Sunday, October 31, 2010

Confirmed: NH-NEA didn't survey some candidates

I have just confirmed from two School District Charter Commission candidates that the NH-NEA, the Concord teachers union, never surveyed or spoke to them about an endorsement.
The union, not surprisingly, endorsed candidates all connected to the school board in some way, shape, or form. The endorsements were included in a newsletter that was postmarked Oct. 27.
However, if the NH-NEA didn't survey the candidates, how did they know who to endorse?
Let's take a look at this for a second, make some guesses, and analyze them.
1) They just guessed who to pick.
Not realistic, but possible.
2) They saw the Concord Taxpayers Association surveys and freaked out.
However, this isn't realistic either. First, the surveys were posted late in the evening of Oct. 24, with a press release sent out that night. While people did look at them that night, traffic shot up on Monday. If they saw our surveys on Monday, Oct. 25, the union would have had to drop everything, throw together a newsletter, get it printed up, and get it to the post office, and magically have them deliver it in record time. Not likely. Plus, they endorsed a candidate who didn't fill out the survey so they don't know where he stands. Based on the theory that they saw the CTA surveys, they were either just guessing on that guy or they know him outright.
3) The Concord Monitor sent the answers to the NH-NEA before publishing them.
The Monitor put together a survey and collected them on Oct. 21. However, the newspaper didn't begin publishing the answers until Oct. 27, and over a series of days after that. That would have been enough time to fax them over to the NH-NEA. On Oct. 27, the newspaper published the CTA press release about our surveys and was the only media outlet to do so. There was a boost in traffic on the CTA site that day. But that would have been too late, since the newsletter with the endorsement was postmarked the same day.
Consider the cozy relationship the editorial board has with the school board and administrators. Do they have such a cozy relationship with the union too? As bad as the Monitor can be some times, you have to think they have some journalistic integrity somewhere and wouldn't do this. It would be totally corrupt.
4) The NH-NEA got their marching orders from the school board or administrators on who to endorse.
Completely likely, considering. Think about it for a second: School Board President Kass Ardinger and School Superintendent Chris Rath collude in secret with state Senators in a back room deal to rig the Charter Commission altogether. They even got put school district attorney John Teague into a situation where he broke the law to rig the Charter Commission. What would keep them from colluding with the teachers union too to rig the Charter Commission election?

Important vote on Tuesday

For Concord School District Charter Commission, vote the Democracy Slate.
On Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters in Concord have a very important election to participate in. Yes, the governor, Legislature, and federal officers are all up for election. But the future of our city and school system are also on the line, with the election of members to the Concord School District Charter Commission.
The following candidates should receive your votes on Tuesday. I've nicknamed them "The Democracy Slate" because they believe in giving back parents their rights to have democratic choices when it comes to our school district charter:

At-large (3 votes): Laura Bonk and Charlie Russell
Ward 1, 2, 3, 4 (2 votes): Jim Baer and Kathy Conners
Ward 5, 6, 7 (2 votes): John Stohrer
Ward 8, 9, 10 (2 votes): Chuck Douglas.

These candidates understand the importance of this election and what needs to be done with our school district charter. They haven't fallen in line with the insiders. They have looked at the charter, followed the issues, and know the changes we need.

Based on some of the comments issued in the Concord Taxpayers Association and Concord Monitor surveys, as well as conversations I have had with at least one at-large candidate, Betty Hoadley, the following candidates could be considered for second and third votes:

* First, while Mike Donovan refused to send in his answers to the CTA survey after saying that he was ready to and grilled me with a number of questions about what the CTA was going to do with the surveys (all I did was put them online), his answers to the Monitor were interesting and he seems to understand the point of having a Charter Commission. I also had a long conversation with Hoadley at the Leadership Greater Concord event last week where she rattled off a bunch of reasons why I should vote for her. After saying that I had already sent in my endorsement letter and she wasn't on it, she continued and raised some compelling points. And, she asked for my vote too. While I haven't decided to cast a third vote for either Donovan or Hoadley, I might have to think about it. You should too.
* In the Ward 1, 2, 3, 4, race, Roy Schweiker also raised some relevant points in both of his surveys. He emailed his survey in and it was not received until after deadline. But he made some good points. Schweiker has also attended so many meetings and raised so many issues over the years and clearly understands the importance of fixing the Charter now. Baer and Conners have put even more work on this issue, but Schweiker, unlike some others, hasn't been a no-show.
* In the Ward 5, 6, 7, race, unlike the other candidates, Jessie Osborne seems to have an open mind about at least hearing some of the ideas before making a decision. Allen Bennett also raised some good points in his Monitor survey answer. Bennett refused to fill out the CTA survey and also did not return a phone call or email to me when I told him I needed another person to vote for and wanted to talk to him about the issue. This is typical of Bennett (In the past, he has not returned phone calls and then complained that I never called him). I don't completely agree with him on Ward representation, but it should be discussed and considered.

Why mention the other candidates who I may or may not be voting for? Simply put, the case could be made that this Charter Commission should be larger than it is, since there are so many interesting people running, especially those who are not connected to the current people on the school board. Those people who raised relevant issues during their campaigns deserve mentions even if I may not be voting for them.

A lot will be said about this race after the election. It's that important. Basically, there are two schools of thought. One side thinks everything is swell. These folks tend to have control over the system or are inside the system. And they will do anything and everything - colluding behind closed doors, breaking the law, etc. - to keep control of the power they now have.
The other side, which is filled with parents, historians, budget hawks, and others, believe things are not well. They are concerned with the status of student achievement and want to see school board members and administrators focus on educational excellence and not building empires. They have tried over and over and over again to get a seat at the table and to have their concerns be taken seriously those in power only to be continually ignored. It is a classic David vs. Goliath battle that happens in many small cities when a handful of people run everything into the ground.
This election, for the Charter Commission, may or may not lead to the changes that we as parents, residents, and taxpayers, need to make to improve our school system, expand representation, and have control over major bonding projects. Technically, it should.
The law, HB1457 clearly states in Section 3:
The charter commission shall have all the powers and duties of a charter commission established pursuant to this chapter and shall comply with the provisions of this chapter, except as otherwise indicated in this section.
This means, simply, that the Charter Commission has all the powers and duties of a Charter Commission, meaning that it can propose changes to the charter and put it before the voters in November 2011.
Even the final report from December 2009 of the Commission to Study the Concord School District Charter stated that this Charter Commission was to change the charter.
It stated:
A. The Commission recommends unanimously for the Legislature to relinquish control over changes to the school district charter.

E. In regards to amending the school board charter the commission recommends the elected commission use its prerogative to place questions on the ballot separately, that the current charter remain in effect until both a new charter and a new amendment process have been voted on by the citizens.
However, many of the candidates, especially those with close relationships with the school board, school administrators, and teachers union, answered "no" when asked about their positions on various changes that could be made to the Charter [See surveys online @]. Many of the proposed questions in the survey were brought before the Legislature in 2008 and are the reason why we are here in the first place.
But many of these candidates don't know that. And, more importantly, they don't know about the responsibilities of what they are running for or are running to hijack the important work that needs to be done. The candidates I have endorsed do.
On top of not knowing what the law is, many of these candidates never even set foot in the Council Chamber when the Charter Commission Study meetings were being held. The following candidates bothered to attend: Jessie Osborne, Kathy Conners, Roy Schweiker, Rodney Tenney, Martin Honigberg, John Stohrer, and Jim Baer. Clint Cogswell, Chuck Douglas, and Charlie Russell also served on the study commission.
There is something to be said for people who bother to participate in long, drawn out meetings and those who come in late to the process (although, anyone can run for the Commission).
In the end, the choice is yours. However, I have been watching this issue for years. Trust me when I say that these are the people you should be voting for on Tuesday.

WKXL wins three Golden Mic Awards

Congratulations to the WKXL 1450 news department for winning three 2010 Golden Mic Awards last week.
The news team won first place for spot news and swept the merit and first place documentary news categories.
The station was the only Concord station to win any awards.
Also, the New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters should be commended for, finally, fixing the name of the awards. They are, after all, mics, not mikes. :-)
All the winners are listed here: ["2010 Golden Mic Award winners"].

Saturday, October 30, 2010

School Charter Commission follies

Here's some of the things going on in the field for the School Charter Commission campaigns.

Board member backs connected candidate
First, school board members are backing various Charter Commission candidates that are, well, connected to school board members ... which should really be no surprise, considering.
School Board member Jack Dunn was spotted in the South End leafleting yesterday for William Ardinger, the Ward 5, 6, 7, candidate for Charter Commission who happens to be married to Kass Ardinger, the school board president.
Interestingly, the person who saw Dunn leafleting struck up a conversation with him about the illegal activity by school board attorney John Teague and the collusion by Superintendent Chris Rath and Kass Ardinger to put the fix in on the Charter Commission.
Dunn reportedly said he was "100 percent" in support of the activity by all involved (I've emailed Dunn to give him the chance to clarify his statement). Jack's not a bad guy, in person. But if this is true, he's completely clueless and simply unsuited for public office.
Anyone - and I mean anyone - who thinks that illegal activity, collusion and backroom deals with public officials and school administrators to keep parents and taxpayers from having the electoral rights that virtually everyone else in the nation has is OK, is simply not fit for public office. I don't care what the outcome is. It's wrong, period.

Party for school insiders blocks streets
Other school board members, like Bill Glahn and Jennifer Patterson, were reportedly seen outside the home of former School Board member Meagan Devorsey, along with other insiders with leaflets and signs for Peter Ellinwood and Connie Boyles Lane recently.
According to a source, cars were parked all over the Cambridge Street neighborhood, making it difficult for residents to get into their driveways and access sidewalks. It was heard that everyone had a merry ole time.
The Ward has been hit hard for leaflets promoting Lane's campaign, according to residents in the area.

NEA backs candidates who don't understand the charter law
The NH-NEA, the local teachers union, reportedly endorsed a slate of candidates in its most recent newsletter.
Not surprisingly, the union endorsed candidates who seem to not really understand the law or the role of a charter commissioner. They also backed candidates who seemingly are most connected to the school system.
Interestingly as well, the newsletter seems to have been sent out before the Concord Taxpayers Association or the Concord Monitor posted surveys from the candidates, the only two known surveys to be circulated.
This would mean that the union either had an inside track on who to support, it questioned some of the candidates (some say they never received anything from the org.), or they just picked randomly (which is highly unlikely).
How much you want to bet, considering all that has gone on, that the NH-NEA was spoon-fed the people to support by either school board members or school administrators in order to do everything they can to fix this election too? You can almost hear the threats ... "If these people are elected, you may never get another raise ..." even though the truth is that most of the good candidates running believe more money should be spent on actual school operations, not wasted on new, large elementary schools that will be obsolete by the time they are built. Amazing.

In case you didn't see it ...

Here's the text of my letter in the Concord Monitor from Friday:

Splitting tickets

After more than three decades of watching how government doesn't really work, many of us have come to the conclusion that the more divided it is the better things are. Bipartisan solutions, not one-party rule, will move the state and nation forward.

I don't agree with everything these candidates believe in, but they'll get my votes Tuesday:

First, Democratic Gov. John Lynch's steady leadership is needed to improve the economy during these unpredictable times.

Despite personally liking both major party candidates for U.S. Senate, I will ignore their mudslinging and vote for independent Chris Booth, a Constitutionalist who supports Medicare for all and alternative energy policies.

For Congress, Charlie Bass has already had his turn. Democrat Ann Kuster gets the nod.

After the debacle with the school board charter, our state senator, Sylvia Larsen, does not deserve re-election. Republican Chris Wood will serve us well, without collusion or backroom deals.

Concord Ward 5, 6 and 7 voters should send Democrat Rick Watrous and Republican Pam Ean to the Legislature. Watrous has worked tirelessly for us, supporting open, honest government. Ean, a school teacher, understands that the state must tackle spending first, before increasing taxes.

Most important, the following candidates for Concord School Board Charter Commission deserve your support: Laura Bonk, Charlie Russell, Kathy Conners, Jim Baer, John Stohrer and Chuck Douglas. These candidates will fix the charter and restore our rights as parents, so we can improve our school district.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dame School can't be a school but can become a community center?

Many of you will be literally shocked to see the Concord Monitor's article today about a public forum concerning the future of Dame School on the Heights: ["Envisioning a community center"].
Question: How is it that Dame School is beyond repair and unsafe to remain a school but can become a community center? Simply put, it's not beyond repair or unsafe to remain a school.
In fact, as I have stated previously, the school district's own studies say this building, and all the others, are structurally sound.
In addition, all the population growth for Concord on that side of the river is going to be in the southern sector, especially when and if the off ramp to an expanded I-93 gets built and connected to Sheep Davis Road. But all of those kids will be bussed up to the north side of the city instead of being able to get to a closer school at Dame. What a waste of energy, money, and time.
As I have been saying for years, this isn't about quality education or the best option for children, parents, and taxpayers or historic preservation or anything else. This is all about empire building. This is all about School Superintendent Chris Rath and her legacy, and she and others will stop at nothing to get this done, much to our detriment. Mark my words: This plan will bankrupt our community. It will ... and it will be a disaster.
City Councilor Dick Patten, a frequent contributor here, speaking of plans for a new library, community center, and a fire training facility, really nails it on the head: "Where is the money going to come from?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

School Board Charter Commission candidate surveys up online

The Concord Taxpayers Association surveys are now posted online: Concord Taxpayers Association.
Seventeen of 27 candidates (63%) filled out the survey.
I will have some thoughts about some of the candidates and their responses at a future date. Take a look and let me know what you all think.

Laconia Savings sponsors parade

Around Town with Dick Patten
Laconia Savings Bank has sent in their donation and will continue to be a parade sponsor. I received a call this week and was informed that they have sent in the donation and will have their banner carried in the parade. Thank you!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Get ready for the Concord Christmas Parade

Around Town with Dick Patten
The 59th annual Concord Christmas Parade is scheduled to be held Saturday, Nov. 20 at 9:30 a.m. on the Concord Heights. However, there is a slight problem; the participants are doing very well, in fact Joe Joyce, meteorolgist from WBZ TV 4 Boston will be a grand marshal this year, with more participants every day signing up. The problem is no money. As of today, no donations have been received and I am extremely worried.
I know the parade sponsors from past years including Pineconia Grange, Concord Kiwanis Club, Stove Barn will continue to support it. But am waiting for checks and others such as Rowley Agency, Laconia Savings Bank, Merrimack County Savings to come in. There are not many communities having Christmas parades any more. Let's not lose ours in Concord.
Our parade has become one of the biggest in New Hampshire, if not in New England. We need to raise $4,000 for the expenses. WJYY 105.5 and the Wolf 93.6 are also announcing donors on the air.
Please contact Dick Patten at 496-2917 or James Cusano for information.

The Concord Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration is also making plans for the 24th event at the State House Plaza. Nasseau Broadcasting, WJYY 105.5 and 93.6 Wolf are helping to raise funds for the fireworks display put on by TeleStar from Keene.
I need to raise $8,000 dollars to cover expenses from fireworks, petting zoo, horse drawn wagon rides, music and more.
Please send donations to Dick Patten at 30 Pinewood Trail, Concord 03301.
Also a colored star will be placed on the big Christmas Tree during the evening for people to see. WJYY will also announce on the air all donors and their various designation. This event will be held the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 25, at 4 p.m. More events are being planned. I need someone who can do face painting, if anyone is interested. James Cusano is assisting with the planning of the event.

I want to apologize for my absence recently, due to my being seriously sick. I have been trying to recover from bronchitis, ear infections, sore throats, etc. It was not the best time, believe me. I would like to thank Jim Cusano for all he has done.

Food, gas prices going up ...

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but food and gas prices are going up in town.
First, in the last two weeks, gas prices at the Irving station at the corner of Penacook and North Main have jumped from $2.59 to $2.73. This is simply amazing. I offhandedly made a comment about it to the clerk and he said, "Holiday travel." And I said, "Holiday travel? Please ..."
Second, food prices at Market Basket, the cheapest place in town, have also increased. Here are a few price increases I have noticed during the last couple of weeks: First, boneless chicken breast has gone from $1.99 to $2.99 a lb. Butter has gone from $1.99 to $2.69 in recent weeks. And sour cream - a must have for nachos or tacos, at least for the wife - has gone up from $0.99 to $1.19 in a week. Bananas have also gone from $0.33 a lb. to $0.49 a lb.
There are still bargains to be had at Market Basket. But these kind of price increases during a one or two week time period is a little ridiculous.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Signs for Charter Commission candidates Cogswell, Lane, and Ellinworth emerge

Some candidates for the Charter Commission are clearly taking the race seriously and Auburn Street residents are staking out their candidates.
At-Large candidate and current School Board member Clint Cogswell has a sign on his lawn and is also supporting Ward 1,2,3,4 candidates Peter Ellinwood, owner of and Connie Boyles Lane, an attorney with Orr & Reno. Some of his neighbors are doing the same.
Since Cogswell has already told the Concord Monitor that he feels the scope of the Commission is limited, is it safe to say that Lane and Ellinwood agree? Maybe, maybe not. We'll have to wait and see.
Also running for the two Ward 1,2,3,4 seats are Robert Gile, Roy Schwieker, Kathy Connors, Jim Baer, and Matt Newland.
I know both Baer and Connors will be quality candidates on the Commission. Schweiker has also indicated from his letter in the Monitor that he understands the importance of the seat and how citizens should have control of the school board charter, without delay. Voters in those Wards should give those three serious consideration.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Monitor decides to send out a survey

Some of you may have read the newspaper story and letters in the Concord Monitor concerning the extensive Concord Taxpayer Association survey I sent out to the 27 people running for charter commission seats.
The CTA survey went out to candidates two weeks ago, asking them about their positions on potential school board charter changes. The deadline is Monday and then, after that, the candidate answers will be on the CTA site.
However, two weeks later, the Monitor has decided to send out its own survey, three weeks before the election, to gather information from the candidates.
According to sources, the survey, sent out by City Editor Hans Schulz, featured the following questions: Have you ever been elected to public office? Why do you want to be on the Charter Commission? There has been disagreement about whether the law that created the Commissions limits it to proposing a way to amend the Charter or allows it to recommend broader changes: What do you think?
So, instead of talking about some of the things the Charter Commission could do, the Monitor is using its questionnaire to filter the candidates into candidates who think they can amend the Charter and candidates who don't. I wonder if they will use this information to endorse too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NH AG: Concord school attorney broke lobbying law

Investigation reveals collusion between state, school officials regarding charter study commission

EXCLUSIVE: Must credit

The N.H. Attorney General’s Office has found that Concord School District attorney John Teague, of Upton & Hatfield, LLP, violated the state’s lobbying statute in 2009. During the investigation, the AG’s Office also revealed information showing that state and school officials worked behind closed doors to rig the public process surrounding the creation of the charter study commission.
In a warning letter to Teague on Sept. 23, Matthew Mavrogeorge, an attorney with the AG’s civil bureau, stated that Teague violated the law on May 4, 2009, when he – along with Concord School Superintendent Dr. Chris Rath and Board President Kass Ardinger – met with state Senate President Sylvia Larsen and state Sen. Betsi DeVries, a Manchester Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Public & Municipal Affairs Committee, to discuss HB319. This bill, which was approved by the House, would have turned over regulation of Concord’s school district charter to Concord residents.
At this meeting, which was private and held in Larsen’s office, Teague, Rath, and Ardinger discussed “concerns” they had with the bill. Rath requested that Teague attend the meeting; he was paid $270 to prepare for and attend the meeting.
According to Larsen’s statement to the AG’s Office, Teague, Rath, and Ardinger “expressed ideas” about “how to respond to HB 319 and were looking for Senate support for these suggestions.” Larsen told investigators that Teague came up with the idea for a Charter Commission to study the school district charter.
In the AG’s investigation, Teague admitted that he was asked by Larsen and Rath to “come up with a draft of what the Charter Commission might look like.” Teague gave the AG a copy of the draft that he “ultimately created for Senate President Larsen,” according to the warning letter. The AG determined that Teague’s participation in the meeting constituted lobbying, and since Teague was not registered as a lobbyist at the time, he violated the statute. The AG stated that Teague believed he did not have to register since he was “promoting alternative language as legal services on behalf of a long time client.”
The AG’s office requested Teague “make a retroactive registration with the Secretary of State regarding this lobbying activity and fulfill the public disclosure components of the lobbying registration statute.” Teague, in a letter back to Mavrogeorge, stated that on Sept. 24, he requested forms from the Secretary of State’s Office but that office was “uncertain as to what was meant by this request and was unable to provide me with any forms.”
Interestingly, violations of RSA-15 are misdemeanors, according the the statute: "CHAPTER 15: LOBBYISTS, Section 15:8 Penalty. – Whoever violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if a natural person, or guilty of a felony if any other person. Whoever shall make and file any statement under this chapter which is to his or her knowledge false shall be deemed guilty of perjury and punished accordingly."
Instead, it appears that Mavrogeorge is saying to the school board's attorney, “Well, you engaged in criminal activity, but we're not going to charge you with that because you didn't think you were,” which is a strange thing to be saying to an experienced attorney who violates this kind of law.

An odd conclusion

The AG Office’s opinion apparently found that Teague did not violate the lobbying statute during his May 14, 2009, testimony before the state Senate Public & Municipal Affairs Committee hearing, 10 days after the secret meeting.
This is odd since, in the warning letter, Mavrogeorge determines that Teague should have been registered as a lobbyist for the May 4 private meeting and has requested that he retroactively register as such. If this is the case, before Teague testified on May 14, it seems that he should have been wearing the lobbyist tag, since he would have been registered as a lobbyist the week before.
As I have written in other posts and as is noted in the AG’s warning letter, the law was amended in September 2009, which was included in the warning letter: “’[p]ublic testimony before a legislative committee or subcommittee’ are considered communications that are ‘excluded’ from the registration imposed by RSA 15 ‘and shall not be considered in a determination of whether a person is required to register or report as a lobbyist.’”
The AG’s decision seems to say that Teague’s testimony on behalf of the school district didn’t trigger the need to register. However, his actions before his testimony triggered the registration requirement. While I’m not a lawyer, I’m puzzled how this was not a violation of the law at the time.

A rigged public process

The larger and, frankly, more frightening and repulsive point, is what a charade this entire process was. Many of us testified at the Public & Municipal Affairs Committee hearing, thinking that our ideas, thoughts, concerns, and request to control our own school charter would be taken seriously by DeVries and the other members of the committee. Every citizen who spoke or signed in that day was in favor of the legislation that Rath and Teague opposed.
However, unbeknownst to us, the fix was already in, as noted in the Mavrogeorge’s finding: Teague, requested by Larsen and Rath, with DeVries in attendance, was to draft new legislation that, later, magically appeared, squashing the bill that had already been approved on the House side.
Neither Teague nor DeVries mentioned the previous May 4 meeting during the May 14 committee hearing. Neither mentioned that there was a revised bill coming. Every single person who forwarded legislation, amendments, testimony, both written and verbal, thought they were getting a fair hearing, but they weren’t. The entire process was a sham.
What does this say about our legislative process when a handful of officials can meet behind closed doors and create a backroom deal that strips away the ability of parents, taxpayers, and Concord citizens to have the power to change their school district charter?


Everyone involved in this incident stole the public process away from the people and rigged everything to a predetermined conclusion. The Legislature, its legislation, committees, boards, and study commissions, are not supposed to work that way. Preservation of their flawed elementary school consolidation plan, a scheme that tears down historic buildings, warehouses our children into four schools, raises taxes, and spends more than $150 million, is what motivated all of this. If this is such a great project, there would be no need for all of these shenanigans. However, here it all is.
It is clearly time for a public hearing by the Concord school board and complete airing of all the materials, documents, emails, and information regarding all activities surrounding this incident in public. The public deserves answers to the many unanswered questions and heads should roll. And yes, there is more coming, too – I have a stack of documents with more to write – so stay tuned.