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Politicians answer I-L students’ questions about careers in politics


MEREDITH — Five local political figures convened at a political panel Inter-lakes High School on Thursday to discuss their positions in public office and give students insight into their political careers. The freshmen social studies students were given the opportunity to ask the speakers questions to guide the discussion.
Laconia Mayor Ed Engler, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, Executive Councilor Joe Kenney and state Reps. Valerie Fraser and Herb Vadney started the talk with brief introductions of themselves and how they got into politics, all citing wanting to change their communities for the better.
Students asked a variety of questions directed at specific politicians. One subject that every panelist discussed was the growing drug crisis in New Hampshire and the Lakes Region.
"In Laconia and the Lakes Region, obviously we're all doing whatever we can to help people who have addiction issues," Engler explained before discussing the local efforts to fight the rampant drug problem. "Laconia was the first city in the state to dedicate a police officer to do nothing but work with people who have addiction issues," he said. "The issue is not to put them in jail or arrest them or whatever, but to work with them, try to get them into treatment centers as opposed to arresting them."
Kenney spoke more about the drug problem at the state level. "The drug problem is the number one issue in the state of New Hampshire," he said. "The Executive Council has approved over $24 million in contracts for prevention and treatment programs for the state. We're all in this drug fight together," Kenney stated, summing up the sentiments of all of the panelists.
Fraser, who had a background in nursing and is also a veterinarian, warned students of the dangers of all drugs, not just illicit ones. "All drugs are toxic. It's not a drug unless it has a toxicity level," she explained. "That's part of prevention, understanding that everything's toxic. Keep that in mind when you're looking at anything, whether it's over-the-counter, illicit drugs, heroin, fentanyl, all of that; there is a lethal dose so be careful what you take."
Another topic of interest included legalization of marijuana, for both medicinal and recreational uses. One student directed the question to Vadney, who cited his past voting record in favor of medical marijuana and decriminalizing small amounts of the drug. "I know what we're doing is not working," Vadney stated, claiming that jails are being crowded and people are being left "with a lifetime record of stupidity."
"I think you can't put this thing back in the bag. It's everywhere. I think we have to educate people on what to do, but to think that you can ban it and win is a losing battle," Vadney concluded.
Kenney also fielded a question about his thoughts on seatbelts. "My short answer would be 'Live free or die,'" he said. "We do a very good job with the youth of our state making sure they're protected and that the law is protected as well." He finished stating that adults have reached the age that they should know what is right and should not be mandated to buckle up if they do not want to.
Of course, in this election cycle it is all but impossible not to ask politicians how they feel about the current presidential campaign. Forrester was asked about her feelings on Republican candidate Donald Trump.

"He's certainly not, for me, a role model; I disagree with a lot of the things that he stands for," Forrester said. "He says a lot of things that i think he doesn't have a filter for and that's disappointing because the person you want to be your president you want to be proud of. I think in this election year we don't have a lot of good choices and it's going to be a tough election cycle."
The political panel provided an excellent opportunity for ILHS freshmen to get to know their local representatives' better and develop a better understanding of their jobs.

10-14 ILHS politicians panel

Laconia Mayor Ed Engler addresses students at Inter-Lakes High School Thursday about a career in politics. With him, from left, are state sen Jeanie Forrester, Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, state Rep. Valerie Fraser and state Rep. Herb Vadney. (Brooke Robinson/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

10-14 ILHS politicians panel kids

Students at Inter-Lakes High School asked questions of the panel about the drug problem in the Lakes Region, marijuana use, seat belts and Donald Trump. (Brooke Robinson/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Gilmanton Winery faces new deadline for site plan or could be told to shut down


GILMANTON — The Planning Board voted Thursday night to ask its attorney  to send a letter to the owner of the Gilmanton Winery and Vineyard telling him to file his revised site plan in time for a discussion at the November meeting or face a cease-and-desist order.
Should owner Marshall Bishop not comply, the board will could stop him from running his business until he complies. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 10.
Bishop was not at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, even though he was on the agenda. Planning Board attorney Paul Fitzgerald said Friday Bishop told people at Town Hall to relay to the board that he was working on his final site plan.
Bishop has been under the gun to bring the final permission requirements needed by the two land boards into compliance since this past summer after some local citizens questioned the validity of his business.
Planning Board Chairman Wayne Ogni has said that the board is willing to work with Bishop to get his paperwork in order but determined he needed either a special exception or a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustments to continue.
At its September meeting,  the ZBA granted Bishop a belated special exception to convert his existing four-bedroom home into a restaurant. Bishop has been operating since 2011, but was under the impression that because he received a preliminary site plan approval from the Planning Board that it was all he needed from the town’s land boards.
Bishop has said that nobody from the town ever told him he needed to do anything beyond his preliminary site plan and that nobody ever followed up with him. He has said that the confusion is emblematic of the dysfunction that has surrounded town hall in the past five or six years and that it was one reason he ran for a one-year term as selectman.

‘Free the Nipple’ case goes before judge


LACONIA — A local judge has to decide whether freeing the female nipple threatens the health, public safety and the morals of the community as claimed by the city prosecutor or whether the current ordinance against topless women is a "heckler's veto" passed to mollify those morally opposed.

In the hearing on the motion to dismiss heard Friday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, the court heard testimony from defendant Ginger Pierro, who said she was at Weirs Beach on Aug. 28 topless while doing yoga on a beach towel. One of her male friends photographed her there.

Pierro said she was verbally harassed by people and said she felt their anger was not because she was topless but because she was "enjoying herself." She said there were children there, including her own.

A man from Concord who was testifying for the state said he called the police because a woman was there with her nipples exposed and a man was taking pictures. Under cross-examination, he said he wasn't concerned for his safety but was more concerned with the man who was taking pictures.

Two Laconia police officers also testified that they were called to the beach because there was a topless woman there who was doing yoga. Both said they approached Pierro, who ignored them until they threatened to arrest her.

Defendants Heidi Lilley and Kia Sinclair said they were at Weirs Beach topless on May 31 to protest the Pierro's arrest. A woman called by the prosecution testified that Sinclair walked past her and was not wearing a shirt. She said she felt it was inappropriate and that her feelings were based on religion and the way she was raised.

Lilley and Sinclair were also arrested and cited.

Many of the questions asked by the defense attorney Daniel Hynes were about the nipple itself, and the inherent differences between male and female nipples.

Both police officers, one male and one female, testified that they could tell the difference between a man and a woman. When it actually came to the differences between male and female nipples, Prosecutor Jim Sawyer protested during the testimony of Sgt. Ben Black, saying Black is not a medical expert and Hynes had not laid a proper foundation for that particular line of questions.

Black, who was actually a defense witness, testified that if Pierro had had a piece of tape over her nipples he would have had no reason to arrest her. He also said that he can "always" tell the difference between a man and a woman.

Office Holly Callanan, who was a prosecution witness, testified that when she arrived at the beach, her cruiser was met by some people who told her about Pierro practicing yoga on the beach without wearing a top. She said she can "usually" tell the difference between a man and a woman, especially when they are not wearing tops.

She said she could definitely tell Pierro was a woman, despite her slight athletic build and showed the court where she had entered "F" in the appropriate box on the citation form.

Both officers testified that they would uphold the law regardless of whether they individually agreed with it. Callanan said she didn't feel threatened by the situation but said Pierro's behavior "caused attention to be drawn to her."

What Judge Jim Carroll must decide, for the second time, is whether or not the city had a right to pass the ordinance in 1998 in light of the fact that New Hampshire is not a "home rule" state and that exposing the female nipple is not prohibited by state law. This is Hynes's argument.

Sawyer's argument is that there is no state law preventing Laconia from enacting the ordinance.

Carroll will also rule on whether or not the city ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment right of free speech.