DuBois – Trying to predict the unpredictable

For me, New Year's Eve festivities took a far different turn than other years. While most people were counting down the hours and minutes with parties, fireworks, games, and celebration (as I usually do), I was slogging up the side of Mt. Abraham in Maine in a foot of fresh snow, hoping but not knowing if I would make it to the summit. For many of us, our lives are somewhat predictable. We have clocks and watches to measure the day. We have our notebooks and computers to tell us our daily/weekly schedules. We like to have our days neatly boxed with no surprises. That's part of our human nature. We use our intellect to resist the dynamic and powerful forces that surround us. And we usually win. However, on this weekend we mostly lost, when attempting to summit a chain of mountains in Maine.

There are those times when our well-ordered designs get tossed around and thrown out the window. The natural world that we are all a part of has a way of doing that to us. We fight against it, but we sometimes lose and the best thing to do is to just give in to the natural forces that are superior to us. We get frustrated and sometimes upset because our carefully ordered life has been disturbed. This was the case for a judiciously planned four-day hiking trip in Maine over the New Year's holiday. With five others, Doug, Susan, Fran, Kevin and Guy, we made plans several months in advance to summit five mountains: Abraham, Sugarloaf, Spaulding, Saddleback and the Saddleback Horn. These plans fell far short of this goal.

The first day we planned to climb Abe, which included a long road walk due to the access road enveloped by two feet of snow. This climb also included hiking above tree line for half a mile. We knew this task would be difficult due to the cloud cover enshrouding the summit. Visibility would be poor and winds could be a factor. With that in mind we set off on our first day of climbing. We drove as far as we could on the access road, with Doug getting his car stuck in the snow. At that point we began our two-mile road walk to the trail head and started the climb to the summit of Abe. As we approached tree line, we entered a land of rock, clouds, wind and snow. We slowly made our way to the summit, celebrating our accomplishment and, after a few pictures, hustled down the mountain, success was ours.

The following day, Fran and I decided to tackle Sugarloaf and Spaulding, while the rest of the group went to Saddleback to break out the trail to the summit. Fran and I had a rather easy climb up the ski trails of Sugarloaf and made it to the summit in good time. But the trail to Spaulding was not broken out and we had two feet of fresh snow to plow through. We checked our watches and realized that the two-mile hike to Spaulding would take us much longer than anticipated to break trail. After an hour of breaking trail we realized we would be benighted soon, so we wisely turned back knowing the mountain will always be there for another winter attempt.

The third day of our excursion, climbing Saddleback and the Horn proved to be a more daunting task. We listened to the weather report and heard nothing that would deter our plans: no storms, pleasant temperatures and calm winds. Off we drove to the abandoned ski area of Saddleback Mountain. The snowshoe up the slope was uneventful, just a slow and tedious climb. Once we neared tree line we felt the wind rising and temperatures starting to plummet. We layered up, putting on extra clothing, mitts, face mask and goggles. When we left the shelter of tree line we were hit by 40 mph winds and white-out conditions. We could see only a few yards ahead of us. We stumbled along, trying to stay upright and hoping conditions would improve, but they only worsened. Our small party moved slowly along, trying to follow the cairns that mark the trail to the summit. We ducked into a knoll and when we emerged no cairns could be found. At that point we realized we could go no further without the risk of getting lost and succumbing to wind chill. Frost bite was a distinct possibility.

At this point we made a group decision to turn back. We found our way to the trail head and down to the base of the now empty ski lodge. The forces of nature had again proved stronger than our determination to reach the goal, as was the case yesterday. Our best laid plans had been shattered by a power stronger than ours. Disappointment and failure showed on our faces. Humility is virtue we often lack in our modern self-centered world. We later learned that we were only 200 feet from the summit before we turned back.

As we discussed later, we had made the right decision to turn back from our quest. The risk was just too great. The mountain will always be there and we began to make plans for our next attempt. The Gods of Nature had once again confirmed that they have the ultimate say in our designs of conquest. I was reminded that our neatly ordered world is often at the mercy of the forces outside of our control and in the wilderness this is especially true.

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Sanborn — 2016 real estate predictions

There are lots of predictions for the 2016 housing market on the Internet. But, you have to remember these predictions are on a national level and not specific to the Lakes Region. Everyone is predicting higher interest rates on mortgages. They say it could be as high as 4.5 percent by the end of the year. What a catastrophe! Does anyone remember the days of 17 percent?

They have also predicted an increase in housing demand as those millennials who have put off starting families and buying houses until well into their 30s enter the marketplace. Core logic predicts that there could be more than 1.25 million new households formed in 2016. I'd guess about six of those might be in the Lakes Region. Millennials tend to need jobs and we don't have a lot of good ones, unfortunately. We will continue to look toward Baby Boomers retiring in the area, people downsizing and the vacation home buyers for much of our home sales.

Rental rates are expected to rise in 2016 nationwide and I suppose that could be true as well in the Lakes Region. They are also saying that home prices will also rise, but I don't see that necessarily happening here until our inventory level drops considerably. Homes are not necessarily flying off the shelves in our area. While there are occasional multiple offers on the more desirable homes that help drive up the price, that certainly isn't happening routinely like in other areas of the country.

I saw several sources that said it would be easier to get a loan in 2016 and that lenders would be relaxing guidelines and looking at alternative means of determining creditworthiness. Fannie Mae is reported to have relaxed some of its requirements and its new Home Ready Mortgage is "designed for creditworthy, low- to moderate-income borrowers, with expanded eligibility for financing homes in designated low-income, minority, and disaster-impacted communities." What they don't say is that with every mortgage application today you must undergo a financial colonoscopy without the benefit of anesthesia.

Here are some 2016 predictions for the Lakes Region area that you can take to the bank.

First, there will still be traffic jams in downtown Meredith on the weekends at the intersection of Route 25 and Route 3. You may not know this, though: there are clandestine powers behind the scene from Moultonborough and communities from south of Meredith working to make sure that traffic is always snarled there. These traffic jams are the only thing preventing a max exodus of residents from Belmont and Laconia to Moultonborough to take advantage of the $9.01 property tax rate. Experts predict that such a huge shift in population would leave Laconia like a ghost town. In Belmont, Jordan's Ice Cream would be forced to close for lack of business. Economic havoc would be inevitable. That's why there will always be traffic jams in Meredith.

I can predict with 100 percent accuracy that the political unrest in the Middle East and in Gilmanton will continue. That is unless of course, the traffic problem in Meredith is solved. Gilmanton residents may just join the migration to Moultonborough as well. After all, their tax rate went up three bucks last year.

I can predict that Charlie and Jennifer will continue to work tirelessly and diligently to save Laconia Bike Week from further decline. They continue to pour their heart and soul into this much-needed event. A proposal to bring in illegal Mexican bikers to bolster attendance was scrapped after Mayor Engler binge watched Son's of Anarchy and was reminded of how bad the Mayans Motorcycle Club really is. Of course, this proposal also could also be very costly as someone would have to give them motorcycles to ride on. Not in the city's budget... oh, wait, Washington has a lot of money.

And along that same line, the Pumpkin Fest will be an even bigger success this year but we probably won't beat the record of 30,581. That is one big pile of pumpkins. If only all those folks north of the lights in Meredith could get to Laconia they could set a new record. It is a delicate balance, you see...
I can also predict and that there will be an early ice-out in 2015 ... if there is ever an ice-in, that is.

And finally, as far as real estate sales locally, I think we will have a pretty good year in 2016, probably a little better than 2015 and that's not bad. Real estate values will not necessarily rise although the average sales price may increase due to higher priced homes selling. Inventory levels will remain high because we do not have a large enough buyer pool to whittle it down. That seems to be the way things have been going for the past few years and until something substantial changes, I expect this is the new norm. Have a Happy New Year!


Pl​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 677-7012.

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Susan Estrich - The Donald vs. Big Bill

Not satisfied with hurling sexist invectives at Hillary Clinton, the Donald has turned his ire on her husband, the former president, claiming he has "a terrible record of women abuse."

Really? Does anyone recall Bill Clinton ridiculing women reporters (as Trump did with Megyn Kelly), insulting the looks of a female candidate (as Trump did with Carly Fiorina) and introducing a generation to Jewish slang for a male organ (his description of Barack Obama's '08 defeat of Hillary Clinton)?

The only reason Donald Trump is a viable candidate for the Republican nomination is because white men dominate Republican primaries and caucuses. They do not dominate general elections. Donald Trump has most "professional" Republicans — the kind who run and fund and organize campaigns — shaking in their boots, because every group except white men is overwhelmingly against Donald Trump.

Women: check. Trump has the biggest gender gap of any candidate in the race. African-Americans: check. They prefer Clinton over Trump by a margin of nearly 10 to 1. Hispanics, one of the fastest growing demographic groups, overwhelmingly oppose Trump, likely because of his over-the-top rhetoric slamming immigrants as rapists and criminals. Interestingly, Asians, who might be expected to lean Republican because of their rising economic status, don't seem to be doing so this time around. It appears that they identify more as immigrants than as new members of the upper-middle-class Republican base.

No wonder Trump is attacking Bill Clinton.

The only problem is that Bill Clinton isn't running for president. And if he were, he would trounce Trump.

No question: The 2008 campaign was a tough one for the Clintons. The media was in love with Obama, in much the same way they'd been in love with Bill Clinton himself back in 1991-1992.

They were largely giving Obama a free ride, and the former president was much angrier on behalf of his wife than she was. I remember, the night before the Iowa caucus, the Clintons arrived late at their hotel, which — perhaps someone's idea of a joke — happened to be the same hotel Fox News had been assigned. Hillary greeted the crowd that formed in the lobby pleasantly and then said goodnight. Her husband stayed, posing for pictures with everyone who wanted one, and when he was done, gave me chapter and verse detailing the unfair coverage of the campaign so far. Anyone who doubts the strength of the bond between the two Clintons need only have listened to that conversation to be convinced.
And what about Monica Lewinsky, whose name, thanks to the Donald, is once again in papers everywhere because of his comments? Yes, Bill Clinton had an inappropriate sexual relationship with Lewinsky nearly 20 years ago. And he paid the price for it, politically. But his wife had nothing to do with it. And while it might have been true back in 2000 that many women were troubled she stayed with him, she won the Senate race that year with strong support from women.

Of course the former president is going to campaign on behalf of his wife. I have yet to meet a Democratic running for any office in recent years whose first choice for a "surrogate" to raise money or to campaign wasn't Bill Clinton. So he'll be out there, as he should be, as wives have been doing for decades, helping his spouse get elected.

But at the end of the day, Hillary is the one running for president, not Bill. And what could be more sexist than an opponent who (even if out of desperation) ignores the female candidate and aims his fire instead at her husband — as if Bill is the one running, as if Hillary is responsible for his sex life?

Happy New Year in these interesting times.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

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Jim Hightower - Should giant corporations pay taxes they owe?

Carl Icahn, noted corporate predator and takeover specialist who made billions of dollars in corporate deals, has recently begun pushing a charitable cause involving a group of people who, through no fault of their own, are being forced out of America. Syrian migrants who've lost everything, you ask? Or maybe Central American children fleeing the horrors of drug wars? Nope, none of those foreign sob stories for Icahn. Rather, he weeps for the incomprehensible suffering of a small tribe of Americans, namely: the CEOs of several U.S.-based multinational corporations.

You see, Carl is fronting for CEOs of a small group of huge multinational conglomerates who are demanding that Congress drastically slash the taxes they owe on foreign sales of their products. This "reform" would let them escape paying most of the $600 billion in taxes that U.S. law assesses on some $2.6 trillion in profits they've been hiding in foreign bank accounts and offshore tax havens. Three-fourths of these hidden profits belong to only 50 enormously profitable corporations.

In a recent heart-wrenching op-ed, he wails that poor superrich chieftains of such profiteering giants as Pfizer pharmaceuticals are having to move their corporate domains abroad, having been driven out of the USA by "our uncompetitive tax code." These American-raised corporations have been raking in enormous profits on foreign sales, but the CEOs have whined that those profits should be exempt from U.S. taxation, since they're taxed by the countries where their products are sold.

In fact, their "double taxation" claim is a fraud, for most of that $2.6 trillion in profits is subject to zero in taxes. These rank corporate tax dodgers are starving America's essential public services of $600 billion they owe us taxpayers, yet Icahn sobs in print that they are the victims.

If these trillions are brought back home, he explains, they'll be taxed — so, don't you see, this "forces" CEOs to desert the U.S., moving their corporate citizenship to a place that doesn't make them pay for public services.
Putting the $600 billion they owe into America's public treasury would fund a lot of education, infrastructure repair, green energy, social services, etc. that our people desperately need. But Icahn & co. claim that forgiving this corporate tax debt "would allow companies to reinvest ... in the United States, creating thousands of jobs." Notice that verb, "allow." They could put this tax windfall into job-creating and U.S. investments — but Icahn does not want Congress to require any sort of patriotic use of the money.

Stop the cruelty, Carl says. America must let the CEOs "repatriate" their foreign bounty by essentially forgiving the taxes they owe on it. That way, the corporations get to keep the money, and America gets to keep the corporations.

Carl even asserts that the corporate elites are "completely justified" in leaving America if they aren't given this tax boondoggle. After all, he says, CEOs "have a fiduciary duty to enhance value for their shareholders."

Haven't we seen this movie before? Ah, yes: It was in the 2008 tragi-comic, multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street banks and big corporations. They said that if Washington rescued them, they would then invest in Main Street and in middle-class jobs. We did; and they didn't. They lied then, and the Icahn hucksters are lying to us now.

I would trust a pack of coyotes to guard my little herd of lambs before I'd trust a pack of corporate hucksters to "reform" America's tax code. Congress has a moral imperative to serve not the few who are big corporate shareholders but to enhance value for all people — for the common good. For information and action, go to www.AmericansForTaxFairness.org.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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Roche Realty reports sales in excess of $126-million for 2015.

By Frank Roche

Roche Realty Group Inc. is proud to report sales volume in excess of $126 million for the 12 months ending Dec. 31, 2015. The firm experienced an increase of 42 percent in sales volume compared to the previous year. The company had a total of 485 transaction sides. The sales of $126 million represents our second highest year in total sales volume in the company's 24-year history.
I attribute this exceptional year to all our real estate agents and our dedicated support and marketing staff. Their commitment to superior service and their hard work, day-in and day-out, certainly made things happen. The company averaged $2.43 million in sales volume per week during the 12-month period in 2015.
Since 1997 Roche Realty Group has sold over $1.66 billion of New Hampshire properties, involving 6,223 transaction sides, and has ranked in the top 10 real estate firms in the entire state of New Hampshire out of 2,247 firms statewide reporting sales during this 19-year period.
The company produced a very strong showing in 2015 in waterfront sales on many of the lakes throughout the Lakes Region. Likewise, the semi-retirement and second home markets also produced strong results with a large number of cash transactions fueled by a recovering economy. Communities such as South Down Shores, Long Bay, Natures View, Samoset, Misty Harbor, Patrician Shores and other water access communities throughout the region showed exceptional activity.
As a 39-year veteran of Lakes Region real estate, I'm proud the company has continued to maintain a group of very knowledgeable and experienced real estate agents. We've also been fortunate to have several younger associates join our firm who have had an exceptional year. I'm particularly proud that the firm has grown consistently on its own, unaffiliated with any major real estate companies or franchises. We always want to stay a local, family-owned, independent firm.
This year we invested a significant amount to improve our worldwide Internet exposure. We've continually upgraded our website, www.rocherealty.com, our Internet optimization and our marketing presence on approximately 80 national and international websites. Through our worldwide connections with LuxuryRealEstate.com, LuxuryHomes.com and other portals we've increased our market reach immensely; www.rocherealty.com is one the most visited websites in the Lakes Region.
When you consider that 2004 was the record year in New Hampshire for sales volume in its history, and Roche Realty Group sold a record $131 million that year, we're not far behind at $126 million this year. It's been a slow, steady recovery and all of us are so grateful that the Lakes Region is a true four-season community with so much to offer.

Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Frank Roche is president of Roche Realty Group in Meredith & Laconia, NH and can be reached at 279-7046.

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