City Primary Voters’ Guide: Alderman At-Large

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Alderman At-Large (2 Seats)

Vote for two candidates on your ward ballot.


Kate (Katie) Desrochers

Kate Desrochers

Kate (Katie) Desrochers, age 48, earned an associate degree and is a legal assistant to a Manchester law firm.

Qualifications

I am a lifelong Manchester resident, a proud alumnus of Manchester West High School, and a parent who just had my second child graduate from West High.  I have spent the last six years representing Ward 11 as a member of the Board of School Committee. I feel that it is time for me to put forth my efforts to focus on the city side of government to ensure that whatever issues the city is facing, the response to solving the problem is done intellectually, thoughtfully, and fiscally responsibly.  Whether this relates to city contracts; infrastructure improvements; public education; homelessness; and, the substance misuse epidemic.

Tax Cap

Overriding the tax-cap is a very serious matter because it impacts the residents of Manchester directly.  I believe that when a budget is put together it takes into consideration all measures of running the city and running the school district effectively, and salaries are a big part of that budget. In order to effectively run the city, I would support a tax cap override, because I believe that properly-funded departments are more effective than improperly-funded departments and we need to keep our infrastructure strong, which in turn attracts people to want to come live and do business here.

Priorities

First, I feel that education is underfunded. Right now, the school district faces some very difficult challenges with decreased enrollment; low-cost per-pupil spending; demands with salary; and a tax cap, that while important to control spending, strangleholds the school district from providing programming and resources that it so desperately needs. Properly funding education would be a top priority.

Like all big cities, Manchester has unfortunately seen an increase in homelessness.  To date, we have been unable to come with a single solution to this problem because there is not a single solution that will solve it.  A great first step has been made with the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness which met several times to problem-solve around this issue.  We need to continue with these types of approaches in a deliberate and innovative manner.  We need to identify the many problems associated with homelessness and use a multi-disciplinary approach to finding solutions.  I certainly do not have the answers, but I absolutely have the willingness and desire to be deliberate and thoughtful in helping to find a solution; instead of being harsh, rash, or insensitive to this very large issue.

Another important issue that must be addressed similar to that of the homelessness issue is the substance misuse epidemic.  It is heartbreaking to me that people are literally dying and being brought back to life several times a day.  I believe that the Safe Station Program has been a godsend to the city and I give credit to the fabulous members of the fire department for initiating this service and continuing it day in and day out.  I believe that Safe Station is a start to the solution, but we cannot let it be our only answer, nor can we expect the City to manage it on its own.  We need help from the State and the Federal government.

Vision for the City

Manchester has the great fortune to be a city where people want to do business and are bringing their companies to take advantage of the great spaces that we have available for businesses.  An important role the city plays in attracting businesses is in keeping the infrastructure strong and up to date.  We also have many amazing green and public spaces where people are able to go to a park to relax, play disc golf, soccer, tennis, pickleball, hike around Dorr’s Pond, jog, walk or bike the rail trail, take the kids to the Splash Pad, to one of the city’s pools, or go to the library to pick up some reading materials, or join in a storytime or craft project with the kids.  We have all of these amazing opportunities because we have phenomenal employees who do a great job and care an awful lot for this city.

Click to watch Katie Desrochers candidate statement via MPTV


Cathleen Farley

Cathleen Farley

Cathleen Farley, age 57, completed high school and took more than six years of college courses at Tulane University and Merrimack College.  She is the Office Manager for Dr. Kelly M. Ginnard and works part-time for Market Basket and for Saint Anselm College catering division. Her candidate page is on Facebook.

Qualifications

I feel all people can relate to me. I have a very sound background in business finance and people relationships, having worked with the public for many years. I have run a profitable dental office in Manchester for the past 17 years, dealing with all aspects of payroll, employee relations, patient interactions, accounts receivable and payable, state licensing, and all aspects of running a sole proprietor small business. I am a hard-working individual: When I believe in something or someone, there is nothing that can stop me! I also work very well with people of all backgrounds.

Tax Cap

I voted against the tax cap in 2009 as I believe a city like any business should be able to run and budget according to their revenues and expenditures and not need a tax cap as I truly believe a tax cap stifles cities. It is called cooperation and good judgment.

Priorities

My priorities are the school department, solving the opioid crisis, and better roads and bike lanes.

Vision for the City

I would like to look into a commuter rail, making it easier and more accessible for businesses to open in Manchester, and to help get our school system to be the best it can be so we can attract younger families instead of the younger families looking to move out of Manchester when their children become school age.

Click to watch Cathleen Farley’s candidate statement via MPTV


 

Jon Claude Hopwood

Jon C. Hopwood

Jon Claude Hopwood, age 59, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Boston University. He is a disabled veteran and a writer. His website is  jonclaudehopwood.com.

Qualifications

I seek the truth, and I will tell the public the truth. That’s not very much fun and it’s not easy. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it. What makes me unique among candidates is my life experience: studying political science under the late Howard Zinn at B.U., a great man who sent his students out into the world to do good and work for justice; serving as an intelligence analyst at the U.S. Army’s top tactical unit, which provided me with first-rate training under the auspices of the Defense Intelligence Agency and let me develop outstanding  investigatory skills in real-world conditions; and interning at the National Whistleblower Center, where I learned that fighting the good fight  could be a winning proposition, despite constant setbacks.

If I see wrong, I’m going to go after it: I’m going to try to correct it, whether I wind up a pariah or not. They say that reform candidates last only one or two terms, and that’s O.K. by me. That’s all the time I need.

The people need to know the truth. I believe they can handle the truth. It’s time City Hall starts dealing in truth.

Tax Cap

Dr. Jeffrey Kassel, the “Father of the Tax Cap,” is always reminding me that it’s a “spending cap.” Whether it’s called a “tax cap,” “revenue cap” or “spending cap,” it’s a good thing, due to the discipline it imposes on municipal budgeting.

It can always be overridden by a supermajority of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which gives the cap much-needed flexibility. Tax cap absolutists claim that it should only be overridden in cases of emergency like a flood, but sadly, in the City of Manchester, years of poor policy decisions mean the current Board inherited ongoing emergencies. I believe that overriding the spending cap to properly pay vital city personnel such as police and teachers is a moral imperative.

The 2014 “Spice Epidemic” crime wave in which drug dealers established themselves in Manchester was enabled by the failure to fund a full complement of police officers. The Craig-Long budget of 2015 that broke the cap directed most of the additional revenues to the Manchester Police Department. Without that override of the tax cap, a full complement of police officers would not have been achieved. If that had not occurred, the problems of crime in the Queen City – here and now – would be much worse.  Because of the full complement of police, former MPD Chief Nick Willard was able to spearhead the attack on the opiate crisis, launching Granite Hammer without any initial help from the state. Chief Willard had the tools to do so, as the spending cap was overridden in a judicious way by then-Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig and Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long. The Craig-Long budget gave him the tools to fight crime effectively.

Our schools were hurt by poor policymaking by tax cap purists. Now, the Board of the School Committee’s seeming obstruction of teacher contract negotiations has triggered an emergency, in my opinion. Too many good teachers are leaving the Manchester School District because of non-competitive salaries. That’s an emergency. Apparently, there are BOSC members whose main concern is a retroactive defense of the tax cap for political purposes. Whatever the reasons, the result of no contract is the failure to provide Manchester parents and students with the best teachers possible, causing further erosion of the quality of our schools. The pennywise/pound foolishness of “tax cap” absolutists has harmed the people of Manchester. It is harming our school children.

At the municipal and state levels, I will push for whistleblower/clawback laws targeting waste and corruption. Such laws are more effective than a “tax cap” in preserving taxpayer dollars by reducing graft.

Priorities

Reform based on good government laws 

My top priority is promoting good government laws and political reform. Reform is necessary for changing Manchester from New Hampshire’s prototypal and seemingly perpetual political machine-based spoils system into a real, functioning democracy.

Essential to this, and a task I am uniquely qualified to bring about, is breaking omerta, the political class’s code of silence. Ending this code of silence is absolutely essential for eliminating Manchester’s spoils system. Manchester needs strong transparency and accountability statutes that are enforced. Terminating omerta enables We, the People to solve problems plaguing our schools and our streets and citizenry, and to end the obscenity of Queen City senior citizens living in fear, an issue ignored by the career politicians.

Good government laws enable the flourishing of the real, people-based democracy I and other vets put our lives on the line for. Pushing for strong good government/open government laws and their enforcement at both City Hall and at the State House is essential to combating fraud, waste, abuse and corruption,

Whistleblower/clawback laws targeting waste and corruption are more effective than a “tax cap” in preserving taxpayer dollars as they put the brakes on plundering. I will work hard to promote whistleblower law/transparency statutes, including a strong right-to-know municipal ordinance mandating that the City Solicitor and all department heads honor right-to-know requests quickly and faithfully.

Manchester needs strong transparency and accountability statutes that are enforced. With these tools, we can have a more effective government. The more effective the government, the better its response to the challenges facing Manchester.

Moratorium on rehab industry 

Tackling the drug problem and homelessness is another top priority. The Queen City is imperiled by blowback from the taxpayer-supported rehab industry that’s a magnet for afflicted individuals. Manchester’s become a dumping ground for other communities ridding themselves of their problems, and apparently, “Concord” is not going to do anything to stop it.

City Hall must take a strong stand with the State. Feeder communities, many of which unfairly plunder the pot of federal and state drug enforcement monies, must compensate Manchester for shouldering the lion’s share of handling the state’s substance abuse problem.

The City should declare a moratorium on expanding the drug rehab industry until the financial inequities are addressed. City Hall should aggressively pursue every avenue to stop the exploitation of Manchester. Manchester should concentrate on helping Manchester residents.

The Queen City is a place with great heart, but triage is necessary to ensure that our community is not wrecked, while we provide a helping hand to those in our community who are plagued with problems, such as drug abuse and homelessness.

Creating an alliance with the City of Nashua and other municipalities, in order to mobilize our political delegations in the General Court in Concord is needed. A coordinated response is essential to pressuring the State House and the Governor to provide us with our fair share of both state and federal funds. Nashua has closed its emergency shelter and apparently is sending its drug abusers and homeless to Manchester. And why not?  It saves them money and preserves the character of their community. A moratorium on expanding the rehab industry and a policy of sending their problem people back to Nashua will force them to join with us, to seek equity from the State. Nashua and other feeder communities will take advantage of us as long as we let them. If Nashua won’t cooperate, let’s bill them. Let’s go to court. Let’s set some precedent. Let’s raise some hell. Let’s be a pain-in-the-ass to those who would take advantage of us. It can be done.

At the state level, a revival and modernization of the old Poor Law, particularly the provision in which the community from which an indigent person comes from was financially responsible for them when they become destitute, should be looked into. Such a revived and modernized law could relieve the financial stress on Manchester’s taxpayers.

But first, there has to be the moratorium on the rehab industry. Each troubled person is another client that expands the industry. The people in the rehab industry are wonderful compassionate people with great heart, but their interests – expanding their empires –  is not in the interest of Manchester taxpayers. A moratorium is needed now.

City Charter Reform 

I believe major City Charter reforms are essential to promoting democracy and ending corruption.  I will push for a Human Rights Commission to be incorporated, via City Charter amendment, as a legal entity of the City. My charter reform proposals also include transforming the City Solicitor into an elected office.

The current Board of Mayor and Aldermen model should be replaced by the City Council-City Manager model, with the City Manager assuming executive functions and the Mayor reduced to largely ceremonial functions. This will minimize political interference in city management by on-the-make politicians. It would go a long way to reducing fraud, waste, and abuse. Fifty-nine percent of cities with less than 500,000 people have the City Council-City Manager model. It is more democratic and more transparent, something sorely needed here in Manchester. The City Council-City Manager model will minimize the deleterious effects of the constant political jockeying of the municipality’s career politicians, particularly mayors and those with dreams of becoming mayor, which is practically every alderman. The Office of the Mayor has too much power under the current Charter and is given too much latitude that can lead to abuse.

My proposed system is based on a redrawing of the current geopolitical map.  Manchester will have a City Council and a new political map, consisting of 10 geographically homogenous wards respecting the unique cultures of the Queen City’s major neighborhoods. The Queen City would be organized into five boroughs, each with its own Little City Hall: North, East, West, South and Central Boroughs. Each borough will consist of two wards. The City Council would consist of 10 City Councilors representing 10 individual wards, and an Alderman (City Councilor at Large) representing each of the five boroughs made up of two contiguous wards. Each ward would elect one City Councilor to a two-year term, and each two-ward borough would elect an Alderman (City Councilor-at-Large) to a four-year term. The Alderman (City Councilor-at-Large) would serve as Borough President, responsible for their Borough’s Little City Hall, which would devolve power closer to The People. The five Aldermen would serve as a municipal Executive Council, providing discipline and oversight to the management of the City by overseeing the City Manager and City Departments and Commission. The Aldermen would closely supervise the budget and all spending.

In the City Council-City Manager system, the Mayor of Manchester will be the top vote-getter among the five Aldermen (City Councilors-at-Large).  The mayor would represent the City at ceremonial functions, and in relation with the state and federal governments and with other towns and municipalities. The Mayor would have no special powers other than chairing the meetings of the City Council and Executive Council. The mayor shall not have veto power.

Veto power of City Council actions will be circumscribed, and limited to special situations, such as budget votes. Within the City Council Chamber, when all fifteen members gather, all members would be equal, with the Mayor serving as chair of the meetings, with no vote except in times of a tie. The ten City Councilors shall elect one of their members to serve as Chairman of the Board of the City Council. The City Councilor serving as Chairman of the Board shall have duties similar to the current BMA Chairman of the Board, such as a major role in picking Committee and subcommittee chairs and members.

The Aldermen, sitting as an Executive Council, would be responsible for hiring a City Manager, subject to supermajority approval of the City Council.  The City Manager would exercise the executive functions of the City, and be subject to dismissal by a majority vote of the Executive Council. That vote could be overturned by a supermajority of the full City Council in toto (the 10 City Councilors plus the five aldermen).

Acting as a municipal Executive Council, the Aldermen would meet weekly with the City Manager, and would be required to approve all contracts and disbursements over $10,000 by majority vote.  The City Manager will have no vote in such deliberations. The Executive Council and City Manager shall develop a City Budget, to remain within spending cap parameters, to be presented to the full City Council. Any action of the Executive Council, including any monetary disbursements, could be overturned by a supermajority vote of the full City Council. If that budget is rejected by the full City Council, alternative budgets developed by City Council members (both City Councilors and Aldermen, singly or in groups) can be entertained. Any budget passed by a majority of the City Council can be vetoed by the Executive Council, in a meeting of the Aldermen held the following week. That veto power can only be exercised by a majority of the Executive Council, i.e., the vote of three or more Aldermen.  A budget veto can be overturned by a supermajority of the full City Council at the next meeting of the full Council.

The City Charter would spell out that the Board of the School Committee would have no right to issue bonds or levy taxes on the people of Manchester, and is subservient to the City Council.

Boroughs and wards, wholly or in part or in league with other boroughs and wards,  would have the right to secede from the City of Manchester and form their own separate municipal government(s), subject to the approval of the General Court. Any political subdivision undergoing secession would provide guarantees to the City of Manchester that the seceding entity will assume responsibility for a pro rata share of the City’s debts and obligations, and pay for all reasonable costs accrued by the City from secession machinations.

Click to watch Jon Hopwood’s candidate statement via MPTV


William (“Will”) Infantine

Will Infantine

William (“Will”) Infantine, age 55, earned a bachelor’s degree in business from St Michael’s College and is the owner of Aspen Insurance Agency.

Qualifications

I have been a business owner for 20 years, have represented Manchester at the NH Legislature for 14 years and served on a myriad of nonprofit commissions and boards. My experience and knowledge learned from these endeavor’s provides me with the background needed to serve as Alderman at Large.

Tax Cap

I support the tax cap and will not override it to pay for normal operating costs of the City. I would override it for emergency or other critical reasons.

Priorities

Crime, homelessness, drugs, graffiti, and blight.

Vision for the City

Develop Hackett Hill. Partnerships between the public schools and local businesses and local colleges. Short term suspension of Safe Stations to reestablish its goals. Provide the police with the tools they need to properly do their jobs.

Click to watch Will Infantine’s candidate statement via MPTV


Joseph Levasseur

Joe Levasseur

Joseph Levasseur (incumbent), age 58, earned a law degree and master’s in business administration. He has been self-employed as a restaurant owner and attorney, and he is a property owner and landlord.

Qualifications

He is an incumbent alderman, served three years as a member of the Planning Board, and is a host on Manchester Community Access TV. His website is www.JosephKellyLevasseur.com.

Tax Cap

It should always be adhered to unless there are extreme overriding concerns affecting public safety or crises outside the boundaries for which the tax cap was implemented.

Priorities

Responsible budgeting within the tax cap. Vagrancy issues affecting downtown businesses and our parks.  School choice for every city resident.

Vision for the City

Hug a thug doesn’t work. Holding vagrants and criminals fully accountable for the laws and city ordinances they break or violate would go a long way to improving the quality of life for everyone. Closing Safe Station, moving the homeless shelter out of downtown, getting rid of portable bathrooms in Veterans Park, and immediately cleaning up every overgrown and trash-filled dirty site, including any property with graffiti on it, anywhere in this city,  would make the world of difference.

Click to watch Joe Levasseur’s candidate statement on MPTV


Daniel P. O’Neil

Dan O’Neil

Daniel P. O’Neil, (incumbent) age 59, attended college and trade school and works as an electrician.

Qualifications

Through my years of public service, the residents of Manchester know that I will always represent their best interests at City Hall.

Tax Cap

I have supported an override to maintain city services and for our school district when additional revenues are available.

Priorities

My priorities are public safety, our schools and our infrastructure.

Vision for the City

To invest in our students and their teachers.