Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jus' Plain Folk to do benefit for Friends of Forgotten Children

Bill Dearborn, Executive Director of Friends of Forgotten Children, is pleased to announce that Jus’ Plain Folk will appear in a St. Patrick’s weekend concert to benefit Friends.

Friends of Forgotten Children is an independent, non-profit social service agency serving the Greater Concord area and beyond. “Friends” provides food, clothing and other services to low income individuals and families, including those who have lost their jobs, have disabilities and/or are homeless.

“The mission of Friends of Forgotten Children is to help those in need,” stated Bill Dearborn, but to provide a high quality of service to our clients requires a certain level of income. As an independent provider, we depend solely upon the donations of others for our success. To have Jus’ Plain Folk provide this fundraiser for us is a wonderful opportunity for people to enjoy an evening of great entertainment and support Friends of Forgotten Children at the same time.”

Jus’ Plain Folk is a duo, Jan Carron and Jim Barnes, accompanying themselves on guitars (6 and 12 string) and banjo. The flavor of their music is Irish. Add a pinch of humor and a dash of sing-a-long and the result is a rich banquet of traditional Irish folk music.

Bill continued, “We are especially thrilled to have Jus’ Plain Folk on this particular date (Saturday, March 15). Given the music they do the St. Patrick’s Day weekend is prime time for them. For them to donate themselves on that particular Saturday night is huge.”

The Jus’ Plain Folk Irish music concert will be held at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge function room, 170 North State Street, Concord. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.50. Reservations can be made by contacting the Friends of Forgotten Children at 603-753-4801. Tickets will also be available at the door, but seating is limited, so advance purchase is recommended. A cash bar will be available for the enjoyment of concert-goers. Complimentary snacks will also be available throughout the evening

All proceeds will benefit the ongoing work of Friends of Forgotten Children. Additional support of Jus’ Plain Folk is provided by Eastern Propane & Oil, Loudon, NH.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Anti-war protests planned for March 15

Peace activists will be holding a large anti-war demonstration in Concord, "5 Years Too Many," sponsored by New Hampshire Peace Action and other groups on the 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Saturday, March 15, beginning at 1 p.m.

Friday, February 22, 2008

NH CD 2 push poll ...

We just got a push poll here at the house for the Second Congressional District race. The call, which did not leave a number or a caller ID mark, asked if the voter who answered would be voting for Democratic incumbent Paul Hodes or a Republican candidate. I figured I would push 1 and say Hodes, because I thought for sure there would something negative. Well, I thought right. The next point stated that Hodes was supporting Barak Obama for president and Obama supports taxing business to pay a greater share of health care. Will you still be voting for Paul Hodes? the poll asked. After that, they asked the age and gender of the calling and disconnected. I don't know for sure but I thought the survey said it was something called SST. The only SST I know is the very cool punk label from the 1980s which used to put out Black Flag records.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Petit Papillon has classes next week

Following is information regarding special classes to be held February 25-29 at the Petit Papillon studios, 8 McGuire St., Concord, NH. Cost of classes is $10 each or 2 for $16. Entire series $64.

FEBRUARY 25-28, 2008 Special Classes with Amberlee Timm

Contemporary Hip-Hop, New York Modern & Yoga

Monday, February 25, Yoga 1-2pm Hip-Hop 2-3pm

Tuesday, February 26, Hip-Hop 10-11:15am N.Y. Modern 11:15-12:30pm

Wednesday, February 27 Yoga 1-2pm N.Y. Modern 2-3pm

Thursday, February 28 Hip-Hop 10-11:15am Yoga 11:15-12:30pm

Call: 224-6463 for information and to register

Amberlee Timm, a native of NH, and graduate of Petit Papillon School of Ballet, studied at SUNY Purchase graduating Cum Laude with a BFA from the Conservatory of Dance. Through her Dance career she has had the opportunity to work with master choreographers Mark Morris, Kevin Wynn, Megan Williams, Nathan Trice and others. She has performed internationally traveling to Spain, London, England and Hong Kong. She is currently back in NH teaching Modern Dance and Yoga/Pilates throughout the Southern NH area. Her classes are energetic, exciting and challenging as students participate in a high powered interactive class exploring different ways to look at release movements and technique.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rundlett Principal Rogers has this update about the graffiti at the school:


Update 2/15/08

I am getting e-mails from parents who are asking what is new with regard to the investigation of the writings on the walls at RMS. We have been and continue to meet with students and following leads even today right up to 3:30PM. We have not and will not let this go until we are certain we have noting left. We have been in contact with Concord PD who I understand is also following up given the information we have been able to share. The protocols mentioned below are still in place with the exception of Officer Wright. As I mentioned below, I mislabeled Officer wright as a School Resource Officer when in fact he is a Community Resource Officer.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Copycat caught at Rundlett

According to another letter to the public by Principal George Rogers, there was a copycat threat posted in a girls bathroom at the school. Someone wrote, "Die everyone," on one of the walls. The person responsible for the copycat graffiti was caught within 20 minutes of the incident and the police were brought in, according to the letter.
Despite the threats, according to Rogers, school will still be held this morning. However, some parents have informed me that they plan on keeping their kids out of school today.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

More copycat threats at Rundlett?

According to some Rundletts students, there were copycat threats scrawled on walls at the school today. Only this time, the handwriting was different. According to at least one parent, a lot of kids are staying home from school tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rundlett parents get letter about school bomb threats

Letters went home with Rundlett Junior High School students today informing parents of a number of threats in bathrooms at the school.
According to the letter, written by George Rogers, the principal of the school, there were three separate graffiti incidents in bathrooms during the last few school days. Someone wrote "everyone is going to die and I mean it," "I am going to kill everyone," and "I am coming on Friday 2/8" with a picture of a cartoon like bomb. The graffiti was found in the girl's bathrooms in the 300 and 400 winds of Rundlett, according to Rogers.
Currently, school officials are looking at writing samples to check for similarities between the graffiti and student work. The Concord Police Department is also eyeing the writing.
According to Rogers, guidance counselors are involved in the process of helping students deal with the issue. He has also reportedly spoke to children during their lunch periods today.
In the letter, Rogers also informed parents that Rundlett now has a part-time school resource officer between 10:30 a.m. and early afternoon, in order to "establish relationships with the student body and, when necessary, to assist in matters that might require us to have police involvement." The officer started on Monday, he wrote.
"We are concerned about these and, while we believe there is no danger," he wrote, "we take this very seriously."
Rogers asked parents to talk to their kids to see if they had any information or knowledge that could help school officials determine who is responsible for the graffiti.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Matters unresolved: Rules Committee report raises more questions than it answers

Editor’s Note: The following piece is written by Rick Watrous, founding executive director (1999-2002) of Concord Community TV. In late 2005 he brought a number of alleged city charter and council rules violations by city councilors involved with CCTV to the attention of the Concord city council. Two years later, in December 2007, the council Rules Committee submitted its report. Watrous has documentation supporting his claims in the following article.

The 2008 Concord City Council begins its term facing the continuing controversy of conflicts of interests, apparent misuse of public money, and possible wrongdoing concerning city councilor involvement with the private corporation Concord Community TV (CCTV, now called ConcordTV). In December, the City Council Rules Committee, after a two year investigation rife with controversy and footdragging, issued a report that raises more questions than it answers.

Of the 11 counts before it concerning city charter and council rule violations by city councilors who were either employed by CCTV or on the CCTV board, the Rules Committee found no violations in seven of the issues, three issues not under its jurisdiction, and left one conflict of interest charge on the table.

According to the report from Councilor Katherine Rogers, chairwoman of the Rules Committee and longtime CCTV supporter (where, according to Rogers, she assists her dog Vito Corleone in hosting a show), there is no conflict of interest or violation of city rules when city councilors, who are CCTV board members, speak and vote on CCTV’s funding and no-bid city contract and funding matters before the council.

The Rules Committee also found that there was no conflict of interest when Mayor Michael Donovan appointed city councilor and CCTV employee Doris Ballard to be chairwoman of the council’s Communications Committee which dealt with city/CCTV matters.

Thanks to action by Mayor Jim Bouley (then a member of the Rules Committee), one conflict of interest charge against Ballard remains on the table:

“A full-time position of Outreach/Development Director was created for Councilor Doris Ballard at CCTV in 2003 while two of her City Council colleagues were on the CCTV board. The fact that CCTV receives almost all of its money from a city contract – controlled by the City Council – raises question of political patronage.”

Interestingly enough, despite employing Ballard as a full-time outreach director, on its last available tax return form CCTV reports only raising $280 in direct public support. Presumably, the new council will deal with this outstanding issue, as well as the numerous issues raised by the report.

As the founding director of CCTV, its misuse of public funds and ongoing loss of money through its outreach efforts of former city councilor Ballard greatly troubles me. The Rules Committee was asked to determine if Ballard used her position as an elected official to attain a full-time position. At the Aug. 22, 2006 Rules Committee meeting, I testified that I had hired Ballard as a temporary part-time employee. Ballard, among the parade of CCTV representatives who spoke following my testimony, testified that she had been hired as a permanent employee. At the end of the meeting, Rogers requested that anyone with pertinent documents please submit the items to the Rules Committee. Following Rogers’ request, I submitted a copy of Ballard’s temporary CCTV employment contract, a public document that I had legally attained at the city manager’s office.

I suddenly became the target of an unmerited police investigation. Without even asking me how I had attained the document, Rogers launched a police investigation which led to my interrogation at the Concord police station. (Mayor Bouley recently told me that he believed Rogers acted inappropriately and may have violated section 27 of the City Charter.) I found myself in the Concord PD interrogation room answering questions about the document’s identity and how and where I had attained it.

Fortunately for me, Police Investigator Chris DeAngelis verified my story by quickly finding a copy of Ballard’s contract, complete with cover letter by then-CCTV executive director Steve Budkiewicz, on file in the city manager’s office.

Rogers defended her actions in a written response to me, writing that CCTV staff and City Manager Tom Aspell had denied knowledge of the contract’s existence. This is baffling because Ballard had signed the contract, Budkiewicz had written about it in his letter to the city manager and mailed the contract to city hall, where the city manager placed it on file in his office.

The very existence of the document proved that Ballard and others provided false information to the Rules Committee and that I had spoken the truth.

I asked to provide additional testimony at the next Rules Committee meeting but Rogers and the committee refused to let me speak again. Rogers would go on to repeatedly tell the city council that I had testified to her Rules Committee “several” times in the long course of investigation, even though I was only able to testify once, on Aug. 22, 2006.

Rogers own long-term relationship with CCTV, as CCTV producer, host, and self-proclaimed “creator” of CCTV, raises serious concerns as to whether she should have ever led this investigation. According to a 2003 CCTV newsletter, the CCTV staff created a still-running show for Rogers and her dog, Vito Corleone. Rogers acknowledged the conflict of interest in September 2006 yet she continued to preside over the meetings and direct the investigation.

At the Sept. 21, 2006 meeting of the Rules Committee, Rogers appointed a subcommittee, chaired by Councilor Dan St. Hilaire, to examine CCTV records for improper use if the publicly funded facility between 2003 and 2005. Records regarding nonpublic use on weekends and by individuals such as Salisbury resident Jamie Brace (for whom, according to court documents, paid CCTV staff spent many hours producing a court mandated video to satisfy his sentence for deadly vehicular assault only to have the judge reject the video) were to be examined. According to the city clerk and Merrimack Superior Court Judge Conboy, this subcommittee never met.

Not until May 16, 2007 was it revealed that on Feb. 28 Councilors St. Hilaire and Rowe had gone to CCTV to examine records provided by Doris Ballard – the same person who had already provided false testimony to the Rules Committee. According to a memo from the Rules subcommittee, no evidence of nonpublic weekend use was found. This was contrary to already existing CCTV documents, including information posted on CCTV’s own Web site, plus my own experience with CCTV.

When I was the CCTV executive director I made a point of living up to the equal access standard of public access TV. To meet public demand, the studio was made available to the public on Saturdays, with either myself or my production coordinator supervising. After my departure in 2002, this policy ended and the studio was closed to the public on weekends while CCTV board members and their associates were able to privately use the publicly funded studio.

In 2005, I had to file a grievance with CCTV and bring in Attorney William Chapman to force CCTV to end this private club privilege and reopen the studio to the Concord public on weekends. This resulted in one of the charges before the Rules Committee: “From 2003 to 2005, CCTV – in violation of its mission statement, written policies and the city contract – did not permit public use of its public access studio on weekends but allowed unsupervised private use of the studio by board members and their friends.”

Now the Rules subcommittee was reporting that no evidence of this nonpublic weekend use existed even though I had documented evidence and CCTV was contractually obliged to maintain records relating to this use.

I filed a Right-to-Know request for the public to be able to see the CCTV records examined by the Rules subcommittee. Rogers, along with City Solicitor Paul Cavanaugh, refused my request. The city solicitor went to court arguing that the Concord public – despite completely funding CCTV year after year – has no right to view CCTV’s records and that the Rules subcommittee never met. The judge agreed. The documents that the Rules subcommittee examined and used as evidence were never made public.

After submitting her December report to the council, Rogers added a Dec. 10 memo where she claimed that she had “no special privileges” at CCTV but she also admits: “I have taped shows on Saturdays since the inception of my show.” Rogers did not explain why she withheld this pertinent evidence until now, as this Saturday studio use privilege – not available to the general public for a number of years – was one of the charges brought before the Rules Committee.

Her declaration lends additional proof that crucial CCTV records indicating this weekend use were tampered with in an effort to hide such abuse. It also raises the question of whether Rogers’ conduct of the investigation was in good faith or a drawn out whitewash intended to hide possible wrongdoing where she was one of the beneficiaries.

In general, the rulings seem to gut the city’s existing conflict of interest rules. According to the Rules Committee, it is now permissible for an employee of a private corporation to be the chair of a city committee and speak on matters impacting his or her corporation. Corporate board directors who serve on the city council can speak and vote on contract and other issues impacting their own corporation.

In reaching these conclusions the Rules Committee relied on an alleged “Attorney General’s opinion”. Despite repeated requests to view this opinion, including the Right-to-Know lawsuit, this opinion was never produced. After submitting her report to the council, Rogers admitted, “There is no written opinion,” and that Councilor St. Hilaire was “the only member of the Rules Committee to hear it and the member that informed the Rules Committee of its content.”

What, if anything, the Attorney General said on the subject remains unclear, as does the rationale of the Rules Committee in using this hearsay evidence in reaching it decision.

After a two year investigation led by a councilor heavily involved with CCTV, we have the Rules Committee basing their findings on CCTV records that the public can’t see, an alleged Attorney General opinion that the public can’t view, and the doings of a Rules subcommittee who conducted their business without ever having a public meeting. During her unsuccessful run for mayor (where, it should be noted that all city councilors, except former CCTV treasurer William Stetson, came out against her), Rogers spoke of the importance of open government, proclaiming that “The only things that do well in the dark are cockroaches.”

It’s time to shine a bright, public light on the highly questionable activity of Rogers, the Rules Committee, the many councilors involved with CCTV, and how CCTV annually spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. For the good of the citizens of Concord, it is time for our city council to end such blatant conflicts of interest and for our city councilors to obey their own rules.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Comcast makes some changes

A lot has been made of the fact that C-SPAN channels in Concord were moved to the digital plank of the platform. I wrote a bit about the changes here: ["A couple of quick things worth mentioning"] and here: ["Comcast flack responds"].
The issue has also been raised in other towns around the country, including Massachusetts, where some folks have noticed the changes.
Well, it seems as though Comcast has heard some of the complaints and made a minor change.
On Saturday, I went down to the local Comcast office to trade in my battered remote control for a new one and to pay my bill. While there, I grabbed the latest price information flyer, which was printed this month. In it, there is a new option called "Family Tier." In the Family Tier, for $14.95, Basic cable service customers can add C-SPAN1 and C-SPAN2, along with some kids programming, weather, and some science channels.
So, for a little more than $30 per month, cable subscribers can get the C-SPAN channels back and still save a bit of money over the Standard cable price of $55. Additionally, Comcast customers have to have a digital cable box, which bumps the price up a bit. But everyone will need those after February 2009, when the transfer to HD happens.
In the end, this is not good enough. The C-SPAN channels should be on the Basic service for free. But, at least Comcast seems to have taken a move to answer critics who don't want to pay $55 a month for Standard cable.