Commenting publicly for the first time on the success the property tax cap proposal enjoyed here on Nov. 8, conservative activist Niel Young told his radio audience on Saturday he was "not gloating", but "very happy".
"Yes, we have a tax cap," Young told listeners of "The Advocates" program on WEZS-AM, "but now we have to watch over and protect it."
Young has kept a low profile since the City Charter amendment that will limit future municipal, school and county net spending increases to the general rate of inflation — plus an allowance for the value of new construction — passed by a 134 vote margin, 1,842 to 1,708. Although borrowed from Franklin, a tax cap for Laconia was Young's idea and he led the petition drive to get in on the ballot and tirelessly promoted its virtues.
"My purpose was to help my friends and neighbors stay in their homes," he said on Saturday.
Young stated the local media had proved to be "truly biased" against both the tax cap and supporters of the measure and he would therefore be limiting his remarks on the subject to his own radio program. He specifically referred to newspaper headlines that "were meant to sway voters (against the tax cap)" in the days leading up to election, an apparent reference to news coverage in The Daily Sun and The (Laconia) Citizen of statements made by police, fire and school officials about the predicted effect a cap would have on their departments.
In an further reference to what he saw as a focus on what spending would have been "cut" had the tax cap previously been in effect, as opposed to focusing on the increase in sending would be allowed under the provisions of the cap, Young said, "The press was interested in everything but the real issue. . .they looked back instead of ahead. He also said he was "very disappointed" in City Manager Eileen Cabanel's Oct. 24 report to City Council on how the cap would be calculated for the same reason.
Addressing a series of large political "attack" ads, sponsored by the unnamed "Laconia's For Sensible Government", that were published in The Daily Sun in the weeks leading up to the election, Young said tax cap supporters had "very little money (to counter with) but we told the truth". "They lied," he continued, "and we're not going to forgive those who lied."
Young said he was very proud to have been associated with Jenny Watson, Larry Tanner, Mike Verhoeks and his wife Betty Young during the campaign for a tax cap. The group of five formed a steering committee that successfully gathered the names of the more than 600 registered voters necessary to bring the measure to a vote. And then traveled to Concord to agree to new wording for an override provision after the Attorney General had ruled some of the language in the original petition to be contrary to state law. "We did it the right way," he said.
Young said the genesis of the tax cap campaign came from a call he received from an unnamed person requesting advice as to how to fight the School Board's former plan to spend $74-million on new schools.
Young also said he owed a great deal to Franklin political figures Tony Giunta and Ken Merrifield for the success of the tax cap campaign. Almost all of the wording for the measure that was adopted here last Tuesday came directly from a law that has been in effect in that city since the late 1980s.
Giunta, a former two-term mayor, and Merrifield, a current city councilor, have been frequent guests on Young's radio program, trumpeting the positive effects they believe a property tax cap has had on life in their city.
Commenting further on the local election front, Young said he was surprised by the results in Ward 2, where Councilor Bob Luther was easily returned to office with almost 60-percent of the vote against Harry Accornero and the tax cap was defeated by a 26 vote margin. "I thought Ward 2 was looking for a change," he said, "but boy was I wrong."