November 4, 2003, 9:20 A.M.
Laconia voters will
be voting for their mayor and council and several school board members today. These elections are very important, and will shape the city’s course and direction for the next two years. These elections are particularly significant because there are no state or national elections to draw voters to the polls.
Local elections are especially important this year because of the trend toward shifting increased responsibilities for the operation of cities, towns and schools, and for the costs of federally and state mandated programs to local governments. Federal educational programs such as Title I, Title IX and No Child Left Behind are adding increased mandates while providing decreased funding. State funding will be cut to many districts under current state funding proposals, although it is still uncertain which districts will be facing decreased funding and which districts will see increases or no change. The result of both federal and state mandates and attendant funding deficiencies is an increased burden on local taxpayers.
It is our local city council and school board that will be responsible for ensuring that city and school services and other governmental functions continue to support our community and its growth and development. It is also important that this be done in a way that does not overburden taxpayers. Perhaps most important, however, will be the willingness of our local officials to press our state and federal governments, through our representatives, to live up the their responsibilities to fund mandated programs. If these programs were funded to their statutory levels, the local tax burden would be decreased substantially.
President Bush and his administration want us to focus on the “positives” in Iraq, and not, for example, the 35 Americans killed or wounded this weekend in the second worst day of the war in Iraq for us so far. Among the positives are the opening of schools and hospitals by his contractor friends at Halliburton. All of this “positive” stuff is happening when we are funding billions to try to win the “hearts and minds” of Iraqis while not funding mandated school programs and testing at home.
The answer is not to stop progress or stifle growth. Our local government, the council and the school board, need to work collaboratively to continue the success that we have seen in our city and our schools while ensuring that tax dollars sent to Concord and Washington are returned to us along with the instructions for new programs. We also need to look at creative ways to ensure continued growth of our tax base and revenue. This means encouraging development like the Allen-Rogers project, Akwa Soleil/Akwa Vista, the industrial park and our own Rusty Bertholet’s hotel. Not all of these projects are in the Weirs, by the way. We also need to get a handle on Motorcycle Week and turn it from a revenue drain to an economic benefit for everyone. This has to be done in conjunction with a plan that recognizes year round tourism as one of our principal industries.
We have great schools and a great city. Through continued cooperation and future collaboration we can make it even better for everyone. We need to elect a city council and school board that will have the vision and energy to serve us all, rather than simply dwelling on what we can’t do. Local government takes energy, leadership and creativity.
Our school district has made great strides in the last several years. There is still a long way to go. We still need to address our most pressing building needs: the middle and high schools. Likewise, the city has made great strides in developing a program to repair and upgrade roads, to build a new police station and to support the rebirth of our community library. We still have needs in our streets and parks. All of these improvements have made Laconia a desirable place for businesses and families and it is this trend that will allow our city to continue to grow.
Local elections are important. Please cast your informed vote for the candidates who will support a positive, forward-looking direction for our great city.