Friday, June 17, 2011

Introducing Concord NH Patch

Dear regular readers of OurConcord.com,

On June 6, 2011, I started working for Concord NH Patch, a brand new news and community website from AOL. It's been a great two weeks working for the company - going through training in NYC for two days and then, building the site, adding content, covering a slew of stories.
Today, Friday, June 17, the site launched and is now live. There is a lot to read and see there about Concord. Please visit often.

The Concord NH Patch site is now my full-time job and will require a lot of attention in order to make sure it stays constant and vibrant. For these reasons, and the fact that I don't want to create a conflict, this will be my last post on OurConcord.com for the foreseeable future.
As well, for those of you who don't know, I also resigned my co-chairman's position at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Concord Taxpayers Association at the end of May 2011. It was great working with the org offering an important voice to working families and seniors who are struggling to stay in their homes during these difficult times. I will, however, stay involved in the Executive Committee of the Concord Substance Abuse Coalition, which I am vice chairman.

I want to thank each and every one of you who read OurConcord.com, participated in making comments, bought advertising, and privately thanked me for the work we tried to do here. August would have marked four years of producing this site, including two companion print editions. It's been a good run. Thank you for participating with me.

In the past, some folks have sniffed around as to whether or not I would be interested in selling the domain name. I'm happy to entertain offers, if anyone is interested. Feel free to touch base with me at ourconcord-at-yahoo.com.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Exciting news coming ...

A quick note to let all of my blog followers and readers know that I will soon have some exciting news to announce about a new gig I have landed.
I'll give everyone a little hint: I'm going to be covering the New Hampshire primary, some State House news, and local police/fire and municipal government in Concord.
In order to succeed at this new thing, I'm going to need a lot of help from all of you. So stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Charter Commission public hearing Thursday

The Concord School Board Charter Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, at the central office at 38 Liberty St.
The commission will discuss its preliminary report (linked here: REPORT).
Here is what the community needs to consider:
How school board members are elected: The commission proposed to change the election process from the nine at-large school board member election process from at-large members to three at-large members and six members elected from districts, two from each district [District A: Wards 1, 2, 3, 4; District B: Wards 5, 6, 7; District C: Wards 8, 9, 10].
Authority: There was some discussion about whether the legislation authorizes the commission gives it the authority to recommend ballot questions in addition to the amendment procedure.
Supermajority vote required for approval: The commission intends that the district voting proposal would be adopted as the first question. If the voters approve the first question, the charter would be open for amendment by the second question. The charter commission intends that the second question would only be effective to amend the charter with a vote of at least 60 percent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lights on Clinton Street, finally ...


Traffic lights have been installed at the intersection of Langley Parkway and Clinton Street.
The city has finally installed traffic lights at the intersection of Clinton Street and Langley Parkway, easily one of the most dangerous intersection that had not had a traffic light. Before the lights were installed, it was very difficult for people driving south on Langley to entire onto Clinton. We don't travel on Langley that often but when we do, we've often seen close calls as cars try to quickly dart out into the Clinton traffic. Now, that is all resolved, thankfully.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Schoenberg leaves the Concord Monitor for the Boston Globe

A quick local media note here: Concord Monitor reporter Shira Schoenberg is departing the local daily and going to work for the Boston Globe, as a correspondent covering the New Hampshire primary. She officially starts on May 23.
In an email to various sources and friends, she thanked everyone who had helped her during the last five years at the Monitor saying, "It has been a pleasure working with every one of you."
Karen Langley and Matt Spolar will be covering political news for the Monitor, according to Schoenberg's email.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Concord Monitor going to a paywall in May

The new publisher of the Concord Monitor announced this morning that the newspaper will be implementing a paywall for its website starting on May 3: ["Coming soon: a charge for online access"].
The paper will also be adding an iPad app.
At around 2:45 p.m., there were already more than 90 comments on the announcement, most of them negative. This comment by the publisher, however, caught me guffawing just a bit:
After all, we're your watchdog and your marketplace of ideas and commerce. We celebrate your successes and help mourn your losses.
We are your best community connector. Nowhere can you find the depth and breadth of local news and information to match the Monitor.
Hmm, OK John, I'll take the bait on this one. So, the newspaper is a "watchdog" ... well, that all depends on how you look at it. Let's take a look at some of the important local news stories the Concord Monitor missed or flat out ignored in the last few years.
Was the Monitor a watchdog when the school district attorney was caught violating the state's lobbying law? No. Your reporter received an extensive packet of information about the incident and how school officials and our state senator colluded behind closed doors to hold up important legislation. She even received a walk-through from one of our local officials who had been tracking it all. Then, the person above the reporter killed the story, saying it wasn't a story. Wow. Your news operation will go after developer Steve Duprey over and over again for following the law, but when a connected attorney breaks the law, well, that's not a story in your newspaper's mind.
Was it a watchdog when it was revealed that one of the school charter commission candidates worked for the same law firm owned by the Concord school superintendent's husband? How about when it was revealed that one of the school charter commission candidates endorsed by the Monitor had a wife who worked part-time for the newspaper? Or when the teachers' union endorsed a slate of candidates but didn't even bother to talk to the candidates? No. Not a peep out of your news org.
How about investigating the use of PTA emails to influence the school charter commission study process? How about reporting on the hijacking of legislative bills that helped usher in the rigged study process (see above)? How about any extensive reporting on the issue beyond a couple of token hearing attendances? How about delving into emails of public officials that would have given you all the information that the attorney general later was given, thankfully, with the help of one of our state representatives who was actually being a watchdog for the residents of Concord? Nope.
Was the Monitor a watchdog investigating all the shenanigans going on at the cable access center? Reams and reams of stuff on that one. How one of the coordinators spent $19,000 to raise $3,000 in one of its fundraisers? How about wasting thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on travel junkets, and cookies and treats for the board? It's become a regular jobs program for one local family but there has never been a peep out of your news organization. Maybe it had something to do with the cable access center, at the time, paying the Monitor to take care of its website? ... I don't know.
How about the ridiculous city council rules committee hearing where the chairwoman of the committee was actually a host of a program on the same cable access center that was a part of the investigation? Did you ever write about the fact that she abused her power as a councilor by getting the Concord Police Dept. to investigate a private citizen who had a public record? No, no one from the Monitor ever did ... Not only that, when said private citizen wanted to publish a letter about the incident, the executive editor of your newspaper refused because she was afraid the city councilor might get mad at her. Sad, quite sad.
Watchdog John? No, not really, and that's truly unfortunate for you, your news org, and us.
The Concord Monitor was once a great newspaper. I know, I've been reading it since I was a boy. I used to peddle it, as did my brother. It was our first real jobs. The Monitor helped shape who I am today. As a newspaper man myself, I'm heartbroken to see what is going on in our business. And to see this newspaper shrink away to almost nothing is even more horrific.
But, at the same time, some of the employees of the operation have an insane obsession with controlling everything that goes on in this community. It is at the point now where huge news stories are being censored in order to preserve the editorial board's political agenda, an agenda that might not be in the best interests of the community. That is, frankly, dangerous journalism, not watchdog journalism.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Concord, a diverse community ...

Quite by accident, this link came into my mailbox from a Google News alert: ["Bus stop for Orange Line and Trolley 2 on the Pink Line serve as meeting place on Main Street in Concord"].
I still don't know why. It's kind of weird that it is linked to a Utah site. But, there you go. Concord - and Penacook - diverse places.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

DISGRACEFUL!!

This was the scene at the former Kimball Elementary School grounds on the morning of April 2, 2011, as construction workers demolished a perfectly good historic building at the behest of a clueless school board and its empire building administration. The only response I can muster is to say that this is disgraceful.


Here is a shot from the facade of the eastern side of the parcel. Ah, gee, isn't that swell, the construction workers are saving some of the granite to make everyone feel good ... Pathetic.

Here is another angle from just north of the entrance. Look at all that construction debris. It will take the new building years and years and years and years to reverse the carbon damage from the destruction of this structurally sound historic building.

Here is the view from Rumford Street, where the beams on the west side of the new building have started.

This is the view approaching the eastern side of the parcel on South Spring Street. Working on a Saturday, eh? Hmm, lots of overtime there, even in a conservative state like New Hampshire. How much you want to bet that the project comes in way over budget?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SHAME!



This is probably the most disgraceful picture you will see this year: Demolition teams knocking down the old Morrill Elementary School and Concord School District Administration Building on the morning of March 11.
While driving down Pleasant, I saw the debris out of the corner of my eye. I did a double-take. I couldn't believe it. I spun the car around and took a look and ... wow ... speechless. A perfectly good, structurally sound, historic building. Gone. Poof. Goodbye. Disgraceful.
Below is the debris left over from the destruction of perfectly good multi-family homes, historic ones, at that, at the corner of Rumford and Pleasant streets. And yes, these homes were purchased at inflated prices by school district. Simply put, more shame.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changing the way Concord School Board members are elected

I wrote the following note to members of the Concord School Board Charter Commission last night. This is the corrected version. I would encourage you all to contact them as well:

Since I will probably not be able to attend Tuesday’s meeting, I just wanted to send a short email supporting Mike Donovan’s proposal for a new process for electing Concord School Board members.

As some of you may already know, I had mixed feelings about state. Rep. Steve Shurtleff’s proposal in 2008 to move completely to Ward elections for school board members. I felt it had negative and positive aspects. And I also believe that the current way of electing school board members is inherently flawed. However, having read Donovan’s proposal, I feel this is an excellent alternative to the previous proposal by Shurtleff and the current structure we use to elect members.

First, the proposal allows for a mix of opportunities for candidates, ones who have city-wide support and local Ward support. Lowering the threshold of election by running in three wards instead of at-large should encourage greater participation and will be more inclusive than the current process. Since the election would be more manageable, more people will probably run. The process works very well in electing our state representatives and city councilors (although there is always room for more competition, in my mind).

Second, having the elections held on odd numbered years eliminates what I have termed “the lemming effect,” essentially, thousands of people voting because of the presidential or congressional election cycle, randomly casting votes for school board candidates based on nothing more than names they recognize or the color of a person’s shirt at the polls. This proposal will equalize the process. Also, in the past, there have been huge discrepancies in the number of votes it takes to get elected. For example, in 2007, a municipal election, the three winners of board seats won with between 1,901 and 2,814 votes. A year later, a presidential election, the winners received between 6,480 and 7,086. In 2009, all the incumbents won against a ghost candidate, with between 1,297 and 1,953 votes. Again in 2010, three incumbents were elected with between 8,545 and 9,384 votes, with no challengers. The difference in votes is based on turnout but it is staggering because, essentially, thousands more people determined the outcome of who won in one year over the previous year. Granted, if voters don't bother to vote, then they cost themselves representation. But still, the fact that one year it only takes 1,300 votes to win and then another year it takes more than 6,000 is a serious problem which will be fixed with this proposal.

Third, running both on the district level and at-large ensures that every neighborhood of the city is represented on the school board. This has been a problem in the past. In 2009, for example, a quick analysis of the school board membership revealed that a third of the nine, came from Ward 4. Wards 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10, each had one member each. This meant that five members - or more than half – at the time, lived in the Kimball/Walker School District. There was no representation from Ward 2 or 8, meaning the Beaver Meadow and Dame elementary schools had no one from their districts or neighborhoods representing them on the board [No one represented Ward 1 either but most people who live in Ward 1 send their kids to the Merrimack Valley School District]. Today, Wards 1 and 2 are still not represented and there are three members from Ward 5. This proposal would open up opportunities for broadening neighborhood representation.

This is an excellent proposal with an acceptable timeline to implement the plan over a number of years. I encourage you to support this proposal.

Charter commission member emails:

wfa@rathlaw.com
KCon469326@aol.com
ctcogs@yahoo.com
mdvn9@aol.com
chuck@nhlawoffice.com
bob.gile@wedbush.com
betty.hoadley@comcast.net
mhonigberg@sulloway.com
rjosborne@comcast.net