My Turn: Fake news on Main Street

For the Monitor
Saturday, July 15, 2017

News. It may come as news to some but I thought news came in two flavors, good and bad.

Good news is the best news. Proud grandparents learning of a new grandchild. You got accepted to Harvard with a full scholarship. You really are getting 32 miles per gallon in your new car. Your lost wallet was found with all your credit cards and money still in it.

Bad news is less welcomed. You lost that winning Powerball lottery ticket that you bought. Your mother-in-law is moving in with you. Your prized dachshund is pregnant and the sire is the neighbor’s Great Dane.

I now discover that I have to deal with a new type of news. Fake news. Actually, fake news has been around for a long time. The Earth is flat and ships at sea just drop off the edge and into the abyss. The check is in the mail. You can never be too rich or too thin. Ignore that yellow light on the dashboard of your car warning you to “check engine.” All fake news.

I can deal with only a certain amount of fake news. I try to distill it to just the local fake news so that I may have an opportunity to express an opinion. Broad, national “fake news” is problematic and beyond my purview.

The Monitor’s letters to the editor are filled with fake news, some of it from enthusiastic writers extolling the virtues of our new Main Street. In researching past offerings in the Monitor on that subject, I came across many letters with the same theme: how beautiful our new Main Street is. These writers are entitled to their opinions, but I think their letters don’t pass the smell test. They read like orchestrated propaganda.

It will soon be three years since the northern portion of our new Main Street was completed. We were promised that this would usher in a new and prosperous period of economic growth on Main Street. We were promised that the $14 million price tag and the $350,000 a year maintenance budget would be well spent and that Main Street real estate values would increase and provide an escalating property tax base. So far none of that has happened, but hardcore Main Street cheerleaders are still promoting the implausible dream. It’s fake news.

I see precious little substantial new businesses on Main Street or surrounding streets. We just lost a venerable retail specialized lighting store on Pleasant Street Extension that has served our community for many decades. I doubt that it will be replaced. A loss for Concord. Let’s hope that we don’t lose our wonderful cobbler on Main Street.

Then there is the former New Hampshire Employment Security great white elephant building that the city bought years ago that still stands empty, unsold and not contributing any property taxes. The promise was that we need to make sure that the “right” developer buys it. Fake news.

If beautification and traffic calming are part of the promise of our new Main Street, then there may be hope for other streets in Concord that deserve equal treatment. Take Washington Street Extension as an example. It’s one block long. It has one of the highest traffic counts in the city. It is the traffic conduit from the high school and hospital to Interstate 393. From 3 to 6 p.m. it is a traffic nightmare. It could use some of the traffic calming techniques developed on Main Street.

Borrow $4 million to $5 million, remove the parking, narrow the street, install lots of cobblestones, widen the sidewalks, provide a bike lane, give it a $100,000 maintenance budget, install some benches and half a dozen nostalgic street lights and hang lots of flags. Problem solved.

The fake news crowd keeps the Main Street propaganda campaign on a constant boil. Together with our president, they are obsessed with fake news. I guess fake news is here to stay.

(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)