Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Interested in landscaping?

Gibson's has a book for that ... from the inbox:
Integrated Landscaping: Following Nature's Lead
April 30, 2009, at 7 PM
With rural areas fast disappearing in the Northeast, it seems the only way to preserve our identity as a place where people, plants, and animals can share the land is to integrate the landscapes around our homes, communities, and work spaces with the natural world. What does that mean and how do you do it?
Join us to welcome the authors of Integrated Landscaping: Following Nature's Lead. Scheduled to appear are Marilyn Wygza and Kate Hartnett. Co-authors who may also join us are Mary Tebo and Lauren Chase-Rowell.

This new book is not only for landscape professionals but also for the planners and the homeowners who work with them—and it is also for everyone concerned about the impact of invasive species, climate change, and rapid growth on New Hampshire's beautiful natural landscape.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What the heck is that?

There is an air raid siren going off ... what the heck is that? Oh, it must be St. Paul's School again. Can't they give people notice that they are doing this at 8:20 a.m. in the morning? And must they test it over and over and over again? It's a bit weird hearing it go off in the middle of a swine flu epidemic too. Will Pleasant Street soon be crawling with zombies trying to eat the flesh of the living?!? Arrgh!

Book club evening at Gibson's

Looking for something to do tonight? From the inbox:

Book Club Evening, April 28, 2009, at 7 PM
Come hear some great suggestions for your book groups! Gibson's is hosting Ron Koltnow and Lesley Vasilio from Random House and Ann Wachur from Penguin, who will come and share what's new, what's hot, and what's just great for discussion. Between the three of them, they represent over half of the publishing universe, and they are all great talkers.

Three years ago, we squeezed about 60 people into Hermanos to hear book club suggestions from some of our favorite book reps. This year we are having the event at Gibson's, so we can get more people in to hear our guests. Appetizers and desserts will be served, and featured titles will be available at 20% off. We'll also have handouts and other promotional materials about books that will come out in paperback over the late spring and early summer.
Please email or call to let us know if your book group is coming--we would like to get a head count to work with the caterers--but all will be welcome, no reservations required.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More fuel to the ConcordTV fire ...

An astute reader pointed out to me last night that if you look at the latest ConcordTV annual report, linked here in PDF, you'll see some shocking things: ["Annual Report"].
Most notably: $93,696 in fundraising and outreach expenses in 2008 to raise $18,808! In 2007, it was $54,847 to raise $13,303! So, they needed nearly $40,000 more to bring in $5K more?!? In two years, ConcordTV has spent nearly $150,000 to raise a paltry $32,000. They could have not spent that $150,000 and had, well, $150,000 instead of $32,000!!
I don't know how I missed this. Maybe because I looked at it in March and then forgot about it when I put together Sunday's post.
Clearly someone, anyone, has to stop this gravy train. A full audit of ConcordTV is needed now before they get one more thin dime!

Next CTA meeting ...

The next Concord Taxpayers Association meeting will be held next Sunday night, May 3. We'll be discussing budget strategy and updating friends and members about the membership drive and other things. If you're interested in attending, please let me know via email at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Keeping an eye on ConcordTV

For anyone who is interested in all the things going on at ConcordTV, the city's cable access center, the non-profit will be holding a budget hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28, in the City Council Chambers, according to the city manager's memo. The meeting will also be broadcast live on Channel 17. I don't know if this is the first time that ConcordTV [formerly CCTV] has had its budget meeting broadcast but it is a good thing either way. Meetings like this should be broadcast live [or at least recorded and broadcast later] for the public to see. In fact, ConcordTV should be broadcasting all of its board meetings since, you know, they are the cable media access center, it exists to improve communication, and I mean, why not?
If anyone is interested in more information about the meeting, they can contact Executive Director Julienne Turner at 226-8872.

In March, I asked Turner whether the center's bi-annual report and update about activities was available [the only version up online was the one from two years ago]. I also asked a number of performance questions including: How many Concord residents and non-residents had taken the training classes; How she would judge the training program and whether it would continue; What the programming ratio for programs produced in-house and outside; and How many local producers generated programs in 2008. Lack of performance and a drop in locally produced programs and active volunteers have been issues in the past, especially when compared to the years when Rick Watrous, now a state representative and part-time teacher, ran the organization with a fraction of the money.
Turner said the new newsletter would not be released until July. Instead of answering the questions about performance, she deflected, saying it sounded like I was writing a story and invited me over to take a tour of the new facility. I appreciated the invitation but really just wanted some basic information about performance, not a tour. Maybe in the future I'll find the time to check out the new digs but the lack of open and accessible information about performance is worrisome.

It is interesting that the center would be having its budget meeting now when funding numbers aren't available yet. Unless, of course, the city manager has already told them what the available amount of revenue will be ... hey, he was nice enough to post the notice in his online memo .... Sure, the center can make assumptions about its budget. But smart minds would assume that since the city is facing a $4 million budget gap, ConcordTV won't get anywhere near the $227,000 it received last year.
Even though we are all in a global economic collapse and the city is getting ready to slash much-needed [and expected] services, there is a scenario where ConcordTV could, shockingly, receive an increase in its budget next year.
There was a rider approved stating that any franchise fee revenue more than $620,000 would be split between the city and ConcordTV, instead of the city just keeping the fees. As more people drop Fairpoint's telephone service in favor of Comcast's phone service, franchise revenue will increase. Let's say the city manager decides to implement another measly 3 percent cut to ConcordTV's budget [$227K down to $220K] but franchise fees are $640,000 and not $620,000. ConcordTV would receive an additional $3K, not a cut, based on the rider. Over the last few years, franchise fees have increased between $20K and $60K per year. So, this scenario is a realistic one. The bigger question though is who in their right mind would be stupid enough to agree to split excess franchise revenue over $620,000 with ConcordTV when they already waste thousands of dollars?!? Wait ... don't answer that ...
The cable access center now has numerous employees compared to one to three employees it has had in the past. And yet, they don't have much to show for it and surely could live with much less. It's true that some folks are earning their keep. The people who record all the meetings are doing the job. So is Turner. It's not easy running an organization these days. But what about the new training coordinator? Should numerous classes a year constitute a full-time job? And we all know that there is at least one other employee who is not cutting it and hasn't for years. The outreach coordinator/development director is paid a generous full-time salary while raising very little, losing tens of thousands of dollars on so-called "development," and all the while, holding down another part-time job at a local radio station and owning a novelty store/sandwich/ice cream stand with her husband. Anyone with a brain knows that this person is probably phoning it in. And yet, this person remains employed. Why? This is like leaving an infection to fester and damage the health of the otherwise worthy host. On a larger, more important scale, this means the franchise fee payers and taxpayers, since the funds for Concord TV come out of the city's general fund, are not getting their money's worth from this employee. If there was any real oversight over the cable media access center, we would have seen the person [or position] cut years ago.
Time and time again, many of us have revealed other wasteful items and expenditures in the cable access center line item to the public and the council: The junkets, IRA benefits, trinkets for what volunteers remain and foodie treats for the board. Tens of thousands of dollars wasted. Year after year, many of us have exposed this waste, fraud, and abuse while other things like the recreation department and library materials and hours have been cut.
But now, in a time of total economic meltdown and multimillion dollar deficits, the taxpayers and citizens should expect no less than a full-on raid of this line item and rescinding of the split scheme, no questions asked. It is time for the council to take action on this malfeasance once and for all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clarifying one thing in the budget mess story ...

Just a quick clarification to the budget mess story: While the city is raising the tax rate by 2.7 percent, it is doing so because the Board of Education agreed to free up $800,000 to cover some items the city is no longer going to have to pay for. This shift of expenses, according to sources, means taxpayers will have a net-zero tax increase between both the general government and education budgets in next fiscal year, which was the goal of the city council [many of us thought the goal was for the council to have a zero percent tax increase, because the school board basically does what it wants].
This "freed up" money was money the school board has been putting into reserves, money from the bonding of construction at Concord High School, which has long been paid for. The BOE has been hoarding this money for future capital expenditures. But the money should be returned to the taxpayers after the project is completed and paid for. This is why the public needs to be able to vote on these capital projects - so there is an eventual end date to the payment of these projects.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

City budget mess ...

As has been previously written, the city has a huge budget mess to deal with, somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million. City officials have been attempting to fill that gap by raising fees but they seem to be falling way short. The council had also instructed City Manager Tom Aspell to prepare a budget that shows a 0 percent increase in the property tax. But that attempt has been scrapped.
Late into its most recent April 13 meeting, according to minutes posted online, city Councilor Keith Nyhan proposed changing that 0 percent goal to a 2.7 percent increase. Two months ago, I hinted that the 0 percent increase budget probably wasn't realistic: ["Why is the city toying with a 0 percent tax increase?"]. But one has to wonder now, is a 2.7 percent increase realistic, especially when last year it was almost 6 percent? Without the budget before us, no one really knows.
According to a source, the budget is expected to be submitted to councilors in mid-May and the public sometime after that.

Sidebar: I have requested that the person in charge of posting the budget online offer the option of being able to download the entire budget in one PDF. Currently, it is split into many small PDFs and it is inaccessible and, frankly, annoying in that format.

One other interesting find in the minutes is a comment by Mayor Jim Bouley about the lack of state funds, about $1.2 million, that normally goes to the city. He noted that in conversations with residents concerned about the library being closed, not one person said they had contacted their state Reps. or state Sen. Sylvia Larsen about restoring funds. Bouley said the city situation wouldn't be as difficult had the revenue sharing plan with the state not been cut [surely a $3M hole is easier to fill than a $4M hole].
Bouley then urged residents to contact their state representatives and request that this money be restored. This, of course, is a good thing. But something struck me after reading this.
Let's look at the makeup of the council for a minute [and connections to the council] and wonder out loud if things should be the way they are.
First, there are three city councilors who are also state Reps. - Candace Bouchard, Steve Shurtleff, and William Stetson. Those three individuals have firsthand knowledge to specifics in the city and state budget, and access to power on the state level.
There is one councilor, Elizabeth Blanchard, who is a former state Rep. Blanchard stepped down in 2008 to successfully run for a county commissioner's seat. While she may not be there any longer, can she still sway her former colleagues to save the city?
Lastly, the mayor is married to state Rep. Tara Reardon, who we presume has extensive knowledge about both situations.
So there are five people directly connected to the council in one way, shape, or form, who could assist in fixing the state-to-city funding issue and yet the mayor is requesting the populace motivate themselves to fix the problem? Don't get me wrong, it is always a good thing to contact your reps. and senator to influence public policy. The mayor is correct on this. But if five people directly connected to the council can't - or won't - fix the problem or are seemingly silent about the problem, what makes anyone think that hundreds and hundreds of residents are going to be able to fix the problem?!
This isn't meant as a criticism against the mayor - this is really aimed at those people on the council who are supposed to be representing us. They know how bad the situation is and it appears as though they have done nothing to fix the problem. It is doubtful that an onslaught of communication between city residents and their state officials is going to make a single bit of difference at this point. Maybe we should try anyway; I don't know.
I personally have only spoken to one Rep. about the budget issues so maybe it's time I wrote an email too. However, ideally, I would like to look at the city's FY10 budget first to really get a more thorough look of what we're up against. The residents of the city should really have access to the budget now - or even months ago, like other cities and towns - not a month from now.
Just as an aside, Bouley has been wrongly criticized for comments that he has made about the library potentially being closed. It is my understanding that he never said that. What he said was that everything is on the table. That's a big difference than "We're closing the library ..." And frankly, everything should be on the table. It's a global economic depression for goodness sake! Everything is on the table in your households. Why would everything not be on the table for the city?

Film tonight ...

The Red River Theatres is continuing its "Politics in NH" series with a documentary about former Union Leader publisher William Loeb: ["Powerful as Truth: William Loeb and 35 years of New Hampshire"].
As a "newspaper man" with interest in politics, I have been meaning to make a note to go and check this out. But, unfortunately, I won't be able to go due to other commitments. So, hopefully, it will come out on DVD or something so I can get it later or borrow it from the library.
A few months back, they had a showing of the Lee Atwater docu which I had already seen on PBS a couple of months before.
I'm glad Red River is doing this. There are all kinds of unattainable films out there that don't get much publicity or audience. At the same time, it is still disappointing that the former executive director refused to book - or assist in booking - one of the 911 documentaries that had a massive turnout in a small theater in Keene [more than 400 people attended that showing]. That ED is gone, but what a missed opportunity to reach so many people in Concord with alternative views of the present and past.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

News from the Audi ...

The AUDI Has the Answer to Two Questions That Pop Up with the Crocus Every May ... How To Jumpstart the Garden? How To Celebrate Mother’s Day?

How To #1: It’s our Perennial May Predicament…how to turn a patch of brown mud into a bed of glorious blooms. Then, given our 90-day growing season, how to jumpstart the color and keep it going until a frostbitten night next fall.
In Concord, lucky gardeners get a perennial solution, as the city’s General Services Department and The Friends of the Audi help the community turn the first spade at the Ninth Annual Perennial Exchange at Concord City Auditorium. Mother’s Day weekend Saturday morning, May 9, from 8am to noon, they are hosting the encore appearance of the popular floral “marketplace”. The Perennial Exchange draws 100s of gardeners to the Auditorium’s Prince Street parking lot, where they “Split and Swap”, sharing perennial plants and garden know-how.
The community spirit event helps folks increase the beauty of their gardens and the streetscape.
Here’s how the Perennial Exchange works: It doesn’t take long for a perennial plant to outgrow its bed. Expensive perennial plants soon develop into clumps. Hostas and lilies choke one another, while artemesia tries to run over everything. Soon clumpy beds need variety, and our frugal gardeners wonder “How To?”
The answer is at the Perennial Exchange! Check your garden and pick out the fattest clumps. Be ruthless! Take a spade and dig them up. Split them into pretty handfuls or a few shoots, put them in cans or newspaper, and water them well. Bring the plants down to City Auditorium on May 9. Add them to the selection on the tables, then choose among the varieties brought by other gardeners. The assortment changes all during the morning, with incoming and outgoing columbine, violas, daisies one hour, perhaps iris, ivy, or peonies the next. Back home, try to put your new plants where passersby will see them. One little lily or hosta becomes a bunch in a year, a bouquet in three and a barrel in five.
Since 2001, the Perennial Exchange on Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend has attracted large crowds of swap-happy gardeners. All have agreed the plant selection is great, the help offered by Master Gardeners is valuable, and – especially these days -- the price is right. At noon, any extra floral material is given to Adopt-a-Spot volunteers and city parks. The event goes on rain or shine, with the added treat of morning coffee and Panera’s pastries.
The Perennial Exchange also features a sale of affordable annuals and the Audi’s traditional “Mother’s Day Mugs”. Specially selected china mugs filled with annual plants and decked in ribbons are -- at a dollar or two -- charming, affordable, useful gifts.
The Perennial Exchange is supported by the annual “Great Gardening Raffle”, thanks to prizes donated by Concord’s leading florists and garden centers, including Osborne’s Agway, Aubuchon Hardware; Blue Seal, L.A. Brochu Nurseries, Cobblestone Design, Cole Gardens, Marshall’s Florist, D. McLeod Inc., Murray Farms Greenhouses, plus The Friends of The Audi.
Background Information on the Perennial Exchange: Several years ago, residents of side streets just west of the Auditorium began planting perennial beds in dooryards and the strips along the sidewalks. Neighbors began walking through these streets in the evenings to admire the beautiful little gardens and soon there was a very special sense of neighborhood. Around the corner at City Auditorium, strollers stopped to chat about the street-side plantings and worried about the cost of perennial plants. Soon they hit on the idea of sharing plants through a “Perennial Exchange”. A four-hour perennial swap once a year could provide anchor plantings for new beds, and inspire gardeners to visit local “green businesses” to fill in their beds with colorful annuals. The idea took root and keeps on blooming, as every year Concord’s gardens look more beautiful to passersby.
Volunteers from The Friends of The Audi and Concord’s General Services Department co-host the annual Perennial Exchange, which is a highlight of the “Perennial Favorites at the Audi” events of Mother’s Day Weekend.
For information, please call Karon Devoid, Chair of the Perennial Exchange,
at Concord’s General Services Department, 228-2737 or email”
How To #2: Here’s a real puzzler: How to celebrate such a special day? Start early. Saturday morning bring the ladies to the Perennial Exchange, let them pick out plants and treat them to a mug. And come back Saturday evening for BROADWAY ON PRINCE STREET, as the Granite State Symphony Orchestra and the Concord Chorale join for a Springtime Pops Concert filled with favorite show tunes. To Concord’s top musicians add these enticements: an exciting silent auction, the city’s tastiest desserts, and a chance to conduct the symphony! Tickets priced to include the whole family at $7-33 are available at and 226-4776.
Saturday of her weekend: Two Great Ways to Let MOM know she’s the Perennial Favorite!

Monday, April 20, 2009 No. 1 again this week ...

Here is a snapshot from the BNN index from last week where was ranked the most influential blog in the state.
A little bit of bragging here: I just found out that was again No. 1 in the NH Influence Index. The site was ranked No. 1 back in the first week of January too. Clearly, the tragic passing of Gardner Hill and the tea party posts increased traffic and ranking for the site.
This doesn't mean much of anything beyond what their tracking says. But it is cool nonetheless. Thanks everyone for reading and ranking.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beachin' it ...

I'm taking a few days off for family stuff and some rest and relaxation. Play nice while I'm gone. Be back Monday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party in Concord

The son of former Gov. Meldrim Thompson speaks to a crowd of hundreds outside the State House in Concord on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier today, hundreds of protesters turned out to protest high taxes, high debt, the Federal Reserve, and out of control government spending. Estimates were as high as 500, according to press reports. Many more turned out to the Manchester rally later in the day.

I was one of the people invited to speak, giving a more "liberal-tarian" view of the situation. Here is the framework of my remarks although I did alter them slightly during delivery:
My name is Anthony Schinella and I’m the co-chairman of the Concord Taxpayers Association. I’ve been joking all week with friends and online that I’m probably the token liberal here today. Despite the demonization of these rallies in much of the press, I’m proud to stand here with you today.

Conservatives and liberals have common ground to till:

We all support open, honest government;
We all want the end to waste, fraud, subsidies, abuse, and corporate welfare in the halls of Congress and in boardrooms;
We need to decimate the demons of debt, derivatives, and deception in our economic system and work towards localism not globalism;
We all want a sane tax policy;
And lastly, we need to close the oppressive and bankrupt Federal Reserve system and return our monetary system back to the Congress where it belongs.

At the Concord Taxpayers Association, which is co-chaired by former judge and Rep. Chuck Douglas, we are concerned about issues at the local level. Concord is facing a multimillion dollar budget deficit. One of the main reasons is that 25 percent of the city is tax exempt, including this hallowed hall behind us. So 75 percent of the physical city foots the bill for all.

Even though there is a deficit, our leaders say there isn’t much waste in the budget. But if you look deep inside, you can find some things:

There are employees scattered around a number of departments, like parking and finance, that could be job-sharing or performing multiple tasks;
There are two assistant city managers when there used to be one;
The cable media access center burns through a quarter of million dollars a year and buys themselves all kinds of goodies like trips and benefits, and has wasted tens of thousands of dollars in supposed “development expenses”;
And despite an economic meltdown and millions in deficits, in December, the city put out an RFP to buy two new SUVs and a cruiser for the police department – even while public safety employees could be put on the chopping block. I don’t know if the SUVs are hybrids or not, but I doubt it.

A few months back, the city passed a pay as you throw trash program. Or, as we like to call it, the bag tax. Shockingly, or not so, while approving the bag tax, the city decided not to charge for leaf pickup because a few people whined about it. So, the necessity – trash pickup – gets taxed, but an extravagance – picking up leaves – does not.

In Concord, city officials often bite off more than they can chew while wasting millions. There is the boondoggle $15 million parking garage that was badly designed so few people use it. There are the millions spent on the tannery project that collapsed in Penacook.

Over on the school side, there is more mismanagement.

A couple of years ago the administration secretly purchased a number of houses around Kimball School, paying more than the assessed values at the height of the market, wasting millions. Had they waited, they could probably get those houses for a song and maybe we wouldn’t have to lay off teachers.

Then, there is the issue of the bond for Concord High School which was paid off years ago. That tax money should have been returned to the people but instead, the school administration is hoarding it for future use.

That future use is a plan to spend more than $100 million to consolidate our elementary schools. Who cares if they are warehousing our children into massive schools so long as the new buildings are “green.” Hey, I recycle. There is nothing wrong with being green. But smart people know that small schools are better, and that renovating buildings is cheaper and greener than constructing new ones.

No matter what anyone says, being critical of such fiscal nonsense is what responsible citizens are supposed to do. Commonsense positions are the only hope through decadent, dark times ... if only we can shut off American Idol long enough to educate ourselves.

On a personal note, I’m incensed by the recklessness of what is going on at the national level. I have two young boys, under the age of 5, and in the last two years, the federal government has accrued so much debt in their names that they will never be able to pay it off. Think about it this way: Our government is borrowing billions from the Chinese to educate our children, the same children who will never be able to pay off the billions owed to the Chinese. At the same time, our fraudulent free trade system will put my boys in competition with Chinese workers who will earn pennies. What kind of madness is that?

We have spent trillions bailing out bandit bankers and crooks that brought our nation to the brink. And yet, they aren’t in jail – they get bonuses! Does everyone remember the three strikes and you're out law a few years back and the guy in California who stole a slice of pizza and, because it was his third strike, he went to jail for life? Well, that guy is still in jail but these people aren't. They are allowed to foreclose homes of people who bailed them out. There are families living in tents on the Merrimack River for no fault of their own but the crooks remain in their homes. I read somewhere recently that our government supposedly owns 38% of Citibank and yet, they can still charge taxpayers 19% interest – or more - on their credit cards. This is not change we can believe in – this is insanity!

In closing, let me say, as a progressive Democrat, that it is clearly time for us to cast aside our differences and come together to create real hope for the future. It is time for us to fight for economic justice, sane fiscal policies, and create true prosperity for all Americans. Thank you, God bless.

Monitor feature on Hill

Concord Monitor columnist Ray Duckler has a great column today about Gardner Hill: ["We knew so little about our good friend"]. Put together perfectly, as Duckler always does. A good job and a nice tribute.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Broadcaster Gardner Hill passes away

Long-time local radio broadcaster Gardner Hill passed away over the weekend. He was 62.
I first found out about it earlier this afternoon when people Googling Gardner's name started visiting my political Web site,
WKXL 1450's Chris Ryan has an audio report here: ["WKXL Radio Legend Passes Away"].
Such a sad loss for the community and for the business.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tea Party rally in Concord

There will be a tea party rally in Concord on Wednesday, April 15, from noon on at the State House.
I have been asked to speak at the rally, to talk about local issues going on in Concord including the bag tax and other shenanigans. It is clear from looking at the speakers below, that I'm the token liberal who has been invited to speak. But I'm proud to. I hope to see everyone there!

Concord Tea Party Rally Speakers

* Corey Lewandowski, Chairman of Americans for Prosperity NH Chapter.
* Tom Thomson, son of former Governor Meldrim Thomson.
* Rep. Neal Kurk, Member of the Finance Committee of the NH House.
* Rep. Jim Forsythe, conservative former Republican representative.
* Andy Sanborn, Small business Owner, The Draft in Concord.
* Kurt Kendall, Small Business Owner, Twins Smoke Shop in Londonderry.
* Jennifer Horn, conservative radio talk show host and Republican Nominee for Congress.
* Ed Naile, Chairman, Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers.
* Tony Schinella, award-winning newspaper editor and radio broadcaster, co-chairman of Concord Taxpayers Assoc.
* Christopher Wood, local community organizer who lead the Concord spending petition drive.
* Mike Biundo, NH Advantage Coalition

Coalition of NH Taxpayers
Cornerstone Policy Research
The Reagan Network
NH Advantage Coalition
NH Republican Liberty Alliance
Granite State Taxpayers
Sagamore Consulting Group

Last chance on fee increases?

I missed this yesterday, while enjoying the Easter holiday, but it looks like tonight will be the last chance for residents to comment on potential fee increases: ["Last chance to weigh in on Concord fees"].
There are many problems with this.
First, we haven't seen the FY10 budget yet. So, how do we know that the city needs these fees? Sure, we know that there will be multimillion dollar deficits. But we also know that there will be cuts. But how can you raise fees when you don't know what the exact budget is?
Second, there has been a lot of talk about this supposed 0 percent increase. Mayor Jim Bouley and others have said that they have asked the city manager to put together a budget that has no property tax increases. In order to do that, they say that all departments are starting from $0 and building themselves up from there. This is called zero-based or zero-sum budgeting, depending on your definition.
In order to work towards a zero-based budget, you don't worry about the revenue side. You start from zero and build the departments you need. From there, revenue is raised to fund the budget. With zero-sum budget, coming from the zero-sum game concept which means that revenue can't just be created out of thin air, you start from zero and work your way up to what you have available for revenue.
But how can you do any of this and raise fees along the way? You can't, unless you already have a plan in place and you are trying to budget for that plan. This really makes me wonder if the city is truly budgeting from zero or not.
An example would be the bag tax. The city knows what the difference between this year's and last year's trash collection will be, as an estimated. They need to raise the difference from last year to this year. Instead of raising taxes by 3 percent, they created the bag tax [although the extravagance of left collection remains free].
A better way of doing this it would seem would be to release the budget, figure out what most people are willing to pay for via higher fees and taxes, and then raise fees and taxes accordingly - not raise fees and taxes beforehand.
A number of us have recommendations on what should get cut and how the city can do business more efficiently. While some people have been nice enough to listen, I have serious doubts that any of our "bright ideas" will be taken seriously or implemented as public policy. The ideas haven't been taken seriously in the past, why would they now?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Astronomy Bowl 2009 winners announced

Participants in the 2009 Astronomy Bowl are pictured here at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center hosted New Hampshire's third annual "Astronomy Bowl" on Saturday March 28. Kritlapas Chanchaiworawit, of Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, took first place with a scholarship of $1,000. Second place winner Samantha Ryan, from Lakes Region Christian Academy in Laconia, was awarded a $500 scholarship. In third place was Preston Morrissette, from Lakes Region Christian Academy in Laconia, who was awarded a $250 scholarship.

The Astronomy Bowl is a statewide competition for high school students to compete by answering questions about constellations, planets, stars, and other objects projected in the Discovery Center’s state-of-the-art planetarium. The top three Astronomy Bowl winners received silver commemorative “astronomy” bowls, presented by NASA astronaut Dr. Jay Buckey. The scholarship awards will be formally presented at Spacetacular Saturday on May 2, 2009, an annual event at the Discovery Center in celebration of Astronomy Day. The winners will also receive special recognition at the State House from Governor John Lynch and the members of the Executive Council.

The Astronomy Bowl was generously sponsored by All Metals Industries, Inc.; Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; Rath, Young & Pignatelli, P.C.; Laconia Savings Bank; Eastpoint Stategies; Bianco Child & Family Therapy, LLC; and Lincoln Financial Group.

The new McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is a lively science center, featuring 21st century interactive exhibits on aviation, astronomy, and Earth and space sciences, a state-of-the-art planetarium, and a variety of science and engineering programs. The engaging, robust educational programs are geared towards families, teens, seniors, students, community groups, and lifelong learners. For a full schedule of programming, visit

Friday, April 3, 2009

Another hot month!

A quick note to readers: Thank you, once again, for making March 2009 the best month yet for page views and unique visits! March was just a tad higher than February which was our best month ever. I appreciate everyone checking out the site, reading what is posted, and writing notes of comment and concern.
As the city of Concord gets into budget season, I expect that the site will have a lot more posts and more information than previous months. So do stay tuned and I'll do my best to keep up with everything.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Austism awareness registration held April 22

From the inbox:

Community Bridges in Concord will hold an Autism Awareness 9-1-1 Registration on Wednesday, April 22 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM. The event is sponsored by the Bagan Foundation.

This is an opportunity for families who have a member with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to register their family member with the Concord Police department as well as the NH Department of Safety 9-1-1 office. Families will also be instructed on how to register with their local police department if they are not Concord residents.

For families who have a member with autism, safety is a constant concern. People with autism often lack an awareness about danger and are not able to follow rules about safety that neuro-typical people learn and follow with no effort. This characteristic can lead to situations where first responders need to become involved and having them aware that a person with autism is involved can be critically important.

In addition, children and teenagers with ASD should have repeated opportunities to meet and interact with law enforcement and other first responders. This is important so they can recognize a person in uniform and know they are safe and proper to approach when help is required. The person with ASD also needs to be repeatedly taught appropriate behavior when interacting with law enforcers, as it is estimated that an individual with ASD is up to seven times more likely to have an encounter with a law enforcer than the neuro-typical population.

The 9-1-1 registration at Community Bridges will have police officers, fire fighters and EMT’s on hand to interact with the children while a family member fills out the registration forms. There will also be a Safety Packet for Autism available to all of the families and a window decal for the family vehicle. There is no charge for this event.

For more information, please contact Adra Darling at Community Bridges, 225-4153 ext. 387 or email her at For more information visit the website at: