Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comcast flack responds ...

I meant to comment on this earlier but I spaced it: ["Viewers first"]. Yeah, I too was a bit shocked when I first read this letter in Saturday's Concord Monitor because it is supposed to be one of those "clarifying letters" by a corporate mucky-muck trying to defend terrible decisions.
First, McLaughlin writes:
The decision to move C-SPAN2 to our digital lineup was made after careful deliberation and with a tangible benefit to our customers foremost in mind.
"Careful deliberation"? With whom? No one contacted me. Did anyone contact you? The "tangible" benefit is that they get to charge MORE to people who want the C-Span channels - channels which should be on every cable system, free of charge. I would bet that if polled a lot of people would list the C-Span channels at the top of their list for access choices.

McLaughlin also writes:
C-SPAN2 remains available to every Comcast customer.
Well, no it does really. It does remain "available" to people willing to pay a lot more money than you used to have to pay to get it, just to keep an eye on the "Congress critters." That doesn't seem fair, does it? And, it doesn't seem like a good "tangible" decision with any "benefit" to anyone except Comcast. At the same time, we pay for three Spanish language channels and four shopping channels which we never use. Ala carte can not happen fast enough! Bring it on.
Update: I found this interesting site allowing people to choose what they cable bill would be if customers were allowed to make ala carte choices: [""]. According to my choices, I could get expanded cable for about $15 per month ... instead of the $60 Comcast was previously charging me!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cool things to do this week

Thursday, Nov. 29, from 4 to 8 p.m., presidential candidates will be at the Capitol Center for the Arts to talk about arts funding as part of the ArtsVoteNH effort. No word yet on who will show up but most of the candidates, if not all, have been invited.

"The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley" will be held at the Capitol Center for the Arts on Friday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m., fiddle player and poet Dudley Laufman will be calling some tunes and reading poetry from his new book, "Walking Sticks," at Gibson's Bookstore on South Main Street.

It's Auction time again: The Concord Boys & Girls Club will be holding its holiday auction from 1 to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, on Comcast cable channels 6 and 22. Let's see if they can break the $70k mark this year!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fez-tival of Trees!

One of the greatest things to do in Concord during the holiday season is to visit the Bektash Temple's Fez-tival of Trees. This year, as you can see above, they had a ton of very impressive trees that were being raffled off. The Bektash Temple is located at 189 Pembroke Road on the Heights.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Friends prepare for Thanksgiving

Pictured, Alice Blodgett, left, and students from Southern New Hampshire University prepared Thanksgiving baskets this week at the Friends of Forgotten Children in Penacook.

Friends of Forgotten Children (FOFC) has sponsored and is completing their first coordinated Thanksgiving Food Basket Program for Concord and surrounding communities.
Volunteers from Southern New Hampshire University, Bishop Brady High School, Concord Loyal Order of the Moose #1374, Wal-Mart and other community volunteers put together almost 350 food baskets and distributed them to seniors and those in need without transportation.
Associated Grocers of Pembroke supplemented the donated turkeys with fruits, vegetables, and cranberry sauce which is enabling almost 350 families to enjoy a complete Thanksgiving dinner.
While picking up her food basket at Friends of Forgotten Children’s 224 Bog Road location, one woman broke into tears while thanking the volunteers for helping her.
“Nobody else would help me, thank you so much,” she said through her tears.

With the closure of the New Hampshire Help Line who used to maintain the list of those in need, FOFC assumed the role of collecting applications for Thanksgiving food baskets. The Unitarian Universalist and Latter Day Saints Churches took 115 of the names collected by FOFC to fill boxes and deliver them. Several other local churches made up food boxes that were combined with turkeys donated by Eastern Propane, Precision Finishing/Spectrum, F.L. Merrill Construction and other businesses.
Alice Blodgett, FOFC’s President of the Board of Directors, said “Thanksgiving Food Baskets are a big undertaking for us, and it has been a huge success this year because of the volunteers and donors. For those who believe they’re only giving a little are actually giving back a lot, because it enables us to help so many more people."
“It did my heart good to see one homeless gentleman volunteering his time today to help others in need,” she said.

Friends of Forgotten Children is a 501 (c) (3) public charity located at 224 Bog Road.
They happily accept small and large donations of food and non-food items, clean and serviceable clothing for all ages and new toys as well as monetary contributions. Contributions are tax deductible. Friends of Forgotten Children can be reached at 753-4801.
Submitted by William Dearborn, FOFC Executive Director.

Thanksgiving snow!

Snow fell in areas across Southern New Hampshire, including Concord.

Congratulations Peggy Senter!

Peggy Senter of the Concord Community Music School was named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce. Congratulations Peggy!

Strange orange sky ...

Did anyone else see the strange orange sky this morning rising over Concord? It was weird and a bit unnerving. Also, for the first time, I really noticed how loud the traffic is on I-93. It was roaring this morning. Maybe I just didn't notice how loud it was before. But, it is loud.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cool things to do this week ...

Citizen of the Year Dinner
The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce will be holding its 88th annual Citizen of the Year dinner at the Grappone Conference Center on Monday, Nov. 19 at 5:15 p.m. Time Magazine's Mark Halperin will be the keynote speaker. For more information, go to

Meet Dennis Kucinich Tuesday

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will be signing copies of his book, "The Courage to Survive," at Gibson's Bookstore on South Main Street at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 20. I've read some good things about the book and how he talks about the difficulty growing up. I won't be able to go but I hope some people are able to go.

Celebrate Franklin Pierce's birthday Friday
The New Hampshire Historical Society at 30 Park St. in Concord will be hosting a b-day party for President Franklin Pierce on Friday, Nov. 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pierce was born on Nov. 23, 1804. Cake will be served and author Peter Wallner, the library's director, will talk and also sign books. While there, the Historical Society suggests viewing "New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition," an exhibition about the primary. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, call 228-6688 or go to

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Around Concord

A new quarterly magazine arrived in the mailbox today. Around Concord is a 60-plus page glossy magazine published by former radio guy Brit Johnson and edited by Deborah Thompson. The mag has a similar feel to New Hampshire Magazine. "Holiday Elegance" is the theme of the first edition. It features some holiday gift ideas, a piece on the Butters gourmet food store downtown, renovating downtown buildings, and some tips on Nordic skiing. There are some calendar events listed in the back and a slew of fancy ads. Subscriptions are $20 per year. Nice job guys, congratulations.

School administration reaching out to residents

Christine Rath, Superintendent of the Concord School District, sent a letter out to residents of the city inviting them to participate in three task forces to work on issues relating to the elementary school facilities master plan proposal. One committee will deal with what is being called "ed specs," specifically, "educational programs that could take place within the new or renovated facility." A second group will study how existing buildings could be used in the future if they are no longer schools. And the third group will study the costs of building new schools or renovating the older ones. The letter notes that this group will "research construction and operating costs, review the district's current and future debt and explore funding options." This group will also look at building and maintaining "green" schools in the future.
An organizational meeting will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. Anyone interested in serving on the committees can call Jane Murray at 225-0811 or email:

Rate card now available

We are in the process of planning the next print edition of We have also created a rate card with pricing information for advertising. Prices start at just $50 and you'll get a free Web display ad as a bonus. For more information, email

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A couple of quick things worth mentioning

I recently started receiving alerts from WMUR-TV News and they are helpful if you are a busy person trying to keep track of news going on in the state.
This story, about the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, which aired in the last day or so, struck me as an interesting one: ["Primary Shuffle Causes Problems for Local Hotels"]. There is a video clip of the segment at the link too. There will be a ton of stories produced about the primary. This was an interesting angle for a reporter to take a look at.

I was not the only person who saw this great editorial in the Concord Monitor on Tuesday: ["Put C-SPAN2 back in basic cable package"]. The editorial nails the issue right on the head: Cable customers need - and deserve - ala carte choices and all the C-SPAN channels should be on the Basic service.
But technically, the editorial is not quite correct.
The "basic" package does not offer C-SPAN or C-SPAN 2 as part of its service and never has. The "standard" package does - at about $35 to $40 more per month than Basic. And Comcast in Concord only offers C-SPAN 3 on Channel 249, or the most expensive subscription service. Since these channels are free of charge there is no reason why every single customer with cable should not be receiving the channels as part of the Basic package.
Instead of getting the C-SPAN channels on Basic service, subscribers get useless channels - like three, yes THREE Spanish channels and four shopping channels. What a waste. One has to wonder how many actual Spanish speaking families with cable are there in lily white Concord - compared to the number of families who might not be able to afford the Standard or higher packages but want C-SPAN.
And this doesn't even touch upon the fact that the national news channels are not available on the Basic package either. They are only available on the Standard package. This means that basic news and information which should be available to the maximum amount of people is not. It is being kept from people who can't afford - or choose not to pay - the Standard service price. But that is why we need ala carte options: So we can pay for what we want and not have to pay for what we don't want.
I too have complained to Comcast about this - repeatedly - to no avail. But, the clock is ticking for Comcast and other companies who don't listen - and respect - their customers.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Election aftermath

Editor's Note: Due to work deadlines and other projects, I'm getting to this a little late. But I still think there are some things worth writing about concerning the 2007 Concord municipal elections. So here it is. Consider this a Sunday newspaper aftermath column ... on Saturday.

Tuesday elections in Concord may have marked a new era in municipal politics both in the way candidates spent money and the level of turnout needed to win elected office. At the same time, the more things change, the more they stay the same. But the ability for change in the future, is now more prevalent than ever, based on the number of new faces appearing on the city's political scene.
Municipal elections, for the most part, have become pretty sleepy affairs here, especially when compared to the past. Gone are the rough and tumble days when this was a lunch bucket city of Reagan Democrats who would fight and elbow their way around Rockefeller Republicans to get things done. Lawyers, people connected to state employment, a handful of "creative economy" types and commuters to jobs in the southern part of the state [and Massachusetts], have become the mainstays of the city's populace.
Concord, and its neighborhoods, have become a bit more transient too, with apartments housing more short term residents [i.e. non-voters] than ever before [a little less than 28,000 registered voters in a city of more than 43,000 ... and growing]. There is more diversity here, especially when looking at economics: From clerks in low wage jobs, single parents trying to make ends meet without cars, and others, like those attending small colleges like the Franklin Pierce Law Center. The latter, of course, noticeably changing the makeup of Wards 4 and 5 in a big way.
Gone are the days when the local newspaper, the Concord Monitor, had an office downtown and delivered huge newspapers in the afternoon. Down to a circulation of less than 9,000, according to the 2005 bureau statistics, it still remains the city's strongest news source but it isn't the same as it used to be. Gone are the days when the local radio station, WKXL, was live most of the time, played music, and had a news staff chasing fires, car accidents and stories around the city. The current owner has tried to replicate the old days but it is not quite the same as it was in the past. There is some television news. WMUR-TV, Channel 9, is still the strongest for-profit television station in the state and still covers Concord with serious political news and whenever there is a big crime story. There have been attempts to gain some traction with new TV signals, but both efforts failed: Concord's Channel 21 runs syndicated cable and Derry's 50 has refocused its direction on Massachusetts.
These changes in demographics and media have changed the way the city views things in a big way. As well, as we have all seen in society, it is getting harder and harder to communicate and stay in touch with the people around you even as technology is making communication easier. We often don't know our neighbors [Or, we do, and we don't want to know them, another topic entirely].
Of course, this isn't an anomaly to Concord. It is happening everywhere in America. But it is affecting the city's electoral process and how the city does business. Right now, there is a power vacuum and a small amount of people seem to have the most influence in Concord's strong city manager, strong school superintendent system. This might change when the few new voices are added to the council and school board in the wake of Tuesday's elections. But, at the same time, it probably won't change.

Money becomes an issue
The amount of money spent clearly played a small role in the outcome of at least the city side of the election. But, in some ways, name recognition seems to have played a bigger role in getting elected in 2007.

In the mayor's race, a lot of money was raised and spent, big money at least by Concord's standards. Even outgoing Mayor Mike Donovan, in a Monitor article, worried that all the money being thrown around would scare ordinary people away from running for the position. While his point is a good one, the reality is that ordinary folks have limited opportunities to run and win any of these seats as it is now, with or without the money. Ordinary folks seem to have been scared away from the process long ago. The number of unchallenged seats each year comes close to proving that theory.
The latest campaign finance filings at the city clerk's office, filed on Oct. 30, show that Bouley raised more than $5,800 to Rogers' almost $4,800. Bouley spent less than $2,000 at this point in the race while Rogers had spent more than $4,200 [the final campaign filings are due to the clerk by Nov. 20, and that paperwork should yield some interesting figures].
Both Bouley and Rogers spent their money on standard campaign expenses - signs, printing, postage or direct mail, and in the case of Rogers, electronic phone calls to voters. Bouley also had newspaper ads in the Monitor. Both campaigns repeatedly mailed full-color postcards to voters, with Bouley targeting general households and Rogers addressing some of her mail directly to female voters. The municipal unions also bought a half page ad in the Monitor right before the election, to promote their endorsed slate [Two of their endorsed candidates, Rep. Steve Shurtleff, who ran at-large council, and Dick Patten in Ward 8, won. Two out of four ain't bad].
From the field, at least a few voters were annoyed by phone calls from Rogers. There was a rumor that Bouley, after hearing from some of those voters in the field, canceled a planned last minute electronic calling effort. We also heard from a few "good" voters who said they had not heard from the Rogers campaign, either by phone or mail. These voters were both male and female, leading one to speculate that Rogers' effort may not have been as complete as it needed to be [the results also lead to this conclusion].
"Good" voters, in the business, are voters who vote in every election possible. Campaigns target these voters with information because they are almost guaranteed to vote. If a campaign has even more resources, it then targets the not so good voters, by age, gender, neighborhood, or other category, in order to influence and prod them into getting out to vote. In the aftermath of an election, an analyst can speculate on what drove voters to the polls based on a campaign's GOTV effort and the issues raised in the race by candidates.
Interestingly, neither Bouley nor Rogers had very strong GOTV operations although both seemed organized enough for the kind of campaigns Concord is used to. While they had people at the polls holding signs, neither campaign seemed to be checking the turnout. A campaign with a really good field operation will call or go door-to-door to interview voters about their personal preferences before the election. This poll rates the voter on a scale of 1 to 4, "1" meaning they are voting with you while "4" means the voter is against your candidate. This information is marked on a voter's list and tabulated by hand in small races or by computer in larger races. Poll checkers are at the polls on Election Day marking the names of voters off the list as they go into the polls. The lists are then checked a number of times during the day to keep track of who has voted and who hasn't. Between noon and 3 p.m., phone calls are made to remind a candidate's 1s and 2s that they need to get out and vote [hence the name, GOTV, get out the vote]. A good field operation will know by 5 p.m. if they have won the election or not. Neither candidate seemed to have that on Election Day so they didn't really know what the results would be until they got the printouts at the clerk's office [a telephone survey poll did surface to some voters around the city but neither candidate publicly admitted to purchasing the poll. Some speculate that Bouley's lobbying partner, Mike Denehy, may have authorized the poll, but no one knows for sure].

In the at-large race, most of the candidates spent their own money to finance their races, according to campaign finance filings.
Shurtleff, who won one of the at-large seats, spent the most, more than $1,700. Incumbent Mark Coen, who won the other at-large seat, spent a little more than $300. Merwyn Bagan spent about $400. And Al "Tinker" Foy raised $100 in donations and spent more than $1,500 on his effort. Trisha Dionne, who initially ran at-large but then shifted gears to an unsuccessful write-in campaign in Ward 4, spent $50 before changing races. Stacey Catucci listed no expenditures before Oct. 30. Both Bagan and Foy filed their Nov. 20 forms early, so their financial information indicates a finalized tally.
The four "serious," for lack of a better term, at-large candidates all spent money on signs and some other form of printing, with Shurtleff and Foy sending out mass mailers, according to expense reports. Shurtleff seems to have targeted good voters, since a number of people who consider themselves "good" voters commented on receiving his postcard. Foy spent more than $1,300 on a mailer but it is unknown how he chose to target voters. Since Foy forwarded a more conservative platform than most of the other candidates, he may have targeted Republican or elderly voters or may have even just mailed to neighborhoods where people knew him, in the hope that he would bring them out to vote. Whatever the strategy, it did not work, since Foy came in fourth.
One could speculate that had Bagan spent money on a mass mailer, he might have pulled off a win. A little more than 400 votes separated him and second place finisher Coen, granted, a popular incumbent for all of his long-time work in the community. While Bagan did receive the endorsement of the municipal unions, he probably would have benefited from the push a mailer could have brought to his effort.

In the ward races, even though there was little competition, some candidates spent money.
Of the reports filed, Dionne spent the most - $310. Fred Keach, who ran unopposed for the Ward 10 seat, spent $180. Ward 2 Councilor Bill Stetson received $50 in donations and spent $28. Ward 7 Councilor Keith Nyhan spent $105, mostly on food for an event promoting Bouley's campaign. No other candidates reported expenses as of Oct. 30.
Interestingly, Dionne received 775 votes in her at-large race, 103 in Ward 4, and then another 49 votes as a write-in candidate [to incumbent Councilor Dick Lemieux's 399].
Financial data from the school board candidates was not readily available and from what some candidates have reported, the filing requirements are not as strict as the council side of the race. When that data is available, it will be posted.

Lost opportunities
Clearly, the lack of candidates for the ward races is a sad testament to the state of city politics. As noted by Donovan, with large amounts of money getting thrown around, it is impossible for ordinary folks to run a major citywide campaign.
But running on the ward level is an entirely different story. For a few hundred dollars, as shown by some of the candidates in ward races, a good campaign can be organized.
Imagine, if you will, if Dionne had always run for the Ward 4 seat instead of changing her mind in the middle of the at-large race. A registered "undeclared," meaning independent, with the backing of the municipal unions, she might have waged a better battle against Lemieux. Or, at the very least, she could have forced Lemieux to run a campaign on why he should be reelected, which is just as important a procedure. There are more than 1,200 registered independents in Ward 4 and Dionne could have tapped into those voters, as well as Democrats and Republicans, and waged a better campaign. She may not have won in the end. But the outreach and media coverage could have increased voter turnout in the ward to more than the 19 percent who did show up.
Look at Catucci, who realistically had no chance of winning against four better known candidates in the at-large race. She had no Web site, no literature, and no available form of communicating with voters [no available email and her phone number is unpublished and inaccessible to potential supporters]. But she elevated some interesting ideas during the campaign so much so that the Monitor editorial board suggested she consider staying active [the Monitor, as we have seen, does not throw gifts like that to people very often]. As a Republican from Ward 2, she could have challenged Stetson and run a competent campaign. There are more than 600 registered Republicans in Ward 2. Stetson garnered 268 votes in his race against the blanks. Do the math. There was [or is] potential there. Stetson, a former firefighter, would have probably received backing from the unions as he did in 2005 when he ran against two people for the open seat. But that does not mean that it would have been impossible to win against him. Some of the candidates backed by the municipal unions lost.
In fact, looking at the number of voters in each ward who blanked the incumbent - meaning the voters did not vote for the incumbent but left the ballot blank - there is built in ground to wage competitive races in the future. In half the city's wards, more than 20 percent of voters left the ballot blank: Ward 2 - 21 percent blanked the vote; Ward 3 - 20 percent; Ward 5 - 28 percent; Ward 6 - 22 percent; and Ward 10 - 25 percent.
While a high percentage of blanks does not guarantee a win for challengers, it does point to a potential base of voters who are unhappy. A challenger might be able to count on those votes for support. One has to wonder, for example, what would have happened if Foy spent $1,300 trying unseat Ward 7 Councilor Keith Nyhan. What if Bagan, a well-known figure in the city, ran against Ward 5's Rob Werner? Would their efforts have been more successful? Would the challengers have yielded higher turnout rates in those wards? Would the challengers have won?
Note the Ward 8 race between Patten and Ray LaCasse: 499 votes cast with only 17 blanks. When given choices, voters choose one of the candidates. At the same time, turnout in that ward was only 21.6 percent - one of the higher turnouts but not the highest. The South End's Ward 7 and Bouley's home ward, Ward 10, as well as Ward 3 and 5, had the highest turnout. All four had uncontested ward races.

An interesting potential case study
Flipping over to the school board side, one could really create an interesting case study from this race, if you could land the grant funding to do it.
Concord is in the process of potentially unprecedented change in the makeup of its elementary schools. Earlier in the year, school officials released a tentative plan to consolidate the city's eight elementary schools into five. A number of factors went into the plan's creation. Elementary school enrollment has dropped as fewer people in the city have children and when they do have them, they have fewer than previous families. A number of the schools, while historic, are in need of major structural repairs. With more schools, it is more difficult to share the department's resources. Many students, like the ones at Walker Elementary, are not getting the same education at newer, better-staffed schools, like Beaver Meadow Elementary.
After the release of the plan, the school department revealed that it had spent millions of dollars to purchase a number of private homes around Kimball Elementary at market rate - at a time when housing values are starting to plummet and eminent domain takings remain an option for the department if the plan moved forward. This piqued the interest of not only budget hawks and conservatives, but supporters of the smaller neighborhood schools, who all sensed the tentative plan was a done deal. Consolidating the elementary schools also became the biggest issue of the campaign.
Adding to all of this potential instability and change was the fact that three school board seats were up for reelection with only one candidate deciding to run for reelection. As the filing deadline opened, few candidates emerged to run for the three seats. A number of media outlets did stories about the lack of candidates and, as the filing period closed, eight candidates filed to run for the seat. One candidate, Tim Patoine, who is also a part-time school bus driver, dropped out because he might have to relinquish his job if elected [He remained on the ballot and received 521 votes].
Of the seven candidates left, most were against the consolidation plan. The four male candidates left in the race favored renovating the older schools; two of the three female candidates, Laura Bonk and Jennifer Patterson, were non-committal but leaning towards the consolidation plan. Incumbent Megan DeVorsey backed the consolidation plan.
Most of the candidates had some political experience in the city. Rosano, a Republican who has lived in the city for more than five decades, ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2006. Watrous, a 20-plus year resident, ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 7 city council in 2005. DeVorsey was the incumbent asking for another term. Jennifer Patterson, while not previously elected to any office, worked at the Attorney General's office for a number of years before deciding to become a stay-at-home mom. Ralph Willette and Eric Williams were relative unknowns. As was Bonk who, having just moved into town in July from Allenstown, ran unsuccessfully for state representative there in 2004.
It was clearly anyone's game. But a handful of activists and a newspaper editorial board may have influenced enough people to turn a certain way.

Was it really A Better Choice?
In the middle of the campaign, a small group of activists attempting to stop the elementary school consolidation plan launched an effort to have the buildings named to an endangered building list and later, actively backed a number of candidates.
But their efforts clearly backfired.
On Oct. 16, a group calling themselves "A Better Choice" [ABC] nominated the Dewey, Rumford, Kimball, Walker, Dame, Conant and Eastman elementary school buildings, as a group, to the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance's "Seven to Save" list. The effort, activists were quoted as saying, was a hope that the consolidation plan would be reexamined.
Members of the group wrote letters to the editor in support of their cause and later, candidates they decided to endorse.
One of the members, Charlie Russell, an attorney and local Democratic activist, bought a $200 radio buy on WKXL. The ads, the only municipal ads bought for any of the races, aired on the Monday before the election and on Election Day. The ads ridiculed DeVorsey for supporting the elementary school consolidation plan and elevated Willette and Williams as supporters of neighborhood schools. Rosano and Watrous, two other neighborhood schools supporters, were not mentioned in the ad and were not approached by the group about getting support, according to sources.
The negative ad probably did not have much bearing on the race because few people actually listen to WKXL. According to Arbitron, the company which does biannual polling of radio listeners in the Lakes Region/Concord market [#169], on any given weekday, WKXL has around 600 to 700 potential listeners in the region - not the city. The station fell off the Top 30 12-plus Arbitrend survey - the generic survey given away for free on the Web - back in the Fall of 2004. Since that time, the station's listenership has plummeted. While the bulk of the station's listeners are 55 plus, probably good voters, and living in Concord, no one knows where they actually live unless you spend $4,800 on the data. While it is easy to assume that few people heard the ad, the actual number is a complete unknown.
However later, on Election Day, another name popped up on literature and homemade signs produced by ABC. No, it wasn't Rosano or Watrous. It was Patterson - a consolidation plan supporter. So, essentially, Russell and others added another name to the list of endorsed candidates who did not support their position. How foolish was that?
As it turned out, quite foolish: the three consolidation plan candidates won, with Patterson topping the ticket and DeVorsey, the incumbent targeted by Russell's ads, easily winning reelection. The third candidate to win was Bonk, the candidate no one knew. The closest candidate ABC had to actually winning was Watrous - the same candidate the group ignored - who lost by a meager 128 votes. If just a handful of Willette's and Williams' votes in each of the city's wards had gone to Watrous, there would be at least one vote on the board for a reexamination. Russell did not return an email request to discuss this issue.

The media's influence
Before the election, we took a short look at the media's influence in the municipal races and delved into the lack of coverage and what seemed like better coverage for Rogers in the mayoral race. As the results showed, the news side of the Monitor's operation was unable to help the doomed Rogers campaign [although they would probably reject the previous analysis suggesting that they were influential].
However, the editorial side, some of whom also work on the news side, not unlike other newspapers in the world, clearly had a definitive influence over at least one race, the race for school board.
The Monitor issued a number of endorsements in the week before the election, including on the city side, Bouley, Shurtleff and Coen, Lemieux; and on the school side, Bonk, DeVorsey, and Patterson, all of whom won. The Monitor abandoned their long time Town Crier contributor, Patten, and endorsed his opponent, Ray LaCasse. But Patten won easily.
However, the most surprising of all the endorsements was Bonk and it clearly made the difference. As was later noted in a post-election article, "School board gets 2 new faces," reporter Melanie Asmar wrote:
"Bonk ran a frugal campaign; she had a $50 budget and spent $42, mostly on printing fliers. The night before the election, she bought a piece of foam board and her only campaign sign, which was handmade."
In a world of modern and serious campaigns, how did a woman no one knew, who just moved to town a few months before, who knew very few people, who spent so little money, end up winning against better known, better financed, and more active candidates? You already know the answer to that one. The Monitor endorsement clearly buoyed Bonk into the board seat and there really is no other explanation for the shocking and surprising win.
Future candidates can learn from this but the message might not be the best one to hear: You really need to figure out a way to get the Monitor endorsement. It isn't a guaranteed win, but it clearly doesn't hurt. And, if you don't get it, well, you better really get out there and hustle or else you are not going to win.

So, what does this all mean?
It is hard to really grasp any definitive results from the election beyond the clear and easy answers: Bouley ran a very good race and people were turned off by his opponent; name recognition trumps money in council and school board races; the Monitor is still a viable news source and can still influence and sway hundreds of voters in the city to vote for candidates who might not be the best choices. Those are a few things.
But the larger and more important point is this: These are your elections. These are your candidates. We need to have voter participation as high as it can be in order to make sure that everyone has his say. As we all know, it's the local elections which are the important ones. It's the local elections which have the greatest affect on our lives.

Polly's Think Pink Radio-Thon nets $37k

New Hampshire radio stations, including many available in Concord, raised more than $37k in funds for breast cancer research on Thursday with a radiothon. Polly's Think Pink Radio-Thon, in honor of Pauline Robbins, a DJ from the Upper Valley, was thrown together in a matter of days but was quite successful. The stations involved included Nassau Broadcasting, Koor Communications, Dartmouth Broadcasting and Great Eastern Radio. Congratulations to all involved!

Concord Monitor launches new Web site

The Concord Monitor relaunched its Web site this morning reformatting it into a more user-friendly and, frankly, impressive site. "The news you need now" is the new motto, with a look similar to some of the revamps done by the Boston Globe and other national daily newspapers.
The Monitor's new site is better organized and more accessible than the previous one, with softer edges and text. It is easier to find features, organized on the left hand side of the page.
The site features a Most Read article list, a cute new trend in the business these days, along with blog feeds, a focus on the New Hampshire primary boldly placed in the middle of the homepage, AP video [along with the text the site has always had], and AccuWeather forecast information on the right hand side of the page. Another useful feature is the town-by-town map. Readers who want ultra local news, briefs, or event listings, can click on the map and then click on their town, and poof, there is the information that is available for that town.
Nice job indeed.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Editor's Note

A quick editor's note: I welcome interaction here but I won't allow anonymous posts or comments that might be derogatory towards people [especially non-public figures] without being able to prove the allegations. In the last 24 hours, I did not allow posts which made accusations that could not be substantiated. Comments about public figures are fine. If you don't like someone or have dirt on someone, pass it along via email and the allegations will be investigated.
But if you are going to make comments about non-public figures anonymously, I'm not going to allow them to be posted on the site.
As an aside, I've been told by a source that the Concord Monitor also had the rumor that I won't speak about and, interestingly enough, it didn't make it into the newspaper today. Maybe it will make it in tomorrow. Who knows. But don't just assume that because we're a small operation or because we use blogging software to edit our Web site that we aren't a serious news operation and don't have some standards. We are and we do.
And just because the Monitor doesn't publish something does not mean we would not be interested in hearing about it. So, do communicate with us. Just email the information, sign your name, and leave a phone number. Someone will get back to you.
Recently, I had a person question the analysis piece on the mayoral race. They gave me a good grilling. Surprisingly, the person didn't believe what was written.
The person said, How do you know Kathy Rogers allowed those people to attack the person at the Rules Committee meeting ... I didn't read about it in the newspaper?
I said, Well, I attended the meeting and saw it with my own eyes.
Well, what about the police investigation stuff?
I said, I saw her emails and read her explanation in the minutes of the Rules Committee meeting. I added that I also attended the public forum and was one of the two people to raise the issue with the mayor and the council.
Wasn't a reporter at the forum when the issue of the police investigation was brought up, the person asked?
I said, Yes, there was a reporter at the forum but shockingly they decided not to write about the issue and instead, wrote about the two people who brought up the senior center issue [As well, I know for a fact that the information was passed on to two different reporters at the Monitor, so they had the information they just chose, for whatever reason, not to report the information].
After haggling with the person, I just laid it out: Look, you don't have to believe what I wrote. But, I'm telling you, it happened. I can't help what anyone else decides is news. But this was news, it happened, and I wrote about it later, on my own. It is the truth.
Folks, believe me when I say that you can trust what is written here. As I said in the Why Publish? column: You may not like what we write about but you can't say you didn't know about it. You're going to know about it now because we're going to write about it. If a mistake is made, it will be noted and corrected. But just because you don't read it in any other newspaper, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Thankfully, Rogers lost the mayoral race. So, the city of Concord is safe, for now, from her prosecutorial missteps and nasty personal attacks against good people in the community she doesn't happen to like.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007


I'm on deadline at work so I won't be posting an election update story until later on today. However, I have some juicy tidbits so check back again soon.

First frosty morning of the year

Despite the sunshine outside, the grass is a bit slippery today, yielding the first morning frost of the year. Driving home last night, I was amazed at all the fog around the Hooksett tollbooths. It was deep and thick, with only a car length or so visibility. Very weird.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Jim Bouley handily beat Katherine Rogers tonight by more than 1,700 votes in unofficial returns. Bouley won easily city-wide with Rogers winning only one ward, her home ward of Ward 9, by a mere 9 votes.
In the at-large race, Rep. Steve Shurtleff and incumbent Mark Coen will serve four year terms, both easily beat out Merwyn Bagan, Al "Tinker" Foy and the lesser known challengers.
In the school board race it was a squeaker: Jennifer Patterson and Megan DeVorsey both easily won with Laura Bonk beating out Rick Watrous by 128 votes.
Dick Lemieux easily fended off a write-in challenge by Trisha Dionne in Ward 4 and Dick Patten easily beat Ray LaCasse in Ward 8.
Turnout was a little more than 20 percent.
Congratulations to the winners and to everyone who sticks their neck out to run for public office. You are all winners for trying. We'll have more analysis later tomorrow.

Results as soon as we can get them ... will post the results of the city's municipal elections as soon as we get access to them. You can also check the city's Web site,, for results sometime after 7 p.m. Feel free to offer any comments about the results on this page, either in the comment section or via email at


It is pissing down with rain, as the saying goes, throughout the region and Concord is no exception. Polling is slow today throughout the city, according to random rumors spreading across the campaigns.
The firefighters are out with a force of sign holders at various polling places, urging support for Mayoral candidate Katherine Rogers, at-large candidates Merwyn Bagan and Rep. Steve Shurtleff, and Trisha Dionne in Ward 4 [They are probably over in Ward 8 helping Dick Patten but I didn't venture over to the Heights this morning].
Bouley has family, friends, and yeah, a slew of Teamsters, at polling locations across the city, trying to fend off Rogers' supposed union cred. In some locations, supporters for Bouley are three and four deep, despite the rain.
Over at the Ward 5 polling location, Matt and Whitley, Bouley's stepchildren, were hanging out in the morning, greeting voters. Bagan hung around for a bit early on but then left. At-large candidate Al "Tinker" Foy stopped by around 10 a.m. for a short time. School Board candidates Jennifer Patterson and Rick Watrous were also there for a spell before both left to visit other wards.
Both mayoral campaigns seem pretty organized but neither had poll checkers in Ward 5 so they are probably not counting their 1s and 2s and are betting that their supporters will just come out to vote. Campaign volunteers for both candidates were riding around the city, serving up coffee and donuts in the morning. Bouley's campaign came around with sandwiches just before lunch while Rogers' supporters turned away the offer of free food.
"We've got chili coming," noted one firefighter with a big smile.
A group called "Save our Schools" also has homemade signs at some locations around the city touting three School Board candidates as supporters of "neighborhood schools." Interestingly, the group ignored two other candidates in the race who are very strong supporters of "neighborhoods schools," Frank Rosano and Watrous.
This alleged group was reportedly put together by attorney and Democratic activist Charlie Russell. Russell is also a past board member of CCTV, the cable media center which Watrous once ran. CCTV board member Anthony "Skip" Tenczar, a regular apologist for the org, was also spotted at a polling location with Russell, supporting the slate.
So, this begs the question, was the "Save our Schools" slate put together by Russell and his friends to derail Watrous of a chance to serve on the board? Do participants in the "Save our Schools" group know they are being duped into targeting other qualified candidates for the board who also support "neighborhood schools"?
As the old National Enquirer slogan used to say, "Enquiring minds want to know ... I want to know ..."

A rainy Election Day...

There is nothing worse than a rainy Election Day. When Election Day is rainy or cold, I get a tad depressed because I know that many people will not bother to get out and vote due to the weather. Of course, many people don't get out and vote at all even when the weather is good. Consider the recent special election for the Ward 5 council seat in which fewer than 300 people voted or 9 percent of the ward even though it was a beautiful summer day.
Election Day is not just about voting. It's about community. It's about hanging out at the polls and chatting with your neighbors and others. Or, at least it should be about that. It shouldn't be about rushing around, just getting in to vote and then darting off to work.
That is why I have always felt that Election Day should not only be a holiday but it should be on a weekend day. The government won't hold elections on weekends because they don't want to offend religious people. Saturday is a holy day for some. Sunday is a holy day for many others. The Sabbath, as both days are referred to by some, are days which are not supposed to contain any work. And yet they do, for millions and millions and millions of us. And, who says voting is work? Like I said before, it should be communal. It is a civic duty, not a task or a job.
Oh well, enough ranting. Out to the polls. Don't let the rain keep you away.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Has the media's coverage of Concord's municipal races been fair? A quick analysis

There are only a few news outlets left covering Concord these days [hence the creation of] and the gatekeepers of those news organizations can shape election results, whether they realize it or not. The placement and tone of the stories in a newspaper or the amount of times a radio station plays a story, can have a positive or negative affect on a candidate's chances.
Not unlike other cities and towns, Concord municipal elections have become a sleepy affair. The city is a different place, something I will write about a bit more after the election. But the media covering Concord remains very similar to the past.
News-seekers of Concord-based news have only a few outlets to regularly rely on, like the Concord Monitor, WKXL 1450, the Union Leader, and The Hippo. For the basis of this "quick analysis," those news outlets will be analyzed to see if they have covered the2007 municipal elections fairly. This analysis will not look at editorials or opinion content, just news stories.
First, the Union Leader has to be taken off the table. It has not covered the election at all. So scratch them off the list. The Hippo also must be taken off the table. In last week's edition, Brian Early, a local print/radio journalist, has a pretty good overview of the mayoral elections in Concord, ManchVegas, and Nashua. But the council and School Board races barely received a mention [Early has done a pretty good job over there although he made one error in the story, noting that Ward 10 is Concord's ony competitive race. Actually, there are two competitive races this year: Ward 8 and the write-in vs. incumbent situation over in Ward 4, not Ward 10].
That leaves WKXL and the Monitor.
In some ways, WKXL needs to be taken off the table too. In the past, the coverage has been more thorough than it has been this year. The station used to broadcast in-house interviews and long form debates between the candidates in competitive wards. This time around, they've done a couple of stories and broadcast the Dewey-Kimball PTA School Board forum in two parts. The stories and forum were available in downloadable mp3s, which is nice for people who are busy or don't listen to the station. While the scope of the coverage seems balanced, it is not on par to what was done in the past.
That leaves the Monitor.
For the most part, the coverage seems to have been pretty fair. The newspaper has allowed both candidates to sound off on the issues the editors believe are important to readers. That information has been published side-by-side in editions.
But there has been one notable exception to the balanced news coverage: Mayoral candidate Katherine Rogers seems to have garnered more stories and better placement of those stories than her opponent, Jim Bouley.
Over the last two Sundays [Oct. 28 and Nov. 4], Rogers has received two news pieces which included her picture. One story was a feature and the other, Oct. 28's "Rogers, unions share longtime ties," was placed above the fold. This story took a press release about the municipal union endorsements the candidate received - something that was published in a story a few weeks before, on Oct. 5 - and turned it into another story, mostly focusing on Rogers' long-time work with the unions. The story did mention Bouley, but it was a very positive piece for Rogers.
Bouley had a feature published on him on Nov. 3, the Saturday edition, with a tiny picture on the cover, below the fold.
Industry-wide, historically, Saturday editions are not as well-read and are nowhere near the circulations of the Sunday editions. Some companies have eliminated their Saturday editions entirely, to save on costs and to concentrate on providing a better Sunday edition. It is an easy bet that this edition is the least-read in the Monitor's publication schedule.
According to circulation numbers provided by the Audit of Circulation Bureaus from 2005, the most recent numbers available, the Monday through Saturday editions of the Monitor have a circulation of around 7,851, with potential readership as high as 18,057 [The newspaper industry assumes that 2.2 to 2.4 people will read every edition of a daily even though they only actually sold one copy of the newspaper. Individual daily numbers are not available to the public. These numbers also do not include Web site hits, just the print editions]. The Sunday edition has a circ of 8,006, with a readership of 19,214, or more than 1,150 extra readers than the best of the Monday through Saturday editions. If all of those 1,150-plus readers live in Concord and are undecided voters, one could see how an election could be swayed by the placement of stories. Rogers received two positives stories in Sunday editions; Bouley received one positive story in a Saturday edition. Do the math: More than 2,300 potential voters received more information about Rogers than Bouley due to an editor's placement of the stories.
Bouley did get a story about his press release announcing the endorsement of most of his council colleagues on Oct. 12. But did he get a second story about this, easily a more significant occurrence than the union endorsements for Rogers, in the well-read Sunday edition, above the fold? No. Ideally, the Monitor's coverage would have been more balanced and fairer had its news department published a second story and placed it right next to Rogers' second union endorsement story, quoting the councilors in a similar way they quoted fire union folks in the Rogers' piece. They could have also published the features together, in the same editions, again, creating balance.
The one thing that throws this quick analysis off is Mayor Mike Donovan's announcement that he was endorsing Bouley in the race, a sidebar to a story covering the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce forum. The story was placed on the back page near the jump of the forum story.
Donovan's announcement was a bombshell and probably sealed Rogers' fate since Donovan is still a very popular guy in the city. But, at the same time, the Monitor allowed Rogers to play up gender victimhood, as if all of her colleagues are lying about how difficult she is to work with or that she has a "my way or the highway" attitude. Can 10 men and women all be liars?
In the end, we will see if the news side of the news Monitor's operation will be able to sway voters with the slight - yet clear - advantage given to Rogers, with the extra story and more beneficial publication placement of the other stories. It all ends Tuesday at 7:01 p.m.
Editor's Note: This piece will be followed up with two more analytical pieces about changes in Concord's demographics and the coverage of the council and School Board races, some time after the election.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cool things to do this week ...

Vote Tuesday
Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Find your polling location here: Voting Locations

Richardson signs books Nov. 8
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will be signing copies of his book and chatting with voters at Gibson's Bookstore on Thursday, Nov. 8, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Doors open at 9 a.m. Gibson's Bookstore is located at 29 S. Main St. in Concord. This is a great opportunity to meet a presidential candidate and support our locally-owned and operated bookstore.

The Somewhat North of Boston Film Festival, various locations, Nov. 9, 10, 11. For information and film listings click here: SNOB

Gas prices skyrocket

Gas prices around town have jump up more than 30 cents in the last few weeks, rising to $2.85 at one Irving station in the North End. This is the first time the price has risen this high since the spike after Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Mayoral candidate Kathy Rogers sent out "robocalls" across the city today.
A robocall is a computerized phone call where the candidate records a message and then a computer calls a phone number and when you pick up the phone [or the machine picks up], the message plays. We got one here at the house and a few other people have let me know that they have received them, too. Rogers' message is basically biographical in nature, with the open government thing, and a plea for votes.
Some people complain about getting phone calls from candidates but it can be an important part of the political process. Robocalls, not unlike direct mail, advertising, and doorknocking, are tools used by campaigns to reach out to voters, in order to make sure they get out to vote. Despite many of us saying we don't need to be reminded that an election is coming up, many, many others do. And, there is no way a campaign can differentiate between a voter who will definitely go out to vote and one who might. Hence, the blanket communication and contact.
Sure, a super-organized campaign, with hundreds of campaign coordinators all talking to each other can parcel out enough information to know that, yeah, this person is a 1 or 2, don't bug them until Election Day after noon-time if they have not voted. But in a small mayoral race, getting this done is next to impossible.

Friday, November 2, 2007

One more note on CCTV

Since writing the post about CCTV's open house and the silly name change, I have heard from two people who were at the open house and have seen the new space.
I asked them both about the space and whether or not a second studio was built. The issue of accessibility has been a big one over the years. One of the biggest complaints forwarded about the operation is how difficult it is getting time to use the studio. There is only one and the hours available are sometimes limited or not very convenient. Both people confirmed that there is no new studio space available to users of the facility - just new office space for the employees.
It is shocking to think that the need for more studio space was not taken into account when the new facility space was conceived. There could easily be a day when there are three employees working for CCTV again instead of six. Was the need for office space as pressing an issue as the need for more studio space? I don't know but I wonder.
The trend for PEG stations across the country is to figure out ways of getting more studio space built, to accommodate all the people trying to use the cable access stations. Some are finding ways of building new studio space and editing stations because usage has increased so much. Some, like the one in Manch, even split apart into two entities.
While there have been problems at CCTV, and diminished usage compared to previous years [although the public does not have the full story because the city refuses to force CCTV to comply with the state's open records law, 91A], that could change. More usage will make it even harder for people to get access to the studio. What a shame.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mayor 'Tom' ... uh, I mean, Mike Donovan ...

I totally missed this when I skimmed through the Monitor this morning: On the tease on the front page pitching readers to turn to Page A8 to read why Mayor Mike Donovan is endorsing Jim Bouley, the Monitor called him "Tom Donovan" ... the editor in charge of that one was probably thinking about Tom Donovan, the Democrat running for mayor in Manch.
Thanks go out to the astute reader who pointed this out to me since I missed it. As we say in the business, we're not perfect ... these things happen.

Who is doing the telephone poll?

One of Concord's two mayoral candidates is doing a telephone poll to find out where they stand about five days before the election.
At about 6:30 p.m. tonight, an 877 number rang here at the house with a simple "one question poll." Next week, who will you be voting for? Press 1 if you are voting for Kathy Rogers. Press 2 if you are voting for Jim Bouley. Press 3 if you are unsure.
A little fishing around on the Web did not reveal the company who owns the electronic line [877-740-2832, to be exact]. Neither did a reverse white pages look up. However, last month, it was used for a Republican telephone poll asking residents to respond, offering five candidates [Brownback, Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain, Romney or Thompson], according to a poster on the Web site

Mayor Donovan takes 'easy,' cheap shots

Mayor Mike Donovan, who is stepping down this year, endorsed Jim Bouley for mayor yesterday while at the same time, taking some easy, cheap shots at Jim's opponent, Kathy Rogers. It wasn't much of a surprise.
According to this morning's Monitor, Donovan called Bouley the "easy choice" and said Bouley "will not be influenced by debts owed to the special interests." His point was that Rogers has received all the union endorsements and she would owe them if elected.
The biggest problem with Donovan's statement is that everyone knows that the city has a weak mayoral system. God forbid, but if Rogers were elected, she would have no more ability in giving the municipal unions a sweetheart deal than Ward 1 Councilor Elizabeth Blanchard from Penacook would have. So far, Bouley has run a good campaign and will probably beat Rogers. So, there isn't much fear of Rogers being mayor.
While Rogers would be able to provide direction to the city manager and would probably be influential in getting the unions a better deal, ultimately, the city manager [or often, consultants] directs the union contracts and negotiations, and then, the entire council approves them. The mayor is one vote. If the council feels the deals are too good, they won't go very far. The council, almost all of whom have endorsed Bouley, could smack down Rogers in a heartbeat if she got too generous.
But a larger point, clearly lost on Donovan and others is this: Are municipal unions which represent all the [mostly] great, [mostly] hardworking employees we have in Concord, really "the special interests"? What about the city's business interests, some of whom get sweetheart deals - or just about anything they want - from the city's boards ... aren't they special interests too or is it just the working folks? Getting variances to build 14, $470k McMansions on a site which should only hold seven or eight houses without a modicum of give back to abutters? Give me a break.
When thinking of the "special interests," think about this: When you have a heart attack, do you want EMTs to be well-trained and compensated properly so you don't die? When your house is on fire, do you want a firefighter who is distracted by crap at home or worried about saving your home? When you have just been the victim of a crime, do you want the cops concentrating on you or worrying about their health plan copays? When you go to city hall, think of the clearly understaffed clerks and other city hall employees when you want something done quickly and efficiently, like a license registration or a site plan review. That is what you are paying for. They are hardly the special interests.
This is not to advocate fiscally-irresponsible economic policies as far as union or city spending are concerned. There is a limited amount of money, we all know that. But if people are looking for reasons not to vote for Kathy Rogers, there are more important ones written about here on this site. Making boogeyman comments and taking cheap shots at the unions which represent city employees is worthless.