Friday, June 26, 2009

Horrible traffic

If you have to stay away from I-93, do. The traffic is really, really bad right now. Stay away!

Are you a "race fan"?

If you are, then you should check out the Concord Monitor's Web site for an impressive front section called "Live from Loudon" with a news stream and live blogging. Very, very cool ... if you're a race fan.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Special election date set

A date has been set for the special election for the Merrimack County District 11 seat being vacated by Democrat Rep. Tara Reardon [Wards 4, 8, 9, and 10 in Concord].
According to the Secretary of State's Web site [Concord 11], Dems and GOP candidates can file only on Aug. 17 or Aug. 18, at the Concord City Clerk's office. Candidates can file with the SOS from Aug. 17 until Aug. 24. Third party and independent candidates can file a declaration of intent during that same time period. One hundred and fifty certified nomination signatures must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Sept. 29. If there is no primary election, nomination papers must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 25. If needed, the primary will be held on Sept. 29, with a final election on Nov. 3, the same date the Concord residents vote for city council and school board candidates.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

NHPR building sold, SEIU moves in

The building at 207 N. Main St., formerly housed by NHPR, was sold in September 2008 to Northeast Select Properties, LLC, according to the city's assessing database. The asking price was originally $1.2 million, according to the realtor handling the deal. But the city's site says it was sold for $930,000, or more than $30,000 less than the assessed value. NHPR bought the building in 1990 for $735,000.
There was a "for lease" sign up for a number of months. But sometime during the last couple of weeks, the state's SEIU moved into the space.
Northeast Select Properties, LLC owns properties in Concord and Salem, N.H. and Weston, Mass.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

'Forever Plaid' this weekend

From the inbox:
Friday, June 19, 7:30pm and Saturday, June 20, 2pm and 7:30pm: -- FOREVER PLAID -- with the heavenly musical hits of the '50s and '60s -- is a perfect family show for the special graduation and Father's Day weekend.
The Summer Theatre in Meredith Village is bringing its acclaimed professional company to the Audi for three performances. Reserved seat tickets are just $15.
Ticket order forms are available online at or pick one up at Ballard's, Cobblestone, Colebrook Bank, Gibson's, Penacook Pharmacy, or the Concord Public Library and City Hall foyers. Phone orders and info at 225.2164. Box office opens show week at 4pm, noon on the 20th.
This is a perfect gift or family event for Father's Day Weekend.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

'Dough raiser' held at Uno's Monday

From the inbox:
Monday, June 15, 11am - midnight -- UNOS Chicago Grill holds a daylong DOUGH RAISER for the Audi, highlighted by the cast of FOREVER PLAID greeting and singing at lunch, 11:30-1:30pm, and supper, 5-7pm. Be sure to tell the server you're there for the Audi Dough Raiser, and wear anything(!) plaid to be entered into the raffle for show tix.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A new hire at Gibson's

From the inbox:

We have a lot of great news--new staff, new events, and new book recommendations.
Gibson's has hired Deb Baker to be our new events coordinator. Many of you will remember Deb as the chair of Concord Reads last year. She's a book lover, and she wants to showcase all that an independent bookstore can do to benefit the community. She's also a talented writer: you can read her blog here. Please join me in welcoming Deb on board.
One of the first things that Deb is going to do is to revive our preschool storytimes. Starting on June 30, Gibson's will have free storytimes every Tuesday at 10 AM, with stories and all kinds of fun things to do. Bring the kids, bring the grandkids, tell your neighbors!
You'll notice that our events schedule is getting crowded, and I'll be adding new events almost daily. Bookmark our events page. Soon there will be a lot of interesting things to do in downtown Concord.
I'll be going back on The Exchange with Laura Knoy--along with my friend Dan Chartrand, from the Water Street Bookstore in Exeter-- on Friday, June 26. We'll be talking about great books for summer reading. Right now I'm reading the sequel to The Hunger Games--Catching Fire--which will not be out until September. As soon as I'm done with that, I promise I'll focus on books that you can take to the beach!
Michael Herrmann

Thursday, June 11, 2009

George Belli and the Retroactivists live tomorrow

George Belli and the Retroactivists will be playing live tomorrow at the Green Martini [8 to 11 p.m.]. I hear that will be debuting a new song, "Sins of Omission." Rock on baby!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Friends of Audi to receive award

From the inbox:
The Concord Fire Department Awards Committee is pleased to inform you that the Friends of the Audi have been selected as an award recipient at the 2007-2008 Awards Ceremony on June 10.
The ceremony will take place at the Concord City Auditorium. There will be a social hour with light refreshments at 6:30pm, with the ceremony commencing at 7:30pm. As this is a formal event, appropriate attire for members of service will be full Class A uniform.
We cordially invite the Friends of the Audi -- presenters, performers, producers, audience -- along with their families and friends to join us in attendance and witness your organization's due recognition.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Checkmate Pizza robbed

WMUR-TV has a report about a pretty desperate robbery at the Concord Checkmate Pizza:["Police: Man Throws Brick, Robs Pizza Shop Employees"]. I hope they catch the guy who did this.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The truth? Concord TV will barely be cut at all!

I was skimming again through the budget this morning and I think I may have found probably the most outrageous thing that I could possibly imagine: Concord TV's budget will barely be cut at all this year and I don't know how I totally missed this. There is a bit of math and it might get complicated but try to follow along. I'm still shocked at how I totally missed this one and I'm glad I was noodling around today in order to find out the truth.

First, Concord TV's budget last year was $227,320, plus a bonus of $13,400, based on this new formula which awards the cable media access center 50 percent of any franchise fees collected by the city in excess of $620,000 [a foolish decision in my mind]. Using these figures, the cable media access center's base budget will only be cut by 11 percent, not 13 percent.
While the cable access center is scheduled to get $213,798, it will probably receive an additional $25,000 based on the bonus structure. The city manager is estimating that $670,000 will be collected in franchise fee monies. $670,000 minus $620,000 is $50,000. $50,000 divided by 2 is $25,000. Add the $25,000 to the center's regular budget of $213,798 and you get $238,798.
This means that the line item from FY09 to FY10 is only cut by $1,922. Or, eight-tenths of 1 percent (earlier I posted one-tenth of 1 percent but that was not correct. I rounded up to 1 but forgot to move the decimals over two places, which is done to get the percentage figure ...). I have an email into the city manager about this but if my math is correct and this is true, it is simply outrageous beyond belief.

The reason I was even looking at the budget was the issue of the library being cut by 30 percent. I can't help but think that this cut was proposed to get a rise out of people and have them clamoring for more property taxes to save the library. I don't know this for sure, it's just a hunch that has been stewing in my brain for a few days now since attending the hearing Thursday night. Earlier this week, it was suggested to me by an elected official that I should rescind comments I made earlier this year about the city manager sending up red flag fears about increases in order to get a lower amount. I agreed, since it seems like everyone was trying to do their best to tow the line. But then I got to thinking about it all a little deeper ...
Right now, the increases are lower than last year: A 2.7 percent increase that is offset with the School Department meaning it is a net 0 to the base, and pay-as-you-throw, the bag tax, which is a fee that is equal to a 3 percent tax [without the ability to deduct it from your federal income taxes]. Last year, the increase was 5.8 percent.
However, if the city council comes back with a 1.5 or 3 percent increase, in order to preserve things like public safety, the library, and snowplowing, all important things, it will be virtually the same increase as it was last year. This means that my comment about the city manager floating a 12 percent to get 6 percent would be dead-on accurate after all. This is presuming a lot. But doesn't it look like it is heading that way?

This brings me back to Concord TV. Question: Why was the library proposed to be cut by 30 percent and Concord TV only cut by 0.8 percent? Concord TV is not a necessity; the library is.
What would the figures be if Concord TV was cut by 30 percent? Well, it depends on what figures you use. If you use the base budget from FY09, $227,320, they center would be receive $159,000 instead of $213,000. If you use the encumbered budget figure of $240,720, the center would get nearly $169,000. Either figure, $159,000 to $169,000, is more than enough money to run the center and, at the same time, transfer much needed funds to save the Penacook branch library. Instead, the center is going to get nearly the same amount of money it received last year. This is simply outrageous.

At this point, I have done just about all I can do to try to stop this madness. For years and years, I and others have tried to educate the public about mismanagement, fundraising losses, hundreds of thousands of dollars in "outreach" expenses, and outright wasteful spending on travel junkets, dinners, and treats for the board, all while other city services have been cut. This decision by the city manager to nearly level-fund the cable media access center in the middle of a global economic depression cannot stand.
I'm open for suggestions by anyone and everyone on how we stop this disgusting display of fiscal irresponsibility.

Friday, June 5, 2009

HB 319 amended by state Senate

As many of us suspected, HB 319, the bill that was supposed to allow Concord residents the right to change their own school charter, was unfortunately amended in the state Senate Wednesday. The new bill forms a lame, unneeded study commission.
The bill, as noted by some of my sources, is completed changed from the original bill which passed in the House Municipal Committee and by the entire House.
The bill will be sent to a conference committee in the coming weeks. Word of the House is that members will at least try change the report date of the commission to November 2009 instead of 2010. If there is no agreement in conference, the bill dies.
As I stated earlier, both here and in the Concord Monitor, this is infuriating and intolerable. This is all about arrogance of power and nothing else. It is what happens when school board members, the school administration, and even our state Sen. Sylvia Larsen, get too much power and think they are above the will of the people.

Libraries almost get a reprieve ...

The City Council hearing was a packed one last night - standing room only - for the first time during the budget hearings. Numerous people testified calling cuts the city manager was proposing as unacceptable.
Early on, not surprisingly, councilors asked people if they would accept a higher tax rate in order to keep the library open. Many responded in the affirmative with some saying they would make better use of other budget line items and a few people calling for across the board salary cuts for employees in upper management in the city.
The proposed budget would cut the library but around 30 percent, worse than a lot of line items. It would eliminate the Penacook branch and move hours at the main branch from 62 to 35 hours per week, and cut a number of other items. Library advocates estimate that they need about $20 more per household in order to keep the library system the way it is.
Most of the testimony was quite passionate, with people pleading with the council to preserve the library, stressing its importance to the mental health of the community, and other points. A few were even on the verge of tears. At least one 27-year employee stood up so that councilors could see the face of one of the workers. She quickly pointed out a few women in the crowd who were slated to lose their jobs. Others presented petitions that had been collected in the past few weeks to support keeping the library open.
Rep. Rick Watrous also rose to speak, noting that there were other ways to save the library other than raising taxes. He was lambasted by Ward 6 Councilor Allen Bennett, who blamed Watrous for voting for the state budget which cut Concord's money by $1.3 million. Watrous said he didn't have a choice and pointed to three city councilors who also voted for the same cuts since they serve in the Legislature. He also noted that Bennett was only attacking him because he sits on the board of Concord TV, the non-profit that receives more than $200,000 from the city, a line item that Watrous and others have attacked in the past. The audience snickered at that, clearly understanding that Bennett had an ax to grind. During the break in the testimony, a number of people approached Watrous to inquire what exactly he was talking about.
Before testifying, the mayor apologized to me for misspeaking during remarks he made on Monday evening.
Because I have been unable to attend other budget hearings, I submitted testimony via email about preserving the community services officer, leaf pickup, and cutting Concord TV. The mayor stated that I alleged that the council ignores folks who write to council or send in emails and what I actually wrote was that the council had reported ignored my testimony regarding waste and mismanagement in the cable media access budget. I thanked the mayor for the clarification, stating that while we may not all agree, I know that the councilors are reading emails because they often respond and also post notes here at
Here is the text of my testimony, delivered with some variation, since I never read things exactly how I write my comments:
I’ll admit that tonight, I’m wearing many hats: Father and husband, a native of Concord, whose family has been residents for more than a century, co-founder of the Concord Taxpayers Association, and long-time user of the library.

Many of the people tonight have already said many of the things I planned on saying. I’ll quickly make a few points:

Let me start off by saying that reducing hours at the main library and closing the Penacook branch are unacceptable recommendations. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent in the main branch library. Probably thousands. Dreams and lives are made every day in that building. I’m a journalist today because I read newspapers from all over the world in the library and also peddled the Monitor for years. Reading music magazines inspired me to become a musician, putting out my own records and CDs and playing shows for more than 20 years. I can’t tell you how great it is to see the joy in my almost 5 year-old’s face when we find a Max & Ruby DVD or a Toot and Puddle book, materials that I could never afford to buy him, but thankfully, can borrow, in the same department that I visited as a boy.

While I don’t use the Penacook branch library, keeping it open as much as possible is of utmost importance to the friends I know and family members I have who live in that neighborhood. Allow me a little leeway here while I make a subtle point to you all. According to Mapquest, it is 17 miles between the Penacook branch and the main branch. So let’s pretend for a moment that people in Penacook had to drive that amount of miles just to visit the main library. It would take at least 24 minutes, probably more, because we know how bad the traffic is there. If a Penacook resident has a 30 mpg car, they will spend $1.40 to drive back and forth, each trip.

According to the library director, between 400 and 500 people use the library per month. In using the mileage and gas expenses, over a year’s time, Penacook residents will drive at least 102,000 miles and spend at least 144,000 hours in their cars, driving between their community and the main library. Add up what the potential in lost work productivity would be. Add up the potential lost family time. Add up the pollution in the neighborhoods between Penacook and Concord. Unacceptable.

Not unlike others, economic times have been very difficult in my household. I won’t get into specifics, some of you already know. That is why that I am urging you not to raise property taxes to preserve library spending but instead, to utilize the monies that you have available now, or raise new fees, such as charging for leaf pickup.

In this week’s Concord Insider, there was an overview of the PAYT program, which some of us have nicknamed the bag tax. While many of us may not like the fact that you created the bag tax, you have set a precedence of sorts. In the article, it discussed issues with the leaf and debris pickup and how residents will have to bag the debris in the spring. This information was provided to the newspaper by Councilor Nyhan and city employees. Residents can acquire those bags at local hardware stores. However, why is the city is not charging for those bags like you’re doing with trash? This council has also made no plans to charge for vacuuming the leaves in the fall. Why? A fee for leaf pickup is a quick and easy thing to put together. Have general services estimate how many man hours it takes to pick up leaves and fuel costs and set a price. Instant money.

Another item, which the Mayor just alluded to, is the funding of the cable media access center. On Monday, you saw a very nice presentation by the director and board chairman. The employees seem to be accomplishing a lot there. I will commend them for finally upgrading from the terrible videotape they once had and getting the programs up online. I will also commend the director who seems like a pleasant person and is accessible. But anyone who knows the history of why PEGs stations exist knows that it is not about being an employment opportunity for four or five people, it is about volunteers getting access to television, something you can’t do unless you have millions of dollars. For a number of years now, I have come before you during these finance hearings to talk about some of the wasted money in this line item … the thousands of dollars for travel junkets; the tens of thousands for private IRAs, thousands in volunteer services and treats for the board during their meetings. And let’s look at the fundraising efforts. In 2008, they spent $28,400 to raise $18,800, and another $65,546 on “outreach” expenses … In 2007, they spent $28,700 to raise $13,000 … with outreach expenses of $26,200. In 2006, $24,100 was spent on fundraising and $46,500 on outreach to raise a measly $9,800. Year after year after year, tens of thousands of dollars are wasted and mismanaged at the cable media access center. You don’t have to believe me or anyone else … the information is published in their annual reports online. Go and look for yourself.

In closing, I say to you, please, don’t raise taxes any more. Utilize some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in other sources and potential fees right in front of you to preserve our libraries.
Towards the end of the hearing, Michael Herrmann of Gibson's Bookstore asked about whether or not reserve funds could be used to stave off library cuts. There is about $5 million in reserves right now, down from $9 million, according to the city manager.
After the first round of testimony, which ended after four hours, I asked if the city manager and/or finance director could speak to the issue of using a small amount of the reserve account, and whether that would have a negative affect on the city's bond rating. Mayor Jim Bouley asked if I could be contacted at a later date with that information, since councilors were also interested in getting a report about those issues.
City councilors voted to approve the Recreation Department budget and then moved onto the library budget. Ward 1 Councilor Elizabeth Blanchard, who represents Penacook, made a motion to put back about $35,000 into the library budget to keep the Penacook branch open for 12 hours a week. The motion was seconded by at-large Councilor Steve Shurtleff.
There was some discussion back and forth about the motion. A number of councilors and the mayor explained why they would vote against the motion. Most said they wanted to get through the entire budget process and then would come back on June 22 to attempt to put back some things in the budget. A vote was then taken and the motion was rejected by a 6 to 9 vote. Voting in the affirmative were Blanchard, Shurtleff, Bill Stetson, Rob Werner, Dick Patten, and Candace Bouchard.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Library hearing tonight

The Concord City Council continues its budget hearings. Tonight, they will hear about serious cuts being proposed for the public library system. According to sources, the main library will see its hours cut from 62 to 35 hours per week. The Penacook branch will completely close down. A number of citizens have been circulating petitions to preserve the library hours and the Penacook branch while a few people on the Concord Monitor site have suggested closing the library entirely, saving the city $1.7 million. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out tonight.

In posts on the Monitor site and in an email to the four at-large councilors and Ward 5 district council Rob Werner, I have advocated holding the line on taxes while utilizing funds and fees more efficiently. Specifically, I have requested the council transfer $100,000 from the cable access center's budget to preserve public safety and the library. I have also suggested charging for leaf pickup, which could raise as much as $300,000. In addition, I have suggested some department shifts in the police department, like consolidating the parking and records departments, with one supervisor instead of two. I'm sure there are some other things that they can do as far as consolidation goes.

Lastly, some people have suggested that you can't charge for leaf pickup or it won't raise as much money as officials thought when they first start debating the issue. I have to wonder though. For example, in the print edition of the Concord Insider, it notes that residents wanting leaf and tree debris pickup will have to bag all their items up on the side of the road. If that is the case, and I have no reason to doubt the Insider, why aren't people being forced to pay the city for those bags? They are paying for them now, only the money goes to Lowes, Home Depot, etc., and not the city. This is a HUGE mistake. Who knows how much revenue could be raised by the city by charging a fee for those bags [well, actually, we do know, it's around $300,000, according to sources, or 1 percent of the tax base].

I suspect tonight that a lot of people will be clamoring for a tax increase to save the libraries. However, this is the wrong way to go. The city really needs to utilize its funding opportunities to the best of its ability.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

End second-class citizenship

Here is my latest My Turn column which appeared in the Concord Monitor on Wednesday:

End second-class citizenship
Voters should control city charter

By Anthony Schinella For the Monitor
June 03, 2009 - 12:00 am


Most people don't know that for nearly five decades Concord residents have not had the ability to change the city's school board charter. Unlike virtually every community in the state, we are required to go before the Legislature to get approval for changes.

Over the past seven months, residents forwarded two proposals to the Legislature. One would have required the school board to get voter approval on any bonding more than $5 million. The other would have changed how board members were elected. Both proposals had supporters and opponents. Over a number of hearings, relevant concerns were raised in the House committee considering the bills. They smartly decided that the Legislature shouldn't be involved in Concord's school charter and altered the bill to give residents the right to change the charter without prior legislative approval. The bill passed and was sent to the Senate.

The Senate Public Affairs and Municipal Committee then heard testimony from a number of residents about just how cumbersome it is to change Concord's school charter. A bill must be drafted, it must be approved by both houses of the Legislature, signed by the governor, and then approved by the voters of Concord. No one else in the state has to do this.

But almost magically, an amendment appeared before the committee suggesting the creation of a 13-member study commission that would take nearly 18 months to analyze the issue. This study commission proposal was forwarded by our state Sen. Sylvia Larsen, at the behest of the school board and administration. The committee approved the change and the full Senate votes on the bill today.

What is so infuriating about this is that for some reason, the Concord School Board, the school administration, its legal team, and now, our own state senator, seem to think that Concord parents, taxpayers and residents, are not educated enough to change the school charter. We all cannot be trusted with the same rights and responsibilities that everyone else in New Hampshire has. We must continue to be subjected to the will of a handful of people who control the education of our children and can raise and spend tax dollars, without regard to parents or the people who pay the bills. Even though there are equal protection laws in this country, Concord residents will continue to be treated like second-class citizens.

No matter what you think about the proposals forwarded by residents desiring better representation on the board or voter control in regard to bonding authority, one thing is perfectly clear: We don't need a State House study commission to tell us whether we can be trusted with the same rights everyone else has. The parents, taxpayers and residents of this community clearly deserve better representation on the school board and should have a school administration that doesn't treat us like children, but with the respect we deserve.

I guess we'll just have to wait until November to get that.