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Mayor Ed Engler - Proposed City Charter Amendment would eliminate unnecessary primary elections

When Laconia voters arrive at their ward polling stations on Tuesday, Nov. 4 they will be handed two ballots. The first (white-paper) ballot will be the expected state election sheet that will include races for governor down through county offices. The second (colored-paper) ballot, perhaps unexpected, will cover several municipal issues.

At the top of the municipal election ballot for voters in Wards 4 and 5 will be (uncontested) elections for school board members. Following, will be a series of 7 "yes" or "no" questions relating to the possible adoption of amendments to the City Charter having to do with voting and elections. Municipal ballots given to voters in the other 4 wards will contain only the seven proposed amendments to the City Charter.

Two of the proposed amendments — numbers 4 and 6— represent substantial changes to our city election procedures and are at the heart of what voters are being asked to consider this year. The other 5 are what could be fairly described as "housekeeping" amendments — primarily things needed to bring charter provisions back in alignment with changes to state law.

Amendment 4 deals with the municipal primary election process. At present, elections for mayor and City Council are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in odd numbered years. A primary election for the purpose of narrowing the field in each race to 2 candidates is held on the second Tuesday in the prior September. The filing period for people who want their names on the ballot is 10 days in early June.

In recent years, instances where 2 or more candidates have filed for any given office have been rare and voter interest in and turnout for the primary elections has been dismal, at best. Turnout since 1997 has averaged 9 percent and the last two primary elections attracted just 3 percent and 6 percent of registered voters to the polls. It costs taxpayers upwards of $10,000 (citywide) to conduct each one of these primary elections, even though there often are not enough candidates on the ballot to actually eliminate anyone.

After the 2013 election, City Clerk Mary Reynolds suggested following the lead of Manchester and Keene — the other two New Hampshire cities to hold municipal primary elections. In those cities, the clerk has the authority to declare a primary election unnecessary if less than 3 people request a place on the ballot. City Council studied the issue and agreed with Mrs. Reynolds that voters should be given the opportunity to amend the charter.

Adoption of Amendment 4, simply put, will do away with September primary elections in any ward in which less than 3 candidates file for a place on the ballot. Similarly, there will be no citywide primary election for mayor if there are fewer than 3 candidates. If 2 or fewer candidates file, we will proceed directly to the November general election.

If a primary election is held in any given ward, or for mayor, there will continue to be a place on the ballot for write-ins. (More on that in a minute.)

Adoption of Amendment 4 will also move the 10-day-long candidate filing period from early June to early August. Why? Because it is reasoned that we don't really need 6-month long campaigns for city office. Having the filing period end roughly a month before primary election day seems quite adequate.

Amendment 6 stipulates that any person receiving write-in votes in a necessary primary election must earn at least 35 of them in order to be declared one of the 2 candidates to have gained a spot on the general election ballot. When City Council originally considered this amendment, the threshold was determined to be a minimum of 15 votes but the Attorney General's Office, which reviews the legality of all ballot measures, recommended the number be changed to 35 and the council concurred. Why the recommendation? Consistency, I guess, because the law having to do with state primary elections (RSA 659:88) dictates that a write-in candidate cannot be consider the winner of a contest for governor right down to state representative or county sheriff unless he/she attracts 35 a minimum of 35 votes.

And why the 35 vote threshold? To give preference to candidates who have actually declared an interest in the position. As opposed to people who have not asked for anyone's vote but are the benefactors of a handful. We had a situation develop last fall where a gentleman's name had to be added to the general election ballot because only one person filed for the office of councilor in his ward and the gentleman received 3 write-in votes in the unnecessary primary.

It is important to note that the adoption of Amendments 4 and 6 will not in any way preclude the possibility of a successful, last-minute, write-in campaign for mayor or councilor. There will remain a spot on the general election ballots where voters may write-in the candidate of their choice.

Sample ballots are available at the clerk's office in City Hall and online at www,cityoflaconianh.org (Under "Departments" in the pulldown menu, select "City Clerk - Records" and then select "Elections". The phone number is 527-1265.

Please take the time to vote on Tuesday. The polls in our city are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

(Edward J. Engler is mayor of Laconia.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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James Pindell - Why it's better for Ayotte if Brown loses

Here is something that every smart New Hampshire Republican knows, but isn't saying: Kelly Ayotte doesn't really want Scott Brown to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this fall.

Ayotte may like Brown. Ayotte may have officiated his daughter's wedding this summer. But if running for major office in a swing state like New Hampshire is really a matter of survival and preserving options then in no way is it in the best political interest for Ayotte to somehow have Brown become her Senate colleague.

There are four reasons why.

The first reason is that if Brown somehow wins then it is also likely Republicans will gain control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years. All three major national election forecasts say that if Brown wins then this means other Republicans will win in other states. This is what Republicans say they want, of course, but this is bad news for Ayotte's re-election two years later.

Politically, when a candidate is running in a tough re-election race, it is safer to be from the minority party. As one can see from Shaheen's re-election this year, being in the majority means constantly being put on the defensive for procedural moves and failings of what did or didn't get done. Being in the minority means that candidates can deflect blame and she they weren't in charge. More importantly, it means if in the minority Ayotte will have an easier time breaking with her party on votes and appearing non-partisan. One of the reasons why Shaheen voted with President Barack Obama 99 percent of the time last year is that Democrats have a narrow majority and needed for her every vote.

The second reason is that heading into her re-election, Ayotte will want to show she is bipartisan and what better way to do that than by working side-by-side with the same state's senator, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen? The pair have found it politically convenient to sponsor bills, attend events and send out statements together as a way of them both displaying their bipartisan credibility. If it were Ayotte and Brown doing those things together it would do little more than display Republican power in the state.

Third, if Brown wins he instantly becomes the most interesting person in New Hampshire politics. That title is currently held by Ayotte. Being interesting, however it is defined, is very important in politics because it gets you free media coverage, bigger audiences and can help you raise more money. All of that translates into having more power. Locally, Brown could take over the state Republican Party. Nationally, Brown would be much more high-profile and his bipartisan nature of voting would make him much more powerful in shaping legislation than Ayotte, who typically votes with her party.

Fourth, Ayotte's ambitions aren't just about being a New Hampshire senator for life. She is often talked about as vice presidential material. In fact, a recent report had her in New York at a major Republican fundraiser where she was presented to some of the nation's top GOP donors that way as they also heard from potential presidential candidates.

If Republicans do win the U.S. Senate majority in all likelihood it will be just by a few seats. To keep the majority in 2016, Republicans will need Ayotte to run for re-election because she is their best chance of keeping the New Hampshire seat. This could be reason enough for a future Republican presidential nominee not to pick her as their running mate.

To be sure, Ayotte helped recruit Brown into the race against Shaheen. She has appeared in television ads for him and has spoken at rallies. But on election night, if Ayotte drives home to Nashua and hears that Brown lost, well, it wouldn't be the worst news either.

(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at WMUR.com/political scoop and on WMUR-TV.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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James Pindell - lt's not looking like a 'wave' election year

The last two midterm elections in New Hampshire broke records for the state's political parties. In 2006, Democrats had their most successful election since the 1870s. In the 2010 elections, Republicans had their biggest gains ever and that is saying something given the state's Republican history.

But in 2014, while the election environment is favorable to Republicans, political strategists in both parties seem to agree that it won't be a huge wave year in New Hampshire like the last two.

"This is not some campaign we Republicans can just run on autopilot and we'll win," said a senior staffer on a major Republican campaign in the state who didn't want to be named given the sensitivity of his position. "This is not a wave year and we'll just have to grind it out."

Recent polling numbers back up this thinking. New Hampshire has four major races on the ballot this fall: governor, U.S. Senate, and the state's two Congressional races. As it stands this weekend, Democrats are poised to win two if not three of those seats. That is hardly a wave for either party.

This was supposed to be better year for New Hampshire Republicans. Historically the president's party loses seats when it comes to midterm elections. Only twice in the last hundred years did the president's party actually gain seats in Washington.

Nationally Republicans are expected to add to their majority in the U.S. House and even take the majority in the U.S. Senate. This fact, only adds to the idea that New Hampshire Republicans might be an outlier.

There are three reasons why this is happening locally. First, New Hampshire is slowly becoming more of a Democratic state. While the state is considered a swing state, the fact remains that Democratic presidential candidates have won the state five out of the last six times, a Democrat has won the governor's race eight out of the last nine times and three of the four members of the state's Washington delegation are Democrats.

The second reason is that Republicans had a bit of a problem recruiting candidates. Both candidates for the two statewide campaigns had residency issues and got into the race late.

Third, in all of these four major races, Republicans are facing Democratic incumbents, who have name recognition and have had years of raising money for their campaign war chest.

All that said, Republicans still could pull out more wins than is currently expected. They have a lot of advantages built in this year. To begin with the latest WMUR Granite State Poll found that Republicans are eight points more likely to vote than Democrats. This is something that Democrats are trying to change with a visit from Bill Clinton last week and Hillary Clinton coming two days before the election.

Speaking to New Hampshire Democrats on Thursday night, Clinton said that this year won't be like Republican wave years like 1994 and 2010 if Democrats show up to the polls.

Also, Democratic President Barack Obama remains unpopular in the state, with just 38 percent of Granite Staters saying they approve the job he is doing.

This complicated nature of this election year means that both parties will continue to advertise heavily on television, and either call or knock on homes of likely voters.

(James Pindell covers politics for WMUR. You can see his breaking news and analysis at WMUR.com/political scoop and on WMUR-TV.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Bob Meade - Who do you trust?

There's an old axiom that states, "People buy from people they trust". That doesn't mean that you've never bought something and it turned out that the person from whom you bought it wasn't trustworthy. What it means is that untrustworthy person is unlikely to have you buy anything else from him or her again. And, you will probably go out of your way to share your experience with others. If you've had a good experience with a realtor, you will recommend that realtor to others. The same goes for your experience in buying an automobile, choosing a dry-cleaner, or a carpenter, or auto repair shop, etc., etc. Trust! It's an important part of our lives.

As we are nearing a very important election day, trust is, or should be, a foremost consideration in deciding our vote. We watch as political ads on television negatively hammer opposing candidates. All too often, the ads paint an untrue or distorted picture of the other candidate in an effort to "scare" voters away from the targeted opponent. Often, made up or phony "issues" are manufactured in order to pander to a particular group of voters. In some cases, the ads are repeated over and over again. As history has shown, if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as truth.

We have seen a serious decline in people's "trust" of politicians. Stonewalling, distorting, pandering, dividing, and outright lies are occurring on a daily basis as politicians seek a political advantage or try to eliminate or minimize a charge made against them. Legal requirements are shunted aside as the art of stonewalling threatens the ability of our government to function as it was intended.

Not only have we seen a decline in the people's trust of politicians, we witness on a daily basis the distrust among politicians and among the branches of government. We see the Senate majority leader hold about 300 bills that were passed by the House of Representative, not letting any of them be assigned to a Senate committee, or be brought to the floor for a vote. Having done that, the majority leader and other members of his party, including the president, then repeat the lie that the Congress has failed to act. We note too, that the president has arbitrarily and unilaterally made changes to the Affordable Care Act, in violation of the law itself. Yet, he has refused to ask Congress to review and modify the act, as the law requires. It's all about "trust", or lack thereof.

The Senate majority leader puts the work of Congress aside so as to spare his Democrat senators from having to vote on issues that may put them in a bad light with voters in the coming election. Further, if those Senators voted as the people would like and the bills were passed, then the accept or reject position would fall to the president. So in order to protect them from accountability with the voters, the leadership simply stonewalls and blames the Congress.

When he was first elected, a reporter asked President Obama how he was to be judged. He responded by saying, judge me by the people I have around me. As this is being written, there have been three key people who served in Cabinet level positions and, since they left those positions, have written books about their experiences with the president. None have been complimentary as each has indicated that the president would listen, but ultimately, reject their advice and counsel. Our retired and in service military leaders are openly imploring the president on the need to take certain actions, but to this time, he has ignored their advice. It again comes down to a matter of trust. Evidently, the president surrounded himself with his choice of cabinet-level people but, he has been unwilling to trust their judgments. Now, those same people are showing that they don't trust his.

Our government isn't functioning as it was intended. Actions and decisions are being made based on gaining a political party advantage and not what's best for the country. The world is in turmoil. We can't wish war away. If a nation or a group declares war and fights against us, whether we acknowledge it or not, we too, are at war. As a country, we can be war weary, but that is not reason enough to not defend our country, our citizens, and our freedoms. That defense will take political and military leadership. It will also require "trust" to be re-ignited in our politicians so that they put the needs of our country before the wants of their political party.

Between now and November 4, please put politics aside and consider what's best for our country, what's needed to get our government functioning as true co-equal branches. And vote like the future for your kids and grand-kids depends on it. It does!

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Sanborn — Some residential homes under $200,000

There were 96 homes sold in September 2014 in the twelve communities covered by this Lakes Region Real Estate Market Report. The average selling price came in at $316,720 and the median price point was $204,750. Last September there were 104 sales at an average of $406,327 with a median price point of $201,000.

For the first nine months of 2014 there have been 726 residential home sales at an average of $315,976 compared to 782 sales at an average of $300,284 for the same period in 2013. We are headed in the wrong direction.

So what can you buy for a home just under the $200,000 mark? There sure is a lot out there to look at, but here are a few selections just to get you started.

Over at 69 Chapin Terrace in Laconia you'll find a cute 1,502 square foot ranch built in 1985 with three bedrooms, one and three quarter baths, a large living room with a fireplace, a well appointed eat in kitchen, plus a family room and office in the basement. The home sits on a level .4 acre lot with a great back yard, a large deck, a two car garage, and Opechee water views across the street. The home is assessed at $212,200 and is being offered at $198,000. This home is located on a quiet dead end street in a great neighborhood so it may well be worth a look.

There's a 1955 vintage ranch at 98 Kimball Road in Gilford which has had many updates in the past few years including vinyl siding, new roof, furnace, hot water heater, and replacement windows. This home has 1,412 square feet of living space with three bedrooms, one bath, a living room with hardwood floors, fireplace, and lots of built in shelving. The kitchen has plenty of storage, new appliances, and tile floors. This home sits on a one acre lot with mature perennial gardens. It is priced at $198,000. I remember a time when you could not find a home in Gilford for under $200K!

At 45 Brigham Street in Laconia you'll find a 1,730 square foot raised ranch that was built in 2006 on a .85 acre lot at the very end of the street. This like new home has three bedrooms, two full baths, and a lower level man cave space where you can watch the Patriots on Sunday. The main level has an open concept living and an eat-in kitchen area that sports stainless steel appliances and nice cabinetry. There's a one car garage under and workshop area. The low maintenance vinyl exterior coupled with a small yard will ensure you spend more time in the man cave or out hunting and foraging. This home is priced at $199,000​.​
Finally, up at 229 Chestnut Drive in Gilford, there is an immaculate, 1,820 square foot, three bedroom, two bath cape with awesome Winnipesaukee views. This open concept home was built in 2004 and has beautiful exotic hardwood floors, a kitchen with maple cabinetry, a large living room with cathedral ceilings, fireplace, and a wall of windows and sliders that lead out to the large deck. Upstairs is a loft/office area and a huge unfinished bonus room. The basement provides ample storage or future expansion possibilities. There's really no lawn to mow so this low maintenance yard will free up your time so you can enjoy the beach. This home is priced well below the tax assessed value of $229,620 at $199,900.

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of ​10/14/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached ​at 603-267-7012.​

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 09:32

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