(October 1, 2002 // link)
I have been following with great interest the city-wide debate about Bike Week, and am struck by the vitriolic response of Weirs Beach business owners and “Rally and Race officials” to the concept of a city-wide review of the event.
First and foremost, Motorcycle Week is in and of itself, an event. To suggest otherwise is absurd. It is promoted, advertised and sold as a regional event. The city closes off streets, puts extra police and safety personnel in place and, as one of the speakers at the last City Council meeting pointed out, spends tremendous time, effort and resources in planning the event. The fact that the event is regional in nature and that its impact is beyond the city’s borders does not diminish the impact on the city.
Mayor Fraser is correct in his analysis of the licensing board issue. There should be no vendor permits issued, streets closed or promotions permitted until someone accepts responsibility for the event or until the city, not just businesses that benefit from it, begins to be benefited and not burdened. I agree with the concept of city sponsorship of events within the city, and of the city as a whole receiving economic benefits from the events. This is done at other rally venues and it should be done here.
Before hearing several supporters and business owners (who profit greatly from the current model) I thought that a reasonable debate might happen. But when I heard the anger and venom directed at the mayor and councilors who are charged with representing us all, I realized why many residents might be reluctant to join the discussion. As a citizen, taxpayer and small business owner, I support the mayor and councilors who advocate a review of the event. No one, including the mayor, has advocated doing away with Bike Week. What has been proposed is a fresh look at how the event is managed, planned and paid for. Most citizens and taxpayers don’t benefit economically from the event and most would agree that the event would be easier for all of us to support if it did not cost us money, as it does now. Better still, we might even like it a lot more if the city shared in the economic benefits. If the operation of the event can’t stand scrutiny, something is wrong. It may be that it is as well run as it can be, but I doubt it and we should be skeptical of those who are afraid to open the windows and air out this event.
To suggest that because a councilor supports a committee to study Bike Week, he does not represent his ward, is unfair. The councilors who represent the Weirs represent all of the Weirs, including business owners who profit greatly from it as well as homeowners who are trapped in their homes or forced to leave town because they do not choose to participate in the festivities. There should be discussion on this issue and all voices must be heard. Thank you to the mayor, the council and those citizens who are willing to be heard on all sides of this debate.
I call on the citizens of Laconia to live up to their responsibilities as citizens and to share their opinions on this issue with their elected officials and join in the debate on this issue. Anyone who witnessed the coverage of last Monday’s city council meeting on Channel 25 can see that the debate may be unpleasant and may make some of us uncomfortable for a time. But if we choose not to join this discussion because we don’t want to get involved, then we will deserve what we get. Being a good citizen takes courage.
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Edward Philpot is a trial attorney practicing with the firm of Wenger & Cronin, P.C. of Manchester, New Hampshire. He operates the firm's Laconia office, and his practice is principally in the areas of construction law and litigation, association law, personal injury law and business law and litigation. Ed holds a B.A. in history from Rutgers University and a J.D. from Franklin Pierce Law Center. He frequently speaks and writes on topics in his principal areas of practice, and is actively involved in alternative dispute resolution as a mediator and arbitrator.
Ed writes a weekly column for the Laconia Daily Sun and is a member and past chairman of the Laconia School Board. He is currently the president of the Belknap County Bar Association, and is a member of and past county governor of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association.
A lifelong Democrat, Ed has been involved in political campaigns on a local, state and national level in both New Hampshire and in his native New Jersey. Ed was most recently involved on a local level in Bill Bradley's unsuccessful presidential bid. He makes frequent radio appearances and has offered political commentary "from the left" on local cable access election broadcasts.
Ed shares a passion for sailboat racing with his children. He and his wife, Dianne, have recently celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary and look forward to many more. Dianne is the editor and manager of this website and is Ed's inspiration and principal resource.
Copyright 2003 Edward Philpot