Bob Meade - Take your pick: do you want the issue or the solution? (FOR USE TUESDAY, APRIL 14)

Politics, as we observe that process today, seems to have little to do with "conducting the people's business". It has more to do with dividing the populace into voting blocs, pitting one against the other. Solutions to problems aren't sought; they're manipulated into a continuum of festering sores. Those sores always intended to be "the other guy's fault". Personal accountability? Fuggedaboudit!

Politicians "milk" serious issues for their own benefit. All too often, there is no desire to find an amicable solution to a problem simply because keeping an issue festering is used to achieve some political gain. One such issue that keeps getting its fires stoked is that of police departments being targeted as "racists". No matter what the job, there will always be some people who perform admirably while some of their co-workers are marginal at best. Life is a series of "bell curves" where no matter what the job, the top 10 percent or 20 percentwill perform over and above expectations. In the center of that bell, will be 60 percent to 80 percent of the workers who perform normally and meet basic job expectations. At the bottom of the bell curve, that other 10 percent to 20 percent, are those who fail to meet the basic, acceptable standards.

It doesn't matter if you are measuring police, automobile mechanics, sales people, managers, teachers or students, engineers or computer geeks, or any other number of jobs . . . within that job classification's pool of workers, there will be a natural bell curve.

In what is now commonly referred to as the Ferguson case, and in spite of the findings in the long awaited Justice Department report which absolved Officer Wilson of any wrong-doing, politicians have done little to honestly and accurately identify the race relations problem, and its causes, and to take constructive action within the community to develop worthwhile solutions . . . the issue is being kept alive and it is festering.

If we don't honestly address the root cause of problems in our communities, how can we expect to fix them? For example, the FBI has determined that the 10 most dangerous cities in America are: Camden, NJ, Flint, MI, Detroit, MI, Oakland, CA, St. Louis, MO, Cleveland, OH, Gary, IN, Newark, NJ, Bridgeport, CT, and Birmingham, AL. These 10 cities share many of the same characteristics. First, their high school dropout rates are terrible. The worst is St. Louis where only 45.9 percent of those who enter the ninth grade ultimately graduate; well below their Missouri State average of 85 percent. Other cities aren't much better with a number of them graduating between 48 percent to 58 percent of their students, with their state's overall graduation rates being from 23 percent to 35 percent higher.

In each of these cities, the white population is in the minority. The lowest percentage is in Detroit, where only 7.8 percent of the population is white. Gary is next at 10.7 percent, followed by Camden at 17.6 percent. On the high end, 43.5 percent of the St. Louis population is white, followed by Flint at 35.7 percent and Cleveland at 33.4 percent.

Median household and poverty levels follow the same patterns. Oakland has the highest median income at $52,583, followed by Bridgeport at $41,050. Both of these cities are in the middle of fairly affluent surroundings. However, at the other end of the spectrum we find that Camden's median income is only $25,791, followed by Cleveland at $26,217, Detroit at $26,325, and Gary at $26,885.

If we truly want to fix the racial problems that exist in our country today, we have to be willing to honestly identify those problems in order to develop the appropriate solutions to them. Having a third of a city's population living in poverty is unacceptable. Spending the money to educate our young people and wind up having half of them not even get a basic high school diploma, is unacceptable. Building ghettos of sameness that lack hope for something better, is unacceptable.

There is no easy answer, but using police as a scapegoat does nothing to overcome the fundamental problems that must be corrected. The Urban Institute ( has identified these four items as the "current indictment" against the welfare system, and wants to see them addressed openly and honestly:

— It does not provide sufficient state flexibility.

— It does not encourage work.

— It is responsible for the breakdown of the family, especially for a rising tide of out-of-wedlock births.

— It has done little to reduce poverty, especially among children.

These items, and the issue of obtaining a basic education and becoming personally responsible, must be addressed in the communities in which the problems exist. Scapegoating only gives license to grow the problems even larger.

It is time to stop pitting one group against the other for political gains.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)

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Sanborn – Winni Waterfront Sales Report – March 2015

March kind of went out like a lion with nine waterfront sales on Winnipesaukee, but also was a little bit like a lamb as there were no sales over the million dollar mark. The average sales price for the month was just $686,667 and the median price point was $815,000. This brings our total sales for the first quarter of 2015 to a total of 20 sales which equals the 20 sales in the same period of 2014, but the average sales price fell from $947,658 to $816,450.

The entry level sale was a cute five room, two bedroom, 960 square foot log cabin at 3 Mink Island in Gilford. This cabin was built in 1984 and sits on a .92 acre lot with 100' of easterly facing frontage. There's a 40' aluminum crank up dock and a sandy bottom so you don't stub your toes in the water. It sounds like the perfect weekend retreat. This property was listed originally at $399,000, but was reduced down to $299,000, and then sold for $275,000 after 1,102 days on the market. It is currently assessed at $297,810.

The property representing the median price point was at 160 and 165 Minge Cove Road in Alton. The three bedroom main home was built in 1960 and sits on a .65 acre lot with 100' of frontage. The home is nicely built and has cathedral ceilings, lots of custom built-ins, a great fireplace, and a wood stove in the lower level family room. More important, though, are the spectacular views and boathouse! There's also a two bedroom guest apartment across the street over a three car garage The homes are at the end of Minge Cove Rd so there's plenty of privacy. This property was listed at $895,000 and sold for $815,000 after 396 days on the market. It is currently appraised at $821,800.

The highest sale for the month was at 331 Trask Side Rd in Alton. This a charming 1992 vintage, contemporary cape style home that has three bedrooms, two baths, an open floor plan with a 25' x 16' living and dining area, custom kitchen with large built in pantry, skylights, a large wrap around deck, and a screened porch. The full unfinished walk out basement is ready for future expansion. There is a detached two car garage for the toys. You gotta have that! The house sits on a beautifully landscaped .5 acre lot with meandering pathways through gardens and shrubbery. There is 170' of westerly facing frontage and a u-shaped dock for that new Formula. This property was originally listed at $1.15 million, was reduced to $995,000, and sold for $960,000 after 216 days on the market. This property is currently assessed at $822,500. A pretty sweet property!

There was one sale on Winnisquam in March at 27 Lower Bay Road in Sanbornton. This 1,876 square foot, three bedroom, two bath cottage was built in 1960 and is constructed of masonry which is a little unusual on the waterfront. The home has two large stone fireplaces, a large family room, wood accents throughout, a new deck, and a detached two car garage with a one bedroom apartment above. The house sits on a .52 acre lot with 1,200' of beautiful sandy frontage. It was offered at $494,500 and sold for $471,500 after only nine days on the market. It is assessed at $430,500.

P​ease feel free to visit to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. ​Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 4/09/15. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012​.​

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Michelle Malkin - VA reform: mission not accomplished

Eight months ago, President Obama put on a grand show for the troops. Surrounded by new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald, assorted politicians, military leaders and a bevy of TV cameras, the commander in chief signed the "Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act." He's good at inking things.

Obama condemned the "inexcusable conduct" at VA hospitals across the country (and under his own watch). He vowed to "do right by all who served under our proud flag." He promised America's veterans new "reform", "resources", "timely care" and an end to the disgraceful disability backlog.

The bill he signed, in case you'd forgotten, included $10 billion in emergency funding to pay for veterans to go outside the chronically dysfunctional VA system if they are facing long wait times or live 40 miles or more from a VA facility, plus another $6.3 billion to set up 27 new clinics and hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

So, how's it all working out? About as well as every other "success story" Obama has signed his name to: abysmally, ineffectually and incompetently.

Take Obama's hyped plan to expand health care access to those who live far from a VA facility. Obtuse federal bureaucrats interpreted "40 miles" in the narrowest way possible, applied an "as the crow flies" distance rule inconsistently, and excluded untold numbers of vets. It took more than a year — and concerted pressure from veterans groups and GOP lawmakers — for the administration to "clarify" its confused eligibility standards just two weeks ago.

What about "accountability"? Obama bragged last August that "we've already taken the first steps to change the way the VA does business. We've held people accountable for misconduct. ... We should have zero tolerance for that." Looks like the VA bosses in Shreveport, La., didn't get the memo. As Tori Richards of reported last month, a mental health services worker who exposed use of a secret appointment waiting list there was ignored for a year. Instead of accountability for the wrongdoers, the VA employee who blew the whistle, Army vet Shea Wilkes, became the subject of a criminal investigation.
And how's that new facility construction campaign going? The VA's atrocious complex has been a problem for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Nothing's changed under the era of hope and change.

Here in Colorado, the new Aurora VA hospital has become another in a long line of government spending cesspools. The $600-million 184-bed facility is now estimated to cost at least $1.7 billion after a reckless parade of design changes, cost overruns and mismanagement — and may not be ready until 2017. "Accountability"? Pfffft. The head of the VA's Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction responsible for the waste was allowed to resign with a full federal pension and retention of nearly $60,000 in bonuses earned during the fiasco.

In Colorado Springs, a sparkling new "cutting edge" VA outpatient clinic opened last year on the promise of reducing wait times. But according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, "11.5 percent of veteran appointments for care in Colorado Springs are delayed by 30 days or more," which is "up from 7 percent" before the $10-million facility opened.

What's next? You know the drill: more congressional hearings, more grandstanding, another "reform" campaign, more posturing in front of cameras, and more screwed-over vets.

Throwing more money and platitudes at the VA to cover up its deadly scandals is a bipartisan Beltway recipe for failure. Recently retired Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., one of the few to object to last year's kabuki "VA reform", was right. "The culture is one of looking good, protecting those in the VA and not protecting our veterans," he said at the time. "You have to have a bill that fixes that. I don't believe this is going to do it."

Mission not accomplished.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

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Susan Estrich - Bathroom wars (still) FOR SATURDAY, APRIL 11

More than 30 years ago, conservatives managed to defeat the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which would have added "sex" to the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, by frightening women into believing that it would outlaw separate bathrooms for men and women. In the years since, the courts have effectively done what Congress couldn't, prohibiting discrimination in virtually every aspect of American life — except, of course, bathrooms, which never were really at issue.

Then, as now, most establishments provide separate facilities for men and women. Those that don't — airplanes being the most familiar example — provide "restrooms" that can be used by both sexes. In addition, "family restrooms" have sprung up so that anxious mothers of little boys no longer have to choose between dragging our sons into the ladies' room ("I'm not a lady," my son used to complain) and sending them alone into men's rooms and then patrolling the exit.

I thought the bathroom wars were over, but I was wrong.

Where should a fourth-grader who is biologically a boy but identifies as a girl go to the bathroom?

In Stafford, Va., the school board, reacting to outraged parents, recently overturned the decision of a local elementary school that would have allowed the fourth-grader to use the girls' room. According to news reports, parents were afraid that letting this child use the girls' room would invite predators to prey on vulnerable children. "We have now opened the door for any predatory individual — student, teacher or anyone in between — within our school system to claim the gender identity to enter the restroom or locker room of the opposite sex to prey upon our children behind closed doors," one parent reportedly claimed. At the meeting, a man who identified himself as the girl's father said he once agreed with such views, until his child changed his mind. "She's a very special person. I only implore of all of us as we move forward that we don't trade understanding for fear and that we don't trade misconceptions for hate."

No such luck in Stafford, where the local board voted 6-0 to force his daughter to use the boys' room.

Letting a fourth-grader who identifies as a girl use the girls' room will not lead predators to prey upon our children. In debates like this one, the fictitious would-be predators are almost always gay. (Remember the debates about barring gays from teaching, even though all of the evidence showed heterosexual abuse to be a far greater problem.) I suppose it could be seen as a step toward equality that at least here the would-be predators have to be heterosexual. One step forward, a dozen steps back.

Is it worth pointing out that girls' rooms provide individual stalls? Or that teachers use their own bathrooms? Or that most schools don't allow "anyone in between" teachers and students to enter school buildings?

Many of us grew up in a world that we thought was divided very simply between girls and boys. But we were wrong. The experts can explain it better than I, but some children are born with the "wrong" bodies. I can't begin to imagine just how difficult and painful that can be. But school should be a safe place. If other girls — or more likely their parents — aren't comfortable with that, then they need to learn some valuable lessons, not let ignorance reign, as it did in Stafford.

Equality demands respect for individual differences. If anything is an invitation to abuse, it is forcing a child who thinks of herself as a girl and dresses as a girl and holds herself out as a girl to use the boys' room.

(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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Froma Harrop - Good people sometimes back bad laws

A law in Indiana and a bill in Arkansas making life harder for their gay neighbors have lost their wheels in a surprising smashup. Business interests, usually associated with the conservative cause, lowered the boom on "religious freedom" legislation supported by social conservatives.
But we are not here to discuss the Republican rift between economic and religious conservatives. Today's mission is to narrow the far wider gap between liberals and social conservatives. It's to urge liberals holding the fervent belief in the right to same-sex marriage to give the other side a little space to evolve.
Condemning these traditionalists as base bigots is unproductive. Liberals might borrow the sentiment religious conservatives have often applied to homosexuality: Hate the sin, but love the sinner.
Such laws are indeed discriminatory, and nastiness may propel some of their supporters. But many of the backers, though they regard homosexuality as immoral, are not especially hostile toward gay people. Some have been genuinely shocked to hear that they would be considered unkind, unfriendly and bigoted.
There's a tendency in our culture to cluster in communities of like-minded people and throw lightning bolts of disapproval over the walls into other like-minded communities. But where possible, persuasion beats condemnation every time.
The train to legalized gay marriage is unstoppable, so let it continue rolling at a comfortable pace. When Massachusetts first permitted same-sex marriage in 2004, pollsters asked that state's residents whether they defined marriage as something between a man and a woman. A majority said yes.
Most of the respondents' answers in 2004 reflected not an animosity toward gay people but rather a traditional view of marriage. A poll asking the same question today would undoubtedly find a majority in Massachusetts saying "not necessarily".
To my gay friends who regard the ability to marry another of the same sex as a basic human right, I hear you. But you must concede that the path for widespread legalization of same-sex marriage — starting in liberal places, such as Massachusetts, and then expanding one state at a time as more Americans became comfortable with the idea — has been quite effective.
To my liberal friends of whatever sexual orientation, you and social conservatives share a few areas of common interest. This is territory you can meet on if you don't employ a scorched-earth policy every time you disagree.
The environment is one example. The Christian Coalition of America has fought efforts by fossil fuel interests and utilities to slap taxes on solar panels. In explaining its position, the coalition's president wrote, "We recognize the biblical mandate to care for God's creation and protect our children's future." Whatever the hearer's spiritual bent, those words are among the most beautiful statements of the environmentalist creed ever made.
White evangelicals may be more conservative on other issues than the population at large, but 64 percent told pollsters for LifeWay Research that they favor comprehensive immigration reform. Some of their church leaders have been among the most vocal proponents of a humanitarian approach to fixing the immigration laws.
The battle against casinos seems a lost cause, but Christian conservatives have led the good fight. Gambling as a means to raise government revenues is immoral, they say, and one reason is that it fleeces the most economically vulnerable members of the community.
What liberals and religious conservatives share is a belief that many of our most important values can't be measured in dollars. One can't paper over these groups' divergent worldviews. But while their advocates might not expect to embrace very often, they should preserve enough common ground to hold hands once in a while.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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