night that the High School's $1.8-million renovation project will be mostly completed by the time students return on August 26.

He also said that the teachers and the librarian will have access to their classrooms and to the media center when they return to school for three days next week, although they make have to work around a few small inconveniences.

The federal Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program provided the school with zero-interest money that is being used to air condition the auditorium, add a sprinkler system and to improve the old, upper-floor science labs that were made available after the recent Huot Technical Center renovation. Some lighting and ceiling work was also done..

Board member Joe Cormier said the lighting and the dropped ceilings in the main hallway have not only made the area brighter but have made it much quieter as well.

"It's a lot less echoey," he said.

One issue that high school teachers, students and administrators will have to contend with is traffic congestion caused by the reconstruction of Union Avenue.

Emond said the city's road construction project will not be finished by the time school opens but said the contractor said that work won't be as disruptive once school starts as it has been this summer.

He also said that the circular turn-around off Union Ave. used by the school buses will still have piles of earth on it so arrangements will need to be made with the bus company for an alternate route.

He noted that the pipes that are in the west parking lot will be gone so he doesn't anticipate any parking problems.

Emond also said he has been working with Busby Construction to ease congestion and construction during the morning drop off times and the afternoon pickup times.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 01:04

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In Laconia, Shea-Porter makes pitch for preserving Social Security & Medicare

LACONIA — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter told a gathering of residents of Taylor Home Tuesday morning that she knows from her own experience how important Social Security and Medicare programs are to those receiving benefits and said that she will work to preserve and strengthen those programs.
''In Laconia everyone knows how much we need these programs but in Washington that's not so much the case,'' Shea-Porter told the audience, maintaining that many who want to cut Social Security or turn Medicare into a voucher program are well off and don't need the programs.
Her remarks came at an event sponsored by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare at which she was presented with dozens of petitions collected by New Hampshire members of the group opposing cuts in those programs.
Shea-Porter said that in her family Social Security benefits had helped provide for care for a grandmother with early onset dementia and a great uncle who had suffered a stroke and that her father, who had saved for his retirement, saw those funds wiped out by three major diseases within a decade and had to rely on Social Security and Medicaid for the rest of his life.
''My father praised those programs in the last part of his life even though he had been against Medicare when it first was started,'' she said.
She also praised the Affordable Care Act for bringing health insurance to millions who had never before had coverage and said that even though she favored a Medicare for All program she was pleased with the progress being made in extending coverage and reducing the projected increases in health care costs.
She stressed that the Medicare for All program she would like to see is different from another proposed by a Democratic congressman and would preserve the independence of medical providers by allowing them to contract with Medicare rather than being sold to the government.
Shea-Porter said that she is co-sponsoring legislation which would give credits to caregivers for up to five family service years for those taking care of children or elderly or disabled family members in the formula used to calculate Social Security benefits. She also supports other changes which would improve survivor benefits which would help prevent widows and widowers from falling into poverty after their spouse dies.
When asked how New Hampshire should cope with demographic changes which have been described as a ''silver tsunami'' and seen a major increase in the state's elderly population. Shea-Porter pointed out that young people are having a hard time, as well and said that passing an increase in the minimum wage might help keep more of them in the state.
She said that she would like to see tax law changes which would keep American companies from moving their headquarters overseas to reduce their tax burden and said she was pleased by the recent decision of Walgreen's to remain in the country.
''We have to shut off escape routes for the corporations. There are a lot of things we could do'' she said, pointing out that a lot of the largest corporations pay no taxes at all.
Shea-Porter said that it would ultimately be up to the American voters to decide the future of the Social Security and Medicare programs and said there stark differences between the political parties with the Democrats wanting to strengthen and preserve them while Republicans have supported the Paul Ryan budget plan which would change Medicare to a voucher program and result in reductions in Social Security benefits.
Also speaking at the meeting was Steve Richardson, public affairs specialist with Social Security's regional office in Boston, who said that 58 million Americans currently receive benefits from the program, 34 million of whom are retirees.
He said that fraud is a major problem for retirees and cautioned cautioned those present not to reveal their personal information.
''After Hurricane Sandy there were people getting calls from people who claimed they were with Social Security telling them that banks had suffered a power outage and asking them for personal information which would allow their social security cheeks to be deposited. Don't ever give your number to those people. Remember that if it's Social Security calling that we already know your number.''

 

CAPTION:
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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter talks with Mendon and Betty McDonald at the Taylor Home Tuesday morning where she discussed steps she supports to strengthen Social Security and Medicaid programs. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 01:01

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Horace has his hat

LACONIA – Horace has found his hat.

Or more precisely, a woman from Laconia did while she and her brother were walking along Parade Road a few days after Bike Week with a metal detector.

Horace Joyner of Rocky Mount, N.C., was attending this year's Motorcycle Week when he crashed his red, white and blue Harley-Davidson Trike while on his way from Weirs Beach to his hotel in Tilton.

Joyner was taken to LRGH and then flown to Boston with head injuries.

All of his possessions were recovered at the scene by his friends and city police – except for one very special hat.

Last Friday, Joyner told the Daily Sun the history of his hat. The next day the woman who found it called him.

According to Joyner, a different woman read the article in the Sun and called the woman who she knew had found a hat resembling the one he had described.

He said when the two spoke on the phone, he described a (Dale) Earnhardt #3 patch he had put on top of it and she confirmed for him that it was his hat. The patch was not included in the story.

Joyner said the woman who found the hat took it home and put it in a bag. She told him that a number of people had tried to buy the hat from her but she told them she had a feeling that the had was very special to somebody.

"She actually had me crying," said Joyner, speaking yesterday about the phone call he got from her. "That hat sure has a lot of memories."

Joyner said he told her that he was offering a reward for the hat, but the woman declined to accept it.

"I'm going to send her something anyway," he said. "She's made me so happy there's no words to express it."

CAPTION: Horace Joyner wears his special hat while attending Motorcycle Week. He said the parrot belonged to someone he met in the Weirs who allowed him to take a picture of himself with the bird on his shoulder.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 August 2014 01:22

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