Thursday, August 28, 2008

Audi gala slated for Sept. 14

Sunday, September 14

Concord City Auditorium's SEASON-OPENING GALA

(A Community Arts Tradition since 1991!) 6pm -- AUDI PARTY AND ARTS FAIR
Outside the theatre: Visit displays of area arts groups and non-profits. Learn what's coming this season and how to join the fun!
FEATURING: A CONCORD COACH -- the first "Concord Stage" drives to the Audi -- the traditional Concord stage. (The first time in years a Concord Coach has been on a downtown street!) ARNIE'S ICE CREAM SOCIAL -- The popular Loudon Road restaurant serves its delicious ice cream to everyone! and then, on the Audi stage at 7pm -- THE GALA VARIETY SHOW An enticing glimpse of the coming attractions -- music, theatre, dance, comedy, magic, film! A fast-paced 90-minute family show starring our most talented neighbors. And the GALA RAFFLE -- 10 prizes totaling $3,000 show tickets and restaurant gift certificates TICKETS JUST $5 On sale now at Gibson's Bookstore and Ballard's Novelty Shop, and by mail to PO Box 652, Concord 03302 Reservations and Info: 225-2164

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tax cap hearing scheduled for Sept. 4

The Concord City Council will hold a hearing on the tax cap ballot initiative. The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4, according to a legal notice in this morning's Concord Monitor.
It will be interesting to see who shows up for the hearing and what is said about the proposal and whether or not it gets a fair hearing. According to a recent press report, I think it was Monday or Tuesday in the Monitor, the signature gatherers have enough to guarantee ballot status.
There is already some concern on the council as to how this will affect them. Hopefully they will look at all the information before them instead of just that being put out there by advocates against the proposal. How any sitting city councilor can say that they can't live with a 4.1 percent increase during these economically challenging times is beyond me.
I've been working on a longer analytical piece about the tax cap which I will publish sometime before November election.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The print edition is out and about!

Regular readers to will probably be happy to know that our hard-hitting print edition is out and about in stores and drop locations all over the city. There are only a few thousand editions out there, so hurry up and get yours now.
Over the next two weeks, selected neighborhoods in the city will see the print edition on their doorsteps. And do check our Web site every day for updates.
Thanks again for reading!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Falling again ...

Gas prices were down to $3.62 at the Irving on N. State Street. All the downtown stations were still $3.67. But it seems like the gas prices are continuing to go down.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Attacking the messenger

There are two letters in the Concord Monitor this morning attacking Allan Herschlag for writing his letter about Doris Ballard and alleged conflicts of interest, a letter posted here earlier this week.
It should be noted that the two letterwriters have a connection [or previous connection] to ConcordTV/CCTV and at least one of them has been a point person in keeping this scandal from seeing the light of day.
Lorrie Carey, one of the letterwriters, used to have a talk show on a local radio station where I was the news director. She was also a Town Crier columnist offering Boscawen notes for a long time at the Monitor.
I always thought she was a pretty decent person until I started sniffing around at the CCTV scandal story. Then she seemed to turn on me and become extremely cold. She never said, "Don't look at the story" or "I have something to tell you about this story," she just seemed to change overnight. It struck me as odd at the time, but whatever. Life is too short to worry about ruffled feathers.
When I first began investigating this story, I was looking to see if it was a serious one. It seemed to be because many of the people involved in it had collected a lot of information about the problems there. But, at the same time, you never know with these things.
However, another thing happened along the way which solidified my intent to really get at the heart of the matter.
During one of my conversations with former City Manager Duncan Ballantyne, collecting audio for other stories, I asked him about the CCTV situation and a petition circulating to have the city council establish better oversight of the media access center. It seemed like a reasonable idea. I had noticed that the channels didn't seem to be all they could be. The tape quality was inferior. The same 20 shows seemed to repeat over and over again. Also, other cities and towns had pretty good oversight of PEG stations. For whatever reason, our city council was not really offering any true oversight [and, frankly, still doesn't]. So, why not discuss the idea, right?
Ballantyne immediately asked to go off-the-record. I said, Sure, and shut off my mp3 recorder.

Sidebar: I only share these off-the-record comments now because Ballantyne is no longer employed by the city and no longer lives in the state.

He then asked me, point blank, "Why are you looking at this story?"
Oh my goodness, I thought, he isn't going to tell me to not look at it, is he? That's the worst thing a source can do to a reporter.
I said, "Well, I find it interesting that the chairman of the city Republicans along with other conservatives had joined an officer with the city Democrats to work together on this issue. That never happens. That makes it a story."
Ballantyne stated that there was nothing to the story and didn't say anything else about it.
Wrong answer Duncan.
Since I had already talked to the sources, had a copy of their documents, and a list of other documents and information they were seeking, I said to Duncan, "Well, I'll be the judge of that. I'd like to see the following documents ..."
And the story went from there. Or, in this case, it went nowhere, since the documents were never released and we still don't know about a bunch of stuff involved with this scandal.
This, despite Anthony "Skip" Tenczar saying, "We have nothing to hide!" during a CCTV board meeting [After that board meeting, I requested specific documents and those documents were never released. We have nothing to hide my ass!]
This, despite Carey saying during the Rules Committee's single hearing that this had been "looked at and looked at," over and over again, even though it has never been looked at properly. During the hearing, Carey leveled libelous and malicious attacks against anyone questioning them.
And yet, when I stood up before the Rules Committee to state that the problem with the entire situation was the fact that no one would release any of pertinent records or documents which had been sought for years, my testimony was instantly shut down by then-City Councilor Kathy Rogers, who was inappropriately chairing the committee hearing.
Again, one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us.
So, when you see these kinds of letters in the newspaper, attacking a truth seeker like Herschlag, always remember that there is another side to the story ... and another side to the letterwriter too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Community Resource Fair at Kimball Park Aug. 28

New edition of OurConcord coming soon

A new print edition of OurConcord will be hitting the streets in a matter of hours. Keep an eye out for it. It will be at locations around the city.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Governor Signs Bill to Create Autism Council

For immediate release: August 20, 2008

Governor John Lynch will take the next step toward implementing an ambitious State Plan to improve services to individuals with autism and related disabilities on Friday, Aug. 22, when he signs HB 1634 into law at a State House ceremony scheduled for 10:15 a.m.

This bill establishes the NH Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The Council includes representation from the State’s Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education, the Autism Society of NH, health care professionals, families, and an individual with ASD. The Council is charged with insuring that the recommendations announced last spring by the Legislature’s blue ribbon Commission will result in policy changes and improved outcomes for citizens affected by autism.

“There’s general agreement that a number of service systems need to adjust their policies and practices in response to the unique needs of this population,” said Kirsten Murphy, the mother of two sons with ASD and an appointee to the Council. “Our job will be to bring the right people to the table so that this happens quickly and in a way that reflects best practices in the treatment and support of individuals with ASD.” Issues that will be taken up by the newly established Council include the implementation of universal screening for young children, better coordination of care, alternative models of supported employment, and insurance reform.

ASD is a neurologically-based disability that affects social interaction and communication. In the Granite State, more than 2000 children, and an unknown number of adults, are thought to have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. The incidence of ASD, which has climbed steadily over the last decade, is now estimated by the Centers for Disease Control to be 1 in 150 children.


Lorene Reagan, RN

Administrator, Child and Family Supports and Services

Phone: 271-5019

Additional Information: For the Findings and Recommendations of the New

Hampshire Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders, see

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Allan Herschlag nails a triple!

Allan Herschlag's letter in the Concord Monitor says it all:

When we go to the polls, we expect the person we vote for will represent us and not take advantage of their position as an elected official for personal benefit.

After being elected as a city councilor, Doris Ballard was hired by Concord Community Television. CCTV receives funding through a vote of the city council and uses funds acquired from subscribers of Comcast to pay for its operation. In addition to the council funding CCTV, two city councilors sit on the board of CCTV, overseeing the organization's operations and Doris's performance as an employee.

We should demand that our elected officials follow established ethical principles and avoid even appearances of conflicts of interest that place their interests ahead of the citizens of Concord and Merrimack County.

Doris's unwillingness to avoid a conflict of interest while serving as a city councilor puts in question her willingness to place your interests above her own.

Doris Ballard does not deserve your vote for county commissioner.



Frankly, I'm shocked the newspaper printed this letter! Wow. Maybe they are finally coming around ... at least on the editorial page. And that's a good sign.

Friday, August 15, 2008

18th Annual "Pitch In"


Starts Monday, August 18, 2008

and Tuesday-Wednesday, August 19-20

9am to noon and 6 to 9pm daily

A Barn-Raising, Community-Building Way

To Get Our Audi Shining for Its 104th Season!!!

Every year since 1991, The Friends of The Audi – the groups and folks who use it – gather in August to put a new shine on the house. In 2007, 118 volunteers worked over 1,000 hours, providing $17,100. worth of labor to the city-owned building. This helped hold down the city’s operating costs (and our taxes) and our rentals.

The first PITCH IN made the Audi “Bright and Beautiful”. Now, 18 years and over a million audience members later, we are still honoring our mission: to preserve and maintain our community stage and foster its affordable and accessible use by everyone in our community. Our special project this year is refurbishing the backstage dressing rooms, especially the four on the second floor. We’re counting on 4 teams of 2-3-4 people to “adopt” a room…the sinks are out, new mirrors are in!

Every session starts with a congenial breakfast or supper. Then crews form and projects begin, with a job available to suit every skill and interest. There are also “fabulous” chances to fix and polish the brass, wood, and curtains, and to help send thousands of event calendars, freshen holiday decorations, hand-color posters, greet newcomers, serve cool drinks, etc. etc. YOU CAN DO IT? YOU CAN HELP!


Dramatic Working Conditions ~ Talented Cast ~ No Heavy Lifting ~ Roles for Stars and Chorus ~ Absolutely No Pay ~ Good Eats…And a Chance to meet new people, learn new skills, “give back”…. and earn your “Sweat Equity” card!

Please – plan to come down and Pitch In! Any questions? Please contact the Crew Superchiefs Ken and Joye Olson at 753-4765 or email or David Murdo, 225-7474, email

Dropping more ...

$3.68 per gallon tonight ... Let's see if we can get it back down to $3, shall we?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

$3.73 and dropping ...

Well, the gas prices are coming down a bit more. It was $3.74 this morning and $3.73 this afternoon at our local Irving. Nice to see they are coming down a bit, even if it is not enough.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A disgraceful decision by the Concord City Council

The Concord City Council voted last night to approve Aspell's incomplete report, burying any real investigation into the abuse of power and conflict of interest allegations against former City Council Kathy Rogers, who is now a candidate for Merrimack County Attorney. It was a unanimous voice vote, according to the city clerk.
With this vote, the Council has said that they are above investigation, above reproach, and can do whatever they want, including having ordinary citizens investigated by the police for having public documents which were received from the city administration via a records request. They can hold sham subcommittee meetings, allow people to lie in them, and have no consequence or authority to anyone but themselves.
Wow, can anyone say politburo?
At the same time, if you are an ordinary citizen, and you want to file a report against a city councilor or anyone affiliated with ConcordTV, don't bother. You will be listened to by the powers that be, but no one will charge them with anything, whether the people you want investigated break laws or city charter or whatever. They are seemingly all above the law even if they lie in testimony, hide public records, or even change things around to protect themselves. They can target you with investigation but no one will look at them.
This was a disgraceful decision by the Concord City Council and they should be ashamed of themselves.
What is even more worrisome is that if elected County Attorney, Rogers will have the power to subpoena and create grand juries to investigate anyone - a frightening thought if anyone in their right mind took more than a minute or two to consider the point. Essentially, the same person - Rogers - who targeted a citizen trying to get answers will have the power to target anyone. Even more egregious is the
fact - again, not opinion, but fact - that the document Watrous provided to the Rules Committee proved that one of the witnesses, a friend of Rogers', gave false testimony about her employment! It proved Watrous correct on one of the Rules Committee questions which the committee then blithely swatted away, with the exception of Rogers calling the cops on Watrous.
What is going to happen in our county court system with Rogers dictating the cases? Councilor Dan St. Hilaire, the current County Attorney and now, a candidate for Governor's Council on the Republican ballot, is probably the one person who should know better. He is the current attorney. He knows the power of the job. And yet, he was complicit too in sweeping this all away. Why?
Is anyone else outraged by this? You should be!
One now has to wonder what our daily newspaper will do, if anything at all. Will they go along to get along or will they stand up for what is right? We know what it has done in the past. The Concord Monitor often opines about the need for open records and the need for elected officials to be accountable. That is, unless they aren't interested in the public records a citizen seeks or if a connected politician complains about a story to an editor. What they are kinda saying is this: Oh well then ... your questions don't deserve to be asked ... and we will protect any harmful things anyone says about those politicians even if it is a fact ...
The Monitor has been one-sided, pitiful, and borderline arrogant in its coverage of this issue ... three to one sourcing against Watrous in hit pieces against him; misquotations, according to him; absolutely missing the point on why the story is so important; framing the entire story completely wrong in some cases; etc. [Some have wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that in the past, the Monitor was paid to host CCTV's Web site. It hasn't been a lot of money, but who knows at this point].
In addition, don't even try to talk about Rogers and her reprehensible behavior or even use the information in a letter on why you might be voting for one of her opponents. The editors at the Monitor will probably censor that out of your letter. So much for standing up for accountability.
In closing I will say this: I don't have all the answers. I don't claim to be anymore than what I am, at face value. But I'm sick of all this and you should be too. The most important thing to remember is that you - yes, you - could be the one getting the shaft. Everyone likes to think that it is always someone else who is going to get it. Well, it could be you next.
If anyone out there has any ideas on how to fix these things, I'm all ears. Feel free to contact me at Your emailed suggestions will be kept confidential.

Monitor offers online commenting

In a column this morning, Executive Editor Felice Belman announced that the Concord Monitor would now allow reader comments on the stories posted on the newspaper's Web site. Now folks can sound off on stories published in the newspaper in real time, instead of writing letters to the editor or calling to complain. Comments online may be included in the print edition in the future. Belman suggests, and I would agree, that folks use their real names, and be respectful and not libelous. Anonymous and semi-anonymous posting tends to bring on the worst in people. We have seen it at our company although, the flip side of that, is that Web hits went through the roof as folks in the community I cover couldn't wait to see what posters would say next [and neither could I]. After implementing a registration system, commenting trailed off to almost nothing.
The Monitor system allows for both anonymous commenting and registered commenting. In order for your message to appear right away, the user must get an account by registering for one. Anonymous comments, the Web site states, can take numerous hours to appear after being approved by a content manager.
While enjoying this new feature posters should realize that even though they may think they are anonymous or semi-anonymous, they actually aren't. Computers can be tracked via IP addresses and corporate tags, especially if your company registers its Internet service. If the Monitor is smart, it has software that will reveal certain information about the computers visiting its site.
So, for example, if you are a city employee and you're unhappy about a story and you post something, you might want to do it from home and not work ... because the Monitor will know when you post [Concord computers come up as "City of Concord" on their IP addresses]. If you work for a big corporation? Ditto. If you use your real name account one time but then post anonymously another time, it isn't anonymous because the IP address would be the same and the person watching the IP addresses will realize this. So, don't do that [There was recently a little scandal over at the political site Blue Hampshire where a woman from the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition created an account with her main email address and then made comments about how she was a registered independent and didn't know much about the Coalition but supported the tax cap. The Blue Hampshire folks tracked her IP address and Goggled her email address and found out who she was pretty quickly].
That all said, I have always supported reader commenting online. In many ways, the public has already made comments about the Monitor in the past, via letters to the editors and shrinking circulation [One city official commenting privately about Aspell's recent report about CCTV and how the Monitor spun the story stated, "Does anyone read the Monitor anymore?"].
This feature though will allow the newspaper's editors and reporters to get an even better understanding of what readers think in real time - especially if people who aren't happy with some of the stories actually take the time to sound off on them immediately.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Spin, spin, spin at the Monitor?

I was busy with family stuff this weekend so I didn't have time to post a lot.
However, even though it is days later, I'm still annoyed by the Concord Monitor's spin about the recent city manager's report about conflicts and abuse of power, and how the reporter and her editors once again missed the bigger story.
To start, the story should have been how City Manager Tom Aspell released an incomplete report, as noted on our site: ["Aspell issues incomplete report"].
Believe it or not, that is the story. Aspell was directed by the Council to investigate a slew of accusations against former City Councilor - and now County Attorney candidate - Kathy Rogers. Instead, Aspell investigated the single leftover matter tabled by the Rules Committee - and ignored the rest. Whether he did this out of malice or not, we won't speculate. But he totally screwed up. Pure and simple.
Instead of getting the story right, the Monitor spins the story, making it look as if Aspell has uncovered some amazing revelations: ["City clears CCTV of playing politics"].
Of course, even this story is incomplete because Aspell never bothered to talk Rick Watrous or anyone else connected to the story who hasn't been trying to suffocate the story.
There are two things that are surprising about all of this: 1) that the Monitor and Aspell seem to be on the same page but everyone else in the community - and even some elected officials - are shocked that Aspell did an incomplete job; and 2) that the Monitor got the story right months ago: ["City to examine CCTV allegations"].
So, how could the Monitor get the story totally wrong? Did the reporter even bother to look at the previous story? True, there are two different reporters working on the story. Maybe there were even different editors editing the material. But, anyone looking at the 10-page report - beyond the first two pages - would see that Aspell totally ignored the directive.
Thankfully, the reporter allowed Watrous to be quoted and got at least some part of the truth out. But more than likely, everyone in town who saw the Monitor's headline continues to think that there is no story here or that Watrous is crazy and he isn't. There is a story here and Watrous is dead-on correct at trying to uncover it and seek some justice for himself.
At tonight's Council meeting, the report will be considered. Hopefully, councilors will do the right thing and tell Aspell to go back and follow the original directive. Or, they could just bury it, which is something they have done in the past. Whatever happens, here's hoping councilors follow through and do the right thing and here's hoping that the Monitor will follow up this story with a correct version of what happened.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Aspell issues incomplete report

City Manager Tom Aspell released his long-awaited report this week which was supposed to investigate possible wrongdoing relating to an investigation into CCTV by the Rules Committee and former City Councilor Kathy Rogers. Instead, the report pretty much ignored many of the key points of the directive - and ignores Rogers' activity entirely.
The five month investigation was requested by the council in March after the Rules Committee rejected all but one of the complaints brought by Rick Watrous, the former Executive Director of CCTV [now called ConcordTV].
Aspell was directed by the council to look into the following matters:
* 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.
* 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.
Instead, Aspell only looked into whether or not Ballard used her position as an at-large city councilor to get a full-time job at the media access center - a matter tabled by the Rules Committee [and something that should have been taken up by the Rules Committee at a future date].
In the report, Aspell said he looked at all the council's actions pertaining to ConcordTV and "the review of that information reveals no information that would support the charges of any potential 'conflict of interest.'"
According to Aspell, Ballard was named Interim Executive Director in May 2002 by the Personnel Committee which did not have a sitting city councilor as a member of its board. In December 2002, City Solicitor Paul Cavanaugh determined that the city had no authority in the management or operation of CCTV, he wrote. In January 2003, according to Aspell, ITAC, the council's information technology advisory committee recommended that the council not interfere in personnel matters of CCTV and that the council appoint two members to the non-profit's board. Aspell writes that CCTV hired Stephen Budkiewicz as the executive director in May 2003 and that both his hire and the creation of the outreach/development positions were personnel matters. A month later, according to Aspell, Councilors Allen Bennett and Keith Allberg were appointed to the CCTV board.
Aspell states in the report that he talked with both Bennett and Allberg both "unequivocally stated that they did not influence, either directly or indirectly, the Executive Director's creation of a full-time appointment of Ms. Ballard to the position of Outreach/Development Director." Aspell said he had a conversation with Budkiewicz about the matter and he said there was no pressure to either create or staff the position with a particular person.
Aspell then concludes that his work is done: "[There is] no information available to support the charges of 'conflict of interest' or 'political patronage.'"
Watrous, after reading the report, said he was "surprised and disappointed."
"The city manager completely ignored the directive given to him by the city council and only addressed 1 of the 10 issues raised in my letter," he wrote in an email. "According to the March city clerk’s office letter, he was supposed to 'investigate possible wrongdoing relating to an investigation into CCTV by the Rules Committee' ... Five of these issues concerned possible misconduct - including possible misuse of the police - by then councilor Katherine Rogers, in her role as chair of the rules committee. None of these serious issues were addressed."
After looking at the two page decision, Watrous went back into his records and said he found numerous errors with Aspell's finding including wrong dates and conclusions that don't match testimony and documents.
According to Watrous, the full-time outreach position for Ballard was created in September 2003 - months after Bennett and Allberg were appointed to the board. Watrous said he also had a letter from Budkiewicz to city hall stating he was also hired in September, not May.
Watrous reiterated that he was not contacted by Aspell during the five months the city manager took to prepare the investigation and believes he could have been assisted in the investigation.
"I believe the city hall whitewash of possible wrongdoing by councilors continues," he said. "A thorough, objective investigation answering all these questions is needed."
The council is expected to discuss the report on Monday night. Here's hoping that they do the right thing. Or, if Aspell is smart - and we know he is - he will recall this joke of a report and do what he was directed to do: Investigate the matter in a thorough manner.

Dipping down ...

Gas prices are going down. It's $3.79 today at the local Irving. That's 6 cents in a few days.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A tale of two editorial rules ...

I received a heads up about this story in the Concord Monitor concerning an alleged assault by a petitioner for the tax cap a couple of weeks ago: ["Tax petitioner charged with assault"].
Pardon the pun, but this is a total hit piece from a newspaper that has an ax to grind against the tax cap.
What is so interesting though about this is that they had no problem running with this piece, with its clear anti-conservative overtones and no comment from the alleged perpetrator, but they will edit facts from an opinion piece about a former city councilor - specifically, Kathy Rogers, who is currently a candidate for County Attorney - using her power and influence to demand a police investigation of a private citizen over possession of public document!
One rule for them, one rule for us. Or, in this case, one editorial rule for them, one editorial rule for the rest of us. What kind of journalism is this?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is there a whitewash or cover up coming?

Any day now, City Manager Tom Aspell is expected to release his report about possible wrongdoing by employees of CCTV, now called ConcordTV, as well as former City Councilor [and now County Attorney candidate] Kathy Rogers, according to sources. The report is due to be in the Council's packet later this week and may be taken up by the Council on Aug. 11.
The investigation was requested by Rick Watrous, the former executive director of CCTV, after the Rules Committee rejected all but one of the complaints he brought to it. In a voice vote, the council instructed Aspell to investigate the matters by a slim margin.
However, according to Watrous, Aspell has never spoken to him and has not contacted him about numerous documents in his possession that not only prove the case but also contradict testimony by witnesses who testified at the hearing, leaving many to wonder if Aspell's report will be a complete cover up or whitewash.
"As the citizen that brought this matter to the city council's attention, I'm astounded that no one in the city administration ever contacted me during this investigation," Watrous wrote in an email earlier this week.
Back in March, Watrous requested that the Council have the city's administration finish the original investigation, as well as look into Rogers' influence over the proceedings when she was chairwoman of the Rules Committee. He also asked the administration to investigate 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, as well as other matters.
"I have much pertinent information and documentation that would help determine the facts of these specific issues of alleged city rules violations," he wrote. "I don't understand why the city manager would issue this report without even bothering to request or examine this important information."
The one charge remaining before the Rules Committee is whether or not Doris Ballard, the current development and outreach director for ConcordTV, host of "Coffee Chat" on WKXL radio, and a candidate for County Commissioner, used her position as an at-large city councilor to attain a full-time job at CCTV.
Some of the other issues which were to be covered in the report included: 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; and whether Rogers withheld evidence concerning her own nonpublic weekend use of the channel's studios.
Other questions included 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; and whether the full-time position which Ballard attained was ever advertised to the public and if so, how many candidates applied for the position.
In looking at this entire mess, one has to wonder that if Watrous were anyone else, would his concerns - and the concerns of others - fall on such deaf ears? That's doubtful. It is questionable to think that if Watrous were someone more connected and had levied such charges against the council or its processes, that he would be treated more legitimately by councilors and the media. This issue never would have gotten so preposterously out of hand. This is not a slight against anyone who is "connected" and manages to get what they want out of our community; it's just one of those things that happens in small cities from time to time.
In the end, we'll all have to wait and see what the Aspell report says.
If it says that there needs to be more investigation, bring it on, finally.
But since Watrous was never contacted and documents proving his points were never accessed by Aspell, we suspect that Rogers and everyone else will be cleared ... and that means the report, not unlike the Rules Committee before it, is a total sham.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Will prices drop more?

I was driving through Lexington, Mass., earlier today when I saw two competing stations a Gulf and Exxon - at a Route 2A intersection selling regular for $3.83 per gallon! That is the lowest it has been in a long, long time. Last week, the Gulf was at $4.03 and Exxon was at $3.99. The Gulf over on Route 4 was $4.01 as was the Shell station on Route 4. In Belmont, the local gas station had it at $3.85.
Historically, New Hampshire gas prices have been between .10 and .15 cents less than Lexington and Belmont. So, I would suspect that we will see more relief in gas prices very soon in the Concord area.

A little drop ...

or a steady drip [or dip, as the case may be]? Gas prices are going down slightly in town. I paid $3.85 a gallon at the Hess on Main Street. Most of the other stations were in the $3.85 to $3.87 range. If we see it go down to the $2.99 range, it is clearly an election year ploy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

No surprise: Monitor against the tax cap

Not surprisingly, the editorial writer of the Concord Monitor came out against the tax cap this morning calling it a gimmick: ["Concord voters should reject tax cap gimmick"].
There is some interesting information in here, specifically how the tax cap will affect what the county takes in from the public. Also, there is the issue of the school tax which will not be included in the tax cap now but would probably be included when the Legislature overturns the Board of Education's autonomy next year [There is no guarantee that this will happen but it is a very strong possibility].
As we all know, the Monitor's editorial board and writers have always been way left of center and haven't seen a tax they didn't like. Not that there is anything wrong with that either. That is their preference. The point is that this editorial probably surprised no one.
What is hilarious though is the statement the city government works:

At a budget hearing a few weeks back, the Concord City Council was preparing to vote to set aside money to purchase property for a new public library. The project is much needed, and the site is promising. Nonetheless, voters were peeved - at the expense and the timing. The council listened, and the project was delayed.

This is just how city government should work. There's little evidence to the contrary in Concord these days.

Clearly, the editorialist hasn't been watching city government that closely in recent years. Or, the person doesn't regularly look at the council packet to see the complaints in it. Or, the person is ignoring gripes many average citizens have had about the council and how it runs.
You can run for office and try and change it, like Mayor Coeyman did in the old days, before the community was overrun by connected attorneys. But in these modern times, that is an exercise in futility and ultimately, failure.
You just can't fight city hall anymore unless the public is informed and aware of the problems in the community and is willing to truly work to solve those problems. You also can't fight city hall when the media is unwilling to expose corruption, question public policy, and question leaders. This isn't happening either. Go back to the issue of the editor of our daily newspaper censoring facts - not opinion, but facts - from a submitted opinion piece because she didn't want to upset a former city councilor and current candidate for the county attorney's job.
When this happens, you can no longer trust the people who are bringing you the news.
There is the issue as well in the editorial of the need for a new library. The editorialist thinks it is needed but it is a questionable statement indeed.
The current library was built to withstand a nuclear war. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it in any way, shape, or form. Is it tired? Yes. Is the space utilized as well as it could be? No. But that doesn't mean you spend $15 million-plus on a new library; that means you spend a few hundred thousand to figure out ways to find better uses of the space. In addition, the cafe component of the new library plan could potential drive for-profit cafes out of business downtown. As it is, the free DVD and video offerings at the library are probably making life difficult for for-profit businesses like Cinema 93 [In a future post, I'll be taking a deeper look at the library issue].
Ultimately though, the tax cap is about bringing citizen control over the budgeting process. It isn't an end all or be all. It won't "solve" the problem. It's not a "gimmick" at all; it's a tool like any other tool. And the council can overturn the tax cap with a simple two-thirds vote plus one. In the case of Concord's council - a mayor, four at-large councilors, and 10 ward councilors, or 15 votes - they would need 10 votes plus one to overturn the cap. Since consensusitis rules over our council - and has for many years - a vote of 11 elected officials to go over the tax cap is not impossible at all. But better to have the tax cap in place and have it overturned by the council when needed than to not have the tax cap at all.
Later this weekend, I will post more thoughts on the tax cap, why it is needed, how it works well in Massachusetts, and how our community can grow and prosper - and not suffer - if it is approved by the voters in November.