Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A soaring start and a second wind ...

“Wish by wish, brick by brick, we’ve checked off the Wish List, every big wish but one,” said Abby Lange, President of The Friends of The Concord City Auditorium, as she launched the Flyspace Project last November. “It’s time to ‘Come fly with us’ and grant the very last wish.”

UPDATE: 80 days later, more than $80,000 has been raised, with over 600 names on a donor list doubled by a special challenge to jumpstart the campaign. Ten “angels in the flyspace” have sponsored one of the 24 battens, at $1,000 each. Every dime is dedicated to the project, which has no administrative expenses except bulk postage. Every donor has a card posted in the Audi, and one lucky card will win an incentive prize donated by Southwest Airlines: two round trip tickets with no blackouts.
“Now the hard part begins,” Abby Lange says. “We have a way to go, especially in these economic times, to reach our goal by the project’s scheduled start on July 1, 2010. We’re thrilled that the community’s response has inspired a new boost to the Flyspace Project and I am delighted to announce:

A SECOND WIND! A Second Challenger has stepped forward offering to match all 2010 donations one for one, up to $50,000! Now every dollar becomes two, every ten becomes twenty, as we work to grant the Audi’s last wish.”

Backstory: In July 1991, members of 30 area arts groups met at the COMF with city officials and formed The Friends of The Audi. First they vowed to preserve the theatre and then they created a “Wish List” of projects to restore and upgrade the house. Over 19 years, “brick by brick”, the group has raised and invested over one million dollars in the public building, working as volunteers without any paid staff or tax dollars.
In November 2009, The Friends met again to check off the last item on the list – The Flyspace Project -- to mechanize the “historic” stage rigging and bring the 105-year old theatre into the 21st century. With modern rigging, all the shows will be presented more effectively, more beautifully, and especially more safely. Total budgeted cost: $200,000.
“Nobody can do a lot, but everybody can do a little,” The Friends said, repeating the group’s basic mantra. “And, when a lot of us to a little, we’ll do a lot!” In short order a logo, a flyer, and a staged announcement were created, and the Flyspace Project took off at the home of our community-based arts and entertainment.
The economy may be down, but the community’s own creative economy has soared with the Flyspace Project reaching a remarkable $80,000 in 80 days and continuing to fly with a strong second wind.

“COME FLY WITH US,” say the Friends of the Audi. “Lots of donations, small and large and all tax-deductible, will grant the Audi’s last big wish. Please send yours to Post Office Box 652, Concord, NH 03302.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Audi events upcoming

Page to Stage, the innovative theatre project fostering new works by New Hampshire playwrights, announces Concord playwright Eugene Shear will introduce his new play, “Crossed Hearts,” at this season’s “fourth act” on Sunday, March 14, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Concord City Auditorium reception lobby.
The Friends of the Audi host the event, which is free and open to all as a Sunday afternoon salon with an author Q&A and dramatic desserts.
Eugene Shear describes “Crossed Hearts” as a full-length romantic comedy set in the present. Two sets of three siblings in their late 40s/early 50s rent a hotel suite on the weekend of their triple wedding. One of the brothers must resolve his guilt over his previous wife’s death before his fiancĂ© will marry him. “Crossed Hearts” is the sequel to his earlier work, “The Matchmakers”, which was produced at Players Ring in Portsmouth in January 2009 and published by Big Dog/Norman Maine Publishing.
The workshop performance of “Crossed Hearts” includes nine of the state’s leading actors – Mary Chase, Chris and Paula Demers, Dale Gregory, Russ Rattray, Gregory and Sarah Stuart -- plus Kevin Guimond, who is also directing the staged reading and the author himself.
Eugene Shear and his wife live in Concord, where he is a psychiatric social worker. His previous play, “Beneath the Moon,” was the winner of the 2006 F. Gary Newton Playwriting Competition of Players Ring, and is being published by Big Dog/ Norman Maine Publishing this year.
This second season of Page to Stage continues on April 11 with a double bill including Concord playwright Dale Harrington with “A Measure of Success” and Linda Mundel returning from Virginia with “Paradise Lodge”. Both works are one-act dramas of entangled family situations. In addition, on March 24 the Walker Lecture Series will present Rebecca Rule’s one-woman multi-media “Crosscut,” a dramatization of North Country stories which she introduced at a Page to Stage workshop last season.
The New Hampshire Page to Stage project is sponsored by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. Its 08-09 premiere season presented six performances of new works, with four going on to festival honors and staged production. The project welcomes submissions of new works for the stage which will be considered for presentations ranging from workshop readings to full productions.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The high cost of entertainment

Around Town with Dick Patten
Hello to my readers and thank you for your comments. It is nice to hear from you and I appreciate your good thoughts.

We just got home from TD Garden in Boston after attending the recent Disney on Ice show.
I could see how the economy is hurting some families. I couldn't believe the price of tickets for people of all ages to attend this show. It was worse than going to Fenway Park. Then you add on toys of all types of imagination for sale, which you know won't last. Then there is food, beverage and parking to pay for. I figured that it cost close to $400 for four children ages 7 to 11, plus two adults. We bought them each one toy (three lights, one sword), food (popcorn, Twizzlers, soda, pretzel, candy) and a (second round not included).
We enjoyed the show, but I wonder if the organizers realize how sad it is for people who can just barely afford the tickets but can't purchase any of the extras. I hope they are listening. I guess I wrote this because the projects I organize the city I try to remember how people enjoy them because they are expected to buy, buy, and buy. I appreciate everyone who donates to my causes to help keep the smiles on these faces.

Pineconia Grange # 322 meets Monday, February 22 at 7 p.m. at Havenwood Retirement Center, in the auditorium. Dick Patten and Clinton Patten are in charge of refreshments. The dictionary project has been completed with third grade students in Cocord Public Schools, Dunbarton Elementary School, Shaker Road School, St. John Regional School, and Concord Christian Academy. The community awards night is scheduled in April at Dame School. I will have more information forthcoming.

The Kiwanis Club of Concord meets Monday, February 22, at 12:15 p.m. at the Red Blazer Restaurant, Manchester Street. Planning on the annual Spring Fair and Carnival is contnuing at the Everett Arena. It will be held in May with carnival rides outside and activities being held from Thursday to Sunday.

Its amazing how many people are running for public office even though the filing period is months away. What's even more comical is the answers they have to our problems. They are running for county, state, and federal offices and looking for donations.

I would like to thank Walgreen's Pharmacy, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atty. Chuck Douglas, and Makris Lobster and Steak Lobster Steak House for donating to help purchase new banners for Loudon Road. The banner purchased by IHM will be hung in front of the church on Loudon Road during the holiday season. The banners (3 Merry Christmas) he would like hung downtown. I informed him that I will contact Downtown Concord about this. The banners purchased by Walgreen's and Makris Lobster and Steak House will be hung during spring season to compliment the others displayed last year on Loudon Road between Hazen Drive and Canterbury Road.

March is American Red Cross Month with the next Business After Hours on Tuesday March 9 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The American Red Cross Granite Chapter and Northway Bank.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A reader's report to the Concord Monitor

On Saturday, Concord Monitor Executive Editor Felice Belman wrote a lengthy and compelling Report to Readers about its story on Steve Duprey's latest development: ["City government made this story hard to tell"].
Since I have a background in media myself, I think it was good to give readers a bit of the skinny. It tells them a lot more about what was going on and why we should really worry about those people who work for the city and whether or not they have our best intentions at heart.
I have always liked columns like this. I like being able to know how reporters got from one point to another, especially on big stories. I’m sure other readers enjoy the inside baseball too. I have had bosses in previous jobs who hated it when I wrote these kinds of pieces or even took a few spare sentences to rah-rah the staff for doing a stellar job. But, at the same time, if you don’t congratulate yourself every once in a while, who is going to do it for you? Readers deserve to know. It’s that simple.
At the same time, it would be nice to see the Monitor really delve into some of the other things going on in our city in the way they did with this story. I won’t question what the motives in going after the Duprey story were: It could be because Duprey is a powerful developer or a big name Republican in our city. It could be the fact that Walsh comes across as a complete jackass and the Monitor staffers were sensing dirt. It could be that these deals are increasingly and seemingly not the best deals the city can come up with. The motives though aren’t really the point. Getting at the heart of the matter and fighting those people in power who keep information from the public and the press are the points.
And yet, on at least two different occasions that I can think of in the not too distant past (and who knows how many more) the Monitor has done the exact opposite on major stories our city has faced. To the point that it begs the simple question: Why? Why did this story get such play and so many others didn’t? Let me talk about the two examples for a moment.

Dropping the ball on elementary school consolidation
First, the Monitor totally dropped the ball on the elementary school consolidation plan. One can only suspect it was because the editorial board has always been a champion of the consolidation plan, even before there was a plan, a price, or anything else. Over and over and over again, people in this community revealed so many damn story angles that could have been looked at (It was downright embarrassing and let me tell you, if the people in the town I cover did this to me, I would be ashamed to call myself a journalist).
There were so many things, so many problems, and for whatever reason, the Monitor chose not to look. For months on end, reporters were quoting the wrong financial figures for the project, low-balling the costs, ignoring the tax rate issue that only took me 15 minutes talking to a couple of town treasurers and time with a calculator to figure out. In the entire time the issue was being covered no one ever once wrote that the school board’s own reports showed the buildings to be structurally sound. No staff time was put into looking at the reams of studies and documentation that show that big schools produce inferior educational results compared to small, intimate schools or that showed preservation is the way most communities across the country are tackling these problems or that showed that these buildings aren’t really green when all is said and done. It was all ignored.
Instead, the news organization and editorial board seemed to have allowed themselves to get sucked in and dazzled by false arguments about whether or not classrooms that are 200 square feet bigger are better than the classrooms our children are in. They never looked at the fact that the special education rooms are not much bigger than the current special education rooms. They didn't look at alternative plans. They never looked at population growth studies out there that show that the schools will be obsolete 10 years after they are finished. They didn't look at the fact that there will not be any money to do any capital projects or repairs for more than 20 years. They didn't look into the numerous alternative siting options. They didn't look at the fact that the middle school has issues which are coming down the road. Repeatedly, the Monitor championed the cause and took everything school officials said as gospel when there were many unanswered questions.
All we can ask is this: Why? Was it the cozy relationship that some of them have with school board members and administration? Was it that the Monitor will only look at some things but not other things? While it is great that a reporter went after city officials over the Duprey project why didn’t anyone do even a cursory amount of work on the consolidation project which will actually harm taxpayers much more, for many years more, than Duprey’s deal ever would?

Ignoring just as big Right-to-Know fights
The second huge lapse in coverage was the CCTV crap that has been going on for years. Again, many members of the community, not a large news staff like the Monitor’s, have been exposing all kinds of problems there to the point that at least one person went to court in an attempt to get access to pertinent documents. Instead of championing his Right-to-Know effort, the Monitor's coverage was a mockery. When a sitting city councilor (who is now the Merrimack County Attorney, gasp!) targeted a person in our community with a police investigation for having a public document, staffers ignored the story. When some of us brought up the issue in a public forum, to the point of embarrassing the then-police chief publicly, an event that would have been front page news in any other newspaper in the country, the exchange was ignored by the reporter. Instead, they wrote about some silly question concerning the senior center. Was it the heavy hand of editing or was the reporter just clueless? The juicy story was handed to them on a platter. And even when the person tried to get the facts into the newspaper in an opinion column, Belman protected the sitting city councilor from criticism. Belman's boss then stood by her in that decision. These actions alone were journalistic malfeasance. Lastly, when reporters finally looked at any of the stuff going on, it was twisted to the point of non-recognition. The coverage made people look horrendous instead of the champions of the Right-to-Know Law that they are.
Thankfully, the main person in this issue is now a state representative trying to change the laws to make them better for all of us who care about compliance, accountability, how taxpayer dollars are spent, and the need to contain waste, fraud, and abuse.
But again, the question begs to be asked: Why? Did it have anything to do with the fact that CCTV was paying the Monitor for Web hosting services at the time? Or, was it because of a certain long-time advertiser? If Duprey was running big legal or public service ads about his project, would the Monitor have ignored this story too?

Why is this important?
What is so shocking about both these instances I mentioned is that ordinary people – not the largest press organization in our community – took on the powerful to get answers via the Right-to-Know Law. The Monitor's news organization, probably at the behest of either ownership or the editorial board, dropped the ball. The Monitor is, in many ways, selective champions of the Right-to-Know Law. It seems, only when it suits the editorial board’s predetermined conclusion or interest do they bother to utilize it. It seems that only when they agree with its use does the Monitor commend its use. When they don’t agree with its use, the editorial board and staffers use their power as communicators with the community to malign, ridicule or ignore others. While the Monitor is within its right as a private organization to handle issues this way, these are dangerous stances for a news organization to take because they limit the information given to others and they have effectively silenced critics from coming forward to try and improve our community.
Look at the disgraceful state of our city. No one bothers. No one bothers to run. No one bothers to debate the issues. We all go about our lives. How much of this behavior is prompted by our local newspaper not doing the best job it can do?
What makes this so worrisome and dangerous is that the Monitor is essentially the sole source of real news in our community. Let's be honest. They are. WMUR-TV covers some crime. Big deal. WKXL does news but it is for radio. It's quick snippets and the owner a long time ago took off programs that could actually delve into serious issues for an entire hour because he found them boring. The Hippo might have a story or two but that's not enough. And yes, I don’t have the time to turn my blog, OurConcord.com, into more than a blog at this time. The Monitor is it.
This means though that they have a responsibility not to ignore some of these issues and, instead, give 110 percent on every level and not just when it suits them. We deserve better than what they have sometimes offered.
Many of us feel a deep connection to this newspaper. I’m a newspaper person and yet I often fight with my checkbook over whether I want to continue financial support of the newspaper. If I feel that way, imagine how others feel. I know they feel the same way which is why many folks have walked away from this newspaper. Instead, we should be championing them with our dollars and not just because of the Duprey story but because of all the things a newspaper is supposed to do.

A call to action
Moving forward, all I and others can do is simply request that the Monitor not make these mistakes again. So, let it be known: Take the words within the "Report to Readers" seriously and utilize what is probably one of the most thoroughly staffed small family owned dailies in the country to the best of its ability.
If the editorial board and ownership of the newspaper are too close to those in power in our community, make sure that there is enough of a separation between the editorial staff and the news staff to guarantee that the community is not harmed by your previously negligent coverage.
Make sure there is at least one overseer of the news department that is not taking walks with public officials or going to cocktail parties to make sure that every whistle blower and every controversial issue in Concord is treated equally. The responsibility to the community is of greater importance than personal friendships.
Every once in a while, re-think your coverage and how you are doing; ask yourself, Are we doing all we can to cover this issue evenly and fairly or is it in the tank? Does this measure up to the effort we made exposing the Duprey project and the other big things we’ve done?
Think about how you expand coverage and put more energy into the hundreds of Duprey stories that are not being told instead of distracting people with silly stuff (Suggestion: The city is facing a $3 million budget deficit. Do more than just mimic what the city manager says. Go through each department and tell people what they do. Does each department really need all the staffers it has? There are news templates available to deliver this content to readers).
I would bet that if and when the Monitor takes the time to look inward and change the way it delivers the news, it will no longer fail the community and we might have a better city too.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to Fred Keach

Around Town by Dick Patten

The weekend's almost here! Did you get your Valentine shopping done?

It is amazing the day after Christmas, the shelves in some stores had Valentine candy out and other novelties. Just think by Monday afternoon, we can look forward to Easter goodies on the shelves. For those who observe Lent, Ash Wednesday is this coming Wednesday with services/mass being held throughout the day. At the conclusion, ashes are rubbed on your forehead.

Happy Birthday greetings go out to City Councilor Fred Keach today! How old Fred? I hope you have a great day.

A lot of whispers in the last couple of days with the news being printed in the newspaper involving the planned changes for downtown Concord. There will be three public sessions next week: Monday, 5:45 p.m.; Wednesday, noon; and Saturday, 10:15 a.m. at Red River Theatre. I would urge everyone who can to attend. I, along with my associate councilors had a chance to see the presentation. It looks and sounds wonderful but there is a lot to think about. I will be featuring Jessica on my television show soon to discuss this.

I would like to welcome Concord Police detective Wade Brown to the force. He began his new duties recently. Detective Brown comes to Concord after spending 8 1/2 years in New York City. I hope to feature him on Around Town soon. Good luck and welcome to Concord.

Remember Monday is a federal, state, city, and county holiday in observance of President's Day! There is no mail delivery!

The Cat 'n Fiddle is coming back after closing a year ago on New Year's Eve. The previous owner's son will be reopening this very popular restaurant. Many folks are wondering is the salad bar coming back as well.
It should be interesting with the new O's opening up this spring.
Also Friendly's is being rebuilt at a good pace with them being reopened possibly by Mother's Day or before.
Veano's doing extremely well in their new location in Pembroke just over the Concord line at the intersection of Route 3 and Rte. 106. It should be interesting to see if these restaurants can make a go of it. I hope so because it is good to see them back with some of their former employees.

Enjoy the weekend and I will be back with more news soon!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Concord at the crossroads

Around Town with Dick Patten
It seems Concord is at crossroads and everyone is wondering where do we go. Recently on my television show, Around Town, I featured two guests from the Department of Transportation. We talked about the future of trains coming back to Concord and beyond. It was very interesting thinking about the endless possibilities when the trains come back to this area. I hope to have these interesting guests again on the show in the near future. We will speaking about the future of I-93 in the Concord area going from 2 to 4 lanes. Keep tuned!

Losing a parking space provided a lot of comments at the recent city council meeting. The area of Pleasant Street at South Main Street intersection was the area in question. A lot of discussion centered around a dumpster that had been in place on Pleasant Street and two parking spots. It was voted to remove one spot and the dumpster has been removed. Finding a place to park is difficult at times unless you use the new parking garage.

Work is progressing on the new restaurant, located in the Capital Commons. The new restaurant is called O's and will featured upscale dining.
And then you add the return of The Cat n Fiddle Restaurant, with its famous salad bar will please many people who were sad to see it leave.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Countdown to Spring

Around Town with Dick Patten
For OurConcord

I can't believe that football is finally going to finished for the year. Now baseball training begins this week for some teams and it's countdown to Spring. I hope everyone is planning to do their Valentine shopping this week. Don't forget your Valentine's.

The Concord City Council will be meeting Monday at 7 p.m.at the city council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.

The Kiwanis Club of Concord will be meeting tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. at the Red Blazer Restaurant, Manchester Street.

The Dog Park, located at the corner of Manchester Street and Old Turnpike Road is still in need of a club to assist them or start a new group. I need to meet with a representative of the General Services Department regarding the fence.

I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to fellow City Councilor Stephen Shurtleff about his brother passing away.

Are you seeing some unusually bad frost heaves. Due to warmer weather we are seeing frost heaves early and pot holes. Please call the General Services Department regarding these.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Astronomy Bowl 2010 Applications Available

From the inbox
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center announces that New Hampshire’s fourth annual Astronomy Bowl 2010 will take place on Saturday, March 27th. Applications for Astronomy Bowl participants are due by Saturday, March 6th.

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 will receive silver commemorative “astronomy” bowls and scholarship prizes that can be used towards higher education.

The scholarships will be formally presented at Aerospacefest, a three day event starting Friday, April 30 through Sunday, May 2 at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. The winners will also receive special recognition at the State House from Governor John Lynch and the members of the Executive Council.

Astronomy Bowl 2010 is generously sponsored by All Metals Industries, Inc., Rath, Young and Pignatelli, P.C., Lincoln Financial Group, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Eastpoint Strategies and Bianco Child & Family Therapy, LLC.

The new McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center features 21st century interactive exhibits on aviation, astronomy, Earth and space sciences, a state-of-the-art planetarium and a variety of science, technology, engineering and math programs. The engaging, robust educational programs are geared towards families, teens, seniors, students, community groups, and lifelong learners. For more information, visit www.starhop.com.