Sunday, March 30, 2008


The Monitor and UL Sundays are much bigger this week than last and both had coupons in them so ...

Underage Drinking Prevention Town Hall meetings

The Concord Substance Abuse Coalition and the Capital Region Community Prevention Coalition will be hosting a meeting at the Rundlett Middle School library on Thursday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. as part of a national effort to combat the problem. Speakers include Deb Samaha of Concord Hospital Injury Prevention; Parent Dolly Flanders; Concord Police Lt. Greg Taylor; and a representative of Concord High School. The discussion will be moderated by Alan Robichaud.

If you live in Franklin, there is one on Friday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m., at the Franklin Opera House. There is also one in Bow on Monday, March 31, at 7 p.m., the Old Town Hall at 91 Center Road.

For more information, call Jennie Stewart-Boldin at 223-2023.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The 'sorry' state of the book business

Michael Herrmann over at Gibson's has a pretty interesting blog entry here about how the book business is: ["The Sorry State of the Book Business"].
It is sad what is going on in certain sectors of the marketplace like publishing and the music industry. Most of the news is bad and most of the changes are negative, as noted by Michael in his piece.
But there are some positives.
For example, the ability to print-on-demand allows just about anyone to become a published author, which is a very empowering thing for the public. Similar to the interactive blog revolution, a writer no longer needs the approval of a big publishing house before deciding to go to press. Some will say that the gatekeepers were a good thing, keeping people who had no business publishing from flooding the market with inferior books. But tell that to the person who has dreamed their entire lives of becoming a published author. They don't have to wait for approval by anyone but themselves.
In many ways it is the same for the musician. In the old days, some bean counter would tell a guitarist whether or not his music was worthy of an audience. Not anymore. Musicians have online music services and CD replication so cheap anyone can do it and everyone is doing it. And this is a good thing even if it is croaking the music industry [Many of us are snickering because we've thought for a long time that the music industry has needed a good housecleaning, just like Congress].
The other part of this is the delivery of content to the end-user. With Web sites and social networking as well other forms of communicating, writers and musicians don't need stores. They don't need buyers and distributors dictating the whims of the public. All they need are people seeking music, news, and books, whether "good" or "bad." There are some great success stories out there about people in the living rooms making albums and making money off downloads on iTunes. A few months back, the top download at iTunes was this struggling young female musician from Britain who couldn't get anywhere with the labels and, poof, there she is, Top of the Pops! And tops due mostly to her own tenacity and nothing more. You don't need snooty record store owners, pseudo cool music buyers or store clerks deciding whether or not to stock your records ... sorry, CDs.
There are some opportunities for bookstores to survive by doing just what Michael is doing. Stocking as many titles as you can; having good, friendly customer service; being open enough to get to know your customers; having a local radio show to promote books and authors [which is very cool]; offering deep discounts during slow months; and encouraging purchasing and attendance to events via email blasts.
There are other ways too.
Instead of promoting Amazon clicks, local bookstores could offer the same service to local Web sites for their online purchases [or even reservations or ordering], partnering with other local Web sites to generate traffic back to your site. Can Gibson's afford giving 25 cents to every click through the Concord Monitor drives to a purchase like Amazon does for Probably.
If folks don't want to come to the store, offer a person local delivery service for people instead of the U.S. Mail [yeah, I know, more work, high gas prices, etc., but it is an idea].
In the end, Michael is correct: Survival of the local bookstore is important on many levels. And the good ones, like Gibson's, will make every effort to prevail.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Few surprises in Fall 2007 radio ratings book

The latest ratings for the Concord/Lakes Region [Market 169] radio area were released recently and there were only a few surprises.
The survey of the listening habits of people 12-years-old and older, published by Arbitron and posted for free at, shows that WGIR-FM topped the list for the second biannual listing in a row, with a mighty 7.3 share. Coming in second was adult contemporary station WHOM, the powerful station on top of Mount Washington, which was fifth in the Spring book. In at third was WOKQ, falling from second in the Spring book and first in the Fall 2006 book. WNHW, better known as The Wolf, another country station, placed fourth with Manch powerhouse WZID rounding out the Top 5.
NHPR regularly places in the top spot but for whatever reason, public stations are not included in the ratings.
WTPL, also known as The Pulse, was the top talker, coming in 13th on the chart.
The most listened to AM station in Concord is actually a Manch station: WGIR-AM, which also simulcasts in Dover and Rochester, came in tied with other stations at 14th. The second AM station on the chart was Franklin's WFTN, which is barely received in Concord, but came in 18th [tied with Boston's WRKO].
Lastly, the only commercial radio station still located in Concord, WKXL, tied with five other stations for 30th place [including Boston flamethrower WBZ]. This was the first time the station made it onto the chart since Fall 2004, probably buoyed by interest in the presidential primary election, which the station covered quite heavily.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Small Sundays

This morning I went to get the Sunday Monitor and UL and after I grabbed them from the chutes I thought, Damn, these are small Sundays. It must be because it is Easter Sunday. There also weren't any coupons in either newspaper this week - which is one of the reasons I buy the newspapers! But if it isn't just that it is Easter, we may be seeing a lot of changes at two of the three biggest dailies in New Hampshire in the near future.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Concord home heating oil prices spike; is it time for a sane energy policy yet?

This chart shows the spike in oil prices during the last two years. These are non-cash prices offered by one of the local oil dealers in Concord. These prices were discounted by $0.10 per gallon if paid within a certain time period.
The cost of living has been on my mind lately for obvious reasons. It has been on everyone's mind. It is becoming clear that the economy is in a real tailspin and for whatever reason, none of our "leaders" seem to want to do anything about it.
A lot of the problems are the fault of ordinary folks who have not been able to catch up with their standard of living. They spent too much, they bought too many things, and now they are paying the price. But that is only a small section of the nation. Many others have had it bad for a very long time and for those folks, it is getting worse.
Here is just one example of how bad things are for normal, ordinary folks like me.
On Wednesday, we ordered 100 gallons of home heating oil for our residence. The quoted price was $3.79 per gallon. On Thursday afternoon when the delivery guy brought the oil, it had gone up 10 cents. In seven weeks, it had gone up 54 cents per gallon. In a little more than two years, the price has gone up 250 percent.
In looking at the overall picture, our household will pay about $600 more this year to heat our home than we did last year. I'm hoping that the latest delivery of oil will actually be the last one for the year but I'm not so sure. Sometimes, we have to have the heat on in April. In previous years, we have been able to ride through the spring with very little oil. This winter though blew the doors off the budget without the spike in oil prices. If we have to get more before it starts to warm up, that $600 price will go to $800 or $1,000.
At the same time, without going into specifics, our household income has stagnated and is less than it was the previous year. We are thankfully hanging in there due to creative budgeting and savings tactics on my part while at the same time paying down long-term debt as fast as possible. But I know a lot of folks who are barely holding on and I can just imagine how bad it is for them.
As we come to the end of this winter, let's not forget what we have gone through. This is an election year. Incumbents and challengers will be begging for our votes. While elected officials were pontificating about the home heating set asides they were able to line up for poor folks just a few months ago, the rest of us have been getting hammered due to their refusal to come up with some sane national energy policy which benefits all Americans. They have refused to enforce anti-trust laws and refused to put any kind of cost controls on the energy businesses. We are paying for their negligence.
The costs of heating our homes, commuting to our jobs, powering our homes and jobs, and putting food on the table, have skyrocketed. The result of the last few years has been a massive transfer of money from the majority of Americans to a handful of energy companies. And this isn't Wall Street - this is one sector of the economy. We need look no further than ExxonMobil posting a record $43 billion profit last year. That's not good business; that's predatory capitalism at its worst.
For more than 30 years we have had energy problems and beyond a few token suggestions, nothing has been done about the problems. Businesses are, thankfully, making advances in hybrid car technology and solar panels. But that isn't enough. And the costs of these two items are often prohibitively high and out of reach for most Americans, even if they could amortize the cost over a number of years.
When shopping for a car last year, I compared the prices of hybrids and high mileage non-hybrids. Since I was commuting about 130 highway miles per day to get to work, it seemed worth the time to do some math to see if the hybrid would be beneficial or not. As it turned out, even with the better mileage, the hybrid was just too expensive and did not provide the long-term cost savings. It broke even after seven years. Hybrids only get about 45 miles on the highway or just a bit higher than the 35 to 40 mpg high mileage non-hybrids will get if you stay within the speed limits. If I was doing 130 miles in city or back roads driving, the hybrids, which get around 60 in the city, would be worth the extra money. But with highway miles, the hybrid just wasn't worth the added expense. As well, the tax deductions put in place to encourage hybrid purchases were expiring and not renewed, despite their popularity and the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress.
Solar panels are a similar situation. About six years ago, I did a story about a guy who had a two-family home in Massachusetts and installed solar panels on his roof to supply power to heat the hot water for both apartments. There were tax incentives for the installation and if I recall correctly, after eight to 10 years, the expense of the panels were to be paid off, with unlimited, free hot water, warmed by the sun, after that time period. However, you need to have the initial $5,000 to have the panels installed. Those same panels are probably double the cost now. Had our nation thought about forcing [or recommending] that home builders install these panels into new homes during the housing boom, the nation could have radically lowered the cost of energy on many of these homes with little or no noticeable cost to the homeowner. I mean, what's $8k to $10k when you are buying a $500k house? If there were more tax incentives, the end result may have cost $0 to install, depending on how the language of the incentive was written. The flood of solar panels installed on thousands of new homes would have created thousands of jobs and lowered the price of the panels, long-term. This would have been a heck of lot more responsible and equitable then giving oil companies tax breaks. With Democrats in Congress trying to rescind those tax breaks, the oil companies will just pass that on to us. Heaven forbid they give back any of the $43 billion they basically stole from us.
If we go back into the past, we can see that some have suggested changes to the nation's energy policy. In his 1976 presidential campaign, Oklahoma Sen. Fred Harris suggested completely nationalizing the energy system in order to lower prices for consumers. This may have been a bit far-fetched and way too populist for the American people at the time since Harris placed fourth in the Iowa Caucuses that year and dropped out after not winning in Wisconsin, his firewall state. After being elected president, Jimmy Carter suggested that Americans turn down the heat, wear sweaters, and drive less, after gasoline shot up from 35 cents a gallon to 60 cents. The kings of the Middle East, where a good chunk of the oil is, began living high off the hog, encouraging random acts of terrorism with their wealth, while many of America's powerful elite served them as masters.
It's time for some sweeping changes. We are beyond conservation. Many of us are already doing that or will be soon due to the very high costs of energy. The answer is clear: We need regulation. And if the Democrats are not going to offer the sweeping changes the people of the country need, the people will have no other choice but to look elsewhere. Our lives depend on it. It really is that simple.
Many of my conservative friends will say that my complaints are just a part of living in America in this day and age. Any solutions that regulate a free market business, they will suggest, smacks of Socialism and is against everything the nation has always stood for. But I will respectfully disagree. When working families and seniors have to choose between food, gasoline, and home heating oil, there is a problem. When even after cutting back to save money, you're still not breaking even, there is a problem. I, thankfully, don't have it that bad. But others do. It is time for some real changes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Aspell gets smacked by letterwriter

From yesterday's Monitor:

Is it just me, or is there anyone else in Concord who hasn't seen an increase in their income, but has seen an increase in their grocery bills, heating oil, gas for their cars, medical insurance, medical bills, cost of medication, cable fees, etc.?

Now we have our city council telling us that the city has no money and we should expect at least a 5.4 percent increase in our property taxes. The Concord police don't have enough local crime to use up all the funding they have; they apparently have to send for out-of-state hookers to make sure they waste every last dime.

God forbid we should forget about such important expenditures as Main Street Concord or Concord 2020. I have news for Nan Hagen: Once the ordinary citizens are taxed out of their homes, there won't be anybody left to patronize your downtown - not that it will matter because the streets to get to it will be disintegrated and un-drivable, much like Fisherville Road is now.

I suggest we save money by cutting unnecessary positions, such as the city manager. We have a mayor. Shouldn't he be able to do the job at least as miserably as Tom Aspell has?

Let's put it to a vote once again: mayoral form of government or manager? If we are going to let ourselves be managed to the point of living in a Waste Management dumpster, at least the people should have a say in who is going to do it.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monitor wins two NENA awards

The Concord Monitor won two New England Newspaper Awards, announced on March 14.
The Monitor won for Publick Occurrences for Photojournalism [“Sea of Grief Is Coming,” Preston Gannaway, photographer] and the Sunday edition won the Newspaper of the Year, Category 6, Sunday/weekender, circulation to 25,000.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Council hearing restored

According to ConcordTV, the second half of the March 10 Concord City Council meeting has been restored on the channels' Web site. There was a technical problem with the encoding software and "was not intentional in any way," according to Executive Director Julienne Turner.
I will say that streaming video of the government meetings is a great feature to be offering residents. Not only do they not have to pay for cable now and still get municipal meeting coverage, but the consumer of the video can choose when they want to watch it and not be handcuffed by when the meeting airs on the channels.

Monitor adds podcasts

In a step towards modernization and multimedia, the Concord Monitor announced yesterday that it would be adding podcasts to its Web site in an effort to get more information out to readers. Podcasts are digital audio recordings which can either be played on a computer or downloaded into a digital audio player like an iPod or Sansa. Executive Editor Felice Belman announced the addition in a column, saying that it would be an opportunity for writers and editors to share a bit of what happened behind the story.
This is not the first foray into audio for the Monitor. The newspaper has recorded and posted its editorial roundtables with presidential candidates in the past.
It is nice to see that the Monitor is expanding this feature so that readers who are a part of the digital age of media can get a bit more than just want is currently on the Web site and in the print edition. It does not make up for time-consuming investigative reporting which is badly needed in our state and community. But it is a nice new feature for readers of the Web site.

BTW, did anyone else see the city budget story yesterday in the Monitor? I only had time to skim it. Multi-million dollar deficits and taxes going up by about 5.4 percent. So much for zero sum budgeting.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Glad I don't shop at Hannaford's

About an hour ago, the Union Leader reported the following:
The Hannaford Bros. supermarket chain has announced thefts of customer credit and debit card numbers from hundreds of its stores. About 1,800 cases of reported fraud are linked to the security breach.
However, I do shop at other stores. Maybe it is time for me to figure out some other way of paying for groceries other than the debit card.

Underage Drinking Prevention: National Town Hall Meeting

The Concord Substance Abuse Coalition and the Capital Region Community Prevention Coalition will be hosting a meeting at the Rundlett Middle School library on Thursday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. as part of a national effort to combat the problem. Speakers include Deb Samaha of Concord Hospital Injury Prevention; Parent Dolly Flanders; Concord Police Lt. Greg Taylor; and a representative of Concord High School. The discussion will be moderated by Alan Robichaud.
For more information, call Jennie Stewart-Boldin at 223-2023.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gibson's gets a blog!

Michael Herrmann over at Gibson's Bookstore now has a blog for his store: [Gibson's Bookstore].

Saturday, March 15, 2008

City administration to investigate possible wrongdoing by CCTV, former Councilor Rogers

The Concord City Council voted on Monday to have the city administration investigate possible wrongdoing by employees of CCTV, now called ConcordTV, as well as former Councilor and 2007 Mayoral candidate, Kathy Rogers.
In a letter to the Council, resident Rick Watrous requested that the Council have the city's administration finish the original investigation he requested, as well as look into Rogers' influence over the proceedings when she was chairwoman of the Rules Committee. Rogers, who has a program on ConcordTV with her pug dog, has been connected to the cable access center since its inception and even remarked that she helped create the channels during her mayoral race.
One charge also remains before the Rules Committee: Whether Doris Ballard used her position as an at-large city councilor to attain a full-time job at CCTV.
"I thank the council for your patience but I believe that important questions remain to be answered," wrote Watrous, who is also the former executive director of CCTV.
Some of those questions include whether or not Rogers violated council rules by chairing the investigation in which she had a personal interest; whether Rogers misinformed the council, concealed, or suppressed evidence, or otherwise misdirected the investigation; whether Rogers withheld evidence concerning her own nonpublic weekend use of the channel's studios; whether Rogers instructed the Concord Police Dept. to investigate Watrous concerning a public document that he submitted to the Rules Committee and whether she violated city charter in this action.
Other questions include whether or not CCTV employees tampered with public or private documents under the investigation by the Rules Committee and whether those employees or board members provided false testimony to the committee; whether CCTV employees provided false information to the police concerning Ballard's employment contract; whether Ballard used her at-large city council position to attain full-time employment at CCTV; and whether the full-time position which Ballard attained - Outreach and Development Director - was ever advertised to the public and if so, how many candidates applied for the position.
At the end of the meeting Monday, Mayor Jim Bouley asked for a motion on the request and sat silently waiting for a response.
Eventually, at-large Councilor Dan St. Hilaire moved for approval [St. Hilaire is also a County Attorney and sat on the Rules Committee during the process].
During the comment phase, Councilor Keith Nyhan, Watrous' Ward Councilor and a former CCTV board member, said he would vote against approval saying the issue has been "beaten to death like a dead horse."
Councilor Candace Bouchard, who is also a state representative on the Heights and replaced Rogers on the council, agreed with Nyhan [Bouchard is also a former CCTV board member].
Ward 2 Councilor William Stetson, a former board member and treasurer for CCTV, moved to table the item indefinitely, a move which was seconded by an identifiable female councilor.
Bouley said while he agreed with the comments that the issue had been beaten to death, he wondered what impression it would give others who had difficult issues to bring up before the council if the request was rejected.
"I find myself in an awkward situation," he said. "What do you do? I would like to see it go away as well ... but who knows in this case."
St. Hilaire said he believed the action should be approved because of the outstanding issue about the conflict of interest issue with Ballard's employment which was tabled by the Rules Committee in 2007.
"Despite what we feel about this issue, there was one item tabled," he said.
Councilor Dick Patten, who has a program on ConcordTV called "Around Town," used the Rule 6 out in order to not give an appearance of a conflict of interest.
The vote to table was then rejected by voice vote.
Nyhan then seconded St. Hilaire's motion, noting that if there was a point of order that was not pursued, it should be dealt with.
The request was then approved by the council by a voice vote.

Sidebar: Interestingly, the second section of the council meeting containing debate over the letter was not posted on the ConcordTV Web site. However, both the first and second sections of the Feb. 11 meeting were posted online. One has to wonder whether this is censorship of that portion of the hearing or just a mistake. An email has been sent to ConcordTV employees to find out why the second section was not posted.

Friday, March 14, 2008

More snow? Oh come on

Hey Mother Nature, wasn't it me who was begging you just a few days ago that I had had enough of the snow? Now they're telling me on the news that there is going to be more snow. Even just a few more inches is too many inches at this point. Although, it looks like Concord will break a snow record this year so I guess that is kinda cool ... no pun intended.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Where does the time go?

Just a quick note for some of my regular and irregular readers. Due to Mother Nature's rainstorms last week, as well as family and work stuff, I have been completely preoccupied and unable to post anything. There is a lot of stuff to write about but I just don't have the time right now [Boy, doesn't that statement say a lot? Tony doesn't have the time to "write" ... hah!]. Seriously though, I'll be back with more stuff on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Concord schools close

A few hours ago, the Concord School District closed all the schools for Wednesday due to the danger of heavy snow on top of the school buildings. According to some Rundlett students, there are roof issues on the building. The issue repairs needed to the building was also brought up at last night's school board meeting, according to a source.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

R.I.P. Rep. Mike Whalley

I just heard on WMUR-TV Channel 9 that state Rep. Mike Whalley, R-Alton Bay, passed away today of cancer. When I was a radio journalist covering the State House in 2005, I would often be in the Elections Committee where Whalley was the chairman. I talked with him a number of times and when I was in his committee, he was always a gracious host. Whalley played hardball politics which sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. However, he was a good chairman and ran a tight committee. He will be missed. Best to his family in this tragic time.

Update: is reporting that Whalley died from a brain tumor.